Super Chuffer

When I was at York in September, I happened upon an interesting product sold by Henning's Trains:  the Super Chuffer.  Basically, it is a board that controls the smoke unit fan motor to turn on and off with the chuff switch (apparently an MTH invention).  This provides more realistic smoke output on older TMCC-controlled Lionel steam engines.  The board offers the following additional features:

 

  • Rule 17 LED light control for headlight, dimming when locomotive is stopped
  • TMCC headlight voltage input to control headlight on/off state from remote
  • Automatic control to turn cab lights on when stopped, off when moving

I bought the unit to improve the realism of the smoke output on my JLC Allegheny; a challenging choice to begin this kind of tinkering.  This engine is painful to disassemble and more painful to decode the wiring unless you are familiar with the electronics involved.  I wrote three separate e-mails for help to the developer, John Will; to augment my questions, I took photos of the internals.  John was patient and quick to respond; his advice allowed me to successfully complete the installation rapidly with no goofs.  The results are a quantum improvement in smoke realism; I highly recommend this product for anyone interested in augmenting your steam engines with smoke chuffing   Happy New Year, Var

 

Original Post

FYI, two of them left at Henning's Trains, see the Super-Chuffer.  It will probably be some time before they're available again, the stoppage of ERR production stopped me as well, and now I'm getting my act together to have more when the ERR product is available again.

superwarp1 posted:

70 bucks?  What happen to the 50 they used  to sell for?   That's almost as much as a cruise commander M.

Nothing is so easy as the job you imagine someone else doing.

John keeps this product fresh and updated.  It's worth the money.

Marty Eibeck

 

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gunrunnerjohn posted:
superwarp1 posted:

70 bucks?  What happen to the 50 they used  to sell for?   That's almost as much as a cruise commander M.

They never sold for $50 Gary.

55?  I don't remember paying 70 either did I?

It may have been less several years ago, here's last August capture from the Internet Archive.

Last Yeat's S-C Price

It's also sometimes less if you buy at York, we frequently have sales.

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MartyE posted:
superwarp1 posted:

70 bucks?  What happen to the 50 they used  to sell for?   That's almost as much as a cruise commander M.

Nothing is so easy as the job you imagine someone else doing.

John keeps this product fresh and updated.  It's worth the money.

No doubt about that Marty

The exiting stock has sold out, so the new version will be 30% smaller with a couple new features.  It's smaller in both length, width, and thickness. This will make it even easier to stuff into smaller steamers.

Oh, and the same price.

New Super-Chuffer II vs Super-Chuffer

I've also added the capability to wire the smoke unit status in to turn off the fan whenever the smoke it disabled. Previously, the fan was always active, I didn't have an input to add the control before.

The other upgrade is wider compatibility with the TMCC headlight outputs, now it works with any version of TMCC, new or old.  Previously, the headlight control only worked with the R2LC-08 or newer.

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Yes, I do use dynamic breaking, however, I can't imagine it shortening the motor life.  FWIW, MTH also uses dynamic braking on their smoke units, and their motors seem to last longer than most Lionel motors.

There is one consequence of using dynamic braking, and I see it occasionally with MTH steamers.  The constant acceleration and deacceleration when moving does eventually tend to work the impeller loose on the shaft.  The impeller is a press-fit to the shaft.  You almost never have to replace a Lionel impeller, but I've put a number of them in MTH locomotives.  In a pinch, I've also used a spot of superglue to hold the impeller to the shaft. 

I seem to remember the introductory price was well under 60 bucks FWIW.

As for dynamic braking I thought I read MTH takes it a step further and actually introduces and brief pulse of reverse voltage? Anyone confirm? In any  event its pretty effective.

Pete

Pete, when it first came out, I do believe it was around $60.  By the time it was built, tested, packaged, etc. there wasn't any profit in it.  I'd still like to find a truly low-cost assembly house, but I am kinda' caught between a rock and a hard place.  If I want cheap prices, I have to make a thousand or more, that would tie up a lot of money for way too long, I just can't afford to make that kind of investment.  There just isn't a wide enough market for this product to justify sitting on that much inventory for that amount of time.

Small lot assembly prices hammer you, but it's the only practical way.  I can get 100 or 1,000 assembled for almost the same price, it's only the parts that change the price.  Similarly, I can have 100 or 1,000 PCB blanks made, they also get much cheaper each piece in larger quantities.

What I need is an investor to pay for me to carry the inventory.

Norton posted:

I seem to remember the introductory price was well under 60 bucks FWIW.

As for dynamic braking I thought I read MTH takes it a step further and actually introduces and brief pulse of reverse voltage? Anyone confirm? In any  event its pretty effective.

Yep, I believe MTH does give it a shot of reverse voltage, though I've never actually observed it on a 'scope.  I didn't see the need to go that far, and I got great performance by just stomping on the motor leads with a FET to do the braking.  No need to add the circuitry to do more, at least IMO.  The difference with and without dynamic breaking is pretty stunning, like night and day.

If you buy at York, we usually have them on sale.  I know my price to Henning's hasn't changed in quite a while, at least since sometime in 2015.  They tinker with their prices, I have no control over that.

gunrunnerjohn posted:

Yes, I do use dynamic breaking, however, I can't imagine it shortening the motor life.  FWIW, MTH also uses dynamic braking on their smoke units, and their motors seem to last longer than most Lionel motors.

There is one consequence of using dynamic braking, and I see it occasionally with MTH steamers.  The constant acceleration and deacceleration when moving does eventually tend to work the impeller loose on the shaft.  The impeller is a press-fit to the shaft.  You almost never have to replace a Lionel impeller, but I've put a number of them in MTH locomotives.

Gunrunnerjohn wrote  "In a pinch, I've also used a spot of superglue to hold the impeller to the shaft. "          Funny, every MTH steamer I have has a spot of superglue on the fan motor shaft.

My question about dynamic braking comes from the sixties when I packed up my trains and got into slot car racing.  For the most part dynamic braking was used to slow cars and after a long race or a motor that was used a lot,  the magnets would be noticeably weaker. When you turned the rear wheels you could feel the difference in cogging between a new motor and a well used one. Many of the slot car tracks had a magnetizer to zap weak magnets.  I tried to buy one when I got back from the army. Never could find one for a reasonable price, still lookin.  I can however see that such a small motor driving a very light fan, even with dynamic braking, would not tax the magnetic charge the way those hot wound motors with lots of inertia from the weight/speed of the car did.  J

I suppose that after many hours of operation, it conceivably could weaken the magnets some.  However, I figure the motor will probably die from some other failure, they're not the most reliable design.  Also, if the magnets lost half their strength, the smoke chuffing would probably keep working without a noticeable difference.  Also, as I've said, MTH uses dynamic braking, and some of those motors have tons of hours with no significant failure rate.

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