Battery v Track power - a personal perspective

ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
I know this is a hoary, ongoing debate - but I've been reflecting on why I converted from track to battery power and put together this little video. I think it's all down to what you want to get out of your railway - I love running trains, solving shunting puzzles and running narrow gauge trains at realistic speeds - others may have different objectives and gain just as much enjoyment.

Rik
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
14,442
197
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
Well said Rick and superbly put across.

I think till my needs for a full Battery Fleet are available I will be continuing with Track Power. But that is because I am using big lumps of power like my Harz 2-10-2's, Mallets and big Diesels, no stalling during shunting! My only 0-4-0 Electrified Steam is Battery Powered and like your little beuties runs a treat. I have not tried a Deltang Ststem as yet, to be honest the programming puts me off a lot. So I use Aristo but am thinking of giving Mr Spoerers Battery kit a try. I already use his Transmitters in 2 of my Live Steam Locomotives with some more recievers to do 2 more. Have to say though that my Live Steam running is somewhat Diminished due to the issues of crudding up the track after a session. So a full Battery Fleet is on my wish list.
JonD
 
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Gavin Sowry

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
5,985
83
65
Hutt Valley, NZ
Costs, and necessity.

It costs money to 'change over'. But, the fact that a large number of the layouts I visit run 'other than track power', it has been necessary to have some 'away' stock. Nothing flash, just a battery, and on/off switch.
Having since experienced (the cost of) my first battery failure (it wouldn't recharge..... kaput), I am still convinced of the benefits of Track Power.

One of the claimed 'faults' with track power, is the need for clean track. So they say. Very rare for me to clean track, as I use the rail oiling method. What a lot of anti track power advocates fail to see, is that it is not always dirty track that causes stalling etc., but, rather 'poor' track maintenance. Twist in track, especially near dead frogs is a common complaint. Twist causes one, or more, wheel/s to lose contact with the rail.Just pack the track right, and away you go. Stalling on points... more often than not (apart from the above mentioned twist), is the plate below the switch rail, make sure it is clean, and making good contact.
 
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spoz

spoz

What do I do? What I'm told by SWMBO
Staff member
GSC Moderator
27 Oct 2011
2,523
9
Adelaide, South Australia
As Rik said, it's horses for courses. In my case what initially caused me to go battery was a disinclination to wire up about 200 feet of track in the Australian outside - you wouldn't believe how our sun effects insulation on smallish wiring, and in summer the ground is like concret so burying it is not an option - coupled with a dislike of block arrangements inherited from my time in N Scale DC. Sure, that could have been eliminated by DCC but that would have been just about as expensive as battery. An unlooked for advantage is that if I want to lay a track in a hurry, or temporarily, it's very little work to get it to a state where I can run on it.

There's disadvantages of course, charging; battery replacement after about 4 years; the inevitable frustration when I find that the battery in the RC unit it flat just as I want to start running, there's none in the house and the shops are closed; but overall I like it. However, others stick with track power and swear by it. And, Gav is a passionate member of that group and good luck to him, if it works for him. That's the good thing about GSC (unlike some other, admittedly not G, sites I've been associated with in the past), everybody's views are equally valid.

Steve
 
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GAP

GAP

G Scale trains, Lawn Bowls.
14 Jun 2011
2,442
8
64
Bomaderry, New South Wales, Australia
Coming from a DC track fed HO layout operating in the tropics of Northern Australia, with all the inherent problems of poor running at times (I used the rail oiling method), I had the advantage in that when I started in G scale I started with battery R/C from day one.

No bells and whistles control systems just basic R/C, ( I use simple low cost transmitter/ receiver combos and servo actuated toggle switches for direction) but then again I do get some satisfaction/frustration with experimenting with electrical circuitry when I can.

Good luck to the track power feed people I wish you all well but it is just not for me.

Touch wood I have not had a battery failure, after over 7 years so far, but as my NiMH ones get older and start failing then I may just switch to the newer Lithium chemistry batteries or whatever is coming online at the time.

I keep my batteries charged and test them with a voltmeter on a semi regular basis and have not had a non rechargeable situation yet, but as said before I will just move with the times and upgrade when that happens.

Personally I do not align myself rigidly with any manufacturer/system because I feel that reduces my flexibility to run trains and I preferring to run them for my enjoyment.
 
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ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
Well said Rick and superbly put across.

I think till my needs for a full Battery Fleet are available I will be continuing with Track Power. But that is because I am using big lumps of power like my Harz 2-10-2's, Mallets and big Diesels, no stalling during shunting! My only 0-4-0 Electrified Steam is Battery Powered and like your little beuties runs a treat. I have not tried a Deltang Ststem as yet, to be honest the programming puts me off a lot. So I use Aristo but am thinking of giving Mr Spoerers Battery kit a try. I already use his Transmitters in 2 of my Live Steam Locomotives with some more recievers to do 2 more. Have to say though that my Live Steam running is somewhat Diminished due to the issues of crudding up the track after a session. So a full Battery Fleet is on my wish list.
JonD
Hi Jon
As most of my locos use 0-4-0 short wheelbase motor blocks, I think the stuttering over plastic frogs and uneven bits of track was more pronounced.

The Txs which Peter (S) used to sell were all Deltang - based, but that may have changed recently.

Personally, I find programming Deltang Rxs a lot less complicated than fiddling about with CV values (even using a Sprog), but that might be because I've put more effort into getting my head around Deltang programming. It's certainly easier to do with a Tx such as the Tx20 than it is with the Deltang Prog modules which are quite fiddly to set up and use.

Rik
 
ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
Costs, and necessity.

It costs money to 'change over'. But, the fact that a large number of the layouts I visit run 'other than track power', it has been necessary to have some 'away' stock. Nothing flash, just a battery, and on/off switch.
Having since experienced (the cost of) my first battery failure (it wouldn't recharge..... kaput), I am still convinced of the benefits of Track Power.

One of the claimed 'faults' with track power, is the need for clean track. So they say. Very rare for me to clean track, as I use the rail oiling method. What a lot of anti track power advocates fail to see, is that it is not always dirty track that causes stalling etc., but, rather 'poor' track maintenance. Twist in track, especially near dead frogs is a common complaint. Twist causes one, or more, wheel/s to lose contact with the rail.Just pack the track right, and away you go. Stalling on points... more often than not (apart from the above mentioned twist), is the plate below the switch rail, make sure it is clean, and making good contact.
Hi Gavin
It was certainly electrical failure on pointwork which did it for me in the end. I found, eventually, the electrical connections within all my points failed and so I ended up soldering jumper wires. Even then, it wasn't 100% reliable. Even fitting all my locos with power buffers wasn't enough to rid me of stalls when running slowly over pointwork. As mentioned above, most of my locos are based on 0-4-0 motor blocks which might have had something to do with it.

I never came across the rail oiling method - does it affect adhesion on gradients?

Rik
 
ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
As Rik said, it's horses for courses. In my case what initially caused me to go battery was a disinclination to wire up about 200 feet of track in the Australian outside - you wouldn't believe how our sun effects insulation on smallish wiring, and in summer the ground is like concret so burying it is not an option - coupled with a dislike of block arrangements inherited from my time in N Scale DC. Sure, that could have been eliminated by DCC but that would have been just about as expensive as battery. An unlooked for advantage is that if I want to lay a track in a hurry, or temporarily, it's very little work to get it to a state where I can run on it.

There's disadvantages of course, charging; battery replacement after about 4 years; the inevitable frustration when I find that the battery in the RC unit it flat just as I want to start running, there's none in the house and the shops are closed; but overall I like it. However, others stick with track power and swear by it. And, Gav is a passionate member of that group and good luck to him, if it works for him. That's the good thing about GSC (unlike some other, admittedly not G, sites I've been associated with in the past), everybody's views are equally valid.

Steve
You're quite right, Steve - it is horses for courses. For me, the desire for reliable slow running and to engage in shunting manoeuvres was my prime motivator. I found that the funds raised by selling off my DCC gear funded the transition. The price I got for the decoders was about the same as the cost of new Deltang Rx/controllers and the price I got for the Central Station and two handsets was a fair bit more than the cost of the Txs. The batteries were fairly inexpensive - around £15 per loco. I suppose the greatest 'cost' was the time required for the conversions.

Rik
 
ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
Touch wood I have not had a battery failure, after over 7 years so far, but as my NiMH ones get older and start failing then I may just switch to the newer Lithium chemistry batteries or whatever is coming online at the time.

I keep my batteries charged and test them with a voltmeter on a semi regular basis and have not had a non rechargeable situation yet, but as said before I will just move with the times and upgrade when that happens.

Personally I do not align myself rigidly with any manufacturer/system because I feel that reduces my flexibility to run trains and I preferring to run them for my enjoyment.
So far (in 4 - 5 years) I've had only one battery failure - and that was because I bought el cheapo li-ions on eBay. A false economy as it turned out. I now pay a bit more (c£15 / loco) and get decent branded li-ions and (touch wood) not had any problems).

Rik
 
Martino

Martino

Kit bashing, The UK narrow gauge, The GWR, Aviatio
It's an interesting thread, and I'm at a tipping point right now. I've always been a track power adherent and overcame most problems. I've even been tolerant of stuttering four wheeled locos, and constantly failing point motors.
My problems all come down to where I am. Northwest Florida, right on the coast. Soil is actually sand. Humidity is high in the summer. We have irrigation systems running every other day and when it rains (usually just for 30 mins once a day - beautiful the rest of the time) sand is splashed over everything, and then it bakes on! Lastly is the lightning. We have electrical storms and that appears to destroy the railway electronics on a random basis.
So, I'm about to make the jump to battery. Doing one loco as a test as I want to keep my Zimo decoders and so am trying AirWire. The idea of not cleaning track, other than blowing off the leaves and dust; running without using the LGB track cleaning loco (which will be up for sale, by the way) is all very enticing.
My fingers are firmly crossed.
 
ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
It's an interesting thread, and I'm at a tipping point right now. I've always been a track power adherent and overcame most problems. I've even been tolerant of stuttering four wheeled locos, and constantly failing point motors.
My problems all come down to where I am. Northwest Florida, right on the coast. Soil is actually sand. Humidity is high in the summer. We have irrigation systems running every other day and when it rains (usually just for 30 mins once a day - beautiful the rest of the time) sand is splashed over everything, and then it bakes on! Lastly is the lightning. We have electrical storms and that appears to destroy the railway electronics on a random basis.
So, I'm about to make the jump to battery. Doing one loco as a test as I want to keep my Zimo decoders and so am trying AirWire. The idea of not cleaning track, other than blowing off the leaves and dust; running without using the LGB track cleaning loco (which will be up for sale, by the way) is all very enticing.
My fingers are firmly crossed.
Sounds like a nightmare scenario. Before the council cut them down, I had a couple of sycamores and a lime tree overhanging my garden which would exude sticky sap all through the summer. That made track cleaning 'interesting' - an added dimension.

Airwire does sound like an ideal compromise but, of course, it's not licensed this side of the pond.

Yes, selling my TC loco added another £300 to the transformation kitty.

Rik
 
Rhinochugger

Rhinochugger

Retired Oik
27 Oct 2009
24,277
214
North West Norfolk
I do both - track power, when I have the time and energy to clean it, allows me to run trains for hours with little interference, and easy double heading.

Battery power allows me to drop a train on the track and go instantly if I'm only going to be running for an hour or so.

Keep yer options open, I say :nod::nod::nod::nod:

And I have a live steamer when I want to fiddle >:)>:)>:)
 
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ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
I do both - track power, when I have the time and energy to clean it, allows me to run trains for hours with little interference, and easy double heading.

Battery power allows me to drop a train on the track and go instantly if I'm only going to be running for an hour or so.

Keep yer options open, I say :nod::nod::nod::nod:

And I have a live steamer when I want to fiddle >:)>:)>:)
The ideal compromise
Rik
 
Gavin Sowry

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
5,985
83
65
Hutt Valley, NZ
Hi Gavin

I never came across the rail oiling method - does it affect adhesion on gradients?

Rik
Only if you have them, which I don't.
 
Gavin Sowry

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
5,985
83
65
Hutt Valley, NZ
Hi Gavin
s mentioned above, most of my locos are based on 0-4-0 motor blocks which might have had something to do with it.



Rik

Problem there is that there is no suspension play in the blocks, and then it is the 'twist' in the track that causes one wheel to loose momentary contact with the rail. That's often no great deal, but, if the other wheel on the same side is on the dead frog, and you loose contact, you, well, stop.
I can not overstress the importance of good trackwork...... far too often, I've seen guys strip down, and modify locos and rolling stock when the fault all along has been in the track.
 
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dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
14,442
197
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
Problem there is that there is no suspension play in the blocks, and then it is the 'twist' in the track that causes one wheel to loose momentary contact with the rail. That's often no great deal, but, if the other wheel on the same side is on the dead frog, and you loose contact, you, well, stop.
I can not overstress the importance of good trackwork...... far too often, I've seen guys strip down, and modify locos and rolling stock when the fault all along has been in the track.
I fully agree with the Flat Track statements, but and here is a big but. Not easy in the great outdoors - nor even indoors as I found with my 0 Gauge Exhibition layout. In the end I compensated all the wagons with a 3 point compensation sysyem and locomotives were all treated to a Mike Sharman type of Flexichas system. Result perfect running even with small 0-4-0's but track did need to be clean. The wagons glided rather than bump theor way along the line. I could even create dodgy looking Col Stephens Light Railway humps and bumps all for the overall effect. If I resurect the layout which I am thinking about I will DCC it but with all stay alive decoders.

So that is not something that could easily apply to your expensive LGB Locomotives, though much of the stock does have limited compensation. While on the subject of LGB, both their and Peco Electrical continuity in points is not reliable long term in the Garden. This will probably apply to other makes of Track and I always adopt as has Mick in Ireland just recently the practice of Bonding All the Jumpers with a Soldered connection.

As I have said on this forum many times before, if I can get a satisfactory system to link in with my Sound Decoders (Massoth DRC where are you?) I will go all battery. But in the meantime my DCC works well. Oh and last year when my Massoth Base Unit was back in Germany I ran my full Timetable with 4 visitors all Battery. 4 hours of fun was had and no track cleaning.

With regards to Martino's issues of Sand on the line, would suggest some kind of Scrubber Vehicle or perhaps like many Tram Systems did to clean it off before running.

Finally I am not sure about the oil method, cetainly for me the oil deposited by live steam does not help at all with electrical pickup. In fact it positively needs to be scrubbed off which means a wait for it to be dried out otherwise the LGB Track cleaners are unusable for a day or three.

Sorry I have blundered off thread a bit here.
JonD
 
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ge_rik

ge_rik

British narrow gauge (esp. Southwold and W&LLR)
24 Oct 2009
9,548
91
Cheshire
www.riksrailway.blogspot.com
Sorry I have blundered off thread a bit here.
JonD
On the contrary, Jon, seems very apposite. If there are other solutions to overcoming unreliability with track power then let's open out the discussion. As I said in the video, I presented a personal viewpoint as to the solution I reached - there may be others which are equally as valid.
Rik
 
GAP

GAP

G Scale trains, Lawn Bowls.
14 Jun 2011
2,442
8
64
Bomaderry, New South Wales, Australia
Hi Gavin
I never came across the rail oiling method - does it affect adhesion on gradients?
Rik
When I used oil on my rails in HO the oil I used was "Wahl Clipper Oil" as used by hairdressers to oil hair clippers.
I would put a few drops around the layout and run a loco around to spread the oil.
The clipper oil reduced tarnish/oxidization to a point that I only cleaned my rails about once a fortnight and I never had adhesion problems even on the extremely steep grades of my mountain logging railway section.
 
Zerogee

Zerogee

Clencher's Bogleman
25 Oct 2009
16,452
33
North Essex
.............As I have said on this forum many times before, if I can get a satisfactory system to link in with my Sound Decoders (Massoth DRC where are you?) I will go all battery........
....................
JonD
I know this has been discussed before, Jon, but the Tam Valley DRS (Dead Rail System) provides ALMOST all of what the elusively mythical Massoth DRC promised - the only thing you can't do with it is do run locos directly from a wireless Navigator without a Central Station linked to one of the DRS transmitters, but this isn't really a big problem (and there is always the Stanton S-Cab handset as an option if you want an all-in-one hand-held solution for when you go visiting other layouts).
Other than that, it provides seamless DCC control of battery locos, including sound functions, for a broadly similar cost per loco to that proposed for the DRC if it had ever appeared.

Jon.
 
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Hal Farsed

Hal Farsed

D.P. Gumby.
7 Apr 2014
401
0
The Midlands
Now, this is an interesting one. Over the last twelve or so years I have had the pleasure of owning many different locos from different manufacturers. The locos I had the most problem with were Bachmanns geared locos. These would stall on any track that was not glass flat with a mirror finish and, if I had kept them, would have certainly gone over to batteries. I did convert the Bachmann 4-6-0s to battery operation with a false oil tank hiding the switches and speed controllers, I had run these to death and the drivers had become pitted. The 2-8-0s I never had a single problem with, probably due to their weight, far better quality wheels (than the 4-6-0) and 16 pick up points.
In my experience, all of the LGB locos I owned would run on any old filthy rails, probably due to thier scrapers. I believe the 2095 DH I had would have run on mud if I had tried it. (For this reason, I never understood the use of the track cleaning loco, but I defer to users of this machine with far more experience with LGB than I have.)
Now, I am exclusively batteries. Even though I run on 45mm track (which I prefer anyway), most of my stuff could be said to be 16mm(!). A lot of the locos/rolling stock do not even have insulated wheels. I can see the advantages of both systems, but I just prefer batteries. It gives the locos some autonomy IMO. The advent of Deltang kit has surely cemented that descision. Its really damn good. (usual disclaimer)
 
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