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  • Topic: USA Trains F3 A/B Battery Conversion

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    • May 6, 2018 5:04 PM EDT
      • Milpitas, California
         
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      USA Trains F3 A/B Battery Conversion

      I'm in the process of converting my Diesel engines to battery power with the Airwire system. I'd like to get a consensus of opinions on how you would convert a motorized set of USA Trains F-3 A/B units. Which one of these configurations do you prefer? I appreciate your input!
       
      Option #1
      F-3 A Unit: Airwire G3x (or F3 Drop-in) decoder, Phoenix P-8 sound board, 14.8v 5.2Ah Li-Ion battery pack, speaker.
      F-3 B Unit: No decoder, no sound board, no battery. 
        
      Option #2
      F-3 A Unit: Airwire G3x (or F3 Drop-in) decoder, Phoenix P-8 sound board, two(2)14.8v 5.2Ah Li-Ion battery packs, speaker.
      F-3 B Unit: No decoder, no sound board, no battery.
       
      Option #3
      F-3 A Unit: Airwire G3x (or F3 Drop-in) decoder, Phoenix P-8 sound board, 14.8v 5.2Ah Li-Ion battery pack, speaker.
      F-3 B Unit: 14.8v 5.2Ah Li-ion battery pack, speaker.
       
      Option #4
      F-3 A Unit: Airwire G3x (or F3 Drop-in) decoder, Phoenix P-8 sound board, 14.8v 5.2Ah Li-Ion battery pack, speaker.
      F-3 B Unit: Airwire G3x (or F3 Drop-in) decoder, 14.8v 5.2Ah Li-Ion battery pack, speaker.
       
       
       
      This post was edited by Michael Kirrene at May 6, 2018 5:05 PM EDT
    • May 6, 2018 6:26 PM EDT

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      Michael,

      One question before giving ideas.   Are you always planning on running these as a set?    Second,  Airwire has a very high quality 6.8ah battery at 14.8.

      ____________________________________

      Paul Burch

      Sierra Cascade & Pacific RR

    • May 6, 2018 9:56 PM EDT
      • Milpitas, California
         
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      Hi Paul -

      This is my USAT Western Pacific F-3 A/B set to pull my California Zephyr passenger cars. If I could find another "B" unit, I'd jump on it quick. 

      I can get a good deal on Tenergy 14.8 5.2 mAh lithium batteries, but for this conversion I'll take your advice and get one or two 14.8 6800 mah batteries at $80 each.

    • May 6, 2018 10:25 PM EDT
      • Curmudgeon at Large, Lynn Haven, FL
         
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      Having a set of those in ACL, and being an AirWire supporter, my suggestion would be either option 1 or option 2. The only difference between option 1 and 2 is going to be run time, and that will be dependent on whether you can fit two battery packs in the A unit in parallel. Running two battery packs in two different locomotives controlled by one G3 will be a wiring nightmare, or why option 3 is out in my opinion.

       

      Option 4, for the cost of the sound board being the only difference, I would just make them fully independent and MU them in the AriWire controller.

       

      My personal intent is to put batteries and controller in the A unit, and a sound card in both the A and B units using voltage control for the sound control.

      ____________________________________

      We don't stop playing with trains because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing with trains.....

       

    • May 7, 2018 8:40 AM EDT
      • Ottawa, Canada
         
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      Mike this is Paul Norton's article on how he did it, might help you.

      http://ovgrs.org/the-trains/battery-power-radio-control-and-sound/usa-trains-f3-a/ 

      This post was edited by Steve McKenzie at May 7, 2018 12:39 PM EDT
    • May 8, 2018 2:58 PM EDT
      • Kittery, ME
         
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      Mike knows this, as we've discussed it offline, but for the same of future readers of this thread:

      I have an ABA set.  I have all three set up to be completely independent (each has AirWire, battery, sound, etc.).  I have the B set to the same address as one of the As, as these two always run as a set.  This way, I don't have to MU them on the throttle.  They do, however, have different speed curve settings to match each other and the other A.  I have remote couplers on both, but only the front of the A and the rear of the B.  

      The other A unit has its own address, so to run all three, I have a two-unit MU that actually runs all 3 units.  

      For sound, the A units both have P8s, and the B unit has an older Phoenix board (I don't remember which) that came with it when I bought it.  

      This setup has worked out well.  No cables connecting the units, and they can pull a LOT of weight.  They also sound awesome. 

      This is obviously the most expensive option.

    • May 10, 2018 2:25 PM EDT
      • Milpitas, California
         
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      Thanks for the replies so far.

       

      Anticipating the return of Airwire battery conversion expert Paul Burch for his valued input. I'm sure he's outside running trains on his Southern Pacific railroad..... 

       

      If I'm not mistaken, I think this will be the same kind of Airwire/battery installation scenario that will be used for the rumored upcoming release of the USA Trains F-7A/F-7B units.

       

      This post was edited by Michael Kirrene at May 10, 2018 3:18 PM EDT
    • May 10, 2018 3:29 PM EDT
      • Elverta, CA
         
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      Michael

       

      I have a trio of A-B-A USAT F3's set-up with 14.8V Li-Po batteries to pull my SP Coast Overnighter consist. I setup my powered A units each with an AirWire Drop-In, P8 sound and battery. The unpowered B unit has a sound only decoder and 6.0V battery. The sound of each engine passing by with its own song is killer. The horn and lights are programmed to work on the lead A unit. I can cold start the engine(s) one at a time, its pretty neat noise but not really needed for prototypical model operation I suppose. I replaced all the lighting with warm white LED's and used turned down mini flashlight reflectors for the headlights. The Mars and stationary headlight are impressive IMO.

       

      Michael

    • May 10, 2018 6:17 PM EDT
      • edited for your approval, Arizona
         
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      As a pure so far observer, I do not have a running railroad  yet, but have been to a lot of open houses, so for what it’s worth go with the sound in both, people notice that an engine is not “online” when it rolls by and is silent. My brother In law at the first layout he saw noticed and was asking why one was making sound(this time a B Unit) and the A was silent.  I would just for the realistic look and sound( that’s why we have sound) go with option 3 or4 . Of course the best way is always the spendy way, so maybe go with option 1 then upgrade to option 4 after you see how you like it

      ____________________________________

       

      Butt Modeler #2

       

       

    • May 12, 2018 10:31 AM EDT
      • Elverta, CA
         
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      The attached video is of the maiden run of my Southern Pacific Overnighter consist on Noel Wilsons layout in 2012. Later I eliminated the second B unit and replaced with another A unit as was prototypical of the Zipper as it ran between Southern California and Northern California. As noted previously each engine has sound.

       

       

      This post was edited by Michael Glavin at May 12, 2018 2:10 PM EDT
    • May 12, 2018 12:25 PM EDT
      • Denver, Colorado
         
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         It looks so real. I love the weathering on some of the cars, and I like the new-looking ones too. I must criticize one aspect though....the kid at 5:50 is way out of scale.

       

         edit: the caboose (no caboose, no train, I say) makes up for the kid!

       

       

      This post was edited by John Passaro at May 12, 2018 12:27 PM EDT
      ____________________________________

    • May 12, 2018 2:12 PM EDT
      • Milpitas, California
         
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      Hi Michael -

       

      Nice video! I have family that lives right around the corner from Noel in Rio Linda. Next time I'm up that way, I need to stop by and see the Santa Fe and Butthead Cove Railroad. That SP Overnighter train looks and sounds real nice! And to top it all off is that cool Mars light (or is it a Gyralight?) on the front of your F3A unit. I need to seriously consider adding one of those when I do the battery convert on my WP Zephyr combo. And I think ditch lights too.

       

      Dave Bodnar went all balls out with his Mars light right here. I'd love to have one of these:

      http://www.trainelectronics.com/MarsLights/article.htm

       

      Not sure if this would fit a G scale F unit:

      https://www.miniatronics.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=M&Product_Code=100-MAR-01&Category_Code=2_9&Product_Count=1

       

    • May 16, 2018 5:21 PM EDT
      • Milpitas, California
         
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      Bumpety bump.

    • May 17, 2018 12:56 AM EDT
      • Elverta, CA
         
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      Michael

       

      I'm using the Mars light feature of the Drop-in with a single 5mm LED. FWIW: S.P. used both the Mars and Gyralite offerings for headlights and as emergency warning signals in RED! Espee didn't run ditch lights with the F units. As I recall other than different vendors the Mars worked in a vertical figure eight and the Gyralite did a horizontal figure eight.

       

      I might have a W.P. 'B' unit, I know I have two 'A' units NIB for sure. I'll let you know. We have a local modeler with a Zephyr train, Joel bashed the OBS car with a Vista Domes, dome.

       

      Noels railroad is great, lots of unique features. I'm sure your welcome to visit the Sante Fe & Butthead R.R., Noel is a great host....

       

      MIchael

      This post was edited by Michael Glavin at May 17, 2018 1:38 PM EDT
    • May 17, 2018 1:38 PM EDT
      • Milpitas, California
         
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      Hi Michael!

      Thanks for the information. My F units are Western Pacific (like Joel's) so I'll have to check to see if they ever used ditch lights. I think they look cool on the engine. Pretty sure they had Mars lights though. I really like Joel's Observation/Vista Dome car - gotta get up to Sac one of these days before it gets too hot!

       

      The WP "B" unit is hard to come up with unless an F-3 A/B set can be found. A BAGRS member told me that the WP was the last set that USA Trains produced. 

       

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