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    • July 21, 2019 3:03 PM EDT

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      Rail boss vs Airwire

      Not wanting to get into big debate and side taking, but I've been reading both the recent Airwire and RailBoss threads, which transformed into a battery discussion.  I've done other research and watched videos, etc.  So I decided to try to get a specifics thread.

       

      As a background, I started with track power and LocoLinc based on looking at specs and my own lack of experience.  We are now in the process of down sizing and relocating to the mountains of western Colorado. I've had to pull up the track and box everything up, yes a sad day. But in this process, I have decided to open up the research and look at alternatives.  I only had a couple engines converted to Phoenix sound and the LocoLinc but have already invested in both for 5 engines.  And have now purchased 2 more engines which will require boards.  I have made the decision to go to battery and I'll learn about which batteries, etc later so I'd like this thread to say on track, if possible.

       

      I like the Phoenix sound and plan to stay with that.  I bought one of their coupler things and I'm considering more in the future, just to add some fun playing. The thing I most did not like about the Locolinc was the difficulty of operating the remote.  I had the older 70's style and personally found it less than intuitive switching between various engines, let alone switches. Sorry, but it just didn't work for me, let alone the 4 year old grandson.  I know they have a new one and have reach out to Keith on it, before I rule it out  

       

      My plans for the layout when we get to CO will be designed for several levels and a number of switches, sidings, stop stations, etc.  I'm thinking I will run some at night, multiple engines and may have some buildings, but don't want to get into a lot of maintaining bringing them in/out.  I'm planning on a drive in shed indoors.  At times I'm thinking it will just be background noise, enjoyment, etc. and other times active running with grandkids and I.   I've kind of narrowed it down to RailBoss and Airwire.  Things I like about each individuallay are built in coupler connection, round speed knob and single remote for multiple engines and switches in Airwire but the small simple button remote and really am interested in logic of station stops, etc., but not crazy about multiple remotes and not sure how to handle switches In the RailBoss  

       

      So what I'd like is conversation of each as to actual experiences with each, what you DON'T like and why you would change or stay with. 

      This post was edited by Mickey Kelley at July 21, 2019 3:32 PM EDT
    • July 21, 2019 7:03 PM EDT
      • Shut Up Rooster
         
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      When presenting "help" it helps a lot to know what your priorities are. No use proposing a system that is way out of your budget.

       

      So, how much per loco are you willing to spend?

      Are you handy in wiring and understanding basic circuit diagrams?

      I assume you will want to re-use the Phoenix sound cards.

      I assume you are going to jettison the LocoLinc

      Would you consider the Revo system too?

       

      Greg

      ____________________________________

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    • July 21, 2019 11:52 PM EDT

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      Greg Elmassian said:

      When presenting "help" it helps a lot to know what your priorities are. No use proposing a system that is way out of your budget.

       

      So, how much per loco are you willing to spend? knowing I've already spent on LocoLinc, cost is not as big of an issue as long as I get it right for me.  But yes at some point, it becomes cost prohibitive but the control boards all seem relatively close in cost so at this point that's not the consideration as I know it's going to add up.

      Are you handy in wiring and understanding basic circuit diagrams?  As I said above since I've already wired several with the Phoenix and Locolinc, thats not an issue.

      I assume you will want to re-use the Phoenix sound cards. yes as said above.

      I assume you are going to jettison the LocoLinc  as I said above, I've reached out to Keith, so depends on if I can find a video of his new controller being operated.  If not, I most likely move on and try to resell the boards.

      Would you consider the Revo system too? I guess depends on if it offered something special that attracts me

       

      Greg

       

    • July 22, 2019 1:49 AM EDT
      • Shut Up Rooster
         
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      So I guess we should stand by until you get the info from Keith.

       

      After that, you will either go with the new throttles or give up the entire system and go elsewhere... as I read you.

       

      What does not make a whole lot of sense to me is your first reply, but my takeaway is that you would be willing to spend the same amount of money per loco as a locolink receiver costs.

       

      We'll be here when you make your primary decision.

       

      Greg

      ____________________________________

      Be sure­ to visit ­my site, l­ots of tec­hnical tip­s and modi­fications,­ and you c­an search ­for topics­ and key w­ords.


      ­Click HERE for Greg­'s web sit­e
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    • July 22, 2019 1:56 AM EDT

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      I reviewed the RailBoss 4 for Garden Railways when it came out 6 years or so ago. G Scale Graphics has it linked on their web site. It's not as full-featured as other systems in terms of lighting and sound control, but it's also the only system on the market that allows for automation in the battery R/C world. I've seen the automation in action on Del Tapparo's railroad, and it's cool. (Del owns G Scale Graphics/Railboss.) I simulated the automation features for my review, and they were fun to set up. If you're going to be building a railroad where you want a lot of automation (back and forth, station stops, etc.) this will do it without the need for track power. The RailBoss system will interface with the Phoenix sound system and their automatic uncoupler. Note that this review is 6 years old, and the board and software has been updated since then. We also use the Trackside RailBoss 4 system out at the Colorado Railroad Museum. It doesn't have the sound controls, but the operation is similar. The trackside system does not allow for automation. 

       

      My personal "gripe" with this system is the key fob controller. I personally prefer a graphic display or some visual indicator of speed and direction to be on the handheld control. Some would say, "well, you can see the loco moving on the railroad--isn't that enough?" Not really, no. I do a lot of prototypical operation, which means a lot of back and forth. There's a lot of time when the train is not moving but there's still low voltage going to the motor. That prevents you from changing the direction. If you don't have directional lights on your loco, you don't know which way it's going to move when you increase the throttle. (In the steam era, trains often ran without illuminated headlights in the daytime.) It's also very small, and very dark. That makes it easy to misplace outdoors. Set it down, and it vanishes into the garden. The key fob controllers we use at the museum are attached to 3" x 10" bright yellow pieces of plastic. You can also attach it to a lanyard and hang it around your neck. (I'd recommend bright yellow for the lanyard for the same reasons--easy to see when you set it down.) If you're running multiple locos, then you're going to need multiple key fobs. Keeping the organized may present some challenges. I used to use the old RCS control system in the 80s and 90s. It was very similar--one remote per locomotive, and you only had pushbuttons on the controller. The advantages of being able to control multiple locos independently from one transmitter are enormous. 

       

      You already mentioned not being able to control switches remotely with the RailBoss system. Pneumatics, perhaps? (I'm not a fan of automatic switches outdoors anyway. Too easy for ballast, twigs, or bugs to get caught in the points and keep them from closing. I've just come to being used to flipping the switches manually and making darned sure they're closed.) Having said that, manual switches do not play into complex automatic operations, so you may need to look at a parallel system, perhaps using magnets on the loco to trigger switch machines. 

       

      The Airwire system gives you access to the world of DCC decoders, but it's at the expense of being able to do any kind of automation.* I put the asterisk there because there are decoders which allow for some level of automation within the decoder programming itself. (Lenz and Zimo offer this, others may as well.) What I do not know is whether that can be triggered via something like track magnets or whether it's strictly controlled by changes in the voltage going to the decoder (DC or asymmetrical DCC). You'd have to do some digging around. Dan Pierce is the Zimo guy around here, and Stan Ames knows the Lenz stuff backwards and forwards. They'd be good folks to ask. With the Airwire, you could control the switches via the handheld remote (see above caveat about automatic switches outdoors). Again, though, with the automation, you'd probably need some kind of magnet on the locomotive to trigger switch events. DCC BitSwitch has a lot of automation products. I don't know if they're still in production or not, nor if they can be adapted to the battery R/C environment. (Their web site has gone dark, but Tony's Trains still lists their products for sale.) 

       

      The negative with Airwire would have to be the reliable range of the transmitters. If you're routinely going to be within 30' of your trains at all times, then you'll be fine. If you're going to have a large railroad spread out over hundreds of feet, but want to run it from the comfort of your deck, then there will be places where the locomotive will likely be out of range. My back yard is 30' x 65', so I'm never that far away from my locomotives. My dad's railroad takes up a space around 100' x 200'. I cannot reliably sit in any one spot and know I've got control of the loco no matter where it is on the railroad. Since we do prototypical operations on that railroad, we're always near our locos, so it's not an issue. 

       

      In terms of installation, there's virtually no difference between the two systems. If you've done LocoLinc, then you won't have any troubles with either of these systems.

       

      Later,

       

      K

       

       

       

      This post was edited by Kevin Strong at July 23, 2019 9:35 AM EDT
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    • July 22, 2019 2:36 AM EDT

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      Hello Kevin.

      Perhaps the potential user would consider my 2.4 Ghz R/C stuff.'

      It has knobs.

      You can bind as many locos as you wish to one handpiece.

      It can run multiple trains at the same time. Up to 4 x if needed, depending on Tx model being used.

      It has sound system capability with add on R/C switch modules.

      ESC's handle 100 watts up to 24 volts.  Have directional lighting.

      Non proprietary.  TX's, RX's and ESC's available from other makers.

      It will also run Live Steam trains all from the one low cost Tx handpiece. They start at US$ 62.

      TX-5 shown.

      TX-5 shown

      Sorry, no automation.

      ____________________________________

      Best wishes,
      Tony Walsham

      Remote Control Systems. www.rcs-rc.com/
        Modern technology. Old Fashioned reliability

    • July 22, 2019 1:42 PM EDT
      • Shut Up Rooster
         
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      The only thing in bold, emphasized, in the OP's post is automation...  that's quite limiting for battery power, and definitely more complex if you want something more than a single loco with station stops, i.e. several locos interacting or taking turns.

       

      I would consider a second look at track power, since there are so many more options and products available.

       

      Greg

      ____________________________________

      Be sure­ to visit ­my site, l­ots of tec­hnical tip­s and modi­fications,­ and you c­an search ­for topics­ and key w­ords.


      ­Click HERE for Greg­'s web sit­e
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    • July 22, 2019 2:54 PM EDT

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      Greg Elmassian said:

      So I guess we should stand by until you get the info from Keith.

       

      After that, you will either go with the new throttles or give up the entire system and go elsewhere... as I read you.

       

      What does not make a whole lot of sense to me is your first reply, but my takeaway is that you would be willing to spend the same amount of money per loco as a locolink receiver costs.

       

      We'll be here when you make your primary decision.

       

      Greg

       

      I guess I may not have been clear enough.  As far as I can tell, all these boards are in the same league as far as installing.  Slightly different but basically it gets down to size if its a limiting space like the Climax.  That is not the issue.  I installed the LocoLinc/Phoenix so Im guessing I'm smart enough to hand any of the others.  I'm not sure I would use all the different options different boards may offer.  Maybe I don't truly understand the use of the features, but to me, lights will just be set by the board.  Front on when going forward, day or night, rear when going back, cab and markers all the time.  Snice I'm doing all steam, bell and whistle is the the only thing I can see wanting a button for.  I can see the part about the couplers, which I do have interest in as I mentioned in the original post.

      As for LocoLinc, they are still under consideration.  Their boards or features were not the issue.  It's the controller.  So for me, the controller is really the big issue. I did not take my time to really understand that on the first round.  Ignorance.  His original was just too much remember this, push that, etc.  maybe I'm just the only one, but as a software programmer who owns his own software company for the past 35 years, simple and intuitive is the answer.  That's what I do and why I have so many customers still customers since the 80's.  That's is what I'm looking for in the controller.  That's is why I'm asking for input this round.  If it means cutting my losses now before I continue to convert engines, I'd rather do that and deal with the expense.  I am really I intreaged by the automation as there are times when I want it in auto mode to just watch and enjoy.  Other times manually.  Now I realize I need to understand the good and bad of automation then decide style of controller. 

    • July 22, 2019 3:28 PM EDT
      • Saint Helena, CALIFORNIA
         
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      Mickey:

       

      You might consider contacting Del at G Scale Graphics directly for answers or to perhaps discuss your specific requirements.

       

      I'm a very satisfied user (I have seven receivers and 3 transmitters) though my layout is indoors and my needs are very basic.  I know that the RailBoss 4 has much more capability than I am using.  In my experience Del has been extremely responsive and helpful.

      This post was edited by Mark Hadler at July 24, 2019 8:56 PM EDT
    • July 22, 2019 5:48 PM EDT

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      Mark Hadler said:

      Mickey:

       

      You might consider contacting Del at G Scale Graphics directly for answers or to perhaps discuss your specific requirements.

       

      I'm a very satisfied user (I have seven receivers and 3 transmitters) though my layout is indoors and my needs are very basic.  I know that the RailBoss 4 has much more capability than I am using.  In my experience Del has been extremely responsive and helpful.

      That's the game plan eventually, but I want to read/hear what others experiences are for the education part.  For example, in the review mentioned above, I learned about the lack of an immediate stop function in the Airwire.  I would assume that's a given but obviously not.

      This post was edited by Mickey Kelley at July 24, 2019 8:55 PM EDT
    • July 22, 2019 7:00 PM EDT

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      Hi Mickey - A lot of info above this, but in reading some of it, I would just like to point out a couple of things. First of all, welcome to Colorado. I'm in Windsor, CO.

      As to running multiple locos, one RailBoss 4 Transmitter will run ALL of your locos, any ONE at a time. Two at a time requires two transmitters; but I assume you have at least two pockets to put them in. I also don't like to call them "key fob" transmitters. At 3.5"X2.5", that's a pretty big "key fob". Running two trains at a time can be quite challenging, no matter whose controller you use. More than that ... good luck.

      As to automation, RailBoss 4 is the only system I know of that can run multiple battery powered locos on the same loop of track, doing random station stops, and still maintain safe spacing automatically. The random station stops make it more interesting, because the spacing varies, depending on stops.

      Our philosophy has always been simple. And our 6 button transmitter is just that, yet provides advanced functions if you want them.

      If you have any questions, I would be glad to answer them here or feel free to give me a call or e-mail directly. Oh, and did I mention up to 800 feet line-of-sight range? Here is a recent quote (7-15-2019) from a happy customer ...

      "I must say that I am extremely happy with the performance of the controllers. It amazes me how I can control a loco from a considerable distance away even when it is in my tunnel which is underground and lined with steel."

      Regards

      Murray Kyle

    • July 22, 2019 7:01 PM EDT
      • Saint Helena, CALIFORNIA
         
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      I have only 160 feet of rail and occasionally will run two engines simultaneously.  Boy, am I glad that the RailBoss has the emergency stop function.   

    • July 23, 2019 4:44 PM EDT
      • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
         
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      Yea, 1 person running 2 trains at once can sometimes be a challenge, but is doable. 1 person running 3 at a time on the same track, for more then a very few minutes, is beyond my abilities. I have tried.

      ____________________________________

      Shannon car Shops
      Home of the infamous leg lamp

      I.A.R.R.R. Member #12

      and King Butt Modeler

    • July 23, 2019 10:54 PM EDT
      • Saint Johns, Florida
         
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      David,

      It is hard to run three trains at one time on a small RR, but I did it. I also ran 4 at one time on our much larger club RR and that was easier!

      ____________________________________

       

       

    • July 24, 2019 6:41 AM EDT
      • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
         
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      Well, I said it was beyond my abilities. Some people are just more talented than I am. With the Digitrax system we have in our club, I had 3 throttles and only 2 hands. So keeping track of what throttle was what locomotive is where I goofed.

      ____________________________________

      Shannon car Shops
      Home of the infamous leg lamp

      I.A.R.R.R. Member #12

      and King Butt Modeler

    • July 24, 2019 11:17 AM EDT
      • Shut Up Rooster
         
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      Mickey, thank you for your response, and quoting me so no one misunderstood.

       

      Reading your response several times does help explain further.

       

      My takeaway is:

      1. you reinforced your issue with locolinc is the controller, but you are more specific in that it's the operation of functions that are not intuitive or straightforward.

      2. you somewhat tempered your "really interested" in automation to the "good and bad" of automation.

       

      I would make these statements to try to help you down the road to a decision... I doubt seriously the Locolinc can change the basic structure of the operation of their transmitter, the complexity and "non-intuitive" part is probably more "locked into" the actual overall design of the system. I also would submit the limited range and limited hardware selection to be further factors of changing away.

       

      • On automation, I would submit it is not "good or bad" but an additional facet of this great hobby, and if your "ideal result" is as how you described, you need to make your system selection with this in mind from the beginning. As I stated, this is pretty tough and fairly scarce on battery power.

       

      (I'm a little concerned that "Murray Kyle" has responded to you using Dell Tapparo's account (!!!) but I will assume he must work with/for Del.)

       

      • In any case, I would strongly encourage you to investigate this option, even to a visit (although you say western Colorado, and Windsor appears to be northern CO near Loveland).

       

      I've seen the products evolve, and grow and increase in features. The quality can be confirmed by many users here. New ideas and features come much more often than other products, as compared to Locolinc. I've talked to Del several times on the phone and he is straightforward and helpful. The fact that he has some automation features should put his system at the top of your list in my opinion.

       

      Greg

      This post was edited by Greg Elmassian at July 24, 2019 11:18 AM EDT
      ____________________________________

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    • July 24, 2019 11:35 AM EDT

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      (I'm a little concerned that "Murray Kyle" has responded to you using Dell Tapparo's account (!!!) but I will assume he must work with/for Del.)

       

      No Greg. Murray Kyle is my customer. It is a legitimate quote from a recent e-mail, as I noted.  I get a lot of positive feed back on my products and customer service. (No wonder I don't do forums anymore.)

    • July 24, 2019 12:46 PM EDT
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      Thanks for clearing the confusion. It was (and to me still is) a bit confusing since the signature was his, not yours. But re-reading does show you were quoting, my bad.

       

      I'm sorry that seemed to detract from the thrust of my post, that you seem to have the best suited solution given Mickey's requirements.

       

      Greg

      ____________________________________

      Be sure­ to visit ­my site, l­ots of tec­hnical tip­s and modi­fications,­ and you c­an search ­for topics­ and key w­ords.


      ­Click HERE for Greg­'s web sit­e
      PLEASE NOT­E: Please do NOT use private messaging, i­f you have­ a questio­n, feel fr­ee to emai­l me priva­tely, u­se regular­ email onl­y: greg@el­massian.co­m

    • July 25, 2019 12:31 AM EDT

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       I had a great call today with both Del at RailBoss and the guy (I think Brehn or something)  at LocoLinc.  Both great calls.  

       

      RailBoss: I learned that it is easy to turn off 'automation' by using the 2nd function of one of the buttons.  I also learned how to quickly have the same remote learn the engine.  So if you have a fleet, you don't have to have a fleet of remotes, but just have it learn what your going to run that day and can add a remote button on the engine so you don't have to dig into the engine/tender to press the learn button on the board.  In my case I have 10 engines and not sure which or how many I might do that day.  Not sure how many engines you can run at the same time in automation.  No switch control and he thinks manual is the best way.  Otherwise have to have a separate system for switch control.

       

      LocoLinc: I learned that all I would need to do for the new controller is to get a $30 converter (the actual receiving piece) board and swap it out.  No need to change out the main controller board, so no un-wiring what I've already done And most of the money I have already spent is still usable.  But I learned the accessory boards I bought are of no use under new sytem.  As for the controller, no video of it working, but he gave me a good verbal walk through. You can label your engines with your own wording and they are all listed on the screen at the same time to see and scroll thru to choose.  So no trying to remember or see engine numbers.  Same for switches.  Sounds much easier to use but no videos of it so would have to buy ($229 but comes with 2 converter boards) to play with.  I also learned he does not have automation and was not aware of anyone doing that.  Said could be possible in future if enough interest.  

       

      Airwire: did not get any calls but did get email basically saying no videos and even though located in Texas only 3 hours away, they don't allow visitors for demonstrations.  But learned the transmitter is forever transmitting so chews up batteries and heard switching between engines is not as easy when trying to get to lower speed in a hurry since not emergency stop button.  

       

      So im leaning between LocoLinc or RailBoss.  I need to think thru just how much I might use the automation feature.  

      This post was edited by Mickey Kelley at July 26, 2019 9:21 AM EDT
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