RailPro Frequently Asked Questions
can I buy RailPro products?
Walthers is a distributor for our products and many other hobby
shops sell our products. For a complete list click here.
List. Not all resellers listed stock RailPro products. All shops
listed can order RailPro products. If you send us an
email we can recommend a shop in your area that specializes in
selling RailPro products.
link different types of locomotives will they run well together?
(This is often referred to as Consisting or MU'ed)
In fact you will only need to set one
adjustment to get locomotives with even different motors and gear
ratios to work very well together. The one adjustment that needs to
be set has an auto set feature. You can actually setup
different locomotives to run well together in under a minute.
All you need to do is run the auto set feature for the Motor Full
Load Current adjustment on each locomotive.
The way RailPro links locomotives
together is patented technology and unlike any DCC system. Direct
Radio allows RailPro locomotives to communicate together almost
instantly to be sure that each locomotive pulls its portion of the
load and runs smoothly together. Any DCC system that we are
aware of, only allows communication to locomotives and the locomotives
cannot talk to each other. Ring Engineering's Direct Radio allows all
RailPro products to communicate in both directions at full speed!
Two way, full speed communication is key to many of RailPro's easy
to use and unique features including the way linked locomotives run
locomotive modules be battery powered?
There are customers that are running
RailPro locomotives that are battery powered now. However, we
do not believe that battery power is the best choice for the
majority of users. We believe that a wall powered layout is a better
solution. Click here for the
If my club is DCC
run RailPro on the club layout?
You can take your RailPro equipped
locomotives and Handheld controllers to a club that has a DCC layout
and run it on their layout. You can run your RailPro
locomotives on the same tracks and at the same time while other club
members are controlling their DCC locomotives. However, you
will only be able to select and control RailPro equipped locomotives
and you will not be able to control DCC locomotives. DCC cabs
can control your RailPro locomotive because RailPro
locomotive modules respond to DCC and Direct Radio commands from
RailPro controllers such as the HC-2 handheld controller.
doesn't RailPro control DCC locomotives?
the goal of RailPro was to create an 'easy to use' system and we did
not want to bring the complexities, limitations, problems, and extra
expense of DCC into our RailPro system.
Click here for the long answer.
Why should my club use
RailPro instead of DCC?
There are lots of good reasons for a club to
run RailPro instead of a DCC system.
1) Ease of use. RailPro is so easy to use that it will be easy to get
those who only want to run analog to use it! The RailPro handheld
controller with Direct Radio has the feel of an analog controller.
RailPro has the power to do more than DCC systems.
Passwords - Each locomotive, turnout
controller, etc, has its own password. So you can set up your system
any way you want to allow access only where it is needed. This
does not exist in DCC systems.
speed - Because of RailPro's use of high speed DirectRadio, its
communication speed is magnitudes greater than DCC. Therefore,
you will get better response with many simultaneous users compared
to a DCC system.
4) Mass programming problems - With DCC systems, it is possible to
accidentally program every loco, or the wrong loco, on the layout.
These problems do not exist in RailPro. This alone should be
enough reason for a club to use RailPro.
5) Clean track - We are confident that running DCC makes it
necessary for you to clean your track more often than with RailPro.***
6) No addressing limits - It is common for clubs to have more than
one member that wants to run a loco with the same road number.
Since DCC users usually use the road number to address the loco this means only
one at a time can be one the layout or the users have to set the
address to one that they will need to remember. This is not an issue with
RailPro because there is no 4 digit addressing limitation.
Is RailPro DCC compatible?
You can run RailPro locomotives on any manufacturers DCC system**
using our handheld controller. Our locomotive modules can use DCC
as power source and respond to commands from RailPro controllers such as our
handheld controller with Direct Radio. Further, our locomotive modules are electrically compatible with the DCC plug found
in many locomotives to promote easy installation. Also our locomotive
modules respond to both DCC commands and RailPro Direct Radio commands.
So a RailPro locomotive can be controlled by typical DCC systems and by
Radio control from RailPro controllers. Our
RailPro controllers only control RailPro products and do not control DCC
RailPro system is more capable and can do things DCC systems cannot because of Direct Radio, and
it is much simpler to use than a typical DCC system.
** The DCC system voltage
must be less than 18 volts peak and only consist of the signal specified in NMRA standards.
How far does
the Direct Radio signal reach?
You can control locomotives on huge HO scale layouts
with outstanding control using Direct Radio. The Direct Radio signal can reach
over 100ft in an open environment. When properly setup, you can achieve fast
and dependable control that has the feel of being directly wired to your
If you want to control your trains from the far side
of your layout, we recommend a repeater every 15 ft for areas divided into small
rooms. Our power supply has Direct Radio built in and can be used as a
repeater. With one PWR-56 in the middle of the layout, you can expect
outstanding coverage for a 30 ft x 30 ft layout while transmitting through multiple walls. If the room is open, it may work well for 50 ft x 50 ft or even
larger areas with only one repeater. The current program in the handheld
controller lets you use up to 4 repeaters for outstanding coverage on huge
You can run RailPro without a repeater. For example
using only a handheld and locomotive equipped with a RailPro module. If you
follow your trains (staying within 15-20 feet) you will not need a repeater and
you can expect fast and dependable control. However, if transmitting through multiple walls,
you might find that at some angles you will loose communication at 40 feet
away. By adding repeaters as necessary, you can get fast and dependable control
from over 40 feet away through multiple walls.
Does Direct Radio have
Although the name Direct Radio implies that there is a signal sent
directly to the product (locomotive or accessory) to be controlled, Direct Radio
has full networking capabilities too! Direct Radio instantly, and without
user intervention, changes from network to direct communications! This is a
unique part about Direct Radio. Direct Radio was developed with only operating a
model train layout in mind. At Ring Engineering we realized that a networking is
important to model train control, but not as important as direct train control
because the vast majority of the time the operators are controlling a single
product and have no need to do networking. Direct Radio was designed to do
networking form day one. Direct Radio has always been able to allow
multiple users to share control of multiple products. Also Direct Radio supports
such network tasks as 'Stop All'. When one user presses the 'Stop All'
button, all handheld controllers and locomotives coordinate with each other and
bring all locomotives on the layout to a stop. The way RailPro consists is
another example of how RailPro uses networking. The locomotives all talk to each
other to allow each locomotive to pull with equal pulling power. Further Direct Radio's data rate is
magnitudes faster than a typical DCC system!
Since RailPro is all wireless and can transmit over 100 feet, can
anyone control my train set?
RailPro has a simple solution for stopping unintentional or unauthorized users from
controlling your equipment. You can set a password in each piece of
RailPro equipment. For example, when you set a password in a
locomotive module, then only the people that you share the password with will
be able to control your locomotive. This is a great feature in a club
or model train show environment because you can have complete control over
who can control or adjust your RailPro products.
If I set a password in my locomotive module, will I have to type it
in each time to control my locomotive?
Your handheld controller and locomotive module will remember the password
so it is not necessary to keep typing in passwords.
Is the response time good?
The response time is so good that you feel like you are connected to the
locomotive. As soon as you change speed, the locomotive instantly
responds. The touchscreen is so fast that you feel that there is no
detectable delay from pressing the screen to seeing the action on a
locomotive such as the lights turning on or off. The exceptionally
smooth speed control knob gives you the feel of using an analog controller!
How many locomotives and handheld controllers can
be used at the same time?
There is no limitation on the
number of locomotives you can have on your layout. The handheld can have hundreds
of locomotive pictures loaded into it. For each handheld controller you have you
can set 24 locomotives in motion. You can be driving 24 trains with a single
handheld. You can run any 24 of the over 100 locomotives loaded into a
handheld controller. If you have 24 locomotives in motion with a single
handheld controller, than you would need to stop one locomotive to put another
in motion. If you have a second handheld, you can run 24 more trains for a total
of 48 trains running at the same time and so on. It would be normal for
all handheld controllers to have all locomotives on the layout loaded into them
so any user can run any locomotive. The limit of 24 locomotives per
handheld in motion was selected because we do not expect any one user to be able
to keep track of that many trains at the same time and therefore is not a
limitation at all. There is no limit on the number of handheld controllers
that can be used. With 40 handheld controllers the response time should be just about the
same as with one controller. As you get over 40 the response time may or may
not slow down. Our Direct Radio is much faster than the DCC signal so RailPro's
response time will be much better than any DCC system.
How many turnouts can be controlled?
There is no realistic
limitation on the number of turnouts that can be controlled by a RailPro
Will I have to wait forever for the Handheld Controller to
startup from a power on?
Unlike Android and Windows devices we
have seen, that seem like they take forever to boot up, a RailPro handheld controller
with RE-OS is ready to control locomotives in about one second from
pressing the power on button. Yet another advantage of making our own
If I install a RailPro locomotive module in a locomotive that I
already own, what do I need to do so the handheld controller will display a
picture of my locomotive?
Since Ring Engineering
does not know what locomotive you are going to install a locomotive module
into, our locomotive modules are preloaded with a generic locomotive
picture. You can change the picture on your locomotive module to match your
locomotive. You can load pictures from Ring Engineering’s Internet
site or use our RailPro Assistant software to convert your own pictures to
RailPro format and load them to your handheld controller and locomotive
modules. If you find a picture of your locomotive on our Internet site, you can load it
to your locomotive module for no charge. If you cannot find a picture of your
locomotive, then you can take a picture of your locomotive with a digital
camera and email your locomotive picture to Ring Engineering or use our
RailPro assistant software to convert it to RailPro format.
Is it difficult to get files like pictures, sounds, and light
effects from Ring Engineering's Internet site?
Basically you use our RailPro Assistant
software to select from lists of pictures, sounds, light effects, and programs available
from Ring Engineering's Internet site to download. Connect your handheld
controller with a USB cable and press the download button on the handheld
will copy whatever files you selected from Ring Engineering's Internet site
onto your handheld controller. To send a file to a locomotive, you select Copy File,
choose the picture of the locomotive you want the file to go to, and then choose
the file to copy. Then you go to the adjustments and setup the locomotive to
use the new file.
software to get pictures, sounds, etc, from the internet compatible with
Our software can run on Windows 10, Windows
8, Windows 7.
software to get pictures, sounds, etc, from the internet compatible with
Macintosh?We currently do not have Macintosh
compatible software. We have some Mac users that use bootcamp or parallels to
run our PC software. We know there are some Mac users and at some point we may
provide Mac compatible software. Our newest software was written from the
ground up to be multiple platform friendly. So the software we plan to release
soon will be easier to make Mac compatible than our older program.
Is the locomotive sound quality as good as the
best DCC suppliers?
We are confident that our new Ultimate series sounds are
better than the best DCC sound decoders.
Does Ring Engineering plan to offer more locomotive sounds?
It will be one of our highest priorities to make more locomotive sounds
available for download from our Internet site. Currently we have available
Steam Engine sounds and Diesel Engine sounds including the Alco 539, Alco
251, EMD 645 non-turbo, EMD
645-16 turbo, EMD 710, EMD 710ACE, GE 7FDL-16, EMD 645-20, EMD 567, GEVO and GTLE
turbine. This is enough prime movers to cover most of the locomotives
in operation today. We have good source recordings for Teir4, Baldwin 606, and sounds for a Shay
so these are likely to be some of the next sounds available . We also have several horns, whistles, bells,
and other sounds. We will continually add new sounds.
Does Ring Engineering plan to offer more Light Effects?
We can create different light effects quickly. There are almost no
light effects that we cannot offer. If you want a particular light
effect that is not already available, then please send us an
It would be best if you can send us a link to a video on the Internet of the
light effect you are interested in. We can then see exactly the light-flashing pattern that you would want us to make. Please keep in mind that
when new light effects are released, you can simply download them to
locomotive modules that you already own. Yuo can use our light effect editor
and make practically any light effect that you would want to!
Does Ring Engineering plan to offer steam engine sounds?
We now offer steam engine sounds that can be installed in a locomotive module.
Currently all locomotive modules are shipped with Diesel Engine sounds
preloaded. You can simply delete the Diesel Engine sound files from
the Locomotive module and load the Steam Engine sounds. See the user
manual for complete details.
Can you install RailPro locomotive modules in
older non-DCC ready locomotives?
can wire in a DCC 9 pin plug on most locomotives (even ones that were
originally not DCC ready) and connect a locomotive module. Basically,
any information you can find which shows how to wire the locomotive for DCC
can be use to wire the locomotive for RailPro operation because the RailPro
wiring is compatible with DCC wiring. You will want to be sure the final
wiring is proper according to the directions provided with the
RailPro locomotive module. Many
non-DCC locomotives will require isolating the motor and the lights. One
possible problem you may run into with older locomotives is that some of the
very old locomotives may draw too much power for the
RailPro locomotive module. In that case the
RailPro locomotive module may turn off and report to the handheld controller an over temperature
fault. Some people use very old locomotives with the
RailPro locomotive module by replacing the
motor with a newer more efficient motor that needs less power. If you are
interested we can recommend shops that specialize in this type of
Does Ring Engineering plan to offer N Scale locomotive
We do plan to see how
reasonable a N scale version is and we think the technology to do so does
Is the Handheld Controller comfortable to
The handheld controller has a rounded back and corners to feel comfortable in your hand.
Since, the handheld controller only weights about 4 ounces more than the typical cell
phone, it is heavy enough that you know it is built well and light enough to
easily hold for all day fun.
Do Handheld Controller screens actually
look as good as on this Internet site?
The screens are actual screens from a handheld controller. In fact, the screens on
the handheld controller are better than on this Internet site because the screens on this
Internet site are compressed so they will load faster on your PC's browser.
The handheld controller screen graphics are very bright and clear.
Is there a fee to download sounds or pictures?
You can load all the
sounds, light effects and programs as often as you want for no charge.
Further you can load as many of the existing pictures that you want for no
We plan to always offer the latest version of
programs for all RailPro equipment for no charge. However, we may ask a
reasonable fee to enable a completely new feature like a “fast clock” added to
the handheld controller.
What about reversing loops?
and turntables will need to be handled by an auto reverse module. We now
have available an Auto Reverse Module (AR-1) that makes setting up reverse loops
easy. Just connect four wires per the included instructions and no adjustments
are necessary. The cost is only $39.99 MSRP and it is full solid state.
Please see the AR-1 page for full details.
What about RF interference?
Our RailPro system uses
advanced technology like cell phones where many can be in use at the same time in
the same area. Our products are not like the easily disturbed RF products found
in many toys. This makes it unlikely that you will experience any
interference. Our products have worked successfully around wireless computer
networks cell phones etc. Any RF product may have, or cause, some type of
interference but because of the technology that we use it is very unlikely.
At the time of this writing we have really had no users complain about not
being able to dependable control their trains with RailPro.
Can the locomotive module fit
into all HO scale locomotives?
We believe that our locomotive modules are small
enough that they can be fit into almost any normal locomotive (typical switch
engines and larger). There are shops that do locomotive module installation
work. We would be happy to recommend a shop for you if you would prefer someone
else do the installation work.
What is a Direct Radio Repeater?
are an important part of a RailPro system. Your controlling devices, such as a
Handheld Controller, can send commands directly to your products or your
controlling device can send the commands to a Direct Radio Repeater first,
and the Repeater can send the command on to your product. By using
Repeaters, your RailPro system can have multiple paths for communication
providing dependable communications to your locomotives, turnout
The number of Repeaters you should use depends on the size of your layout.
If your layout is 30 ft x 30 ft or less, then one Repeater will be enough. The
RailPro power supply, PWR-56, can be used as a Direct Radio Repeater. See
User Manual for more information on Repeaters.
What frequency is Direct Radio?
Direct Radio works in the 2.4GHz frequency band.
Is using a tablet or touchscreen phone with a train control App like
Not at all. We started our development with an off the shelf generic
touchscreen handheld computer. Shortly afterward we realized that was
completely the wrong direction and would never make a good product for the
user. What we realized was that we needed to develop a handheld controller
from scratch with the goal of controlling your model train layout. Some
problems with the off the shelf touchscreen computer that we encountered
1) We found
that using a touchscreen for a throttle was unacceptable. The problem is that
you needed to be looking at the screen to adjust the speed accurately and the
feel was poor at best. You need to be looking at the train engine to properly
connect couplers etc. This is why we included a real knob on the RailPro
controller. So you can have your hand on the speed control knob and still be
looking at your train. What is the point in having a controlling device that is
not actually a good throttle?.
2) The developers of the phones and tablets change their products quickly and it
is unreasonable to think that they will ask the opinion of model railroaders
when they develop new equipment because this is not the market that they target.
Therefore if you want a throttle just a couple years from now, you have no idea
what you will be able to get or if it will even be compatible. With RailPro we
control the hardware and a top concern of ours is long term availability and
compatibility with a RailPro system. Further, it is also unreasonable to think
that the software developers will get any advanced notice of hardware changes or
even complete operating system charges! Therefore, after a couple of years, the
software developers will likely always be trying to catch up with whatever new
device is being sold. We believe this alone can stop any company developing for
modeling because of the inability to keep up with constantly changing hardware.
With RailPro, our hardware will never change without our knowledge and our
software development will not be hampered by constantly changing hardware
3) We had problems where other apps would pop up or interrupt the train app and
the train app would be inaccessible or would cause communication problems. If
the app becomes inaccessible you cannot stop your trains! This does not happen
with RailPro because there are no other apps to interfere.
4) Typical consumer computer networks are not guaranteed real time. The response
time can be anywhere from good to no control at all. With RailPro, at least 40
simultaneous users will have guaranteed fast response and hundreds of handheld
are likely to work very well.
5) Product instability is a problem with off the shelf computers. The odds of
you buying the same product only a year later is unlikely. So it may be
necessary to support different software programs, different OS's, different
6) Network setup with RailPro is as simple as pressing the Find Product button
and selecting a repeater if necessary.
Any PC network we have ever dealt with is far more complicated and problematic.
7) Nobody wants to wait until their PC's booted and make a wireless connection
just to drive a train. With RailPro the handheld is ready to control trains in
about one second. Who would want typical PCs problems involved in operating
their train set like software crashes, reboots, hard drive failures etc.?
8) With RailPro you do not need a PC down by your layout. You do not need to buy
a PC just for your layout.
9) Don't you think that buying products from many manufacturers, instead of just
one, is much more likely to have problems? Also, if you have a problem don't you
think that it will be more difficult to fix? For example, if you get a touch
control product from manufacturer A, software program for the touch control
product from programmer B, PC from manufacturer C, wireless network product from
manufacturer D, PC to train control system interface product form manufacturer
E, software for the PC to train control system from programmer F, and the train
control equipment from manufacturer G....then who is going to be responsible for
fixing a problem with a system like this???
Ring Engineering's RailPro system has color touchscreen controllers, outstanding
software, and a complete easy to use system available from one source. Further,
it is available today!
10) Battery life was too short. Our Handheld controller can run up to 12 hours*
on a single charge for all day model railroad fun.
Therefore, what we learned is that you need proper hardware and software to make
a better train control system. It takes years of software development to obtain
a well written, dependable, and easy to use interface like RailPro has. Because
of the high level of technology in our controller it took years to develop the
handheld controller. Further we tested it for years to be sure it worked very
well before it was sold. RailPro has been in development for nearly a decade and
we are confident that it shows in our RailPro product. Because RailPro's base
hardware and software have been completed, future products can be developed much
more quickly and easily.
11) Our handheld is designed to be held all day so you can follow the action
around. In our opinion holding a tablet all day to run a train is unacceptable.
Does this mean Ring Engineering will never make a smart phone or
tablet interface to RailPro?
We know that since a lot of people have smart
phones and tablets these can make low cost throttles (maybe not very good
ones but at least low cost) for occasional additional user that want to join
in on the fun. For that reason an interface for such products is on
our possible projects list.
RailPro work in brass shell locomotives?
We have not done much testing with RailPro in metal
or brass locomotives but several of our customers have said that they work well
in brass and full metal locomotives. The Model RR News installed one in a full
die cast locomotive and told us that it worked well.
RailPro locomotive modules might not have as much range in metal body (brass) locomotives
because the RF signal may get attenuated. We have been told that the range
is typically about 2/3 of its normal range.
Is RailPro available to other countries besides
No. Currently Ring Engineering only
ships RailPro products with Direct Radio to the USA. RailPro products were
designed to pass worldwide communication standards including USA, Canada,
Australia, Europe, and Japan. However, currently we have only had RailPro tested
for compliance with USA standards. RailPro is compliant with USA FCC standards.
run a DC locomotive on RailPro?
No. If you are considering DCC because it can run a DC locomotive
you should know the following about DC operation on a DCC system.
- Because of DCC's low frequency zero stretching it makes DC locomotive motors
make a loud whining noise.
- A DC locomotive run on a DCC system will only go about 1/2 of its full speed
when running on top of a DCC system.
- You are limited to only running one DC locomotive at a time on a DCC system.
- There are several DCC products like short circuit protection products that do
not function properly when using a DC locomotive on a DCC system. If you add any
one of these types of products you are just expect to remember not to use DC
- The already slow response of a DCC system is significantly slowed down even
more when DC operation is used because of zero stretching.
In our opinion, operating a DC Locomotive on a DCC system has so many
limitations and problems that it is unusable.
Can HC-2's and
HC-1's be used together?
Can LM-2's and
LM-1's be used together?
All RailPro products with DirectRadio are
fully compatible with each other.
did we choose
to sell a RailPro system that does not control DCC
the goal of RailPro was to create an 'easy to use' system and we did not want to
bring the complexities, limitations, problems, and extra expense of DCC into our
We did not want to incorporate the problem of the DCC signal causing you to
clean your track more often than RailPro's fixed voltage DC track power***.
Also, we did not want to incorporate a programming track that DCC uses. With
RailPro, all configuration is simply done on the layout. Further, DCC has many
built in problems that we did not want in our RailPro system. One example
is DCC support for multiple speed step modes and no means to report problems
related to improper use. We accidentally set our DCC system to some speed
step mode that the decoder did not respond to. There was no indication of what the
problem was and the DCC equipment gave the impression that it was not working.
This type of problem is not possible in a RailPro system. Yet another
limitation is the DCC specification has no compensation for setting different
speed tables for a locomotive running cab forward or cab reverse. If a
locomotive runs even slightly at a different speed in forward than reverse, than
it will not consist well when the cab direction is changed. RailPro's patent
pending innovative true load sharing technology completely eliminates the need
for speed tables.
We wanted to avoid variances in manufacture's control variables. One
manufacture's CV does this and another does something different. With DCC
you really need to know what manufacturer's module is in what locomotive before
you can confidently adjust CVs.
We did not want to incorporate DCC's 4 digit addressing limitation.
We did not want to incorporate the added complexity of DCC's multiple
We did not want multiple consisting modes. One consisting mode is not good
because the communication slows down. In another consist mode communication if
faster but you can not control the lights on the consisted
locomotives. With RailPro, there is only way to consist. Direct Radio
assures high speed, and as you would expect and you still have independent control
over all the consisted locomotives' lights and sounds.
Etc, etc, etc.....
More than 12 Hours of battery life with screen
at lower brightness setting. Battery life of 8 to 9 hours is typical
with a bright screen setting.
RailPro system uses fixed voltage DC
power. So, yes, it could be powered by a battery. The minimum voltage would be
about 12 volts.
Of course we only recommend using RailPro components provided by Ring
Engineering for safety and so you can be completely confident about the products
If you are considering using battery power because of dirty track issues or
because you think wiring is difficult, we think you may want to consider the
Because RailPro is a fixed voltage DC system we are confident that you will not
need to clean your RailPro track nearly as often as you clean a track powered by
2) Most locomotive do not have ample space for decoders and speakers let alone
any extra space for batteries and possibly a step up converter.
3) The cost involved in the high power batteries required would be expensive.
4) Your run time would limited to probably less than an hour even with new
efficient motors and unacceptable short with older low efficiency motors with
reasonable size batteries.
5) Typical number of recharges for today’s batteries is about 300-500 charges. A
HO locomotive could need charged several times a day. If that were the case, you
would need to replace the batteries after only a few months! Imagine the cost an
6) Most people are not happy about charging their cell phone every few days.
Imagine the work required to keep 10, 50, or even 100 locos charged!
7) We sell a RailPro auto reverse module that only has 4 wires and will require
no adjustments. So reverse loops can easily be handled. It retails for only
8) Because RailPro is equipped with Direct Radio you do not need any network
wiring like required for some popular DCC systems. You only need to wire the
track for power.
9) Wiring the track for RailPro is easy because there is no signal put on the track.
Therefore you can not run into problems of corrupting the signal on the track
with bad wiring like is possible with DCC.
However, we do think that battery power for outdoor G scale is a good idea.
Keeping outdoor track clean is a real problem. Also the larger G scale locos
have more room for batteries.
technology gets to the point where we believe the majority of users would
benefit from it we would develop battery packs to be used with RailPro
locomotive modules. And the good news is that every RailPro locomotive
module we have sold in the past can be battery powered by simply wiring an appropriate
battery to the existing power input of the locomotive module.
we were developing our End of Train Device products, we accumulated a lot of
testing hours running on analog and DCC power sources because it was important
to know that our products would work well with both power sources. What we
discovered was that we had to clean the DCC track far more often to keep it
running. We cleaned the DCC test track multiple times more often than the
analog track. The theory we can up with as to why the DCC track needed cleaned
more often is because on a DCC system track power is a high frequency square
wave that causes the current to pulses into the locomotive module (through the
wheels) at higher peaks than with an analog system. We know that if we put no
current through the wheels, then no arcing between the wheel and the track would
happen. We also know that if we put hundreds of amps through the wheels, then
the wheel to track contact point would arc and leave black burnt carbon deposits
on the track. Therefore we are confident that higher currents cause more arcing
and deposit more black carbon residue. The reason why DCC current pulses at
higher peak currents than analog is because the DCC signal constantly changes
polarity. All locomotives modules have front end capacitance (parasitic or
intentional - most likely both). Because the DCC signal is square wave in
shape, the signal has very fast rising and falling voltages. When a fast rising
or falling voltage is applied to a capacitor, the capacitor looks like a short
circuit. This temporary short circuit is one cause of higher peak currents
through the locomotive wheels on a DCC system. A second cause of higher peak
currents through the locomotive wheels on a DCC system comes from the fact that
there is a time that the DCC voltage goes to zero. If a DCC signal changes
polarity, than it must go to zero volts before it can change polarity. When the
DCC signal is at zero volts, the motor, lights, and sounds of the DCC locomotive
module are still using power. This power is supplied by an on-board capacitor
(a capacitor stores electrical energy). During the time the voltage is at zero,
the on-board capacitor discharges and when the DCC voltage returns, the
capacitor charges quickly causing higher peak currents through the locomotive
wheels on a DCC system. And since RailPro uses fixed DC, (no high frequency
switching on the track) it does not have higher peak currents through the
locomotive wheels like a DCC system does. In fact, it is expected that RailPro
runs even cleaner than analog! Even though analog does not go to zero volts,
many analog supplies increases and decreases voltage at 120 cycles per second
(rectified 60 Hz from a wall outlet) where in comparison RailPro's DC power is
steady. We ran a small RailPro test track for about a year and never needed to
clean it! We finally cleaned the track just to see if the RailPro system was
going to run any differently, and it did not. We are confident that we would
have needed to clean the track several times if it were powered by DCC because
previously the same test track was powered by DCC and needed cleaned often.
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