DCC Battery Powered DCC

Discussion in 'Techniques' started by richard carr, 22 December 2015.

  1. richard carr

    richard carr Western Thunderer

    I have always been a fan of battery powered locos. My dad's layout used Red Arrow and we had about 12 locos fitted out with it. It was really good, no power at all in the track just great running, at least until the batteries ran out !

    I switched over to DCC at least 10 years ago, the main reason being sound, Red Arrow doesn't support it.

    Now I have found a battery operated DCC system, DRS by Tam Valley . Its pretty simple, you attach a small transmitter to your DCC system and place a small receiver in your loco. The receiver is battery powered and picks up the DCC commands send them to your decoder together with power.

    I have just installed this in a JLTRT class 37 and it works, full sound and wonderful slow speed running as their is no power interruption.

    As usual its not quite as simple as it sounds but it has taken me about 4 hours to install it in the loco, although I would imagine the next one will probably only take half that time.


    I have used 8 AAA nickel metal hydride batteries, in 2 four battery holders and run together in series to give a nominal 9.6 volts. Here they are located in the number 1 end of a 37 (ie under the fan). NiMh batteries are safe option, they are easy to charge either with a trickle charger or you can fast charge them if you want to. The Tam Valley website goes on quite a bit about using LiPo batteries but for 7 mm diesels I don't think that will be a need to use them. If you do though charging them is a lot more complicated and they can explode if you get it wrong.

    The trickiest bit of all this is working out how to recharge the batteries.


    To recharge these batteries I will flip the loco on its side and connect a crocodile clip to each of the brass screws in the fuel tank (or is it the water tank ?), you can just about make them out above. You can also see a switch that I have fitted in a slot milled in the tank, this is turn the power off when not in use.


    Here you can see all the bits and pieces in the loco. On the left is the receiver, as you can see its the same size as a the Loksound decoder on the right. You need to solder an aerial to this, its a piece of insulated wire 3.26 inches long. It's the thicker yellow wire in the photo. It's 3.26 inches long as that is a quarter of a wave length. The radio frequency is 869 MHz which is specifically for the EU.

    That is it, I have still have quite a bit of work to finish this loco off, I'm busy adding some weight to it right now, but it ran great on my test track this afternoon. I also need to add a full size speaker which I will shortly and then give a it a proper run on the layout and see how long the batteries last. With Red Arrow you would get 4 or 5 hours running time.

    Attached Files:

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  2. Jordan

    Jordan Mid-Western Thunderer

    VERY interesting... :)
    Leads to a few Q's though...
    EDIT: Scrap the Q's; just found the relevant Tam Valley web page:

    ...and an observation - I suspect small batteries are mentioned as even in O, there isn't a lot of room in narrow-hood US diesels, especially single motor/shaft drive types.

    Will be watching this thread with interest.!
    Last edited: 22 December 2015
  3. Bob Reid

    Bob Reid Western Thunderer

    Jordan - A wee bit fell off the end of that link - it should read Tam Valley Depot otherwise you get a "forbidden" 403 error.....

    Edit - the smart software on the forum now resolves the link to it's real page name - it was the .html bit that was missing off the end.
  4. Mr Grumpy

    Mr Grumpy Western Thunderer

    Hi Richard,
    I had radio controlled live steam in the garden for a few years, followed by a large r/c diesel shunter. I think the system for all the locos was 40MHz FM, with Futaba servos, transmitter etc.
    After a couple of years of reasonably reliable running, my wife placed a bird bath in the centre of the garden and this caused loads of problems with I think what was called 'signal reflection' which made for haphazard radio control. Moved the bird bath....problem solved! Also, on one of the locos, the rotating coupling rods occasionally interfered with the signal, which meant it was more often manually controlled. When I eventually tired of running live steam, I left the track bed, thinking I would re-lay with 0 gauge. When I looked at the length of track , I couldn't face the tedious chore of cleaning before running sessions.
    However, I am definately planning on returning to the garden with my kit built locos, so this possibly looks like a very exciting proposition!! Also no pick ups required... Perfect!
    I fitted a jack point socket to my locos for recharging the batteries.
    I have checked out the site, all looks very interesting! Do you know if there is a British dealer ?
  5. Steph Dale

    Steph Dale Western Thunderer

    Fascinating stuff!

    I've seen the beginnings of a Canadian system that uses Wi-Fi as a means of providing wireless control, with the WiFi receiver integrated in to the decoder. This looks like a sensible alternative.

    I wonder if you could use the rails to keep the batteries charged...

  6. Jordan

    Jordan Mid-Western Thunderer

    The Forum wouldn't paste the link exactly as I copied it from another tab :mad: hence I had to type some of it myself, & obviously got that wrong too :oops:
  7. richard carr

    richard carr Western Thunderer


    You can use the rail to recharge the batteries, there is a 40 page manual that you can download from the Tam Valley website its $5.

    If you are interested in this, its worth the short read.

    I don't have any intention of removing power from the track, partly as there is too many locos to convert and partly as my mates don't have battery (at least not yet). The other issue is converting the likes of a Heljan loco, the chassis block takes up so much space that would need hacking about to make some space for some decent sized batteries. Inductance charging at a distance isn't far away too, its something we are likely to see for mobile phones next year.

  8. Phill Dyson

    Phill Dyson Western Thunderer

    What sort of battery hours/running time do you get on a sound chipped Loco ?
  9. Temeraire

    Temeraire Western Thunderer

    Looks interesting. Haven't dabbled with R/C stuff for 20 years but the 40mhz radio gear was pretty good even back then.

    Erm....is the drill bit attached to the speaker a vital component.....:p
  10. Steph Dale

    Steph Dale Western Thunderer

    Inductance charging is already here for mobile devices, if not quite 'on the high street' yet. Kits are available for many phones, but I agree it's not standard yet.

    Now thinking about charging through an electrified buffer stop...

  11. richard carr

    richard carr Western Thunderer

    Yes the drill attached to the speaker is an essential item !!!!!!!!!!!!

    I will let you know about battery life once I have it fully up and running which should be tomorrow, when it will be running round our layout hauling 21 hopper wagons with the speaker on full blast. I'm expecting it to last a couple of hours at least fingers crossed.


    An electrified buffer stop is probably a good option, as are depot track sections.

  12. Scale7JB

    Scale7JB Western Thunderer

    Looking forward to a demo!

  13. richard carr

    richard carr Western Thunderer


    I'm not aware of a UK dealer yet, I bought mine from Litchfield Station in the US.

  14. Mr Grumpy

    Mr Grumpy Western Thunderer

    Thanks Richard.
    I'm wondering if this could be a reliable system for my 9f? The thought of all those pick ups...............
  15. richard carr

    richard carr Western Thunderer


    I have a 9f powered by Red Arrow, its the same principle so this should work with yours, its a much better system in my mind and I have just found a source of 12 volt regulation boards that can be used (by this I mean a small circuit board that outputs 12 volts from any voltage between 3 and 12)

    The only slight complication is that the aerial has to be outside the body as its metal, but I am about to embark on an MOK Ivatt 4f and I think the solution is to put the aerial in the coal bunker you won't notice a black wire in there unless you are looking quite closely.

    Jordan likes this.
  16. parky

    parky Western Thunderer

    I am interested in this, as Mr Grumpy says it will simplify things somewhat. Was wondering how you got on about aerials with a full metal kit
  17. Mudhen

    Mudhen Western Thunderer

    You could pick up from the tender and save some complication, also reasonably easy to use split axles.
    Saying this I believe that battery operation is going to be the way forward.
  18. Steph Dale

    Steph Dale Western Thunderer

    To an extent I'm with Tim on this; I've got locos that only use split-axle tenders for pick up and run well, especially if compensated or sprung. Adding in a decent size capacitor pack to your conventional DCC decoder gives a reasonable half-way house between 'straight' DCC and battery power.

    Just a thought, but it's where I intend going for most of my stuff. Nonetheless, I will be undertaking a thorough investigation of battery-power DCC. For a start, as a solution falling somewhere between 'emerging' and 'mature' (technology is 'mature', application is 'emerging') I feel it's something that I should have an interest in on behalf of the Gauge 0 Guild Technical Committee.

    Jordan likes this.
  19. Mr Grumpy

    Mr Grumpy Western Thunderer

    When I ran live steam in the garden, all the aerials were inside the loco, but insulated from the body
  20. Phill Dyson

    Phill Dyson Western Thunderer

    DJH 9F using the Red Arrow radio control system running round my garden railway last summer...

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