Remote Control thoughts

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Gra2472
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:02 pm
Location: Monte Rio California

Remote Control thoughts

Post by Gra2472 » Sat Jun 19, 2021 9:19 am

Good morning all.

I have been working on, and testing various remote control options for my fathers Baldwin-Westinghouse electric locomotives. My primary goal is to set the locomotives up with a dual control system with both a traditional wired set-up, and a remote control function. The purpose of this is so that my elderly father, who has a hard time picking his feet up as he walks around the railroad, won't be tethered to his train when he needs to thread it out through the yard to the main track. Not at my place of course, I am thinking about bigger layouts like train mountain for example. He has fallen in the past, when trying to walk back and forth from his train to the yard leads where he lined his switches. He has also, foolishly I might add, damn near been dragged to the ground by his tethered controller while trying to walk his train through the yard. You can see where I am going with this. In general I am not a huge fan of RC in trains, but I can see the benefits. I would like to have a wired setup too, so that he can run his train from a control stand and not have to hold the rc transmitter for potentially hours at a time.

I have tried a number of systems and have not really been satisfied with the safety of RC control with electric locomotives. The best success that I have had so far is actually with a basic flysky fs-gt5 system that I got from amazon. The receiver can interface directly with the syren 50 with no problem, and has a great out of range or loss of signal response. The train just stops, period. That's a big check mark for safety.

Here's where I am running into some questions. I cannot bind multiple receivers to a single transmitter for a remote control MU capability using the flysky system. This is not that surprising since it is a cheap product that I bought to test the concept with. I can however, and have, installed a pwm to 0-5v converter that emulates an analog throttle setup. With this setup, any of the three locomotives can be the controlling locomotive, but each one has to have its own transmitter. Not a great plan. However, the bonus is that I can connect to a wired throttle too. I have tested this and it works, but there are glaring safety issues. The syren 50 doesn't care where it gets the 0-5v signal for forward and reverse, but it sort of unchecks the all-stop safety function. If the control system loses power, the rc receiver system and/or the wired throttle, the syren driver goes into full power since 0v = max speed forward. Ok...that's a bit scary. But I have seen wired locomotives runaway too and it is less than entertaining. I have installed a master disconnect relay for the traction motors, and I am considering another safety disconnect relay that will kill the traction motor power should the receiver lose power. Its a simple and cheap, but a less than elegant solution.

I have a couple of options that I am looking at, but there are probably better solutions that I am hoping you good people can help me with.

Option 1: Full RC control without wired backup.

This has the best margin for safety. According to some aircraft guys I know, they are certain that with a Traaxis or Futaba system I can bind three independent receivers (one in each locomotive) to a single transmitter. This is often done in large model aircraft for redundancy. Again, the most important aspect of this is safety. If the transmitter fails, the receiver dies, or if it somehow gets out of range, then everything stops. I like that part a lot. The part I do not like is the $1500 purchase price of the parts. My Mrs. will kill me twice before I hit the floor! Money aside, it does require the constant use of a transmitter, which I suppose I could build a mount for on the engineers car for hands free use. However, this then defeats the out of range safety feature if the transmitter doesn't shut off from lack of input. The fs-gt5 for example will shut down if you don't do something with it for set period of time about 10 minutes. A train can go a long ways in 10 minutes. Not an effective dead man feature.

Option 2: Fixed wired control with a mounted control stand on the engineer car.

The wired only system has a built in safety disconnect feature. In this setup, the syren 50 is set for analog bi-directional with reverse on the s2 input. 0-5v to s1 is proportional throttle where 0v is stop. This works well because if the throttle becomes unplugged, everything stops. I have tested this using a 4qd hand throttle and it works beautifully. Dad can't get dragged around like a puppy by his train again. Good, but it still requires him to maneuver through railroad yard multiple times to and from the train. Not impossible, but very hard on his once shattered legs (long story, lots of time in the hospital). Last time he fell, it messed his shoulder up so badly that he has not yet fully recovered, and that was two years ago. Let's not do that again.

Option 3: your suggestions please.

G
7.5" Allen Mogul
3 x 7.5" West Valley Baldwin Westinghouse Electrics
The Mrs. wants her railroad around the house!
G. Augustus
Monte Rio, Ca.

John Hasler
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by John Hasler » Sat Jun 19, 2021 9:48 am

Gra2472 writes:
installed a pwm to 0-5v converter that emulates an analog throttle setup. With this setup, any of the three locomotives can be the controlling locomotive, but each one has to have its own transmitter. Not a great plan. However, the bonus is that I can connect to a wired throttle too. I have tested this and it works, but there are glaring safety issues. The syren 50 doesn't care where it gets the 0-5v signal for forward and reverse, but it sort of unchecks the all-stop safety function. If the control system loses power, the rc receiver system and/or the wired throttle, the syren driver goes into full power since 0v = max speed forward

Add a pullup resistor to the Syren input. Redesign your converter to go to high impedence on loss of power or total loss of input.

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Bill Shields
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by Bill Shields » Sat Jun 19, 2021 10:16 am

Be aware that there are federal regulations regarding use of radio control equipment intended for aircraft being used to control things on the ground.

While this may seem odd...it has to do with the possible interference with flying aircraft in areas where they would not normally expect it.

An example would be someone flying a drone on an aircraft frequency and your father's loco causing interference and a crash.

While I understand that modern digital setups make this less likely. .it IS still an FCC regulation.

If running a loco, then you should specifically use equipment licensed for non aircraft use.

Now..off my soap box...any loco capable of moving should have a responsible person on board to take the controls in case of an unforseen glitch.
Too many things going on to bother listing them.

rrnut-2
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by rrnut-2 » Sat Jun 19, 2021 10:28 am

And to add to Bill's comment, some of the commercially made radio controls require a ham radio license.

Jim B

John Hasler
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by John Hasler » Sat Jun 19, 2021 11:18 am

RC frequencies are not just for aircraft.

https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-div ... rvice-rcrs

In practice most of these devices operate on part 15 frequencies.

Kevin S
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by Kevin S » Sat Jun 19, 2021 11:42 am

Gra2472, most r/c units can tether/ bind two transmitters to one receiver for instructional purposes, but not the other way around. Is it possible to have one unit by the main unit, which would receive the signal from the transmitter and talk to the other unit via hard wire between the two units making it a true MU set up.
-Kevin S.

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Bill Shields
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by Bill Shields » Sat Jun 19, 2021 11:46 am

I did not say what they are just for aircraft..or intend to say that

I wanted to point out that frequencies reserved for aircraft should not be used on the ground.

Hence one should not purchase an aircraft radio and use it on a loco..

It is very tempting since aircraft radios generally have many more features than basic car radios that tend to be steering, throttle/brake and the occasional gear shift.
Too many things going on to bother listing them.

Gra2472
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:02 pm
Location: Monte Rio California

Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by Gra2472 » Sat Jun 19, 2021 12:10 pm

I understand the FCC regs apply for rc, that’s why I’m looking for ideas rather than jumping on a plan to use aircraft rc equipment illegally. Flysky is a brand, but the fs-gt5 is actually for rc cars. Unless you like flying with a steering wheel!

Good points guys. Like I said, I’m not a huge fan of RC equipment on trains, but I’m trying to consider ways to help my father move his train around safely too. RC systems today are pretty safe in general, they won’t let the equipment run away like the old stuff if you’re using a pwm signal. But getting three receivers to listen to a single transmitter designed for an rc car is challenging.

John, I’m curious about the pull-up resistor idea but the SyRen doesn’t let me dictate high or low signal input modes that I am aware of. It’s either 0-5v fed/rv with 2.5v as stop, 0-5v throttle with reverse on s2, or a pwm signal for fwd/rv. If I can find a means of transmitting the pwm signal through the consist using the mu system, then all is well, but at the moment I can’t see how to do that. Again I’m not an electronics guru.

Thanks guys.
7.5" Allen Mogul
3 x 7.5" West Valley Baldwin Westinghouse Electrics
The Mrs. wants her railroad around the house!
G. Augustus
Monte Rio, Ca.

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rmac
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by rmac » Sat Jun 19, 2021 12:12 pm

Gra2472 wrote: Let's not do that again.
Exactly. Let's not do that again. Anywhere.

There's no way to say this gently, so I won't even try.

My father admitted he needed a cane when he fell without one. Then he admitted he needed a walker when he fell while using the cane and broke a femur. Then my family had to force him to abandon the walker when he fell twice in one week while using it, breaking a couple of ribs the second time.

With that as background, I'd suggest that you address your father's mobility problems directly rather than trying to mitigate the risk in one specific environment. If he is at risk while walking around the railroad, he is also at risk in a thousand other situations where all the fancy locomotive controls in the world won't help a bit.

Better in my opinion to help him realize and accept his shortcomings and get him the assistance he needs in the form of a walker or a scooter or a wheelchair or whatever he actually needs. He'll resist at every step, of course, and it'll be 10 times harder for you than building an R/C train. But you just might avoid a real disaster.

My family and I failed miserably at this. We were too little, too late, over and over again. Maybe you can do better with your dad.

-- Russell Mac

John Hasler
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Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by John Hasler » Sat Jun 19, 2021 12:17 pm

Aircraft radios are expensive, require licenses to operate, and are not suitable for this purpose anyway. Nothing readily available for rc is going to use any restricted aircraft frequencies.

Gra2472
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:02 pm
Location: Monte Rio California

Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by Gra2472 » Sat Jun 19, 2021 1:00 pm

Rmac

Not a bad suggestion and something I’ve considered. But he’s not bad enough to consider a mobility scooter just yet. He’s perfectly stable 99% of the time, but we have all tripped over a rail once or twice. I purposefully over stated the challenges he faces for the clarity of this discussion. Let’s not exclude him from his favorite past-time just yet. He’s not going to fall on someone’s fancy locomotive. Yes he did take a spill that hurt his shoulder, but at no time did he or I blame anyone else. He was tired and didn’t pick his feet up. The greater purpose of my question is to discuss the technology. Let’s keep it on topic please.

Also, I’m not considering aircraft RC, that was supposed to be illustrative of the kind of solution I am looking for. If I was willing to jump into the complex and illegal use of aircraft RC with complete abandon and disregard for your safety and mine,I would have done so. I will endeavor to be a bit more specific in the future.

Thanks

G
7.5" Allen Mogul
3 x 7.5" West Valley Baldwin Westinghouse Electrics
The Mrs. wants her railroad around the house!
G. Augustus
Monte Rio, Ca.

Gra2472
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:02 pm
Location: Monte Rio California

Re: Remote Control thoughts

Post by Gra2472 » Sat Jun 19, 2021 2:00 pm

Well, here's an update. Today I have visited a couple of local rc shops to get some ideas from guys who are much more knowledgeable about these things than I am. Lets be clear, I am not looking to do anything dangerous or illegal, and the guys at the RC shop were clear about it too. There are no ground intended RC systems that allow the binding of multiple rc receivers to a single controller, so that idea is out. Good to know.

Please allow me to clarify a bit further. No one in my camp is planning on running their train from the caboose, or allowing the train to get out of sight in anyway. We have strict rules about that sort of thing on my own little railroad. Running trains on my little railroad is fun, but we have animals that love to lay on the tracks in the shade. Thus, no trains run without the engineer on board unless the track ahead of the train can be seen clearly and is unobstructed. All moves are shoving moves and must be visually protected. The same goes for anywhere else we run. We take safety seriously. Thus the crux of this discussion. Looking for a safer method to control the train remotely for the purpose of yarding and switching if you will.

The simple solution, which I have tried, is to transmit the rc pwm output signal through the consist, but the signal strength is too weak. Ideally, I think that a sort of pwm signal booster could solve this problem. However, I am not sure that such a thing exists. Any ideas?

I like a good discussion, and I am glad that so many of you are passionate about safety. It's quite reassuring.

Thanks

G
7.5" Allen Mogul
3 x 7.5" West Valley Baldwin Westinghouse Electrics
The Mrs. wants her railroad around the house!
G. Augustus
Monte Rio, Ca.

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