The Lego Wizard

Conversion of Power Functions to 9V Track

16 posts in this topic

I am planning on making a Lego railroad but I only have power functions track! What if I get a 9v train? How do I convert pw track to 9v? I was thinking tin foil on the pw. Someone please help!

P.S. please mods don't shut this down I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem ( fingers crossed)

Edited by TheBrickster
Title changed by moderator.

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I dont think It would be safe to put tin foil on the track and power it with 9v becuase of fire risks and thats a plain idiotic idea... :sceptic: Word of advice stick with PF

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Or you could just convert the 9v set to Power Functions. Granted some of the sets are more challenging than others.

I've converted both The Santa Fe Super Chief and Metroliner with just a little niggiling of bits.

The BNSF will require either color compromises or stickers to mask the PF parts.

I'd started on the Old Hi-Speed Train just before we moved but hadn't gotten very far before it was time to pack everything up.

The Steam Locomotives will be the real challenge, for those I've designed a PF Tender that contains ALL of the PF bits in a slightly large tender. i haven't got around to actually building it yet though.

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I would as others have said convert the 9V train to run on Power Functions. I can see that 9V stuff is more like normal model railways in that the track is powered and that is why a lot of people like it, but from my experience of those normal model railways I would say PF is better simply because you do not need to worry about short circuits and changing polarity and all that stuff. OK PF can be a pain with batteries, but if you run on rechargable ones it is not so bad. A bit of layout to start with but once you have them you have them so as to speak.

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With 16mm scale railway modelling the trend has been for some years to move away from using track power and to run on batteries systems with radio control (though of course a lot of 16mm folk also run live steam locos as well thereby moving away from electricity entirely, but we can't exactly do that with Lego). By using r/c or i/c control with batteries on board the loco or another vehicle in the train, track can just be track again and loco wheels can get on with the business of rolling on the rails without worrying about contact wipers, spots of dirt or short circuts. It was for the same reason that I was always more fond of my clockwork locos than the electric ones when I was still collecting vintage tinplate trains. No need to constantly be going over the track with a hard pencil eraser to remove dirt spots or worrying about voltage drop or any of the other delights of using track power.

For myself battery power using PF is a bit of a pain in that I like to build late 19th Century and early 20th Century tank engines that ran on 3ft 6inch gauge track and even with 8 wide models built to a nominal 9mm scale there isn't a lot of room for all the electrical bits. most of my locos will end up with a 4 wheel guards van permanently coupled behind to carry the battery and the PF gear, but that's Ok by me. I'd much rather do that than go back to using track power again.

Something I did with one or two of my 16mm scale locos was have them setup for 'hand in the cab' operation where the electrical controls were on the loco and easily accessible for use while the loco was in motion. This works best with locos that run slowly of course and I used to really enjoy shunting a goods yard with a loco that was setup this way. Might actually try this with one of my brickbuilt locos if I can find a suitable prototype that allows for having suitably disguised switchgear hidden about itself.

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Well, there's pluses and minuses, but there's a reason that LEGO trains took off with traditional train fans during the 9V era - it's what made me switch, and I was very disappointed when they discontinued it. I was a LEGO novice, though, otherwise I'd have learned their track record for abandoning things people have invested so much money in.

The benefits of PF do not outweight the negatives, IMO, but it all depends on the individual and how they use their trains. Building a battery box into a train sucks. Replacing batteries in a built in battery box on a train sucks even worse. Rechargable helps, but then you have to stop and let the train recharge. The degree of control you get with the LEGO remote controls is terrible, too... it might be better if they did radio control instead of IR RC.

On the up side, there are definitely some benefits to PF. Lights stay on full and are not dependent on train speed; you can have discrete control of other onboard things - cranes, doors, whatever. There's also the fact that TLG no longer produces 9V compatible track.

HOWEVER, I say you can have the best of both worlds. In fact, when it comes to lighting, local battery operated is better, instead of wires running all around and between cars... there are always option; the 9v battery adapter mod works great for things like lights. No more of a pain to deal with than other PF batteries, easier to conceal, no wires running between trains - and with the LED lights, lasts a REALLY long time. Essentially, 9v battery mod or full size battery box, you get the best of both worlds.

Lifelights works even better (but a bit more expensive).

ME and Big Ben are taking up the slack on 9V track, and I have little doubt there will be an engine solution at some point - until then, I have four and not permanent layout anyway, so it's more than enough for me at the moment.

I DO have a handful of PF motors and track, and I've modded some new trains - like the Toy Story train, to run on PF. The AAA battery box hides nicely in the closed car.

There is room for both, but I simply prefer 9V and will defer to 9V when possible. If ever I feel like really "playing," and went all out with a full permanent layout, I'd prefer digitrax over LEGO IR RC.

Edited by fred67

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Having used both systems I have to say that I completely agree with fred67's post about 9V benefits outweighing PF (who wants to tear apart their stuff just to replace batteries), but I would look for actual 9V track. Unless, of course, you already have PF track and want to run 9V.

I wanted to add to my earlier post that it can be frustrating when applying the copper tape to find shorts in a completed train setup... Especially when the train stops on the back side of the Christmas tree and you have to walk through your Christmas village like Godzilla. It also seems that the train motors arn't as capable at hauling long trains on the copper tape than on standard 9V rails. They seem, uh, well, more wimpy.

I have never, ever had any issues with safety with 9V or the taped tracks. I think some of the posts I've seen in this regard are a little paranoid perhaps.

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ME Tracks are definitely better than copper tape... hoping Big Ben tracks will be awesome, too. Choice is always good.

Copper tape is more of a fallback when nothing else is available, IMO.

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(though of course a lot of 16mm folk also run live steam locos as well thereby moving away from electricity entirely, but we can't exactly do that with Lego).

Cough...

The benefits of PF do not outweight the negatives, IMO, but it all depends on the individual and how they use their trains.

As a mostly 6 wide builder, I have to agree with much of the assessment. Though I am close to neutral between the two, both have their places where they excel (if I were starting from scratch, I'd just save the money and go PF). The two things that PF delivers that 9v doesn't is: much higher pulling power (even with the PF train motor, but especially with the XL motors), and the ability to sustain much lower stable speeds.

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Cough...

amazing, who would have thought that possible, I know there is a lot of non Lego in there but who cares, it looks like a whole heap of fun to get that running

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I know someone who used copper tape on monorail tracks so that his monorail display can run all day at shows. It can be done but it is a lot of work. You may be better converting your 9V trains to PF. Really depends on how you plan to run your trains. I'm kind of in the same boat. I missed the 9V era in my dark ages. All my tracks are PF and some really old plastic rails and plates. I think at home I would stick with PF. If I ever do decide to display trains at shows, I would probably buy or borrow some 9V motors from my LUG. I don't think there is enough current going out of the 9V transformer to start a fire with plastic tracks and copper tape.

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I know someone who used copper tape on monorail tracks so that his monorail display can run all day at shows. It can be done but it is a lot of work. You may be better converting your 9V trains to PF. Really depends on how you plan to run your trains. I'm kind of in the same boat. I missed the 9V era in my dark ages. All my tracks are PF and some really old plastic rails and plates. I think at home I would stick with PF. If I ever do decide to display trains at shows, I would probably buy or borrow some 9V motors from my LUG. I don't think there is enough current going out of the 9V transformer to start a fire with plastic tracks and copper tape.

Just had a thought about the amount of current, the Lego 9v regulator has short circuit protection, this is needed to stop issues if a user created a loop back or some other section or track using 9v track that would create a short. I am not 100% sure but I bet this would kill the power if you did something wrong with the copper tape as well.

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