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Pros and Cons of the various types of trains.


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#1 Madcat2000

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 02:01 AM

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This topic is about the good and bad of all the types of trains, or more specifically, their method of power and propulsion. I don't know about the trains prior to 9v so those of you that do help is appreciated. I also never owned an RC train and don't yet own a PF train.

9v

Pros
1. Nothing on the Locomotive itself aside from the motor.
2. More power than the RC, I don't know about the Power Functions train motor.
3. Longest lived of the train systems(to my knowledge)

Cons
1. Relied on wiring that had to be connected to the track.
2. The motors were expensive.

RC
I'll need help with this one.

Power Functions

Pros
1. More accurate steam engines.
2. More power than RC.

Cons
1. Large amount of equipment that needs to be on the train.
2. IR receiver likely has problems similar to the ones reported on the RC trains.

If you have anymore please tell me and if you know things that contadict what I said please tell me.

#2 TheBrickster

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 03:13 AM

Interesting topic Madcat.

I have the Emerald Night, but I still like 9V.  The big "pro" is ease at adding a 9V motor to any train (quick and easy).  As you mention, 9V was a long-time system, so compatibility is also a big plus.  I'm interested to see what others say.

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#3 Madcat2000

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 03:49 AM

:laugh: And here I thought trains (other than armored trains and railway guns) were a subject I knew little about. One thing I'd like to mention is the fact that many people are asking lego to bring back 9v, which is almost impossable for a few reasons, one being the cost of developing the new stuff, and possable safety issues of the 9v( I can see a kid daring his brother to lick both tracks at once, which would likely be similar to licking a 9v battery).

#4 Mark Bellis

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 04:48 PM

View PostMadcat2000, on Apr 30 2009, 04:49 AM, said:

One thing I'd like to mention is the fact that many people are asking lego to bring back 9v, which is almost impossable for a few reasons, one being the cost of developing the new stuff, ...

That's why I, and others involved in PF, have worked so hard for backward compatibility with 9V devices.
The 9V underside of one end of the short PF extension wire is a major victory for AFOL input to TLG.
The shape of the PF light ends and their ability to fit into headlight bricks and Technic beams is down to us too.  Sadly they couldn't let the whole light go through a hole because the wire grip was needed for child safety reasons.

The result is that we need not change from our 9V train motors and track in order to have PF trains, saving lots of AFOLs oodles of money (that we can spend on the LEGO we'd like to buy :classic: )

View PostMadcat2000, on Apr 30 2009, 04:49 AM, said:

... and possable safety issues of the 9v( I can see a kid daring his brother to lick both tracks at once, which would likely be similar to licking a 9v battery).

Dunno about you, but my tongue isn't long enough to reach across the tracks!  ==:tongue:== (Lack of 9V Bzzzz!)
Of course either a 9V or PF lead can be put in your mouth, if you're determined to zap yourself.  DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME KIDS!

OK, to the trains (I started with set 171 and a set 107 motor in 1978):
4.5V blue rails (1960s-1980):
:thumbup:
Was the only electric system in those days.  A revelation for LEGO.
Allowed continuous train running for the first time.
Had a whistle and control box to start and stop the train (set 138)
Set 182 had special bogie curved sliding devices for an 0-8-0 engine.
Train could be lit with set 970 light bricks.
Reversing loops and triangles could be made with no short circuits.
:thumbdown:
Track could not be picked up and hung on the wall.
Too few sleepers and limited colour choice of bricks.
Motor required 6x16 or 6x22 loco base, limiting loco size.
Magnet polarity fixed (red & blue) - did not work when reversing trains.
Motor took up 3 plates height above the base.

12V & 4.5V grey (1981 to 1990 in the UK, spares till 1996):
:thumbup:
Track could be picked up and hung on the wall.
12V: (some 12V in other countries from the late 1960s?)
:thumbup:
Transformer control.
Control panel devices - points, signals, decoupler, level crossing.
Single plugs meant limitless electrics, as long as you know what you're doing to avoid short circuits!
TLG ran 12V spares service for 6 years after 9V arrived :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:  
:thumbdown:
Expensive motors and remote controls!
Wires everywhere!
Track OK for tube trains but not so realistic.  Too few sleepers too.
Isolation, except for signal isolation, was by cutting conductor rails (to isolate both rails for reversing tracks or loops).
Default track centres of 8 studs best for 6-wide trains.  Could be overcome for wider trains.

9V (from 1991 in the UK):
:thumbup:
Lighter motor, did not need weights.  Motor no longer relied upon weight for electrical contact.
No sliding contacts on conductor rails - reduced carbon footprint - literally!
Track more realistic - could be ballasted
Points did automatic siding isolation with internal contacts.  Allowed swap-over of trains from parallel through-sidings just by changing 2 points together.
Track geometry supported 16-stud centres, allowing for wider trains by default.
RCX could drive a light train.  DCC possible with RCX.

Neutral: Motor the same price as 12V.
:thumbdown:
Less powerful motor - needed 2 motors to 12V's one.
Lack of remote control for points, but AFOLs devised electric and pneumatic ways around this.

RC: :thumbup:
Batteries could be removed without dismantling loco.
Remote control.
Reversing loops and triangles can be made with no short circuits.
:thumbdown:
Fixed loco base.  BBB steam engine possible but battery power limited.
3-channel limit on remote control.  AFOLs have more trains on a layout!
Wheel initially lacked grip.  Revised wheels can be back-fitted.
Horn on handset (but for parents, at least there was only one horn!)
White train front end in competition for "most useless piece ever" (prize was narrowly won by dino body)

PF: :thumbup:
Remote control.
Can avoid using train motor if PF gearmotor and banded wheels are used.  Therefore accurate 9V steam engine needs no tender motor.
Plastic track allows more geometries.  Crossover is really good and can be tweaked to set both tracks straight at once.
Reversing loops and triangles can be made with no short circuits.
Plastic track is cheaper, if only the pack had more straights than curves.
PF gearmotors are cheaper than 9V gearmotors or train motors.
Flexi-track allows a child to complete a circuit without knowing the maths of track geometry!
4 or 8-channel limit can be overcome by AFOLs.  Control of up to 128 trains theoretically possible.
9V points remote control work-arounds still good for PF.
IR interference issues can be overcome by AFOLs.
Easy to light trains in more ways with new PF light brick.  Lights fit less obtrusively in signals too.
NXT can send PF IR commands with IR Link sensor.  Potential for automatic control.
Backward compatibility with 9V devices.  TLG listened to AFOLs  :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
Li-Po battery good for regular use or exhibitions (500 cycles in 3 years saves £950 of batteries at £4/set of 6 alkaline ones doing 2 equivalent charge cycles)
:thumbdown:
Fill train with PF parts - battery, receiver, motor (if no train motor underneath).  Some energy lost in friction using gearmotors.
Not always easy to get to battery for charging or removal.  Removable roof section or high centre of gravity for battery.
Rock and roll of banded wheels on Emerald Night, owing to band thickness variation.
Some PF parts expensive - IR receiver, light brick (has more parts than 9V ones), battery (on a par for laptop battery technology)
Flexi-track needs check rails to avoid derailments.  Can they be removed or the track ballasted?  Some reports of its noisy operation.

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#5 Eilif

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 07:54 PM

NILTC had a show this weekend, and a couple of members had brought along their Emerald Nights. We had one with the PF system, and one with the 9V system.  9V was the clear winner for controllability and power, but it was neat to see the PF system chugging along without the telltale 9V motor box.

-One downside (and partial upside) to PF is that while it's pretty strong, the way it's geared in the Emerald Night, it's very slow when you put a couple cars on it.  However, it's possible that it could be re-geared for a bit more speed.  

-Also, the rechargeable battery box is quite expensive.

-However, on the plus side, the rechargeable battery has a fairly long life, and it has a very handy built in speed regulator, with a technic axle control knob that could be built into various types of manual speed controls. Thus, even though it's an expensive system, you don't need the remote control to have a moving train.

-Finally, as mentioned above, the PF system has no bulky combo engine/wheel box, so you can build trains with much more uniformly realistic wheels and trucks.
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#6 AndyC

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 06:52 AM

Another advantage of PF trains is that you can start using far more versatile drive mechanisms than older sets. I'm currently working on a rack-rail solution by lining my track with 3743 rack parts and driving it with a a technic gear midway through the chassis. Exciting new layouts with steep inclines ahoy!  :laugh:
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#7 salty tbone

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 03:26 PM

View PostMadcat2000, on Apr 29 2009, 11:49 PM, said:

and possable safety issues of the 9v( I can see a kid daring his brother to lick both tracks at once, which would likely be similar to licking a 9v battery).

Sometimes I wonder if safety fears go a little too far. 9v was fine when I was a kid, but firing cannons were not (at least in the U.S.). Now 9v is dangerous for kids with oral fixations and prone to peer pressure, but practically every set has a missile system.  :tongue:

#8 SavaTheAggie

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 10:36 PM

At Brickworld this year, Power Function trains were given a huge spotlight.  Cale Leiphart had PF'd his giant Y6B locomotive, and while it didn't win any speed competitions (it was geared slow, which actually most steam engine model railroaders prefer slower to faster), it beat the snot (not SNOT) out of 9v in pulling power.

He entered it into the train pull contest, where locomotives were hitched up to ever increasing lengths of rolling stock to see where they'd stall.  Even using two 9v motors and a non LEGO model railroad power regulator capable of melting the 9v motors, no one was able to even come close to the pulling power of Cale's Power Function steamer.

I'll be ordering PF motors and accessories to upgrade a few of my steamers this week.

--Tony

*He was using a standard battery box, IIRC, rather than the rechargable $50 PF battery

#9 Cavannus

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 11:34 PM

I think Mark Bellis has perfectly and deeply described the pros and cons of each system.

I'll be less objective and more subjective:
- PF and RC just look magic to me (you can control the engine without any wire)
- PF is more convenient due to the rechargeable battery
- but when my Emerald Night rolls, I think of all this energy lost due to a lot of friction (especially on the small wheels) and I just think it could be better in many ways...

Edited by Cavannus, 24 June 2009 - 11:35 PM.


#10 Madcat2000

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:18 AM

Probably one of the worst things lost in the 9V to PF conversion was the ability to make certain types of locos that don't requrie other car(s) behind them for power or propulsion. The two main ones that come to mind are shunters, due to their small size (I mean the little tank engine steam shunters and the small deisel ones like that 3 axel one), and hood body deisels like the BNSF a few years ago, which to my knowledge is the primary type of deisel for freight use, as most car body deisels (like the Super Chief) are passenger locos.

#11 Karto

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 03:31 PM

Something that could be an issue over the years for the PF system, is the battery lifetime. Picking up a 25 years old 12V motor or a 15 years old 9V from a cold and humid ceiling won't be an issue to make them run again (as well as the their tracks and speed regulators). My '75 725 train engine also runs perfectly after being inactive for 30 years. I doubt that this will be the case for the very expensive PF battery. I'm looking forward to it, if I'm still alife by then  :classic:

#12 Eilif

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 07:29 PM

View PostSavaTheAggie, on Jun 24 2009, 04:36 PM, said:

At Brickworld this year, Power Function trains were given a huge spotlight.  Cale Leiphart had PF'd his giant Y6B locomotive, and while it didn't win any speed competitions (it was geared slow, which actually most steam engine model railroaders prefer slower to faster), it beat the snot (not SNOT) out of 9v in pulling power.

He entered it into the train pull contest, where locomotives were hitched up to ever increasing lengths of rolling stock to see where they'd stall.  Even using two 9v motors and a non LEGO model railroad power regulator capable of melting the 9v motors, no one was able to even come close to the pulling power of Cale's Power Function steamer.

I'll be ordering PF motors and accessories to upgrade a few of my steamers this week.

--Tony

*He was using a standard battery box, IIRC, rather than the rechargable $50 PF battery

Very interesting observations. I don't intend to invest in a new train system, but I have to say that I am quite impressed that LEGO really seems to have done a great job of making new and more powerful trains.  Even though anything RC is considered a step down in many railroaders eyes it is to TLG's credit that they have improved the system in other areas.
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#13 Mark Bellis

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 05:48 PM

I found another point where 9V scores over PF:
I would like the trains on my layout to change speed according to where they are.  It makes sense for the trains to speed up when it is going uphill (needing power setting 4 to get up the hill with a train) but to slow down when going down the hill (any power setting above 2 would look like a runaway and might cause a derailment on the next corner).  I would also like the trains to slow doen when entering the out-of-sight fiddle yard, to minimise the risk of derailments in hard-to-reach places.

For a 9V layout, automatic speed settings would be achieved by adding isolating tape between permanently-connected joints of 9V track (not joints detached at scenic module boundaries), to make isolating sections, and then using diodes to drop some voltage from the uphill sections to the flat sections and from there to the downhill sections.  One diode drop is approximately the difference between speed settings on a 9V controller or a PF IR receiver.  I would use two 1N4001 diodes in parallel at each isolation, for up to 2 Amps at <50V with some load sharing, the diodes dropping between 0.7V and 1.0V at each isolation.  The diode network would work in reverse, making higher speed for reversing uphill than downhill if a train were reversed in any section (bi-directional running capability).  A few diodes and some Veroboard would cost a few quid.

For a PF layout, automatic speed settings would require an NXT with an RFID sensor to recognise the trains and an IR Link sensor to send the speed codes to the trains.  This is the case at each site where a train changes speed automatically, so for my layout with 2 tracks and hills that's about 4 NXTs even if you double up by using two IR Link sensors and two RFID sensors on the 4 ports of each NXT.  There is the advantage of individual train speeds, but it costs a lot more, probably £1000 more!  The NXTs should have a mains supply in that application, so either a fudged 9V supply on the battery terminals (warranty voided) or a rechargeable battery pack for each one!

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#14 Greg F

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 02:53 AM

View PostMadcat2000, on Jun 25 2009, 12:18 AM, said:

Probably one of the worst things lost in the 9V to PF conversion was the ability to make certain types of locos that don't requrie other car(s) behind them for power or propulsion. The two main ones that come to mind are shunters, due to their small size (I mean the little tank engine steam shunters and the small deisel ones like that 3 axel one), and hood body diesels like the BNSF a few years ago, which to my knowledge is the primary type of diesel for freight use, as most car body diesels (like the Super Chief) are passenger locos.

I thought the same way, until I visited www.railbricks.com recently. Scroll down the home page to Anthony Sava's 13 July post. Jason Steinhurst has made a very small steam switcher with PF. Maybe an eight-wide cab diesel with a seven-wide hood could hide PF?

US railroads did use car body diesels for freights in the 1940s and 50s. Do a google search on Santa Fe blue bonnets or freight F-units as one example. Southern Pacific "Black Widows" and Northern Pacific freight F-units are much better looking in my opinion than the more brightly coloured passenger units. Having options for different paint schemes is always a good thing.

G

Edited by Greg F, 16 July 2009 - 02:55 AM.


#15 DaCheese

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 11:11 AM

The post with the PF shunter can be found here. Other than the cranks to get around the lack of a crankpin hole on the wheels used it looks fantastic.

#16 swoofty

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 06:26 AM

9v was really the high water mark. There's a reason all model railroads use powered rails. 9v wasn't perfect, but it was very close. Many Lego modelers had already put DCC decoders in their 9v motors and this is the real opportunity TLG missed. Dcc would have opened up a splendid world of possibilities that have now been replaced with 2 channels and 7 speed steps. Really? That's an improvement? DCC would have gone a long way in legitimizing Lego trains with the wider model train comunity. Last year at NMRA when I told the OTHER train guys that the new Lego trains would be battery, they looked at me as if I'd ridden in on a horse. I'll hang on to my 9v, heck, PF works better on metal track anyway!

#17 jayhurst

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 12:19 PM

View PostGreg F, on Jul 15 2009, 10:53 PM, said:

I thought the same way, until I visited www.railbricks.com recently. Scroll down the home page to Anthony Sava's 13 July post. Jason Steinhurst has made a very small steam switcher with PF. Maybe an eight-wide cab diesel with a seven-wide hood could hide PF?

Yep, that's my little PF-powered, 0-4-0T yard-goat steamer. :-)
[attachment=3800:Reduded100_0488b.jpg]

If anyone's interested in seeing more pics of it, head to over my Flickr page, located here:

http://www.flickr.co...57621181077845/

Enjoy!  :classic:

Edited by jayhurst, 05 August 2009 - 12:49 PM.


#18 vgo

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 06:57 PM

12V
+ It feels more like LEGO than any other system ie. you connect 5 parts to get one piece of track
+ Has COOL stuff like remote controlled points etc. that NONE of the other systems have, it was all downhill from here, less and less "real train stuff" in every generation
+ The basic track, crossings and points are cheaper than in 9V and making your own remote controlled points and what-not is even easier and cheaper than in 9V
- Some of the original sets and parts are very expensive

9V
-/+ Lacks all the (original) cool stuff from 12V (I always expected LEGO to introduce it's own "legofied" DCC system for the 9V!), you have to make everything yourself - which can be more fun than just slamming together something reading the instructions!
+ More realistic, the track and motors are similar to the HO trains
- Motors are less powerful than in 12V, you need two to get the same kind of "umph"

RC & PF
---- Batteries IN a train? Oh please, that's for the pre-school kids!
-/+ NONE of the remote control stuff released by LEGO has really worked (based on my own experience, I haven't tested ALL of them), if you're familiar with the "real" RC models  then the LEGO RC feels like the kid who sees a black & white TV set (and it doesn't even have a remote control!) for the first time in his life!
(+) PF combined with 9V/12V can be used for some really cool stuff, but then again, this is hardly anything new since the 4.5/9/12V motors have been around for quite some time!

Honestly, I can see no reason why someone would choose RC/PF over 9V/12V if REALLY interested in trains.

9V/12V are as good or even better than the HO trains. For these two the choice comes to what's more easily available, at least in Europe any of the 9V/12V stuff is easy to get (sure it can be quite expensive, but you can always check the HO prices and compare!). For some who prefer realism, the metal rails and no third rail make it an easy choice.

This is my (biased towards 12V) opinion, if you don't like it, that's not my problem. :)

#19 SavaTheAggie

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 11:00 PM

View Postvgo, on Aug 30 2009, 01:57 PM, said:

RC & PF
---- Batteries IN a train? Oh please, that's for the pre-school kids!
-/+ NONE of the remote control stuff released by LEGO has really worked (based on my own experience, I haven't tested ALL of them), if you're familiar with the "real" RC models  then the LEGO RC feels like the kid who sees a black & white TV set (and it doesn't even have a remote control!) for the first time in his life!
(+) PF combined with 9V/12V can be used for some really cool stuff, but then again, this is hardly anything new since the 4.5/9/12V motors have been around for quite some time!

Honestly, I can see no reason why someone would choose RC/PF over 9V/12V if REALLY interested in trains.

9V/12V are as good or even better than the HO trains. For these two the choice comes to what's more easily available, at least in Europe any of the 9V/12V stuff is easy to get (sure it can be quite expensive, but you can always check the HO prices and compare!). For some who prefer realism, the metal rails and no third rail make it an easy choice.

This is my (biased towards 12V) opinion, if you don't like it, that's not my problem. :)

Wow, that truly is biased, and partially through blind ignorance.  I'm not going to give up my 9v trains, but Power Functions is a lot better than you seem to think it is, and I would highly suggest you do more testing and actually use all of the Power Functions elements before you write them off.

The Power Functions motors are the most powerful motors LEGO has ever produced, and the variable speed PF train remote works well in my opinion and gives you the ability to control up to 8 trains.  And having batteries in the train isn't all that bad - by doing so you are able to run multiple trains independently on the same loop and use track configurations that could never be done with 9v or 12v.

TexLUG has decided to fully embrace Power Functions trains.  While we're not going to give up 9v trains, our recent testing of Power Functions driven trains has shown us that we've been given so many more options for future displays and freedom from having to have someone sit in or next to a display waiting to turn off a 9v regulator in case of derailment.  

--Tony

#20 vgo

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 10:02 AM

View PostSavaTheAggie, on Aug 31 2009, 02:00 AM, said:

The Power Functions motors are the most powerful motors LEGO has ever produced, and the variable speed PF train remote works well in my opinion and gives you the ability to control up to 8 trains.  And having batteries in the train isn't all that bad - by doing so you are able to run multiple trains independently on the same loop and use track configurations that could never be done with 9v or 12v.

With DCC you can have pretty much as many trains running as you like with remote controlled points etc. and you can get the power and all the remote controlling information from the rails. NO batteries needed. ;)

#21 muffinman42

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 11:34 AM

PF:
cons:
complex to make a small locomtive
expensive

pros:
your layout will never be so big you need two controlers
you can follow your train if you have a large layout instead of being stuck at the control point.

#22 BillytheKid

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 12:42 PM

I won't care if PF-motors are the strongest motors of all legotrains. Batteries will be empty one day and that's for me a very big disavantage.

But batterytrains have their advantages, wireless, seperate controlled trains, huge (I mean huge) layout possible, very handy for shows/meetings, most reliable system and you can make 'short circuit' layouts.

#23 SavaTheAggie

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 06:16 PM

View Postvgo, on Aug 31 2009, 04:02 AM, said:

With DCC you can have pretty much as many trains running as you like with remote controlled points etc. and you can get the power and all the remote controlling information from the rails. NO batteries needed. ;)

Except you have to break open your motors to install the DCC, which some people don't feel comfortable doing, and you still can't do things like double-back loops because of the limitations of electrified rails.

--Tony

#24 Rijkjavik

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 08:05 PM

I've seen jayhurst's steam switcher, but I still think Power Functions are not compact enough. It's impossible to create something like 4563, and I think that's one of the mayor disadvantages, together with the need of reload the battery sometimes. It's a big improvement when you look to the RC system with its big RC base. But I think 9V is still better. The tracks are cheaper, but what if straight ones and curves are sold together? The whole point of cheap tracks is over when you only use half of the tracks (the straight ones).

Edited by Richie, 31 August 2009 - 08:06 PM.

It's multifunctionomical.

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#25 Dr Kilroy

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 08:25 PM

I like more 9V. Maybe baceuse I have got only this sort of trains.  :laugh:  No, not really, RC is baaaaaad, and PF trains need much equipment to run. So only 12V and 9V are left. I don't have 12V and you don't mention it, so 9V is the best for me.  :classic:
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