Vilhelm22

Is it worth it to get into 9V trains now?

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As far as AFOLs go, I’m pretty young, and my first (and only) trains are all PF.  However, with recent developments from @michaelgale - by the way those switches look amazing  - and ideas by @coaster of BrickTracks and @michaelgale for 9v pickups, I’m liking the idea of buying 9v and using PF/PU motors attached to the pickups more and more.  I own a rather large inherited HO scale collection, so I know the high quality and versatility of Fleischmann track and I kinda want that with LEGO too.  Brick Train Depot also sells custom 9v track.  With lots of trains, the batteries become too expensive - is 9v a better choice?  

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Posted (edited)

If that's what you want personally, its worth it. For me personally, I prefer PF with the controller. I tried using the app, but it was faulty. But its really what you want. Wanna do 9V, go right ahead. I grew up during the end of the 9V era into the RC era. 

Edited by Brandon Pea

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Posted (edited)

Just bear in mind, despite all these promises of pick-ups and alternate motorisation, nothing as yet has been made available. 9V motors are VERY expensive IMHO and unless there's a specific reason for doing so, PF and PUp are much more common, don't require a wall outlet and are more customisable.

That said, if you already have 9V there's no reason to not continue using it, or to use 9V track but PF/PUp powered trains.

Edited by Matt Dawson

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I discontinued 12V (still have some 12V trains but the accessories not anymore) but I still have quite some 9V and PF stuff, but I prefer PU since it is more flexible also if you remote control it (using e.g. a Raspberry Pi).

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BTW, there are lots of ideas to use lipo batteries for PF. Of course you have to sacrifice a Lego wire to do so.

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There are pros and cons to using metal tracks.  If you're ok with the cons like corrosion and regular maintenance, then why not?  You can implement stuff like DCC. 

1 hour ago, 1963maniac said:

BTW, there are lots of ideas to use lipo batteries for PF. Of course you have to sacrifice a Lego wire to do so.

You can 3D print or buy PF/PU connectors so no LEGO will be harmed in the making of adapter cables.  :classic:

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9V is certainly more compact if you just want to run trains, but from what I see (without any in-depth research) it's more expensive and very little of the new track, points, pick-ups etc are actually available yet. Personally I'm happy with PF for my non-permanent layout, but it eats batteries if you don't have rechargeable. 

6 minutes ago, dr_spock said:

You can 3D print or buy PF/PU connectors so no LEGO will be harmed in the making of adapter cables.  :classic:

Do you know of anywhere one can get PF connectors from? I've started looking into bodging together a 9V battery clip to use in small models, but I'm thinking I might as well wire it straight into a receiver. 

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32 minutes ago, ColletArrow said:

Do you know of anywhere one can get PF connectors from? I've started looking into bodging together a 9V battery clip to use in small models, but I'm thinking I might as well wire it straight into a receiver. 

Aliexpress, where else :)

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4 hours ago, Brandon Pea said:

If that's what you want personally, its worth it.

I am 100% with you on this!!!

Best
Thorsten

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1 hour ago, ColletArrow said:

Do you know of anywhere one can get PF connectors from? I've started looking into bodging together a 9V battery clip to use in small models, but I'm thinking I might as well wire it straight into a receiver. 

Burned out PF motors from running Great Ball Contraptions is a good source. Make friends with your LUG's GBC guys/gals.  If you can wait for shipping, there is AliExpress.  If you have a 3D printer,  I printed this one from Thingiverse to make a PU to PF cable.  https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2718236  :classic:

 

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1 hour ago, ColletArrow said:

9V is certainly more compact if you just want to run trains, but from what I see (without any in-depth research) it's more expensive and very little of the new track, points, pick-ups etc are actually available yet. Personally I'm happy with PF for my non-permanent layout, but it eats batteries if you don't have rechargeable. 

Do you know of anywhere one can get PF connectors from? I've started looking into bodging together a 9V battery clip to use in small models, but I'm thinking I might as well wire it straight into a receiver. 

I just butcher these: https://www.lego.com/en-us/product/lego-power-functions-extension-wire-8886

At $3 a piece you get 2 connectors, plus VIP points, plus occasionally a free gift set if you buy enough.

and if you worry about them losing their original functionality by cutting them, I have put 4-pin connectors in between to create a dynamically interchangeable system for my trains (including some 9V battery block attachments)

49074600198_dc204716d9_b.jpgD7C80323-8908-4014-9856-F96FCDD3D97B by Phil B, on Flickr

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I bought some 9v track on EBay, just to be able to drive an elevated railway from ev3 without requiring a battery box. Wouldn’t make my entire layout 9v.

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No matter if there will be third party 9V tracks available in the future or not, the  rational answer to your question is NO.

Plastic tracks give you much more choice and will be less expensive.

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25 minutes ago, legotownlinz said:

the  rational answer to your question is NO

Absolutely!

But since when is the LEGO enthusiast driven by rationalism? Isn't the entire LEGO universe, i.e. what ABS bricks can accomplish or assembled bricks may represent, inherently non-rational?

Sure, some folks do earn money with it, live on a very small budget, and so on - that's not what I have in mind though. When you see something in something, and there is a (slim) chance that you can get that dream into reality: Go for it. That is - what I believe - what @Brandon Pea was referring to (but correct me if I am wrong!).

I live the 9V dream. And I go for it. Slowly as LEGO budgets are somewhat restricted here:wink:. But steadily.

From that perspective the answer to the question is: When you want to dream the 9V dream - go for it = YES. It is entirely possible.

Best
Thorsten

 

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I’m still occasionally spending daft money on 12v stuff, so who am I to say no....? Granted, I lived through both 12v and 9v eras and now have more money than I did then. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll find a way to do it, so go for it. 
 

One way I’m hoping to reduce costs is looking at using dead 9v motors to pick up power (after taking the motor out) and connecting it to a PF train motor to actually move the train. Needs a bit of creative wiring but have got it working with a live 9v motor.

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I would say that right now, no, it is not worth investing in 9v with 1 slim exception. I'll explain.

If you are excited about all the potential new 9v stuff that looks to be on the horizon, and are planning to get that stuff - the premiums you're going to be paying on current 9v track and motors is a waste (IMO). Expensive 9v train motors are also very underpowered compared to modern PF/PU motors of all types. Whether the new 3rd party stuff offers just a straight replacement for the old motors or a much more versatile power pickup, I don't see much sense in spending a ton of money chasing down the old equipment when you'll surely be able to get much better bang for your buck if the new stuff pans out.

Which is sort of the second reason I'd say to hold off on investing in 9v right now - the old "Don't count your chickens before they hatch" adage. If you do invest some into 9v stuff now with the intention of supplementing it with the 3rd party stuff later, despite the costs thing mentioned before - you're kinda in a pickle if for some, any reason at all, the 3rd party stuff doesn't pan out the way you're wanting, hoping, or expecting it to. Good quality 3rd party LEGO train stuff has a lot of uphill battles and doesn't always come out the way anyone thinks it will - unless you've got money to burn and are ok going full-tilt into the current limited 9v options even if the 3rd party stuff doesn't come through, I'd stay away from it for now.

That said, I don't think that means you have to put your whole hobby on pause while you wait to see what happens. Stuff like rolling stock, trackside structures, and your layout just don't care what your power option is. You can't go wrong building up more of that stuff. A lot of engines are pretty easy to retrofit - any engine you can build using the "Train Motor" can be swapped over to a 9v train easily later if you really want to, and depending on if/how a power pickup comes around, you may well be able to adapt a lot of other types of engines later, too. 

So basically, to sum up: There's a ton of really amazing potential on the horizon, for sure. If it works out perfectly, then there's little sense buying the much more expensive and old stuff available now. And if it doesn't work out, then you're stuck in an awkward position where you either have to keep going on the super expensive route or switch back to the PF/PU anyways. Patience seems to be the winning move right now.

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Posted (edited)

Here is my take on this: for decades, people in mainstream model railroading (people like me) have drooled over the prospect of remote-control, battery-powered trains. Why? Because cleaning and maintaining track on a model railroad is a nightmare. You are CONSTANTLY fighting dust, short circuits, dead sections, etc. No matter how sterile the environment in which you build your layout; no matter how awesome your are at soldering and rail polishing, you're going to have issues. It's just a fact of life.

Only in the past decade or so have lithium-ion battery tech + R/C sets shrunk to the size necessary enough to be viable in HO scale locomotives. But, even then, it has remained very much a cottage industry when it comes to powering trains - major manufacturers still pretty much singularly produce engines and control systems based around powered track. But, believe me: batteries and R/C are the future. There are simply too many arguments to be made in their favor for them not to eventually become the foundation for the hobby.

Thus, when I see AFOLs complaining about 9v's extinction, I always crack a bit of a wry smile. Yes, 9v is gone, and the people clinging to it are spending an increasing amount attempting to maintain their non-supported product. But they're also fighting uphill against a historical tide that simply doesn't favor that aspect of the hobby.

Edited by SteamSewnEmpire

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45 minutes ago, SteamSewnEmpire said:

Thus, when I see AFOLs complaining about 9v's extinction, I always crack a bit of a wry smile. Yes, 9v is gone, and the people clinging to it are spending an increasing amount attempting to maintain their non-supported product. But they're also fighting uphill against a historical tide that simply doesn't favor that aspect of the hobby.

Wait! That is absolutely not the point of "9V" ... no way. Not to me. It is metal rails. Delivering power. Crappy power, as you have so nicely and colorfully pointed out. However, they do deliver power. There are many, many ways of picking that power up - crappy as it is. But hey, refine it and feed it to some intelligence. "9V" does not mean "feed crappy power to dumb motors" and clean track for the rest of your life.

So: No sir, I do NOT spend increasing amounts attempting to maintain a non-supported product. None what so ever: I do combine a power source - crappy as it is - to devices that take care of that and feed it to either PF or PuP or homegrown devices. These then run forever on the track or near the track - and I don't have to waste batteries - as so many do - nor do I need to recharge others types every so many hours.

That is what is 9V to me.

I never felt fighting uphill. In contrast. This historical tide you are referring to is - for me - actually driving the whole thing, as if I was surfing it - with some additions I tend to name progress or development.

The "hobby" - as far as I am concerned loses a bit, when train are running on plastic track. I do know that hardly any train picks power up from the rails. As TLG does not provide diesel motors, nor any pantograph power pickup system, I believe it is closer to reality to pick that power up from rails.

But that is just how I see it - don't like to be called a non-believer. I guess we all have our visions of how to proceed. You go with RC and plastic track, I go with metal track and RC. And I don't complain, nor do I cling. I just do want to.

Best
Thorsten

     

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Toastie said:

I am 100% with you on this!!!

Best
Thorsten

I try to be more encouraging than discouraging. Its what keeps the Lego community strong! 

Edited by Brandon Pea

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9V all the way for me. Simply because I think it looks better. I'll take any other advantages I can get, if there are any to be had.

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You could always go full crazy and start getting into 12v! ;)

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16 hours ago, Daedalus304 said:

Good quality 3rd party LEGO train stuff has a lot of uphill battles and doesn't always come out the way anyone thinks it will - unless you've got money to burn and are ok going full-tilt into the current limited 9v options even if the 3rd party stuff doesn't come through, I'd stay away from it for now.

I would agree with this quote as a starting point. If you like the pure lego 9v system (perhaps with a few modified switches) better than PF and can afford it then why not? If you are drooling over the potential of the emerging 9v offerings, hold off until the market is actually offering what you want and perhaps a few people have tested it out.

 

Here's a list of Pros and Cons of the stock 9v off the top of my head

Pros of 9v:

  • You only need a "truck" for actual propulsion, so it is a lot easier to hide your motorization. So 4 wide hoods and small locomotives are A LOT easier
  • No need to futz with batteries, bluetooth or IR
  • Can turn trains on/off just by switching the switches on the layout

 

Cons of unmodified 9v:

  • Can only have two motors per circuit
  • Strictly R40 curves and a single switch geometry
  • Resistance at rail joints means you need multiple power drops for a large layout
  • Have to run all of the wires (not a problem for a fairly static display, big hassle for a weekend display)
  • Need to occasionally clean the track (but nothing like HO track)
  • Hard to engineer a steam engine that is actually propelled through its drivers (but you can still make good looking 9v steam)
  • can't do turning loops

 

Now one more thing to consider, if you use PU power at full retail price, then each single motor costs you $50+$13 = $63 to power (motor + battery box) while the per motor cost for a dual motor is $50/2 + $13 = $38. In that context, a used 9v motor for $50 (perhaps with the occasional replacement from parts of a PF motor) is not insane.

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On 6/23/2020 at 5:01 AM, PeteM said:

You could always go full crazy and start getting into 12v! ;)

Do the 12V power rails fit in the 9V tracks?  Why do one when you can do both?  :classic:

 

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22 minutes ago, dr_spock said:

Do the 12V power rails fit in the 9V tracks?  Why do one when you can do both?

(If I would not know that you know better - just for all:) They do. Actually you can do "all". As you know better @dr_spock  :pir-huzzah2:

Needs a little this and that ... but even the purist way works. On my stupid layout, I have a section that consists of a deliberate mix of 4.5V track (blue era), blue 12V track (which is 4.5V + power rails), 12V track (which is 4.5V rails in gray + power rails in gray + sophisticated sleeper attachment), 9V plain vanilla track - as there are no variants other than color, and *sigh* - all plastic track (are these called PF track? No, makes no sense, PUP uses them as well. So PFPUP track? All plastic track. APT, that's it)

With properly designed trains/cars, they negotiated the whole mess ... fun to see. The 12V series of trains are the best.

Best
Thorsten

 

 

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Thanks everyone for all the replies!  It’s more a question for the future than now, so the thing of buying before third party stuff is made shouldn’t be a problem.  However, from the mixed responses I’m kinda leaning towards PF/PUP instead, as it’s what I have already...

To be fair this idea was really sparked from seeing @michaelgale’s amazing switches, but I may end up buying them plus plastic track.

Anyway, thanks again for all the responses - I definitely didn’t expect so many so fast!

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