zephyr1934

A review of the first elements from the FX Track system

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14 hours ago, zephyr1934 said:

I just updated the very end of the review in the first post to include my experience with the R88 curves.

Greatly appreciated, thanks! :pir-classic:

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Now a bit of Brickworld 2022 preview. Michael Gail was planning on coming to BW to preview some of his new products but came down with COVID and could not make it. He sent one of his top staff members instead (Max) while Michael joined by video conference. Many trainheads joined the meeting and we were treated to a preview of several prototypes and products in development. First up, the switch,

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The prototype switch did not have any of the metal attached, but looked REALLY sharp. They will come in packs of two, you can choose between a pair of lefts, a pair of rights, or one of each. They have been delayed by the more recent wave of COVID closures in China. The estimated availability is the end of this year, hopefully just under $100 for a pair, but not finalized yet.

 

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VERY IMPORTANT, because the branches are always on, the crossovers do not self isolate like lego switches do. By design, the bottoms of the switches are attached with screws in case you ever need to clean them, so as a bonus, someone who is handy with wiring could probably modify them to be self-isolating if they were so inclined. Otherwise, there are really simple ways to isolate (I've used clear packing tape folded over once between the joints).

 

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There were also an assortment of odd sized track parts necessary to preserve spacing for different switch configurations (see box back above for examples). A couple of people who ballast track observed the potential difficulties this may present and I THINK Michael said he would be happy to share the info necessary for a third party to make ballasting plates for the switches, etc.

 

Next up, we got to see a mockup of the motor

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First one out will be a "dumb motor". It will match the form factor of the 9v and 12v motors. It will have metal wheels (they will be dyed black in the production models) that then feed directly to jumpers on the end of the unit. Leave the jumpers in and it will behave like a lego 9v motor only it has a 9v port on either side. Pull the jumpers off, and now the port on one side of the motor will pass through the power from the wheels (a power pickup) the other side will provide power to the motor inside. So you can use any controller in between, e.g., an IR receiver, FX Brick, etc. while still being track powered (and then it does not matter if all branches of your switch are always on). It will have metal insides and a screw off bottom for servicing.

Now get this...

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The top comes off! Break the pin off? No problem. Want to rigidly build on the motor? No problem. We suggested making a 1x2 plate cutout so you could attach a bracket between the wheels. They will look into whether there is enough space, but if there isn't, you can always raise the bogie plate up one more plate.

Oh, and the black bogie plates will be available individually too.

He is hoping to have them available by the end of the year, but less likely than the switches. Otherwise, asap in 2023. The price is anticipated to be around $100 but might be just above.

No one bothered to ask if the estimated cost was in USD or CAD, since the FX store prices are in CAD, there is a good chance Michael thinks in CAD, which would make them a little cheaper. But still in the same ballpark.

In the works (sounded like within a year after the dumb motor comes out), they will add a smart motor to the lineup that essentially has an integrated FX Brick that can also handle DCC.

Also in the works is a "motor-less" motor, i.e., power pickup using the motor contacts but no internal propulsion. Some of the steam folks grumbled and were promised that a single axle power pickup with the form factor of a lego train wheel is in the plans, but it will come later.

Several folks mentioned an interest in the option to install a dummy wheel but were soon silenced when informed that a three axle motor is also in the works (probably a few years off) with a floating, unpowered middle axle. So you can start building realistic E units (A-1-A). It will be a little longer than the two axle motor (1-2 studs).

We also met a working prototype controller.

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It has a 16x16 footprint, and if you get three of them you can pretend you are Mr. Scott on the USS Enterprise. It has throttle controlled power out of the middle and will have auxiliary power on the ends for future 12v system style add on devices. The gray buttons have a lot of different options, e.g., 9v/12v output (the light turns orange when 12v). With the declining availability of silicon chips, they redesigned the insides multiple times, it is now chip free and robust to supply chain disruptions. It has a VERY interesting output mode- low frequency PWM. Which means VERY low speed movement is possible, as demonstrated with a lego 9v motor. BTW, it can go even slower than that first video. As the real time background audio conveys, some of the features discussed might not be available on day 1, instead, coming later, via a firmware update.

 

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Great news, thanks for sharing. I hope @michaelgale is getter better very quickly, all the best for him.

I remember attending the same session in 2019 when Michael announced the first FX Track ideas and passed around a prototype of a 32 straight segment. With rising global challenges and a long breath we are now able to get those tracks, not only straights but various curves. And with some more patience we will get the switches, the motor (like the idea of using a regular boogie plate on top) and a space ship style controller. Wow, good opportunities to spend the hobby money.

Maybe the controller can go into a huge 2x2 slope which we all know with the printed computer patterns back from the old days.

Great work @michaelgale

 

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Looks like prices were posted incorrectly. The smart bogie was expected to be priced around $100. Michael Gale never specified a price for the switches but said it would be “much less than $100.”

- Jeff

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This is great news! Glad they were able to overcome anticipated supply issues on the controller. 

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22 hours ago, Jeffinslaw said:

Looks like prices were posted incorrectly. The smart bogie was expected to be priced around $100. Michael Gale never specified a price for the switches but said it would be “much less than $100.”

I did not take notes at the meeting and as Jeff noted, several others at the meeting recalled lower prices being given. So it is quite possible that my recollection is off. In any event, all prices given were very rough estimates, the actual prices could be higher or lower. What is clear is that the motors and switches will be more expensive then their lego counterparts, but they will also be much higher quality (and that's saying a lot given the quality of the old 9v system).

 

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Nice to see an update. Switches will be bought in any case and one or two motors as well. Can't wait die the release!

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