O Scale Dead-Rail

Welcome to the O Scale Dead-Rail Site, dedicated to the interests of those modeling in O scale who wish to use battery power and radio control (BPRC) of locomotives.

Folks interested in either O scale model railroading, especially modifying or updating locomotives, or “dead-rail” (battery power and radio control of locomotives) might find some posts interesting.

Please use the search function to the right to find my relevant blog pages.

In addition to my blog pages, please see the pages that are listed above.

I sell my ProMini Air transmitter and ProMini Air receiver that are compatible with Dead-Rail products from Tam Valley Depot, CVP Airwire, Stanton Cab, and several others. These items are $50 each. If interested, please get in touch with me here with a comment.

Summary of ProMini Air transmitters and Receivers

  • System: ProMini Air (PMA) Transmitters and Receivers
  • Requirements:
    • Receiver
      • DCC decoder
      • Battery
      • Compatible transmitter:
        1. ProMini Air transmitter connected to a DCC throttle
        2. Tam Valley Depot DRS1 transmitter connected to a DCC throttle
        3. CVP Airwire handheld throttle
        4. Stanton Cab handheld throttle
        5. Gwire handheld throttle
    • Transmitter
      • DCC throttle
      • Compatible receivers:
        1. ProMini Air receiver
        2. Tam Valley Depot DRS1 receivers
        3. CVP Airwire receivers: G-3, G-4, CONVRTR 15/25/60
        4. Stanton Cab receivers
        5. Gwire receivers
        6. NCE D13DRJ wireless decoder
  • Why Choose
    • Compatible with numerous other dead-rail transmitters and receivers:
      1. Tam Valley Depot
      2. CVP Airwire
      3. Stanton Cab
      4. Gwire
    • Inexpensive ($50 for either the transmitter or receiver, ready-to-go)
    • Less susceptible to supply chain disruptions by using commodity components
    • Modular: easy to replace or update
    • Provides centralized or localized handheld dead-rail control: other solutions only offer localized handheld transmitter control: a severe limitation.
    • Uses an FCC/EC-approved transmitter: The range performance of the ProMini Air significantly exceeds the Tam Valley Depot DRS1 transmitters.
    • North American or European operation

The critical point is that other dead-rail solutions provide localized control using handheld throttles or smartphones. This approach does not scale well for larger or complex layouts better managed by centralized control. “Classical” DCC throttles solve these problems well. The ProMini Air transmitter connects to these well-designed throttles to control numerous dead-rail locomotives by simply replacing track DCC with wireless DCC.

As of July 2022, Tam Valley Depot is no longer selling its dead-rail products. My ProMini Air receiver and transmitter are a complete and fully-compatible replacements for Tam Valley Depot’s transmitters and receivers. Your Tam Valley transmitters and receivers will work with the ProMini Air products. The ProMini Air transmitters and receivers are compatible with CVP Airwire and Stanton Cab dead-rail products.

Thanks for dropping by!

14 thoughts on “O Scale Dead-Rail”

  1. Found your site through your facebook page. I’m blown away by your capabilities and communication talent.
    I’m in north Idaho (remote) and your site opens up a world to me. I am starting a new layout and am using Atlas 3-rail track. Am into the bench work stage, have thought about going 2 rail, but not sure how to go about selling/converting my 3-rail stuff. Have used DCS/TMCC and found them problematic to maintain signal integrity.
    I think dead rail is the future and your are there already. Have been watching Blue Rail etc technologies but not confidant enough to jump in. You have inspired me to go forward. Your spirit gives me confidence should I need some guidance.
    I have thought about charging from the third rail in “parking” places on the layout. Ever do this?
    Again, thanks for your donation to the hobby!
    Larryt

    1. Thanks for dropping by and for your comments! I’m happy that you are taking the next steps in dead-rail. Powered trackage just makes my heart quail, and I want to overcome the 2-rail/3-rail “divide” in O scale with dead-rail.

      I have not tried charging at a “parking place.” You would need to be very careful not to short out onboard electronics after working so hard to eliminate locomotive/tender electrical connections to the track.

      Here’s a possible approach. I usually use a single-pole, 3-position switch whose center pole connects to Battery +. Battery – is always ground for me. “Position 1” of the switch connects Battery + to all of the onboard electronics to supply power. Position 2 disconnects Battery + from everything to help keep it from draining away charge while off. Positon 3 connects Battery + to the center pole of a charging plug. The outer side of the charging plug is grounded. Perhaps you could electrically connect this position on the switch to whichever rail is positive power, making sure that the “battery ground” is electrically-connected to whichever track is ground.

      Here’s the catch. The power you supply to the rails for charging should be the same as comes from a specialized LiPo battery charger. The chargers are not expensive, but voltage and amperage levels during charging is specialized. To my way of thinking, you should electrically isolate the parking place track with a LiPo charger connected to it.

      I cannot emphasize enough; please ensure that applying power to the tracks will not inadvertently damage your onboard electronics or cause a short!

      Battery charging is a downside to dead-rail. Folks at the Facebook dead-rail group discuss this topic, among many others. Who knows, maybe you will come up with an elegant solution!

      1. This is fantastic!
        I have been involved with 1:29 scale (G Scale) for the better part of the last 20 years. I have been considering making a transition to 1:48 (2-rail) due to more product availability and prototypical offerings. Don’t get me wrong – I love modeling in 1:29, but it has became a bit labor-intensive to try to model prototypically.

        Anyway – questions:
        I am a huge fan of the Ring Engineering team and their Rail Pro system. Do you or does anyone have any experience or opinions on the optimal set up for modern diesel locomotives using the Rail Pro system combined with (?) battery configuration? Can this be accomplished without using a “non-powered” additional loco or boxcar to house these components? Plus sound?

        Cheers! Jeff
        sjgust89@gmail.com

        1. Jeff, sorry for the delayed reply. Although I have looked over Ring Engineering products, I have no personal experience with them. I’m not sure they support DCC for large-scale locomotives, and in general, I shy away from proprietary, non-DCC-compliant Dead-Rail solutions – but that’s just me. I suggest you join the Dead-Rail Society Facebook group to gain others’ perspective on Dead-Rail solutions.

          Working in O scale, I have always been able to put the Dead-Rail components in the locomotive and tender (I work with Steam). I have found that sound (and smoke!) are best solved using DCC decoders coupled with Dead-Rail.

  2. My name is Jeff Gust. I am a prototype modeler and have been in the hobby for over 40 years. I currently selling off my current inventory to begin collecting and modeling in 1:48 2-rail. Two things: I am planning to build the layout outdoors and I am going all onboard power (Dead Rail). Is there a Dead Rail club I can subscribe to? I would like to be able to share ideas with other like-minded individuals.
    nwshortlines@gmail.com

    1. Hi Jeff,
      I recommend you join the Dead-Rail Group on Facebook (here). This group is active and diverse. Also, there is the O Gauge Battery Trains Facebook group here. They are British/European in emphasis, but there are lots of O Gauge outdoor layouts! Also, this group tends to be quite knowledgeable and technically capable. I hope this gives you a start. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Recently found your website!!!

    I’ve been running deadrail (or BPRC, Battery-Powered, Remote-Control) for 7+ years now. I have approximately 2 dozen 3-rail O-scale engines (MTH, Lionel, Atlas, Williams/Samhongsa brass) converted to Deltang receivers/transmitters and using 9.6v, 12v 2000Mah NiMh or 11.1v 2200Mah LiPo battery Tenergy battery packs. I get over 2.5 hours of run time on a charge.

    All of my engines and rolling stock are 3-rail, but I run on code 148 2-rail track (Atlas, Micro-Engineering, and Signature Switch).

    I can honestly say that in 7 years I have had zero failures of the electronics. Also zero derailments that were not “operator error”.

    After using the MTH DCS system and Lionel TMCC system, then converting to BPRC, I’ll never go back.

    I don’t have sound currently, but I really don’t miss it. The trains make enough sounds (noise) themselves that most onboard sounds are lost or muffled by the sounds of the train running around the layout anyway.

    No wiring on my 13×30 layout, no worrying about reverse loops, short or open circuitry, or dirty track causing loss of signal. Just good clean running of my locomotives.

    Smallest/tightest engines I have are a MTH RailKing Imperial USRA 0-6-0 and a NW2, largest is a Williams/Samhongsa brass 4-8-4 N&W class J #611.

    I get most of my batteries from the Tenergy store on Amazon and RC gear from RCS Australia or Micron Radio Control in the UK. Tony Walsham at RCS Australia makes/made a real nice unit that has an on/off switch, a charging jack, and necessary fuses all on a single circuit board, called a BIK-U3. Simplifies wiring greatly.

    I’ll be stopping by regularly to see what’s going on!

    1. Hi Bob,

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m with you on never “going back” to track-based power and control. Just for grins, I recently converted an older 2-Rail MTH Z-6 to combined DCC track-power/BPRC. Using track power was nothing but pain, and using BPRC was a joy!

      I’ve had good experiences with Tenergy batteries, using their long, thin configurations where space is challenging, especially with tender-mounted MTH PS-3 boards (in DCC mode) since I need to mount the battery and receiver/amplifier in the crowded tender.

      A big part of this hobby is the variety of what folks enjoy. I like sound and smoke – the sound of an actual Allegheny recording and smoking away produced by my Zimo decoder works for me.

      To get a feel for the diversity of BPRC, I suggest joining either or both Facebook groups https://www.facebook.com/groups/deadrailsociety and https://www.facebook.com/groups/batterytrains. The latter has a distinctly “Commonwealth” feel with lots of outdoor/garden layouts.

      Thanks again.

  4. Hello
    I’d like to convert my O scale MTH and LionChief locomotives to dead rail. I already have dead rail G scale with Airwire control.
    Please let me know how you can help with the conversions.
    Thanks

    1. Hello George,
      Welcome to my site!

      Several of my posts deal with the conversion of MTH steam locomotives. Generally, my strategy for converting MTH is:
      – Install PS-3.0 boards if the locomotive has previous-generation PS boards. My posts provide information on getting PS-3.0 boards from Ray Manley. PS-3.0 boards have DCC capability as set by a DCS/DCC jumper.
      – Disconnect the locomotive/tender leads to the track inputs on the PS-3.0 board. My posts show examples of this.
      – Install the battery, charging plug, power switch, antenna, and dead-rail receiver/amp.
      – Connect the DCC track output of the dead-rail receiver/amp to the PS-3.0’s track inputs.

      If there is interest, I will describe my conversion of a Lionel H-7 to deadrail. My strategy is to remove all Lionel electronics and install a standard DCC decoder in the locomotive and the dead-rail components (battery, charging plug, power switch, antenna, and dead-rail receiver/amp) in the tender. I like Lionel because they are designed to be serviced, so they are easy to take apart for conversion.

      I hope that starts to answer your question…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.