Large Scale Central

RailPro: What are your Likes and Dislikes?

RailPro seems to be gaining a lot of traction in the large scale community. I’m sure this is partially due to the great support provided by several large scale specialist dealers - RCS of New England and RLD Hobbies. I’m coming up on my 1 year anniversary of using RailPro so I thought it might be a good time to share what I like and don’t like about RailPro. If you are a RailPro user I’d love to hear your opinions as well.

I’m the type who digs in and figures out all of the tweaks and settings of any system that I have used over the years. I know several of you are less technical and rely on your dealer to do the set-ups and in some cases the install. I’m interested in your opinions too!

For starters - Ease of Use is my number one like.

The learning curve, for me, was pretty shallow even though the documentation could be better. A good example of documentation problems is the accessory module AM-1S. The specifications are only on the web, the module documentation only covers hook-up. To find out how to code the logic you need to look in a second manual - the one for the file transfer/programming tool! Also, the specs say the unit is capable of a certain number of inputs and outputs, but in a different place it’s stated that current software doesn’t support all those inputs and outputs!

Even with shortcomings in the documentation, I found it quite easy to customize modules get them to do what I wanted, like custom sounds and light effects or logic programming for accessories.

In operation, the screens on the hand controller are very user friendly and logically laid out. Lights, horns, bells and other effects are buttons on the screen. It’s not too difficult to move buttons around to a layout that is logical to the way you operate. Speed control is via a nice large knob. Setting up a consist (MU in Ring Speak) is a simple series of button presses. No speed tables or requirements that locos run at the same speed. The system has two-way communication between locos and the hand controller and sill adjust loco speeds on the fly to properly match loading.

Ease of installation should be placed here as well. Since this is a single board system with motor, light and sound control all in one package, installation is a lot less complicated than multiple module systems. One accessory that Ring (or anyone else) could add to make install super easy would be a screw terminal adapter for the light/sound harness. High current connections (power, motors and voltage out) are already on screw terminals, but as delivered, lights and speaker need to be soldered to the provided plug ended harness.

Sound: Using a good speaker will reveal how good the sound really is. Great fidelity and dynamic range with plenty of power to make it loud if you wish. For diesels, the amperage controlled sound is very accurate. The only thing that the better DCC systems have over it are notch-up before move. This could be overcome by using manual notch up/down buttons if it is important to you. For steam users, the news isn’t that good. Until recently, steam sounds were amperage controlled as well which just doesn’t work well. Loco will chuff several times before starting to move and continue to chuff after stopping! Also, in high load situations like heavy grades, as the loco draws more current to maintain speed, the chuffs speed up! Ring partially addressed this in a recent upgrade to use the input wire as a chuff trigger. This solves the start-up issue, but after running at speed, the trigger is ignored on slow-down so you can still get a chuff or two after stopping. Personally I think chuff trigger should be all or nothing - no attempt to use software to try and smooth it out. As of today, the chuff input is only supported with the Heavy Steam ULT sound.

Bottom line on sound - I’d give Diesel 4.5 stars, but steam only 2 or 3. With a little work Ring could improve the steam sounds to be on par with Phoenix.

So now, for some dislikes…

Sound - I’ve already mentioned the shortcomings with steam sound so I’ll leave it at that.

Loading sounds is a painfully slow process. First, the sound must be downloaded using the RailPro Assistant software, which isn’t particularly fast even with a great internet connection. Then the sound needs to be transferred to either the Hand Controller, or the HC simulator. The download/transfer to HC is actually one process and only applies to the first time you load a sound. Subsequent loads of the same sound don’t require it to be downloaded from the internet again or transferred to the HC if it is already there. Once in the HC, the sound needs to be copied to the locomotive module. Another painfully slow process. For the new ULT sounds, expect this entire process to take close to an hour There is little hope of this ever changing as change would probably obsolete all current hardware.

What would really help here would be the ability to clone a locomotive module. That does not exist today. Fortunately, you only have to deal with this during the initial load of a module and most of the dealers will pre-load sounds for you eliminating this frustration.

Battery Life - The HC battery life is pretty good and there is a charge indicator on the screen with a red warning when you are close to end-of-charge. Unfortunately though, if you run out of HC power, you have no choice but to shut down your trains and wait while the HC charges. The batteries are not user replaceable so swapping out to a fresh set in the middle of a session is not an option. I’ve had two instances where I’ve had trains out on the line when the indicator went red. I had to stop and charge the HC for at least and hour before I could bring trains back home.

I can’t think of anything else I don’t like! Let’s hear your likes and dislikes.

Jon,

Thank you for your excellent write up about the Rail Pro system.

What I was wondering is how the Hand Controller display looks like in bright sun light, and if there is control of its brightness, how does it affect battery discharge time.

(BTW, I’m not a user of RailPro or AirWire and likes because I have about 70 locos and it would be cost prohibitive and time consuming to fit all those with such systems, so I use a Revolution track powered base station.)

-Ted

Ted Doskaris said:

Jon,

Thank you for your excellent write up about the Rail Pro system.

What I was wondering is how the Hand Controller display looks like in bright sun light, and if there is control of its brightness, how does it affect battery discharge time.

(BTW, I’m not a user of RailPro or AirWire and likes because I have about 70 locos and it would be cost prohibitive and time consuming to fit all those with such systems, so I use a Revolution track powered base station.)

-Ted

Thanks Ted. The HC-2-SUN was specifically designed to be seen outdoors in the sun. It does have an back light brightness control and I run mine at about 30%. I believe the documentation states that the brighter you run the display the faster you will run down the batteries. At 30% I have no problems seeing it outdoors, however, most of my RR is in shade. I’ll experiment with lowering that setting and see if I can still see it in the sun.

EDIT to add: I just set the back light on my HC-2-SUN to the minimum of 12% then took it outside. in direct sun the display disappeared, but with jut the shade provided by my shadow it was readable. I think I could get by with 20% or less in most any light situation.

Nice write up Jon.

i am in the process of switching over but haven’t had much time to do much with it.

Thanks

Good job on the write-up Jon.

I expressed my views here. https://www.largescalecentral.com/forums/topic/31705/railp-pro-in-my-shay/view/post_id/420586 just last week. I don’t have anything new to ad. Good information on the back light percentages. I now remember reading that but of course forgot it so will go do it now while it is still fresh on my mind.

Edit to say

I reset the backlight to 25%, from 75%, you can make it out in the bright sunlight if you squint, but is easily read in the shadow of your body. Should help with battery life, although I haven’t ran enough yet to encounter any problems.

Delete double post

Sound is awesome, on Facebook someone argued ( correctly) that I had the wrong sound installed, I just love the sound of the EMD 645 turbo charged locomotive, and since it’s mine I had that sound installed in my GP38. As Jon said installation is pretty easy, this is my first attempt at a conversion. A couple of YouTube and a call or 3 to they guy who did them cleared up my questions. Like Jon said the best thing they could do is add screw terminals on the output sine instead of the plug in 9 pin. A big question of why for the one wire that is on the connect side that is labeled “input” but does not connect to anything, re doing that would add another wire for a light or for remote couplers. the module is small but according to the factory it has to be mounted flat, if over a certain voltage to assist cooling. There is someone making a stand and mounts to a add a cooling fan . I have not run mine to see how Arizona temperature affects it. The Hand held controller does have a screen that shows the module temperature and that will be helpful to see how the temperature changes.

I did something to my module during the last bit of installation, an Email was quickly the next day answered, and a call with tech confirmed I had to send it back to the factory. It should get there Monday and I will report back with any thing they find wether my or their issue.

I’m doing the same Pete. Running the new EMD 645-12 Cyl sound in the GE 45 Ton diesels because I like the idle and notch up. I’m really not sure what the prototype engine would be in that loco. I know it’s two smaller diesels - 6 cylinders each perhaps. Initially I loaded the Early GE 7FDL-16 sound, which still isn’t correct. Not many who visit here could tell the difference anyway!

Hi Guys, did some testing and use the loading function to hear the notching up before you move. Works great when switching.

Jon reported. The only thing that the better DCC systems have over it are notch-up before move. This could be overcome by using manual notch up/down buttons if it is important to you.

Try this, set the loading to 20% on our G scale Diesels. You will get the notching effect before you move. Or increase the loading to your preference.

We need to keep sending Ring Engineering emails requesting tweaking of the steam sounds. The trigger input is a good start using the Heavy Steam and Shay UTL It will work on the light steam but I get the 2 extra chuffs when stopping. Better to use auto chuff and set the start speed and chuff rate for your loco.

Don

Sorry Don. I am not a fan of the loading function. I’ve tried it. I want the loco to respond immediately to my throttle input. I can make it realistically start and stop slowly with the throttle without using Load.

I haven’t really used mine enough to get all that familiar with it. Just as long as it goes forward and backward I’m happy…(https://www.largescalecentral.com/externals/tinymce/plugins/emoticons/img/smiley-wink.gif)

I’ve been running RP for about 6 months now and no problems. Don where I purchased my stuff was very helpful and I really had no problems with the install or the programing. I will be adding RP to two narrow gauge engine as soon as RP offers a C-19 and K-27 sounds to there system, until then the diesel sound is great, so running diesels is ok with me. I would agree with jon Radder post, I think he hit the nail on the head, so if your looking for a battery system, RP is a very good choice.

trainman

Don Sweet said:

Hi Guys, did some testing and use the loading function to hear the notching up before you move. Works great when switching.

Jon reported. The only thing that the better DCC systems have over it are notch-up before move. This could be overcome by using manual notch up/down buttons if it is important to you.

Try this, set the loading to 20% on our G scale Diesels. You will get the notching effect before you move. Or increase the loading to your preference.

We need to keep sending Ring Engineering emails requesting tweaking of the steam sounds. The trigger input is a good start using the Heavy Steam and Shay UTL It will work on the light steam but I get the 2 extra chuffs when stopping. Better to use auto chuff and set the start speed and chuff rate for your loco.

Don

Hi Don. I did give the 20% setting a try and you are correct; it kicks into notch 1 just before beginning to move. The start delay is acceptable in most cases except when I want to quickly punch a coupler to get a pin drop. Then I want exact motor control. It really does sound/look great with some load on. I think I’ll use the loading for road trains and turn it off for switching.

Hi Jon, glad you gave the loading another try. It is works well for diesels. lt is all about what works on your railroad.

I enjoy running both diesels and steam. The RailPro response is different on steam. Ring uses software and now with the chuff trigger to try to simulate the Johnson bar movement when starting then pulling back on the throttle. Next we need a drifting sound at track speed. He said the steam sounds are the most complex to create.

I believe the Shay UTL supports the purple input wire. Remember to update your loco module to 2.50 to use the purple trigger wire and update the HC-2 to 2.23 to see the new icons to set the chuff trigger.

When I first started out with track power (Trackside TE) I was only able to run 1 train at a time. I soon installed block controls on the track and power switches in my locos to allow me to bring multiple trains out on the layout together. Only one loco could be powered up at any given time. A few years later I converted to battery power by putting a TE and a battery in a trail car. Soon I upgraded to a system that allowed having two trains powered at once and I began building my fleet of locos with self contained battery & R/C. This got me closer to operating the way I want, but still had lots of limitations that I lived with for a long time.

Now that I have upgraded to RailPro, I can finally run my railroad the way I want: Multiple locos out on the layout powered up and idling; double headers, mid train helpers and/or push-pull service to conquer my steep grade as well as remote control of out-of reach switches. I know of numerous systems that will do what I am doing now, but I’m very happy with the way RailPro does it. In fact, I am really enjoying running my railroad again! Since the weather has cooled off I’ve run multiple trains every weekend (https://www.largescalecentral.com/externals/tinymce/plugins/emoticons/img/smiley-cool.gif)Last summer I don’t think I ran a train out more than twice. I installed the first RailPro module in late fall last year.