Large Scale Central

Using a remote light dimmer control?

I have a battery that will not work with my Piko remote setup so instead of tossing the battery onto a shelf and forgetting about it I thought I could use it to power an eggliner. Throw it on the track, flip a switch and let it go get into trouble. I then remembered reading something about how a guy used a cheap system that is generally used to control lights. He had a pocket remote that could dim lights and turn them on and off.
Where can I find such a thing?

Todd, interesting problem. You’re talking about 120v lights, right?

The “old school” remote dimmers (and other “home automation” equipment) include X-10 and Insteon. You’d have to get a power supply that would put out 0-20vdc (ish) when “dimmed”; and maybe a dimmable LED driver would work. I recently went through that selection process with my lantern project, but it was for controlling LED’s, not DC motors. Might work though…?

But that would be like putting a single throttle pack on the track, and control only allow 1 loco. Is that what you’re thinking about? Or something more sophisticated, for multiple-loco control?

Thanks for responding Cliff. I should have explained it better. I’m talking about using a battery that is 14.8 volts 3400mAh. I bought it for $20 to use in a small loco with the Piko RC setup but it does not work. The battery will work fine when touched directly to the pickups. The Piko RC works as it should with a 14.8 3400mAh Airwire900 battery. It even works with a regular 9volt battery.

I thought I had read about someone using a remote control dimmer switch from a battery powered light set to control a small train. I would isolate my eggliner from the track like a regular battery install add a charging jack, on/off switch, light control, battery and off we go. It would be nice to be able to control the speed with the dimmer control but even just an on and off button on a remote would work too.

I have played with a device like that. This one, that Steve linked, is 12-24V:


LED strips are often 12V so there are many similar devices for controlling the strip with a handheld. Like this:

That would work and I found one on Ebay for $8.48 with free shipping.
I scanned through the directions to use this and saw that reverse could also be added but that is a bit beyond my average electrical skills. The eggliner would be easy enough to pick up and spin round to get it going in the other direction or maybe a DPDT switch could be added?

Thanks guys.

Yes, in the eggliner feed to the motor. I have a couple of battery locos with manual controls, so they have Fwd/Off/Rev switches.

P.S. I gave up playing with that remote as they are designed for indoor use and have limited range outdoors.

Interesting product!

I’m vaguely remembering something different, a simple fob-controlled wireless ESC where the loco still fed off rail power, but is now R/C.

Am I just imagining this?

Piko has such a system, and it is sold as parts to install in any loco.

Of course, Todd (who started this) says Piko’s remote didn’t work for him. I wonder why not?

Thanks Pete. That must be what I was referring to, though Piko’s are intended to be specifically run from battery?

Well, I suppose if you fed 20v through the rails, you could regulate / capacitate that and feed it to these, vs. a battery set.

Todd, was this similar to that you saw? Maybe not, since it’s relying on the Marx (and prob Lionel’s) reversing method, and I think AC power. Maybe adaptable though for DC, with an onboard alternate-action latching relay.

Like Pete, I’m curious about why your batteries didn’t work with your Piko setup?

That is the Piko set I have that works with the airwire battery but not the cheaper one I bought to use in the small loco.

The remote dimmer switch arrived today and I tested it with the cheap battery and it does not work. I can touch the wires from the battery to the pickups on a small loco and it works. My volt meter reads 14.7 v.
The remote dimmer switch will work with the airwire battery.

I’d say something about the electronics on the cheap battery is not allowing it to work with other electronics?

The airwire is $50+, the cheap one was $20. I guess it is true that you get what you pay for.

Sounds like the cheap battery might be shutting down under a light load. Try hooking up an automotive tail light bulb to it. If it wont light, or just flashes, then the PCB in the battery is defective.

I agree. There are documented cases of cheap chinese LiIon batteries being defective from the get-go.
Li-Ion PCBs stop the battery dead when there is too much current, too much voltage (when charging) or too little voltage (when discharging.) (And a few other reasons.)

Update: I bit the bullet and bought a proper battery for my lil loco.
I tried the cheap battery again by touching the wires to the wheels on a motor block and the wheels spun. I tried it again through the Piko and nothing. I tried touching the wires to a auto light bulb like Jon suggested and the bulb did not light. It did light when I tried another battery so it is not the bulb.

I’d say this cheap battery is junk and it is time to move on from it.

Thanks for all the info guys.