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Thread: MRC Tech II 3000GS controllers with reverse-loop hook-ups:

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    I read that certain MRC controllers simply put out too much power for N-scale, relegating your throttle's "action" to the first 10% of the dial (I think it was the MRC Tech III 9500, but I could be mistaken). I've only seemed to encounter two types of motors that I need to accommodate: "fast" and "slow." When I say slow, these engines run super-f'ing slow when powering the 3000GS at 12VAC. So, once I determine which transformer the slow engines perform best at, which I suspect is 20VAC, I'll have two sets of transformers: 12VAC and 20VAC (or whatever). I'll run those to a terminal strip and wire in a set of DPDT switches so I can switch to the appropriate transformer at will.

    The slow engines actually run almost about right with a power supply rated at 16.5VAC, but I have to use 100%-throttle to reach top scale-speed, so perhaps the added breathing room the 20VAC supply would deliver would be welcome (recall that the point of all this was to get the maximum amount of throttle-travel). My Tomix train is rated at 12VDC (as are the Katos), and the Tomix train still zooms around the track with only a 12VAC-powered 3000GS (but still with more throttle-range than say, my Kato controller).



    Note that the nominal input indicated on the 3000GS' box is 17VAC, producing 15VDC, according to the label. Your MRC 260 with its 23VDC output seems really high, especially since N-scale Kato locomotives are rated at only 12VDC.

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    MRC Tech II 3000GS and the Kato Soundbox:

    There's good news and bad news about using the Kato Soundbox with the MRC 3000GS. First, the bad news: When using the Kato Soundbox, you connect your controller to the Soundbox, and then the Soundbox to track-power. Presumably, this permits the back-EMF circuit to talk to the controller. [STRIKETHROUGH]However, this only appears to work with the Kato DC-controller.[/STRIKETHROUGH] [Note: After multiple tests, I don't see any evidence of the Soundbox using back-EMF to modulate its engine sounds, even with the Kato controller]. Second, when using the Soundbox, you're kind of forced to use the Soundbox' built-in momentum circuit (there's no "off" button). The bad part is that Kato's momentum circuit is inferior to that of MRC's built-in momentum circuit. It takes too long to start, and the loco stops far too quickly (and, you can't turn it off).

    So what's the good news? Connecting the 3000GS to the Soundbox enables its "lights-always-on" feature. When the Soundbox' "start" and "sync" potentiometers are set just right, your locos will have enough power to light its lights, but not enough to move the loco. This is a feature touted for Kato's own controller, but actually works better with the MRC 3000GS (this is also a feature offered in one of Tomix' DC-controllers).

    Back-EMF:

    According to the Kato supplemental set-up giude: "Whether using Kato products or not, the Soundbox operates based on the core principle that it sits between the track at the output of your DC controller. Any output that would normally go into the track, whether directly or by going into a bus line, should instead go into the Soundbox. Then the output from the Soundbox can be connected to your track or bus line. This allows the Soundbox to control the DC output going to the track and read back the motor load of your trains." This seems to imply that back-EMF is compatible with third-party analog controllers (e.g., MRC).

    According to the Kato USA site: "Smart Back-EMF reading—The Soundbox doesn't just make noise—it will read the strain on the motor in your engines and know how fast they're moving and how hard they're working. Certain sound schemes (like steam where the chuff is directly linked to the visual movement of the side rods) will self-adjust the sound based on the speed of the locomotive so what you hear will match what you see, all without the need for DCC!"

    Additionally, according to the Kato Soundbox user manual: "By detecting the load on the motor (through back-EMF) of your locomotives, this analog Soundbox can accurately produce the sounds of an operating train that is synchronized with the speed at which it is moving." It's true, that the Soundbox' sounds are synchronized with the throttle-position of third party controllers, but still unclear if back-EMF affects Soundbox operation as intended when used with third-party controllers. In my testing, putting additional drag on the loco (i.e., increased motor-load) doesn't seem to affect the Soundbox' sound (i.e., additional drag should increase engine rev'ing sounds).

    Okay, strike all that. I just compared my Kato controller with the 3000GS, each hooked-up to the Soundbox. I saw no difference, and no evidence of any back-EMF feedback. When excess drag was applied, the sound of the SoundTraxx-generated motor revs reminded constant. Perhaps back-EMF is in effect, but more accurate motor-revving sounds doesn't appear to be one of its benefits.
    Last edited by Metrolink; 10th Aug 2016 at 07:29 PM.

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    Default Inside the MRC 3000GS:





    Last edited by Metrolink; 5th Aug 2016 at 10:40 PM.

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    I just received my two-driver Torx security screwdriver set from China. I purchased them from this eBay seller which describes the set as including both T8 and T10 screwdrivers. However, it's the smaller Torx screwdriver (yellow) which actually fits, which I assume is the T8 screwdriver. Luckily, I was able to seat the yellow screwdriver and unscrew the six tamper-proof Torx screws without issue. They were torqued down pretty tight, but I didn't strip the heads. The enclosure opened easily once unfastened. A digital voltmeter or ammeter would be a neat custom mod, replacing the green power light someday.



    Here's a peek at some of the discrete components used on the small PCB:



    Lots of flux on those terminal solder-joints!



    An original MRC limited-edition, signed copy!

    Last edited by Metrolink; 12th Aug 2016 at 01:54 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    MRC Tech II 3000GS and the Kato Soundbox:

    According to the Kato USA site: "Smart Back-EMF reading—The Soundbox doesn't just make noise—it will read the strain on the motor in your engines and know how fast they're moving and how hard they're working. Certain sound schemes (like steam where the chuff is directly linked to the visual movement of the side rods) will self-adjust the sound based on the speed of the locomotive so what you hear will match what you see, all without the need for DCC!"
    Ok so what exactly is 'Back-EMF' reading? With DC what else can a device read besides voltage being sent out and amps being drawn. I think you might be able to do everything being described if you had a baseline amp use for a locomotive and then used a combo of volts and amps (volts up = speed increase, amps up = strain, from either a hill or load). Don't understand DC enough yet so not sure what data is available.

    [AFTER A BIT MORE READING] So I guess I answered my own question. Back-EMF is a real thing but seems to be 'read' by looking at volts and amps being provided and drawn respectively. Is that correct?

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    There's some very good articles available regarding back-EMF as it applies to model train controllers, though I can't recall them at the moment. From my limited understanding of it, if a controller is able to read back-EMF (i.e., closed-loop feedback), this enables the throttle to "compensate" for increased or decreased motor-load. This should result in smoother slow-speed operation as well as better proportional-control of the throttle (i.e., the throttle-position is in sync with actual motor-speed). However, as far as I can tell, the back-EMF circuit in the Kato Soundbox doesn't appear to actually produce these benefits in any noticeable way.

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    For what it's worth, I'm now running a consist of an InterMountain SD40T-2, and two Atlas SD24s. All three are Atlas slow- or scale-speed motors. After some break-in period, this three-loco consist runs quite well using only a 16.5VAC transformer. I'm also running an all-Atlas consist of GP35s, all with older Kato "fast" motors, using just the 12VAC transformer with excellent throttle-range. At this point, the only loco I own which may need a 20VAC transformer is my new Athearn F59PHI which requires full-throttle at 16.5VAC. Again, YMMV.

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    It is very possible that these MRC controllers were for the export market. It would be easier and cheaper for MRC to have the buyer supply the power and plug combination that was not the same as their primary North American market.

    Many times features like back-EMF are not apparent in normal operations. The way I understand it, back-EMF really shines is on hilly terrain where the locos strain going up, but coast on the way going down. The computer will compensate for the difference in speed, so you don't need to adjust the throttle as the trains ascend and descend. The EMF is the electricity produced as the motor rotates.

    If you are using diesel locomotives, you have to understand this weird fact. The speed of the Diesel engines doesn't have to sync up with the speed the locomotive is traveling. Because Metra F40s and MP36s use the main diesel to turn the generator for the passenger car power, as well as the driving motors, the locos can be standing still in a station yet be at Notch 4 on the throttle. Other commuter roads use a separate small engine to generate car power. In the station they'd be idling at Notch 1.

    There are other situations where the engines and speed of travel don't match. If the primary generator has a fault, the engineer may have to race the engine to put out enough power to keep the train rolling at a slow speed. I believe there was an old SP montra, "add two locos." This was due to the fact that there was a good chance that no matter how much horsepower was needed to pull a set of cars, at least one loco would have problems.
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    Atlas Masterline GATX SD60:

    I recently bought this loco brand new, "new-stock," for a change. So, I assume this is running Atlas' latest, so-called "scale-speed" motor. I just built a military train using this new loco (i.e., since it's a GATX leasing company loco, it seems something the military might use). It's a single-loco consist, and I plugged in the 12VAC transformer to my 3000GS to run it. This results in proportional control so spot-on, that the MRC's "0-100" index markers on the enclosure just happen to pretty realistically reflect the loco's actual scale speed! This single Atlas scale-speed loco seems a perfect match for the 12VAC transformer, yielding virtually full throttle-range during operation.

    In light of this, and previous discoveries of the "broken-in" Atlas engines above, I would add to my previous list of admittedly confusing recommendations, the following: For the vast majority of locos and lash-ups, it seems you should be able to operate the 3000GS with either a 12VAC or 16.5VAC transformer. For the optimum 3000GS set-up, I would suggest having both a 12VAC and 16.5VAC transformer hooked up to a DPDT switch before attaching to the 3000GS' AC-input terminals, permitting to you switch your power supply at will. So, my latest recommendation for each 3000GS you plan to operate:

    MRC Tech II 3000GS "universal" set-up:

    • 12VAC transformer.
    • 16.5VAC transformer.
    • DPDT switch.



    Last edited by Metrolink; 20th Aug 2016 at 07:07 AM.

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    You can achieve a similar result by combining the 16v power supply (or even a 20v power supply) with a dc-dc buck step-down converter board. You could switch between using the buck or not using it in order to change your the input voltage for your controller (and consequently the top voltage for your controller's range) between two settings.

    These actually have an adjustable dial that lets you change the output voltage (of the buck) so you could dynamically set the maximum output for your controller (typically a tiny screw but maybe they have some with a dial that would let you set the max voltage for your controller to any number you want).

    Also these are tiny so can be hidden inside your 3000 (if you have not filled it yet).

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    Thanks, McN! I wasn't sure what you were talking about so I just entered what you wrote in eBay and came up with this thing:



    Quote Originally Posted by McNamee View Post
    Also these are tiny so can be hidden inside your 3000 (if you have not filled it yet).
    Nope, it's pretty empty in there! There seems to be plenty of space in my 3000GS' enclosure. I may not install the Micro-Mark meters since the LEDs may work out if I can solder a 1K-Ohm resistor in series with it and tap into the lead before the direction switch. Just trying to figure out how to make a clean panel-mount with the LEDs. Drilling a hole is one thing, but trying to cut a neat rectangle in the high-impact plastic will be a challenge. Thanks again for your help!

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    Yep that is a buck step-down converter (I may be using an incorrect name for these). There are a bunch of really cheap ones on Ebay w/ free shipping -- I learned about them when I read a forum in O-scale forums about using old wall-warts (DC power supplies from things like old telephones) that we have laying around for running track accessories.

    Basically those boards can take a range of DC inputs and convert to a consistent DC output at a level that you set them to (I think they can also modify current/amps in some? all? cases). They usually have an adjustable screw that changes the output voltage and that little display lets you know what voltage they are set for. Effectively the output voltage from this board will become your top voltage your 3000 will put out (minus a couple of volts) if you wire it to the wire coming from the power supply into your 3000.

    I wonder if there are some buck step-down converters with a finger-operated manual knob or dial (as opposed to a tiny screw) so you could change your maximum voltage on the 3000 across a dynamic range (i.e., set your maximum throttle volts to whatever you want whenever you want it).

    p.s., there are also buck step-up converters that can increase [or decrease] voltage
    Last edited by Mac; 19th Aug 2016 at 10:26 AM.

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    The key to fitting the meter into the MRC case is not to try cutting the hole(s) right on the first try.

    1. To to cut a large hole you first need a template.
    2. After locating the template, tape it in place
    3. Using a small bit, drill inside the lines in the corners
    4. You can then...
      1. Drill a series of holes in between the corners, slowly eliminating the plastic between the holes
      2. Use a Xacto knife and a straight edge connect the four corner holes. Do not use the sharp edge of the blade. Use the back side. The duller edge removes more plastic with each stroke. Do not use a lot of pressure. Pressing the blade causes to to wander ruining a straight cut. Eventually you will thin the plastic enough to punch through.

    5. Test fit the thing to be installed. File the edges with a large flat file to keep them even and square.

    The key to a good looking install is to take your time. Don't worry if you hole is not perfect. That's what bezel is for. To cover any irregularities. If your meter doesn't include one, pieces of brass or aluminum C or L channel can be used to create one. Miter corner for a clean look.
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    Quote Originally Posted by McNamee View Post
    Basically those boards can take a range of DC inputs and convert to a consistent DC output at a level that you set them to (I think they can also modify current/amps in some? all? cases). They usually have an adjustable screw that changes the output voltage and that little display lets you know what voltage they are set for. Effectively the output voltage from this board will become your top voltage your 3000 will put out (minus a couple of volts) if you wire it to the wire coming from the power supply into your 3000.
    Thanks for your detailed comments, McN! Yes, that's certainly the idea: To vary input voltage to maximize throttle-range. However, the 3000GS power-input is AC. The only thing I know which steps-down AC-voltage is a Variac. Due to their design, Variacs are huge and expensive. So I'm wondering if there's another type of device which can vary the 3000GS' AC-input voltage since this would be much easier to install.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoNW View Post
    The key to fitting the meter into the MRC case is not to try cutting the hole(s) right on the first try . . .
    Gotcha, CNW! Thanks! I think I'm going to buy some kind of small drill-press. Maybe something like this? Unfortunately, all of the LEDs I'm finding are bezel-less. Of course some square black styrene would do the trick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    However, the 3000GS power-input is AC.
    Ah oops -- did not realize that. It is still outputting DC I assume so you could use the Buck Step-Down Converter after power is converted to DC inside the unit (i.e., just prior to the momentum control or just prior to the polarity switch--depending on if the buck converters can handle changing polarities).

    Anyway, just trying to eliminate the need for multiple power supplies in cases where folks want to change the maximum throttle voltage to deal with the vagaries of their locomotive inventory.

    Also instead of setting this up to be manually adjusted you could setup a switch so that you are either using the Buck step-down converter or not (i.e., your max throttle voltage is 16v or 12v).

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    A drill press is a rather limited tool.
    One made for jewelers won't have the ability to do work on objects like a power pack case.

    I suggest that you get a Dremmel or an equalivelant. The power tool is extremely versatile. There are attachments for just about everything you'd want to do. There is a way to turn it into a drill press.
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    Another +1 on the Dremel! buy a good one and it will last a very long time. I have had mine for 15+ years. I actually bought it for building my R/C airplanes, but have also used it for auto, plumbing, home improvement needs. here is a type of work station that CNW was making reference to. You will soon find it will be one of your favorite tools.


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    Yeah, I saw those also, but I have a Makita not a Dremel. I do need a real drill press anyway since I carelessly left mine outside and the chuck got rusted-shut.

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    You can replace the chuck.
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