Radio Control v. DCC/Sound for the Corrina & Searsport

This is going to come a a shock, and I almost can’t believe that I’m actually contemplating this: the removal of most, if not all, of the electrical wiring from my layout, and switching to battery-operated radio control. I’d probably also lose the servo-controlled turnouts in favor of hand-throws.

Deltang Tx21 Transmitter
Deltang Tx21 Transmitter

I’m contemplating this after seeing first-hand the performance of the radio throttles and receivers from Deltang at an operating session on Steve Fisher’s layout this past weekend. A few locos had been stripped of most of the electronics supplied by the manufacturer to make room for the receiver and batteries. With the exception of one transmitter battery going dead, they ran all day! No stopping for shorts or mystery DCC problems (which did occur).

Deltang Rx41D-8 receiveer
Deltang Rx41D-8 receiveer

The receivers are as small as 3/8″ square, and each 3.7V battery is about 1″ x 3/4″ x 1/8″ (one or two are required for each engine, depending on its size). Transmitters are about the size of a cigarette pack, and run on a standard 9V battery. The cost per loco is about $125 for a transmitter, receiver, batteries, and a power switch and charging plug — about the same as adding DCC and sound to a new loco!

The trade-off is that I’d have to give up sound and the dubious advantages of DCC. In return, no finicky decoder programming, reverse loop and frog wiring. In fact, no layout wiring at all.

Prior to about 5 years ago I didn’t own any sound-equipped locos, and very few of my friends had sound. I wasn’t originally going to have sound on my layout — I didn’t consider it to be worth the cost. At the time, one of my favorite layouts to operation on didn’t even have DCC — it still used DC cab control. And I was having more fun running trains than I do today.

Hmm… this is actually beginning to look rather attractive….

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