I recently did a quick look article for MRH
on the Stanton Battery
system. The article was essentially a compilation of various of my
notes from this blog. Long time readers of the blog will have seen most of it
already. In this post I thought it would be useful to address some points not in the article,
and answer several questions I got from people via email and forum posts. I realize that DCC is like a religion. These are my observations and I am not trying to convert you.
I did not spend much time in the article spelling out some
of the advantages of battery power. In case you are not aware, here are some
things I find very handy.
1. Track need not be scrupulously clean. Since I charge my
batteries through the rails, I need some degree of electrical contact, but not
the "clean room" standards that normal DCC requires.
2. Shorts on the track power rails do not stop battery
powered locos. During op sessions, when one causes a short, by splitting a
turnout or derailing, all locos in that power district go dead. So one has to divide up the layout into
several power districts with separate boosters, or use power shields, or
some other expensive solution to break the layout into power segments. Not so
with battery power. They chug right through most shorts. No power districts
needed. That is a real nice benefit that is frequently overlooked.
3. You don't have to wire your track at all if you don't
want. My portable layout has no feeder wires to any of the rails except in the
staging cassettes. That is right ....no
wires, no frog juicers, no broken
feeders. You do need to implement a recharging scheme but track power is not
4. With battery power, intermittent interruptions in track
power do not cause the on-board loco sound to recycle.
5. Did I mention you don’t have to clean track.
Folks with large
fleets of locos that are currently DCC may not want to convert all their
engines to battery power. But, you could very easily add battery powered locos
to an existing DCC wired layout. The two systems work well together.
That is what I did. Two of my locos have conventional DCC.
The other 3 (with a 4th coming on board soon) will have battery power. Ted Pamperin added battery power to some of his problematic steamers to improve their performance on a HO scale DCC powered layout.
previously wired the first sections of my layout for DCC. I still need to
finish about 30 percent of my track. The question I face is whether to wire the
remaining section for DCC or not, If I don't add the DCC wiring, then I will
have to convert the last two locos from DCC
to battery. However, I have already run the main bus wires into that
section. I also have a frog juicer 6 pack unused. The frog juicers make DCC
wiring pretty easy. So my current thinking is to wire the rest of the layout
for DCC and use it as a power recharge source and DCC control for my first two
non battery locos.
If I was starting from scratch, I would not bother with wiring.
Yes, one can assign any Stanton equipped loco to any Stanton
There are some other battery systems out there (see Del Tang, CVP Airwire
). Some are smaller and will work in HO scale locos. Note that my O scale steamers are not much bigger than HO modern diesels.
It is also important to realize that installing a battery
DCC system in my small steamers is actually easier than regular DCC. Why? When
I do a DCC install, I have to completely disassemble the locos to add
insulators and pick-ups on all the wheels. If I do not, then the loco
performance is erratic and I have issues with dirty track, stalls, sound
break-up, etc. With battery installs extra pickups are not needed. In fact, I
got rid of the pickups on the pilot trucks on my first two installs as they
The challenge I had with the first 2 locos has been room in
the engines and tenders for the battery and battery power supply. The latest generation
of SMRs brass locos has more room in the tenders, so installing will be much
The issue with the plugs between tenders and engines in not
unique to battery power. The DCC locos have it too. I plan to hard-wire the rest and
have a permanent drawbar between the tender and engine. My experience with
moving these engines around is that the less handling the better. So the plugs will be moot.
Using the Airwire T5000 I am able to program the Stanton Radio
Tsunami DCC decoders to fine tune the performance.
Notice I did not mention cost. I don't know if battery power is cheaper than DCC. I have both systems, so cost is a moot point. What I want is outstanding performance and simplicity. Battery power gives me that.
With the current state of the art, I would say that battery
power is not yet for everyone. Like the adoption of DCC, battery power will really take off when
manufacturers start adding it to the new locos.
The Stanton System
is intentionally designed for layouts
with just a few engines. The Del Tang system is incredible small and may find
lots of applications. But any layout where electrical pick-up is an issue (just
about all of the 200 plus layouts I have operated on including some of the biggest and most
famous) could benefit from freedom of picking up current from the rails. For layouts like mine, where I am dealing
with small, highly detailed, but finicky locos, battery power is imperative.
Radio controlled battery power has other applications on model railroads. Radio controled road vehicles are possibilities, especially with the tiny Del Tang system.