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Wireless Throttles

Aristo-Craft developed the Train Engineer, an FM radio throttle system that has many of the advantages of digital control without requiring modifications to engines. The "Aristos" were key to the success of RunniN TraiNs 96, where NVNTRAK hosted the largest NTRAK layout to date, 315 modules or the equivalent of 41 scale miles!! With the Aristos, each operator could run their train over the entire layout without any modifications to the engines!

Aristos were used at The Lake Junction, the 1997 National NMRA convention; Plug N Play, the 1997 N Scale East convention and at Magic Rails, the 1998 N Scale East convention. Nearly every NVNTRAK public show uses Aristos; several other clubs have adopted Aristos, as well.

Components

We use the Train Engineer, model ART-5470-01. This consists of a walk-around transmitter and a receiver.

The walk-around transmitter has push buttons to make the train run faster or slower. You can also change directions, with a "pause at stop" feature that protects the drive train components in your engines. There is also an emergency stop button, which, of course, we would like to not use for its named purpose.

The walk-around transmitter operates in the 27 MHz frequency band and had a range of about 300 feet. It is patterned after a TV remote control, so that it only transmits when a button is pressed. We can easily operate for several shows, even an entire weekend mall show, on a fresh set of 4 AA batteries.

Because the transmitters are all operating in the same frequency, you can lock out everyone else if you press and hold a button on the transmitter. When we use the transmitter to change speeds, we try to press the speed control buttons several times rather than holding them down. This allows others to send commands to their trains while also allowing you to evaluate whether you have achieved the desired speed.

The receiver is placed between your power supply and the track; you still need a power supply to operate with this system. You need a receiver for every block that you plan to control. The system can operate 20 separate blocks. The receiver can be programmed for 5 levels of momentum.

The receiver has a slide switch marked "Linear" and "P.W.C." The "P.W.C." setting is what we use most often. It provides good response and range of voltage for newer engines. The "Linear" setting proves useful for older engines that have a high initial voltage requirement.

We modified all our receivers so that we have a male and a female Cinch Jones plug on both the input and output wires. Thus, on each side of the receiver (input and output), we have a wye. This makes it much easier to hook into the existing wiring of NTRAK modules.

Wiring Single Block Operation

For most set-ups, we first use Lindsey Power Packs as our power supply. After plugging the power supply into the wall, we make a Cinch Jones connection between the Power Supply and the Lindsey 3 Pack Throttle. The output from the Lindsey throttle is connected to the Cinch Jones connectors on the input side of the Aristo receiver. We then run the output wires to connect to the male and female connectors for the appropriate track. For instance, if the output from the Lindsey 3 Pack whe cor the Red Line, then we would connect the output side of the Aristo to the Red Line. The attached figure is a simple diagram for this basic set-up.

Wiring for Multiple Blocks

In order to power multiple blocks from a single power supply, we use the NTRAK White Line on the modules. Most often, we do this for Red Line operations.

The connection of the Lindsey Power Supply and the 3 Pack Throttle are done the same way as in the Basic Set-up. However, you take the output from one of the throttles, in our example, the Red Line, and connect it to the White Line Cinch Jones Connectors.

You need to decide what your block boundaries are going to be and install insulating connectors for the track at that location. You do not connect the Cinch Jones Connectors between the blocks. Hooking power to the Red Line is easily accomplished by connecting the appropriate male or female connector to the block you are powering. Connect the input wires from the Aristo receiver to the White Line connectors. Because we have both male and female connectors on this input side, you complete the circuit so that power will continue on through the White Line to the next block location.

For Yellow and Blue Line operations, you connect the Lindsey 3 Pack Throttle and Aristo receivers as describe in the Basic Set-up. The attached figure shows this arrangement.

Alternative Method - Multiple Block Operations

There is an alternative method for using multiple blocks and the NTRAK White Line. In this method, the output from any power supply, the Lindsey Power Supply (Gray box) is shown below, is connected to the NTRAK White Line.

As in the earlier method, you must decide where your blocks for each line will be and install insulating joiners at the boundaries. The Cinch Jones connectors between blocks are left unconnected. Again, you take the Aristo and connect its input wires to the NTRAK White Line. But, in this method, you can hook the output connector to any of the lines (Red, Yellow, or Blue.)

While the newer versions of the Aristo receiver (plastic case) have an over current shut off, the disadvantage in this method is that you lose the audible alarm imbedded in the Lindsey Throttle Three Pack.

In any of the Multiple Block Operations, you are not restricted to connecting the Aristo at the block boundary. You can place the Aristo in the middle of the block and make use of the male and female Cinch Jones connectors to feed power in each direction.

Separate Power Supply

In order to simplify our set-up of Red Line Route™ operations, we found it easier on larger layouts to have a separate power supply for each block. Our power supplies were manufactured by a club member; the cases are just large enough that we can place the Aristo receiver on top.

The AC power cord from the power supply is run to a convenient outlet. When we placed the Aristo receivers on top of the supplies, the Aristo input wires were already connected to the power supply outlet wires. All we need to do to complete the circuit is install the insulating joiners in the track and connect the appropriate male or female Cinch Jones connector to the track in the block we are trying to control.

For Yellow and Blue line operations, we make use of the Lindsey Power Supply and the 3 Pack Throttle, as per the basic wiring diagram. The following diagram is shows how we set up with these separate power supplies.

Programming the Transmitter

Because each transmitter can be programmed to control up to 20 channels, we normally reprogram the transmitter as we are setting up. After all, despite any marking that are on the throttle, there is no telling how the throttle was used at the last set-up. Programming the throttle is very simple.

First, PRESS AND HOLD the A and B buttons on the transmitter until the green indicator light on the transmitter begins to blink.

Then press the button for the block or receiver that you want the transmitter to control.

We usually only use the letter buttons A through E, although it is possible to use the "Fast", "Slow", directional arrows keys "<-----" and "---->", and "Emergency Stop" buttons.

NOTE: When using the speed, direction, or Emergency Stop buttons, programming on those keys will cause that action to be executed. If you are just setting up, this isn’t a problem. However, if you are running a train and programming on the fly, you could get some unexpected actions, such as your train reversing.

Once you have programmed the transmitter, you can now control two blocks without reprogramming. This is because there is a "Track" switch in the top left corner of the transmitter. For example, if you have programmed the transmitter using button "A", you can control blocks A1and A2 simply by sliding the track button back and forth. We try and arrange our blocks so that both the "1" and "2" blocks are adjacent. So, how do we arrange our blocks so that the "1" and "2" blocks are adjacent? We program the receivers, too.

Programming the Receiver

While you can program the transmitters on the fly, you have to be very careful when programming the receiver. Any button on the transmitter programs the receiver. Once you start this process on a receiver, it will accept whatever signal it next receives as its identification. So, make sure that no one is trying to run trains with a transmitter at the same time that you are programming the receivers.

You also need to check the position of the "Track" switch on the transmitter. If you are trying to program a receiver as Block A1, throw the track switch to "1".
  1. PRESS AND HOLD the A and B buttons on the transmitter until the green indicator light on the transmitter begins to blink.
  2. Then press the button for the block or receiver that you want the transmitter to control.
  3. Press and hold the "CODE SET" button on the receiver, until the light on the receiver begins to flash.
  4. Press any button on the receiver and the "CODE SET" light will go out.

The receiver is programmed.

Changing the Momentum Setting

As discussed above, there are five levels of momentum that can be programmed into the receiver. They correspond to the letter keys on the transmitter.

A = 5 seconds from zero to maximum speed.
B = 7 seconds.
C = 10 seconds.
D = 15 seconds.
E = 20 seconds.

There is a slide switch on the receiver marked "Linear" and "P.W.C." When the slide switch is on Linear, the above values are cut approximately in half.

To program a new momentum setting, you are also going to reprogram the receiver.

First, program the transmitter for the receiver or block that you want to program. Make sure you have the "Track" switch in the correct position. Then, follow the same two step process outlined above:

Press and Hold Press and Hold the "A" and "B" buttons on the transmitter until the green indicator light on the transmitter begins to blink.

Then Press the button for the block or receiver that you want the transmitter to control.

You are now ready to program the receiver to the desired momentum setting.

First, Press and Hold the "Set" button on the receiver.

While holding the "Set" button, Press and Hold the letter button that corresponds to the desired ramp up rate.

Hold Hold both buttons until the green light on the receiver flashes.

Release Release both buttons.

The green light will now stop flashing.

Problems

We have only had a few problems, most dealing with interference or with power supplies.

The transmitters and receivers operate by pulse code modulation, so spurious signals do not cause unexpected actions by the trains. You can have interference caused by other systems operating in the frequency range that use pulse code modulation. Since Aristos are popular with train clubs, we have had problems at shows until we get with the other club and change frequencies. Our most troublesome problem was during a mall show. A store security system was affecting operations. The hardest part was figuring out what was happening. We solved that problem by relocating the block boundaries away from the store.

The power supply problem was another one that took us a while to figure out. Because the Aristos were designed originally for G Scale trains, the power input specification is 16-24 volts DC. N Scale power supplies normally put out only 12-14 volts DC. On most layouts, we never had a problem. However, if we had too many engines operating from the same power supply, we would have some unexplained sudden stops. This situation normally came about when we set up large layouts, using the Red Line Route™. At the same time, we were trying to simplify set-up of the Red Line Route™. A club member built a power supply that converts AC power to 16 volts DC output. We mated these supplies to receivers and modified our set-up instructions as discussed earlier. This solved our problems.

Availability

Aristo-Craft throttles are manufactured for Polk’s Model Craft Hobbies, 346 Bergen Ave., Jersey City, NJ 07304. You can also find them listed in mail order advertisements or through your local hobby shop.

This information was compiled by Dave Freshwater, with input from Matt Schaefer, Dave Greenacre, Gil Brauch, Brian Brendel, John Drye and Jim FitzGerald.