More backup for the Burro

While taking photos for yesterday’s post on the CNR GS gondola project, I had the opportunity to run my Burro crane through the Lynn Valley:

 photo Burro-Gon-LynnValley_zpsnxweaeud.jpg

And frankly, I was underwhelmed by its performance. The problem is the Burro’s short, stiff wheelbase, which makes it unreliable when picking up power.

I thought I had adequately addressed the issue when I worked on the crane back in September, 2012. Originally, I installed a Lenz Gold decoder with Power-1 module. But it has proven less than satisfactory, because it just doesn’t hold enough power in reserve to deal with things like grass-covered track or the long (but powered) frogs in my turnouts.

Since doing the initial Burro project, DCC manufacturers have introduced better power storage devices. My favourite these days is the KA-2 – a storage module from Train Control Systems that will hold up to 15 seconds of reserve power.

Would it fit?

Turns out, the answer is “you bet”:

 photo Burro-TCS-KA2_zpsqtdww9sy.jpg
(The wires are tucked through the window to keep them out of the way for this photograph)

I disassembled the Burro and replaced the Lenz decoder and power storage module with a TCS decoder and KA-2. The KA-2 is held in place with a strip of double-sided tape. The new decoder (not shown) is the M1-KA. It’s tiny, and I ended up taping it to the inside of the back wall of the cab with some more double-sided tape.

The retrofit took less than an hour – from collecting the tools and materials… to disassembly, replacement and reassembly… to reprogramming. And the performance is a lot better. There’s no more stalling – even through the four-turnout yard throat in Port Rowan.

As a bonus, the decoder is better concealed within the cab, so it’s not visible through that rear window.

I’m really glad I did the upgrade.

5 thoughts on “More backup for the Burro

  1. In discussing better movement with this item of rolling stock, I would be interested in seeing it actually MOVE! Have you ever considered posting short, or for that matter, long videos?

    • Hi Ian:
      You’ll find many videos under the “video” category on the blog. But they take a lot more effort to shoot and edit than a photo, so I need more free time to create one. I did think about it for this project (and for the RS18), so it will happen – but give me a bit of time…
      I warn you, the crane sounds like a coffee grinder. I need to figure out how to get into the gearbox to check for lubricant.

  2. Trevor, I count Keep Alive as one of those technology developments in our hobby that just plain makes everything more fun and enjoyable. In your case, it made a reliable runner out of an interesting model that nonetheless has two and half strikes against it from an operations standpoint: short, rigid wheelbase; very limited space; and weight challenges, including balance. Keep Alive gave you a shortcut to a fine model, so now you have more time and attention for something else on Port Rowan.
    I have been using TCS’ Keep Alive decoders in my HO brass traction repowering projects and have found that this technology can overcome most problems with contact and conductivity, such as rigid truck frames, short wheel bases, low weight, and limited opportunities for pickup wipers/contacts. I still add weight and as many pickups as possible–redundancy is a good thing. In the end, though, it’s happy modeling, thanks in large measure to this innovation.

    • You’re absolutely right, Steve. I’d forgotten the balance issues with the crane but that is (was) a problem as well. The poor mechanism also generates a lot of vibration which affects wheel/rail contact too. A better engineer than I could rebuild the crane with equalized suspension and a smoother drive. But even then, that would become a months-long project – months that I’d rather use to work in the layout, especially since this is a “nice to have” model, not an essential one to bring my prototype to life.
      I write about technology on occasion so I should be used to this, but I’m always surprised and impressed by how quickly technology develops in this hobby. I remember being wowed by the Power-1 when I installed one in an On2 railbus about eight years ago. Now, it pales in comparison to the KA2…

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