Train Engineer (TE) Revolution system

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Overview:

This product was available early 2009. It has an LCD readout and operates on 2.45 GHz. It uses the Zigbee protocol, which is in a chip by Texas Instruments. It's not clear which power level chip is being used so far.

In mid October 2012, the Revolution was upgraded to include sound. At this time there is only a generic diesel sound, but the steam one was coming.

In January 2017 the new company Precision RC took over the Crest line, and added some new products and new sound files and a USB programmer.

The system uses 2 way communication for certain operations, and it apparently will read back the speed of the train. It is not clear at this time if it is reading back the power applied to the motor, or the actual speed. I suspect it is only reading the power sent to the motor. The 2 way communication is also used to indicate overload or short conditions.

There is no integration with any DCC sound decoder, like the AirWire system. There is no BEMF motor control.

Transmitters:

 Here's a photo of the transmitter:

The unit on the left is the early unit with the plastic buttons, and on the right is the latest unit with rubberized buttons

revo57001a 3 1 3

Receivers:

There are the first "onboard" units designed to plug into the Aristo-Craft socket. The receivers are approximately the same size as the 75MHz onboard unit.

The photos below show an early non-sound receiver:

The unit is claimed to have 5 amp continuous and 8 amp peak rating.

See the separate section on the Revolution TE for details.

 

Revo with sound:

Here's the instruction sheet: http://aristocraftforum.com/NewDocs/revolution/CRE57002SD%20%281%29.pdf

As of 2017, the original, non-sound receivers are no longer produced, and there is a 50% price increase. It's still the cheapest R/C system out there with sophisticated features.

The units look a bit different, the easy way to identify them is the two large caps between the heat sink and the radio board.

rx new fcc

 

On the original sound files, there were a few troubling points, like the horn blasts 5 times every time it is triggered, it is impossible to get a single horn toot, and no crossing signal I have heard is 5 blasts, but 2 long, one short and one long.

Also recently discovered is that the bell is not on or off, but it rings 8 times and then quits.

I have yet to evaluate the new sound files. I would think these would be easy to fix in a firmware update.

Warning: Some of the onboard units apparently violate the very standard Aristo established. Pins 4 and 6 should be supplying rectified track voltage and ground. These are used for references for the lighting outputs, and normally other functions. This new board does not, so plugging this unit into a Bachmann loco will not power the lights. This may have been corrected with the newer units, I need to verify.


When first released, the newer sound units come in exactly the same box and with exactly the same instructional CD as the old non-sound units. Neither the box nor the instructions make any mention of sound. The picture on the box is of the non-sound unit even though the new TX has a few cosmetic differences (gray, rubberized keys and a smaller antenna nub). There is a one page printed sheet in the box with a drawing of the new RX board and very brief instructions about turning on the sound.
 
Of course this has been corrected in the latest units.
 
The linking switch was also removed from the receiver board, not a big deal since you normally want this externally mounted.

The new transmitter is missing the jack in the bottom for recharging batteries, but not a lot of people used it.
 
Also, there used to be a six-pin socket inside the transmitter battery compartment, for updating software.
 
The sound quality is not bad, you get what you pay for. There are only 3 sounds, unlike higher end units, engine, bell and horn/whistle. The bell and horn are fine, but the bell seems overly loud. The engine sound is typical of lower end units, kind of like a grinding sound. 
 
A big downer is that the same bell and horn sequence is played every time the loco starts to move. I think there is a way to turn this off, but when you blow the horn/whistle, it is an ATTEMPT at a grade crossing sequence, but it's the WRONG number of "blasts"
 
The bell shuts off automatically after about eight rings, there is no way to leave it on continuously.
 
The manual horn is a five blast sequence no single blast is possible. There is a nice little brake squeal as the locomotive comes to a stop.
 
Again, all of this should be easy to correct.

 

Review:

Note: When first released, Lewis Polk touted this system as "beyond DCC" despite many people (including myself) counseling him that this is basically an outrageous claim.

There were many arguments back and forth, but this is all ancient history, and more reasonable people now are producting the product.

Notice that the DCC "jab" is even on the front of the box below (3rd bullet from the bottom):

Aristo has since toned down the rhetoric online and that is appreciated, since the other DCC manufacturers did not respond in kind.

System summary:

The Aristo-Craft Revolution is a wireless control setup that communicates directly between the handheld "throttles" and the loco-mounted "decoders". The communication is at 2.4 GHz.

The system uses local memory (in the throttle) to control up to 50 locomotives. (has this been raised to 99?)

The decoders are said to handle 5 amps continuously ( but there are overheating problems reported)

The decoders have 6 "outputs" intended to interface to low current "Triggers" on sound boards.

There is an optional board is available that has 2 high current outputs to switch a smoke units or lights.

The system has the capacity to "store" only 50 locos, and numbered the same, so you will need a way to remember which loco is which, unlike DCC where you can use 4 digits for the loco number, normally the road number. The cab number can be associated with 1 or more locos, but again this is limited to 50/99, not 4 digits.

Details and limitations:

With the addition of sound, this system went from kind of a good deal to a great deal. If you don't need sound, there are cheaper systems (but with less control) like the systems from RCS or G Scale Graphics (Del Tappero). This caution is for the people who do not want or need the extra features the Revolution offers.

To be clear, on the standard board, there only 3 outputs, the motor and the headlight and rear light output, not to be confused with the 6 trigger "outputs" You CANNOT connect anything other than "logic" controls to these 6 "outputs". the integrated circuits that drive these outputs can safely handle only about 20 milliamps each.

To repeat, the onboard " trigger outputs" can only "sink" approximately 10-20 ma, so they are not to be used for lights, Aristo recommends that you use one of the optional smoke boards to control lights. (I repeat this so no one will damage their boards)

There is also a enormous  "capacitor board" that is required for track power operation (per Aristo), more on that later. Even under battery power, a single capacitor is recommended, recent units apparently come with the capacitor.

Three different types of "sockets" are available to use in non plug and play locomotives, a cheap one is supplied that only supports the board at one end. So for locos without the socket, there is an additional cost for a "quality" and mechanically reliable installation.

The decoders plug into Aristo locos that have the "Aristo socket". Wiring to a sound unit or smoke unit requires additional connections, and hard wiring, so only the motor and headlights are plug and play.

More on the organization of your locomotives:

The system has the capability to "store" 50 locomotives, a "loco ID" numbered from 00 to 49. To control a loco, you must:

  1. Link a loco to a throttle with "loco id" 00 to 49
  2. Select a "cab" number
  3. Llink the "loco id" to that cab.

After this, you can select a cab and run the associated loco(s).

Pros

  • The amount of features and control for a system with sound is a unique combination, close to DCC but very inexpensive, the least expensive wireless system with reasonable sound available..
  • Quite an improvement over all the original TE systems in capability.
  • Fairly simple to use, menus are reasonable to read.
  • Linking of a loco to an ID is quick.
  • Smooth speed control (except at very low speed or at startup, read more later)

Cons (or areas for improvement)

  • Having to have a cab number in addition to the locomotive id creates confusion and unnecessary programming as compared to DCC. Having to selecting a loco ID, but then having to map that loco to a "Cab" is an extra step. This extra step/level was added very early in the Beta testing. I'm guessing it was added to allow more than one throttle control the same loco or to facilitate consisting. The fundamental identifier for the loco remains the loco id (00-99), because the system does not copy the extra information from one throttle to another.
  • Support for multiple throttles is poor:
    • Cannot copy locomotive information to a second throttle. Using a second throttle means you have to re-enter all the locos into it, you can control another link ID, but it will not copy the locomotive name, road number, etc. This means that after all that time entering the locomotive name and road number on one throttle, getting a second throttle means you have to start all over... you do not have to re-link, but you have to load the road number and loco name again. This is a BIG disadvantage, this means you have to remember each loco by ID, and when getting new throttles, the ID is the only thing you can use to identify it at first. Thus the advantage of having the loco name and road number goes out the window. This basically brings the system into the same realm as DCC, where locos are identified by a 4 digit number, which is normally set to the road number. Unfortunately, now, with only 00 to 49, you wind up having duplicates easily and you cannot even use the last 2 digits of the loco for the id, since it stops at 49.
    • If you have more than one throttle, scrolling through all your locos will send a STOP command to other locos. This means if one cab is running loco 4, and you are on another throttle and scroll PAST loco 4, loco 4 WILL STOP! (needs verification now) Unforgivable. This really underscores the poor user interface and software programming.
    • Only 6 cabs available at one time. You only have 6 cabs (0-5), so selecting another loco means you have to re-define the cab. Again, OK for the user with just a few locos, but not good if you have more than 6 locos, or you don't want to constantly re-define the cabs, or a club.
  • Many people report overheating, i.e. the unit does not handle the advertised current. Stan Cedarleaf (a great Aristo supporter) reports: (in response to a person with overheating in an Aristo mallet:) "Geroge, I've had this happen here in the desert summer heat. I've installed small 12 volt fans to cool the receivers and also drilled vent holes in the floors and at the top of the end panels to allow the hot air to eacape. Another sure fire method is to remove coal loads or roofs...." (see post number 6 in the following thread: http://www.aristocraftforum.com/vbulletinforums/showthread.php?t=19152 )
  • No faster or slower, or forward or reverse labelling on throttle. The arrow buttons do not say "faster" "slower" "forwards" "reverse" like they should. Not easy for a first-timer to know what is what. This has been the same for all Train Engineer products. Silly. You never know which way the loco will take off. Silly not to have forwards and backwards defined.
  • Cab selection buttons not clearly marked.To select another "cab" the buttons are again not labeled, they are a little "T>>" and "
  • All stop is slow to operate, no "real" emergency stop available. There is an all stop feature, but it's slow and not of much use. When there is a true emergency you need to stop now, even if you derail a few box cars. When you have a problem or short or a $500 loco melting down, an extra couple of seconds can make the difference between a repair and a melted lump of plastic.
  • Inconsistent and strange operation of menus / user interface. Pressing enter does not "enter" on all menus, some times it resets a value to zero. If you accidentally change a setting you did not want to, then you have to move it back, using enter to submit change would make more sense, and make the menus more consistent.
  • Low speed control is POOR. There are 2 factors,
    • There is no BEMF, so it's not surprising that there was not good low speed control. The system just cannot match a BEMF system in performance, not anywhere close to the crawl that other systems can do. I noticed that the low speed control was worse than other systems, even when I turned BEMF off on the competing system. This is because:
    • The start speed setting does not "re-map" the speed steps, it merely jumps the first speed step to the start setting.  This is a bit hard to explain, so let's make an example to make it easier. Suppose you have a DCC system and the TE both set to 100 speed steps (this works for any number of speed steps). In DCC, if you set the start voltage to 2 volts, and the max speed to 10 volts, then speed step 1 is 2 volts, and the voltage will smoothly increase to 10 volts at speed step 100. The "speed curve" is smoothly "stretched between 2 and 10 volts. This gives you the maximum "resolution" in voltage change from step to step. Makes sense. BUT, the Aristo system just takes a "bite" out of the speed range. If you set the start speed to 10% for example, as soon as you hit the speed button from zero, you are right at 10%. You have lost 10% of the speed range, and do not get any benefit of higher granularity of speed control. This is probably why Aristo HAD to have up to 1000 speed steps, since you can "lose" some of them when you adjust the starting and top speeds.
    • I was unable to get a locomotive to crawl, even though using a QSI in the same loco would achieve less than one scale mile per hour. I set the speed steps to the highest resolution (SS=1) momentum off, and start speed 0%. The system may have the appearance of very fine granularity of speed steps, but the operation does not even come close to other systems low speed starting ability.
  • Certain locomotive characteristics apparently can only be changed when the loco is stopped, DCC can do this while the loco is moving. It seems silly to have to stop the loco to do simple tasks.
  • Link reliability can be poor. The system can lose "link" unexpectedly, even when there is no apparent signal strength problem
  • When there is loss of link, the system does not always re-link automatically
  • Running on track power may additional capacitors which keep the decoder from resetting (a problem solved in DCC years ago).
  • Consisting support could be better: Creating a "consist" where a loco must run backwards in the consist requires you to reprogram the loco to run backwards all the time. When you remove that loco from the consist, it now must be reprogrammed for the proper "standalone" direction.

Product contents:

 

If you buy the "system", you get the wireless cab/throttle (right side), the receiver/decoder (lower left), a small board to connect to the pins of the decoder in non plug and play (top left), a small "smoke board" (partially hidden between the two), 2 spare fuses, and a quick start guide and a documentation CD. Be sure to go to the Precision RC site and get the latest documentation/manuals (unless you buy a used system of older vintage)

The wireless cab/throttle:

The unit looks like an early cordless phone, with a keypad, and 4 direction arrows and 4 more buttons, two buttons for "Track number" like the old TE, and on/off button, and a menu button.

The keys have no specialized labels except if you notice the very small "all stop" on the zero key, and a circular arrow on the # key, which is enter. (But there is another "enter" key, confusing).

The dimensions of the unit are about 2-1/2" wide by about 6" tall by 1-1/4" deep. It will fit in a shirt pocket. It's wider than you realize at first. I do not find it objectionable, and I believe this was to improve key spacing. Overall the size and key spacing and fit in the hand is very good.

revo57001a 3 1 3

The display has a lot of information, it is a good, high contrast display with a programmable backlight timer. I found it easy to read except that the character sizes will be too small for many people. I would have preferred an option for less information but larger characters.

As mentioned earlier, locomotive direction is indicated by 2 arrows. An important concept here is that there is no forwards defined, you have to adopt a convention, like "right arrow" is forwards. A weak point in the design in my opinion.

The link OK and battery symbols are good to have. All the numbers in the speed graph are confusing. Can you tell the difference between the 30.0 in the parentheses and the 30.i mi to the right of it, has the loco run 30 miles? Again, less might be more. It's too "techy".

The name of the loco combined with the road name looks nice, but later you will find there is no quick way to "find" a loco. The DCC process of simply entering the locomotive number directly is faster and easier. Scrolling through 20 locos is slower than pressing 3-4 digits for a locomotive number.

The second line of the display is another bit of not obvious information. I'll consult the manual.

Again, the biggest criticism here is that most people would rather have the needed information larger so as not to have to use glasses to see.

Receiver/decoder:

The units is made to plug into the "standard" Aristo socket. Here are the pictures:

 

rx new fcc

Size is 2-3/8" long, by 1-1/2" wide by 1/2"  high to the highest component. The design looks clean, and the heat sink is a nice feature that many decoders do not have.

"We use a H-Bridge Rectifier with 12 mosfets that makes the unit virtually bullet proof and way beyond anything else on the market."(8)

"Notice the size of the heat sinks, which means we do not need a fan on this receiver even in desert conditions." (6)

The power handling is advertised as 5 amps continuous and 8 amp stall. After months of experience and reports, I find it hard to believe that the unit will handle 5 amps continuous, even with the heat sink. Many people have had overheating problems on a single loco. NO Aristo loco draws 5 amps.

The number of FETs is really not germain to the product, and 4 of them are used as diodes. I need some updated information on the continuous current handling of the unit.

On the positive side, most people have no issue in most locos.

More on FETs instead of the industry standard full wave bridge rectifier:

Most decoders have a full wave bridge, so no matter what the track or battery polarity input, the system can make sure it has a positive and negative to work with. This is very common not only on decoders, but also things like smoke units, so they operate from the track, no matter what the polarity, or even if AC or DCC is on the track, indeed the Aristo-Craft smoke units have a full wave bridge rectifier.

But, instead of using a full wave bridge, Aristo employs the other 4 FETs to do the "input voltage polarity switching". There's two big negatives in this design: First, now a function totally unrelated to the motor output is sharing the heat sink, but worse, the FETs, once they "switch", CANNOT switch on or off, to put it clearly, you will need an ADDITIONAL component to run this from AC or DCC. You may say so what, but this was obviously a cost cutting item (the FETs are cheaper than a full wave bridge from Schottky diodes which ALL other manufacturers use). Another opportunity to purchase another extra cost board for your system.

The system often runs hot, and a cooling fan might be a good idea, especially in a loco with no venting. There are many reports of overheating on the Aristo site, where negative comments are not allowed.

More on the heat sink:

The heat sink certainly looks impressive, but removing it shows that the FETs used are not really designed for heat sinking (like other components with a milled flat top). The the need of some type of conformal "gasket" to conduct the heat from the FETs to the heat sink. The gasket is a silicon-based elastomer infused with iron. This stuff works, although I would have preferred a different selection of components, but this is a low cost device, and this arrangement works well for the components selected.

In a way, the heat sink may be more for show, if you study the manufacturer's application notes, you will see that this type of package is normally designed to dissipate heat through the metal leads, not the case (thus making sense of the case not being milled flat like a power FET). Some of the FETs have large areas of copper to help heat sinking, others do not. It really is not effective, since there is no cooling of the board itself.

The PWM frequency is apparently 7.9 kHz, per Dave Bodnar. Surprisingly low, all modern PWM for DCC decoders are set beyond the range of human hearing, 20 KHz. This will probably result in additional noise in the motors.  No one uses low frequencies any more except AirWire, and they have a reputation for noisy motor control.

For reference, the current Trackside TE uses a frequency of 22.96 kHz, again confirmed by Dave Bodnar.

Basically the board "pins" connect the track pickups, the motor, the front headlight and the rear headlight. The Aristo socket has pins that can enable/disable the smoke unit, but this control is not on this board, a separate high power accessory board is supposed to be available eventually that will have a relay.

There is a socket on the receiver for 6 function "outputs". They actually "pull to ground", and the common is positive. The individual "inputs" have a limitation of how much current they can "sink" to ground. There are all kinds of numbers floating around there. 50 ma, had been mentioned, Dave Bodnar says 10ma is typical for this kind of microprocessor, and Aristo says do not hook anything up to them except sound unit triggers, or the smoke unit control boards. In reality, they can probably handle 10-20 ma, BUT you need to remember that the aggregate (total) current for all outputs needs to be considered, so not all outputs could be "on" at the same time. You might get away with a couple of LEDs, but not any  incandescent lamps. As mentioned before, Aristo recommends that you use one of the optional smoke boards for high current applications.

Even if you ran 20 ma on each input, then all 6 inputs could not be on at the same time, that would be 1.2 amps! (50ma all on would be 3 amps!)

Non-plug and play:

In the photo below, you will see some of the extra hardware you may need to use:

The small board in the middle above connects to the pins on one end of the decoder board. This is a very cheap setup, and leaves the board unsupported. The second set of pins is not normally connected to anything, but Aristo always provides the second socket in their locos so you won't get flexing and damage to the board. The schematic for the supplied adapter board is below. Aristo has to add the 2 diodes you see on the right side of the board because there is no "common" on the main TE board (I believe that is because they do not have a full wave bridge like DCC decoders do)

 

Pinout for connectin in a non plug and play installation

CRE-57077 Adapter board

 

Solution, the optional ($17 extra) board shown below, with 2 sockets and fuses.

CRE 57077

 

The first board above was available for non-plug and play locos.

A new version has been released in the summer of 2009 that has 4 diodes and 2 caps on it, to allow the Revo to run from DCC or AC track power. It's not clear that the capacitors on it are sufficient to eliminate the track power problems acknowledged by Aristo. Lewis Polk says that it might work, but they recommend the 6 capacitor board for track power.

Another board (same part number) was made available some time 2014-2016, no fuses, just the diodes. (The diodes are there to provide the "other end" of power for the headlights.

The fusing was a bad idea in my opinion, trapping the fuses deep inside the loco makes it very inconvenient to replace them.

 

Smoke board:

In the picture above with the ruler, the small board on the right is the "smoke board". If you want to control lights or smoke units, you should use this board. The "outputs" on the Revo decoder only "sink" 10-50 milliamperes to ground each, and there is no published spec on what the total current for the whole board is, but it's most likely that you cannot get 300 ma.  (6 times 50 ma). The smoke board connects to the "trigger inputs" and allows a higher current device to be controlled. By the way Aristo, this is where you WANT your fuses!

CRE-57076 Capacitor board:

Shortly after first public release, all kinds of reports of problems with track power appeared. Aristo now says you need this board if you run from track power. It consists of six 3300 mfd 35 volt capacitors. Please note, there have been some reports of failed capacitors, and Aristo (Lewis Polk) has recommended reducing your maximum voltage to the Revolution TE to 22 volts. (Be aware this can make a significant difference on top speed)

It is enormous compared to the decoder:

There are 6 inexpensive capacitors in parallel to make track power possible. From all the reports, it's apparent the Revolution is abnormally sensitive to electrical noise on the track inputs. (By the way, this is the problem DCC dealt with 20 years ago, so the Revo is not beyond DCC, but 10-15 years behind DCC in the handling of track power "glitches").

The dang thing is so big, you might have trouble getting all of your electronics into a hood type diesel. There is a small component in series with the leads, it's apparently a thermistor, with a negative temperature coefficient, i.e. a component to limit inrush current. Good. It says NTC 100-9.

Some initial units had defective capacitors. Here are later boards, the single cap board for battery power, and the 6 cap board for track power:

Notice the capacitor on the left has a "bulge" on the top. This is caused by gas buildup from defective (really cheap) capacitors. This is prevalent in the very cheap Chinese brands. This gas buildup is normally associated with an internal short, at the least it will stop working, this cap will eventually burn up, and sometimes they actually explode.

Products available and (original) list prices:

CRE57000    REVOLUTION SYSTEM W/SMOKE    300.00
CRE57001    REVOLUTION TRANSMITTER ??
CRE57002    REVOLUTION RECEIVER    105.00
CRE57003    REVOLUTION RECEIVER 6 PK    525.00
CRE57004    REVOLUTION TRACKSIDE SYSTEM SET (TRANSMITTER AND SUPER RECEIVER)
CRE57004S  REVOLUTION TRACKSIDE SYSTEM SET (TRANSMITTER AND SUPER RECEIVER) with sound
CRE57005    REVOLUTION SUPER RECEIVER
CRE57005S  REVOLUTION SUPER RECEIVER with sound
CRE57072    REVOLUTION SMOKE BOARD 6 PK    100.00
CRE57073    REVOLUTION SMOKE BOARD SINGLE    22.50
CRE57076    REVOLUTION CAPACITOR BOARD FOR TRACK POWER     25.00
CRE57077    REVOLUTION adapter board

also

CRE55499 fan, used on top of receiver

Overall hardware summary:

While the decoder itself is small, the amount and size of electronics you need to support it in a track power situation is large, you could easily have:

  • decoder
  • capacitor board
  • smoke board

When you add a sound unit, you have used the volume in excess of the size of the wireless cab! (The cap board alone is 1/2 the size of the wireless cab).

By contrast, modern DCC decoders are no larger than the Revo decoder itself, see the QSI unit below that fits in the same socket and need no external capacitor board:

titan top

 

Revolution "Trackside" or "Super Receiver" (old style, no sound)

 

Installation and use:

The following sections are concerned with integration and use of the Revo "system, and reflect my direct experience over a month of having and running one.

Motor Control:

This part of the Revolution TE system bears some close scrutiny.

The on board receiver puts out PWM (Pulse Width Modulation), as do virtually all modern decoders. This is a full voltage square wave of varying duty cycle. A short "on" cycle is slow, a long "on" cycle is fast. Aristo calls this PWC for some unknown reason. It is NO different than anyone else who has been doing this for 30 years.

Curiously, for a system that will "do more than DCC", there is no BEMF (Back ElectroMotive Force) control to the motor. This has been in DCC decoders for years, and takes more sophistication, but even cheap DCC decoders have it, it is not rocket science any more.

Here is the reason given: "
We will add back EMF later as we can't find a good model that works well." (2) There is more on this post and it's ridiculous. Basically Aristo says that it's hard to do with multiple motors, and then Aristo proceeds to put down how it is done in DCC: "Non-engineers will say that it's already done in DCC, but how well is it done?" This is putting down something that they (Aristo) just cannot accomplish, while virtually everyone else does it.

Since the rest of the DCC world is very well established, and BEMF is in almost every modern DCC decoder, anyone who believes that Aristo is right, and the thousands of DCC decoders using BEMF do not work well, is drinking Jim Jones' Kool-Aide.

Upon testing of several locos with the QSI, the Revo TE, and NCE decoders, the Revo lacks the low speed motor control, and will not achieve the crawling start speeds that all other mainstream DCC decoders can achieve. Mind you I tested the SAME loco with these. I ran an RS-3, RDC, and an E8.

I was very disappointed in the low speed crawling ability, especially when the 1000 speed steps were so often touted. I tried every combination of speed steps, starting voltage and momentum. The best results were from the highest number of speed steps and starting voltage of 0%. The momentum made no difference since I very slowly ramped the speed up.

You can tell that BEMF would help, not only from the superior performance from the other decoders I tested, but the fact that once the motors "broke free", you could throttle down significantly before they stopped turning.

In my opinion, this is a serious deficiency, and will be obvious to many people who are used to the superior control BEMF gives modern locomotive control systems.

Installation of the decoders:

If you have an Aristo socket, then it is a simple matter to attach to the motor, track pickups and lights. If not, you get a small board to connect to the pins on the decoder. This is the same as wiring a DCC decoder. There is one additional step, you need the linking button added to your loco somewhere so you can use it to program the loco decoder. Normally you drill a hole and use the provided pushbutton switch. (no extension for the blinking led?)

Non Plug and play installations:

While the system comes with a cheap connector for J1 (Aristo only uses one of the sets of pins), leaving it to hang in space is asking for damage. Spend the extra $17 (or $24 for the AC/DCC model).

Integration with sound systems:

I don't believe many people will use this system with external sound boards now that sound is integrated. If you wanted to, you will most likely use the 6 function "outputs". Originally one was intended to be high current, but it did not happen. You can buy a smoke board with 2 higher current outputs.

You can see the socket for the functions above, it's the bottom right corner of the left most picture.The silk screen says: "A B C D E F COM"

 

Connecting to smoke units:

You receive one "smoke board" in a set, you need to purchase them separately if you buy receivers alone. The board has 2 outputs that can drive a relay and small lights. It's about $15 street price. You wire power to it, 2 wires to two outputs on the Revo TE board.

Connecting to other lights:

You cannot! The outputs cannot handle more than logic level signals. They can probably handle 10 ma each.

Dave Bodnar is possibly going to design a circuit, but as of now, no commercial product is available or in the works to allow you to do this.

Configuring/ binding a loco:

This is a 2 step process for a new loco, first each loco has a unique "id" from 00 to 49.

You link the loco to an "id"... scroll through the menus to link, select it, and then press the button on the TE in the loco. The throttle will tell you when it is complete.

Next you must tell the "cab" which "id" to use. (You get cabs 0 through 5), you just go through the menus and get to the cab setup, and then select the correct id.

You can quickly scroll through cabs 0-5 from the buttons ""  which must mean Throttle. If you want to have more than 6 locos for immediate recall, then you have to reprogram a cab.

In both of the steps above, the time to program and the number of steps as compared to an NCE throttle is more than double for the TE. To select a loco on DCC, you just enter it's "id" and go... "id"s can be up to 4 digits long, so you don't have to worry about duplicates, like the 00-49 restriction in the Revo TE. (Again not beyond DCC, but BEHIND DCC!).

When using a second throttle, you do not have to bind the loco to an "id" over, you just set one of the cabs to the id you desire.

An important note: the second throttle has no way to get the other data you entered on the first throttle, like road number and name. Basically if you use more than one throttle, be prepared for re-entering everything on each throttle. Likewise, visiting someone's layout requires reprogramming or that you bring and only use your throttles.  With DCC, the locomotive ID is in the locomotive, and it does not matter whose layout you visit.

Basic locomotive control:

There are four arrows in the center... up and down is faster and slower respectively. Left and right are direction. There is no "sense" of forward, you have to adopt a personal convention of which way the arrow on the screen points to mean forwards. Not good for beginners or kids. Even I would forget sometimes.

There is a stop function. The stop of your loco is pretty straightforward. You can also group locos, or do an all stop. The bad thing about these last two, is since the throttle has no idea what is out there, the all stop sends individual stop commands one by one. If you are running loco id 49 and hit all stop, it will be a while before it gets the command. Not cool.

Aristo-Craft has pointed out that the all stop function can be configured to only stop a smaller range of locos, like 0-6 for example.

This is pretty funny, what if you are running locos 0 and 6? You set the maximum stop id to 6, now press all stop. You now send commands for 0,1,2,3,4,5,6 but the overall time is just as long. It's really a no win situation, first, what if you have a new loco on your layout, number 7, and you forget? The point is that it is a slow operation since it needs to send the individual stop commands one by one.

The best thing here is to follow Aristo-Craft's suggestion and ALWAYS number your locos starting at 00, then leave the command to do all 50, this will stop all locos on the track soonest. You will still be sending unnecessary commands and get slow response.

Consisting:

This is another point of contention between many people.

Consisting is loosely that ability to control more than one locomotive in a single connected train with a single point of control.

First, I'd like to describe the 3 methods of consisting:

Advanced consisting:

The most advanced method in DCC (and others) is "advanced consisting", this is where the consist information is stored in the receiver/decoders themselves. The same "consist" address is put in each decoder, then they will all respond to this address.

This allows very flexible operation and customizing which features apply to which locos in the consist, such as lighting, sound, etc.

Also this allows the "normal" direction of a loco to be different when in a consist, so you can have forward and reverse make sense both in the consist, and when a loco is cut from the consist (like cutting off helpers)

A big advantage is that only one command for speed and direction changes needs to be sent, rather than the same command sent each time for every locomotive.

In a large consist, or when running many locomotives, advanced consisting is the method to keep response to commands fast.

Universal consisting:

Sometimes referred to as basic consisting or old style. This is where you tell the "system" what locos are in the consist, and then when you change speed or direction, separate commands for EACH locomotive are sent.

The problem here is that you will degrade throttle and system response since you have to send 4 times as many commands for a 4 loco consist for example.

There are other disadvantages in more sophisticated control of functions on locos, for example locos do not know where they are in the consist, so lighting control is not "Smart".

The only advantage of this method is that if you forget the consist number, you only reset your system, not the locos.

Address consisting:

This is not really consisting, but "cloning" the address of locos, basically making them all the same address. This is really a poor way to solve the problem.

In real consisting, you can drive a loco up to an existing train and then join the consist. In "address consisting" all locos have the same address, so there is NO INDEPENDENT control of your locos. This is just like jumpering them all together.

So you lose one of the fundamental features of a system with a decoder per loco, independent operation.

Consisting with the TE:

" is consist ready up to an ABBC" (3)

"I will say that each loco in a consist can have it's own settings that differ from th main loco. It's one thing if all your locos are the same, but if you are mixing types, brands, gearing etc., you may want to have different settings for each."(10)

Aristo uses "address consisting"... there are recent software updates to allow you to somewhat "match" the speeds of different locos in the consist. Good going Aristo. The "tools" to do this are not the same as DCC, but you can get an acceptable matching of speed, you can basically play with the "curve" of voltage vs. speed and you can put a "speed offset" into each loco. I need to read the manual to see how this is done, but it's possible.

I do not know if you need to repeat this every time you consist, or these "tweaks" stay with the loco.

I can tell you that it's not straightforward enough to be easy, here one of the biggest supporters of Aristo just gave up consisting a Dash 9 and a USAT SD-70, he just pulled the motors out of one loco:P

http://www.mylargescale.com/Community/Forums/tabid/56/aff/14/aft/118056/afv/topic/Default.aspx

Re-programming:

"This question has come up on binding on the new TE, so I'll clarify it here. If you want to make adjustments to a loco's settings you do not need a programming track, just bring it to a stop anywhere and make your changes. You do not need to re-bind. However, if you change the group or loco's id assignments you will have to re-bind by pressing the bind button on the loco's board. It can be extended extrnally or to wherever the switches are so you don't have to open the loco again. There is a long lead wire supplied with the system, so mounting the bind button is not a problem."(9)

It appears you must stop the locomotive to make any changes (DCC allows you to do this on the fly). Not cool.

Things that can be set:

  • Bind Address / id  (00-49)
  • RX type (onboard or trackside, trackside not made yet)
  • locomotive name (xx alpha characters)
  • road number (4 digits)
  • momentum (0-100%)
  • back-back (normal or reversed) (direction loco moves in relation to other locos, remember there is no real concept of "forward")
  • top speed (0-100%)
  • start speed (0-100%)
  • aux function setup (new menu)
  • bind (execute binding)

 

System architecture and limitations:

Comparing yourself to DCC is a tall order. DCC took a long time to work out in committees with many top level people participating.

Aristo has done a fine job in updating their TE system to more functionality, but it's not thought out as a system. like DCC.

One major system problem will show itself when users try to go beyond the "old TE" model.

You now have this cool system with multiple locomotives, so it stands to reason there will be multiple people running trains.

How does a second "Cab" integrate? How do you "bind" all your existing locomotives to BOTH cabs so that either cab can control a locomotive? How does a new cab get all this information?

In DCC there is a "command station", which understands the system, and keeps system parameters, and issues the commands to the locos.

In the new TE system, there is no central control, so what happens?

The answer is that you have to repeat the programming IDENTICALLY on your second (and third, etc.) throttle/cabs.

Feedback:

A nice feature is the speed read back.  It's not clear if this is reading the actual speed of the loco, or the "commanded" speed. On BEMF DCC systems, you can sense the actual motor rpm, of course. On MTH DCS systems, there is an optical "tachometer" strip on a flywheel connected to the motor, so again you can sense the actual motor rpm.

"The 2 way communication allows for actual speed read outs. You can see if a train derails on the screen or if there is a short in the loco's wiring." (4)

These are nice features. It remains to be seen if it is real speed or just the voltage applied to the motor. I know of no other way than the BEMF or "tachometer" to do this, so we need to see if Aristo has invented a new method.

One item that needs further documentation. I have not gotten consistent reports of short circuit feedback. The word "overheat" has DEFINITELY been seen on the new system, the transmitter goes from "Link OK" to "Ovrht" and flashes.

Radio system/protocol:

The system uses a chip from TI that follows the "Zigbee" protocol on 2.4 GHz. There is some truth to the fact that higher frequencies are more interference free. This is really meaning as comparison to the 27 MHz and 75 MHz bands. 900 MHz used to be cluttered, but is now an ideal band because hardly anyone uses it for cordless phones.

The 2.4 GHz band can give better range, but it was mostly picked for higher data throughput.

More general notes and comments:

The number of speed steps is adjustable. According to Lewis, " We have 1024 separate step controls, so you can adjust the progression by .5 step or 5 steps per rate of increase or anything you want depending on the size of consist you're running or if you switching."

From Lewis: Top speed is adjustable as well as momentum and reverse direction delays plus much more.... Sound selections are selectable between latching or momentary depending on the nature of the sound.....

The unit will control/address up to 50 locos. There was mention of added memory being able to expand this later.

From Lewis: "You can set a maximum speed or the actual speed"

Comment: to know the actual speed, you would have to have BEMF control, it takes the same kind of electronics to "count" motor revolutions. I think the system will tell you the "desired speed".

Comment:  "Also, there are no wires needed on the layout anywhere except to the track power only" .... same for DCC, I think that Aristo needs to take some time to understand DCC. If running track power, the Aristo system will need extra wires and remote switches to handle reversing loops. DCC has $50 autoreversers that do not need extra long runs of wires or connections.

Comment:  "We know that many people bury the wires in piping underground, but when there is a short you have to dig up your whole layout to find the break." ...???? I think this is a continuation of the mistaken impression that DCC takes more wiring. Track wiring for this system is MORE complex than DCC. In any case, if you bury wires and have a short underground (highly unlikely) you have the same work, no matter what system you are working.

TIPs

What we've found in our service department is that you need to use a pure D.C. power supply for track power or use the Capacitor board to offset the half wave some other maker's power supplies use. We will add a single capacitor board to all receivers in the next run, though the 6 capacitor board is really needed for the outdoor track, especially. Mother nature makes outdoor trackage complex in all but certain climates here in the U.S. However, clean track and good continuity is a rarity.

You need to seat the board carefully and not bend any of the pins during installation. We have made a different amount of pins on each side, so the board could not be installed backwards, but care still needs to be taken especially on non-plug and play installations.

These two situations are the main ones we've run up against from our side, though there are some Phoenix sound board issues well reported here too. They work, but the black ground wire needs some special treatment depending on the type of board selected. Phoenix has a Revolution and they are working on this.

I'm sorry, there is a third. Lights take up too much power to be used with our accessory controllers that are mean for sound signaling only. If you want to run lights off of the Revolution board you need to use the add-on smoke board that can handle that kind of power.

from lewis in aristo forum, 6/15/2009

Interfacing to the TE:

Dave Bodnar, an accomplished engineer, and also manufacturer of some nice specialized electronics, has made some nice online explanations on how to interface to the TE:

http://www.trainelectronics.com/artcles/Relay_Revolution/

memorializing a post by the manufacturer:

"T.E. Revolution MU"  by Lewis, from the Aristo general forum, dated 1/13/2009... promises of some functionality

 

Dear All,

We have just completed the M.U. software that allows you to join up to 6 locomotives in a consist including pusher locos. You can drop any loco from the consist without re-binding and each loco can be programmed separately if they are disparate in speeds, gearing or require different momentum or step settings. I'll ask David Bodnar to post the operation results of this add on feature as soon as he has digested the working of the software.

You can have up to 10 m.u. consists running at any one time, which is an extreme usage for 99% of the people. You will need a second Tx if you need more.

Again, this is all done with screen settings and no need to learn or memorize c.v's, so it is easier to use. Also, the 1 1/2 inch antenna removes the careful placement of antenna's in the lower frequency units. This placement is part of the black art concept of r/c, which is not an issue at 2.4 GHz.

We have tested the 5 Amp capabilites here several times and it is indeed rated at that for continuous running. This is due to the high grade mossfetts, not the heat sink alone. You can also change settings on the fly, but it's better proceedure to stop the train during the changes. You do not want to make a change that will adversely affect the operation of the consist at fast speeds.

I realize there is a lack of understanding about the system as you have only heard from Paul Norton and Dave Bodner on it's functionality. Neither has had the m.u. capability until today, when Dave got an update and we can do the same for Paul as soon as he can send his sample back for a day.

The constant speed requires a hardware change and will be done before full delivery. We still contend that back EMF is difficult in multi-motor units and with the triple arms in the armature. Our cruise control wil perform better and more accurately giving what back EMF is supposed to do.

Then there are future applications that will be implemented after the unit has proved workable to a wide audience, not just the advanced user. Step by step and ease of use.

While there are many commercial interests making fine products, we have found a different way to control G gauge locomotives. We look forward to getting feedback from the Beta Testers once the sample units arrive. We did not reverse engineer this concept from anyone and it's all new technology adapted to G gauge model trains. It was a 3 year exercise that took a lot of discipline and a need to fill a gap for ease of usage for a wider market.

We will have Navin and George in Springfield, Ma next week and they will demo the unit to anyone who is able to get to this train show. Also, John Mikesh will be there, but the Revolution demos are in the hands of Navin and George.

All the best,
Lewis Polk

Tips on Overheating Issues when interfacing to Phoenix:

 
Don Glassman  got the following response from Phoenix

You should not connect the trigger ground wire between the revolution and the Phoenix boards. The two grounds - Revolution and Phoenix - can have a large voltage potential between them, causing components to overheat. The differential varies between the two grounds depending upon the pulse width output of the revoution to the motors. This can be exacerbated when powering the revolution and the PB9 from the same battery. We currently recommend that you use our 3.6V battery even if you are a battery powered system. We are looking into this now.

Extras:

Dave Bodnar has made a small board to control servos from the revolution, it has somewhat limited control, a low speed and a high speed, due basically to the limited controls of the Revolution.

It's a $30 board, and had to be programmed with a TV remote control, but it's a solution for those who use the Revolution: http://www.trainelectronics.com/ART5700TrainEngineerRevolution/ServoInterface/article.htm

 

References:

(1) Lewis Polk, 12/19/2008, General Forum, thread: "Plug & Play Socket Implementation " , post #4.

(2) Lewis Polk, 12/19/2008., General Forum, thread: "Back EMF and the Revolution", post #1.

(3) Lewis Polk, 11/20/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#4.

(4) Lewis Polk, 11/25/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#20.

(5) Lewis Polk, 12/05/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#32.

(6) Lewis Polk, 12/08/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#44.

(7) Lewis Polk, 12/09/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#58.

(8) Lewis Polk, 12/12/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#69.

(9) Lewis Polk, 12/18/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#72.

(10) Lewis Polk, 12/29/2008, General Forum, thread: "New Revolution TE",  post#88.

 

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