A question about the history of MRR

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by ezdays, Mar 8, 2008.

  1. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Does anyone know when the first DC power pack and DC engine was introduced as well as the first DCC system? I've been doing some research on MRR train power and find the following:
    • 1890's, first wind-up train by Marklin
    • Early train power using a dry-cell battery (can't find date, but assuming before 1900)
    • late 1890's, first powered track using house voltage by Marklin (scary):eek:
    • 1920's, first AC power pack using low voltage (Not sure if Marklin or Lionel)
    • 1950's????, using the first DC power pack. (can't find a date or name)
    • 1990's first DCC system introduced by ????
    Any help you can give me either filling in some dates and names, or correcting some that I already have down, would be appreciated. I know some of you out there are into history more than I am, and as far as I've found, the Internet is really sketchy on historical timelines for model railroads.

  2. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    DCC existed in the 1970s...possibly earlier. They were proprietary systems so you needed to purchase all of the expensive parts from the same manufacturer (and hope they didn't go belly up).

    Malcom Furlow gave tutorials for using one of these early systems for his MR series on the San Juan Central
    Dan’s Train Blog » Malcolm Furlow’s San Juan Central

    I believe the first DCC system was from a GE subsidiary or similar.

    The DCC standards where based on Lenz's system.
  3. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I don't have a definitive answer, Don, but my first power pack, in the late-'50s, was from Scintilla. I'm still using it in my shop as the power for my test track.

    I think that DC locos appeared in the '20s, and were powered by batteries, although there were also transformers in use. Many model trains ran off AC power, using an outside third rail. My first layout used an AC transformer, in conjunction with a rheostat. :eek: I've been digging through my back issues of RMC, specifically Keith Wills' "Collector Consist" column, which deals with the history of model trains, but I can't find a date for the first true power pack.

    The GE system was called Astrac, I believe.

  4. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Yeah, I'm trying to differentiate between a battery-operated DC engine and one that ran on a DC power pack.

    I was talking to Woodone on the way to the train show today, and he kind of agreed with what nkp174 says about the first DCC system being from GE.

    I'm going to try to find something in the Model Railroader archives, but some of this stuff is before their time, although they might have something on early DC systems.

    Thanks guys,
  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    That's it!
  6. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    In my experience, the systems before the DCC standard weren't called DCC. They were "command control" (though they must have been just as digital) or even (in the early days) "carrier control".
  7. abutt

    abutt Member

    I remember Astrac. Was that really DCC? I had a small layout in 1955 and was using a power pack that I thought was Model Rectifier. Maybe Wayne was right and it was a Scintella...but I still think it was MR.
    I'll look at my old pictures.
  8. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Astrac had decoders in the tenders and allowed up to, what, 5? locomotives at once. Yes, it wasn't called DCC, but I do recall that it worked the same way (although the details were probably slightly different).
  9. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I have browsed throuh a few old model railroaders circa 1949-1950, and I have noticed many people talk about powering HO trains with car batteries. My thought is that prior to the invention of the diode, rectifying AC to DC was a little trickier. Why didn't HO trains deveop as AC like O gauge and larger? Is it because there were no small motors that could run on AC?

  10. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    My ol' man had a teeny HO layout back in the very early 50's. I still have the rolling stock he had at that time. I also have 2 locos...a 4-6-2 and a 0-4-0 as well. These are DC operated. What I also have is an old VARIAC rheostat that he used to control it. How he rectified AC to DC I don't know, nor what he used for a transformer...but working for a PhD in a physics lab he probably had access to enough hardware to do this....:mrgreen:
  11. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Yeah, the diode did change a lot of things, but prior to that there was still two ways to rectify AC that I know of, one was the rectifier, a rather large device with square fins, and then there was the rectifier tube. I had some exposure to both back in the 50's. Probably the most rectifier tubes I ever saw in once place was the original Univac computers. Univac I and II both used hundreds of blue-glowing rectifier tubes. I actually remember walking inside one down at the APS billing office in downtown Phoenix. Yes, it was about 10 feet square, and a good 8 foot high. I worked on the first solid-state Univac in 1960, no tubes, lots of diodes and transistors.

    This is one reason why I'm thinking that DC was not that widely used before the 50's.
  12. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    There was a type of vacuum tube called a diode - what did it do?
  13. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Boy, I've never heard of a tube referred to as a diode. Could be that it's a misnomer.:confused: :confused: I've heard of and used rectifier tubes though, but boy, that was a long, long time ago. I also remember selenium rectifiers in old radios and some test equipment I worked with.
  14. Roger Hensley

    Roger Hensley Member

    Yes there was a tube called a diode.
  15. abutt

    abutt Member

    A diode limits the current flow direction, right? I guess it could be any shape. I once had a neat unit that a friend gave me that controlled either current or voltage. That's when I noticed that when controlling voltage, engines wouldn't slow down on an up grade. So I kind of switched to that method of speed control. You guys are rekindling my aging mind.
  16. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    That makes sense. Using Ohm's law, P = IE, we figure that when going up a grade, an engine will draw more current, and if the power source is constant current, the voltage will decrease. If you keep the voltage constant, than the source has to supply more current and the train will run at a constant speed. You only run into trouble when the source cannot supply enough power then it ceases to regulate.

    As far as the diode tube goes, I'm not saying it didn't exist, I just have never heard of one. I've always heard them referred to as rectifier tubes. Uh, probably waaaayyy before my time...:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

    But back to my original question, was DC rail voltage common before the 50's, batteries not withstanding?
  17. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I've also heard of triodes and pentodes. I assume there were tetrodes in between. I gather it simply referred to how many terminals the tube had.
  18. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The vacuum tube diode is why we refer to those little blobs as "diodes" today.
    Basic tube had 2 metal bits in them - anode and cathode. If cathode was heated up, and a potential difference applied (voltage), electrons would fly from the cathode to the anode but not back again.
    The triode had 3 odes in it: between the cathode and the anode was a metal screen that could be hooked to power. By varying the current on this you could regulate the amount of electrons moving from cat to an. This is like a transistor.
    (Sorry if details are fuzzy; this was in Physics about 1962.)

    I remember a note in MR about the change in model rr power from 6V to 12V coming about during WW2. Not sure why -- would car batteries have been changed?
  19. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    They may have, but my '53 Chev was still on a 6 volt system. ;):-D:-D

  20. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I suppose a two-element tube (cathode and anode) could be called a diode. Three elements (add a grid), a triode and add two or three grids and you have tetrodes and pentodes. I still don't recall anything being called diodes until the solid-state diode came along, but I'm doing good remembering what I ate for breakfast though, so I shouldn't be expected to remember what I was taught some fifty years ago.:p :p I was in the transition period. I went to school and learned about vacuum tubes and started work using solid-state circuitry.:mrgreen:

    I do remember six-volt batteries in cars up though the early 60's. Again, that's a date that would escape me as well. That kind of makes me wonder, are six-volt batteries still available for vintage cars? Yeah, I shutter at the thought of calling that '57 Ford I had as "vintage", but I sure wish I had held onto it all these years.:cry:

Share This Page