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Thread: HO locomotive voltage

  1. Default HO locomotive voltage

    Hi all,
    I have a couple locomotives that I want to use in experimenting with battery power. What voltage do older HO (Athearn) locomotives use?


  2. Default

    It is by varying the voltage that you change the speed of the DC locomotives. High end would be around 16 V, but I wouldn't run them at that level for long.

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    A 9 volt 'transistor' battery, the square one, would do a good job for a while, particularly a lithium one, and especially a rechargeable one. As Chip points out, though, unless you can dial up and down on that voltage, as soon as you throw a switch, you get instant speed and a brief spinning of the drivers as the engine struggles to get up to the commensurate speed. Hardly a good way to run a train if you ask me.

    Also, you would need enough batteries in parallel to get enough amperage to run a train of a decent size, especially with stiff truck axles, curves, and grades impeding forward motion...or rearward for that matter.

    When I was building my current layout four years ago, I had a small diorama wired to a single 9v battery. It made the DCC sound system come on, but it wasn't enough to make the engine, a Lionel HO Challenger, begin to move down the 10" of track left in front of it. So, while you may have the volts, you won't have enough in reserve in the way of amperage to make the engine move....maybe just nudge forward a bit, but that's all.


  4. #4


    I saw a new battery operated HO set at a train show about 3 years ago. This guy was trying to market the system he had invented about 5 years ago. He was looking for money to help his invention. About a month ago I was looking for him on the internet(Googled). I found his sight & emailed him about his battery powered engines. He still hadn't perfected the system yet & was still looking for money.
    If you go online & search for battery operated HO scale trains you will probably find him.
    He had put all of the batteries in the tender of a steam engine & 2 pass. cars right behind that. it would only run his trains for about 10 mins. before it had to be charged. The charging took about 3 hrs. ea. time, if I remember correctly. I think it's going to be some time before someone comes up w/an easy to use system like w/LGB.

    (This is the only Video left of my Train layout before I took it apart in 2012)

  5. Default

    Thanks for the replies.
    I tested out a 9-volt battery, and it barely made the engine move. However, my layout is rather small, and it's a point-to-point, so not much pulling power is needed. It's just that I don't want to fork it out for a new transformer, and wind-up clockwork trains just don't appeal to me.

    Oh well, I guess I'll figure something out.

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    You can pick up a used train set transformer for about $5 on eBay or a garage sale (or your hobby shop) for about $5.

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    I don't know enough about electricity to say this is possible, but you can have two batteries wired in parallel on a small bit of plywood with wires stapled as a jumper set onto the plywood. You tape the two batteries, figure out how to get the wires to stay at the poles and also so that the two are in parallel (NOT series!!!). The part I'm not sure of is that if you have an unused rheostat, or a dimmer, you could use that to control the voltage to the rails. It could be that the typical ones we use on the walls for lights are engineered for a narrow voltage range...not sure about that.


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    Some years ago I powered a layout with 2 car batteries wired in parallel with a rheostat between the batteries and the layout. By turning the rheostat I could vary the trains speed. However if there's a derailment the sparks will fly! The batteries put 12 volts at over 600 amps! I burned a wheel off of more than one loco and had to replace a few track sections also. Also the batteries have to be kept in a well ventilated area as they put off hydrogen gas, especially dangerous when they're being recharged.
    Dr Frankendiesel -- aka -- Running Bear
    Collector of Apple //e's
    15 year veteran fire fighter
    Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out of it alive.
    beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam

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    9V batteries are 9V but due to their construction can not output enough current to run a motor of a model. the only thing they can be used is to test if an engine is alive - make it twitch but nothing more.

    instead of spending 5$ on disposable tyco power pack how about make a "serious" investment of ~20 and get MRC techII supply or such. much nicer supply
    Anton. and his useless page

    My layout progress
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    Track Planning for RealisticOperation - The only essential MRR book (IMHO)

    What can i say, i love editing my posts

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