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Offline Donb  
#1 Posted : 23 December 2022 19:43:04(UTC)
Donb

Canada   
Joined: 03/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 269
Location: Fraser Valley
Hi all

Is there a better quality controller available for z scale then the maerklin controller?
I'm looking for one with more fine voltage control, a vernier control.
The Rokuhan controllers look better quality, but are they?
Best Regards,
Don
___________________________________________________________________________________
IB2 + Mfu Modul, C track and Z scale, mostly DB/DR and SBB, SJ
Offline Zme  
#2 Posted : 24 December 2022 04:53:17(UTC)
Zme

United States   
Joined: 02/10/2013(UTC)
Posts: 611
Location: West Texas
Hello, hope all is well.

I assume you would be sticking with analog operations for now.

I cannot say that I have any experience with GaugeMaster products, but many here say they are some of the best available. Perhaps a few owners will chime in to tell you more about their controllers.

I know these do not ship to the US, but perhaps they do ship to your location. Since they are unavailable to me, I deleted my link to their website, but I am certain you can easily find it.

Take good care, enjoy your holidays!

Dwight
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Offline Carim  
#3 Posted : 24 December 2022 09:46:19(UTC)
Carim

United Kingdom   
Joined: 15/09/2014(UTC)
Posts: 619
Location: London
I use the Gaugemaster controllers and I think they are excellent. I first tried out the GMC-PZ which controls one train and simulates inertia. I liked it so much, that I got rid of my other two Märklin 67013.s and replaced them with a GMC-DZ (twin track controller). I think that they give out some sort of pulse that just seems to flick older locos' motors a bit to start them off - so you can creep off at a lower speed than when using the Märklin controllers.

Carim

P.S. I just phoned Gaugemaster for you guys - unfortunately, they do not sell any of the cased controllers (those that have an internal transformer) to the US or Canada - it's because of the different voltage. The best that they could do is sell you the Australian version of the "Combi" controller (that needs a separate transformer) - but that's not specifically designed for Z. Crying

I suppose you could try one of their panel mounted controllers and add your own transformer - but I have no idea how that would work. For reference: https://www.gaugemasterretail.com
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Offline Marklineisenbahn  
#4 Posted : 24 December 2022 15:35:03(UTC)
Marklineisenbahn

United States   
Joined: 14/05/2011(UTC)
Posts: 153
Location: New York City
Hallo,

Quote…” P.S. I just phoned Gaugemaster for you guys - unfortunately, they do not sell any of the cased controllers (those that have an internal transformer) to the US or Canada - it's because of the different voltage.…” End of Quote by Carim

So Why not use dedicated Gaugemaster Z controler meant for 220 with Converter 115 V to 220 Volt ?
I have been using such with Märklin 220 Vol Trafos which arrived in Starter Set for European market.
Regards,
Märklineisenbahn
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Offline Donb  
#5 Posted : 24 December 2022 17:04:58(UTC)
Donb

Canada   
Joined: 03/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 269
Location: Fraser Valley
Hi,

Thanks for the great replies, I have sent a detailed email to Gaugemaster and await their reply. I like the Combi as it suits the portable nature of my layout, but as you say it is not specifically for Z Sale, so I have asked about that. I do have a 220v Step up trans as well.
No responses yet from someone who has the Rokuhan controller, hoping for a reply.
Merry Christmas to all!
Best Regards,
Don
___________________________________________________________________________________
IB2 + Mfu Modul, C track and Z scale, mostly DB/DR and SBB, SJ
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Offline husafreak  
#6 Posted : 24 December 2022 21:17:51(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
Let us know how the step up trans works with the Guagemaster. I would want a comparison to the ones I have used before committing to the expense of one with a transformer. I also contacted them and learned they will not do a 115v version years ago. I’m pretty sure I asked them about using a step up trans at that time and was told that I would be in uncharted territory there, no promises as to how it would work in practice. I passed.
I have used Rokuhan, Snail Speed, and Marklin. Snail speed is great to have one on hand for test but not comfortable for me to use. Also on a 9v battery they are underpowered. Maybe installing them in a panel would be nice.
Rokuhan RC-02 is very nice to use and fantastic with their own locos but the current protection feature can be a real PITA with older Marklin locos, and some of the new ones too! Self protection amperage shutoff at 0.9A is not uncommon and a couple of my new “bell shaped armature” locos would run at low speed even with the throttle closed. This due to the small current the RC-02 puts out to keep the lights on while parked with their own brand locos.
I settled on Marklin controllers and searched for the older non wall wart ones on auction because they just work. Very reliable for making locos move ;) As you know the drawback is course throttle with obvious speed steps.
A controller I have yet to try is the MRC Railpower 1300. It has to be modified for Z though, full throttle it will fry a Z scale motor, a simple mechanical stop at 2:00 will do it, or you can buy them already modified from Z Scale Monster in the US.
There is a lot of discussion on controllers if you dig around!
Not many of us run Marklin locos DCC, I don’t, all my European stuff is DC. But my American and Canadian stuff is all converted to DCC and it is wonderful to have that kind of throttle control and reliability. I would love to have that from a DC (analog) controller.

Edited by user 28 December 2022 21:18:06(UTC)  | Reason: RC-02 clarification

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Offline husafreak  
#7 Posted : 24 December 2022 21:19:52(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
I forgot about the NOCH panel mount controller. Never had one and back when I was asking availability was an issue, but I think they are available again.
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Offline Donb  
#8 Posted : 26 December 2022 17:50:19(UTC)
Donb

Canada   
Joined: 03/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 269
Location: Fraser Valley
Hi,

I had a nice reply from Frank at Z Scale Hobo, he warmly recc the Snail Speed, even though he doesn't sell it, so I ordered one to try from ZTrack as it is reasonably priced.
I have a reply from GaugeMaster, I told them I had a stepup trans so they recc all of their 230 vac transformers, and the Noch panel mounts.
Does anyone have the Noch installed? How are they for slow speed controll or is the throttle controll coarse, with speed steps, like the Maerklin? That would be a good permanent solution for me as I can panel mount into my small layout frame.
Cheers!
Best Regards,
Don
___________________________________________________________________________________
IB2 + Mfu Modul, C track and Z scale, mostly DB/DR and SBB, SJ
Offline husafreak  
#9 Posted : 26 December 2022 17:55:21(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
Well, I think Frank would have been the one to ask about NOCH controllers, maybe call him back ;)
I think you will like the little Snail Speed controller though, for a small or portable layout that would be perfect, if a bit fiddly to operate…
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Offline Mman  
#10 Posted : 27 December 2022 19:07:18(UTC)
Mman

United Kingdom   
Joined: 23/05/2021(UTC)
Posts: 241
Location: England, Guildford
DDF6D5C1-494C-4600-92D2-2DE1E5E3E56D.jpeg

As I recently wrote on this forum the Rokuhan RC03 controller is much better suited to older Märklin locos than the original RC01 because of its higher power output. The RC03 is great to use with the added capability of using it with internally housed AA batteries if away from the mains.
Any controller that outputs higher than 10V can be safely used with Z gauge by using pairs of diodes in series between the output terminal and the track. For each pair of diodes you lose 0.6 V , so four pairs reduce by 2.4V and if you were using. 12V output controller you would have a maximum of 9.6V at the rails.

ChrisG
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Offline husafreak  
#11 Posted : 28 December 2022 21:12:35(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
Interesting, I have never seen the old RC01 controller so to be more specific I was referring to the RC02 or RC03 controllers. According to Rokuhan they share the same specs, the RC03 adds features like turnout switches. On Rokuhan.com website they specify them as delivering 900 mAh at 10 volts max.
I bought a pack of those diodes a while back to try with an MRC controller before I found out that I could also buy a modified controller from Z Scale Monster. In any event I got used to the Marklin 67271 controllers and never got an MRC.
Offline Mman  
#12 Posted : 28 December 2022 22:38:40(UTC)
Mman

United Kingdom   
Joined: 23/05/2021(UTC)
Posts: 241
Location: England, Guildford
Visually the old RC01 and 03 controllers look the same. I had trouble with the RC01 tripping out with old 3 pole motors and double heading with 5 pole ones. I have not had any tripping with the RC03, even double heading. If a Z gauge loco is drawing more than 900 mA it won’t last long - there will be something seriously wrong with it!
I use the RC03 mainly on my test track which happens to have Rokuhan track but have modified leads to use it with other layouts, although for them I use Märklin controllers with centre off control knobs.
ChrisG
Offline Donb  
#13 Posted : 08 January 2023 17:47:55(UTC)
Donb

Canada   
Joined: 03/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 269
Location: Fraser Valley
Hi all

I had purchased the snail speed controller and I'm very happy with it. It has excellent slow speed control, and the start-stop button has acceleration braking delay which is very nice. The speed potentiometer has a nice quality feel to it making slow speed control adjustments very precise. Both old and new locomotives have nice slow speed control now. The 9-volt battery didn't last very long maybe a few hours, but that's really designed for maybe a small suitcase lay out that only is run intermittently. I had ordered the AC adapter and that is what I use now. All in all a nice product!
IMG_20230107_101613497_HDR.jpg
Best Regards,
Don
___________________________________________________________________________________
IB2 + Mfu Modul, C track and Z scale, mostly DB/DR and SBB, SJ
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Offline husafreak  
#14 Posted : 08 January 2023 20:31:43(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
Yup, they are nice little controllers with features and power delivery that have your DC trains running like DCC. The wall wart will make it better, a little more power output and no gradual loss of power like with the little 9v batteries. I decided to get an MRC, the modified one, just to try. Don’t have it yet.
Offline Donb  
#15 Posted : 08 January 2023 21:18:03(UTC)
Donb

Canada   
Joined: 03/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 269
Location: Fraser Valley
Originally Posted by: husafreak Go to Quoted Post
Yup, they are nice little controllers with features and power delivery that have your DC trains running like DCC. The wall wart will make it better, a little more power output and no gradual loss of power like with the little 9v batteries. I decided to get an MRC, the modified one, just to try. Don’t have it yet.


Hi,

Be sure to let us know how it works out that sounds interesting.
I've been thinking about taking apart the m a e r k l i n controller and seeing what they're using for a potentiometer/rheostat. Perhaps a simple improvement could be made to that component to improve the performance slow speed.
Best Regards,
Don
___________________________________________________________________________________
IB2 + Mfu Modul, C track and Z scale, mostly DB/DR and SBB, SJ
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Offline swedishmike  
#16 Posted : 09 January 2023 17:45:57(UTC)
swedishmike

United Kingdom   
Joined: 03/01/2023(UTC)
Posts: 11
Location: England, Didcot
Originally Posted by: Carim Go to Quoted Post
I use the Gaugemaster controllers and I think they are excellent. I first tried out the GMC-PZ which controls one train and simulates inertia. I liked it so much, that I got rid of my other two Märklin 67013.s and replaced them with a GMC-DZ (twin track controller). I think that they give out some sort of pulse that just seems to flick older locos' motors a bit to start them off - so you can creep off at a lower speed than when using the Märklin controllers.

Carim

P.S. I just phoned Gaugemaster for you guys - unfortunately, they do not sell any of the cased controllers (those that have an internal transformer) to the US or Canada - it's because of the different voltage. The best that they could do is sell you the Australian version of the "Combi" controller (that needs a separate transformer) - but that's not specifically designed for Z. Crying

I suppose you could try one of their panel mounted controllers and add your own transformer - but I have no idea how that would work. For reference: https://www.gaugemasterretail.com


Hi Carim,

Sorry to hijack this thread but I'm sort of on topic in my question.

When you swapped your 67103's for the GMC-DZ did you have any turnouts (8568/8569) etc connected to the original controllers? If so - how did you wire them up to the Gaugemaster?

TIA!

Offline Carim  
#17 Posted : 10 January 2023 11:53:41(UTC)
Carim

United Kingdom   
Joined: 15/09/2014(UTC)
Posts: 619
Location: London
Originally Posted by: swedishmike Go to Quoted Post
did you have any turnouts (8568/8569) etc connected to the original controllers? If so - how did you wire them up to the Gaugemaster?

TIA!



I just used the uncontrolled 9V DC output and linked that to the switches I am using to operate the turnouts.

Carim

Offline swedishmike  
#18 Posted : 10 January 2023 12:17:18(UTC)
swedishmike

United Kingdom   
Joined: 03/01/2023(UTC)
Posts: 11
Location: England, Didcot
Originally Posted by: Carim Go to Quoted Post


I just used the uncontrolled 9V DC output and linked that to the switches I am using to operate the turnouts.

Carim



Sorry for bombarding you with basic questions - I'm trying to catch up as quickly as possible here without frying too much of my kit.

Currently I have the two blue cables from my turnouts going to one connection (red/green) each on a 72720 control box. The 72720 in turn is going back to the 'gray' connector on the Marklin controller. Then there's the yellow cable from the turnout that goes to a 72090 distribution strip, which goes back to the 'yellow' connector on the Marklin controller.

That is working for me - not sure if it that is actually how it's supposed to be connected, but it works.. Laugh

The GMC-DZ that I got on order apparently have one uncontrolled 9V DC and one uncontrolled 12V AC. In your setup, do you have both the 72720 and 72090 going back to the 9V output or is your setup different?

Once again - sorry about what must be very basic questions, but if I don't ask I'll never learn.



Offline Carim  
#19 Posted : 10 January 2023 17:26:52(UTC)
Carim

United Kingdom   
Joined: 15/09/2014(UTC)
Posts: 619
Location: London
No problem - I will PM you.

Carim
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Offline husafreak  
#20 Posted : 29 January 2023 18:33:23(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
I received the MTL (Micro Trains Line) modified MRC Railpower 1300 controller and played with it a bit. First operating impressions are very favorable. It is a very smooth running throttle!
It is larger and lower than the Marklin or Rokuhan controllers with the nice weight of an older Marklin. No wall wart here, rather a big transformer. It does have a toylike look and the MTL sticker does nothing to improve that. Like the Rokuhan it has a forward/reverse switch. Personally I like that the Marklin does not. It also has an on/off switch on the front which is nice. It uses screw terminals on the side for connections. The knob has a nice smooth feel. The MTL modification is a bit amateurish. It's just a 2.5mm Socket head screw sticking out of the knob which hits another screw in the panel to restrict the output to 10V. But they are correctly placed and the MTL sticker has voltage markings so it is kind of nice to know wherever you position the knob how many volts are delivered to the rails. It does not have big speed "steps" like my Marklin 67271 controllers. My BR89 ran surprisingly smoothly at all speeds with this throttle. I felt a very precise and connected feeling of positive control.
So far I just ran a BR89 5 pole motor steam loco to check it out. The voltage drop when running is about 1V. So, if I measure a 5V output at the controller with no loco on the track and then place the BR89 on the track and set 5V again it now measures about 4V. The voltage values on the controller sticker are with no load. The sticker at 10V is precise but the physical stop is 10.3V Again note that when the loco is running WFO the voltage is bouncing around but never more than 9.6V and averaging less. I am looking forward to trying this controller with a variety of locos.
Now if I could only get a Marklin style throttle with no wall wart and the performance of this MRC I would be in heaven!
I did not compare it to the Snail Speed controller because I feel that is a very different kind of beast.
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Offline Poor Skeleton  
#21 Posted : 29 January 2023 21:20:56(UTC)
Poor Skeleton

United Kingdom   
Joined: 09/10/2015(UTC)
Posts: 490
Location: England, Cambridge
Originally Posted by: husafreak Go to Quoted Post
I received the MTL (Micro Trains Line) modified MRC Railpower 1300 controller and played with it a bit. First operating impressions are very favorable. It is a very smooth running throttle!
It is larger and lower than the Marklin or Rokuhan controllers


I was quite obsessed with controllers for a while and did quite a bit of background research before rebuilding my controller set up. What I learned in the process is :

- Often what would be regarded as a good quality power supply (low ripple, good regulation) doesn't give the best control. The Marklin controller meets this brief, but doesn't give good low speed control as you have found. (It also has rather course speed increments, but that's another matter! The compromise they have made in this respect is to allow direction to be controlled from the one rotary control. Engineering really is a game of trade-offs!) Conversely the Gaugemaster controls feature a lot of ripple, but give excellent low speed control because of it and are also quite sensitive to load
- Output voltages are very nominal. Many controllers are unregulated and the available voltage is directly dependent upon the mains voltage - so potentially subject to a variation of +/-10%. So it's quite possible a nominally 10V controller could give out 11V. Early Marklin controllers were like this, I believe, so it's nothing to get excessively paranoid about.
- More important than the voltage is the wave shape. Many controllers (and probably all of the ones that will give reasonable slow speed control) have a peak voltage that is higher than the average a multi-meter will show you and it is the level of this peak that is potentially hazardous. This is where having a product that the manufacturer is comfortable to state it's suitable for Z scale is helpful.
- Selling a product internationally is full of problems. Just about every county has its own set of safety requirements which each cost several thousands of dollars to have tested and certified so it's not unusual for a manufacturer not to have products tested in countries where they feel the market is inadequate to justify the cost. Often (usually) their products will perform equally as well once the difference in mains voltage has been taken into account.
- It's hard to believe when you're spending over $100 for a controller, but it's hard to manufacture something that works at that price level. The actual parts cost is probably very low but once everyone in the distribution chain has made their margin it's quite an expensive purchase for you. It's actually quite trivial to design a controller that gives all of the operational characteristics we'd want (i.e. good slow speed control and direction control on the one dial) but there would be an increase in cost that would manufacturers would fear would deter potential buyers. Unfortunately the investment in bringing a new controller to market is such that manufacturers don't want to take any risks.

All this aside (and I realise I've gone on a bit, I'm sorry) I'm glad you have a controller you're 90% happy with. I'll check it out as it sounds interesting. Though probably not available here in the UK!

All the best


Chris




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Offline husafreak  
#22 Posted : 29 January 2023 23:19:28(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
You go Chris! Love the long answers where I can learn something.
My question for you is why does the controller voltage measure differently (less) when a locomotive is running? I'll assume that since the marks printed on the unit are accurate with an empty track then that is how they are specified and if MTL, for example, says to limit their locos to 10V they mean 10V without a loco driven. But what does the loco see? The 10V on the throttle dial or the fluctuating 9V measured while it is running?
I do not really fret over the voltage limit too much. I rarely run my locos anywhere near full throttle and I doubt the occasional exeedence would be damaging. Now 16V might do some damage!
I got the MTL modified MRC from Zscalemonster here in the states, $65 for it or $52 for the unmodified version is very reasonable for us in USD. Used Marklin 67271 controllers go for more than that on eBay. That I like it so much is a problem ;) I would certainly consider putting the guts from these into a panel on a really nice layout someday. The big steps of the Marklin controller are not very scale like.
Offline Poor Skeleton  
#23 Posted : 30 January 2023 22:07:42(UTC)
Poor Skeleton

United Kingdom   
Joined: 09/10/2015(UTC)
Posts: 490
Location: England, Cambridge
Originally Posted by: husafreak Go to Quoted Post
You go Chris! Love the long answers where I can learn something.
My question for you is why does the controller voltage measure differently (less) when a locomotive is running? I'll assume that since the marks printed on the unit are accurate with an empty track then that is how they are specified and if MTL, for example, says to limit their locos to 10V they mean 10V without a loco driven. But what does the loco see? The 10V on the throttle dial or the fluctuating 9V measured while it is running?
I do not really fret over the voltage limit too much. I rarely run my locos anywhere near full throttle and I doubt the occasional exeedence would be damaging. Now 16V might do some damage!
I got the MTL modified MRC from Zscalemonster here in the states, $65 for it or $52 for the unmodified version is very reasonable for us in USD. Used Marklin 67271 controllers go for more than that on eBay. That I like it so much is a problem ;) I would certainly consider putting the guts from these into a panel on a really nice layout someday. The big steps of the Marklin controller are not very scale like.


A real controller isn't a pure voltage source, but has some resistance is series with it. With no current draw the voltage dropped across that resistance will be zero, but as current is drawn (by putting a loco on the track, for example) that will develop a voltage across that internal resistance leaving less on the track. Things are often even more complicated as the rectifier inside the controller and smoothing capacitors (if the controller has them) cause a non-linear dependency on the load. Some controllers compensate for this by actively monitoring their output voltage and applying a correcting factor (the current Marklin controller is such a beast). However this isn't always such a good thing as we know - the performance of the Marklin controller is really quite poor! You can be pretty confident that the voltage on load will be less than off load, though!

In reality, most controllers are really quite crude (this is true of the Gaugemaster, too) and the voltage applied to the rails isn't well controller at all, so any voltage levels are best not to be taken too literally!

I mentioned the shape of the waveform, and this is very important - for example a 100V signal that is on for 10ms and off for 90ms is, on average, 10V. However the power developed into a load (i.e. a motor) will be very different. Let's assume the motor winding resistance is 100 Ohms. A pure 10V signal will produce (V x V /R) = 10 x 10 /100 = 1W of power the 100V signal on 10% of the time (still 10V on average) will produce 100 x 100 /100 = 100W, but as it's only on for 10% of the time, the average power is 1/10 of this, i.e. 10W. Which is to say 10 times that of a pure DC supply.

Of course this is a huge simplification, once the motor starts turning tit generates a back EMF, for example, but you can easily see why pulse mode controllers can damage locomotives if their peak voltage is too high.

Hope that is of some help - this is a huge subject and my knowledge of it is really quite surperficial!

Cheers


Chris
Offline husafreak  
#24 Posted : 30 January 2023 23:58:06(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
Thanks, for me that is about the right amount of information ;) it also helps me to understand why these different controllers behave differently.
Offline husafreak  
#25 Posted : 31 January 2023 19:39:55(UTC)
husafreak

United States   
Joined: 09/04/2019(UTC)
Posts: 502
Location: California, Bay Area
There is an interesting HO thread about step up transformers, someone there wants to use a 110 to 220V step up for a Marklin controller in the USA. The crazy thing is we all have 220-240V available here. We use it for our washers and dryers, car charging, etc. One poster suggests that wiring up an outlet in the house "train room" is easily done. Anyway, I guess that would be another option if you could smuggle a Guagemaster into the country ;)
Offline Donb  
#26 Posted : 24 February 2023 18:19:01(UTC)
Donb

Canada   
Joined: 03/04/2013(UTC)
Posts: 269
Location: Fraser Valley
Hi all

I finally got around to working on the m a r k l i n controller to try and figure out why I got such poor slow speed control.
It's an interesting controller as you will see in the photos. No potentiometer or rheostat but instead a simple circuit board and contactor set.
It's an interesting study to see how it works.
I examined the contacts and found that one of the contacts in the upper left of the close-up photo had some white powdery residue on the contact. So I cleaned all the contacts with isopropyl alcohol and clean the circuit board. I reassembled it and it functions terrifically! Very nice slow speed control now. If it had function like this from the start I may not have purchased the snail speed controller. But I'm still happy that I did buy it as it is excellent.
IMG_20230223_112223380.jpgIMG_20230223_121349910.jpgIMG_20230223_111958981.jpgIMG_20230223_111946211.jpg
Best Regards,
Don
___________________________________________________________________________________
IB2 + Mfu Modul, C track and Z scale, mostly DB/DR and SBB, SJ
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Offline Toosmall  
#27 Posted : 24 February 2023 22:04:11(UTC)
Toosmall

Australia   
Joined: 26/07/2021(UTC)
Posts: 445
Location: Sydney
I have 6 of the original blue controllers, a second generation and a third generation controller. Have never done a comparison test on all my locos (all 3 pole motors) as the two latter controllers were basically bought as spares.

I have a custom designed controller which can move the loco by the mm (designed by an electronic expert). The loco sounded horrible moving at more than mm speed, but it was brilliant at this slow speed, but stopped using it.

I basically run trains around a long loop. Not interested in shunting. Not really a Z gauge thing as far as I am concerned.
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