Frequently asked questions
My locomotive stalls intermittently. What should I do?
"Dirty" the track some more. While we all know keeping the tracks clean using various methods like rubbing alcohol, cleaning car, etc., it eventually becomes a regular maintenance routine. What we have found instead is that the conductivity improves far more by spreading a conductive material like fine graphite over tracks than actually cleaning them! Further, once it's all over the tracks, the tracks are prevented from getting oxidized by air, micro sparks, etc. leading to a longer lasting effect such that you don't have to do it again and again that often. See the links below for more info:
https://trenoincasa.forumfree.it/?t=75814497&st=15#entry623114655. This page is in Italian. You may want to use Google Chrome translator to translate to other languages.
Make the wheels smooth and shiny. This is especially true with sintered wheels of Athearn BB types. Read the following wonderful link (there's a link to even more wonderful video in there by the author) and run your loco on graphited track (see above) for ultimate results: http://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/16333
If you are still having issues, the next weak chain in the link is the pickup wipers or the contact points from the wheels all the way to the soldered wire joint. For such cases, the best solution is to use a drop of conductive lube at such joints after cleaning them thoroughly. This will ensure that even if there is something loose in that assembly, the conductive lube will keep it conducting.
I get loud static buzzing from speaker as soon as power is connected. What is going on?
Are you using an older DC power pack? Some older power packs put out what is called "rectified AC" which is not pure or "clean" DC. We highly recommend using a high amperage "clean" voltage regulated power supply to achieve maximum performance. Alternatively, a suitable electrolytic capacitor at the output of the "rectified AC" power supply can filter out most of the "noise". Please watch this video to learn more on how to do this.
I have tried multiple times but can't add my loco to the network. Why?
Why did my sounds stop working suddenly after a 'Factory Reset'?
Take the microSD card out. See how to here: Replacing microSD card. WARNING: Please make sure that the module is not powered during the entire time working with the microSD card. Please power off the module before taking the card out and power it back up only after the microSD has been properly seated and its cover locked in place.
After plugging it into the computer (you may need to use the supplied SD card adapter), copy the contents of the microSD over to a temporary folder on your computer.
Download the SD Formatter software from here: https://www.sdcard.org/downloads/formatter/. Use ' Overwrite format' option while formatting the microSD.
Copy the files from the temporary folder back onto the microSD.
Replace and lock the microSD back on the module.
How do I find out the polarity of a LED?
Scenario 1: Included LEDs - LocoFi comes included with some spare LEDs with leads. There's two ways to identify the polarity (see picture below)
1. The longer lead is positive (anode).
2. If viewed from top, the flatter side is negative (cathode).
How do I isolate the motor?
DC powered locos get their power directly from the track to the motor. The locomotive speed is controlled by varying the voltage/current on the track. This is evident in the brigtness of the ligts that changes when the speed varies. Motor isolation is essentially cutting off the power to motor going from the tracks.
When we install LocoFi™ decoder module, we are handing over the motor control to it. The decoder module will in turn get the power from the tracks / rails and the motor will be programatically controlled by the microcontroller unit present on the baord. This opens up a whole set of possibilities the way you can make your locomotive run.
There's many ways do it depending on the wiring inside the locomotive. First step is to find out how the current is flowing all the way from right track to left track passing through the motor. Second step is to determine which point the power to the motor be cut off. This may involve some out of the box thinking. It must be done in a manner so that the track power can susequently be easily fed into the decoder and the motor output wires from the decoder easily feed into the motor. While there may be patterns around doing it for each locomotive type manufactured in a particular era, it is next to impossible to document all the various types. We strive to produce video content demonstrating the same as and when possible. Please check out videos section to see how this is done in some most pupular types e.g. the old blue box Athearn, Tyco, etc. Also, please check back regularly or subscribe to our YouTube channel to get periodic updates as and when new content is published.
How is LocoFi™ different from DCC?
LocoFi™ and DCC are completely different technologies as explained below:
a. DC powered tracks (9V – 24V “clean” DC).
b. DCC powered tracks.
c. Battery power whether onboard (dead rail) or powering the track.
How does LocoFi™ work?
LocoFi™ is an ecosystem that consists of:
a. LocoFi™ modules with powerful hardware and firmware with onboard customizable sound that you install in your locomotive, and
b. LocoFi™ app that you run on your smartphone to control the locomotive
What do I need for the set up?
- Install the LocoFi™ module in your loco. You will need to solder 7 wires (or get them done). Detailed instructions and install videos are provided. We are always available via e-mail/chat for any further help. Bonus: you don't need to wire your layout.
You will need power for your locomotive, clean (NOT pulsed) DC, DCC track power or battery. See our other FAQ -> Troubleshooting to learn how to clean "pulsed" power.
(Optional) An access point (or home router) if you want to set up a network of locomotives or need extended range ( internet connection not required). For a single loco to be managed from one device, you can go direct WiFi i.e. straight from your smartphone to your locomotive (no router needed). In case you don't have one, most can be purchased for less than $25.
Your smartphone or tablet as a throttle. Again, in case you don't have one, most Android or FireOS devices can be purchased for less than $50. No cellular connection required.
Occassional internet connection to only download the app ( FREE) and subsequent updates ( internet connection NOT required to run the trains).
Is LocoFi™ a proprietary system?
You need a $1,000 phone to control trains! What a bargain!
A phone is a phone! You can't replace a handheld train controller with a phone.
Why WiFi (and not Bluetooth)?
- WiFi and Bluetooth are two wireless technologies that both operate on the 2.4GHz spectrum but the underlying protocol is very different.
- Bluetooth was invented specifically for exchanging data over short distances while WiFi was intended as a replacement for wired LAN (Local Area Network or Ethernet).
- Bluetooth is meant for exchanging small amounts of data only.
- Bluetooth speeds are much slower than WiFi. Think video transfer (Bluetooth can't support it).
- Since WiFi is a wireless extension of the internet, it seamlessly ties into IoT. Think about cloud and the ability to run your trains on a remote layout (even across the world) or stream your cab video to the world.
- Only WiFi can handle a large network (think internet) of locos very easily (though you can run direct WiFi too that feels like Bluetooth but with much higher speeds).
Can I use battery (aka deadrail) to power LocoFi™?
Why are LocoFi™ NMRA color coded wires not DCC compatible?
Why can't LocoFi™ modules plug into the 8 pin connectors on the DCC ready boards?
Can I use LocoFi™ for any other scale but HO?
Can LocoFi™ work with AC?
Can commercially available supercapacitor solutions work with LocoFi™?
Yes. While the much awaited Amrit™ is delayed, currently commercially available 3rd party "charging from the track" can work equally well. Be it a battery based or supercapacitor based, as long as you put them in series at the output of a bridge rectifier and ensure that the rated voltage at the track isn't exceeded, they can do the job. Please see the wiring diagram below for reference.
What's the range of the WiFi signal?
Will LocoFi™ work inside a metal enclosure?
Does LocoFi work with Amazon Fire devices?
Yes. It is supported on all compatible versions of FireOS that is supported in Android. For Android, we currently support 5.0+. Please see Fire Tablet Device Specifications to see compatible Fire devices and FireOS versions.