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  • What's the range of the WiFi signal?
    The range of the WiFi signal is determined by the transmit power, the receiver sensitivity and any RF signal attenuating obstacles in its path. FCC regulates the transmit power while the receiver sensitivity can be increased by adding external antenna. Clear line of sight can easily give range upto 300 ft. But hey, why bother with these worries when you can simply setup a mesh network of access points and take the signal with you wherever you go. It's that simple! Really!
  • Why WiFi (and not Bluetooth)?
    The decision about using WiFi vs Bluetooth for communication was the first in the early design phases of LocoFi™. 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 invented as a replacement for wired LAN (Local Area Network). Bluetooth is meant for exchanging small amounts of data only. Bluetooth speeds are much slower than WiFi. Bluetooth speeds are much slower than WiFi. Think first person video transfer from the cab of your loco. Bluetooth can't support it. You get much more extended range with WiFi. Setup a "mesh" network and the range is virtually unlimited. Only WiFi can handle a large network of locos (think internet). IPv4 Class A networks can theoretically support billions of devices. The newer IPv6 supports virually limitless number of devices. Imagine a single network of all the locos in the world and you choose whatever train you want to run on your choice of layout (now we are dreaming) :-) 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. With technologies like VPN, you can be remote yet operate a layout as if you were present there. As you can see, Bluetooth is essentially useful to connect nearby devices to exchange small amounts of data, for example in your car or your headset. It was in fact invented to serve that purpose. WiFi, on the other hand was invented to serve as an extension of the TCP/IP based networking protocols, that is internet. Still not convinced. Google "WiFi vs Bluetooth". Once you see what each technology is capable of, it will be easy to see why WiFi is better suited over Bluetooth for model railroading operations.
  • Can LocoFi™ work with AC?
    Most electronics need DC power supply. Even a DCC decoder rectifies the DCC signal to draw power for its operations. So, yes, AC can be rectified, filtered and fed to the LocoFi™ module. There are two ways this can be achieved. One, put the bridge rectifier and the filter capacitor with the LocoFi™ module in the loco shell. However, the filter capacitor is usually a large component that may not fit inside the shell of a HO scale loco. It may be more feasible in S scale and O scale (or any larger scale). The other way is to rectify and filter the AC power supply before it's fed to the tracks. That way, it's very similar to running on older "pulsed" power supplies (see our FAQ -> Troubleshooting -> 02). This means that no other AC only operated trains can be run simultaneously on the same track.
  • Can I use battery (aka deadrail) to power LocoFi™?
    Yes. Absolutely. Since the LocoFi™ module can be powered by DC, a battery qualifies as a very good source of DC. While we do not sell batteries (at least not yet), if you have a battery pack rated for anywhere between 9V - 24V powering the module directly, the LocoFi™ module will perform flawlessly without even any concerns for dirty track. In fact, minimum operating voltage for LocoFi™ 3 (DULLHB) is 7V and can easily run off of 2S LiPo. Please check out our videos of a LocoFi™ equipped locomotive operating with power from an onboard battery and another video showing a track powered by a battery.
  • 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.
  • Will LocoFi™ work inside a metal enclosure?
    Short answer. Yes but the range might be limited. Long answer. As long as there is some opening where the RF signal can leak through, there will be no issues. However, the range may be limited. It's similar to how much your eye can see depending on the amount of light available or just like when talking on your phone your cellular signal drops when you walk inside some buildings. We've performed laboratory tests by enclosing the entire module in aluminium foil based containers and as we created small openings, it worked just fine. In fact, the WiFi microcontroller itself is enclosed in a metal case (to avoid external RF interference) and only the PCB antenna is exposed for transmission and receiving data. See below:
  • Can I use LocoFi™ for any other scale but HO?
    Let's look at a LocoFi™ modules as a devices with different sizes and capabilities especially the motor current rating. Please check out the technical specs of each module for details. Then look at your requirements. If you find a LocoFi™ module that matches your requirements (size, current rating, etc.), then it's good fit. It's true that we mention "for HO" in some of our product titles but that's just there to emphasize the best suited size and current rating for a typical HO scale loco. Obviously, a smaller size can always fit inside a larger scale loco and vice versa too in some limited cases. In fact, LocoFi™ powers our customers' equipment of all scales from N, HO, OO, On30, S, O and G. As we release more optimized versions for other scales, they will have their own specific "best suited for" scale mentioned in the product title. Also note that barring things like dimensions, current rating, sound output volume, etc., all LocoFi™ products still work on the same underlying technology with a single application controller app. You may as well be operating a G scale and an HO scale loco running on two different layouts at the same time as long as they are added to the same network!
  • Does LocoFi work with Amazon Fire devices?
    Yes. Absolutely. 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.
  • Why are LocoFi™ NMRA color coded wires not DCC compatible?
    DCC was invented as a standard for compatibility among DCC equipment manufacturers. LocoFi™ is NOT DCC. DCC ready boards are just that, "DCC Ready" only. It's a clever way to let a locomotive run on DC when the DCC decoder isn't installed. To make LEDs functional on DC, we need resistors and that is pretty much the DCC ready light board does. That means the LED resistors can't be onboard the DCC decoder to make in plug'n'play or you would be desoldering the SMD resistors from the light board. In an ideal world, an 8 pin connector would be just that, an "8-pin connector". You plug in anything into it, be it a DCC decoder or a LocoFi™ module. Alas, with pretty much only DCC around until now, the choice for model locomotive manufacturers was obvious. That is, to design a DCC ready board in a way that runs on DC power as well. The 8 color coding scheme only specifies "common". It's the DCC standard that specifies that "common blue" should be positive. How does it impact LocoFi™? Well, not much in a way. The LEDs are diodes meaning they conduct electricity in one direction only. Hence, all we need to do it feed the blue wire on the LocoFi™ module to negative side of the LED instead of the positive. Worst case (opposite polarity), the LED won't light up. Please note that a module is complete in itself by having resistors onboard or else you need external circuitry to light your LEDs which in the case of DCC is provided by locomotive manufacturers. Still confused? Questions? Please feel free to Contact Us.
  • Why can't LocoFi™ modules plug into the 8 pin connectors on the DCC ready boards?
    LocoFi™ modules can operate on voltage as low as 7V (for DULLHB) and as high as 24V. That's a lot of flexibility. Much more types of power supplies to choose from. Sometimes, no standards is the best standard. To make LocoFi™ modules compatible with DCC ready boards, we'll be giving up this flexibility to "run anywhere". We'll have to get the onboard resistors out and for those folks with DC only locomotives who have been waiting for this revolutionary technology to arrive would be soldering the resistors as well, not to mention that they won't be able to use the variety of voltages to run on or risk burning out the LEDs. Other than that, switching around the common blue to positive isn't a big deal. We just don't want to give up the power we want to give to our users. Simplicity and flexibility! Please note that we don't provide the 8 pin connectors or else it may be mistaken for DCC plug compatibility and risk destroying the LocoFi™ module. We do hope that in future, model locomotive manufacturers will provide more generic 8 pin adapters that can take in "any" module.
  • How do I isolate the motor?
    Let's start by answering a few questions. What is motor isolation? 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. Why is it important? 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. How do I do it? 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. PRECAUTIONS: Once motor isolation is done, please ensure by double checking that there is no power whatsoever being fed to the motor directly from the tracks. Otherwise, it may result in shorting the circuitry of the decoder and render it unusable. This is not covered under warranty. One way to check this is to do the continuity test with your multimeter all the while turning the trucks around in all directions (up, down, right and left) to ensure that all paths are open. If in doubt, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time during installation. We will do our best to help you out.
  • 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). Scenario 2: Pre-wired LEDs - If your loco comes pre-wired with LEDs, connect a 3V battery (a 3V coin cell or 2 AA or AAA in series), (see picture below) across the LED terminal wires briefly. If it lights up, the battery + is the anode. If it doesn't light up, it's the cathode. In the latter case, try reversing the battery polarity to double check if it indeed lights up and is not a result of poor connections. NOTE: Please note that the LED terminal wires have been desoldered from the light board / DCC ready board and not part of any other circuit. You don't need to take out the LEDs themselves from their sockets. Also, if the LED being tested is RED or GREEN in color, it may be a good idea to put a small resistor (about 100 ohms) in series to avoid burning it out.
  • My locomotive stalls intermittently. What should I do?
    Most stalling issues and resulting loss of power is caused by dirty tracks or equipment. Microscopic dirt, debris and corrosive forces of nature over time can cause your track and locomotive wheels to gather grime and loss of contact for short periods, resulting in less than optimal performance of your locomotive. LocoFi™ decoders are equipped to help you tide over the smallest of these issues, with the help of an on board capacitor that keeps the decoder "alive" during such short interruptions. However, to avoid the longer power interruptions causing the board to cut out, here'a list of few recommendations we have gathered over time to help with such issues: "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: 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: 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. We plan to offer our holy grail to the problem by offering Amrit™ very soon. Until then, commercially available backup power solutions will work well as well. Please see our other FAQ -> Technology -> 05 for details.
  • 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. WARNING: Please heed all precautions while working with high capacity high voltage capacitors. Connecting them with incorrect polarities can lead them to vent off gases and splatter liquids, sometimes even causing explosions. Capacitors are energy storage devices and their improper use can lead to serious injury. We recommend connecting a bridge rectifier rated for suitable voltage and current (e.g. KBP310) and 4700uF 50V electrolytic capacitor. See schematic below.
  • I have tried multiple times but can't add my loco to the network. Why?
    There can be several reasons for this. Please download our Android Connectivity Troubleshooting guide that will help you get past these.
  • Why did my sounds stop working suddenly after a 'Factory Reset'?
    While we have not seen it yet ourselves, but because a couple of customers seem to have reported this issue, especially after a 'Factory Reset', here's how to get the sounds back. 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: 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. In case the sounds don't start working again, it maybe that the sounds files themselves are possibly corrupted. Please copy the original sound files onto the microSD. If using factory default sounds, please contact us and we will be happy to provide the original sounds again. In the rare event, it's still not fixed and the module is under warranty, it may need repair/replacement. Regardless of warranty, please contact us to see if any more troubleshooting needs to be done in your unique case to fix the issue.
  • CONSISTING - Loco is "locked for direct connection only"
    Consisting works by making the lead loco an access point (that broadcasts itself) for the helper locos. The lead may join another WiFi network as a client but the helper locos connect only to the lead as clients. In a sense, the lead and helpers sort of form their own private network that can (as an entity) join another network (see picture below). And that is the reason of why you can simply take your consist from one layout to another without changing a thing and simply operate. Sometimes, when booting up*, the helper loco may fail to connect to lead and end up as an available access point. However, we do not want it to be claimed or added to another network. To prevent that we "lock" the loco. Simple reboot (either by connecting directly to it and clicking "Reboot" from the 'Tools' menu or just power cycle it by tilting it on one side of the wheels) generally helps to connect back into the consist. In very rare cases, for example when trying to un-consist the locos, a helper may fail to get notified and on reboot will end up connecting to the lead loco again but not as a helper but a "lost" loco. A "lost" loco may neither appear on any network nor broadcast itself and may appear "dead". To make it available as a network, Turn off the power to the lead loco (take it off track) and reboot the loco in question. It may take upto a minute before it shows up as the access point (first it tries to connect to the lead, failing which it will give up and broadcast itself as "available"). Don't try to add it to any network yet. You will get an error message saying that the "loco is locked for direct connection only". To remedy that, go to Android Settings -> Wireless Settings and connect directly to the loco. Launch the app. The loco should appear on the main screen. Click the 'Tools' menu and then 'Remove Network Info'. The loco will reboot and become available to be added to a network. Before that, please remember to Android Settings -> Wireless Settings -> . You can now put the power back to the lead loco as well. * We treat consist as an entity wherein the locos act in unison taking the command from the lead (wirelessly, just like the real thing where the pushers are actually sent commands wirelessly!). As such, we have designed the system in a way that even if one loco loses power ("dirty track"???), the entire consist would reboot.
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