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monorails

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Welcome to the world of model monorails!

These are fun toys! I bought the first model available, Monorail Red, and have not stopped since.

The first thing to think about (if you plan to run your monorail much) is a set of NiMH batteries and a charger. Besides running longer and maintaining a steady speed more than alkaline batteries NiMH can last for 500 or more recharge cycles and will save a lot of $$$ in the long term, maybe enough to buy another monorail. :)

Your new monorail may "porpoise" up and down a bit, this is caused by the drive wheel being out of round and it seems many are. It is not difficult to fix or at least to improve, just a bit of careful sanding to help true up the rubber wheel. Unfortunately as the wheel gets smaller the speed gets slower...

...which brings us to the next concern, most people think the monorail is too slow. Although the scale speed is almost correct it does appear to be going slower than we would expect. There are a few ways to correct this and the more effective the method the higher the cost. Read this first.

One of my pet peeves are the green headlights, *the real monorail does not have green headlights!!!* I understand the reason for this (not enough voltage for white LEDs from 2xAA batteries) but it still bothers me, to the point where I found a way to increase the voltage to the headlights and installed white LEDs. Much better! :)

The monorails can be kind of noisy and the fix for that is WhisperJet!

After awhile just running in a loop may get boring. That is where radio control or autonomous comes in so the monorail can stop at a station, play a sound clip, then leave for the next station. Read about radio control here and Autonomous here.

Other than that, as I noted they are great little toys and I hope Disney keeps making them forever (or until the next improved version is released).

 

 

Services: Radio Control Modifications

The state of the art in radio control changes quickly! As RC gear shrinks in size and gains features the idea of adding RC to the monorail gets easier and better. Deltang is the class act in micro RC for now, and David T (owner) is very helpful with application tips and support.

The latest Deltang radios are small but can provide all the power our motors need (both original and upgraded motors) along with plenty of auxiliary outputs to control lights and sound. The Deltang transmitters we use have inertia control where we can set a speed and watch the monorail slowly accelerate to that speed, automatically!

We add a voltage booster since the Deltang receivers are designed for a minimum of 3 V and shut off the motor when the voltage drops below that. Since the monorail runs on 2 x AA it would not work with NiMH cells and barely (and not for long) with alkalines. ***The voltage booster can run the original motor and some faster motors, up to more than 1 A.

rc

This is a photo of an installation in progress in a WDW monorail (the Disneyland models are slightly different). The radio receiver, electronic power switch, and voltage converter are installed above the original circuit board. The headlights will be replaced with white LEDs. The transmitter on the right has controls for speed, direction, and inertia as well a buttons for headlights, roof beacon, and sound.

We have seen one power switch that quit working and found that this part is marginal so we now add an electronic power switch to handle the increased current of the faster motor.

We usually install a Rx61 receiver to leave room for updates. We connect the sound and lights to auxiliary channels, program the receiver to turn those on/off, and wire the system together. We also replace the headlights with white LEDs and program the roof beacon to flash like a strobe.

So what does this get you over and above the Disneyland remote control version? First, variable speed, our radios are fully proportional with continuously variable speed in forward and reverse, Disney's is full speed forward or full speed reverse (full speed is kind of a misnomer, the DL monorail is slow). Our modification also independently controls the lights (white LED headlights and red flashing roof beacon). We install a faster motor if desired, expect about a 50% increase in speed.

We have installed operating warning "strobes" and roof beacon in the rear cab. This requires running wires and connectors through each of the cars so we are looking for a better method. We are testing a complete stand-alone system with a battery and lower cost radio receiver in the rear cab, or just a battery and a switch. This will probbaly be the final solution.

Sound option* The Rx61 has 8 auxiliary outputs, we use one for headlights and one for roof beacon. The original sound board is limited but with an Adafruit sound board we can have more sound clips (and better sound). With six unused outputs on the Rx61 we can individually select up to six sound clips! This also requires a modification to the transmitter to add a rotary selector. This option is working on my test monorail and should soon be available. The holdup is the original speaker which does not produce good sound, we are testing a better speaker that requires a new (custom made) speaker cover. Did I mention that this allows for custom sound clips? :)

*** The DisneyLand monorail with remote: Disney's remote is infrared and only offers FWD and REV (and play sound), ours offers full speed control and control of lights and sound. Disney's remote will shut down with a high powered motor, ours will power just about any motor you would care to use. Disney's remote is limited to one monorail at a time, ours is 2.4 GHz radio and works with a large number of transmitters/receivers to allow control of multiple monorails.

This link is to the old method when RC equipment was much larger than it is today. I have been doing this for a long time!