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SOld train set help #2, controller/track queries


9 posts

Hello again, I asked some advice a few months ago about my old train set that my kids had re-discovered and got some very helpful responses – so here I am again asking for more advice.

I didn’t get that far with the project in the meantime but my children keep asking me about the train set so here goes…

I had a very old controller, made by Meccano, which some posters advised me was probably dangerous and possibly illegal given current regs and to dump it, and I took their advice.

So I don’t have a controller and I’m a bit confused between the differences between analogue/digital etc.

Basically with my old controller and from my memory as a child there was the controller then two wires from that, that clipped onto two metal pegs or screws onto a piece of track, which powered the trains. (pics attached)

Can you still buy such controllors? If so, do I need to buy the power plug for the controller (I think its called the transformer?) seperately and the wires to the track separately?

If so I would need

  1. Controller
  2. Power transformer
  3. Wires


I ask because the controller (pic attached on sale from Hornby) has no plug attachment for the power source or wires with it?

Hornby controller https://www.hornby.com/uk-en/analogue-train-and-accessory-controller.html?utm_source=affiliate&utm_medium=affiliate

If someone could advise what exactly I need that would be much appreciated.

Alternatively if I went to a train model shop, would they be able to sort me out everything I need? It might be easier to do that.

Finally, I’ve got lots of track, given to us by another member of the family. Can you simply add lots of track and as long as it makes an electrical ‘circuit’ the trains will run – or is that not possible? Ie you need to keep to defined track layouts for the trains to work?

Sorry to bombard you with questions but its decades since I played with trains as a child so I’m a complete novice with a couple of boys who have got into trains.


12053 posts

Community Moderator

So I don’t have a controller and I’m a bit confused between the differences between analogue/digital etc.


Analogue controllers send DC voltage to the track. The magnitude of the voltage i.e from zero to 12 volts DC determines the speed that the loco travels at. The polarity of the voltage on the track determines the direction [forward / reverse] the train goes in.


Within the loco there is a direct electrical connection between the wheels and the electric motor.


Digital DCC Controllers send a 'Bi-polar' square wave voltage to the track that has a typical 'peak to peak' voltage swing of 28.8 volts [+14.4 volts to -14.4 volts]. The frequency of this alternating voltage is a nominal 7,000 cycles per second [but is variable]. This track voltage is consistently the same and shouldn't vary. The signal waveform is used to carry Digital Data information to tell the locos what you want them to do.


Within the loco a Digital DCC decoder is fitted between the wheels and the motor. The decoder reads the digital data sent on the track and then in turn powers the motor and loco functions based upon the signals that it decodes.


If you place a DC Analogue loco [this includes a 'DCC Ready' loco] on the DCC track without first fitting a DCC decoder, the swinging 28.8 volts DCC track voltage will burn out the 12 volt motor.


Modern 'DCC Ready' locos have a socket in them where a DCC Digital decoder can be plugged. Older locos can be converted to DCC and have a decoder fitted, but older locos have challenges to overcome and can take skill. Converting older locos may not be a task to be undertaken by a novice as their first exposure to DCC.


I’ve got lots of track, given to us by another member of the family.


If the track in your photo is typical of all the track you have acquired. Then it is heavily corroded and with visible rust on it. Rust [iron oxide] is not a good conductor of electricity and has some insulating properties.



Digital DCC signals are extremely sensitive to poor track electrical continuity. If the rest of your track is pretty much in the same state as the example in the photo. Then I predict that you will experience extreme running issues with DCC control.


The track condition in the photo is not that good for DC Analogue either, but at least DC Analogue is little bit more tolerant of poor quality track.


The age of your track means that it is electro plated steel. Once the corrosion becomes visible [as per your photo] then the electro-plating is compromised. Even if you scour the track rails clean it will be loosing battle, a bit like painting the Forth Bridge. The corrosion will come back and need constantly removing.


The metal track joiners in your photo are very corroded too. They are a critical part of the transference of electrical power from one track piece to the next. I recommend [if you do try using this old track] that all the joiners are replaced with new ones. Prior to fitting, the ends of the rails need to be made shiny again to maximise electrical continuity. Under no circumstances should you try and use soldering of the joints as a workaround to improve electrical reliability. The joints need to be able to expand and contract.


To go DC or DCC.


My opinion would be not to go DCC at this stage. Your locos if the same age as the track are likely to be in the 'not very easy to convert' category, and your indicated track condition does not lend itself to DCC control either.


Can you simply add lots of track and as long as it makes an electrical ‘circuit’ the trains will run – or is that not possible?


Track is track. It makes no odds, what shape the track is laid in and the layout size etc. Your old track is likely to have lots of intermittent power issues, particularly with the points. Not only the corrosion, but the track joiners impact on the electrical reliability too. Large layouts can be built reliably with modern Nickle Silver based track. Large layouts can also be built with old steel track, but a lot more skill and effort is needed to make the large steel based layout reliable [because of the corrosion and potential power issues highlighted above].


I ask because the controller (pic attached on sale from Hornby) has no plug attachment for the power source or wires with it?


The picture referred to in your original post is the Hornby R7229 Set Controller.

The picture on the Hornby product page is misleading. The wires are not shown in the image, but they are part of the product. The wires to the track are shown in this image taken from a Google search.



They take the form of a pair of wires directly connected internally and part of the R7229 controller that are terminated on the ends with terminal plugs designed for the modern R602 track power clip and the R8206 power track.


They are not directly compatible with the obsolete track power connectors shown in your photo.


The R7229 factory fitted terminals could potentially be cut off so that the wire ends could be used with your old connectors, but that could potentially invalidate the controller Warranty.


But also consider this. The R7229 is designed for modern locomotive motors. The R7229 can only supply a maximum of 500mA [0.5 Amp] track current. If your locos are of the same vintage as your track, they will have motors that require significantly more current than the R7229 can provide. You ideally need a controller that can provide at least 1 Amp of current to the track.


If all your track and locos are of the same vintage as your photos indicate then you are probably better off looking for a second-hand HM Clipper (very common on eBay) or a more modern higher current DC Analogue controller, which really means either the Hornby HM2000 controller or a non Hornby branded one.


If I went to a train model shop, would they be able to sort me out everything I need? It might be easier to do that.


It really does depend upon the model shop. They certainly could if you binned all your old track and bought new. Then everything would connect together. If the Model Shop was staffed not by 'basic sales staff' but by dedicated enthusiasts with appropriate knowledge of the old kit you have, then they might be able to offer valid advice. But if it is staffed by just counter staff with no background historical knowledge, then they are likely to only give advice on the products they sell and not be aware of the issues trying to mix and match old and new products.


Do you need to keep to defined track layouts for the trains to work?


No .... you are at liberty to use your imagination. The Hornby track itself imposes a certain level of imagination restriction as the available track pieces in the Hornby catalogue are quite limited. You have to work within the defined track geometry of Hornby track products.


The Hornby track geometry has changed little since the vintage of your track in the photo. There might be the odd geometry difference that has evolved over the years, but the current geometry is fairly universal with all the previous Hornby track.


The current Hornby track geometry can be viewed here:


TIP: As a newbie poster on the forum, just be aware that the 'Blue Button with the White Arrow' is not a 'Reply to this post' button. If you want to reply to any of the posts, scroll down and write your reply in the reply text box at the bottom of the page and click the Green 'Reply' button.


Particularly as my reply includes an image, using the 'Blue Button' may result in your reply being held back for image approval, even though it is an existing image.


See also – further TIPs on how to get the best user experience from this forum.



Chris........ Making the wood in the trees visible.


1655 posts

Just quckly want to say that curved track on the right looks quite rusty - might be ok if you want to use it for sideing to give it that 'old' look but don't use old rusty track for your main curcuit (it will give you bad connections!!!) - old track is made from Steel & rust over time & new track is made from Nickle Silver which last longer over time - Now I'll let Chris do more of the detial when he returns from his errands!!! (Sorry Chris I couldn't help myself - I wanted to say more but didn't want to annoy you!!!)

Jimyjames - You can only please some of the people some of the time, But not all of the people all of the time, & that is why I have a mixture of vids on my YouTube Channel. Every 1 has busy lives but you don't relise what you have missed untill it's too late - Please who every is reading this - make time for your family/friends before it's too late!!!

Rusty rail can be de-rusted in a bath of citric acid


9 posts

Hello, thanks for the long reply Chrisaf, it is much appreciated, thanks very much for taking the time to explain the basics to me. I have taken your advice on board re the tracks etc. I think I will probably end up buying a load of new track and trains but for sentimental reasons want to at least try to incorporate some of this stuff - even though I accept most of it will be obsolete and won't work well, if at all.

On the transformer/controllor point, can I ask, would this sort of thing work...


or this...


or this...



And just so I've understood, on some models you have the controller then a seperate transformer ie the bit that goes from the mains with a plug that connects to the controller?

Thanks again for any help.


12053 posts

Community Moderator

The first two links R965 and R8250 are both basic set controllers. The R8250 is actually a worse controller than the R7229 previously discussed. The R7229 is the replacement controller for the R8250.


The R965 is the predecessor for both the R8250 and the R7229. The R965 comes in two variants. The earlier Margate [Made in England] one and the later Made in China one. The Chinese one is the best of the bunch that have been mentioned so far but it is still a relatively low powered DC Analogue controller.


As far as cheap controllers are concerned and for something to use to just check out what you have got before investing too heavily then the H&M Clipper in the third link is a good choice. Many on here rate it reasonably highly. Personally I find the technology inside it very dated.


I shouldn't be saying this as this is a Hornby forum but for a new product purchase of a high power controller rather than second-hand. Many on here use Gaugemaster and/or Morley controllers.


And just so I've understood, on some models you have the controller then a separate transformer i.e. the bit that goes from the mains with a plug that connects to the controller?


The basic controllers like the R965, R8250 & R7229 use a 'Wall Wart' type PSU. 'Wall Wart' means a PSU that has the mains plug built integrally into it. The output of the 'Wall Wart' PSU for the R8250 & R7229 controllers is 19 volts DC at 0.5 amps. The output of the 'Wall Wart' PSU for the R965 is 16 volts AC at 0.8 Amps.


The more serious controllers such as the HM2000 from Hornby have a direct 'mains' input with an internal multi-winding transformer to support multiple outputs. One transformer winding per output. The Hornby HM2000 has two controlled track outputs rated at 0.55 Amp each, plus one fixed 16 volt AC output plus one fixed 12 volt DC output. These two AUX outputs share 0.3 Amps. However, although the HM2000 is the top of the DC Analogue range from Hornby, its 0.55 Amp max rated controlled outputs are adequate but nothing special. Note that there are at least three different variants of the HM2000, and each one might have slightly different power specs to the specs I have stated.


I can't comment on Morley, but the Gaugemaster controllers have models with 'Wall Wart' PSUs as well as controllers with 'mains' input. The GM controller models tend to have outputs of at least 1 Amp as default.


In principle and just purely as a 'rule of thumb' the higher powered controllers tend to have direct 'mains' inputs.


The H&M Clipper will be a direct 'mains' input controller, therefore given its vintage age, caution should given to ensuring that it is a safe purchase.

Chris........ Making the wood in the trees visible.

For WallMart, which is a shop name, read "Wall Wart"....as in a lump on the wall.


This describes the appearance of the bulge covering the transformer, plugged into the wall mounted electricity output socket.



I think the dreaded Auto Correct has got involved in Chris's post above?



Regards, Ruff...


12053 posts

Community Moderator

Thanks for the correction.

It was the first time I have ever used this 'Wall Wart' term and only used it because I had seen it used by others in previous posts. Obviously my brain and memory incorrectly remembered what I thought I had read before.


I've reposted a corrected version whilst it could still be done easily.

Chris........ Making the wood in the trees visible.


4168 posts

I have a Morley, double controller. It comes complete with 2 walkabout controllers.

Use Windows 7, only, On french version of windows. Run RM, with Elite. DCC layout, Large DC, and 3 Rail layouts. Also, TT, and N Gauge


1510 posts

If you are thinking of buying a H&M Clipper you might be better getting a H&M Duette as that can control 2 tracks rather than 1. Price not much different and although old, these are very good units (and NOT made in China !)


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