RAILbooster

Reliable Digital Power

At a Glance

Your digital layout needs digital power! DCC boosters combine the digital signal from your DCC command station with electrical power to drive your locomotives, and feeds the result—digital power—to the tracks.

RAILbooster is a small, reliable DCC booster designed provide 3 amps of digital power to your layout, whether your are expanding your basement empire, or building your first micro layout.

  • Bulletproof design.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Small size convenient for N and HO gauge.
  • Integrated power management.
  • Smart short-circuit and fault detection.
  • Compatible with all DCC systems.
  • Fully assembled and ready-to-run.

RAILbooster is not a kit, it is a fully assembled product, ready to use on your layout!

Like all Railstars products, RAILbooster includes a No-Questions-Asked 3-Year Warranty!

Retail Price $100.

Why RAILbooster?

N and HO gauge locomotives use much less power than you’d expect, usually no more than 0.200A. That means that a typical 8A booster can run as many as 40 locomotives…but how many do you run, really? Even large layouts are best broken up into smaller “power districts” where only a few locos at a time will be run simultaneously. Large boosters are overkill, and require additional power management to make the best use of them.

RAILbooster is the simpler way to power small layouts or individual power districts. By integrating power management functions—short-circuit, over-current, and over-temperature detection—into the digital booster, RAILbooster provides a simple, inexpensive solution to providing digital power to your small layout or individual power districts in your larget layout.

Features

  • 3A, adjustable 11V–16V output works with scales including Z, N, TT, HO
  • DCC input works with all manufacturer’s command stations, including Digitrax, NCE, Lenz, MRC, and more
  • DCC output voltage is stabilized; no more than 2V drop at maximum load, under adverse temperature.
  • Short-circuit detection time approximately 1ms
  • Compatible with sound decoders
  • Combines power supply with power management, to provide independent power directly to each of your layout’s power districts.
  • Requires an external 15-18VDC, 3.2A DC power supply with a 2.1mm center-positive plug, not included but available here.

Reliable by design

Designed for reliability, RAILbooster is the perfect way to distribute power on your digital layout. RAILbooster is rated for a maximum of 3A continuous current draw, which makes it ideal for powering small layouts and modules. But the integrated power management hardware makes RAILbooster ideal for larger layouts too, by eliminating the need for a large central booster, allowing you to power each power district independently.

  • RAILbooster is designed to operate reliably in the harshest environments. Heavy heatsinking ensures that RAILbooster can provide a clean signal at full capacity, even in enclosed spaces.
  • Ultra-fast shutdown on short-circuit or overcurrent protects your expensive rolling stock.
  • Smart short detection prevents derailments from becoming real disasters, yet allows operation with current-hungry sound decoders or snap-switch machines.
  • Tolerates short circuits indefinitely; automatically resets when short is cleared.
  • RAILbooster also conditions the output signal, to ensure a reliable signal in even very large or electrically noisy layouts—all while operating on a potentially noisy or dirty input signal.
  • Shutdown on loss of DCC signal, to prevent out-of-control locos.
  • Shutdown on overheat—which will never happen, thanks to generous heatsinking.

Expanding your layout? RAILbooster is an easy and inexpensive way to expand the reach of your digital control system. Use RAILbooster to provide independent digital power and power management to your expansion. Simply wire RAILbooster to the “booster out” of your existing command station, and your new extension is ready to roll.
  • Compatible with all DCC systems.
  • Easy to install.
  • Never overheats, even when run continuously at full capacity.
  • Inexpensive—eliminates the need for additional power management modules.

Large power stations are expensive overkill for small layouts, but inexpensive entry-level command stations often aren’t powerful enough. Augmenting your basic digital system with RAILbooster for just enough power to get the trains on your small layout rolling.

  • Compatible with all DCC systems.
  • Rugged and reliable for layouts that get moved around.
  • Smart short-circuit detection protects your rolling stock and layout from accidents.
  • Also works with stand-alone DCC command stations.
  • Inexpensive—no need for additional power management modules.

On modular layouts with centralized boosters, a short on a distant module can shut down the action on yours too. RAILbooster is the perfect way to isolate your layout module from the rest of the layout.

  • Isolate your modules from problems on neighboring modules.
  • Reliable operation even with a dirty DCC signal.
  • Smart short-circuit detection protects your layout from accidents.
  • Rugged and reliable for layouts that get moved around.
  • Compatible with all DCC systems.

RAILbooster is ideal for powering your stand-alone DCC accessory decoders. Isolating your accessory bus allows you to operate turnouts even when shorted by a derailed train, helping you to clear accidents faster. Moreover, by using a seperate booster for accessories, you free up capacity on your main boosters for running more trains.

  • Provides independent power to your turnout and signal accessory decoders.
  • Frees up capacity on your main boosters for operating trains.
  • Compatible with all brands of accessory decoder.

Documents

Video Manuals

Photographs

Reviews

Alex K of DCCTrain (a Railstars Authorized Dealer) reviews RAILbooster’s superior short-circuit detection capabilities.

FAQ

Why should I use RAILbooster instead of a more powerful 5A booster?

Good question. The short answer is that numbers, like “5A”, are marketing as much as anything. Bigger doesn’t mean better.

Here are several reasons why you should seriously consider RAILbooster over its larger competitors.

  • A 3A booster is more than large enough for most purposes. Most modern N-scale models draw a peak current current of only 20–40mA of current during normal operation (and HO only slightly more than that.) 3A is therefore more than enough to drive as many as 100 locomotives, far more than should ever be put on a single power district in the first place.

    Even if we assume that older models are very inefficient and draw 5 times that—100-200mA, that’s still a respectable 20 locomotives simultaneously. So, in reality, we estimate that there is little actual need for 5A, that 3A is more than sufficient for most modelers.

    (Now, you might be thinking: But the stall current on even highly-efficient N-scale motors might be as much as an amp! But a stalled motor is a fault condition—see the next bullet point.)

  • A 3A booster is safer. We here at Railstars run a lot of expensive and impossible to replace Japanese models. We want a booster that is going to prevent a fault that would destroy our models. A 3A booster can detect a short circuit or over-current condition faster than a 5A booster, because the threshold for what qualifies as an over-current condition is lower. RAILbooster is designed to detect and act upon a short circuit condition in considerably less than 1ms, and to tolerate that short indefinitely without damage to booster or train. At train shows, we demonstrate this capability by placing one of our own locomotives on a shorted turnout, and leave it sitting for as long as our visitors care to observe. Throughout the entire show, the booster is completely cool to the touch, and the model is intact by the end of the day.

    All that said, RAILbooster can still provide short bursts of up to 10A for sound decoders or bulbs with large in-rush currents.

  • A 3A booster is cooler. RAILbooster is designed to operate safely at full capacity in 110ºF stagnant air, without overheating—which you might be surprised to find isn’t atypical!
  • What other manufacturers mean when they claim their booster is a “5A” model can be misleading. Some manufacturers rate their booster by their peak current capacity—usually only available for a brief moment, perhaps less than a second. The continuous rating is often far less—indeed, usually 3A! Even when they do claim a 5A continuous operation, some models are known to shut down from overheating when run at full capacity. By comparison, RAILbooster is a true 3A booster, capable of running at full capacity indefinitely. And, for those times when you need it, RAILbooster can provide up to 10A of momentary peak current, much more than the competition.

Discussion

You can now discuss RAILbooster in the new Support Forum

13 Comments

  1. Aryldo Russo says:

    Where are the specifications? Current? Size? Interfaces ?

    • D.E. Goodman-Wilson says:

      Aryldo,

      An excellent question. I’ve updated the page above with the specifications!

  2. Paul Antoine says:

    Hey there… I would buy one, but the $54 or so freight is a killer!

    • D.E. Goodman-Wilson says:

      Paul: If you don’t mind doing a little soldering of your own, I can get RAILbooster into a much smaller box and get the shipping costs to Australia down to about 18USD. Email me if you’re interested.

  3. David Rees-Thomas says:

    Essentially the same thought that Paul had: freight is a substantial cost. Would there be any problem with low-priority parcel post to Canada (BC)? And if my doing some soldering makes it simpler, that would not be a worry.

    Thanks

    David

    • D.E. Goodman-Wilson says:

      David—and this goes for anyone else reading this—: I won’t do low-priority mail, or at least nothing that can’t be tracked or traced. Had too many problems lately with the post losing important packages. But I am happy to send it stuffed into a Small Flat Rate Priority Mail Box—no retail packaging, you’ll have to solder the heatsinks, voltage reg, and h-bridge yourself. Just email me the particulars (via this page: http://railstars.com/contact-us/ ), and I can generate a PayPal invoice, or if you prefer I can take credit cards over the phone.

  4. D.E. Goodman-Wilson says:

    I’ve managed to get the international freight costs down without requiring the end use to perform any assembly whatsoever! You should see the updated rates upon checkout.

  5. Clinton Pringle says:

    Hi

    If I want to use the booster concected directly to a computer using the serial port, how can I connect it?

    Clinton

    • D.E. Goodman-Wilson says:

      Hi Clinton,

      I think that you can drive RAILbooster from the serial port using software like RocRail; the 5V signals are perfectly compatible with RAILbooster’s inputs. Sounds like you have an interesting project in mind; shoot me an email if there’s anything I can help you with.

      Don

  6. Julien says:

    I would like to control a Z layout from my computer.
    – Is a rail booster enough or should I use an arduino as an USB to DCC bridge ? I have a macbook so no old RS232 here.
    – The spec says rail booster goes down to 11v. Isn’t it too much for Z locos ? I’m planning to run two MTL locos.

    Julien

    • D.E. Goodman-Wilson says:

      Julien,
      You will need some kind of USB to DCC bridge (I too have a MacBook, so I understand). An Arduino would make a fine such bridge; you should look at our CmdrArduino library, which makes it easy to turn an Arduino into a DCC command station.

      11V is about as low as the voltage will go, but this should not be damaging to Z scale, as decoders necessarily drop the voltage another volt or so; If you set the maximum motor voltage in the decoder to be, say, about 75% of max (set CV 5 to 190 or 0xBE), then you would have no worries whatsoever.

  7. Clinton Pringle says:

    HI:
    A friend has a Bachman EZ Command DCC System, and he is interested in buying one of your boosters, Bachmann web page says the following:

    “Can I use E-Z Command® with a more powerful DCC Booster?
    No Problem. Bachmann has announced a 5 amp booster for 2005. E-Z Command can also be used with other boosters on the market. E-Z Command is compatible with the NMRA power stations built to conform to NMRA RP-9.1.2 Opto-isolated (Current) Interface. These power stations are built to handle input voltages of up to 22 volts. Digital plus by Lenz power stations are built to this specification.

    To connect to another booster connect the track output wires from E-Z Command and connect them to the booster control bus input. For Lenz equipment this would be the C and D connections”

    Is this also true for your Booster?

    Thank you

    Clinton

    • D.E. Goodman-Wilson says:

      Clinton, thanks for your inquiry! RAILbooster is built to the same NMRA specification, and is completely compatible with the Bachman EZ Commander!