Saturday, March 28, 2009

TLG officially announced the first PF train

Not really TECHNIC, but close enough... really close!...

After some of usual leaks, TLG has announced among great AFOL Community excitement some weeks ago, the new Direct To Consumer Exclusive train set, the Emerald Night (10194).

Despite the magnificent design, it wouldn't be justification for the furor it caused, if it wasn't also anticipated for long time, that LEGO was to replace their 9V and RC train systems by a new PF substitute train system.

Through several official communications in the past [1, page 2], [2], [3] we got to know the PF train system would include several new PF elements, like an IR Speed Remote Control and a Rechargeable Battery Box.
Apart some preliminary rumored information, the previous announcement revealed just the train and the fact that it would not include of the box, any PF elements. Anyone who would intend to motorize the train with the new PF train system, would need to buy them separately.

The whole elements were planned to be first be unveiled to the public, simultaneously at Brickfest PDX in Portland (Oregon) and Wunderwelt Modellbau in St. Pölten (Austria), this weekend. At the same time the several packs were published also at the S@H website.

On top of this, we also got an official video announcement from Jamie Berard (LEGO Designer) with some explanations about the train and its new elements. However nothing significant mentioned about the new PF elements. See it below:

See on the side of the GG in the background near 3' 15'', when Pierre comes into the scene. A new LEGO modular on the way!?...

The train and the new PF elements, are made available to the public in different packs from LEGO S@H, as listed below:
  • 10194 - The Emerald Night Train
  • K10194 - The Emerald Night Collection
  • K8882 - LEGO® Power Functions Train Accessories Pack

The pack K10194 includes the 10194 Emerald Train, the new Flexible Track and some old/new PF elements which allow to lit the train headlights, motorize and remote it:
  • 10194 - The Emerald Night Train
  • 8867 - Flexible Train Track
  • 8870 - Power Functions Light
  • 8878 - Power Functions Rechargeable Battery Box *
  • 8879 - Power Functions IR Speed Remote Control *
  • 8882 - Power Functions XL Motor
  • 8884 - Power Functions IR Receiver
  • 8887 - Power Functions Transformer 10V DC *
* New PF elements

The pack K8882 includes just the PF elements required to enlighten, motorize and remote the train:
  • 8870 - Power Functions Light
  • 8878 - Power Functions Rechargeable Battery Box *
  • 8879 - Power Functions IR Speed Remote Control *
  • 8882 - Power Functions XL Motor
  • 8884 - Power Functions IR Receiver
  • 8887 - Power Functions Transformer 10V DC *
* New PF elements

As for the prices, while we know that the train set (10194) will cost: 99,99USD; 89,99EUR (not the same in all European Countries) or 68,50GBP.
For the today's announced packs and individual elements, the only price source up to the moment is the UK S@H catalog, here and here which points to:
  • K10194 - 159,99 GBP
  • K8882 - 79,99 GBP
  • 8867 - 22,50 GBP (Flexible Train Track elements, 64x)
  • 8878 - 42,09 GBP (PF Rechargeable Battery Box)
  • 8879 - 10,75 GBP (PF IR Speed Remote Control, Handset)
  • 8887 - 16,65 GBP (PF Transformer 10V DC, Battery charger)

If we take a look into the price for the complete PF train set, it will be quite a lot of money.
Wonder how will LEGO manage to release SYSTEM City PF trains, in the future, at reasonable prices.

The new Track elements:

Apart to the new PF elements, we're also getting the new Flexible Train Track (8867), which will bring a new freedom for the train enthusiasts, to build their layouts. This was one of the main train fans demand for long time, finally made true.

Certainly after many wondering for long time, which solution would be in use by TLG, an unexpected one for most.

Each 8867 box, will include 64x FlexTrack elements, which will allow smooth curves and elevations. If you carefully look into the picture above, will see the these track elements include a check rail to prevent derailments, which is something very new into LEGO train tracks.

After this, train layouts will get:
  • parallel or single curves of any radius.
  • eliptic, parabolic or any variable radius curves
  • close any geometry where just small deviations are needed
  • easier or shorter line elevations
  • ...

The Train PF elements:

To enlighten and motorize the Emerald Night (10194), LEGO designers have used some of the previously available LPF elements like: the IR Receiver (8884), the XL-Motor (8882) and PF Lights (8870).

At the same time, while the TECHNIC motors are traditionally used in steam locos, the previous LEGO RC train motor is also about to be sold as a separate element (8866), to be used within other type of PF Trains.
Together with a PF Extension Wire (8886), it could be connected to a PF IR Receiver (8884) and thus get speed control via the new PF IR Speed Remote Control (8879) as well. Or of course directly connected to the new PF Rechargeable Battery Box (8878) which also has built-in speed control.

And finally, lets look into the new PF elements and their details:

The PF IR Speed Remote Control (8879) is another 4 channel PF remote, but this with speed and other control capabilities, making wider use of the C1/C2 signals, as defined within PF RC protocol.

With this IR Speed RC handset you control the power on both outputs of the IR Receiver (8884) – you can control the speed of a motor in both directions or even dim the light. The Power Functions RC system has 4 channels so you can run up to 8 trains at the same time (2 trains on the same channel but on different outputs).

The remote has two dials where you can set speed and direction on each channel (7 speed forward and 7 speed backward). It relies on 'Single output Mode' as defined in the PF RC Protocol above mentioned and has no timeout for lost IR commands.
Below each channel you have also one 'Stop' button and one pole reverser switch, as in the standard IR Remote Control (8885).

The form factor of this PF remote is also similar to the one used for 8885, having the same beam connectivity on the left and right sides. This will contribute to easier integration of both remote types, as well as development of imaginative solutions around this remote as we have seen earlier with 8885.

The PF Rechargeable Battery Box (8878) is a Lithium Polymer (Li-Po) Rechargeable battery, with 1150mAh capacity and 7,4V output.
The battery will have on topside a normal PF connector for connectivity to the rest of the PF elements and one connector for recharging via the new DC transformer. As consequence and with actual solution, the train must be stopped for battery replacement or charging.

In cases where you just want your train to drive without remote control, the Rechargeable battery has integrated speed control of its own (orange dial): Connect the motor directly to the Rechargeable battery, set the dial at the desired speed and press the green button.
This might be also very useful for standalone applications of this battery, into TECHNIC models.

An undesired feature, from AFOLs perspective I would say, is a built-in power-off timer which actuates after 2h without any interaction with the battery (speed change command or charging). Any of these actions will immediately reset the timer and are the ways to make it run longer without interruption, which is of particular importance at exhibition displays.

The PF Transformer 10V DC (8887) is a more conventional and new type of LEGO transformer, introduced due to future legal requirements. It replaces the old 10VAC transformer used with the old 9V trains and the NXT rechargeable battery, which will be progressively phased out.
With this transformer, each PF rechargeable battery is expected to fully charge in less than 2 hours (confirmation measurements to be done at first opportunity).

Now lets use and abuse from these new elements into our TECHNIC constructions!
Unfortunately none of these new PF elements, seem to be included with the new 2H2009 TECHNIC sets.

Meanwhile some packs and elements prices, for US and European markets, have been listed at S@H.
I'll add them to the table below, as the still missing ones get known.
Please note that listed European prices, may vary across Euro countries.


10194Emerald Night99,9989,9568,50
K10194The Emerald Night Collection219,99215,95159,99
K8882LEGO® Power Functions Train Accessories Pack99,99115,9579,99
8867Flexible Train Track24,9929,9522,50
8878Power Functions Rechargeable Battery Box49,9959,9542,09
8879Power Functions IR Speed Remote Control12,9914,9510,75
8887Power Functions Transformer 10V DC24,9924,9516,65
8866Train Motor10,9913,959,79

Last Update: 2009.Mar.31 02:18 GMT


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post, Conchas!

I'm really excited about the new remote control- it will hopefully make driving vehicles much more realistic. I've already pre-ordered mine, and will be sure to have a struck ready when it arrives. :]

I probably won't get the battery right away due to the price (which I accept), but I wonder if it's going to be a bit tricky to incorporate into a Technic model due to being stud based. Perhaps LEGO has a studless version planned? Who knows...

Lego Adam said...

I'm completely in love with the new PF parts (and the train too) But they are unbelievably expensive. 160 BGP for the whole package? If I can ever afford it, it will be the most expensive LEGO product I own :(

Anonymous said...

I really like all these new products and the prices are pretty much what I was expecting. In fact I really like the whole PF system and there are soooo many new PF elements they could release. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Junkstyle Gio said...

Eye Spy with my little eye!
The movie is not only revealing a new building in the modular system, but als the 3 (or is it 4? I'm still a little confused about the 8063..) new Technic Boxes for the second half 2009?
Or are my eyes deceiving me?
Look at the movie at 2'29"

Jetro said...

There's another issue that needs clarification. When the PF elements first came out a 'problem' was detected with the IR-Receiver. LEGO then stated the following:

"We have been testing the LPF RC Receiver today and discovered an error in the RC Receiver firmware or chip masking. A register is not adressable. It affects all the set, clear and toggle commands for single pins....and only these commands. We will do an update of the chip mask at some point (not too far into the future). At that point it will be corrected."

As far as I can tell this affects the posibility of switching lights that are stacked on top of a motor on and off without he motor.

That leaves the following question: if the IR-Receivers have been updated to include this functionality, how can we distinguish these from the old ones that do not support this feature?

If there is no visible difference, this might cause problems when buying parts for a specific purpose, or when trying to distinguish between the different receivers you may have at home.

TechnicBRICKs said...

@Junkstyle Gio

With this video quality and such small boxes part in the camera view, I would they could be almost anything.


Once we get a new part with a fix for that, I'm confident there will be some way to distinguish them.

Alex Campos said...

Jacob: bear in mind that, from Conchas' description, to drive a car-like vehicle you'd have to press the "Stop" button whenever the front wheels reached the angle you wanted, which in my view won't be very practical. Unless setting the control to minimum effectively stops its motor instead of just setting it to the lowest speed.
However, driving tank-like, differential vehicles should be more precise with this remote, since each individual track/wheel can have its variable speed, which allows for equally variable turning radii. Plus, not having to send contantly "move" commands, the controller's batteries should last longer.

Anonymous said...

That is something to consider, but I have some ideas to work around that problem if it occurs.

Alex Campos said...

Oh, I forgot... I suppose TLG designed the new battery without pin holes to make it as compact as possible (after all, it was conceived with trains, where inner space is scarce, in mind): for the same capacity (and therefore inner volume), the outer volume would have to be bigger to compensate the depth of the holes.
Oh well, nothing some bricks with holes, mounted on top and under the battery, like we have been doing with the Pneumatic Switch until the new version appeared, can't solve... ;)

blakbird said...

I got to try out the new remote at Brickfest this weekend. I've started a new thread over at Lugnet where I discuss my findings, so feel free to surf over and take a look. The short answer is that I don't think it will be much good for controlling Technic vehicles.

TechnicBRICKs said...

Just left my two cents at LUGNET Eric.

Basically and from the Eric description there, I think they have implemented in this remote, the 'Clear/Set/Toggle' sub-mode, of PF protocol 'Single output Mode'.

In my opinion with some small effort they could/should have implemented both modes(absolute PWM and incremental), selectable from a button or keystroke sequence.

I also do believe this way, the main advantage of this remote to TECHNIC constructions will be the steering of skid steer vehicles with differential.

Eric Albrecht said...

I have a long history of driving R/C cars and flying R/C planes and helicopters, and in all that time I have NEVER seen a system which kept the vehicle going without constant communication with the radio. Such a system would virtually guarantee the destruction of your model since any fault in signal or range would result in your model flying off and/or smashing into something. Even for a skid steer vehicle I would not want to use this unless I was close enough to grab the vehicle if I needed to.

Of course, based on a similar argument, no one ever uses IR for hobby vehicles either. A true LEGO R/C system would use radio frequency, preferrably with 2.4GHz QPCM. Seeing as you can buy 4 channel PCM transmitters for $20, I'm not sure why they didn't go this way.

Note that it is possible that the remote does have such a mode switch. I didn't look closely enough to say for certain.

TechnicBRICKs said...

From what I've seen, don't think it has a mode switch. Lets hope a keystroke combination allows to switch the sub-mode, despite I doubt it too.

Yes the LEGO choice for IR has its limitations, but we must not forget, that it is primarily a children toy.

Anyway the choice was for sure due to cost constrains/targets. It may seem insignificant, but IR is still cheaper and here every cent counts.

Alex Campos said...

Yeah, I have the general feeling IR control is cheaper/lighter/less consuming/etc. than radio: that's why cheap, small RC helicopters are controlled via IR, and bigger, more expensive ones are controlled via radio.

And I noticed it now: does the new AC adapter indeed supply DC current? Although it's more logical than the older adapter, it means we'll have to buy another adapter for this battery. Fortunately LEGO devices meant for the older AC adapter work with DC too, at least the RCX and the NXT battery, can work with DC input too, so people with the two kinds of devices don't have to lug around two adapters.

Anonymous said...

Radio needs Licences (different in every country) IR does not.

Anonymous said...

but we must not forget, that it is primarily a children toy.

And the Internet is a research tool! Evolve!

Jetro said...

"Fortunately LEGO devices meant for the older AC adapter work with DC too, at least the RCX and the NXT battery, can work with DC input too"

That's the first time I hear this. Is there any documentation regarding this fact?

Will M said...

Two things. First off, are the flex tracks able to pivot up and down to make multiple elevation tracks?
Also, as for the next unit on the modular building lineup, the local LEGO store mentioned that the (?) kit was to be a classic fire station. Perhaps with a WELL DESIGNED fire truck or two??

TechnicBRICKs said...

"Fortunately LEGO devices meant for the older AC adapter work with DC too, at least the RCX and the NXT battery, can work with DC input too"

Never heard about that too!??? Nice if turns to be true.

About the new tracks and elevation, it is a possibility, but I'm not sure about the final and released version.

Alex Campos said...

@Jetro and Conchas: I don't know of any documentation about the RCX and the NXT battery accepting DC, just that it was successfully tried: by me in the first case, and by Ricardo Oliveira (the creator of the Vending Machine and the Cine Room) in the second.

It makes some sense, since both are DC-based electronics (one receives DC supply via batteries, the other provides DC supply to replace batteries), and most probably both have internal rectifiers to accept the AC from the adapter. Providing DC to them would probably have just the effect of having their rectifiers sit passively and transmit the received current more or less unchanged.

Now, what I still don't understand is why the heck LEGO made its adapter have an AC output in the first place! Sure, it was originally made to power the 9V trains through the speed regulator, and, since it's much easier to regulate AC than DC, the AC-DC rectification could occur only after the reduction by the speed control. However, I once opened my regulator to test this theory, and found out that rectification occurs before the voltage reduction (and that the speed controller actually works in discrete steps, like the new IR controller)! So, this is something that keeps me baffled.

TechnicBRICKs said...

Don't know if you have noticed it from the picture in the post, but realize the new '10V DC' transformer has a thinner plug, than its older AC brother.

So unless you made some cable adapter, it won't fit!...

Alex Campos said...

Yes, I didn't notice that. To me, that makes a lot of sense: if the new adapter outputs DC, devices that use it won't have a built-in rectifier; so, plugging in the AC-generating old adapter would, in the most optimistic case, do nothing. So, to prevent that, the most obvious solution is to make it physically impossible to connect the old adapter.

I wonder if the new plug is, like the old one, of some industry-standard size, so that we can connect readily-available adapters? Judging from the example of the NXT connector, I have my doubts.

Anonymous said...

Would be simple to make a rectifier extension cable.. for the AC adapter to DC.. would be good to know the mA of both adapters though..

as for why AC originally: maybe cost! different adapters are needed in each country so put the rectifier in the unit not the adapter. That keeps the lower production volume adapters as simple as possible. hence makes them cheaper!

TechnicBRICKs said...

Power (7VA) and tension (10V) of both adapters are the same, so the same for the maximum allowed current (700mA).

As for why AC originally it should have been cost definitely!
The AC transformer was released 17 years ago, so the solution design should have been even earlier.
At the time DC wall adapter were a lot bigger and more expensive to produce. Hence the option to include the rectifier into the device.

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