Thursday, March 30, 2023

ECM Rambler Minor - a useability cul-de-sac

ECM Rambler minor

When I started to get serious about model railways, in the late 1980s, ECM controllers were the controller of choice. You could tell the upper eshelon modellers at show, their control panels sported some of the various ECM models. 

Offering feedback for the best running, in those pre-coreless motor days, these were considered a step above the Gaugemasters I used, and streets ahead of H&M Duettes, which were ancient even then. 

I coveted these, and have added a few to my collection in recent years now the brand has disappeared and people want all that DCC stuff. 

One model that stands out as revolutionary, but didn't prove a great success, as I recall, was the Rambler Minor. 

As you can see, the big difference between this and other controllers, is the push-button interface. Faster, slower, forward and reverse, plus emergency stop. No twiddling knobs here - this is the height of sophitication. 

Except it isn't I remember my one and only use of one of these in their heyday, and all it proved was that stopping a train accuratly over an uncoupling magnet was pretty much impossible. 

It doesn't help that acceleration and deceleration was always at the same rate for all models. There is a sliding switch on top that alters the rate, but you only get to pick two levels, and on this example, it doesn't make that much difference. 

So, it's cool, in the same way that old home computers are cool, but I'm not sure I'd want to install the unit on a layout. The controller feels a bit cheaply made, and has to be plugged into the panel part, which has in turn to be mounted in the panel. Connection is via a 5-pin DIN plug and socket, which looks like the same plug I use on my Gaugemaster handhelds, but of course, they are incompatible. 

I suppose you can argue that push-button controllers have made a return with many DCC units, but I really don't get the advantage over a knob. With the later, if you want to alter the acceleration or decceration rate, you just turn it faster or slower. Or am I missing something?

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