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Cliff Barker Battery Power - a minimalist solution

by Peter Whatley
In an earlier article, Mel Turbutt succinctly outlined the attributes of the Cliff Barker (CB) system and how it can be fitted into a trail vehicle.  Mel was using the CB "standard set" which involves a "B24" receiver/ speed controller capable of handling 2.8 amps and 10-20 volts, plus NiMH batteries and their charger.  That is an excellent, attractively priced system, but I wanted something a little smaller.
My aim was to try to combine the smallest feasible receiver/speed controller with my favoured lithium-ion battery and get everything into the most portable package possible.  By doing so, I aimed to have a radio-control receiver pack which could easily be used in any vehicle.  This brief article will show you what I came up with.
The core item for my project is the CB B23 receiver/controller.  This is a 2.0 amp capable board which is slightly smaller than the B24 and, importantly, does not have a protruding heat sink.  I knew from previous measurements that 2.0 amps is more than adequate for a single LGB loco on my line, so it suited well.  This is the basic item:
For my portable package, I used an air-tight food container which came with a pack of such items from our local pound shop.  Net cost, a few pence!  A small hole was forced in one side for the "flying lead" which connects to the loco to be powered.  This of course makes the box no longer air tight, but a dab of silicone sealant fixes that issue....
Inside the container the delicate receiver fits nicely along one edge after the various wires have been taped to it to save space.  The aerial is, of course, left free to curl round the bottom of the plastic container.  All the various bare wires were connected using four "chunks" from a standard UK 3 amp connector block.  That sits on the floor of the box and lifts the battery nicely clear of the aerial.
To connect the battery, I chose to use a spare lead with a 2.1mm male plug which would connect to the charging socket on a generic "blue" Chinese Li-ion battery.  The second (male) lead on the battery was wrapped round with insulating tape and also taped to the battery to avoid any accidental shorts.  The advantage of this approach is that no switch is required.  The battery can simply be disconnected from the receiver by parting the two connectors, as should be clear from the pictures.  Since the battery socket is also required for charging, there is also no possibility of having the receiver connected at the same time as the battery is being charged. 
A more conventional approach would involve cutting into battery lead which has a male plug on it and connecting one wire to the receiver via the switch supplied with the CB B23 kit.  Obviously the switch could easily be fitted through a hole drilled through the plastic container's side.
That's pretty much it.  The dimensions of the box which contains everything can be seen from the pictures.  It is small enough to fit in one of my LGB open wagons with a tarpaulin cover or be placed under a large crate.  The width is, critically, also less than that of the LGB narrow-gauge coaches and vans which I own.  The box keeps everything neat, is weathertight and can be moved easily between vehicles.  In short, it does what I wanted.