Number of wire feeds for a 60 foot O scale layout

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Number of wire feeds for a 60 foot O scale layout
Posted by Summy on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 2:39 PM

Hello,

My project is a 60 foot ceiling layout for one Lionel locomotive pulling 12 cars. The track is Gargraves (flexible track), connected to an 80 watt Lionel transformer.  I have no idea how many feeder wires should be installed (and at what interval? gauge of wire?) in order to ensure a smooth and fast operation of the train. Any advice that anyone is able to provide would be really appreciated. 

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Posted by lionelsoni on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 4:52 PM

With that length of track, in a complete loop, you may very well not need a feeder at all.  Here's why:  Using the rule of thumb that most toy-train track has a resistance about the same as 16 AWG copper wire, the resistance of your 60 feet is 240 milliohms.  However, that is only 120 milliohms for half the loop, which is as far as the train can get from the transformer.  Furthermore, there is another 120 milliohms in parallel at that time, from the other half of the loop.  So you have only 60 milliohms between the transformer and the train.  Your 80-watt transformer can put out only about 5 amperes at best.  If your train draws that maximum current as the worst case, the voltage drop along the track would be only 300 millivolts, which is little enough that you likely won't notice it.

Of course, if your track joints are poor, they can add substantially to the resistance.  A good precaution would therefore be to solder them.  If you aren't up to trying to solder the rails directly together, you can just lay a short piece of bare wire on the rail flange and solder that to each rail.

If you do find that you need feeders anyway, use 14 AWG or heavier, so that the feeder wire is better than the track itself.  You can just run two loops around the room and connect them with a short tap wire to the rails wherever you see the train slow down.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by Summy on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 12:22 PM

Thanks for this excellent advice.

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Posted by phillyreading on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 12:43 PM

I have a track going around the top of my train room and I have used 14 gauge stranded wire with lock-ons every third section of track, with 16 gauge feeders to the lock-ons. The track that I am using is 027, mostly new. Also I am not using an expensive train in case something happens, like a derailment.

Even with brand new track I have had problems with electrical performance or voltage drop due to poor track connections. Remember this; the track at your hobby shop may sit there for three months before it gets sold and the time it takes to transport the track from the place where it was made to your local hobby shop allows for it to oxidize or rust. So only in perfect settings could you get away with not having less than six lock-ons for that whole track.

Lee F.

 

Interested in southest Pennsylvania railroads; Reading & Northern, Reading Company, Reading Lines, Philadelphia & Reading.
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Posted by Summy on Thursday, January 21, 2010 3:26 PM

That is a lot of wiring!  Is your track sectional track?  Are the different sections soldered together? What type of a transformer are you using?

Thanks,

Robert

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Posted by phillyreading on Thursday, January 21, 2010 4:54 PM

I am using 027 track with regular 027 curves, the track is not soldered but has 027 track clips installed at every connection. Some of my 027 straight tracks are equal to four regular straights in length so a feed wire every third section of track, even on curves. The transformer I am using is a post war type R 110 watt, 120 volt transformer.  The size of my near the ceiling layout is 11ft 6 inch by 13 ft 6 inch. Another feature that I added was a passing track, but right now it has a pre war 224E & tender with two post war 2640's passenger cars, that track is only powered at the ends for the lighted bumpers.

On another layout I had power issues with a passing track set-up and had to power it every fourth section of track, don't know why but it was O gauge tubular and nearly new track.

Lee F.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Thursday, January 21, 2010 6:12 PM

If that 80-watt transformer that was mentioned is a CW-80, its rating is its output, while the rating of the type R is input; so those two are about the same.  If your layout has voltage-drop problems, you need more voltage, not more power anyway.  If it doesn't have voltage problems, then the size of the layout has nothing to do with the transformer that you need.

Lee, I don't understand how your passing siding could have bumpers at the ends.  Do you mean that you haven't tied it in to the main line yet?  In any case, interrupting a simple loop with a passing siding and presumably separately powered tracks between the turnouts spoils the 4-to-1 resistance effect that I described above.

I would just put up the track, with the best track joints you are willing and able to make, and see how it works.  If the train slows down, run the wires alongside the track and connect them as needed.  (They can't be seen if the track is higher than eye level.)

Bob Nelson

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Posted by phillyreading on Friday, January 22, 2010 10:02 AM

Bob, I forgot to mention that I used a two Gargraves switches on the siding, one coming off the mainline and the other to supply outside rail power to the sideline track and added bumpers at the end to keep the train on the shelf. No return switch to the mainline.

Just for your info, I understand about the small amount of resistance that is normally in most track. According to what Bob N. mentions I should not have half the problems with resistance or power loss that I am having. Could it be that where I live has something to do with the extra resistance in the track sections? South Florida has a very high humidity factor and I am taking a quess and saying that is why I am having so many problems with power losses.

Don't know why but every time I do a large layout of track I always have voltage drop problems, even with brand new track. I slightly crimp the ends of my tracks if they don't fit snug for me and I use track clips to help keep the track together and still I have problems with losing power somehow, so that is why I recommend adding power lockons every third or fourth piece of track. Also I don't have to take down my overhead track system, as it is very difficult to take apart once it is fastened to the walls.

Lee F.

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Posted by RockIsland52 on Friday, January 22, 2010 10:37 AM

I've been reading this thread with interest and have to bookmark it.  Good stuff.  Thanks to all for working this one over.  When I see video of guy's running their trains at beautifully slow speeds without a hiccup or change of pace on large layouts I am impressed.

I used brand new FasTrack around the Christmas tree this year  (4' x 8' with O36 and 10" straight section between the curved sections) using the 14 gauge hookup to the new terminal track from a ZW275 watt transformer.  

I had a power drop-off at precisely the far end, corrected itself on the return straight coming back toward the transformer hookup just as Bob said it should, and no problema on the curve closest to the trasformer hook up.  Just a simple loop with nothing else.

This was after lubrication and cleaning of all cars, all engines used (designed to run on O27),  engine pickups, and track cleaning of new track.  A thought.....I had clean hands when assembling the track but did not think to clean the track pins on the new track.  Connections seem very tight, track pieces snapped/abutted perfectly, but pins might be dirty.  Or one bad pin connection on one piece of track.   Banged Head

I see no slop, no binding, when the train runs clockwise.  So the friction element seems ruled out.  I may run the trains counterclockwise to see what I get. 

Then I may switch the transformer hookup to another (less used) throttle to see if there is something going South in there.  May try all 4 throttles.  My problem could be in the transformer, though for the life of me I can't figure what could possibly go wrong with a 55 year old never serviced transformer.  Wink  Wonder if the transformer's original power cord isn't cuttung it any more.  Plugged directly into the wall outlet.  

May try another primary wall outlet to keep eliminating things, but the one outlet  I am using is used weekly (vacuum cleaner) and my FIL suggested that outlet might be failing due to "someone" unplugging the vacuum cleaner while it is still powered up (spark damage or simply slop from age/use.....22 years).  The outlet is unswitched (always powered) and not connected to a rheostat wall switch.

I am inexperienced with these matters.  Some of you might be wondering why I just don't run a feeder and forget it.  But if I don't read your suggestions, read the theory, and troubleshoot to determine my particular core issue(s), what have I learned? 

A "duck tape" approach works functionally and may ultimately be the only solution left to me.  Disapprove  

Jack

IF IT WON'T COME LOOSE BY TAPPING ON IT, DON'T TRY TO FORCE IT. USE A BIGGER HAMMER.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Friday, January 22, 2010 4:40 PM

I really doubt that the primary side is at fault.  I think you would have noticed heat on the cord or plug if it were the problem.  Furthermore, any problem upstream of the connection to the track would show itself everywhere on the loop. 

I set up a similar-sized (16-foot) Christmas loop of old Marx O34 and O27.  I used the rattiest pieces I had, as an incentive for myself to straighten rails, replace missing pins, tighten joints, and otherwise recondition them.  The only cleaning I did was Scotch-Brite on the railheads after the track was down.  I had no voltage-drop problems at all.  (I was using a 1033, 14 AWG wire, and a CTC lockon.)

I don't know how the Fastrack joints work; but that's the only part of the setup that I can see could be causing trains to slow down at the far end of the loop.  There's just not enough track for the rails themselves to make a difference.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by davidam on Saturday, January 23, 2010 8:18 AM

try using dielectric grease on the track pins @ each connection. it worked for me.

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Posted by bfskinner on Saturday, January 23, 2010 8:30 AM

davidam

try using dielectric grease on the track pins @ each connection. it worked for me.

Because there has been so much confusion surrounding the word "dielectric" * (which actually means "NON-conductive") are you actually recommending "dielectric" grease, or "conductive" grease, in this application?

Would you cite the manufacturer and model number of the grease that you have found satisfactory? 

Thank you.

Note: variously spelled "dielectric" and "die-electric," etc.

"Dielectric" grease may keep down rust and corrosion at electrical contact points, but by definition it shouldn't enhance conductivity directly. Electrical contact is maintained more-or-less in spite of it.

You have to be a bit careful where you use "conductive" grease. In general it will do no harm in low-voltage situations as long as you keep it well localized; but if it gets where it shouldn't be it could create a short-circuit. In high-voltage situations it can be deadly, because if it oozes out, it is roughly the equivalent of having liquid copper or silver escaping and carrying the nasty electricity along with it. (At least that's my understanding.)

.

bf
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Posted by davidam on Saturday, January 23, 2010 2:24 PM

conductive. i bought it a an auto parts supply. it was suggested to me by the owner of a train store.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Saturday, January 23, 2010 2:32 PM

"Would you cite the manufacturer and model number of the grease that you have found satisfactory?"

Bob Nelson

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Posted by davidam on Sunday, January 24, 2010 7:40 AM

the product was permatex, the no. 81150? i remember on the package it said "prevents voltage loss". i used it sparingly on the track pins applied with a childs water color brush and wiped off any residue on the track. my layout is 8x16 with two levels and 5 tracks one transformer connection per track. i use gargraves and standard lionel track. i have no noticeable power loss on any of the tracks.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Sunday, January 24, 2010 9:03 AM

That's "dielectric grease".  It's an insulator, not a conductor.  Here's the MSDS:  http://www.permatex.com/documents/msds/01_USA-English/81150.pdf

Bob Nelson

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Posted by BLT 01-78 on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 11:17 PM

Revisiting this thread as I am planning a similar ceiling layout in my newly finished basement.  I need some help matching the parts I have had passed down to me from my Dad +/- my collection +/- new stuff if needed.

 

My room is 30' x 12' divided almost exactly into 2 rectancular sections allowing for a ceiling shelf style layout with two seprate trains.  O guage train assortment, for starters, old O Guage track.  By my calculation, I need at least 50 feet of track for each loop with the tightest allowable corners that will work.  I plan to run the tracks with a ZW-275 watt transformer I have had for my whole life.  Typically at Christmas, I simply put a lockon on the track, hook up the ZW and go. 

With a run this long, will I need feeders?  How far apart?  What guage wire?  Do I set up the track on the floor and try it before mounting to the shelf???  I would prefer to utilize some cork backing under tra

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Posted by lionelsoni on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 3:11 PM

Bob, my answer to the original poster comes very close to applying to your situation.  However, the fact that you are using old sectional track makes your case a little riskier, as the numerous old rail joints may be your undoing.  I think I would put in a tap every yard or so and run a 14 AWG feeder pair all the way around, with both ends connected together and to the transformer.  That is the lightest wire that you should use to be safe with your 15-ampere VW, in any case.  It wouldn't be much more costly nor difficult to use 12 or 10 AWG, as long as you are doing it at all.

The taps from the feeder bus to the rails don't need to be nearly as big, 16 or 18 AWG, if they are only a couple of inches long.

I have often suggested using a "spiral" curve in corners, especially for a shelf layout.  This involves beginning and ending a 90-degree curve at a corner with a section of gentler curvature, perhaps O72.  The rest of the curve can be tighter, perhaps O31.  This doesn't take up much extra room at all at the corners; but it allows you to put the straight track much closer to the wall.  Using only O31 forces you to put the straight track farther out, to make room for the train parts that swing to the outside of the track on curves.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by BLT 01-78 on Wednesday, March 01, 2017 8:02 PM

Given the age of the track in the boxes, I am considering buying some new Lionel O-Guage 40" straights since the layouts will be simply rectangles around the ceiling.  I can use my existing curves and some short straights to make the 9ft-12ft-9ft-12ft loops to decrease the chance of power loss over the track.  Now..

Assume I am a total novice with wiring.  Will speaker wire work?  (I have extra from the renovation).  Also, I have the opportunity right now to run wire in the celing/wall for the whole loop as it is not finished yet.  Do I bury it or simply tuck in shelf corner if I need the bus run?  If one large loop of 14g AWG wire is used as the bus, how do I connect the 16g AWG tap ins at each lock on?  Cut then wire nut together?  If the bus runs the whole loop, I am envisioning Transformer (A-U connection) -> first/main lockon -> first tap at next lockon -> and so on back to solder at first/main lockon for a continuous loop.  No additional wires back to transformer.  Correct?

Thanks for the idea of "spiral" track to lessen how tight the corners are.  Since we are buidling the shelves custom, maybe I will go with a combo of 031 and 072 as you suggested.

This info is so helpful.  Thank you Bob!

Bob

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Posted by Laurastom on Thursday, March 02, 2017 9:44 AM

Regarding conductive or anti-oxidant greases, I have used them for years on the track pins and power clip ons with the Gilbert track. I find it very effective. There is a minor difference with Gilbert versus Lionel track (other than we only get two rails for our money), that difference is Gilbert track is not plated, it is a solid steel rail that can be sanded or filed without danger of removing the plating or increasing the tendency to rust.

The grease I have used is GB Ox-Gard.by GB Electrical, Inc. Its primary purpose is protecting Copper to Aluminum connections in power wiring. I buy it at Home Depot.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Thursday, March 02, 2017 3:03 PM

Speaker wire that is at least 14 AWG (but no smaller!) would be safe for use with a ZW.  Solid 14 AWG is about 1/16 inch in diameter; stranded is a little thicker.

I prefer to solder the taps to the rails. (I also solder the rail joints, without track pins.  It makes it easier to remove track for repair or changes without taking up a lot of track.).  I attach the two cut ends of each feeder wire to the tap with a wire nut.  (I have tried the "suitcase" taps, but have found them to be unreliable.)  I would keep the feeder bus on top, between the track and the wall.  It should be out of sight there.

Your understanding of the wire routing is correct.  You can close the loop at the track or at the transformer.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by BLT 01-78 on Thursday, March 02, 2017 6:41 PM

I ordered new Lionel O-guage track in long sections and 031 / 072 for corners as Bob suggested.  For wire I got some 12 AWG stranded for the bus loop and will solder all the lockoff connections as well as the track sections.  I think that will eliminate the need for any grease and minimize power drop if I am reading all of this correctly.  We decided to bury the bus inside the wall along the track path and pull a loop out to tap in for each feeder.

I will let you know how the test run goes as soon as I get all the pieces together.

 

Thanks again to all

Bob

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Posted by BLT 01-78 on Thursday, March 09, 2017 10:21 PM

Right now I have the layout setup as two rectangular loops around the ceiling divided by a bulkhead in the middle of the room.  Let's say I want to be able to switch to one large continuous outer loop that will run a "tunnel" through the dividing bulkhead.  Can I add switch tracks to one end of each loop (on either side of the bulkhead) and set all 4 of them to switch togehter?  If all were straight the large loop would be continuous.  If set to inner loop, it would create the two separate runs again.

Questions:

Is this possible?

How would I wire the switch tracks (wire guage, number of wires, controls)?

Can it be done in parallel (all switch at once to be straight vs inward turn)?

How would this affect my bus wiring for the two tracks?  The separate loop bus wiring makes sense to me but switching to the single loop make me wonder if it is possible.

 

Bob

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Posted by lionelsoni on Friday, March 10, 2017 8:15 AM

What you propose is certainly possible.

To synchronize the turnouts, simply connect together the four terminals, one on each turnout, that produce the diverging path, and also connect together the four that produce the non-diverging path.  Then connect these to a single controller.  (I assume that you're using traditional tubular-track turnouts.)  Connect the turnouts' supply terminals to one of your ZW's accessory voltages through 14 AWG wire.  The wire for the controller can be much lighter.

For track power, put a gap or insulating pin in the center rail of each of the links through the tunnels.  Wire the center rail in one of the rooms to the common terminal of a single-pole-double-throw (SPDT) switch.  Wire the other switch terminals to each of the transformer terminals you're using to run the trains.  This lets you connect each loop to its own transformer control or to combine them onto one control.

I advise against simply trying to match the transformer voltages when running between rooms.  If you ever fail to get a good match, the fault current between the tracks through your train pickups will not trip the ZW's 15-ampere circuit breaker and can burn out your wiring or transformer.

Now that I think about it, maybe you should reconsider having that wiring in the walls, where you can't see the smoke if you forget to throw the switch.  A good precaution in any case is to add an external circuit breaker to each of the transformer's outputs.

 

Bob Nelson

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Posted by BLT 01-78 on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 9:50 PM

Decided to go with one large loop through the bulkhead - no switches to mess with.  I will use either side of the room divider to display trains not in use.

Just out of curiosity, what are the groups thoughts on using new Lionel O guage track vs Gargraves plated tin track for this setup?  The local hobby store here is taking a stance that the old Lionel track is "crap" and will require too much maintenance then fail in <3 years in this application.

I tested the track and it seems to be working fine on the floor.  Still building the shelves.

Thoughts?

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