Lionel 6-5906 Sound Activation Button

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Lionel 6-5906 Sound Activation Button
Posted by ChrisR27 on Tuesday, March 04, 2014 4:33 PM

The instructions say that all track power must go through the activation button. I am running a large oval with a ZW and 16 ga wire going to several points on the track. Seems to me that the small ga wire that comes out of the activation button is too light. I would think it would overheat & have a huge voltage drop. Would this be true?

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Posted by sir james I on Tuesday, March 04, 2014 6:13 PM

I use them with PW ZWs without any problems.

"IT's GOOD TO BE THE KING",by Mel Brooks 

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Posted by lionelsoni on Tuesday, March 04, 2014 8:12 PM

The wire you're using for your feeders is too small for the ZW.  The ZW will allow you to draw 15 amperes before the circuit breaker trips.  But 16 AWG wire is able to carry only about 10 amperes safely.  All the wiring on the outputs of your ZW should be 14 AWG at a minimum.

Most track is approximately equivalent to 16 AWG as far as voltage drop is concerned; so 16 AWG feeders are likely to provide only a slight improvement over the track itself.  You may find that 14 AWG feeders do a better job both in reducing voltage drop and in safety.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by V8Vega on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 10:37 AM

Bob your very good with electronics and I learn from you but you didn't answer the guys question and I have wondered about it too.

Coming from the ZW using the small wires that come with the sound activation button for a short distance and then into big buss wires. Does those small wires for a short distance restrict any? Thanks.

Dennis  San Fernando Valley CA.  Joined August 2009

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Posted by lionelsoni on Wednesday, March 05, 2014 11:49 AM

I took his "small ga wire that comes out of the activation button" to be his feeders, which should be at least as large as 14 AWG.  But any wires fed by the transformer should be 14 AWG.  If the sound controller came with Lionel's traditional tiny green wires, he should replace them.

There are two reasonable exceptions to selecting the wire gauge prescribed by the NEC (or extrapolated from their tables).  One is the use of a smaller gauge tap where there is a mechanical or aesthetic problem, like attaching a wire unobtrusively to a track rail.  A few inches of slightly smaller wire is reasonable there, assuming that the larger adjacent conductors will conduct away some heat.

The other is impedance protection, where a simple and reliable component, like a resistor or lamp, is fed from a large wire, perhaps from an accessory-voltage supply, but where the wires on the return side of the circuit are only large enough to carry the maximum current drawn, even if they are all accidentally grounded to common.  This technique is very common in telephone-exchange wiring, where the ungrounded -48-volt battery voltage on a heavy wire is connected to one terminal of a relay coil, but all the complex contact-logic wiring that controls the relay is connected to the other coil terminal.  If any of those lighter wires is grounded, the current will not exceed the normal relay-coil current.  This is very similar to the way we operate turnouts and accessories--so we don't need to use 14 AWG between switch machines and their controllers or control rails.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by David Barker on Monday, March 10, 2014 4:06 PM

Bob you are top shelf and do help so many of us.

Thank you Sir

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Posted by DR ROBERT J GRIFFIN on Saturday, December 29, 2018 10:20 AM

Thanks for your expert advice on the Lionel 6-5906 Sound Activation Button.  I have a ZW transformer, and use the button for the bell sound on the Lionel 0-8-0 Pere Marquette locomotive.  When hooked up according to instructions, the button properly toggled the bell sounds on and off properly.  I was worried about the small gauge Lionel wires feeding into and out of the controller, so I carefully took the controller apart and replaced them with 18 AWG wire.  (Had I read your posting first, I would have chosen 14 AWG.)  I carefully unsoldered the original wires with a 40-watt Radio Shack soldering pencil, then soldered in the new wires, using heat sinks to protect the component leads nearby and carefully using the matching red and black wires that Lionel had used. I reassembled the button and reconnected it as had been done originally (and double-checked it).  However, the first time I pushed the rewired button it produced a whistle sound in the tender.  The next time, all it produced was a garbled, static type sound.  The whistle control on the ZW does produce a whistle sound.  Did I perhaps accidentally fry one of the components in the button assembly with the soldering, despite my caution?  Or, is there some other explanation?  (PS I plan to take very seriously your advice on using 14 AWG with with the ZW, and rewire the small layout accordingly.)  Thanks.   

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Posted by lionelsoni on Saturday, December 29, 2018 6:49 PM

I'm afraid I have to agree with you that something went wrong in the rewiring.  It would be worthwhile to take it apart again, just to make sure that you didn't inadvertently create an open or short circuit.  But, if you did overheat a semiconductor component, there's nothing to do but replace it--if you can.

Bob Nelson

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