Carpet as a Base and fears of fire

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Carpet as a Base and fears of fire
Posted by PunMaster on Thursday, August 22, 2019 2:38 AM

I am just getting into the O gauge part of the hobby and I see a lot of layouts with a green carpet base and I like how it looks for what I am planning for my layout. I just have concerns about, well, fire. Is there a type of carpet I can get that will not catch fire?  Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.

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Posted by wrmcclellan on Thursday, August 22, 2019 8:24 AM

Interesting question. You can read this...CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations

https://www.cpsc.gov/Business--Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Carpets-and-Rugs

 

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Posted by Roger Carp on Thursday, August 22, 2019 9:17 AM

Hi Punmaster,

 

Please contact me at Classic Toy Trains for help with your question.

 

Sincerely,

 

Roger Carp

Senior editor

Classic Toy Trains

262-796-8776 ext. 253

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Posted by phrankenstign on Friday, August 23, 2019 1:36 AM

Roger Carp

Hi Punmaster,

 

Please contact me at Classic Toy Trains for help with your question.

 

Sincerely,

 

Roger Carp

Senior editor

Classic Toy Trains

262-796-8776 ext. 253

Why be secretive about it?  I'll bet there are others who are curious now that the question has been posed.

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Posted by rtraincollector on Friday, August 23, 2019 6:22 PM

I would say, not as much as catching fire as there would be a very good chance of getting fibers wrapped around the axles and jaming them to where the engine could barely move if not bind it up completly. Now again it would depend on the carpet also.

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Posted by Penny Trains on Friday, August 23, 2019 7:04 PM

I run this Standard Gauge #8 with 24 volts and often the rollers get red hot if they're not as lubricated as I like.  So far (knock wood) I've had no problems with this loco that sparks plenty even under the best conditions.

Where I did have an issue was over on another layout with my 14 volt lighting grid:

This flamed up, but the carpet, installed in the early 1970's, did not ignite.

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Posted by cnw1995 on Sunday, August 25, 2019 10:24 AM

I've used indoor / outdoor carpet for the layout base for years without a problem. It is fire resistant per Roy's post above. I am careful about where to run accessory wiring - and using the proper gauge of wire so it doesn't get hot. I had lots of help here with that.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Sunday, August 25, 2019 2:47 PM

Amen to Doug's advice about wire gauge.  I'll take this opportunity to expand on it a little:

Any wire has a quality called its "ampacity", which is the amount of current that it can carry without getting too hot.  Big wires have more ampacity, small wires less.  Copper and silver have more ampacity, most other metals have less.

To avoid fire, wiring should be protected against "overcurrent"--current greater than the wiring's ampacity.  This is what circuit breakers and fuses do.  Slow-blow fuses and the thermal circuit breakers in traditional toy train transformers are examples of such devices, that exploit the fact that brief overcurrents are harmless.

Some approximate ampacities for copper wire are 15 amperes for 14 AWG, 10 amperes for 16 AWG, 8 amperes for 18 AWG, and 5 amperes for 20 AWG.  These currents are not the normal current drawn by the load, but rather the currents at which the overcurrent protection opens the circuit.

So the smallest Scout locomotive, if powered by a ZW, needs its track to be wired with 14 AWG, even though it would normally never draw anywhere close to the 15 amperes that would trip the ZW's circuit breaker.

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Posted by ADCX Rob on Sunday, August 25, 2019 5:16 PM

PunMaster
...concerns about, well, fire. Is there a type of carpet I can get that will not catch fire?

It would actually be very difficult to find carpet that does catch on fire.

Rob

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Posted by teledoc on Monday, August 26, 2019 10:03 AM

Why does Roger always post “contact me......”, and appear to be so secretive.  It never adds to the answer, that other‘s can learn from.  I just can not understand his constant “Contact Me” posts.  What am I missing here???

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Posted by David1005 on Tuesday, August 27, 2019 3:08 AM
100% wool carpet does not burn. Most of the plastics will burn if you get them hot enough. And the smoke from many burning plastics is toxic.
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Posted by rtraincollector on Saturday, August 31, 2019 4:23 PM

 

teledoc

Why does Roger always post “contact me......”, and appear to be so secretive.  It never adds to the answer, that other‘s can learn from.  I just can not understand his constant “Contact Me” posts.  What am I missing here???  

according to him he passes them on to one of his editors who do a question answer thing in CTT, but it has been asked a lot of times about this, and most of us would agree he has done this on enough for his editor could go a couple years on these alone. And I have yet to see one of the questions come up in a CTT magazine. 

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Posted by teledoc on Sunday, September 1, 2019 1:14 AM

Rtraincollector, That’s my whole point.  There are members who could and would answer the question, so others can learn, publicly.  The constant “Contact me”, serves no useful purpose, and is a complete Turn Off.  Supposedly, this gets passed to Joe Mania, to answer in his column.  Funny is that Joe Mania is fairly local to my location, and just a phone call away.  If other members could answer, it would benefit many.  I’m just ranting for nothing, I guess.

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Posted by rtraincollector on Sunday, September 1, 2019 6:20 PM

Teldoc that has been a lot of peoples point, but since he runs the magazine and offeers this forum for free it's his ball game, your not alone in feeling that way. 

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Posted by Penny Trains on Sunday, September 1, 2019 6:50 PM

Do what I do.  Answer the question anyways.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, September 1, 2019 8:08 PM

I've seen layouts where people use a short-pile carpet, I think it's called "Berber," as a base for their trackage on the layout table.  The thing is, they don't run the wiring under  the carpet, they drill the table and run the wiring under the table and up through  the carpet.  That way the wiring's always accessable and doesn't lead to other issues. 

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Posted by rtraincollector on Sunday, September 1, 2019 9:31 PM

Flintlock76

I've seen layouts where people use a short-pile carpet, I think it's called "Berber," as a base for their trackage on the layout table.  The thing is, they don't run the wiring under  the carpet, they drill the table and run the wiring under the table and up through  the carpet.  That way the wiring's always accessable and doesn't lead to other issues. 

 

Yes

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Posted by mersenne6 on Monday, September 2, 2019 10:21 AM

I've never had a permanent layout - all of my railroads (in some 50 years of running) have been Carpet Centrals.  My job is such that I've lived/rented in a number of different cities and have run the trains on all types of carpet.  As was noted above, the only issue I've ever had was that of fibers either wrapping around the axles or getting caught in the lube grease.  

  Only once did I have a short which resulted in the kind of fried/melted wire pictured in one of the earlier posts.  The melted plastic from the wire had fused to some of the carpet pile but the pile itself was unharmed.

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Posted by Penny Trains on Monday, September 2, 2019 6:59 PM

I should give a bit of info.  This:

...was caused by inferior "no name" electrical tape slipping during layout disassembly.  The wires were running under the rails a short distance from the Monorail station to a connecting area beneath the Autopia.  Roughly top center to behind the blue roof structure accross the tracks in this photo:

Somehow the wires became stretched and contacted one another at a taped-over joint.  A simple short to be sure but down on the carpet six feet from my power center it got away from me before I could get the system shut down.  The charred insulation did melt onto the carpet fibers a bit, but I was able to pull everything loose with no discernable damage to the rug.

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Posted by CSXJOE on Tuesday, September 24, 2019 7:41 PM

Using track with integral roadbed, Fastrack, would add another layer of protection from carpet fibers and heat.

 

 

 

 

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Posted by rtraincollector on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 10:21 AM

Do this, put your track ( you didn't say what your using ) ( I'm using O gauge track ) on your carpet and see how much of a clearance you have between the top of the rails and the top of the carpet. If you have 1/4" or more I would say your not going to catch your carpet. Your engine would have to be getting super hot, and if it gets that hot 1 you have something definitely wrong with your engine. 2 you would probably melt the plastic ( if you using a diesel ) or would not be able to handle it. Remember flash point basically is about 180 degree's or higher for most items, unless your handling something very flammable.

 

So to me you should be safe with carpet. I'm using carpet on my 12' x 16' layout but my carpet is only about 3/8" high and using O gauge track I have about 3/4" clearance between the motor and the carpet. In most cases remember you motor also sits higher than you axles, yes I know with the modern engine with can motors most of them are basically same height as your axles in that case I have about 3/8" clearance.  

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Posted by lionelsoni on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 12:44 PM

It's a good thing not to run wires next to flammable carpet.  But it's also important to protect the wire from current greater than its ampacity, so as not to push our luck in not igniting whatever the wire is in contact with, when an electrical fault occurs.

As for the "Questions & Answers" column in CTT, I think that the answer to the last question in the November issue is simplistic in advising "nothing smaller than 18-gauge wire for track power".  That kind of rule of thumb may work for normal operation of typical trains, but it ignores the important consideration of what happens in abnormal situations, with the track circuit drawing more than about 8 amperes from a transformer that can supply twice that without tripping its circuit breaker.

It's not enough that the wire gauge be heavy enough to carry the train's usual current; it should also be heavy enough to carry what the transformer can put out, without overheating and igniting its insulation and whatever else is nearby.  A single size does not fit all in this case.

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Posted by CSXJOE on Thursday, September 26, 2019 9:20 PM

Most of my layouts used Lifelike grass paper under the tracks, much more flammable then carpets.   There is/were thousands of layouts over the years using the same paper with no known issues.  If there was the cpsc would be all over it. Not everyone runs the wires below the table.  If you look, all postwar Lionel accessories or devices have a notch in the base to route surface wiring to it.

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Posted by mdeange3 on Thursday, September 26, 2019 11:44 PM

Is there any difference in the wiring used for Lionel and MTH?

A family member runs Lionel, and he had an MTH Operating Station Platform. I don't know if there are any differences between Lionel and MTH wiring and their transformers and if they are compatible?  

The MTH wire on this accessory is more slender than the Lionel wiring. And when the button was pressed to activate the station, a flame sparked where the two wires were connected, melting the wire insulation. 

It seemed that the difference between the different gauge wires where they were connected became heated.  I believe that the wiring from the transformer was lengthened using a similar size wire that was braided wire to connect to the accessory. Can anyone explain if this is avoidable?

 

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Posted by rtraincollector on Friday, September 27, 2019 4:44 AM

My guess is to get the spark there was some bare wire at point of spark and they touched each other. as for wire, I'm sure Bob can explain it better than I but for accesories I believe 16 - 18 gauge wire is fine. Running trains I use 14 gauge wire.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Friday, September 27, 2019 4:33 PM

o  Find out what is the specified value for your overcurrent protection.  If the protection is a circuit breaker packaged with the transformer, use that circuit breaker's rating.  If you have put a circuit breaker or a fuse in series with a transformer terminal, use that rating.  If you have both, use the lower number.

o  Wire your circuit, whether for track power, accessories, or lights with wire whose ampacity is at least as great as the overcurrent protection.

Example:  You want to operate a train or an accessory that is supposed to draw a current of 5 amperes.  You plan to connect the circuit to the U and A terminals of a ZW transformer, but with a 10-ampere fuse in series with the A terminal.  The ZW circuit breaker is rated at 15 amperes, so your overcurrent protection is 10 amperes--the rating of the fuse.  You will need wire with an ampacity of at least 10 amperes.   You can safely use 16 AWG for that.  But there is no harm in using heavier wire, so you select 14 AWG, in case you later decide to bypass the fuse and have a full 15 amperes available.

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Posted by BigAl 956 on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 10:51 AM

teledoc

Why does Roger always post “contact me......”, and appear to be so secretive.  It never adds to the answer, that other‘s can learn from.  I just can not understand his constant “Contact Me” posts.  What am I missing here???

 

Agreed. I know this is a CTT sponserd forum but asking the poster to take thier question off line to Roger's personal message box gets kind of anoying and disrespectful to the rest of us on the forum. If you have something to contribute please do so so all of us can learn and comment. If you have an article or reference on the CTT site post a link.

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Posted by rtraincollector on Thursday, October 3, 2019 4:11 PM

Big Al & Teledoc This the exact reason I hardly post in here anymore. I prefer getting my answers else where, where the whole community can benifit from it. 

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Posted by Penny Trains on Thursday, October 3, 2019 6:44 PM

Do both.

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Posted by rtraincollector on Friday, October 4, 2019 6:51 AM

Well that comment went right over your head didn't it.

The comment was to say because of Roger always jumping in and asking the person submitting the question to contact him, which really annoys a lot of us because we don't get to find out his answer as it does not seem to appear in the CTT as he claims he wants it for. He has so far done this to where they have enough questions for the next 10 years. 

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