Postwar Power "Riddle"

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Postwar Power "Riddle"
Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 7:40 PM

Hello,

Years back I often read this forum along with other sites, occasionally posting.  After a bit of a hiatus, I'm back.  Right now, I'm in the planning stage for a postwar layout (L-Shaped, approx 8-10ft wide and 12-16ft long).  I will be using almost exclusively postwar equipment and Super O Track.

I recently purchased my current home and need to handle some electrical and plumbing issues before construction begins.  However, I would like to plan ahead as best I can.  So, the first thing I want to address is power.

The control panel will be one of the focal points of the layout, modeled after a mix of the 1949 showroom panel (smaller scale) and many of the panels on dealer display layouts from the era.

At my disposal, I have 2 ZW's, KW, TW, and RW.  I've flirted with the idea of the LW instead of/along with the RW.  I want to show what power supplies would be offered in the mid fifties.

I guess the "riddle" in all this and where I need input from you all is how to effectively utilize each transformer for the various purposes: 3 main lines, 3 motorized unit tracks, dozens of lighted accessories, variable voltage control for operating accessories, switches, signals, etc....

Channeling your inner Ken Mattingly (Apollo 13), how would you suggest utilizing the above transformers best?  Do I have enough power?  How much do you postwar guys stress your transformers?

Thanks!

John

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Posted by Penny Trains on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 8:30 PM

I can't help much with power requirements other than to say I've heard it said that the KW is the transformer of choice for operators with multiple accessories.

Welcome aboard!

Becky

A waking Lithium Flower just about to bloom

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Posted by alank on Tuesday, August 08, 2017 10:33 PM

You probably have enough power to do what you want, the question is how much power do you want plugged in at any time.   I wouldn't power these off of one circuit breaker, although all these added up represents 1025W.   You have to look at your load, type engines you are running.   Those lights in the switches and accessories add up.  I  know what you are trying to do.   You don't mention any 1033s, these were popular in the 50s...I just aqquired a KW so I have a good assortment of transformers from ZWs, TWs. KW, LW, 1044, 1033, and even  the smaller transformers.   For me I would display some of my transformers seperately, and focus my layout on a good design.   I had a friend that liked lights and he kept adding those GE53 lights to the layout with accessories, etc. and darn near fried a Z transformer he was using.   Have you seen David Smith's  layout?   He has a nice layout and control panel using 2 LW's and some smaller power.  I will have to think more about this.   This is like a project at work that I worked on many years ago where we had 1 of each power supply we were using on large system computers.  That was for testing purposes, but I don't think I would want that for my layout.   How much to load any one transformer in another important factor.   Switching factor( how much of anything is operating at one time is important.   I hope Bob Nelson answers this I always like his contributions...I liked that Apollo 13 story.   Interestingly I saw something the other day where they are going to restore the Mission Control Room.   At one time I used to fantisize working there and even got to visit is back in the  late 70s.   When I was a boy they built one of the Sage Block Houses on a base my dad was stationed at.   That was tubes, can you  imagine the heat?   Anyhow this should be a good project for thought.

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Posted by alank on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 11:22 AM

Thinking of what you are asking a little more.    Use the 2 ZWs to power the three main lines.  Just use A&D, the 2 outside handlles.   Three handles for the main lines, leaves 1 handle for a motorized unit track.   Use the KW, 2 throttles for the other 2 motorized unit tracks, probably overkill, but you can regulated them.   Now your switches( you say you are using super O are probably going to be hooked up as fixed voltage, they can come off of the B & C terminals of the ZW's.

Use the TW and RW for accessories.   With the TW you have many choices of voltage, and it a 175 watt transformer.   You also have the TW and RW varable available.

Now I am not talking about phasing or anything along those lines, but when you place your switches, if you are thinking of going track to track, you will need to address that.   Also I don't suspect all your accessories will be on at once, but you talk about lighted accessories, and other lights, you will need to keep them in mind and distribute between your transformers efficiently.   That is 4 transformers for a sampling of 1950s transformers available.   I don't think that is to bad.   Like I said in my earlier post I think you can have to many transformers, and then you have to think about how many you want in the on position at any time.   That is why I mentioned display.   Input to the transformers will become important the more you have.   Lionel had some good charts and diagrams in thier operating manuals in the 50s.   I think that is what Lionel is all about, at least for me the electric component.   The trains were just something we powered and hooked up, learning electrical skills along the way.   And besides who doesn't like trains.

Your Super O switches are a good candidate for Bob Nelson's capacative discharge scheme.   Those switches are prone to burnout like their O-27 counterpart if a train stops on the non-derailing rail for any period of time they are powered up.

Talking transformers, I like a lot of the smaller transformers for various needs.   I use a 1012 or 1014 for powering something like a rotating beacon.   I also  use them for lights in buildings.   There is much out there for you to display both your trains and what Lionel had to offer.   Take your time building, and allocating power.   Wired right you can have 1 big ground(per say) observing the A-U terminals.

I will leave at this point.   Wishing you well in your endeavors, have fun and remember Safety First.

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 9:58 PM

Thanks for the replies!

I like the idea of using the ZWs for the 3 loops and actually, 1 of the 3 motorized unit lines will be a small loop for the #58 Snowplow.  The KW's option of having 0-14 volts variable instead of 6-20 would be a good fit for the gang car and trolley lines.

I've thought about the 1033 as well.  The 11 volt fixed option would work well with the G53 bulbs rated at 14.4 allowing them to burn cooler/last longer.  It's just hard to find one or more at book value.

My biggest problem is determining the amperage/wattage pulled from the motorized/action accessories.  I can't find an estimate for solenoids (oil derrick, semaphore, etc), vibra-motors, and regular motors (log loader, goal loader, etc)

And while I'm on that topic.... what should I measure?  The wattage because the transformers are rated by watts.... or amperage because their breakers trip at a certain amount of amps drawn?

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Thursday, August 10, 2017 7:45 AM

Thank you for your detailed reply.

I like the idea of using the ZWs for the three main lines and one of the motorized units.  In fact, one of them will be a small loop for the #58 Snowplow, but I'd like to have the power available to run a larger motor on that loop if I want.  The KW would be great to use for the gang car and trolley since it gives you the option of 0-14 volts instead of 6-20 by using C as the common.  I'm not sure what available wattage this way would leave me on the ZWs though...

If I run the twin motor 2353s with 4 or 5 illuminated passenger cars on "AU" that would be about 90-100W, 4-5A.  Then if I run the 2354s with a few freight cars and caboose on "DU" that would be about 75-85W, 3.5-4A.  This is obviously the worst case.  So, that's a total of 165-185W, 7.5-9A.  Are my numbers right?

The second ZW would have some room because, even if theres a passenger set drawing 5 amps on "AU", the #58 snowplow and caboose should only draw 2 amps on "DU".

Are my numbers right?

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Posted by alank on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 6:54 PM

BLT_BY_LIONEL

     In response to the question; Are my numbers right?

     I think you have a pretty good handle of what you want and what is going on.  If I were to take your numbers, I would say they are right, but unfortunately my reference material for current draw by a 2353 or a 2354 is unavailable to me.   I misplaced a box that I keep catalogs and other Lionel material in, so I haven't a hard copy of anything at the moment.

 I googled 'Current Draw Lionel 2353' and got pointed to a O Guage Model  Railroad site Amps Drawn by Post War Locomotives.   In the listing is a URL for a 1954 Operating Lionel Trains and Accessories Manual.   44 pages of good stuff, showing transformers, hookups and then there is a page talking about current draw for O27 and O gauge locos.   You should read this stuff over, and in the mean time maybe someone else may reply.

You have a good understanding of this, you just need correct values.   Give it a try. https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/fileSendAction/fcType/0/fcOid/15649413467022743/filePointer/18746737983860662/fodoid/18746737983860657/Booklet.pdf

Good luck.....Alank

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Posted by BigAl 956 on Friday, August 18, 2017 11:19 AM

I'll simplify this a bit.

First, have the electrician install a 20 amp circuit outlet for the trains.

For power on my layout I phased together 3 ZWs. Everthing is then returned back to a common U running as a Black #14 gage bus under the layout.

I use the outer A&D controls on the ZWs as track power for the blocks, and I use the inner controls, C&D, for circuits that required adjustable or different voltages such as:

  • Lights
  • vibrating accessories
  • Fixed power accessories

Finally, here is a pic of my control panel. Enjoy.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Friday, August 18, 2017 6:36 PM

A single 20-ampere circuit should be plenty for quite a few transformers.  The NEC allows you to plug in 80 percent of that, which is 16 amperes or 1920 watts.  However, if you do that through a single power strip with a 15-ampere plug (the common kind with parallel blades), you are limited to 12 amperes, which is still an ample 1440 watts.

The bad news is that a common return from 3 ZWs all in phase needs a whopping 6-AWG wire to handle the worst-case 45-ampere return current safely.  This is a pretty big wire, because the amount of copper needed increases faster than the ampacity, in this case by a factor of about 6.4, much more than three times the size of a 14-AWG wire.  Home Depot sells bare solid 6-AWG copper for $.89 per foot.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by cwburfle on Saturday, August 19, 2017 4:28 AM

The bad news is that a common return from 3 ZWs all in phase needs a whopping 6-AWG wire to handle the worst-case 45-ampere return current safely. 

Or the owner could elect to run several parrallel wires to handle the worse-case amperage.
Regardless, using external circuit breakers on each individual power output is also a good idea.
If you are going to run trains with electronic components, I'd suggest tranisient voltage suppessors (TVS) too.

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Posted by lionelsoni on Saturday, August 19, 2017 10:29 AM

Parallel wires are a solution in principle.  However, the NEC allows this only for hardship cases involving wire so large that it would be difficult to find as a single conductor and then with special precautions, for some good reasons:

o  The wires must be carefully matched in length and cross-section, and in how they are connected, because slight differences will cause the lower-resistance wire(s) to carry a greater share of the current.

o  There is a risk that a wire will fail or be accidentally disconnected or develop a high-resistance connection.  These problems are likely to go unnoticed until the other wires overheat.

Also, a practical consideration with a bus wire like this is the inconvenience in making connections to all three wires for each tap, to keep the return current balanced.

Note that three separate 14-AWG wires are not a problem for the distance between the transformers and the layout.  The individual transformers' overcurrent protection will protect the return side of each circuit.  The current in each transformer's return is exactly the sum of the currents flowing in the various transformer outputs, and it all flows through the internal circuit breaker immediately inside the case.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Saturday, August 19, 2017 8:06 PM

Alank, thank you for the link.  Those will give me a rough idea of what I'm drawing.  I'm going to aim for 60-70% of transformer capacity so if my numbers aren't dead on, I should still be ok.

Bob, thanks for your input.  6 AWG is definitely a large wire for a model train layout.  I just need to clarify what wires need to be that large....

So, let's say we have a circuit that regularly draws 15 amps. However, on that circuit is a #71 Lamp Post drawing .12 amps on its own.  So, the 22 awg wire for the lamp itself is fine since the full 15 amps will never run through it, just the bus wire? 

If that's the case, can I run smaller common bus wires for each track line and feed all of them into a 6 AWG wire near the control panel? 

Thanks!

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Posted by lionelsoni on Sunday, August 20, 2017 2:32 PM

Both sides of the circuit should use wire that can stand the worst-case current that could flow, whether in a fault or when everything is working properly.  For example, if a short circuit ever occors between the wires feeding that 120-milliampere lamp, or in the socket or the lamp itself, the full 15 amperes or, more likely, more than that will flow through both wires until the circuit breaker trips.  So you should use 14 AWG for both wires.

However, a simple way around using inconveniently big wires between large transformers and a small load is to create a lower-current circuit protected at a lower current downstream from the transformer.  For example, a 5-ampere breaker or fuse will protect 20-AWG wires on the load side of the breaker or fuse.

Another trick that I have often suggested is to power switch machines, lights, and other accessories out of phase with the track voltage, so that their return currents subtract from the return current from the track.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by BLT_BY_LIONEL on Monday, August 21, 2017 11:41 PM

Bob,

I like the idea of the low current breakers downstream.  That'll be a good tool when planning the wiring.  I'm trying to stick to using as much original equipment as possible, but when it comes to safety (home and trains) I obviously will yield to common sense.

The idea of wiring switches and signals out of phase is hard to grasp but I trust your expertise in the field.  If that's an option, I'd be able to use an unphased Z and TW to power most accessories and save the ZWs for just the trains.

Just to clarify, if I wanted to power a train, #151 semaphore, and #112 switch I could:

Connect the outside rail to "U" on the ZW

Connect the inside rail to "A" on the ZW

Connect the fixed voltage "hot" terminals of the #112 and #151 to "E" on the TW

Connect a wire from the control rail (ZW U terminal) to the #151 (TW E terminal)

.............and it wouldn't matter what way the plugs were inserted into the outlet even though no common connection has been made from the TW (terminal F)?

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