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Interesting problem

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Interesting problem
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 12:17 AM
I went outside to my garden railway (the 350 or so feet of track I have in place) and connected my power supply as usual, but my USA Trains SD40-2 with Sierra Sound would not run properly when I hooked up my power pack. It would not let me go further than half throttle without stopping and I would have to bring the throttle down again. It only happens in one direction and the other direction works fine (the left works fine and the right doesn't). I am using an MRC Control Master 20 with the tethered walk around cable. I have not had trouble with it since I bought it in January. The nudge/pulse mode is off and it is set to G scale. It works the same if the sound system is on or off, but when the sound is turned on, when it gets going to half throttle or more, it will cut out for a second and then suddenly act as if it just turned on. The only thing that changed since it worked fine was that I added another 75 feet of track on my mainline. There are no shorts or anything the would cause a short, and the power pack is connected directly to the track due to my usual electrical control panel not working for some reason. Nothing has changed with the electrical system except that I replaced a few sections of track in preparation for converting to DCC. It does not matter what direction the engine is facing or which wire is connected to which side of the track. The same problem occurred with my Kalamazoo 0-4-0. This problem is baffling me and I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions so that I can use my railway a bit before my schedule gets busy again in two weeks.
  • Member since
    April 2003
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Interesting problem
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 12:17 AM
I went outside to my garden railway (the 350 or so feet of track I have in place) and connected my power supply as usual, but my USA Trains SD40-2 with Sierra Sound would not run properly when I hooked up my power pack. It would not let me go further than half throttle without stopping and I would have to bring the throttle down again. It only happens in one direction and the other direction works fine (the left works fine and the right doesn't). I am using an MRC Control Master 20 with the tethered walk around cable. I have not had trouble with it since I bought it in January. The nudge/pulse mode is off and it is set to G scale. It works the same if the sound system is on or off, but when the sound is turned on, when it gets going to half throttle or more, it will cut out for a second and then suddenly act as if it just turned on. The only thing that changed since it worked fine was that I added another 75 feet of track on my mainline. There are no shorts or anything the would cause a short, and the power pack is connected directly to the track due to my usual electrical control panel not working for some reason. Nothing has changed with the electrical system except that I replaced a few sections of track in preparation for converting to DCC. It does not matter what direction the engine is facing or which wire is connected to which side of the track. The same problem occurred with my Kalamazoo 0-4-0. This problem is baffling me and I would appreciate any ideas or suggestions so that I can use my railway a bit before my schedule gets busy again in two weeks.
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  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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Posted by cacole on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 9:42 AM
It sound like you have an electrical overload somewhere in your track that is causing the power supply thermal circuit breaker to trip off. Troubleshooting advice: First, disconnect that extra track you recently added and see if that cures the problem. You mention DCC -- check your track joints and electrical wire connections to the track. Place the locomotive on the section of track that the power pack is connected to, or even better, to a new piece of track that is not part of the layout and see if the loco runs properly. Insure that you have adequate gauge wire from the power pack to the track -- preferably at least 14 gauge stranded wire. Something like outdoor low-voltage lighting wire should be sufficient. Finally, consider re-programming the locomotive's decoder and insure that you have your controller set to the proper address. Don't try to run more than one locomotive on each address. If you have both of those locos you mention set to the same address and both are on the track, your power supply might not have enough amperage output to operate two locomotives simultaneously. Take one of them off of the layout and see what happens.
  • Member since
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  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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Posted by cacole on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 9:42 AM
It sound like you have an electrical overload somewhere in your track that is causing the power supply thermal circuit breaker to trip off. Troubleshooting advice: First, disconnect that extra track you recently added and see if that cures the problem. You mention DCC -- check your track joints and electrical wire connections to the track. Place the locomotive on the section of track that the power pack is connected to, or even better, to a new piece of track that is not part of the layout and see if the loco runs properly. Insure that you have adequate gauge wire from the power pack to the track -- preferably at least 14 gauge stranded wire. Something like outdoor low-voltage lighting wire should be sufficient. Finally, consider re-programming the locomotive's decoder and insure that you have your controller set to the proper address. Don't try to run more than one locomotive on each address. If you have both of those locos you mention set to the same address and both are on the track, your power supply might not have enough amperage output to operate two locomotives simultaneously. Take one of them off of the layout and see what happens.
  • Member since
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  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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Posted by cacole on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 10:16 AM
Afterthought -- I hope you realize that your locomotives have to have a decoder installed in order to operate on DCC. Trying to operate a non-decoder equipped locomotive on DCC by setting the throttle to address 0 works with some HO-scale DCC systems, but is very hard on the motors and causes them to buzz a lot and overheat. If you're doing this with your G-scale locomotives, you're overloading the power supply.
  • Member since
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  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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Posted by cacole on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 10:16 AM
Afterthought -- I hope you realize that your locomotives have to have a decoder installed in order to operate on DCC. Trying to operate a non-decoder equipped locomotive on DCC by setting the throttle to address 0 works with some HO-scale DCC systems, but is very hard on the motors and causes them to buzz a lot and overheat. If you're doing this with your G-scale locomotives, you're overloading the power supply.
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 16, 2003 9:28 PM
Well, I have figured out my problem after countless hours of testing and an unlikely solution. I found out that I did in fact have a short in my electrical system that I fixed by switching all my feeder wires in the blocks to the neutral position. After I did this, I had no problems for an operating day, but havn't taken my trains out to play for close to 2 months [V] now due to my busy school load of AP and Honors classes and numerous after school activities. When I went out tonight to pull a very long test train to check about 50 feet of track i just relaid, I was shocked that my power pack once again told me there was a short. I tried turning off everything but the motors and even went as far as to dismantle part of my control panel, but there was still a short. There was nothing touching both rails and so my dad suggested testing the resistance between the rails whithout the power pack or train on it. We were shocked to see the needle go all the way, indicating a circut. As I was pondering this, my father tested the wrong piece of track, which was just laying on the ground in my station area and he didn't realize it wasn't connected. However, it showed that there was a circut between the rail of a piece of LGB flex track. Then, my dad's hand slipped and the wires touched the ground. And yes, you guessed it, the ground showed a closed circut. I could not believe my horrified eyes when i saw the needle move. I tested it myself further away, but the needle showed no resistance. As it would turn out, i was touching one wire to the dirt and one to my balast. And you probably guessed it again-my balast conducts electricity. Yes. The balast I use over all 350 feet of track works as one big short circut, all 2 tons of it. It turns out the problem was that I had wired my track for a block system when i first put it in, the decided to eventually convert it to batery power or DCC and i neglected all the connections i put into the blocks. Some of these wires worked loose over time and other i never bothered to reconnect after replacing a section of track and so they got burried in the balast that i use as a subroadbed as well as balast. The quarry that i go to calls it Base Fines. Between these wires, and some areas where too much balast was applied and the fines touch the rail on the sides, and the plastic ties themselves, my entire railway is one giant circut. If you find this humerous, I did too (as well as horrifying). If anyone else encounters a rather strange problem such as this, test your balast and sub roadbed to see if they conduct electricity. it may measure very small resistance, but when large amount are put in, the result is disasterous. Well, I hope that this can prevent a similar disaster on someone else's railway and save them hours of trouble. Anyone have any ideas on how to fix this so that i can still use electrical power through the rails on my railway?
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 16, 2003 9:28 PM
Well, I have figured out my problem after countless hours of testing and an unlikely solution. I found out that I did in fact have a short in my electrical system that I fixed by switching all my feeder wires in the blocks to the neutral position. After I did this, I had no problems for an operating day, but havn't taken my trains out to play for close to 2 months [V] now due to my busy school load of AP and Honors classes and numerous after school activities. When I went out tonight to pull a very long test train to check about 50 feet of track i just relaid, I was shocked that my power pack once again told me there was a short. I tried turning off everything but the motors and even went as far as to dismantle part of my control panel, but there was still a short. There was nothing touching both rails and so my dad suggested testing the resistance between the rails whithout the power pack or train on it. We were shocked to see the needle go all the way, indicating a circut. As I was pondering this, my father tested the wrong piece of track, which was just laying on the ground in my station area and he didn't realize it wasn't connected. However, it showed that there was a circut between the rail of a piece of LGB flex track. Then, my dad's hand slipped and the wires touched the ground. And yes, you guessed it, the ground showed a closed circut. I could not believe my horrified eyes when i saw the needle move. I tested it myself further away, but the needle showed no resistance. As it would turn out, i was touching one wire to the dirt and one to my balast. And you probably guessed it again-my balast conducts electricity. Yes. The balast I use over all 350 feet of track works as one big short circut, all 2 tons of it. It turns out the problem was that I had wired my track for a block system when i first put it in, the decided to eventually convert it to batery power or DCC and i neglected all the connections i put into the blocks. Some of these wires worked loose over time and other i never bothered to reconnect after replacing a section of track and so they got burried in the balast that i use as a subroadbed as well as balast. The quarry that i go to calls it Base Fines. Between these wires, and some areas where too much balast was applied and the fines touch the rail on the sides, and the plastic ties themselves, my entire railway is one giant circut. If you find this humerous, I did too (as well as horrifying). If anyone else encounters a rather strange problem such as this, test your balast and sub roadbed to see if they conduct electricity. it may measure very small resistance, but when large amount are put in, the result is disasterous. Well, I hope that this can prevent a similar disaster on someone else's railway and save them hours of trouble. Anyone have any ideas on how to fix this so that i can still use electrical power through the rails on my railway?
  • Member since
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  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
  • 13,757 posts
Posted by cacole on Friday, October 17, 2003 9:09 PM
Hmmm -- that's a strange one, indeed. The ballast should not be a conductor unless it is wet, or at least moist, since water will conduct electricity. Do you know what type of rock your "base fines" is? Put some of it in a box or bucket and measure the resistance when it's dry. It is not very likely that the rock has enough metal content to be a conductor. As far as the rest of your problem is concerned, I don't know of any easy way to overcome the problem if you live in a humid climate and your ballast is continually damp.
  • Member since
    July 2003
  • From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
  • 13,757 posts
Posted by cacole on Friday, October 17, 2003 9:09 PM
Hmmm -- that's a strange one, indeed. The ballast should not be a conductor unless it is wet, or at least moist, since water will conduct electricity. Do you know what type of rock your "base fines" is? Put some of it in a box or bucket and measure the resistance when it's dry. It is not very likely that the rock has enough metal content to be a conductor. As far as the rest of your problem is concerned, I don't know of any easy way to overcome the problem if you live in a humid climate and your ballast is continually damp.
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, October 18, 2003 4:12 PM
I do not live in a damp climate being in the Bay Area here in sunny California and my balast is not wet. When it is damp after i watered a section, it did conduct more than the dry balast, but the dry still conducts. I tested it with a voltage meter and it gives 3 volts of resistenece when my power pack is outputting 20 V. I tested it with a magnet, and there is no iron in it. I do not happen to know its composition and it hasn't rained here for months, and so there is no reason for the balast to be damp and it is not damp as far as i can tell. Thanks anyways.
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, October 18, 2003 4:12 PM
I do not live in a damp climate being in the Bay Area here in sunny California and my balast is not wet. When it is damp after i watered a section, it did conduct more than the dry balast, but the dry still conducts. I tested it with a voltage meter and it gives 3 volts of resistenece when my power pack is outputting 20 V. I tested it with a magnet, and there is no iron in it. I do not happen to know its composition and it hasn't rained here for months, and so there is no reason for the balast to be damp and it is not damp as far as i can tell. Thanks anyways.
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, October 19, 2003 6:56 PM
Teran, that is a Problem! There must be as you sumised a good bit of conductive metel in the ballast stone.... iron ore, (I'm not sure about Mica) I can only suggest gently lifting the track away from the ballast may help. Good Luck.....
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, October 19, 2003 6:56 PM
Teran, that is a Problem! There must be as you sumised a good bit of conductive metel in the ballast stone.... iron ore, (I'm not sure about Mica) I can only suggest gently lifting the track away from the ballast may help. Good Luck.....
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 7:39 AM
Teran,
Did you use any type of wire screen under your ballast to keep "critters" from burrowing up under your track?

Just a thought....OLD DAD
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 7:39 AM
Teran,
Did you use any type of wire screen under your ballast to keep "critters" from burrowing up under your track?

Just a thought....OLD DAD
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 12:28 PM
Teran,

I have the exact same transformer and have had this problem before. I found out that I ran the trains so much the track that it was pushed outward and caused a large gap between the rails. All I did was moved the track back to its original location and applied ballast. Hope this helps.
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 12:28 PM
Teran,

I have the exact same transformer and have had this problem before. I found out that I ran the trains so much the track that it was pushed outward and caused a large gap between the rails. All I did was moved the track back to its original location and applied ballast. Hope this helps.
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 9:29 PM
No, I did not put any screen under my balast because, lucky for me, I have absolutely 0 problems with that. I live right in the Bay Area, CA, so it is very developed and there is very little wildlife such as critters to cause me such problems. I really am very lucky, I run trains year round, no critters, no dear, few weeds (keeping my fingers crossed), sunny, warm weather, no frost heaves, and very few other problems. As for my track shifting, it doesn't because of my roadbed construction. I dig a trench ranging from 5-2 inches with a 6-8 inch 4x4 post sunk every 4-6 feet on which I anchor my track. I have to anchor my track because of my dog, who is a 65 pound lab and enjoys running over my layout (much to my horror). Thanks for the tips, but the problem seems to be going away for the most part....
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 9:29 PM
No, I did not put any screen under my balast because, lucky for me, I have absolutely 0 problems with that. I live right in the Bay Area, CA, so it is very developed and there is very little wildlife such as critters to cause me such problems. I really am very lucky, I run trains year round, no critters, no dear, few weeds (keeping my fingers crossed), sunny, warm weather, no frost heaves, and very few other problems. As for my track shifting, it doesn't because of my roadbed construction. I dig a trench ranging from 5-2 inches with a 6-8 inch 4x4 post sunk every 4-6 feet on which I anchor my track. I have to anchor my track because of my dog, who is a 65 pound lab and enjoys running over my layout (much to my horror). Thanks for the tips, but the problem seems to be going away for the most part....
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 9:49 PM
You are not using any electrical gear from "Lucas", The Inventers of the Mystical Darkness? Glad the problem is resolving its self, veryyyy strange.....
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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, November 22, 2003 9:49 PM
You are not using any electrical gear from "Lucas", The Inventers of the Mystical Darkness? Glad the problem is resolving its self, veryyyy strange.....
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, November 23, 2003 12:21 AM
No. Sorry, it can't be explained that easily. I wish it could....
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, November 23, 2003 12:21 AM
No. Sorry, it can't be explained that easily. I wish it could....
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 24, 2003 12:24 AM
WOW Teran, I'm envious of your location......I have to go out and shovel my driveway now.

Where are my boots, has anyone seen my gloves?........OLD DAD
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 24, 2003 12:24 AM
WOW Teran, I'm envious of your location......I have to go out and shovel my driveway now.

Where are my boots, has anyone seen my gloves?........OLD DAD
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 24, 2003 3:14 PM
I'm sorry, but I do have to travel a few hours to get to snow. But trust me, it is very nice to garden railways here in sunny CA.
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, November 24, 2003 3:14 PM
I'm sorry, but I do have to travel a few hours to get to snow. But trust me, it is very nice to garden railways here in sunny CA.

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