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NCE Repair Turnaround Time

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NCE Repair Turnaround Time
Posted by mlehman on Friday, July 24, 2020 4:23 AM

Was working on the layout and it got late...next day I returned, only to hear crickets, not the sound of steam at rest. Ah-oh...

We had an intense storm overnight, complete with a rather significant lighting hit somewhere very close. I think it took out my NCE Power Pro command station. This seems to be the problem area, the IC sitting between the battery holder and the EPROM. If you look closely in the middle of the edge you can see a toasty part (under the "2LC" part of the number.)

On the other hand, it's been on for most of the last 15 years, so could've just gotten old and died.

In any case, I need to get things going again. I may buy a new box, if I can, sans the radio boxes which are already in place. This ione seems worth repairing. I've seen pretty much nothing but great things to say about their CS process and the time or two I needed it a long time ago went well. Never had a major repair, though.

Anyone know how long I can expect that to take (a trip to NCE for repair and back)? Is it cost effective vs buying new?

I do have a Power Cab so not completely on the rocks, but obviously no significant ops (hey there's a pandemic going on anyway.) A back up command station would be good to have so I don't get in this fix again, so considering my options here since obsviously adding another new Power Pro would have me covered for now and I can always send the busted box back at my leisure.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by tstage on Friday, July 24, 2020 6:37 AM

Mike,

The best thing to do is just email or call NCE.  They'll be able to tell you the turnaround time on fixing your PH Pro.

Also, whether it came from a lightening strike, an electrical spike, or just old age, it would be a wise of you to invest in a good-quality surge protector power strip for your layout and electronics - even if you just leave them in unpowered.  They aren't that expensive and it's well-worth the insurance should something like that happen again.

Case in point: A few months back there was a spike in the electrical line overnight and it completely took out the surge protector that protected our cable modem & wi-fi router.  I noticed that they were both off when I got up in the morning.  On further investigation I noticed that the entire surge protector strip was off and would not turn back on.  There was also a slight singed odor to it so I surmised that it had given up the ghost.

When I replaced the dead surge protector with another working one, everything fired right up.  Had the $20 surge protector not been there, I would probably be looking at $200 to replace just our cable modem & wi-fi router.  I think my Power Cab was plugged into it, as well.  That would have been another $200.

So, just sayin'...you may want to consider a surge protector power strip for your layout (e.g. APC).  A good spike could cook decoders, lighting - anything connected to your layout.  Replacement for all those could add up real quick.  If you don't want to invest in one then the next best thing would be get into the habit of completely disconnecting your layout from the wall outlet when you are not using it.

Inexpensive insurance can and will pay big dividends down the road...

Tom

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, July 24, 2020 7:10 AM

I simply can't understate the importance of good surge protection.  Real surge protection, with a short risetime in ns, high current capacity to known-capable ground, ideally the ability to survive repeated events.  

For a while I touted the cause of whole-house surge protectors and put them in the houses B&S was building.  They cost much more and require the same careful oversight to keep them operating, but spend a couple of weeks with a recording voltmeter on your house power and your eyes are likely to be opened about AC power quality.  For this equipment (especially as it gets into what used to be 'computer' cost and fragility) I would recommend a good battery UPS, itself backed up with surge protection, which can completely isolate the layout-room equipment from the AC line, including any loads within the house like compressors or motors that might cause spikes or sags.  With the shift from computers to phones and cloud I think it may be getting harder and more expensive to find older used UPS equipment, and you do have to keep up on conditioning and, eventually, replacing batteries, but in my opinion it's better than 'one and done' powerstrips that either 'fail safe' by bricking themselves or quietly give up the ghost and stop even minimal-protecting with only an idiot light on the strip, at best, to indicate that has happened.   I would advise checking frequently, especially before known forecast or observed storms, to be sure the protection is 'as advertised'...

Having said this, it also has to be said that if a typical advanced modeler who understands soldering can find a source of things like metal-oxide varistors, fixing bad powerstrips is often possible.

And be sure the path to ground, at least from the layout room, is adequate to sink the diverted voltages and currents, and properly reverse-diode protected.  It can be surprising how many corners can be cut with the stuff those green wires connect to.

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, July 24, 2020 7:25 AM

Mike, if you do send it in for repair, do not use USPS Priority Mail. USPS is understaffed and packages are not getting scanned, tracked or delivered. Use UPS or FedEx.  And, ask NCE not to use USPS when your repaired command station is returned to you. I speak from recent personal experience on seven different packages that I have sent out through the USPS Priority Mail system.

Rich

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Posted by gregc on Friday, July 24, 2020 7:29 AM

on another forum

I finally got my command station back from NCE after seven weeks. Apparently I had a huge short circuit that blew out one of the circuit boards. They therefore charged me $112 to fix it. I finally have power to my track!

 

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by FlattenedQuarter on Friday, July 24, 2020 7:38 AM

I've had a dozen or more packages delivered on tracked and on time by USPS in the past month

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, July 24, 2020 7:45 AM

FlattenedQuarter

I've had a dozen or more packages delivered on tracked and on time by USPS in the past month 

Count your blessings!

Rich

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Posted by hon30critter on Friday, July 24, 2020 10:03 AM

Thanks for the reminder to get a surge protector for the new layout.

Dave

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, July 24, 2020 10:09 AM

 ANd turn stuff off. I never understood why people leave everything powered up all the time. I leave the basement, EVERY outlet is switched off. Not a substitute for surge protection, but that's one more gap for any possibly lightning strike to have to jump before it gets to the surge protector - even the best surge protector os not going to stop a direct strike. 

                                           --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by mlehman on Friday, July 24, 2020 10:28 AM

Yeah, a surge protector is a very good idea. Used to have a whole house one the power company installed. Then they took it out when they installed the Smart (we'll spy on your) Meters a couple of years back, said they no longer supported them. I was complacent...but that's a little off topic here.

greg,

Thanks for the spot on data point. That's a reasonable time, but also tells me I need to bite the bullet and just buy another command station.

Rich,

I feel your pain on the Priority Mail situation, but like others it's been pretty reliable here. Things may move slower around Chicago right now because of the virus. Then again since I know many of the local PO workers since I used to manage an outfit that leased them space for our downtown PO, could be they're taking care of me? Wink

So now I have another NCE question that I should know the answer to, but don't...

Is the wireless version of the Power Pro 5 amp simply the standard command station PLUS the RB02 radio base? In other words, can I just buy the standard Power Pro 5 amp and plug it into my existing radio system and be good? Or do I have to buy a wireless Power Pro because there's some magic in the command station to make the radio work, too?

Mike Lehman

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Posted by mlehman on Friday, July 24, 2020 10:35 AM

rrinker
ANd turn stuff off. I never understood why people leave everything powered up all the time. I leave the basement, EVERY outlet is switched off.

Opinions do vary on this. Turning things off assumes a set lifetime that will expire at some point so the less time on the item, the better.

There's a contrary opinion on electronic stuff that much of the wear and tear is from temperature cycling due to heating up and cooling down from...being turned on and off. Hmm

YMMV Cool

Mike Lehman

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, July 24, 2020 5:46 PM

 My computer stays on allt he time - unless I go away, then I shut it dow. But I'm ALWAYS here near it, excpet when I'm sleeping. Around the layout, there are just too many things of dubuious quality (unless you power everything with the VERY expesince high quality wall warts you can find - taking apart a dead one of the typical ones that come with consumer products can be quite scary). Not to mention power tools, battery chargers where you HOPE the battery protection circuitry cuts off the charge before the battery blows up, and hot things like soldering irons when in the construction phase. I turn it ALL off when I leave the room more for safety than anythign having to do with protecting the equipment. Even if I had a senior moment and forgot to unplug or turn off the soldering iron, it won't be sitting there heating away for hours or even days before I get back to the basement. The outlet power switches are right next to the overhead light power switches, and they all have pilot lights, so it's very obvious when somethign is on or not. I wanted one master switch, but witht he number of outlets, it ended up being 3 switches because of a limitation on the number of switched outlets code allows per wall switch. One of these days I might even remember which switch is which set.

BTW, the blown up chip is simply the RS232 interface, so if the system won't power up, the damage is probably more severe than just the obviously blown chip.

                                      --Randy

 


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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, July 24, 2020 6:13 PM

rrinker

I wanted one master switch, but witht he number of outlets, it ended up being 3 switches because of a limitation on the number of switched outlets code allows per wall switch. One of these days I might even remember which switch is which set.

LOL

Amen to that.

Rich

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Posted by cowman on Friday, July 24, 2020 7:03 PM

When I had a problem, got an extimated repair time, was back well before their estemae.

Goodluck,

Richard

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Posted by mlehman on Friday, July 24, 2020 7:11 PM

Randy,

I am sitting next to both train rooms right now, where I generally am and have been for most of the last two decades as a late in life grad student who restarted academia when things looked great, but who graduated 4 degrees later with some debt and no reasonable job prospects without moving far afield, difficult to do as a married guy whose wife has the solid job in the family. My stuff is fairly widely read in the narrow space it occupies, but not $$ or jobs, even temp stuff at community colleges is scarce to nonexistent. I retired. so also here more than ever.

Not complaining here, but I'm pretty much here when I'm working as a historian (too rarely) or not doing things that I regularly pop in and out of boths rooms with the office with JMRI on the computer running things in my office.

I turn out the massive LED arrays when not actually doing work or operating, but maintain night lighting (thus the "Night Scene") which often suffices. There's usually something going on so turning things off is reserved for vacations, when it's done easily enough with a couple of more switches. I'm also an insomniac, so I'm wandering in there at 3am to work on something when I should'nt be flipping switches except to operate.

Such integrated electrical/control/computer systems are something like what LCC is desgned to handle cohesively, so maybe then this will sort itself out. It's likely that with computers being intergrated into our layout systems some part of virtually everyone's layout will be always on in the future. Until then, I am careful to limit such circuits to things I have protected wisely. I don't have a lot of extraneous loads in the main room, the other is a utility room, so...It is something that I've had virtually no problems with, I have never lost a Tortoise, for instance. It's anecdotal data, but with LED lighting and the operators desire for depiction of multiple lighting dispalys on and off the track, it's probably more common than people think that this treats the sort of circutry we commonly use in the hobby gently in a way that seems to have positive results.

BTW, yeah, the box flashes the Status lights on the boosters and somewhere I got an error message about the lack of comms with the Command Station. I can pull the jumper between the Command station and the Booster on the Power Pro then plug it back in and It get steady red lights (good) and the status light on the right for the Command Station is steady yellow also...except nothing works.

It's worth noting one of my conservation measures was operating the Power Pro at 12.5v vs the usual 14.5v. This lets the Micro-Tsunamis run cooler...and I can't recall a failure of any decoder except through my own stupidity.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by mlehman on Monday, July 27, 2020 3:32 AM

Further research indicates all I need is a new Power Pro box. Already have the power supply and radio stuff. New box on its way Monday as is in stock (fingers crossed.) Got a surge protector and cleaned up some on the older system as it has sufficient outlets for everything inc the wall warts on one big panel. Also tracking down a couple of other circuit sources that need protection. When wiring stretches over three rooms, it's complicated.

Planning on sending the burnt box back to NCE soon so I'll have backup should this ever happen again. For now, the trusty Power Cab is keeping things moving.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by mlehman on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 6:22 PM

And we now have at least one datapoint about NCE repairs. They said it's been busy, but just about six weeks later, my repaired Power Pro command station is on it's way back to me in the morning.

Mike at NCE said yep, looked like a lightning issue to them when they started going through it. Basically the whole upper board in my old command station needed to be replaced. With return shipping a little under $200 and everything on the replacement board is updated to the most current version.

On the booster side, it was a warranty issue with the new box.

I McGyvered things to work while waiting for the return of the DOA box. After all, I had a command station in one box and a booster in the other that was good. I carefully did a swap and built the working command station that I needed. I built a complete DOA command station with the bad parts of each, labeling them carefully, but figured this best protected the boards in transit. I checked with NCE and they said, sure, just label it clearly.

They will have it in the mail first thing on Thursday.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 7:49 PM

 That particular chip is the RS232 interface chip. It MIGHT server another purpose. Just because that one blew a chunk out of itself doesn't mean it's the only damaged bit, but it also could be the surge came in via the computer connection, if you have one.

                                   --Randy

 


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Posted by mlehman on Thursday, September 17, 2020 3:44 AM

Randy,

There was much more damage than was apparent to the naked eye. He started rattling off a list of issues they encountered, then cut to the chase, because when you have that many issues, you just swap the board out. A few minor issues might make the board economically repairable, but at a certain point you just swap out for new.

 

Mike Lehman

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, September 17, 2020 7:37 AM

 Just pointing out another vector for damage - it's not always a spike throught he power supply side. Back in my university days when I worked for the computer shop, after every severe electrical storm, we had dozens of repairs to make. All computers on the campus were connected by a communications system that used the serial port - networks like Ethernet didn;t go far enough, and using fiber for the long hauls would have cost more than the GDP of a medium size country, so RS232 serial it was (blazing fast 9600 - though it could do 19.2K bps as we found out and a group of us petitioned the telecommunications office to up our speeds). After every storm, there was always a slew of blown out serial ports. It almost never got past there though, the old serial interface chips were pretty robust. But we carried a shelf full of the two different chips (needed one for transmit, one for receive) because we went through them like anything.

                               --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:09 AM

Looks like the repair costs for the command station is very close to the costs of buying a new one.  Bummer.

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Posted by richg1998 on Thursday, September 17, 2020 11:00 AM

I use to use a uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS. Low wattage type. Not expensive. Plugs into wall outlet and has surge protection. Got it from Amazon some years ago.

I buy a lot from Amazon and use Prime and Smile. free shipping. Shop local. lol

They even sell trains.

I use to use NCE Power Cab.

Rich

 

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Posted by rrebell on Thursday, September 17, 2020 7:57 PM

richhotrain

 

 
FlattenedQuarter

I've had a dozen or more packages delivered on tracked and on time by USPS in the past month 

 

 

Count your blessings!

 

Rich

 

UPS delivers 50% of the packages to the wrong address, sometimes we get it finnaly and sometimes not, USPS no problems.

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:40 PM

 It took USPS 3 days to get my book I ordered from Kalmbach from Pittsburgh to here. It's a 6 hour drive. That's not 3 days to my door, that's 3 days from leaving one distribution center until it reached the next one. Another day from there to hit my local post office and get delivered.

 Last quarter's utility bill fromt he township (sewer and trash) - I NEVER got that, and I wasn't the only one. Luckily I thought about it before it was past due and wondered that I hadn't gotten one, and could log in and pay it. But I get at least one piece of junk mail every day - that seems to ALWAYS make it.

                                       --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by mlehman on Friday, September 18, 2020 11:54 AM

rrinker
Just pointing out another vector for damage - it's not always a spike throught he power supply side. Back in my university days when I worked for the computer shop, after every severe electrical storm, we had dozens of repairs to make.

Yeah, we also discussed that. There's plenty of wire strung around the layout that could pick up the EMP from a lightning strike nearby. I do have a surge protector on the power supply side now, but don't expect it to be a panacea. Given the closeness of the strike, this also accounts for why we came through with no other apparent issues, as most other electronics here, except my radios, aren't hooked up to such a network of wire that could act as an antenna to pickup EMP.

On the other hand, a nearby strike is somewhat the luck of the draw. It may or may not cause an issue, because EMP pulses are not a uniform event radiating outward equally in all directions. I happen to have a bit of insight into such things because of my research on nuclear intelligence. I had one informant who worked on EMP detection systems the Air Force relies on for initial notice that a nuclear detonation has occurred. The pulses are notable in that they can offer information about the direction and strength of a nuclear explosion, even below ground.

Thus, if you happen to be where one of these "spikes" pass through, things get fried even if you're not so close as to think it might be an issue. If you're in a location where the spike is reduced or not present except close in, it's OK.

Still, get the surge protector.

Mike Lehman

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Posted by KemacPrr on Friday, September 18, 2020 6:50 PM

Mike very common with Lightning strikes. Had it happen to me a few years back. It was not a direct hit but the railroad track and all the plug in buss acts like an antenna and the EMP the strike emits does it's dirty work. When i leave my system down for a few days or so I always unplug the command station from the 110 v and the railroad. I also don't leave any handsets plugged in as they can also be affected. --- Ken 

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Posted by tstage on Friday, September 18, 2020 8:08 PM

About a month ago I was sitting at my computer when all of a sudden the lights flickered, I heard a loud pop, and the lights in the neighborhood went dark.  It was a clear night and no wind so I figured a transformer must have blown nearby.

The spike blew out the replacement surge protector that I mentioned in my earlier post from July.  Along with the usual charred electrical odor*, there was noticeable singed spot directly underneath the surge protector on the rug.  So it took a huge hit but it protected my modem and wi-fi router - just like it was designed to do. Yes

*[Out of curiosity - right after the incident - I pulled apart the old surge protector and the inside was clearly blackened with soot.  The odor alone told me that the unit had given up the ghost.]

For the replacement I went with a surge "arrestor" this time around, which is specifically designed for lightning strikes.  It's rated @ 4320 Joules and has enough outlets that I can plug in everything rather than in two separate units.  It also has a couple of USB outlets for charging phones.

So, over a 6-month period I've lost two surge protectors: one due to lightning and the other due to a blown transformer.  Needless to say, I don't plug in anything electronically critical that isn't protected.

Tom

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Posted by JoeinPA on Saturday, September 19, 2020 8:03 AM

How about a "whole house" surge protector. Are these the answer and are they worth the cost for installation?

Joe

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, September 19, 2020 11:50 PM

JoeinPA
How about a "whole house" surge protector. Are these the answer and are they worth the cost for installation?

They are nifty, and assuming they are installed correctly they are useful for many kinds of lightning strike (but usually NOT those coming in through wired communications unless specifically so equipped!)

The big problem with them is that any causes of shorting, noise,spikes, or other electrical problem inside the house, from any source including air conditioners and machine tools, have no protection given by the whole-house device at all.  You would be surprised how often this can be a source of problems, including from accidents.  A short or ground fault need not be catastrophic or self-destroying, either, but still dangerous to modern electronics.

My rule even with the best whole-house protector is to put individual protectors with a high joule rating, or UPS units with full isolation between 'delivered' protected AC and line, on anything you consider important or expensive.  And regularly check them to ensure their surge-protecting elements still test good.  And make sure you have a GOOD dioded ground, capable of sinking what may be a heavy amperage (albeit for a comparatively short time) effectively to ground -- if you are even the least little bit unsure, get someone to put in a heavy LONG ground rod and connect thoroughly to all your surge devices...

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Posted by JoeinPA on Sunday, September 20, 2020 11:01 AM

Thanks for the clarification and detailed explanation Overmod. I've been contemplating having one of these installed and you've provided me the information I needed.

Joe

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