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DC Traction layout with intermittent power stops

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  • Member since
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DC Traction layout with intermittent power stops
Posted by gthomson on Thursday, January 14, 2021 10:22 AM

This is a bit of a long shot as I know most people are not familiar with traction layouts and I'm not very savvy with electronics trouble shooting but my small overhead wire layout is having random problems with power. It will work fine for a while but then suddenly stop, and no power runs through the system. Some times it might be for a few hours, sometimes days. I noticed it's started up since winter started and the air is dry in the house.

The layout is divided into sections with 4 turnouts powered by Frog switches. There's power that leads up through a pole in each section and then grounded down through the track. 

I know there's a ton of reasons where things might go wrong as there are many wires. I had just built up the scenery and the detail on the layout so I hate the idea of taking it all apart again to get under the hood so to speak.

Any suggestions? I can provide pic's to what the wiring looks like underneath if that might help.

 

thanks for looking 

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Posted by NVSRR on Thursday, January 14, 2021 11:57 AM

Have you kept a record of what was going on when the power cuts out and what is running and where?   is It the whole system or one section?     My first thought is not the layout but power supply or bus line is shorting somewhere.    Since you are running a prototype style trolley system. It isn't a short across the rails.   But maybe on one Trolley pole on one piece is grounding out through some point in the body.  Or the contacts inside are moving in a manner to move a wire to cause a short inside.       I would start with checking the bus lines and power supply For shorts.    Also disconnect all the sections.  And add one at a time.  This will usually reveal the section that has the issue.  
Some starting points

Shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, January 14, 2021 12:39 PM

 Is it no power, or is it a short? Dry times can cause wood to shrink, and close gaps in the rails that might be necessary for proper operation, although if you are using the actual overhead, typically both rails are tied together, so there should be no shorting at turnouts, like could be possible with an ordinary 2 rail layout using power routing turnouts.

Have you tried the test method of using a clip lead to the pole to see if the loss of power is in the rails or in the overhead? That will at least allow you to direct your troubleshooting efforts.  

                                      --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, January 14, 2021 1:57 PM

A simple test tool for low voltage circuits is a small bulb with a couple of short wires soldered to the base and center contact with alligator clips on the end of the wires.  I have used a #1815 bulb (14 volt) as a quick test for over 50 years.  It easily fits in a shirt pocket readily available to get too.

Clip one alligator clip to the rail the other to the overhead.

 

Mel



 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, January 14, 2021 2:57 PM

What motive power are you running?  Do you ever clean the overhead wire, the track or the trolley poles?

I'd suggest probing around with a multimeter.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by gthomson on Thursday, January 14, 2021 3:23 PM

Some progress to report, it now indicates testing with the meter I am seeing power going through the track (wire is negative and track is positive) across all sections but unit is not picking up any power. I have 2 units; a Bowser PCC unit and a Spectrum Peter Witt car, both DC and both set to run from the wire. They were both working fine last week but stopped working a couple of days ago. I have 2 other sets of track which individually operate and go around the traction layout but there's no connectivity to the traction layout. Both of those work fine. I will admit I am getting shocked when I touch the layout. I have not tried cleaning the poles or the wheels on the units or the track or wire. I'm providing some pictures of the traction layout if that helps.

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Posted by NVSRR on Thursday, January 14, 2021 7:33 PM

That reminds me of the layout that was done in MR soome years ago.  HAd cream and orange cars. a city piece and country piece plus some frieght.   Your track plan looks rather similar. 

 

Interesting b oth stopped at the same time.   when it cooled off and dried out.   posible oxide layer one the wire.  cleaning the wire and trolley pole shoe would be my next set.   Because of the very small contact area, slightest oxide build up can become a quick issue. 

 

Shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, January 15, 2021 10:09 AM

gthomson

Some progress to report, it now indicates testing with the meter I am seeing power going through the track (wire is negative and track is positive) across all sections but unit is not picking up any power. I have 2 units; a Bowser PCC unit and a Spectrum Peter Witt car, both DC and both set to run from the wire. They were both working fine last week but stopped working a couple of days ago. I have 2 other sets of track which individually operate and go around the traction layout but there's no connectivity to the traction layout. Both of those work fine. I will admit I am getting shocked when I touch the layout. I have not tried cleaning the poles or the wheels on the units or the track or wire. I'm providing some pictures of the traction layout if that helps.

By coincidence, I have the same two trolleys.  I run them just off track power, and I run DCC.  They have a toggle slide switch inside to select pole or rail power, but since both cars failed at the same time, that's probably not the problem.

I would try cleaning the wheels, the track, the overhead wire and the poles.  Little 4-wheel power like these are finicky with power pickup.  Good luck.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by gthomson on Friday, January 15, 2021 12:03 PM
The units are normally very reliable and as per a discussion with a support guy at Bowser, "You can run those units all day long at a train show and you won't have problems". I did test them by switching from "wire" to "rail" on another track and all was fine. Well, whether it was the good vibes from this forum or the deep clean on the tracks, wheels, overhead wire and the trolley pole, I switched it on this morning and the trolleys are back up and running. Go figure, I swear there is a serious gremlin living in this layout and I'm sure I haven't seen the last of him yet! thanks all
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Posted by rrinker on Friday, January 15, 2021 2:12 PM

 Maybe the switch got bumped, or wasn't fully in the "overhead" postion, but sweitching it to track for testing and then back, it's now firmly in the "overhead" position? Seems odd the same thing would ahppen on two different models though. 

                                 --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by ndbprr on Saturday, January 16, 2021 9:15 AM

I would contact the East Penn traction club. They only model trolleys and have a wealth of experience.  May even have someone in your area who could help troubleshoot.  They are in eastern Pennsylvania

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