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Leaving a train on a track

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  • Member since
    March, 2017
  • 12 posts
Leaving a train on a track
Posted by gthomson on Saturday, March 11, 2017 6:00 PM

Sorry newbie here so I hope this hasn't already been posted but wondering if it harms an engine if it's left on the tracks with the power source still plugged in? Is there a ghost current that continues to go through the track even when the throttle is off?
I'm worried about an engine of mine that has lost performance.

thanks in advance

  • Member since
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  • From: Boise, Idaho
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Posted by E-L man tom on Monday, March 13, 2017 9:55 AM

Let me be the first to welcome you to the forum!

Are you talking DC or DCC? I (still) run with DC and as far as I can remember, I haven't had any problems with the power pack plugged in for an extended period of time with locomotives on the track. I do, however, unplug the power pack when done with operation because the power pack still draws power, even though it is turned off. I actually turn the whole layout off at the power strip where my power packs et. al. are plugged in. I can't speak for DCC, as I don't power my layout that way.

Leafs fan, eh? One of the original six, gotta love'em! 

Tom Modeling the free-lanced Toledo Erie Central switching layout.
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Posted by SouthPenn on Monday, March 13, 2017 10:19 AM

There is no problem with leaving an engine on the track with the power on. Loss of performance might be dirty track or dirty wheels on the engine.

South Penn
  • Member since
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  • From: Franconia, NH
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Posted by dstarr on Monday, March 13, 2017 10:43 AM

Not to worry.  As long as the engine is cool to the touch, it's fine.  If you have very sensitive voltmeters and ammeters, you might be able to detect a very small current flowing with the throttle shut off, but who cares?  Long as the motor is cool to the touch, it's happy. 

   I do make a point of shutting off all AC power to the layout when I leave the room, but that is a fire precaution.  Things like power packs will occasionally burst into flames for no good reason.  If no one is about, it can burn your house down.  Everything on my layout draws power from a single power strip, and I just flip the power strip off when I leave. 

  As far as a locomotive loosing performance, this is not all that unusual.  The standard corrective action is the clean the wheels, and the track.  Then lubricate, a drop of fine oil on wheel and motor bearings, grease in the gearbox. Never oil the motor commutator.  You can clean the communtator with a drop of solvent on a pipecleaner.  Touch the pipe cleaner to the rotating commutator and watch the bright copper shine again.  

  For stubborn cases, you take the locomotive apart, removing the motor.  Run the motor no-load and see how it works.  It should rev up and run at a high speed without too much vibration.  If it's a steamer, roll the chassis less motor back and forth on a smooth flat surface. It should roll smoothly, any binding could be a driverSleep out of quarter, or a problem with rods or valve gear.  The traditional method of tracking down a mechanism fault is to remove the rods one by one until the binding goes away.  The last rod you removed is the guilty party.  When assembling the steamer, eyeball the gear lash between worm and wormgear.  If too loose the worm will skip gear teeth under load which chews up gears.  If too tight, the friction will slow the engine.  On most steamers you adjust gear lash by putting shims under one end or the other end of the motor. 

   On a diesel, once you have it apart, take the gear towers on the trucks apart and clean them thoroughly with solvent.  Then with a pipecleaner wipe every tooth of every gear to pick up any bits of plastic flash sticking to them.  The black flash is invisible against the black gears, so wipe them no matter how they look.  Lube lightly with grease, the plastic gears are so slippery that they don't really need lube, but we all lube them anyhow.  But go easy on the lube. Excess lube gets flung off, making a mess on the locomotive and the layout. 

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Monday, March 13, 2017 10:52 AM

I would turn off the power source, not just put the throttle to zero.  If the power source does not have an on/off switch then unplug or use a power strip with on/off switch.

When you say lost performance, what are the symptoms? Light on but doesn't run, hums but doesn't run, no lights and doesn't run, runs in fits and starts, runs slow, etc.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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  • From: Clinton, MO, US
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Posted by Medina1128 on Monday, March 13, 2017 12:07 PM

Before starting my career as a computer programmer, I was a residential electrician. I installed a subpanel to power the layout and layout room lighting. I switch off the three breakers before leaving the room, killing the power to everything associated with the layout. 

Oh, and welcome to the forums! Welcome You're going to find a wealth of information here. I know I have.

  • Member since
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  • From: North Dakota
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Posted by BroadwayLion on Monday, March 13, 2017 1:36 PM

LIONS (BTW: Welcome ) likes confusion. Him has four different power spplies. Track and aux power is always shut off when I leave the room.

On the udder hand (you milk the cows) LION keeps his signals turned on, and this in turn keeps the model board lit, AND keeps the relays held in place, because if I would let the relays drop, a train could rear end the one ahead of it when we start the line up again.

BTW: Line of LION is fully automated, no throttles or recversing switches.

Him manages the interlocking tower, trains run by themselfs.

 

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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  • From: Bradford, Ontario
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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, March 13, 2017 2:09 PM

Hi gthompson!

I think your question has already been answered so I won't repeat the message.

However, I do want to say Welcome to the forums!!!

Welcome

Are you a fellow Canadian (probably a dumb question if you support the Leafs)? 

Cheers!!

Dave

By the way, you need not apologise for asking a question, ever. Some curmudgeons might attempt to chastize you by saying that the question has been asked before, but so what? Ignore them! Ask away!! The site search engine is desperately inadequate (sorry MR, it's the truth) so even if you were to give it a try you could be searching for a long time before you find what you are looking for. Better to just use Google.

Oh, and don't mind the Lion (Broadway Lion). Brother Elias (yes, he is a Monk) is a bit of a strange beast but knows his stuff, and he is a very creative modeller.

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  • From: Canada, eh?
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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, March 13, 2017 2:41 PM

Welcome to the MR Forums.

I agree with the suggestions to shut of the power if you're not running trains - not that having it on as you describe will do any harm, but it's simply good practice.
You've been offered some good suggestions regarding the performance of your engine, but if you can provide more details, there are lots here who can offer advice specific to the particular problem.
Personally, though, I'd think that being a Leafs fan would be of greater concern. Smile, Wink & Grin

Wayne

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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, March 13, 2017 3:10 PM

doctorwayne
Personally, though, I'd think that being a Leafs fan would be of greater concern

Now Wayne! Be nice!!! I am a diehard Leafs fan! They are very predictable so they cause very little stress. I don't get upset when they choke every season.Laugh

Just so you know how ardent a fan I am, I can't remember the last time I watched a game on TV, and the last game I saw live was when Eddy Shack was playing for the LA Kings!LaughLaughLaugh If they make the headlines I might spend a couple of minutes reading the story, maybe.Smile, Wink & GrinLaugh

Cheers Wayne!

Dave

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  • From: Chamberlain, ME
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Posted by G Paine on Monday, March 13, 2017 4:06 PM

dstarr
I do make a point of shutting off all AC power to the layout when I leave the room, but that is a fire precaution.

One other reason to shut off the systen at a power strip is to isolate it from power surges if there is a power failure. Layouts tend to have lots of electronics which do not like surges

George In Midcoast Maine, 'bout halfway up the Rockland branch

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  • From: Canada, eh?
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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, March 13, 2017 4:29 PM

hon30critter
Now Wayne! Be nice!!! I am a diehard Leafs fan! They are very predictable so they cause very little stress. I don't get upset when they choke every season.....

I'm not sure why, Dave, but that's the only NHL team for which I would never cheer, regardless of whom they might be playing.  
It might have to do with the fact that I knew about CFL football long before I was at all interested in NHL hockey, and being from Hamilton...well, you know what they say there about the Argos. Whistling

Whenever I visit places where an Ontario licence plate is uncommon, especially in Canada, the reception can be rather cool until I explain that I'm not from Trawna.
That said, model railroading, for me, transcends any sports-related, or city/nationality-related loyalties.  We're all outa the same bowl of nuts.

Wayne... GOlf LEAFs, GOlf! Devil

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  • From: Bradford, Ontario
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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, March 13, 2017 8:01 PM

doctorwayne
GOlf LEAFs, GOlf! 

Maybe that's why they avoid the playoffs so often. It cuts into their golf time!

Dave

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  • From: Boise, Idaho
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Posted by E-L man tom on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 9:41 AM

I know this is totally off topic but I have to get my two cents in. Look, I'm a Rangers fan; they only twice won the Stanley Cup in their 80+ year history! 'Nuff said.

Tom Modeling the free-lanced Toledo Erie Central switching layout.
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Posted by yougottawanta on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 12:03 PM

gthomson

first of all Welcome to the forum. I see thAt many have already answered your questions. So let me take a minute to invite you to jeffries Diner in this forum. Please come on in and sit a spell, have a cup of Joe on me. We talk about train stuff and everyday things with in certain rules. Hope to see you there.

YGW

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Posted by snjroy on Friday, March 17, 2017 12:41 PM

Hi there. I think that the answer will differ whether you are dealing with DC or DCC. In DC, a throttle turned to "0" means that there is no current on the track (theoretically at least). So leaving the power "on" with a throttle on "0" could only do damage to the power pack. And I think it will in the long term because of the heat.

As for DCC, current will be constant on the track if the power source is on. My understanding is that the decoders on the locomotives shut themselves off if not in operation, but they will get a surge when you turn the power on. I'm not a specialist in electronics, but I would rather avoid these surges, and since I have many locos on my layout, I have built blocks powered by on-off switches to protect them. I think it also protects them from shorts and surges that happen during normal operations (I have a lot of metal trucks on my equipment). Blocks also make it easier to troubleshoot problems. I also don't like the cacophonic sound of 10 steam engines turning up at the same time when I turn the system on...

As for the Leafs, I can only say that there are good elements in that team right now. As a Canadiens fan, I am somewhat worried about what that team will look like in 2-3 years! 

Simon

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Posted by gthomson on Saturday, March 18, 2017 2:55 PM

Thanks everyone for the warm welcome. Someone mentioned there is a wealth of information to be found in these forums and that's an understatement! So happy and love the discussions on trains. Always loved playing with them as a kid and so glad to have found it again as an adult (only took me some 40 odd years!)

Turning off the power supply on my powerbar is great advice and can't believe I didn't think of that already. I do it for my electronics so why not my trains? The little engine in question still runs but the performance has dropped. The lights still shine as brightly but it runs a little slower. I took him into the shop and had it greased up a bit so hopefully that helps out.

Yup, die hard leafs fan and anything else blue and white. Was born just after their last Stanely Cup so hoping to see them win one in my life time. That being said, I'm a fan of all things hockey and love all 6 original teams.

Once again, thanks everyone for the super helpful responses and look forward to further discussions in the future.

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    March, 2012
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Posted by PC101 on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM

Medina1128

Before starting my career as a computer programmer, I was a residential electrician. I installed a subpanel to power the layout and layout room lighting. I switch off the three breakers before leaving the room, killing the power to everything associated with the layout. 

Oh, and welcome to the forums! Welcome You're going to find a wealth of information here. I know I have.

 

Medina1128, is it good pratice to use the breakers repeatedly as an on/off switch? 

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  • From: North Dakota
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Posted by BroadwayLion on Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:59 AM

PC101
Medina1128, is it good pratice to use the breakers repeatedly as an on/off switch?

Most breakers are intended to be used as switches as well. Think of the gymnasuim at school, The lights are controled at the breaker panel.

When I was in first grade, we did not go into the locker room to change, but the coach went in and you could hear the breakers as he turned on the lights. When we were big enough to use the locker room I espected to see big industrial breakers with large handles in rows of cabinets, and was hugely disappointed when I saw that it was just a little pnael on the wall.

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

  • Member since
    March, 2017
  • 30 posts
Posted by Canalligators on Thursday, March 23, 2017 7:22 AM

A friend of mine is an expatriate Canadian.  His NY license plate is LEAFS EH.  Me, I follow the Jays.

Genesee Terminal, freelanced HO in Upstate NY

...hosting Loon Bay Transit Authority

CP/D&H, N scale somewhere on the Canadian Shield

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