Newbie Needs Help with Wiring

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raj824

Neophyte
Hi Guys,

I'm new to model railroading and to this forum. Here is my question.

I am building a wall train in my kids room. (see pics). It's a work in progress I know, but anyways, I have wired a bunch of lamppost and building lights around the tracks I have up thus far (est. 10-12 lights thus far).

To make it easier for my kids to turn the lights on and off, I brought a toggle switch from Home Depot and built a box around it. The toggle switch specs are 10 A 277 V AC / 20 A 125 V AC / 3/4 HP 125-250 V AC. Now I'm not electrician and have no idea what all this means.

I'm powering the lights with a cheapo tyco transformer (as you can see in the pic). The specs on the transformer is rated at 7 VA Max Output and 18 V AC. I have the wire for the lights connected to the switch, which is then connected to the transformer.

Here in is my problem. The switch works perfectly when I initially plug in the transformer. I can even leave the lights on for an extended amount of time (so far just tested about 20-30 min). However, when I turn off/on the toggle switch, I can hear a click (sometimes) and then nothing. The lights just go out and don't come back on. After I unplug and replug the transformer, then the lights come back on. I assume it's some sort of safty feature engaging. How do I prevent the lights from going out and having to replug everything?

Any help or suggesting would be appreciated.

Thanks.
Rod
 

willb

New Member
10 A 227 V AC stands for 10 amps @ 227 volts alternating current - not your typical home circuit except for some high power appliances.

20 A 125 V AC stands for 20 amps @ 125 volts alternating current - your typical home outlets are 125 volts alternating current.

the last part is a horse power rating.

you may have too many lights, etc for the transformer's output rating which may be causing the transformer to trip an internal circuit breaker. since the transformer is only putting out 7 amps at 18 volts you are not exceeding the toggle switches rating. usually what happens when you turn on a switch you get a momentary voltage/current surge that is probably exceeding the transformers output rating. this will not happen if the switch is on and you plug in the transformer.
 

raj824

Neophyte
Will,

Thanks for responding.

What you says makes sense, however I'm still trying to make sense of things so please bare with me.

If I leave the switch "on" and then plug in the transformer, are you saying that I should be able to turn the switch on/off without tripping the internal circuit breaker?

Oh, and before I forget. When I plug the lights directly to the transformer accessaries, even when the dial is in the "off" position, the lights are still on and turning the dial left or right doesn't seem to have an effect on the lights. Is that normal? One reason why I brought the toggle switch was to be able to turn the lights on and off without having to keep unplugging the transformer.

Is it possible to have one switch the turns the transformer power on and off and another switch to turn the lights on and off? Would that help my problem?

Lastly, I saw on ebay a lighting amp power pack. The specs on it were a lot higher than my transformer. I assume that would solve the problem too, right?
 

willb

New Member
Will,

Thanks for responding.

What you says makes sense, however I'm still trying to make sense of things so please bare with me.

If I leave the switch "on" and then plug in the transformer, are you saying that I should be able to turn the switch on/off without tripping the internal circuit breaker?

that will cause the voltage surge which is probably tripping the internal circuit breaker

Oh, and before I forget. When I plug the lights directly to the transformer accessaries, even when the dial is in the "off" position, the lights are still on and turning the dial left or right doesn't seem to have an effect on the lights. Is that normal? One reason why I brought the toggle switch was to be able to turn the lights on and off without having to keep unplugging the transformer.

that is correct. the dial controls the voltage to the trains. the accessories are a constant output.

Is it possible to have one switch the turns the transformer power on and off and another switch to turn the lights on and off? Would that help my problem?

yes and no. the second switch would accomplish the same thing as unplugging the power pack, but the first switch would have to be left on.

Lastly, I saw on ebay a lighting amp power pack. The specs on it were a lot higher than my transformer. I assume that would solve the problem too, right?
that may be your best option. note that when you leave a transformer plugged in it is still on and drawing power unless it has its own on/off switch. leaving a transformer plugged in and running will generate quite a bit of heat. ac power adapters for things like computer printers, etc should be connected to a power strip with an on/off switch so that they are not constantly on also. this also has the advantage of reducing your electricity bill:)
 

raj824

Neophyte
Will,

Would perhaps a better transformer (with more power), and one with its own on/off switch help? I just assume there are transformers out there like this right? I figure the transformer I'm using is the basic, right?

Lastly, I've seen various places listings for 30 watt and 80 watt power packs. What are they and how are they used?

Thanks again Will.

Rod
 
No electrical expert here, but I know I have had several transformers like that life like you have pictured and they suck on accessory output. I have had the same problem and it isnt the switch. As suggested above get a good power strip with a cutoff switch so the transformer is off when not in use.

I have an AHM transformer Output 16.5 VDC 10Va that you can have and I will ship it to you. Send me your address to Roanokehandyman@aol.com if you are interested. Please put "Trains" on the subject so I dont mistake it for junk mail.

Good Luck, Tom
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
Ron, if I may suggest, go to a Radio Shack and by a power supply for the layout. I may be wrong, but I was thinking the output of your power pac for accessaries is 12 VDC. If so then, any 12 Volt wall wart plugin can be used (or several) or you can buy this http://www.radioshack.com/product/i...ower+Supply&kw=power+supply&parentPage=search
Don't worry about the 13.8 volts. 12volt lights will do fine on this and is plenty for all your lights, but if too much for you then break your light circuits up into two or more and power each with a wall wart at the voltage your lights use. Simple and you could put all warts on one switch by plugging them into a power strip as suggested above.;)
 

raj824

Neophyte
No electrical expert here, but I know I have had several transformers like that life like you have pictured and they suck on accessory output. I have had the same problem and it isnt the switch. As suggested above get a good power strip with a cutoff switch so the transformer is off when not in use.

I have an AHM transformer Output 16.5 VDC 10Va that you can have and I will ship it to you. Send me your address to Roanokehandyman@aol.com if you are interested. Please put "Trains" on the subject so I dont mistake it for junk mail.

Good Luck, Tom
Thanks Ron. I sent you an e-mail.
 

raj824

Neophyte
Ron, if I may suggest, go to a Radio Shack and by a power supply for the layout. I may be wrong, but I was thinking the output of your power pac for accessaries is 12 VDC. If so then, any 12 Volt wall wart plugin can be used (or several) or you can buy this http://www.radioshack.com/product/i...ower+Supply&kw=power+supply&parentPage=search
Don't worry about the 13.8 volts. 12volt lights will do fine on this and is plenty for all your lights, but if too much for you then break your light circuits up into two or more and power each with a wall wart at the voltage your lights use. Simple and you could put all warts on one switch by plugging them into a power strip as suggested above.;)
Thanks for the response. Here is what is listed on my transformer:

Input: 120VAC 50/60 OHZ
Output: Open Circuit 18VAC / 16VDC
7 VA Max Output and 18 V AC

Can I still use the 12Volt Wall Wart plugin?

Sorry if my questions are a little off the wall. Like I said, I'm a newbie and the electrical stuff is all new to me.
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
Everything depends on the voltage rating of the light bulbs you have. If they are 12Volt, then yes 12 volt wall warts will work. If the bulbs are 16 volt, then they will be dim. Sometimes, dim is desirable for the interiors of buildings.

You need to match the bulbs and power supply using the same voltage. You can get wall warts at 16 volts, if that is what your bulbs are rated for.

Also, get a hefty wall wort, e.g. 500ma (1/2 amp) or larger. This rating is telling you it can supply this amount of current at the rated voltage of the power supply. 500ma will safely supply 25 - 20 milliamp bulbs, 10 - 50 milliamp, 5 - 100 milliamp, and etc. Small bulbs that are usually less than 1 watt are rated in voltage and current, e.g. 12 volt/50ma, 16 volt/30ma, etc...

Be sure and wire your bulbs in parallel with each other. Don't exceed the limits of the power supply current rating. If you have more bulbs than one wort can supply, then split-up the light circuit so you can install another wart in the new circuit to handle the additional load.

Again and for convenience, use a central location for a plug strip and plug all the warts into it. Then run wires to the various parts of your layout. Now, you can throw one switch to turn them all on or off. If you want to get fancy and have the ability to turn on only selected lights, then you will have to install additional toggles in each of the warts output (on/off).

Hope my explanation was clear enough, but you can always ask questions as you go along. ;) :)
 

willb

New Member
just got home from work and i see that several good suggestions have been provided by others. wish you the best getting the lights working properly. you can get a computer power strip that has switches for each plug if you want to turn on lights in only parts of the layout instead of all at once. check frys electronics or similar sources. the one i have came with my computer desk and i haven't checked to see who made the powerstrip.
 

MRLdave

Member
I think everyone has had good suggestions, but the fact that you can leave the lights on for 20 or 30 minutes says you haven't overloaded the powerpack....yet.....at some point most of the suggestions will be needed. However I think the problem IS with the switch.That switch is HUGE .....Like 2200 watts (you probably need less than 10). I think the reason you're tripping the breaker is those huge contacts are arcing as the switch is thrown and the pack is reading that as a short and tripping. I think if you go to Radio Shack and buy a $3 switch the problem will go away. Remember though that at some point you WILL overload the pack and all the other suggestions will be the way to go.
 

raj824

Neophyte
I think everyone has had good suggestions, but the fact that you can leave the lights on for 20 or 30 minutes says you haven't overloaded the powerpack....yet.....at some point most of the suggestions will be needed. However I think the problem IS with the switch.That switch is HUGE .....Like 2200 watts (you probably need less than 10). I think the reason you're tripping the breaker is those huge contacts are arcing as the switch is thrown and the pack is reading that as a short and tripping. I think if you go to Radio Shack and buy a $3 switch the problem will go away. Remember though that at some point you WILL overload the pack and all the other suggestions will be the way to go.

Thanks guys. Well I'm still in the process of hooking up more lights (I have a ton of lights), so I'm going to get the wart today at radio shack.

Even with the addition of additional lights, is the toggle switch still too much? I've been looking at the various power supplies and I noticed that most say VDC. I got a little confused because I know my transformer has two sections one for DC hook up and one for AC hook ups. Is VDC the same as AC? Judging by the comments, I assume it will be fine to power my lights.

Oh, and while I have everyone attention, power trains. I'm not there yet, but it occurred to me as I was glancing through several threads, will I need to connect my DC source to power my trains in various locations of the track on is one location fine? I was figuring that to get the maximum amount of power to all the track of connecting it to various points. Is that over kill?

Thanks again guys.

Rod
 

willb

New Member
adding additional wiring for the track will depend on a couple of things. how large your layout is and how many trains you will run. if you are going to run more than one train at a time then should break the track into separate blocks using insulated rail joiners. if you are only running one train then adding additional feeder wires about every eight feet will do. there are several books that explain how to wire a model railroad. there may be online information also.

vdc is voltage direct current.
vac is voltage alternating current.

the trains use direct current. the lights can use either ac or dc.
 

raj824

Neophyte
adding additional wiring for the track will depend on a couple of things. how large your layout is and how many trains you will run. if you are going to run more than one train at a time then should break the track into separate blocks using insulated rail joiners. if you are only running one train then adding additional feeder wires about every eight feet will do. there are several books that explain how to wire a model railroad. there may be online information also.

vdc is voltage direct current.
vac is voltage alternating current.

the trains use direct current. the lights can use either ac or dc.
Thanks for that info on the lights.

I will check out my local train shop to see what they have on the subject. In the meanwhile, does anyone have a link to resources online? I have no clue as to how to do this.
 

RexHea

RAIL BENDER
Don't worry about the type of switches. All will work for what you want to do. Just make sure that the amp rating, which is the rating of the switch's contacts, is at least as high as what you will be supplying. Use a 20amp wall switch or a mintronics miniature...just remember the current rating.
 

MRLdave

Member
I think your switch will be fine if you change power supplies. I didn't mean to imply there was anything "wrong" with the switch....it's a perfectly good switch, your old supply just didn't like it because the contacts inside the switch were making it think there was a problem that didn't really exist....if you got it at HomeDepot or Lowes it was probably designed for house wiring, not hobby wiring. In principle it's the same, but you don't need things nearly as beefy for model trains. If you change power supplies the switch should be fine. I'm not sure what lamps you are using on your layout, but your switch should be fine till you hit AT LEAST 2000 bulbs and probably more like 2500 (it will handle ALL the power from 40 of your power packs!). As far as the extra feed wires, what willb is pointing out is if you only run one train, one feed (with added feeds every 6 to 8 feet is fine) is fine, but what if you want to park a second train on a siding? They make Plastic connectors for connecting track.....if you use these to connect the siding to the main track then the train on the siding won't run when the train on the main track does. Then you add a set of feed wires to the siding and connect them through a switch, so you can turn the power on and off to that section of track. It gets a little more complicated, but if you understand the principle behind the "block" wiring you should be fine. Oh yeah.....always hook your train to DC...if you hook it to AC it will just sit there and hum and get very hot!
 
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raj824

Neophyte
Thanks!!

Guys, thanks for all your help and advice. You can count on me asking more questions if I run into problems (and knowing myself, you might be hearing from me sooner rather than later). :p

Cheers,
Rod
 




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