Novice needs advise

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Laird Knapp

New Member
Hi. I am a novice when it comes to building a HO gauge model railroad. The last time I worked with model trains was in 1976 with a simple oval track on piece of plywood for my son. Now the Covid-19 pandemic is here and I want to build a train layout to have fun with my great grandsons when they are able to visit again.

Here’s where I need help and advice. I have a number of train sets and parts given to me over the years. When I did a small test oval using one of the kit transformers I was able to get an engine to run successfully. I have built some benchwork in my attic and laid out potential track design. But have not been successful in getting an engine to run even when I tried to hook up the three train set transformers at different intervals around the track.

I appear to have solid track connections, and I assume the problem lies in the transformers simply not powerful enough to power the track. I am only planning to run one train that will circle and loop the layout. Any advice or input you can give as to the size or type of transformer/power supplies I need to get the track to go live would be appreciated.

Also, I have been trying to read about wiring and need a little clarification. I am assuming that you run wires from the transformer/power pack to the layout and use buss? connectors to run feeder wires up to the track at different intervals around the track and solder them to the track. Is this correct? You would do the same off the AC side to power accessories on the layout. Correct?

I have two turnouts to allow the train to loop and return from right to left benchwork. Right now these are manual operated. How do electrical operated turnout switches work? Attaching photos of the proposed layout.
 

Attachments

GeeTee

Member
Looks like you might have 2 loop backs , these can create a short , both rails are shorted because of the loop , just follow the rails around . One suggestion , if you dont have a voltmeter/ohmeter ., pick one up , They are fairly cheap , even free sometimes at Harbor Freight. Even the cheap / free one is worth having for diagnosing simple problems .

one other issue you cant tie two packs to the same track unless they're block isolated , they will short each other out.
 

MHinLA

Well-Known Member
First off: If you are not going to go DCC control, analog DC controllers (yours) are referred to as 'power packs', not 'transformers'..AC controlled trains such as old O scale Lionel and S scale American Flyer controllers are referred to as 'transformers'. Also the ones you have are quite inferior in quality. A good replacement would be one MRC Tech II or IV.. Now for the important info:
I see at least 2 major problems right off the bat !!
1) We run analog DC train layouts with one, 1 power pack for the entire trackage, not 3 ! Remove 2 of them immediately or you can/will damage the loco motors by combining the 13v of each = 39 volts !! If you're looking for independence of locos/trains, you need to learn what track 'block wiring' is so that the 3 don't all run at the same time, which looks like what you're attempting using 3 P-packs..
2) You have what looks like 2 reverse loops both trainwise and polarity-wise that, ironically, comprise the entire trackage ! Looped track like this needs special wiring and gaps in rails at each switch's (turnouts) diverging tracks (the two track end of each switch).. Otherwise there will be a polarity clash (+ against - and - against + ) at the diverging routes... This in turn causes all kinds of trouble and damage via shorts and overloads = heat/burnouts..
It's too difficult here to explain what you need to wire-up to prevent this...There are oodles of how tos on this subject here in the forum, YouTube, 'How-to wire a MRR' books/mags. on line...
If you insist on remaining with this track 'scheme', I'd remove both switches for now and just have pinched oval until you understand the polarity problems with track reverse loops...Believe me, this is serious and mandatory..
3) No, you don't need a volt/ohmeter at this time with such a simple scheme.. You need to do what I explained, ASAP...
M
 
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Laird Knapp

New Member
First off: If you are not going to go DCC control, analog DC controllers (yours) are referred to as 'power packs', not 'transformers'..AC controlled trains such as old O scale Lionel and S scale American Flyer controllers are referred to as 'transformers'. Also the ones you have are quite inferior in quality. A good replacement would be one MRC Tech II or IV.. Now for the important info:
I see at least 2 major problems right off the bat !!
1) We run analog DC train layouts with one, 1 power pack for the entire trackage, not 3 ! Remove 2 of them immediately or you can/will damage the loco motors by combining the 13v of each = 39 volts !! If you're looking for independence of locos/trains, you need to learn what track 'block wiring' is so that the 3 don't all run at the same time, which looks like what you're attempting using 3 P-packs..
2) You have what looks like 2 reverse loops both trainwise and polarity-wise that, ironically, comprise the entire trackage ! Looped track like this needs special wiring and gaps in rails at each switch's (turnouts) diverging tracks (the two track end of each switch).. Otherwise there will be a polarity clash (+ against - and - against + ) at the diverging routes... This in turn causes all kinds of trouble and damage via shorts and overloads = heat/burnouts..
It's too difficult here to explain what you need to wire-up to prevent this...There are oodles of how tos on this subject here in the forum, YouTube, 'How-to wire a MRR' books/mags. on line...
If you insist on remailing with this track 'scheme', I'd remove both switches for now and just have pinched oval until you understand the polarity problems with track reverse loops...Believe me, this is serious and mandatory..
3) No, you don't need a volt/ohmeter at this time with such a simple scheme.. You need to do what I explained, ASAP...
M
Thank you so much!
 

Laird Knapp

New Member
Looks like you might have 2 loop backs , these can create a short , both rails are shorted because of the loop , just follow the rails around . One suggestion , if you dont have a voltmeter/ohmeter ., pick one up , They are fairly cheap , even free sometimes at Harbor Freight. Even the cheap / free one is worth having for diagnosing simple problems .

one other issue you cant tie two packs to the same track unless they're block isolated , they will short each other out.
Thanks for the input
 

santafewillie

Well-Known Member
Best advice is here.
I'd remove both switches for now and just have pinched oval until you understand the polarity problems with track reverse loops...Believe me, this is serious and mandatory
We run analog DC train layouts with one, 1 power pack for the entire trackage, not 3 ! Remove 2 of them immediately
These steps will resolve all of your issues unless you have already done serious damage.
 

MHinLA

Well-Known Member
Thanks Willie..
Laird. For now you could take those 2 switches and make a 2 track yard to store locos/cars.. Replace a piece of straight track with one switch into the main circle. Off that connect the 2nd switch which will split into 2 parallel tracks which dead end..
You still can keep only 1 loco on the tracks, or the other will run at the same time..This can be your first experience in gapping a rail to amend that.
Remove one rail joiner at start of one of the the 2 new tracks, right after the switch so as facing rail heads don't touch.. There's your gap..
Get a simple spst on/off (toggle/door bell) and run 1 wire from it to one rail at gap (solder them on if poss) and the 2nd wire to the opposing rail at the gap..Run an engine into the track past the the gap and turn the power off..One engine will sit isolated while other is running...!
This opens up yet another amendable challenge; volleying between the 2 locos...But for now try this out...M
 
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C

Cab1

Guest
I can't offer you much help with analog DC. My last brush with it was back in the 70's, too. I cut my teeth on it with a small American Flyer layout on saw horses in my basement. It had a two switch crossover as well that drove me crazy! I admire the fact you're willing to employ the "use what you got" mantra to convey to your grandchildren everything in life doesn't have to be shiny and new to have a value of its own. At the risk of angering legions analog DC purists lurking out there. The flip side of that reasoning is accepting the fact, in the real world, every technology has a limit to its practical usefulness over time and can become "over cooked" sometimes within a very short period of time. That said, the only way I can think of to help you would be in the form of a little advice. Before you do anything. It might be a good idea to spend a little time deciding what you envision your long term goal will be first. If it's sticking with analog DC over the long haul, great. A lot of guys still do. If it's a full-house DCC, that's ok, too. There are "highbred" systems out there that are full-house DCC, but have a simple isolated inner track reserved for analog DC that blends in seamlessly with the landscape. That's an option, too. However, my advice to you would be to learn everything you can about one of them fist, before diving right into the other.
 
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MHinLA

Well-Known Member
What on earth is 'full-house DCC' ? All DCC makes (NCE, Digitrax, Lenz, Bmann ) have the same basic components /stats, except some are more sophisticated in their controller hardware / encoder-decoder circuits / engine capacity / quality/logic /ergonomics / price...If anything, you might deem a DCC loco as being 'full-house' if it is a 'DCC Sound on Board' item..as opposed to DC / DCC ready / DCC equipped...But I've never heard the term full-house DCC.
Also, there is no word 'highbred'. It's hybrid..."There are hybrid systems out there that.......".
🍵
 
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Laird Knapp

New Member
First off: If you are not going to go DCC control, analog DC controllers (yours) are referred to as 'power packs', not 'transformers'..AC controlled trains such as old O scale Lionel and S scale American Flyer controllers are referred to as 'transformers'. Also the ones you have are quite inferior in quality. A good replacement would be one MRC Tech II or IV.. Now for the important info:
I see at least 2 major problems right off the bat !!
1) We run analog DC train layouts with one, 1 power pack for the entire trackage, not 3 ! Remove 2 of them immediately or you can/will damage the loco motors by combining the 13v of each = 39 volts !! If you're looking for independence of locos/trains, you need to learn what track 'block wiring' is so that the 3 don't all run at the same time, which looks like what you're attempting using 3 P-packs..
2) You have what looks like 2 reverse loops both trainwise and polarity-wise that, ironically, comprise the entire trackage ! Looped track like this needs special wiring and gaps in rails at each switch's (turnouts) diverging tracks (the two track end of each switch).. Otherwise there will be a polarity clash (+ against - and - against + ) at the diverging routes... This in turn causes all kinds of trouble and damage via shorts and overloads = heat/burnouts..
It's too difficult here to explain what you need to wire-up to prevent this...There are oodles of how tos on this subject here in the forum, YouTube, 'How-to wire a MRR' books/mags. on line...
If you insist on remailing with this track 'scheme', I'd remove both switches for now and just have pinched oval until you understand the polarity problems with track reverse loops...Believe me, this is serious and mandatory..
3) No, you don't need a volt/ohmeter at this time with such a simple scheme.. You need to do what I explained, ASAP...
M
Just wanted to say thanks again. I ditched the turnouts and extra power packs and just went to expanded loop like you advised. Got engines running on it, though I've got one spot where engine bogs down that I need to play with. I created a yard above the layout to store rolling stock and engines that I've acquired over the years. Again thanks for your quick and helpful feedback. Adding some pictures of the changes made possible from your feedback. Now to start working on landscaping and modeling themes.
 

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KB02

Well-Known Member
Would I be correct in assuming the part where the loco bogs down a bit is on the opposite end of the layout form the power input? This is where the Buss line comes in handy. Just, again, be careful about polarity.

Looks like the grandkids will be in for a treat when they’re by next. 😁
 

Laird Knapp

New Member
Would I be correct in assuming the part where the loco bogs down a bit is on the opposite end of the layout form the power input? This is where the Buss line comes in handy. Just, again, be careful about polarity.

Looks like the grandkids will be in for a treat when they’re by next. 😁
It's right about where the hammer is laying next to the track and on opposite side of layout from power supply, so you are correct.
 

bnsf971

Gomez Addams
Staff member
So would I just run one bus line to this area or should I run lines at intervals around the track?
Start with the one, though adding more while in the initial build stage would be a good idea. We in the electronic area call that "future proofing". If you do it now, you won't have to when the bug to get a DCC and sound engine bites you--you never know when that might happen.
"Never say never".
 

santafewillie

Well-Known Member
So would I just run one bus line to this area or should I run lines at intervals around the track?
I make power connections to every piece of flex track, which is actually really overkill. In your situation, I would first check for any loose rail joiners or perhaps a piece of dirty track.
 

Sirfoldalot

Product Tester ACME INC.
Staff member
You may want to "tighten" up the rail joiners too!
A loose rail joiner may be what is slowing down that one area?

When you finalize a track plan you may want to solder all the rail joints, or then maybe not. That is something to think about down the road a bit?
 

MHinLA

Well-Known Member
Good goin' about removing the switches..
To nitpick a bit: Good you got trains up on a shelf..But I wouldn't call it a yard which implies tracks connected to the main, where trains are sitting.
I did give you a way to do that with the 2 switches you have.. Don't be afraid of the gap and the on/off switch..It's a cake walk. The wires from the on/off just need to be long enough so you can mount it on the framework/panel near your throttle. This is a common part of the hobby in DC..So you might as well dig in somewhere such as here.
You'll feel a sense of pride in it once it's done; your first RR improvement project ....M
 
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