Overheating/track shortages?

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Russian

Saskatoon railfan
Hello, today I finally run my layout with more then two units.
After its been running for an hour or so with three units, for some reason the power fails. No matter what I do then, the rails don't supply any power. After some time passes, the track is workable again.

I first thought I was stretching the system by running 4units at a time (they ran at track speed for a few minutes), but I've had the same thing happen with 3 units as well.

My question is, is the system simply reaching some kind of limit or is there another problem? As everything goes back to normal, can I assume that there isn't damage or anything of that nature? I'm going to be running two locos max from now on to avoid such problems.

I'm guessing the problem is caused by my power pack which came with a standard IHC train set. would upgrading it to something more powerfull solve the problem, or is this a deeper "capacity" issue?

I would apprecite your knowledge or insight on this matter. I got really upset the first time it happened.:eek:
 

dgwinup

Member
Sounds to me like you are reaching the limits of power that your power pack can provide. The power pack probably has an internal circuit breaker that is overheating and cutting out. Some inexpensive power packs are heat-sensitive and shut down if they get too hot. This would explain the lack of power at the track. When the circuit breaker or power pack cools off, it resets and you have power again.

A larger power pack would probably help. You didn't mention what scale or what engines you are running (older models or new?). Usually, larger scale motors draw more current and your small pack can't provide enough. Depending on the output of the power pack, even some older HO and N units may draw more power than the pack can provide. Check the output listed on the UL label of the power pack. Most N and HO engines draw 1/2 amp, more or less. If your pack is rated at, say, 2 amps, you don't really have enough power.

Another thing to check is if any drive trains in the engine are binding. This puts excessive load on the motor and it draws more current than normal, often enough to trip a circuit breaker. If you have an ammeter, connect it and check the amp draw on each engine. If you don't have an ammeter, disassemble the engine and remove the drive shaft from the motor to the gear tower on the trucks. Turn the wheels on the trucks by hand and see if there is any binding. They should spin freely with no pauses or hesitations. A hesitation in the wheels is binding in the truck gears. Also check that the motor spins freely when not connected to the trucks. If you find any binding, disassemble the parts, check for burrs on the gears and clean off the burrs. (Don't try to clean the gears without disassembly: the burrs you remove could end up in the motor and ruin it!) If your engine is older, the brushes in the motor may be worn and dragging, increasing current draw and tripping the power pack. Often you can get replacement brushes and springs at your LHS or on the internet. Don't forget to clean the commutator when installing new brushes. When re-assembling the gears, be sure to use a quality lubricant.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it really doesn't take that much time or effort. It's just detail work. I would certainly eliminate the drive system on the engines as a source of your problem before spending money on a new power pack. Adding more power to an engine that is already suffering from excessive current draw is just asking for a burned out motor and dead engine.

Hope these suggestions help.

Darrell, quiet...for now
 
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CBCNSfan

Registered Member
Staff member
Hi Roman, Darrell has passed on some very good information for you in his post. I agree with his analysis of the train power packs. The train set power pack basically was designed to run only one engine continuously so even running it with two HO engines you are pushing it to it's limits. Perhaps for your next purchase you would consider a new throttle by MRC or other reputable manufacturer.

Willis
 

SpaceMouse

Fun Lover
I go along with the weak throttle. You can check eBay or post a wanted to buy on the site here. I'll bet there's more than on guy whose upgraded to DCC that has a nice throttle they might be willing to part with.
 

sushob

Entrepreneurial Teen
I can sell an MRC Sound & Power 7000 for about $60 + shipping, but I think I have to relist them in my store. The sound is kinda fun to play with :D
 

Larry

Long Winded Old Fart
Roman, I have always had MRC powerpacks & never had shortage of power. I ran 2 tracks sat. for almost 3 hrs. Each consist had 3 engines plus all the freight cars. That's 6 engines running all that time. The powerpack got a little warm, but it has never shut off in the 5 years I have owned it. It's a #9500 w/30 amps of power. I also run a mainline w/the Dc line in radio control.
I found out over the years that if you have a lot of track, you need track hookups every 4 ft. This cuts down on power loss going to the tracks when you get a long way from your power source. You also need at least a 14 ga. wire(stranded) for your main buss. This is only if you have a large layout like I do.
Another thing to watch for is any lighted cars sitting on hot sidings. They pull a lot of power while you are running trains. This will for sure cause shorts, overheating, etc.
Like everyone says; bigger power source.
 

Russian

Saskatoon railfan
Thanks for the help guys!

dgwinup said:
Sounds to me like you are reaching the limits of power that your power pack can provide. The power pack probably has an internal circuit breaker that is overheating and cutting out. Some inexpensive power packs are heat-sensitive and shut down if they get too hot. This would explain the lack of power at the track. When the circuit breaker or power pack cools off, it resets and you have power again.
That sounds about right. Since I won't be able to upgrade for a couple months, would putitng cold waterbottles under the power pack (I made it built-into the pass station roof, so its well secured and there's enough room underneath) make things better or is that just silly?

A larger power pack would probably help. You didn't mention what scale or what engines you are running (older models or new?).
HO, some new, but a lot of used stuff I recently picked up.

Adding more power to an engine that is already suffering from excessive current draw is just asking for a burned out motor and dead engine.
Are you saying if I upgrade the power pack some of my engines could burn out? That's quite sad.
I remember my uncle burned out his stereo system that way when he was about my age. Don't want to do the same. Just want trains to run...

SpaceMouse said:
I'll bet there's more than on guy whose upgraded to DCC that has a nice throttle they might be willing to part with.
At a recent modelshow I didn't see any, then again I wasn't looking for it either. Sure looks like I got my Christmas shopping list complete now. One new powerpack and a couple pass. cars and there goes the $100 budget (That's Canadian dollars, so about the value of one Athearn engine).:p

Larry said:
The powerpack got a little warm, but it has never shut off in the 5 years I have owned it. It's a #9500 w/30 amps of power.
I could feel mine is hot when I'm operating it. 30 amps is a lot, mine is just 6.:p
Guess it was a feat to run 4 units with it.

Another thing to watch for is any lighted cars sitting on hot sidings. They pull a lot of power while you are running trains. This will for sure cause shorts, overheating, etc.
Like everyone says; bigger power source.
I have a dummy F unit like that, not powered but the cabin lights up like a Christmas tree. So you could count that as 4.5 locos I managed to run sucessfully! Guess I should do that early now, while it gets a chance to warm up!

Looks like I'll be doing a lot of reasearch on power packs now.
 

dgwinup

Member
Roman,

Let me clarify something for you. When I said, "Adding more power to an engine that is already suffering from excessive current draw is just asking for a burned out motor and dead engine.", what I meant by that was to do a little maintenance/tune-up on your existing engines, just to be sure that the drive system isn't binding and causing the motor to draw more current. Re-read my comments about the tune-up stuff so I don't have to bore everyone again!! LOL This doesn't mean you WILL burn out any motors using a new powerpack, but it could happen if there is a problem with the engine. Better to be safe than sorry. If all is well with the engines, there should be no trouble upgrading to a higher amp powerpack.

If an engine is working hard just to get it's wheels to turn because of binding in the drive system, poor or no lubrication, etc., it draws more power, the motor heats up more than normal and the armature windings could overheat and burn out or the commutator could warp. That means a new motor.

You mentioned that your powerpack is 6 amps. Knowing that, I think you should be able to run 4 or 5 engines (even old ones!) at one time without overheating the powerpack. That leads me to believe that some other cause is making the power go down. Possibly the engines need service, but it could also be power loss in your track and wiring. Check your track wiring and clean your track well. Are you powering other accessories from the same powerpack? As Larry suggested, if you have other power-users such as lighted cars, building lights, etc., all that power draws from the same 6 amps that your powerpack is rated.

One more suggestion. Look into adding an ammeter to your control panel. Larry's 9500 MRC has an ammeter built in. An ammeter, and the instructions for using it, were in an article in Model Railroader (I think!). Maybe someone on the forum knows for sure. The ammeter will help you diagnose all kinds of problems that even Murphy and his Laws haven't discovered yet!

Water and ANYTHING electrical are natural enemies! You don't want to be nearby when the two get together! How about a small fan directed underneath the powerpack? That might give you enough cooling to keep the power on.

Check the engines, then start looking into a new powerpack. In the meantime, try a fan blowing on the powerpack for a little extra cooling. A friend of mine salvages old computer fans to use for all types of cooling projects. His own computer has 9 (that's right! NINE!!!) fans in it! If it were any faster, he could just THINK about what he wants to type and it would appear on his screen! It's that fast! And it's also like sitting next to a small space heater! He doesn't have a washer and dryer for his laundry. I told him to wash his stuff in the sink and hold each piece behind his computer for a few seconds and he wouldn't need to go to the laundromat! LOL

Hope this helps. Keep us informed of what works for you.

Darrell, once more to quiet...for now
 
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Russian

Saskatoon railfan
dgwinup said:
You mentioned that your powerpack is 6 amps. Knowing that, I think you should be able to run 4 or 5 engines (even old ones!) at one time without overheating the powerpack. That leads me to believe that some other cause is making the power go down. Possibly the engines need service, but it could also be power loss in your track and wiring. Check your track wiring and clean your track well. Are you powering other accessories from the same powerpack? As Larry suggested, if you have other power-users such as lighted cars, building lights, etc., all that power draws from the same 6 amps that your powerpack is rated.
Nope, don't have other accesories, but the track has never been cleaned in 5 years, so that may be the problem.

How about a small fan directed underneath the powerpack? That might give you enough cooling to keep the power on.

In the meantime, try a fan blowing on the powerpack for a little extra cooling.
That's a great idea! I have a desk fan that's slightly bigger then the power pack, and it can make you freeze in the summer heat. I'll run an experiment, placing it right underneath the powerpack blowing at full speed. If it shows improvement in running, then I'll dissasemble the station and re-assemble it with the fan built inside right underneath the powerpack (the Lego's secure it all very tightly with the right enginerring).

If this works well, I might not even need a new powerpack. In the short-rin anyway, the fan concept will solve many problems. Thanks a lor for bringing it forward, somehow I couldn't think beyond water-cooling...

Now the question is, will one elecrical socket supply enough power to power an HO powerpack, Lego powerpack and a fan at the same time...
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
Roman;
If it is an IHC train set power pack I bet it says 6VA, not 6A. That would be 6 Volt-Amps equal to about a total of 2 amps at 12 volts, maybe even less with NO LOAD. It definately sounds like you're overloading the pack more than the locos. One thing to consider as well. The higher the amp draw, the lower the voltage. If the pack stops supplying power to the rails after it gets hot, it is really getting overloaded. It will probably go before the locos do. Clean/lube the engines and get an MRC pack. They are rated higher, generally in the range of 12-18VA.
 

Russian

Saskatoon railfan
Cjcrescent said:
Roman;
If it is an IHC train set power pack I bet it says 6VA, not 6A. That would be 6 Volt-Amps equal to about a total of 2 amps at 12 volts, maybe even less with NO LOAD. It definately sounds like you're overloading the pack more than the locos.
That's exatly what is says! I didn't find amps so I just assumed that's what it was. So I was quite sad to hear that I should be able to run 4-5 locos without a problem.

I guess I should mention that during overheating the three locos were pushing one rotary and engine and pulling about 16 cars/ dummies.

Guess that means my locos are ok then for drawing power. As I said before, two engines could run fine for hours without a problem, you add a third one and they stall...
 

Russian

Saskatoon railfan
UPDATE

The track overheating/power shortage conversation came up with my parents when I tried to sneak the fan downstars. The good news is a powerpack of somekind is coming to my layout soon, as they're afraid I'll burn the house down.

The bad news is until then I'm restircted to running two powered unit trains...
 

dgwinup

Member
Hey, Russian!

Did the fan help?

Cjcrescent is right about the amp rating. 6VA translates to about 2 amps, so you could be overheating if both of your engines are older, in need of service and your track is dirty. After FIVE YEARS, it should be in need of a good cleaning!

Darrell, clean and quiet...for now
 

Russian

Saskatoon railfan
dgwinup said:
Hey, Russian!

Did the fan help?

Cjcrescent is right about the amp rating. 6VA translates to about 2 amps, so you could be overheating if both of your engines are older, in need of service and your track is dirty. After FIVE YEARS, it should be in need of a good cleaning!

Darrell, clean and quiet...for now
No the fan didn't help much. It's still quite fun running 2powered locos+dummies. I'll be posting photos in wpf tommorrow.
 

Russian

Saskatoon railfan
One of the things I love about the internet is the ability to do reasearch. Then again I found a post once claiming a Walthers GP9M could handle 75 cars by itself, when on my RR it went into wheelspin pulling 20 cars/dummies and pushing another one.

http://tinyurl.com/a6lcx

I find the MRC 1300 vs 1370 debate intersting. Does anyone own any of these power packs? How good are they? Is the problem described in that thread that bad?

Thanks. Just want to make sure I don't buy a lemon.
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
Russian;
As you surmised from the discussion, the MRC packs were altered to run Z-scale. That means they were set to put out only the voltage for Z-scale. In My Opinion, MRC makes real good packs. I have felt that the TechII series was the most rugged they ever made. I still see many of them running after twenty years or more. The 1300 is a good basic pack but it is somewhat weak on the power side. For what you have described as doing, I would recommend a Tech 4-220 or 260. Here go to http://www.modelrec.com/products/trainSound/tech4.asp

These would have more power available than the Railmaster 1300 which doesn't have much more power than the train set pack. Its designed for 1-2 engines, while the Tech-4s would handle 3-4.
 
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HaggisKennedy

Coal Shoveler
I have a 1300 that I bought a few years ago to power the then-existing Torture Test Track. I think I ran 2-3 locos simultaneously, at most, as it was rated for 4-5.

I still use it to power the short test track to make sure locos run OK before installing a decoder....

Kennedy
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
I believe the 1300 is rated at 12-15VA. The next step up, the 1370 is rated at 18VA. The tech4 220 is 20VA. The trick to remember is the higher the VA rating, the heavier the load the pack can take without causing it to get strained and overheat. You can never go wrong with more power available (in amps) for the locos to use.
 

Russian

Saskatoon railfan
Thanks for all the help guys. I ordered the MRC 1370 today.

I'm also starting to building scenery on the layout. Should continue work and post pictures on the weekend.
 

Russian

Saskatoon railfan
It Is Done

I unpacked it yestarday and put it on the layout today. What a difference!
You can see its twice as big as the old one.
What can I say about it? It definetally improved trains running in every way. The old "5 speed" was vague and confusing, now the speedometer lets me actually see how fast the train is going. For experiment sakes I made the C628 run at 95mph - full throttle, for a short distance. It literally flew! Most trains run at 40mph now, 45mph on some corners with a heavy train. Running 60mph is way too fast. All of mine units have their lowest speed at around 30-35mph, which is pretty good, BUT the two IHC's together managed 25mph somehow... Not sure why they can work slower, guess I'll need a switcher pair then.;)

The main benefit of the powerpack is running more trains/engines. I ran four powered ones for an hour and it didn't even heat up. The old one would have a short circut in 10 minutes.:(

All engines seem to be able to go slower and faster then before, not to mention none of them stalled leading solo with a full load. (A couple engines stalled with the old powerpack).

Another nice thing is the fact that in reverse moves, before the engine would literally kick the cars, now its a smooth slow speed back-up movement. It's the first time I was able to back 6 cars into a sliding, on a 20car train, without a single car derailing.

A powerfull powerpack was definetally a worthy investment. Thanks a lot for the help guys. I shoudl mention that it also has some-kind of cooling system as there are tiny air vents coming from it...
 




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