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Author Topic: The Shocking Truth or a Spark of Stupidity?  (Read 388 times)

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« on: October 29, 2020, 09:41:39 PM »

With the current on goings in the country this year, it has come as no surprise that train shows and swap meets (among other things) continue to be canceled or postponed.  I've watched several shows I had hoped to attend this year be canceled due to health concerns and sadly it appears I won't be making it to any at all.  The last show I had hoped to attend here in December has recently been thrown out as well.  Still there are train clubs that are having small shows, but a lot of the local ones near me have either packed it up for the year or they don't allow non-club members to setup a layout.  Needless to say, my Large Scale collection has not left home this year...

In other news, a friend of mine who is a member of a club out in Colorado recently told me that his club is starting to have public running sessions again at their local clubhouse on weekends.  They are also preparing for their upcoming Christmas shows starting in the middle of November.  Last night he sent me an email in regards to an article (titled "The Shocking Truth") from the club's assistant superintendent in the November newsletter.  He was completely speechless and rather cheesed off by what he read, as was I after taking a read.  I would like to hear some other peoples thoughts on this article and the matter of which it talks about.  I have quoted it down below...

It has amazed me the number of people that have continued to support our club during this challenging year by coming to our shows and donating to keep our organization running. Sadly, we've had to cancel many of our spring and summer running sessions, but slowly things are returning to normal. Although I've only been on the committee for two years now, I've experienced so much joy participating in these running sessions we've done. I've watched many young train fans come to these shows and even talked to their parents, some who came here when they were kids themselves and are now bringing their own children to these events. When the club's founder, Robert ******* started this great organization back in 1995, I don't think he ever imagined there would be so much support for our club from the community. I want to thank both our members and our fellow neighbors for keeping our organization running.

As we begin to prepare for our holiday running sessions leading up to Christmas, I would like to address something that has been a concern of mine recently. Because many children attend these shows, I think it's important that we do all we can to ensure their safety. Getting children more involved with these shows is part of how we continue to have such great success. We are essentially passing the torch to the next generation to take grasp of the hobby and appreciate it. I have done a lot in the last two years to help the little ones be more involved, including having my own children participating and put together a small layout of Lego trains that the other children can interact with when they come to our shows. While we are getting our younger ones involved, regarding their safety should also be a priority. Many children like to get close up to look at the trains running around our layouts, and most of these layouts are powered by high voltage systems. While these power supplies are needed to run the trains, they pose the risk of electric shock. I've brought this up with my husband, Rich, who understands my concerns and thinks it is something we should discuss with our club members.

The use of high voltage power systems at these shows is worrying as they pose the potential risk of causing injury to a child which could be fatal given the right circumstances. Rich and I would like to try and get our members to consider changing out their power supplies if the output of them is greater than one amp. This especially applies to any setups which are displayed at a child friendly height or on the floor like our members who run o and g scales. These setups need to be powered by a control system that will not harm a child should they touch the trains. We will be discussing this topic further at our next club meeting on Sunday, November 15 and I'm hoping more club members will agree with my concerns and want to get on board. We not only want to be able to enjoy displaying at these shows, but also keep them family friendly especially for our little engineers who attend.
- Irene *******
Asst. Superintendent"

Now I want to ask the question, is this sort of precaution really necessary?  Will it actually be a positive for safety or just cause headache for those trying to run their layouts?  I'll admit that I do see where it's important to get the younger generation involved in this hobby, but at the same time shouldn't we also expose them to the risks as well?  I mean, these model trains could potentially present more hazards if you really wanted to get technical about it.  They have small parts which can become choking hazards, some lubricants and cleaning solutions are poisonous, misuse of equipment could cause a fire, but it all comes down to everything happening given the right circumstances.  Heck, some models out there have the whole "Warning this product contains a chemical known to cause cancer" on the package and not too many people seem concerned about that.  I myself can think of things we use every day that are far more dangerous than model railroading equipment.

So while this change wouldn't have any effect on me, my friend on the other hand says it would cause issues with running his layout.  He runs O Gauge and is currently using  an MTH Z-4000 transformer which he likes since it has no problem running the size of layout he has.  According to him though, should the club decided to enforce the "1 Amp Rule" (as he calls it) he wouldn't be allowed to use that transformer anymore.  He doesn't think a smaller power supply would work for what he's running, which is why he upgraded to something better in the first place.  I'm even sitting here scratching my head and wondering if a system such as O Gauge wouldn't just end up overloading a 1 amp controller and destroying it at some point.

I myself run Large Scale trains and I use 2 different power supplies on my railroad.  A USA Trains Train Power 10 for analog and an MRC Prodigy Elite 10A for digital.  Both of these systems put out 10 amps of power and I've found them to be very adequate for running my railroad.  I've tried running Large Scale on smaller power supplies in the past which put out around 2 amps and they just can't handle the Large Scale models I have, especially if I'm running multiple trains at one time.  I've also had one of Bachmann's 1 amp controllers that came in one of the first Large Scale starter sets I got, and it failed just by running a standard Big Hauler loco.  Maybe these smaller units can run Large Scale and I'm just not doing it right, but if something out there has a better output, then that's what I would prefer to use.

Now in regards to child safety, I've had my Large Scale trains to 2 shows in the past and while that isn't really a significant number, I can still say I haven't had any issues.  Like many of the Large Scale guys do, I set up on the floor for convince sake.  Both times I was using the Train Power 10 (as I did not have DCC at the time) and no one, I repeat "no one" got bit by it.  The kids mostly would just lay on the floor, watch the trains as they went past and sometimes follow them, but they knew enough not to touch anything.  I do have signs around my setups asking people not to touch the trains, but that's only good for those who listen.  In fact based on my own experience going to model train shows and/or diecast shows, it seems the kids actually listen better than the adults.  What's up with that?

Given the right circumstances, yes it is possible to get a shock from the tracks.  I've been bit before when doing something like cleaning or rerailing, but it's basically no different than someone building up static and then touching you.  Other than a quick jolt, I cannot say I've been effected to the point where I'm in severe pain.  Now I am aware that infants and toddlers have softer skin and could experience more of an effect, but again would a shock from one of these systems really cause injury to the point where it could be lethal?  I mean, we're dealing with a 10 amp model train transformer, not a 6 joule cattle fencer.  I wouldn't doubt that even a 1 amp controller would bite you too if the conditions were right.

I'm in no way agents the idea of making train shows more kid friendly, but to say that members running layouts must conform to a power supply under a ridiculous low rating regardless of scale seems to be taking it a little too far.  People participate in events like this because they enjoy the hobby and want to share their collection and/or layouts with the public.  However, when they begin having problems while trying to abide by the rules set in place, it takes all the enjoyment out of the hobby and most people just won't want to be bothered.  Model railroading in general is a dying hobby and in my opinion, the people in charge of this club wanting to implement this new requirement just seems like good way to kill off your 15 year run.  At the end of the day is this really a necessary change for child safety or is just a case of someone who knows absolutely nothing wanting to make decisions?


"If you can't beat them, hire someone to do it..."

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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2020, 11:44:09 PM »

Wow!  I appreciate you bringing up this topic.  As an officer at my club, I do understand this point of view, and - don't get me wrong - it is something that I've thought about much more than just a little bit.  My club is all HO, so you have to be intentionally trying really hard to get even a small zap from that.  However, for the larger scales, I understand that this can pose a possible threat.  While, like you, I can't imagine anyone getting killed from touching a train, in today's sue-happy world we just can't rely on people to "follow the rules".  Insurance is hundreds of dollars a year wasted on making sure someone doesn't just come along, fake an injury and "sue, sue, sue!".  Like you're saying, trains have lead, grease, and plenty of other things in them that would be - well - not great to put inside of a person.

...but back to electricity.  HO scale "higher-voltage" power supplies are used only when large concentrations of locomotives are on the track.  With this power being split up to so many sources, you still can't feel anything when you lay a finger across the rails.  However, with the little ones peeking under curtains and "exploring" around, you ever know where they can stick their hand.  One worry of mine is, with our Digitrax system, the stripped cord from the wall into the box.  Of course, there's plenty of insulation, but they call it a "death cable" for a reason.

Like anything, you can choke from eating food, but we all do it.  You can trip when you walk, but we all walk.  You can drown in the shower, but we still bathe.  Risks are associated with everything we do.  After much thinking, I've come to the conclusion that I can rest easy knowing I've taken all the necessary precautions and more in ensuring a safe and positive guest experience.  Combined with insurance, I know that on the 0.00000001% chance that anything happens, the club will be okay.

Besides, maybe they should have kid insurance at train shows.  You know how many things of mine have been grabbed by a kid, damaged, sometimes fallen to the floor...  Yeah, maybe there should be an insurance policy taken out by them to pay my damages.  Grin

Genuinely, though, thank you for sharing this topic.  It is something that should definitely be taken into account more.  I feel like most of us fall somewhere in the middle on this one, and that there isn't one definite answer.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2020, 11:12:33 AM by prr22 » Logged

Modeling the rolling hills from Baltimore to Pittsburg

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« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2020, 01:54:22 PM »

Let me try to provide some factual information.

The US has a a national electrtical code which clasifies low voltage as less then 50 volts.  From a model railroad perspective this number sould be divided in half because of our reverse loops.

The Europeal CE child safely rerquirements are a lot tighter.  They clasify model trains as toys and have very strict safety rules for toys. For example the high voltage power supply can no longer be in a model train controller and instead must be in a seperate sealed container.

Low amperage at high voltage can be very dangerous and lethal.  Low voltage is viewed as being safe.

For example I run 10 amps at 21.5 volts on our railroad.  If it is a very wet day and you tough both rails you may get a a tingle but you can hold both rails tightly and not the current you draw is neglegable.

Be safe.  Keep your high voltage power supplies protected and away from people.    Only use UL and/or CE certified model railroad electronics.(they will have the actual UL and/or CE logos on the units).    If you want to play extra safe in a public environment keep the  high voltage power supplies seperate from the controllers.

A model railroad product will not get a UL safety or a CE safety logo if it is not safe for children.

Stan Ames


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« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2020, 02:17:01 PM »

All very true

Modeling the rolling hills from Baltimore to Pittsburg
Greg Elmassian

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« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2020, 02:58:54 PM »

The person need to talk to someone who understands electricity.

This statement:
"The use of high voltage power systems at these shows is worrying as they pose the potential risk of causing injury to a child which could be fatal given the right circumstances. Rich and I would like to try and get our members to consider changing out their power supplies if the output of them is greater than one amp. "

clearly shows the author really should stick to knitting, no wait, nothing with sharp objects!!!

voltage and current are very different, and affect humans differently

voltage can produce danger if it is high enough.

current flows when the voltage is high enough, and does not flow otherwise.

In simple terms, you can hold the terminals of a 500 amp car battery and nothing happens... because the voltage is low.

You can touch a 400 volt power supply that only supplies 100 milliamps (one TENTH of an amp) and die.

Yep, as they say, "trust the science", but first contact someone who knows the subject before saying something is dangerous.


p.s. yes, I vote for the title to be "spark of stupidity"

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Joe Zullo

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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2020, 12:59:41 PM »


I'm glad you set the record straight. You are 100% correct. My father used to think that electricity was the work of the devil. Of course he was wrong, he just didn't understand it. When people don't understand something they make outrageous statements.  Wink

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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2020, 11:27:18 AM »

I turned in my 2 amp unit and touched both rail on my work bench.  After reading the first post, I was shocked as shinola.  I felt nothing.  I was so disappointed.  I didnít even get the tingle like the old when drinking hold the handles while they crank up the juice to prove your manhood. 
Greg Elmassian

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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2020, 01:14:51 PM »

The sad thing is besides knowing absolutely nothing about volts vs amps, or realizing the conditions it takes to fatally shock somone,

The really sad thing is how this could scare parents, and scare others away from the hobby due to her lack of knowledge.


p.s. in the conditions where there is danger of shock, it's the older people who are more at risk, not strong healthy children!

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« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2020, 04:19:15 PM »

I was in the UK for the first 25 years of my life, and believe me, you guys ain't had a shock until you've touched a 240V AC power line.  But it didn't injure me.

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« Reply #9 on: November 11, 2020, 11:18:52 PM »

Are you sure? Grin
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