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Author Topic: I Think That I May Not Have Enough Power for My Layout  (Read 8297 times)
BradKT

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« on: April 15, 2009, 03:19:10 AM »

I think that I may have an electrical power issue (not enough).  I use a Bachmann EZ Command system setup withe the 5 amp booster.

My layout is L-shaped.  One side is 9'x5' and the other side is 9'x6'.  This makes one side of the L-shape 14' long and the other side 9' long.  There is an access hatch where they intersect.

There are 3 tracks.  The outer and middle tracks (tracks 1 and 2) go around the outside of the "L" shape of the layout.  The inner track (track 3) is a large oval in the middle of the payout.   Tracks 1, 2 and 3 are all connected by turnouts that allow trains to be switched back and forth between the 3 tracks.  While there are sidings and a small rail yard, there is no need to discuss them here.  I just wanted to give you the size and general configuration of the layout.

The switches are powered by a separate DC transformer.

The trains that I run are normally pulled by 2 engines (usually Athearn or Atlas DCC, but I also have a few Bachmann DCC engines that I run as well).  That would mean that when I am running 3 trains, 6 engines are operating on the 3 tracks.

Here is the issue.  When I run only 1 train on the layout, it runs noticably faster than if I try to run 2 or 3.  It's like when I try to run 3 trains, they are slightly underpowered. 

Does anyone have any thoughts about this and what can I do about it?
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2009, 04:04:03 AM »

Hi Brad,
I have three questions...how many feeders do you have on your layout; are any of your locos sound equipped; and are your cars easy rolling?

I think you have plenty of power, just not getting full power to the locomotives. At a minimum you need separate feeders for each track, and most modelers recommend feeders every 4 to 6 feet supplied from a 14 gauge bus.

Running two locomotives in consist, pulling one string of cars, doesn't double the power requirement.  My testing indicates about 150% of current requirement for one locomotive.

Of course, if you cars aren't easy rolling, performance really goes down fast. I'm not familiar with the booster, but I think WGL had to set his to 18 volts to see a significant difference in performance.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 05:48:07 AM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
BradKT

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« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2009, 04:39:56 AM »

I don't quite understand what you mean by feeders.  There is only one terminal running to the transformer (the 6 amp booster) that is plugged into the standard terminal track, which is a part of the outer track (track 1). 

All locos are DCC, but they are not sound equipped.  I use Digitrax 4 function decoders (DH 165AO for Atlas engines and the DH 163AT for Athearn engines).

The cars are all free rolling.  I don't think that that is the problem.  Although I sometimes run 10-plus car trains (12 cars at most), I am usually running 6 or 7 car trains.  The trains run faster when I run shorter trains, but they all slow down noticeably when I try to run 3 trains.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 04:43:55 AM by BradKT » Logged
Yampa Bob

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« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2009, 05:05:02 AM »

If you have just the one track connection, then you are supplying over 80 feet of track from one "feeder", resulting in voltage drops around the layout.  The idea is to run a pair of 14 gauge wires (a primary "bus") around the layout, then tap off with short feeders to multiple track connections. If you elect to run the bus down the center of the layout, then you would tap off with 18 gauge in both directions (secondary bus) to within 6-12 inches of the track connection, then use a smaller feeder.

There are several threads regarding bus and feeder wiring, you might want to start with this one:
http://www.bachmanntrains.com/home-usa/board/index.php/topic,8330.0.html

As noted in the thread, my methods may be a bit overkill, I just figure wire is cheap and bigger is always better.  To be practical, you're probably safe with a maximum 1 volt actual drop, or about 3% to 5% voltage drop.  Don't get hung up on the calculations, just lay out the bus and add feeders as described.

The short feeders (usually 12 inches or less in length) can be 18-22 gauge wire.

To understand the bus and feeder concept of wiring, you can relate it to the plumbing in your house. You have a 3/4" or 1" main pipe (the bus), with 1/2" secondary pipes (secondary bus), and finally 3/8" pipes (feeders) going to the fixture. This gives you adequate flow of water (current) to all fixtures without losing pressure (volts).  If you've ever tried to water your lawn with 100 feet of small hose, flow is reduced at the end due to friction (resistance).
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 01:02:54 PM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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jward


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« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2009, 08:25:56 AM »

i second bob's opinion that you have more than enough power for the layout.

i had a similar layout, 13.5 feet per side, l shaped, 3 or 3 track mainline with branches and 2 yards. my wiring was all 18 guage, including all feeders. i had at least one set of feeders to each track, every 6 feet or so. and i was using the zephyr as my command station, it put out 2.5 amps, hlaf what you have. i experienced no degradation of performance running multiple trains, even though my layout was wired below recommendations (smaller wire equals more resistance and in theory less power on the rails) and a lower powered dcc system.

power feeders weren't as much of an issue with the older dc packs, because each train would be drawing it's power from a seperate power supply. with dcc all are drawing power from the same source.

my question for you concerns your locomotives. you mentioned athearn< how old are these? older athearn motors, those used before 1980 for sure, were notorious power hogs. some drew up to an amp apiece under normal circumstances, and up to 3 amps stalled. these ywould be the ones with the big wraparound magnet than were somewhat round in shape, not the later flat sided motors.....

another question, do you have locomtives parked on live tracks when running your trains? on dcc every locomotive draws power whether it is running or not. if you have alot of locomotives sitting around a turntable area, for example, you may want to add a seperate booster supply for that area......
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
BradKT

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« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2009, 12:03:41 PM »

I read the thread and printed it out.  If I am understanding this correctly, are you telling me that I should have approximately TWELVE different terminal wire connections to my track(s) in TWELVE different locations around the layout?

That means that I will have to tear up almost everything.  If that's the case, so much for an EZ track connection.  Right now, I am thoroughly disgusted with myself...and pretty discouraged.

There are more questions running though my head right now...it's spinning,  I have done this all wrong.  This sounds like an electrician's job.  Let me start with the following:

1.  I have no electrical background and I don't understand squat about what a "bus" wire is.  My layman's guess is that you are talking about two main wires (14 gauge I think) running around my layout (under the layout table)  Is there some sort of wiring diagram anywhere that I could refer to?

2.  How do you go about securing this wire under the layout table?

3.  If my understanding in #1 is correct, how would you securely connect the EZ track terminal connectors running from the track to the bus wire?  It would seem to me that there must be some sort of connector (from Radio Shack or something) that you could screw the bus wire to and from, with leads to the terminal connection that are also screwed down...kind of like a "T" with the bus wire running along the top.

4.  Should I have an electrician do this work?
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Yampa Bob

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« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2009, 01:34:04 PM »

Brad,
You don't need to tear up your track, all the wiring runs can be under the table, then bring the feeders up through holes in the table next to the terminals. If you can at least center feed each track loop with separate larger wires you will see a big improvement. This would require 6 track connections.

If you are using EZ Track, then for connections you will need additional terminal/rerailer sections and  EZ Track power extension cables for the plugs to fit the terminals.  Alternately, the feeder wires can be carefully soldered to the terminals, or if you can't add the terminal sections, just solder the feeder wires directly to the existing rails.

Intermediate connections under the table can be made by soldering wires, using crimp terminals, or with terminal strips that have screw connections. Yes, having a friend who is an electrician would be a big help, but you can do it yourself with a bit of guidance. You might also seek advice and help from other modelers or a club in your area.

Suggest running with what you have for now, and give me time to draw up some sketches with a couple of options. In fact I have diagrams for a 3 track rectangular layout to start with.  In the meantime, don't panic, you have the support of other members. Just consider it a minor setback which can be resolved. I need your email address to send the information.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 04:40:33 PM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
boomertom
Clinchfield/C&O modeler


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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2009, 03:28:25 PM »

Basically all that is required is two wires, to bring power from the controller to the track.

That was/is the case with convectional DC layouts also.

In both case, the problem is that the power will be more uniformly distributed with multiple connections.

DCC has not really changed anything from the basic precips in the classic wiring manuals from Atlas or Model Railroader one or the other of these should be in every modelers basic library

The exception with DCC is the elimination of block wiring for multiple train operations.

Boomertom
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Tom Blair (TJBJRVT68)
BradKT

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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2009, 04:37:47 PM »

My E:mail address is Bradfordtalamon@att.net.

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BradKT

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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2009, 07:17:06 PM »

I have a couple of basic questions:

1.  Are the 2 main bus wire connected at one end to the 5 volt powerpack?

2.  Assume that I would use the red Bachmann terminal wires as feeder wires to connect to the rerailer terminals that I will put in the track (and replace 10 straight sections at various points around the layout...4 on the outer track...four in the middle track...and 2 on opposite sides of the oval).  What kind of connector do you use to connect the feeder wires to the main bus wires?  I would want to use something stronger than solder.  I noticed that you mentioned either terminal strips or crimp terminals (I like the idea of terminal strips).  What are those and where can I get them?  I would definitely like to see a picture of what you are talking about.

3. jward...No I do not leave DC trains on the tracks when I am running my DCC trains.

4.  Should I go ahead and order the re-railers and terminal wires or should I waut until I hear back from you?  I was going to get 10.

It looks like I am going to be doing this myself. 
« Last Edit: April 15, 2009, 07:35:42 PM by BradKT » Logged
jward


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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2009, 08:21:05 PM »

to answer your questions:

1. yes, the two main bus wires are connected to your power supply

2. i have always soldered my feeders to both the rails, and to the bus.  soldered connections are less liable to corrode, if done properly, than mechanical connections like terminal strips. and if you wrap the joints where your feeders are soldered to the bus wires, they won't accidentally short out either.

terminal strips are readily available at radio shack. as bob said, they have screw type terminals similar to your power supply. you may also want to use bus bars, which jumper the adjacent terminals on a terminal strip together. that way, you can use only one wire per screw which gives a much better connection.

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2103982
http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2103227

note that the bus bar jumpers can be trimmed to whatever size you need with a set of cutting pliers.

two things to watch for when wiring. first of all, make sure you are connecting all the feeders from the same rail to the same bus wire. if you get your wires crossed you have a dead short and can fry your power supply. a paint marker or a piece of tape is a good way to mark things to ensure that you don't get your wires crossed. second, for safety's sake, i'd recommend each bus wire have its own seperate terminal strip.

3. it doesn't matter whether your locomotives are dc or dcc they still draw power on a dcc system.

4. by all means go ahead and order your parts. do not be afraid to tackle this job.  you don't have to bae an electirician to wire your layout. i've been doing it since i was about 12. as long as you mark all your wires and don't get them crossed you will be fine. in fact, i'd hook up one set of feeders at a time them run your train on that track to make sure everything works.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Yampa Bob

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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2009, 11:37:23 PM »

Brad,
Diagrams are on the way, should be in your inbox shortly. I forgot to mention, an excellent choice for feeder wires is "thermostat" wire. It has two insulated wires, covered by an outer sheath. It is 20 gauge solid wire, easier to work with than fine stranded wires.

I use the Euro style terminal strips, eliminates the need to wrap wire around the screws or crimping on spade terminals,  but you have to use short jumper wires for distribution.  The barrier strips and jumper bars Jeffery linked to will also work.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2009, 01:08:29 AM by Yampa Bob » Logged

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Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
WGL
Great Northern


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« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2009, 02:19:31 AM »

 I have EZ Command with the 5 Amp booster.  I used only one connection from the booster to an EZ terminal rerailer to supply power to 3 ovals of 42', 39' & 36' linked by turnouts.  Then, a turnout failed to transmit current from the outer to the middle & inner ovals. 

  I was advised on this forum to connect feeder wires to all 3 ovals.  I got a terminal strip from Radio Shack & later learned that I had to install jumper wires to each pair of terminals on one side of the strip.  I connected my booster to the terminal strip & connected a pair of terminals to each oval of track.  I chose not to use more than one pair of feeder wires for each oval, since the layout worked well until a turnout failed to conduct.  I had terminal rerailers on the outer & inner ovals, so I used them.  For the middle, I was able to hook wire around where two PowerLoc tracks connect.  I didn't feel ready to make permanent connections with solder.  The 2 black wires at the top are from the booster, dividing the terminal strip in half, one side for each rail.  At the top, also, are the jumper wires I had to install.  On the bottom of the picture, the wires go to the 3 ovals, one from each rail's side of the terminal strip.  Solid wire is easier to work with than stranded, because, when it is bent, it stays in that position & doesn't fray.



  I have 3 DCC with sound locomotives, including an F7A-B consist.  I can run 5 trains simultaneously, but that is asking for a train wreck.   Wink
« Last Edit: April 16, 2009, 02:40:30 AM by WGL » Logged
BradKT

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« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2009, 03:38:09 AM »

To WGL: That's a good picture which tells me a lot about what I needed to know...especially about the jumper wires.  This really shows me what I needed to know about hooking up the feeder wires.  I assume that the two heavy black wires are the bus line...correct?  Where can I get that kind of 16 screw terminal strip?  That really sounds like the ticket for me as far as connecting the feeder lines are concerned.

I will have to plan where to install the re-railers as well...but I already have a pretty good idea about that.  Yeah, I have to take up some track (and have to re-do some scenery re: the roadbed to install the re-railers, but that's no big deal...a minor hassle, that's all.

After seeing this, I am getting much more comfortable about this project now.  It will probably be not quite a couple of weeks before all of the parts arrive, so I will have plenty of time to plan both how and where to run the wires, as well as how to secure them to the bottom of the layout.

Regarding securing the wires to the bottom of the layout, I plan to drill holes through the benchwork ribs and run the bus wire through them and through eyelets secured to the underside of the layout.  My layout is mounted on 1/2" thick plywood.  Does that sound OK or does anyone have a better idea?

The funny part about all of this is that for some time, I had been wondering about how effectively the power was getting to the entire track...given that there was only that one thin Bachmann red terminal wire connected to my  layout...that had already had to be replaced once because it had either shorted out or burnt out.

This setup will also help me to plan the lighting scheme for all of the street and building lights (which will be done with separate bus wires connected to a separate power source).  Jim Banner has really helped me to conceptualize that one...but that's a separate project for later...after I complete this one.  Wiring is one of those essential things that you absolutely have to get right the first time so you don't have to worry about it later.

I think that the last major remaining question that I have is connecting the main bus wires to the transformer.  The reason that I ask this question is that the diagram that I was sent suggests that I somehow connect the main bus line at the middle point of the line...and then running two wires to the transformer.  How should I do this?

Once again guys, it looks like you have come through.  Thank you.  I just made the mistake of not realizing that all of this had to be done up front.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2009, 04:23:11 AM by BradKT » Logged
Yampa Bob

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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2009, 04:42:58 AM »

Brad
Radio Shack has the terminal strips, the part number is on the picture I sent. They come as 12 terminals on a strip (24 Screws). You can use the entire strip, or cut off what you don't need.

To answer your last question, I sent you a simplified center feed diagram using a single primary bus instead of two. 
« Last Edit: April 16, 2009, 05:53:54 AM by Yampa Bob » Logged

I know what I wrote, I don't need a quote
Rule Number One: It's Our Railroad.  Rule Number Two: Refer to Rule Number One.
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