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I may be in the wrong Forum  but Here it goes.

Good Afternoon everyone.  My Day to clean the house top to bottom. Waiting for floors to dry ; I decided to send out a request as I build Small layouts for children in need for Christmas. I have received a fair amount of donations through my local O Gauge Train Club in Farmington, MN. Lately there have been a lot of Tubular O Gauge Donations Lionel  & Menards O-27, O-31, O-36. I have also received a few older train engines, cars, transformers, buildings … (postwar). One of my concerns:  Can the tubular be used safely, by the younger children if using older postwar transformers with No fast acting breaker... ? My other concern is limited parental supervision, "electrical shock" and could I be liable for an injury?. I write & print a copy of the suggested rules and the dangers of beverages … around the track , (also requesting the instructions be read before using)  and the transformer but they seem to be ignored. When I talk to the children age10+ occasionally who I have donated to and they come by our train layout  in the Senior Center. I learn they go home after school-plug it in and run the trains while drinking a cola or … when parents are not home. Thus being concerned; I suggest that this should not be done I get  "The Look!"🙄.

Also, Next year I may be building layouts on 3 inch foam vs wood/foam due to cost. I will be experimenting this spring with tubular on foam … . Your thoughts?

Recap:

1). Tubular Track: Lionel, Menards with older transformers concern about safety for children & my liability?   2). Wood or 3 inch Foam with Tubular Track any one tried it?

Below is the most recent Layout 3x4 MTH with Post War Diesel, Menards car … with a MTH Z-500 (fast breaker) Brick …. I will be donating to a 10 year old in my community for Christmas His mom is thrilled.

Your Thoughts', Ideas are greatly appreciated.  Thank you in advance.

Sincerely,

Steven Widmer

Rambling River Center Train Club

Farmington, MN

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  • Train Layout for Kids for Christmas: Just created MTH 3x4 for 10 year old for Christmas 2022
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Along with the operating suggestions / precautions that you already give them you could just print out the warning found on Lionel set boxes, like:

"CAUTION ELECTRIC TOY: Not recommended for children under eight years of age. As with all electronic products, precautions should be observed during handling and use to reduce the risk of electric shock."

Last edited by Penn-Pacific

Along with the operating suggestions / precautions that you already give them you could just print out the warning found on Lionel set boxes, like:

"CAUTION ELECTRIC TOY: Not recommended for children under eight years of age. As with all electronic products, precautions should be observed during handling and use to reduce the risk of electric shock."

how did we all survive!

I had a defective electrical thing growing up (i think it was some kind of projector) where parts of the chassis were hot and every time you touched it you would get a shock.  As a kid, I didn't completely understand what was going on so I experimented by touching it again and again then told my little brother to come check it out too.  We never saw fit to tell our parents.

I learned my lesson about old 110vac stuff though.  Much later in life i was showing my kids an antique Singer sewing machine that I grabbed from the curb.  It powered up, but I would only touch it with a long wooden spoon.

how did we all survive!

Ahh, that's nothin'!

When I got into amateur radio in my teens, I  sometimes encountered (and pretty much got used to) 120 VAC shocks. The apex of my "risky business" (electrical edition) was a zap I got while working on a home-brew transmitter power supply, which blew a small but visible hole in the skin of one of my fingers. Later, I figured out that I had just discharged a honking big smoothing capacitor still charged with about 600 volts, even though the power was off! Eventually, I learned to stop "touching the stove", but for me it was a slow learning curve!

I think Bob nailed it above.  Make sure the cord is good.  Make sure the breaker is good.  Make sure the power supply is properly enclosed.  If the enclosure is metal, I would definitely want it to be grounded.  Test the whole setup for proper operation, obviously.

I have a small kids Fastrack oval screwed to 1/4" luan plywood with tiny screws.  I can't speak for other track systems, but the Fastrack/luan works great.

Perhaps you could add some sort of an electrical connector so that the layout could simply be unplugged from the power for storage.

@RSJB18 posted:

First- a shout out for your generous work.

We all grew up with tubular and lived to tell about it. The stuff's bullet proof.

I'd make sure the power side is solid, no old cords and modern circuit breakers are a must. Electrical safety has come a long way over the years. I wonder how we didn't kill ourselves several times over.

Bob

Bob, I have an old fashioned American Flyer 30-B transformer on the shelf, not hooked up to my layout. I bought it at a train show over 10 years ago because I liked how it looked, and thought the dead man's  throttle was cool.

A few years ago I had the chord replaced by a good technician, who said the transformer is now safe.

Still, I don't plan to ever run any trains with it because I'm scared of it. LOL, Arnold

It looks like something that could power an electric chair. LOL, again.

@Steven J posted:

I may be in the wrong Forum  but Here it goes.

Good Afternoon everyone.  My Day to clean the house top to bottom. Waiting for floors to dry ; I decided to send out a request as I build Small layouts for children in need for Christmas. I have received a fair amount of donations through my local O Gauge Train Club in Farmington, MN. Lately there have been a lot of Tubular O Gauge Donations Lionel  & Menards O-27, O-31, O-36. I have also received a few older train engines, cars, transformers, buildings … (postwar). One of my concerns:  Can the tubular be used safely, by the younger children if using older postwar transformers with No fast acting breaker... ? My other concern is limited parental supervision, "electrical shock" and could I be liable for an injury?. I write & print a copy of the suggested rules and the dangers of beverages … around the track , (also requesting the instructions be read before using)  and the transformer but they seem to be ignored. When I talk to the children age10+ occasionally who I have donated to and they come by our train layout  in the Senior Center. I learn they go home after school-plug it in and run the trains while drinking a cola or … when parents are not home. Thus being concerned; I suggest that this should not be done I get  "The Look!"🙄.

Also, Next year I may be building layouts on 3 inch foam vs wood/foam due to cost. I will be experimenting this spring with tubular on foam … . Your thoughts?

Recap:

1). Tubular Track: Lionel, Menards with older transformers concern about safety for children & my liability?   2). Wood or 3 inch Foam with Tubular Track any one tried it?

Below is the most recent Layout 3x4 MTH with Post War Diesel, Menards car … with a MTH Z-500 (fast breaker) Brick …. I will be donating to a 10 year old in my community for Christmas His mom is thrilled.

Your Thoughts', Ideas are greatly appreciated.  Thank you in advance.

Sincerely,

Steven Widmer

Rambling River Center Train Club

Farmington, MN

To start off go with Mernards track, cheap well made and if the trains are not a real hit no big investment. As for power, smaller transformers (set size) are better to start out. Low watts and made for little young engineers. If the transformer is used, just give it a good going over; many set transformers are sealed. So it’s check the line cord and plug. If the plug is polarized than is a newer version. Well worth going to a hobby shop and buying a new up to date version for complete safety.

Last edited by ThatGuy

I think from a safety and potential legal liability standpoint, I would not use ancient (i.e., postwar) transformers.  Something recently or currently for sale from Lionel, MTH, K-Line or MRC suitable for use with three rail trains.

As for track, if you are assembling it, tubular is fine.  If the kids are going to be assembling it, I've found that work gloves and great care are needed to avoid lacerations during assembly.  Maybe I'm clumsy .  But if the kids are assembling it, Fastrack or Realtrax might be safer in terms of potential injuries.  Everything is relative of course.

Arguing that it was fine for kids growing up in the 1940s and 1950s,  and we don't need modern improvements is a pretty weak argument, in my view.  Not to mention sounding like the guy who is now 60-90 years old,  and who walked uphill to school both ways,  barefooted during blizzards, fending off wolves and bears.

Of course, perhaps some don't object to the reality in 1950 of polio, measles and kids being throw through windshields during low speed auto collisions instead of mitigation through vaccines and seatbelts/car seats.  But for everyone else,  safety improvements are a good thing.

If smoke detectors had been available in 1967, I'm aware of nine Cornell University students and faculty who might still be alive, for an example.

Last edited by Landsteiner
@ThatGuy posted:

To start off go with Mernards track, cheap well made and if the trains are not a real hit no big investment. As for power, smaller transformers (set size) are better to start out. Low watts and made for little young engineers. If the transformer is used, just give it a good going over; many set transformers are sealed. So it’s check the line cord and plug. If the plug is polarized than is a newer version. Well worth going to a hobby shop and buying a new up to date version for complete safety.

I disagree, the wattage of starter-set transformers can be pretty quickly overwhelmed when you add cars, track-powered switches, lights, etc. Your MTH Z-500 should work to start, but a 75-watt to 100-watt would be ideal if you start to add to the layout. There's no reason why an older Lionel or American Flyer transformer can't be safely used by children.

Portlines Hobby has nice articles for phasing transformers and testing transformers for leakage, etc. Replace the cord, add a 3-amp thermal circuit breakers, and, while you're there, TVS diodes, and you can have an excellent, safe transformer that is affordable, too.

Tubular track with an old transformer—go for it!

Last edited by Matt_GNo27
@Landsteiner posted:

I think from a safety and potential legal liability standpoint, I would not use ancient (i.e., postwar) transformers.  Something recently or currently for sale from Lionel, MTH, K-Line or MRC suitable for use with three rail trains.



Trains stores such as Charles Ro and Port Lines Hobby, sell refurbished postwar transformers, and many members of this forum use them with nary a problem, so I don't agree with the idea that they are inherently unsafe.

If you ensure that the equipment is safe and provide the parents with a standard warning about needing supervision, et cetera, then you've done your duty.

@Matt_GNo27 posted:

I disagree, the wattage of starter-set transformers can be pretty quickly overwhelmed when you add cars, track-powered switches, lights, etc. Your MTH Z-500 should work to start, but a 75-watt to 100-watt would be ideal if you start to add to the layout. There's no reason why an older Lionel or American Flyer transformer can't be safely used by children.

Portlines Hobby has nice articles for phasing transformers and testing transformers for leakage, etc. Replace the cord, add a 3-amp thermal circuit breakers, and, while you're there, TVS diodes, and you can have an excellent, safe transformer that is affordable, too.

Tubular track with an old transformer—go for it!

I am speechless

Good for the OP for building these layouts.

Whether new transformer or old, there's a plug that goes into a wall socket and posts that put out up to +/- 20 volts AC.  The rails of all kinds of track carry current and will give a mild shock if touched.

Tubular track and an old transformer with a good cord are perfect for this application.

I started assembling my layouts with tubular track when I was 4 or 5 years old.  Don't remember any serious injuries, but if I nicked myself I'm sure I learned a lesson.  Screwing up is how we learn, and trust me, I know a lot.  Now get off my lawn while I walk uphill to school in both directions barefoot in the snow.

+1 on a good cord.  I have several 1033s that need re-cording.

Other than nicks from sharp edges on tinplate track, I don't see any negatives on using it for a kids layout.  I recall filling a sunroom with track loops of my design and connecting transformers when I was 6 and I live to tell about it ;-).  A layer of carpet on the train table deadens the noise.

On power ... wet your fingers and touch the middle and outside rails.  Startling (I learned that from my dog who licked the rails) but you rarely do it more than once.  But I'm a slow learner ....

I've been running public show layouts the last few weekends and I am appreciating the TMCC Direct Lockons installed on a couple of the layouts.  Despite GRJ's deprecating the device because he wants to know why a short occurred, the reality of a public show where there are crowds mean that the operators can't easily walk back and forth to the power console to manually reset a breaker.  After a child's finger (they have to touch everything - not just all the cookies on the refreshments table) pushes wheels off the track, a walk to the far side (apologies to Gary Larson but there analogies) of a 40+ foot layout with a remote in hand means that the train, once re-railed, can restart as the Direct Lockon restores power when the short is cleared.

If I build a hands-on kids layout next season, it will include the Direct Lockon.  Shorts from a derailment are reset when the train is put back on the track.  Young operators figure out re-railing quickly.  It will also have Bluetooth on an iPad (I have a nice stand to hold the device) because the kids instantly learn how to operate the train with the app.  (Can anyone explain why they run the train in reverse 60% of the time?).

Best layout operating accessories (from observing the crowds) over the last few seasons:  Gatemen.  Crossing gates.  Menards flying saucer.  Install doorbell pushbuttons to let the kids operate.

So if you use a postwar transformer, make sure the power cord is in good condition.  On modern transformers, I no longer use CW80s.  Control of the fwd-neutral-rev sequence with the direction button and it's ramping of power is not intuitive to walk-up users.  The two piece Lionel 3A 6-12885  or MTH Z500 are far better.  I use Variacs to trim max voltage and speeds for conventional operation.

Last edited by Tracker John
@Richie C. posted:

Remember to turn off all devices before you shut down for the day/night - for everyone's protection.

I have an accessory, something with lights wired to a constant voltage post to remind me I left the transformer plugged in. I don’t always notice it, but when I turn the room lights off after a train session the accessory lights are a “glowing “ reminder. 😁

Steve

I have an accessory, something with lights wired to a constant voltage post to remind me I left the transformer plugged in. I don’t always notice it, but when I turn the room lights off after a train session the accessory lights are a “glowing “ reminder. 😁

Steve

Yeah, I run everything layout-related through a single power strip, so everything turns off with one switch. Easy-peasy . . . 😎👍

Steve W:  Again, Thank you for all for Positive Replies; I will be printing them and pondering my next steps. If in town ST. Paul, MN  Please visit the Twin City Model Railroad Museum  https://www.tcmrm.org/ it is well worth the visit. Everyone have an Amazing and Safe Holiday.  Well I'm off to the Museum    Our N Scale Club member's are running various trains today and The Man in the Red Suit will be there tonight for "Night Trains!!!"

Steve

Just a stupid question:  Are the DC powered trains and transformers safer than the AC powered?

A bit of warning advice:  Having legally enforceable written disclaimers or waivers may provide liability protection against suits by parents (depending on state law), but they do not provide any protection for suits brought by the injured children themselves.  If they are under the age of majority, then they can't be bound by contracts.   A court will appoint a "guardian ad litem" to represent the injured (or deceased) child to file and prosecute the lawsuit on the child's behalf.

Using fully sealed transformers, and somehow using a kitchen-style dial timer in case they leave the system on, and some type of pop-out low voltage breaker where the plug goes in the wall, would seem to make a lot of sense here.

As for the dangerous stuff we did as kids in the 50s and 60s, remember the "really dangerous close calls" we experienced, and didn't dare to tell our parents about!  In particular, the "open the windows and get the burned smell out of the house quick before Mom gets home" events!

Mannyrock

I like the idea of what you were doing, but I also appreciate you are thinking about how to do this safely.Train sets and train equipment even back a ways had warning that this is an electrical toy and should be used by kids over the age of X (these says, lot of Lionel stuff says 14...) and talks about parental supervision as well. Toy trains aren't particularly dangerous, 20 volts is not likely to be deadly at the kind of amperage the human body will draw, but still there are risks.  Just some thoughts:

1)I don't think older transformers are a problem as long as they have been checked out and the cords are good, etc.  The kind of transformers that come with starter sets are limited and are kind of junky (and note, given how many I have seen, not claiming any broad expertise).

2)One big thing, before doing this, check with the parent(s) first, make sure they are okay with it. The reality is a lot of kids these days don't have the supervision we may have had growing up, and they may feel uncomfortable with the kid playing with it when they aren't around and so forth. The other thing is the kid's development, some 6 year olds would be perfectly fine being trusted with trains, others may not be. Again, it is a big difference if there will be supervision, many of us playing with trains as a kid had adults around when we did it or older siblings.

3)I would also be careful with the age of the kid, me personally I would limit it to slightly older kids. Tubular track is great and kids can take it apart/put it together to make different shaped layouts down the roard. You can get cut on it pretty easily, which is a downside.

If it is younger kids, I would lean towards Brio and its kind of thing (and I realize you are working with donated equipment that is 3 rail O, and may not even have this kind of stuff, I am talking in general), or battery powered trains that are designed for younger kids.

The other reason for older kids is if the engines and such are typical post war, is the weight, could be hard for them to put it back on the tracks and whatnot.

4)Sadly liability is an issue. Even though I think the trains are relatively safe, things can happen. Someone mentioned a parent signing a waiver or exclusion from liability, and I can tell you that has little legal weight (I am not a lawyer, but with grad level management courses, we had a lot of work on business law and liability; plus I headed an organization in college that did outtings and the like). Basically having them do that is more about making them think they cannot sue, discouraging them, then from actual legal shielding. It may be a low chance, but it is something to think about when it comes to doing something like this.

I hope you are able to do what you want, I like the idea of kids having trains, just wanted to put my thoughts out there.

WOW! What a bunch of over thinkers here! Talk about TMI. I used to do something similar 30+ years ago. I noticed the original poster mentioned a 4' x 3' sized gift. So obviously he's not building the Delta Lines or Gorre  & Dapheted. In many cases the ones i built went to single parent homes (usually a mom) where the parent didn't know + from -, or AC from DC, a TVS from a TV remote, or what a fast acting breaker is. How many hundreds of thousands train sets did Lionel sell without fast acting breakers that electrocuted kids or burned houses down? So let's keep it simple. The ones I made were on a 4'x8' sheet of 1/4" ply cut down to 48"x32" (hence 3 gifts), framed with 2" furring strips painted green, a loop of 027 track As far as cuts from the track goes, that's what BandAids and Murcuro-chrome are for, and maybe a siding if I had a 027 manual switch around. I'm sure the original poster knows that many of these families live in crowded quarters (NOT Mac Mansions or sprawling ranch houses), and storing and moving a large heavy layout can pose a problem. No accessories or high tech electronics to fail, maybe at best one or two Plasticville buildings. So let's keep it simple. A Lionel 1025, 1026, or 4651 transformer will be adequate; an LW or 1033 will be more than adequate. No accessories. Come on, KISS!!!!

Last edited by modeltrainsparts

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