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I am running a seasonal Fastrack set up of over 120 feet in length in my basement. It involves three Lionel Lion Chief trains ( Penn Flyer, Polar Express and a UP GP Diesel Locomotive) and I had the same layout last year without any problems. I put the track layout up about 2 weeks ago and ran the UP GP only for a while without any problems as well. I added the Polar Express with it's lighted cars and and within one full pass around my layout, the Polar Express stopped in a section of track. I thought I had a dead spot in this area even though the UP had not stopped in that area, but I thought with the lit cars, it was more of a problem. So I took a section of track about 7 feet long that had several shorter pieces of track and soldered the wiring of that piece and went back figuring I'd fixed my problem. I couldn't get a clean complete connection at all so I went back and took out the wiring on the ground side and only left the middle rail wired up. If I keep a gap in one of the rails I can run a little but it is sketchy  and then just blinking lights on each of the 3 power packs that I run. I can't seem to find the problem and even leaving the other trains off the layout, the UP GP still won't run all the way around without problems either. I am sending a diagram of my layout which is about 18 feet wide and 22 feet long. As I said, 3 trains, all Lion Chief with 3 power packs from each set, scattered evenly throughout the layout. The upper left side of the image cut off the portion of track that connects the loop on the upper left!

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Some trains are simply more sensitive to electrical connectivity and while one train may run fine, another may not. Part of the problem with seasonal layouts is that each time you disconnect the track pieces, it can slightly bend the pins and create connectivity issues and that gets repeated (and worse) over time. In addition, since the track is not permanently laid down, it tends to flex, especially on carpet, and that creates more issues.

I would start by testing with a DVM all around the layout to make sure you are getting sufficient voltage to all sections of the track. I would then put a train on it and test it again, with the train at different spots on the layout. That should give you an idea of whether you have any voltage loss locations that are causing the UP to run sporadically and you can repair those areas.

Look at some of the many threads on this Forum about how to deal with FT connection issues and for specific ways to enhance  connectivity, such as this one ...  Need advice on fastrack connection issues | O Gauge Railroading On Line Forum (ogaugerr.com) 

Fastrack connectivity can vary over a period of time, even short periods like days.  As my layout grew and I added more track, sometimes the new sections would last for a couple days and then I would have issues.   Pushing down on the track would cause inconsistent voltage with my fingers or a train.   The pins in the track get looser over time and it makes things worse, faster.   I didn’t resolve the issue until I added extra feeds around the layout and did some track maintenance …cleaned it thoroughly, bent the center pins inwards, screwed track down where the surface was uneven, and also cleaned the wheels and pick ups on the engines.  

Thanks, I am in the process of soldering more jumper wires especially on shorter pieces, but my biggest problem right now is trying to test with a DVM. If I finish the connection, I basically get nothing or next to nothing on the meter anywhere. If I separate a section so the connection is not complete, I get full power on one side but nothing on the other rail and vice versa. It doesn't seem to matter where I disconnect either. 

That doesn't sound right. If track power is correctly applied to the layout and two pieces of FT track are connected with soldered wires center to center rail and outside rail to outside rail (it's easy to get them messed up), it's rare that there would not be any connectivity. 

I would go through the steps to solder the tabs underneath each FT piece and then go through the pin bending/straightening and rail squeezing steps, first.

I assume these are DC power packs. How is each connected to the layout ?  Are you using a FT terminal piece for each one ? Try disconnecting two of them and just run the track on one pack and see what happens. Then add one at a time and see if the problem persists. 

This may be a total misconstruction, but these LionChief DC power packs can be plugged in so that polarity is reversed for one compared with another in circuit power pack, so I wonder if you could be having polarity problems as well?  The DC packs aren't polarized, but the outlets are .  Correct me if wrong.   If I am right, simply making sure each DC power pack is oriented in the same fashion with each outlet might alleviate any phasing problem.

@TNT69 posted:

Thanks, I am in the process of soldering more jumper wires especially on shorter pieces, but my biggest problem right now is trying to test with a DVM. If I finish the connection, I basically get nothing or next to nothing on the meter anywhere. If I separate a section so the connection is not complete, I get full power on one side but nothing on the other rail and vice versa. It doesn't seem to matter where I disconnect either.

Again lets start simple, Lionel Fastrack for whatever reason will develop dead spots. Its not that the pins are not touching, they probably are, its high resistance. Go online to MOUSER Electric and order: 571-6409231 their part number/ the MFG is 640923-1 these are the size of the contact blades on the bottom of the track. They will support 22-18 AWG with no issue on short runs. They are called TE Connectivity Terminals.

Simple is always better.

There is a tool by stakeon to crimp them. Best part is they snap into place. Order these and make jumper wires to avoid soldering.

Last edited by ThatGuy
@BOB WALKER posted:

Even though I still run track powered conventional and TMCC, I am finding that battery powered locos are so much less difficult to run. Also, I can take them anywhere and know they will operate well. The only locos I take to club meets now are battery powered.

Bob,

You and a few others are very adamant about batteries.  I highly encourage you to continue to make battery powered locomotives, use them, and keep reporting back to the rest of us how they're working out.  I agree that they're quite promising.

Several questions though that apply to the floor-runners and first timers:

Where can a newbie go to buy one?

Who offers starter sets?

How do the non-tinkerers among us, who aren't comfortable doing conversions, get rolling quickly without having to engineer a solution?

Mike

This is not the kind of thread title that Lionel likes to read.  Lion Chief and Fastrack are supposed to go together like peanut butter and jelly.

In your case, I think that you did some purchasing a tad out of order.  Lionel starts folks on the starter sets, which come with the puny little power packs that can run the original oval and perhaps an expansion pack or two.  After that, they expect you to step up to a real power supply.  Your 120+ feet of track with three DC power packs in my view simply works out to more than they were designed to do.

By the way, DC current is steady and can't possibly have phasing issues.

My advice is to clean everything that was put away for a year and then read some of the many threads here about selecting an AC power supply.

@Long Hair posted:

This is not the kind of thread title that Lionel likes to read.  Lion Chief and Fastrack are supposed to go together like peanut butter and jelly.

In your case, I think that you did some purchasing a tad out of order.  Lionel starts folks on the starter sets, which come with the puny little power packs that can run the original oval and perhaps an expansion pack or two.  After that, they expect you to step up to a real power supply.  Your 120+ feet of track with three DC power packs in my view simply works out to more than they were designed to do.

By the way, DC current is steady and can't possibly have phasing issues.

My advice is to clean everything that was put away for a year and then read some of the many threads here about selecting an AC power supply.

Well, it can have phasing issues,   It’s called a dead short; usually followed by an explosion, smoke fire, and a lot of cursing, lmao

Last edited by ThatGuy
@Long Hair posted:

This is not the kind of thread title that Lionel likes to read.  Lion Chief and Fastrack are supposed to go together like peanut butter and jelly.

In your case, I think that you did some purchasing a tad out of order.  Lionel starts folks on the starter sets, which come with the puny little power packs that can run the original oval and perhaps an expansion pack or two.  After that, they expect you to step up to a real power supply.  Your 120+ feet of track with three DC power packs in my view simply works out to more than they were designed to do.

By the way, DC current is steady and can't possibly have phasing issues.

My advice is to clean everything that was put away for a year and then read some of the many threads here about selecting an AC power supply.

The Lionell fast track does work. Well, the issue is the quality of the steel they use. I have had fast track switches develop dead spots.

Well, I have spent the better part of the last week working on this layout, soldering most of the problem areas, disconnecting the soldered wires, double cleaning the track and rolling stock and  trying much of what was offered (thanks for all the input btw) and the #1 problem with all of that seemed to be a bad piece of 4.5" track that no matter if it was soldered or not was shorting out the entire layout. I was lucky enough that I was able to remove it with just a small change in the layout. I also found that one of the new 30" sections I ordered from Trainworld this year had center pins on either end that were broken off and I guess I missed it when I put them together so I ended up using the bad 4.5" pieces center pins and now all is good. EXCEPT, my full Polar Express train shorts the layout on a few of the curves. I can run it with only 1 passenger car and it's fine but with all 4, it has problems. Next job is bring the cars back up for another cleaning and check the connections on the bottom as well. I will attach some video when I get this done and show the full setup.     

@VJandP posted:

Fastrack connectivity can vary over a period of time, even short periods like days.  As my layout grew and I added more track, sometimes the new sections would last for a couple days and then I would have issues.   Pushing down on the track would cause inconsistent voltage with my fingers or a train.   The pins in the track get looser over time and it makes things worse, faster.   I didn’t resolve the issue until I added extra feeds around the layout and did some track maintenance …cleaned it thoroughly, bent the center pins inwards, screwed track down where the surface was uneven, and also cleaned the wheels and pick ups on the engines.  

Have you found that for some reason the line of fast track seems to get dirtier than other track. When I used to run exclusively tubular rail, it got dirty, but not as dirty as fast track. My fix has been on the permanent layout to make small jumpers, which connect each section of track to each other a bit of a pain, but it doesn’t sure perfect connectivity.

What GRJ said.   Fastrack does seem to get dirty pretty quickly but it also seems to clean up fairly easily,   A little sprinkle of track cleaner on a lint free rag and I can walk around my 12 x 8, triple loop layout in a few minutes and be done.  I keep meaning to pick up a track cleaning car of some sort but haven’t gotten around to it yet since all the areas of my layout are still easily accessible by hand.

I thought I had read somewhere that the black grime that comes up is not actually dirt, it’s some form of oxidation from the particular metal that Lionel uses.  

It's actually from micro-arcing on the rails.  There was a lengthy article about it in one of the model RR rags, the conclusion was that the dielectric constant of the cleaning products you use has a major effect on the amount of cleaning required.

I stopped using any cleaning solution, I occasionally drag around my Trackman 2000 with a purple ScotchBright pad on it, usually when I'm testing a repair.  That's all the cleaning my track gets.

There is a good YouTube video out there about cleaning track and Polar vs Non-Polar cleaning products. I maintain a couple of permanent layouts that are stored indoors at the venue without environmental controls. These layouts exclusively use stainless steel Gargraves track in these somewhat extreme environments. I still had problems with dirty track until I started using CRC 3140 - Electrical Contact Cleaner & Protectant. Spray some on a cloth and wipe the track clean, less micro arcing, and now I clean the track about once every three years. This video also mentions that using abrasives on your track like sand paper or scotch-bright pads create tiny scratches in the surface of the track your track which can promote electrical micro-arcing.

Last edited by H1000

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