I have electrical sensitivity to high frequency radio waves.  That means when I am around them too much I get neurologic sickness.  It can debilitate me for up to a week.  When my Lionel O gauge trains are running, they emit signals in the 200 MHz - 8 GHz range up to 3.00 V/m every few seconds.  Therefore, I can't run my trains frequently. A MTH technician told me a Z-1000 transformer would give a cleaner sine wave.  I tried one that was made in 2012, and the results were the same as using my Lionel CW-80 or 1970s red transformer.  I like the transformer, but it didn't change the radio frequency problem. I have a 1943 Marx, a 2004 Lionel Copper Range, a 2014 Lionel Pere Marquette, and a 2012 Lionel Santa Fe Flyer. I also tried a 1975 Lionel Liberty Special. They all have slightly different but still bad results. Is there anything you could suggest to fix this problem? I would really like to run my trains again.

Thank you,

Jake

Original Post

I have never heard of that issue, very odd.  I can tell you that it's unlikely that the issue is simply the transformer.  The older post-war transformers have a pure 60hz sine wave, no high frequencies there.  The newer transformers like the CW-80 or the Z-1000 use a chopped wave and the harmonics of those can be higher frequency, but rarely anything close to 200mhz or up.

How are you determine the emissions, and have you pinpointed the are they are being emitted from?

We have a meter that determines the frequency and V/m.  It is an Acousticom 2 (Lessemf.com).  An electrician hooked up an oscilloscope to my CW-80 and 1970's Red and thought it was a transformer issue, but had no advice.  He also has a higher quality EMF meter that verified the signals were in the high frequency range. An MTH technician told us the transformer was the issue during a phone conversation.

 When the engine runs by itself it does not emit as high V/m as when you add cars.  The more rolling stock, the higher the V/m. 

I forgot to mention that my trains are 100% conventionally powered.

We had a problem once with a new furnace that emitted signals in the radio frequency range.  I got a piercing pain in my head every time I passed the thermostat in the living room.  We had specifically told the furnace salesman that we didn't want any smart technology due to my illness.  The furnace company did some testing and determined that when the furnace cycled on and off, it somehow pushed into the high frequency range, and it followed the wire up to the thermostat and transmitted the signal through the living room.  I don't understand how it all works, I just know it hurts.  The furnace company replaced the furnace with a lower efficiency one and there was no problem after that.  WIFI, bluetooth, cell phones, smart meters, etc all affect me.

When I put the meter on the transformer the V/m is lower than when I hold the meter close to the engine.  However, the high V/m can still be detected from across the room. 

Thank you for your input.  I am also wondering, if I can't fix the O gauge problem, will I experience the same issue with HO.  I would like to stay with O.  There has to be a solution...

 

You're in a whole new realm now, trying to suppress EMI from model trains.  In a previous life, I designed avionics for military and commercial aircraft, and dealing with EMI was a major part of the designs.  Retrofitting EMI suppression to consumer electronics I suspect will be a daunting task.

I suspect I'd start with simple measures, equipping the locomotives and transformer feeds with low-pass filters.  With older conventional stuff, I can imagine the brushes sparking can generate some interesting EMI.

I think you're going to have to attack the issue one piece at a time, work on one locomotive and the transformer and tinker until you find something that addresses the problem, then expand it to other locomotives.  As for the transformer, I'd clearly be using pure sine wave PW transformers, they're less likely to emit EMI than any of the electronically controlled units.

Well, it's not a canned product, it would be one that you would roll yourself.  Basically, I'd be dropping in a choke and a cap to ground to stop any high frequency from making it onto the tracks.  Since you're running strictly conventional, you can make the filter fairly aggressive and kill anything above a few khz. 

For the transformer feeds, perhaps this 9A 47uH Inductor in series with the leads with a .1 uf capacitor across the track side.  For the locomotives, I'd put one of these 3A 33uH Inductors in series with the hot lead with a .1uf capacitor to the frame.

Do that to one transformer and one locomotive and see if you get positive results.

EMI suppression is more an art than a science - it's very difficult to come up with a one-size-fits-all prescriptive approach.  That said, one approach is to separate the emissions problem as to being radiated or conducted (or both).

For example, it appears that your furnace issue was a conducted problem as it came from the furnace via the cabling to the exposed thermostat.  Not that it matters now, but it would have been interesting to see if placing a filter on the thermostat control cable at the furnace would have blocked the high-frequency signal from conducting to the thermostat.

OTOH, as I understand it your meter shows a strong reading in the vicinity of the engine but drops off away from the engine.  This suggests you have a radiated issue since if the track was conducting the emissions like an antenna, the field strength would not be so localized.

I'm not familiar with the various engines you mentioned as to know what kind of "electronics" is inside.  You can read a nice summary of the use of capacitors to suppress motor brush commutation noise/arcing as a source of radiated emissions here.  A few 5 cent capacitors can do wonders.  If the "electronics" is an old-school basic reversing unit, then I don't think that will be the source of any meaningful EMI.  If the electronics has sound or other modern features typically implemented with digital processor circuitry, then there's a high frequency clock signal which can radiate.  Then it could be a shielding issue which is do-able.

When you say the radiated emissions increase when the engine is pulling rolling stock, I assume you mean from the engine itself...likely from increased brush noise as more current is flowing thru the motor windings to pull the additional load.  If you had lighted passenger cars, you will get arcing from intermittent wheel/roller contact with the track which I suppose is similar to brush/commutation noise.  That would be a more interesting problem to solve since the arcing (the emissions) are occurring at the track so difficult to shield.

Same thing with the transformers.  If the meter readings drop off with distance from the transformer irrespective of track, then it seems to me the dominant problem is radiated emissions from the transformer and its "electronics" if there is any.  I'm pretty sure the CW-80 has a digital microprocessor circuit inside which has a clock circuit running the the MHz.  I can't believe they would have designed it to limit RF emissions other than to "just" pass FCC (or similar) standards for consumer electronics.  Obviously your personal requirements far exceed these standards.  So like an engine, if a high frequency digital circuit is radiating from the transformer, some form of shielding (metal box) around the circuit can help.  If it's a conducted problem (going out the cables like your furnace) then the low-pass filters will help.  Messing with inductors/chokes can be tedious and you pretty much need to go to a specialty electronics components distributor.  To that end, I dug out my old Radio Shack paper catalog as I recall they sold really easy to use clamp-on snap-on filters where you don't have to cut the cable.  Depending on what frequencies you're trying to suppress, these can be a quick solution if you have a conducted problem (emissions from the input/output cables like your furnace).

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Exactly Stan, it's certainly not one size fits all.  My idea would be to start and try to limit conducted radiation since it sounds like that was the bigger issue.  Blocking any radiated emissions from the electronics would be a shielding and internal circuitry design issue, that's going to be a lot more involved with existing products.

As others have mentioned, the electrical noise is best blocked at the source. I would think the brushes in the AC loco motors would emit the most noise.

Is this the same kind of thing that the brother suffers from in the TV show "better call Saul?"

Is your sensitivity in your whole body, or just your head?

How about a grounded copper window screen between you and the trains? That would be an effective RF shield.

With almost everyone on their cell phones constantly, it must be really agonizing.

RoyBoy

Thank you for all of your suggestions. 

RoyBoy, I do not know the TV show you are referring to.  Continued exposure to the fields causes a number of symptoms, including a decrease in math and spelling skills, whole body feels like it is burning inside, continuous stomach and head aches, an increased difficulty in controlling emotions, inability to sleep, the list goes on.....   I am much better since moving to a different house that does not have fields from neighboring sources.  We are in a wooded, hilly area now and that helps a lot.  We turn off the power in many rooms at night to decrease the electrical fields and I am now able to sleep.  I am feeling better when I go out in public, but I have to limit exposure.  It is not very easy to find "safe" places to live.  5G is very scary because of the number of small cells being installed.  It makes it harder to escape. 

I printed out everything so I can study it more and start trying the things you all suggest.  I have a lot to learn.  I will let you know how I progress.  

I can't tell you all how much I appreciate your willingness to help.

I'm with you Jake, giving up something important to you because it might be "difficult" to solve the problem is not the answer.

Might it help to run either O or HO locos with only DC motors?  I was also thinking that, rather than using a transformer, the track could be powered by a large DC battery e.g. lead-acid car battery which could taken to a 'safe' location to be charged.

"How about a grounded copper window screen between you and the trains? That would be an effective RF shield."

I was going to suggest something like this too.  Navy uses/used copper mesh screen in rooms where ECM gear is tested/repaired, keeps signals in/out.

MODELING SOUTHEAST VIRGINIA

4+ years and STILL Having A Blast Running BPRC

O Gauge Guy posted:

Might it help to run either O or HO locos with only DC motors?  I was also thinking that, rather than using a transformer, the track could be powered by a large DC battery e.g. lead-acid car battery which could taken to a 'safe' location to be charged.

Yes, that is my idea as well. Actually, Lionel AC motors run just fine on straight DC. You can replace the E-unit with a bridge rectifier and switch directions by switching track polarity a la HO practice. If you install capacitors from each brush to ground as is now standard Lionel practice you would eliminate any tiny amount of ECM created by brush-commutator arcing. For power a DC car battery the way the O scale guys used to, being charged while you aren't in the room.

Lew

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

M. Mitchell Marmel posted:

Might something like this help?  

Replace the nylon mesh with copper screen, and attach a grounding strap lead.  

Mitch 

Didn't Tesla do that ? Or am i thinking of the guy with the foil hat and them reading his mind?  

jake v posted:

I have electrical sensitivity to high frequency radio waves.  That means when I am around them too much I get neurologic sickness.  It can debilitate me for up to a week.  When my Lionel O gauge trains are running, they emit signals in the 200 MHz - 8 GHz range up to 3.00 V/m every few seconds.  Therefore, I can't run my trains frequently. A MTH technician told me a Z-1000 transformer would give a cleaner sine wave.  I tried one that was made in 2012, and the results were the same as using my Lionel CW-80 or 1970s red transformer.  I like the transformer, but it didn't change the radio frequency problem. I have a 1943 Marx, a 2004 Lionel Copper Range, a 2014 Lionel Pere Marquette, and a 2012 Lionel Santa Fe Flyer. I also tried a 1975 Lionel Liberty Special. They all have slightly different but still bad results. Is there anything you could suggest to fix this problem? I would really like to run my trains again.

Thank you,

Jake

Jake, 

Are you running conventional trains then? If so one of the MRC Pure Power transformers might help.

 

jake v posted:

I do not know the TV show you are referring to. 

Better Call Saul is a spin off/prequel to Breaking Bad.  Saul Goodman’s brother has electromagnetic hypersensitivity.  You might be interested in the series or you might hate it because at some points, they insinuate that the condition is imagined, not real.  Sounds like it is all too real to you.

Bob

I don't mean to be a horrible person, but sometimes, I can't help myself. I remain skeptical about your condition. You could clear this up for me by arranging a blind test to prove once and for all that you are sensitive to electricity.

Use one of the transformers that you have mentioned earlier that causes you problems. Have a trusted friend turn it on and off from behind a curtain so that you can't tell by any other means if it is operating or not. Mark down what you think for each test and then post the results here.

Be sure that you can't hear a hum or see any lights from the transformer when you set up the test. I would use the plug as the mechanism to turn it on and off rather than a switch. We are checking that you can tell just by how you feel.

I'm asking for my own peace of mind. I need to know if this is an actual problem or not. If you would do this, I will admit that I'm a horrible person and you can tell all your friends about me.

  -- Leo

There's a valley in WV that is a sanctuary for people with sensitivity to RF.  The town has no cell coverage, obviously and also no tv, radio, radar.....all signals that are constantly bombarding each of us almost all the time.  Govt. set this place aside for research but people go there seeking refuge from their daily discomfort. Tin foil hats might help a bit but, not joking, there are people who have a terrible time with the condition, forget what the proper name is.

Phil: Thanks. But is it real or imagined?

The term "Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity" (EHS) is used to refer to this situation but there is no official medical diagnosis.

This Wikipedia article seems to point toward a mental condition or an imagined link between symptoms caused by other medical problems and electromagnetic radiation. It recommends that someone that claims to have EHS be screened for more common medical conditions based on the symptoms.

Leo,

I actually had someone, years ago, drive with a high frequency meter through a rural area with me in the back seat.  I could not see/hear the meter.  I told that person every time I felt something.  I made a believer out of her.  I have been slowly healing since sources of high frequency EMF were removed from my home environment.  I had to move in order to accomplish this.  When my opt-out smart meter was re-activated without my knowledge I knew because I felt the piercing pain through my head every 15 - 30 seconds every time I walked by that end of the house or sat in my dining room.  It was quite a battle with the power company.  They ended up replacing the meter once they finally sent a technician out to check it.  I could go on and on, but I will stop here.

I have recently become aware of many other people in surrounding counties that have neurological illness caused by/exacerbated by electric/magnetic/high frequency fields. There are more people out there suffering than you know.  It is not something they usually admit because they are labeled as crazy.  By the way, did you know illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn's disease, Fibromyalgia, were "all in your head" several years ago?  And cigarettes were not unhealthy and they were issued to soldiers by the government. 

The only reason I mentioned my illness on the forum was to explain what the problem was in hopes there was someone who had knowledge of the technical aspects in order to come up with a solution.  I like to run O gauge.  I will come up with a solution.  I work slowly, but I will keep working at it.  I appreciate everyone who has helped with ideas.

I know how fields affect me.  I don't need to do more experiments to prove my mental status.  I don't need you to believe me.  Everyone appreciates a Tin Hat reference once in a while. I don't mind answering a few questions because I know the illness is unusual.  But seriously, if you don't have something helpful to add to the technical problem...  This is about running trains!

 

Jake: That's a very thoughtful response. Thanks for that. And you're right, you don't have to prove anything to me. 

Seriously though, I think that you should get a medical checkup to make sure that your symptoms are not signs of some other serious health problem. I think if I were you, I'd throw all those meters in the trash.

A psychiatric evaluation would also be in order. You may be the one to help identify this as a truly serious illness. If you managed to convince others that your condition is in fact not an imaginary ailment, you should try to prove it to the professionals as well. I would volunteer to update the Wikipedia page if that happened.

Perhaps you're not so inclined. I get that too. As others have suggested, you may want to find a different hobby; one that doesn't involve electricity.

I remain unconvinced. Good luck with your efforts in any case.

  -- Leo

I agree with some of the posts above that, having eliminated the transformers as the source, its probably the brushes arcing, especially as they make/break two adjacent armature contact plates. More load on the engine increases the current the motor draws, thus increasing the strength of the signal emitted from the arcing.

So one attempt to isolate the problem is the motor would be to remove the body of an engine, use tinfoil to encase the motor, making sure to connect the tinfoil to track ground. This would create a shield, that would lower the emissions getting from the motor to you.

My little knowledge of motors (that can quickly get me into trouble) is that if the source is the brushes arcing, using DC or switching to DC motors (which today in our trains still have brushes) may not help very much. Now, as I have seen wished for in other posts in other topics, if DC brushless motors were available for our trains, the would have the best chance of getting rid of the emitted noise.

What about power from a motorcycle battery modulated through an old-school Lionel #95 rheostat?  It doesn't get much cleaner than that!  The Santa Fe Flyer isn't too complex or expensive to experiment with.  You could remove ALL of the factory electronics; connect the ground and center rail leads directly to the motor.  For improved performance and a tiny bit of suppression, put a CL150 cap across the motor and add a double-pole switch to reverse polarity.  The 5-pole DC motor has pretty low current draw and I doubt the resulting sparks would be detectable on a nearby VHF television.  Pretty extreme, but if my choices were that or no trains, I would do the radical surgery as I've described.

Side note- when my brother & I were kids (mid-'70s before cable TV or hi-def), our layout was in the family room.  We weren't allowed to run the trains when the football game was on, because it created "snow" in the picture!  RFI was a problem with Lionel's original RailScope and all of those X-10 spy cameras that were so ubiquitous in the early days of the Internet.

A final option would be HO scale, again using battery power modulated by a rheostat.  You wouldn't even have to plug anything into an outlet!

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

MED posted:

I agree with some of the posts above that, having eliminated the transformers as the source, its probably the brushes arcing, especially as they make/break two adjacent armature contact plates. More load on the engine increases the current the motor draws, thus increasing the strength of the signal emitted from the arcing.

So one attempt to isolate the problem is the motor would be to remove the body of an engine, use tinfoil to encase the motor, making sure to connect the tinfoil to track ground. This would create a shield, that would lower the emissions getting from the motor to you.

My little knowledge of motors (that can quickly get me into trouble) is that if the source is the brushes arcing, using DC or switching to DC motors (which today in our trains still have brushes) may not help very much. Now, as I have seen wished for in other posts in other topics, if DC brushless motors were available for our trains, the would have the best chance of getting rid of the emitted noise.

In my world of automotive, certain signal communication wires that are subject to this kind of interference, are wrapped in mesh backed foil.....leaving one of these harnesses exposed will set off all kinds of wonderful issues....these are sensitive reference wires that can not not be contaminated ....if you look in an auto parts store, they sell a very similar sleeve to use on spark plug wire boots to keep them from getting burnt up on headers and what not....perhaps yo might experiment with shielding the motors inside the shell???.....just don’t completely wrap the motor or it might have the adverse affect and cook your motors .......jus a thought, and my .02 cents....unfortunately that’s all I got, now I’m broke!..........Pat 

The Water Level Route.......You Can Sleep

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