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I took the time today to change one of my fastrack loops from the DC power pack to being powered by one of my postwar transformers, an RW.  When I was all done it didn't work.  I discovered that I mistakenly purchase CCA wire vs pure copper.  What I'm trying to figure out is if the problem I'm having is from the wire or something else I've done.

I took the hot wire from the transformer through a 5 Amp breaker (I have a TVS across the binding posts on the transformer),  then I run the 16 gauge wire to a distribution block on the layout and have two feeder wires to the loop, about an 6 foot loop of track.

I'm getting the right reading on my multimeter on the transformer posts, 15 Volts, but when I go the distribution block or the track I'm only getting about 6 volts. The run from the transformer to the distribution block is about 9 feet, then about 2 feet from their to the track.

I put an MPC conventional engine I have on the track and I couldn't get it to even light up, let alone run.

Based on that description, does it sound like the CCA wire is the cause for my voltage drop off from the transformer to the track or is it something else?  I attached some pictures for reference as well.

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  • 20211030_194227: Back of the transformer
  • 20211030_175208: wire attached to track
  • 20211030_194235: 5 amp breaker
Last edited by Jetsafl
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It appears to me that you have two "loops" of track connected. One loop is connected via the C and D terminals (red and black wires) and another on the U and B posts (speaker CCA wire). Additionally, the TVS diode is only protecting the track with the red and black wires.

Presuming that these loops of track intersect, you create a common ground mismatch which can be dangerous depending upon the transformer as the internal breaker does not protect all eventualities.

This is corrected by selecting a single post as the being connected to the outside rail of both loops of track with an independent terminal connected to the center rail of each loop.

Viable options are documented many places by Lionel, including this example below:

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  • mceclip0

thanks, I should have added what else was hooked up.  I have accessories hooked up to C and D and the loop of track hooked up to U and B.  I have a TVS on both but only the 5 Amp breaker on the speaker wire going to the track.  Is that the issue, I thought the RW could handle both accessories and track power at the same time, am I wrong?

I guess the way I read the RW instructions was wrong, by what you are saying above I need to use the B and C for the accessories and B and U for the track?

@Jetsafl posted:

thanks, I should have added what else was hooked up.  I have accessories hooked up to C and D and the loop of track hooked up to U and B.  I have a TVS on both but only the 5 Amp breaker on the speaker wire going to the track.  Is that the issue, I thought the RW could handle both accessories and track power at the same time, am I wrong?

I guess the way I read the RW instructions was wrong, by what you are saying above I need to use the B and C for the accessories and B and U for the track?

My initial post was presuming two intersecting track circuits. You clarified that is not the case. As long as these two circuits don't intersect (track activated accessories), then your existing wiring should be fine.

I do see the second TVS diode upon closer inspection prodded by your clarifications.

CCA is not likely to be your issue. Like mentioned, time to begin methodological troubleshooting, removing things like the TV's, breaker, accessory connection and so on.

This should be no problem for the RW.

Last edited by bmoran4

@Jetsafl, I think you have the right idea - disconnect everything and then run a pair of wires from B-U to the track lockon, no breaker, no TVS, just a pair of wires, and see what happens. If it still doesn't run, try the A-U terminals, they just provide a different range of voltage to the track. If B-U didn't work but A-U did work, your transformer may be the culprit.

George

CCA (Copper Clad, Aluminum), wire usually requires 2 sizes larger to conduct the same amperage.  12 gauge Copper wire = 10 gauge, Copper Clad, Aluminum, wire.  Note that TMCC signal, a RF (radio frequency) travels mostly on the surface of a wire would not be adversely affected.  IMO best to use solid, or stranded Copper wire. IMO.  I'm sure others will chime in.

Last edited by Mike CT

Yeah I have read that about requiring 2 size larger wires for the CCA vs pure copper on these forums and even seen some charts that explain it.  That is why my first reaction was to blame the wire vs other pieces.  That is interesting to know about TMCC signals, right now I run all conventional with the Lionel Universal Remote for my newer Bluetooth engines, but I was considering a Legacy upgrade in the future.

I have new wire on order to replace this one, I went with Monoprice speaker wire based on some recommendations on this forum.  I'll mess around with this today a bit and if it doesn't work I'll end up ripping it all out and replacing it with the new stuff once it comes. 

I do also have a ZW right next to the RW that I'm going to try hooking my line up to as well, just to see if it is the transformer.

@ADCX Rob, The Lionel documents referenced above show all the common ground schemes that could be used - it is not limited to the A post for the RW transformer (although arguments can be made for a preference). However, per discussions that have unfolded, the user has unveiled a situation not necessitating common ground.

Now, with all that said, I'm always advocating for common ground setups where applicable.

Last edited by bmoran4

ok, I have taken the whole thing apart and I found the problem, it was indeed the CCA wire.

1 - I removed the breaker from the connection and connected directly to the transformer, that allowed me to get a solid 14v to the distribution block (I had the transformer handle set on 14v). But still 6v or less on the track.

2 - I took the Lionel Terminal wire and another piece of fast track, connected that to the distribution block and I was getting 14v on the track.

3 - I then took the track I had used the CCA wire to and flipped it over, checked it with a multimeter and was getting 6v or less right at the wire connection to the track.  I unsoldered those wires from the track, used some 18 gauge wire I had left over from a light I installed and soldered that in.  14v to the track!

4 - I then tried to reinstall the breaker at the transformer and I lost all my volts again at the track. I then removed that and everything was fine again.

The end result, the CCA wire hates being soldered.  I did see that @gunrunnerjohn had said that when I was searching the forums last night for help.  That seems to be my issue here.

I have the CCA wire now from the transformer to the distribution block, then different wire from there to the track, all seems to be working good.  I will use just my postwar / MPC on that track for now until my new wire gets here and I can install that with a breaker.  Then I should be able to run both my postwar / MPC stuff and my newer Bluetooth stuff there.

The Common Ground question, I thought on the RW A, B, D, U were common?  But I'm guessing they are not all tied together so therefore not "common"?  Also, I had read somewhere (link All about the Lionel RW transformer - The Silicon Underground (dfarq.homeip.net)) that C & D give me 10v constant with breaker protection?  I'm using those posts for accessories and wanted to get them on a constant voltage, not variable with the track.  Should I be connecting A & C instead for accessories and using the 9v constant there? Then do I add another 5amp breaker on that combo?  Then is the U & B still ok for the track?

Excerpt from website link above:

"Connecting posts A-C gives 9 volts, B-C gives 6 volts, and B-A gives 3 volts. None of these combinations have circuit breaker protection, so use an external breaker if you use any of these combinations."

Last edited by Jetsafl

On the RW, A,B,D,U are not common at the same time - you select one ROW from the outlined in my post above to meet your needs.

I think, if I get all your nuances just right, I would want A as the common post, and so wee will use that ROW for our information:

A is your common for BOTH the track and accessory circuits. This goes to the outside rail of your track.

A-C will give you 9VAC constant voltage, again using A as the common, for your accessories.

A-U gives you 6-19VAC vairable voltage, again using A as the common, for your track. U gets wired to the center rail.

You would place your TVS diodes between A-U and A-C. Your external breaker can be installed on the line wire that goes between U and the center rail of the track. You will want another on the C wire that goes to your accessory bus to as well.



CCA is not a nice to work with as just copper is.

Last edited by bmoran4

ok thanks, I'll adjust my wiring to the common ground next time I get a chance.

One question, if I have a Lionel Fastrack Operating track hooked up to the constant voltage would it work at 9v?  The manual says 10-12 v to operate, that is why I was using the C & D post combo. 

Also, if I follow your instructions above I'm going to use a multimeter and mark my transformer at 17 / 18 V since that combo you mention above can go to 19v which is above the max Lionel recommends for Lionchief engines.

@Jetsafl posted:

if I have a Lionel Fastrack Operating track hooked up to the constant voltage would it work at 9v?  The manual says 10-12 v to operate, that is why I was using the C & D post combo.

Oh my! You essentially need common ground wiring to run the FasTrack Operating Track uncoupling coil on accessory power. This is your root problem as you were "shorting out" the difference in the voltages between the non-common wiring you started out with. You can see this with the loose math 15V-9V=6V. So my first post was spot on - you needed common ground wiring between your accessory and track lines. Now, will 9VAC be enough for the operating track? This can vary dependent upon the use case and specific cars due to tolerances. I usually run my postwar equivalents on 14-16VAC, but since I run a bank of ZWs will all variable voltage outputs, I can tweak the voltage however I need.

@Jetsafl posted:


Also, if I follow your instructions above I'm going to use a multimeter and mark my transformer at 17 / 18 V since that combo you mention above can go to 19v which is above the max Lionel recommends for Lionchief engines.

Not a bad idea. Note that your RW has a whistle/horn button that will add a 5V boost to compensate for the air whistle motor load. So if someone were to press the whistle/horn button, note that there will be an additional 5V above the set handle.

Last edited by bmoran4

@bmoran4 I have another post going with my Fastrack Operating Track issue (Lionel Fastrask Operating Track Swollen & Smells | O Gauge Railroading On Line Forum (ogaugerr.com)), I made the mistake of running that on DC!  I have since ordered a replacement for that track but it isn't installed yet.

Just confuse things more, that track is on a different loop of track I'm going to power with a separate transformer.  I think in the end to keep it simple, I'll leave the RW to power some lights and this small loop of track and then when I convert larger loop with the Operating track on it to AC, I'll power the operating track using track power, that will come from a new CW80 (pre ordered) for that loop.

I was trying to use the RW to power my accessories (lights, beacon towers and the operating track) along with the small loop of fastrack.  Then power my other loops with my ZW and CW80. 

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