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gunrunnerjohn posted:

Personally, I'd opt to test the TMCC first, then a different Legacy base.  My guess is if the TMCC works, the Legacy base is broken. 

Yes, logically speaking, that makes sense, but he said that Matt already tested the Legacy w/ no problems........

Just one of those weird anomalies that can happen w/ complex electrical systems.

Last edited by Penn-Pacific

I think you miss my point, that test is insufficient. I suspect the layouts are quite different, and I've seen weak Legacy bases run a layout, but just have signal issues.  With the amount of track that Elliot has, he needs a strong signal, and maybe more.  The true test is a different base entirely running it.  It will be even more imperative to try if the TMCC base works better, the signal from the TMCC base is typically less amplitude than my measured Legacy signal.

I measured two of my TMCC command bases, they had 4.9 VPP and 5.1 VPP outputs when connected to the same track as my Legacy measured over six volts.

We will see how much output Elliot measures on both Bases when my meter arrives.  I expect it to arrive Saturday.  In the meantime, he could scan the room with a portable AM radio and check for any low-resistance bridges between the track Common and earth ground (which would short out the command signal.)

gunrunnerjohn posted:

I think you miss my point, that test is insufficient. I suspect the layouts are quite different, and I've seen weak Legacy bases run a layout, but just have signal issues.  With the amount of track that Elliot has, he needs a strong signal, and maybe more.  The true test is a different base entirely running it.  It will be even more imperative to try if the TMCC base works better, the signal from the TMCC base is typically less amplitude than my measured Legacy signal.

Ah, I see, thank you for clarifying. I didn't realize that signal output could vary that much from one legacy base to another. I figured if it works, it works the same as all the other Legacy bases. 

Here's where we stand: the Legacy base has been disconnected and TMCC has been restored. The electrical bridge has been removed. All power supplies are plugged back in, and all engines wake up at rest. I was just under one section of the layout, and can see potential trouble spots in the ground bus. Those will have to be modified.

Dale, I think I might have an old AM radio around here, just gotta find it. HAHAHA. I thought I saw the instructions on your website, correct? There may be a lot of issues discovered as the room is laced with earth ground sources, and many locations have insulated track ground wires passing in close proximity to them.

GRJohn, I totally agree with your plan to proceed. When I have dealt with as many of the wiring issues as possible, we can reevaluate the TMCC signal. That's when it might be time to go for the signal amplifier. In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do.

Penn-Pacific posted:
gunrunnerjohn posted:

I think you miss my point, that test is insufficient. I suspect the layouts are quite different, and I've seen weak Legacy bases run a layout, but just have signal issues.  With the amount of track that Elliot has, he needs a strong signal, and maybe more.  The true test is a different base entirely running it.  It will be even more imperative to try if the TMCC base works better, the signal from the TMCC base is typically less amplitude than my measured Legacy signal.

Ah, I see, thank you for clarifying. I didn't realize that signal output could vary that much from one legacy base to another. I figured if it works, it works the same as all the other Legacy bases. 

Well that's the thing, it's not right if the signal is quite less than about 6 vac. But it's not uncommon for some of the bases to have low (broken) output. Something like 1 vac is what I've seen on a couple Legacy bases. They were sent back to Lionel and were repaired.

OK guys, I decided to do one last set of tests. This was intended to be very thorough.

This is my outlet tester.

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When the yellow and white lights go on, the wiring including the ground is correct.

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This is the switched outlet under the layout into which the Legacy base gets plugged. The other plug is the TMCC base.

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Here we have a good test.

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My Legacy wall wart.

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Plug undamaged.

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Good wall wart in good outlet.

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This is the location I have chosen to permanently place both bases.

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This outlet is one in a long chain that goes around the aisles of the layout. It is on a different circuit from the switched one that the bases are plugged into. I plugged my small transformer into this one for the test.

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The disconnected "Y" cable.

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Both bases powered up, but not connected.

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The test lead is attached to the U post on the Legacy base.

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My test track for this experiment.

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A small transformer, borrowed from my workbench.

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A random engine grabbed from the layout. Note the brown wire tying the outside rails together.

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Power up, lights on no movement. Matt was correct, the base works.

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Now the "Y" cable is connected.

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And now the TMCC base is part of the system.

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Drum roll please!!!! And yes, that is a Cab-1 doing the work!

It still doesn't work on the layout, but there's no denying that it does work.

That was some nice low speed operation. I'm starting to see what I've been missing out on.

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Elliot,

That was a good experiment. One thing I have noticed is the electrical outlet.

Is that metal conduit and electrical outlet boxes?

I take it they are wired like they would be here in the UK i.e. The metal conduit and boxes connected in to the Earth ground? 

It might be worth repeating the experiment with the Bases powered from another supply. Ideally original house outlet in the wall. 

Nick

 

Here in the US, the metal conduit can be used as the earth ground for the circuit. There is no separate conductor inside, just a hot (black) and a neutral (white) wire. The only time a green wire is required in metal, is inside flexible conduit.

None of the house voltage that attached to the layout is hard wired to the house. Instead, there is a bank of dedicated outlets where the various systems plug into, using a properly sized cord and plug. Then the first metal box has the ground wire bonded to it, sending the ground through the entire system.

IMG_3821

I think we can forgo that alternate outlet test, since this is the location where I want and need it to work, and it does. I did think of one additional test that I should do. That is the simultaneous base and track power up test. There remains some confusion as to whether the base needs to be powered first in order to gain control of the track.

It's 2:30 AM over here. Time for bed. Enjoy your day Nick.

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Fresh look in the morning, get some shut eye.

Just on my second cup of coffee nearly 09:00 here LOL.

Why I mentioned the metal conduit is that as I understand TMCC/Legacy is this will become a antenna for one half of the signal. I see it runs right above your tracks.

My thought is this might cause a issue. I think you can have to good a signal or if the wrong bare wire touches that conduit it will kill the signal. 

Anyway I am definitely not a expert.

Maybe the other guys who have more knowledge will chip in.

Nick

Elliot,

Nick hit upon the other half of the signal. I had to go back to the beginning of your journey (2012-2013) posts to see the train room and the tables at the start.

All of the layout power and lighting wiring is in conduit.  Did you do the same for all of the fluorescent ceiling fixtures?

If yes, you have 1/2 of signal circuit missing or blocked and using only the wiring in the walls.

Elliot,  try repeating your separate transformer test but with the Legacy base connected to the layout instead of the test piece of Gargraves track.  Turn on the base power (this should send signal to outside rails of the track and to your conduit) then apply power to the test track from the small transformer using the alligator clips.  The locomotive should run under Legacy control since the radio signal will fill the room.  If it doesn't then the signal is being degraded somewhere in the layout or conduit wiring.

If my TMCC base power is turned on (with the base connected to the layout), I can run TMCC locos in command mode on my work table or in my paint booth using a small transformer and alligator clips.

>If yes, you have 1/2 of signal circuit missing or blocked and using only the wiring in the walls.

Not true!  The conduit should be an excellent radiator for the airborne signal as long as it is earth-grounded.

Again, please use your ohmmeter to measure between the U-ground or conduit and the wire that feeds the TMCC signal to your layout.  This should be an open circuit, i.e. near infinite resistance.

Big_Boy_4005 posted:

Here in the US, the metal conduit can be used as the earth ground for the circuit. There is no separate conductor inside, just a hot (black) and a neutral (white) wire. The only time a green wire is required in metal, is inside flexible conduit.

None of the house voltage that attached to the layout is hard wired to the house. Instead, there is a bank of dedicated outlets where the various systems plug into, using a properly sized cord and plug. Then the first metal box has the ground wire bonded to it, sending the ground through the entire system.

IMG_3821

I think we can forgo that alternate outlet test, since this is the location where I want and need it to work, and it does. I did think of one additional test that I should do. That is the simultaneous base and track power up test. There remains some confusion as to whether the base needs to be powered first in order to gain control of the track.

It's 2:30 AM over here. Time for bed. Enjoy your day Nick.

is that a GFI outlet your layout is plugged into?

might make a difference.

bigdodgetrain posted:

is that a GFI outlet your layout is plugged into?

might make a difference.

Nope, those are 20 A rated outlets with the funny prong style. I could only get them in the rectangular format at Menards, or maybe it was the 4 gang face plate that made me use them. The red and black is just electrical tape to mark which house phase they are on.

Dale Manquen posted:

>If yes, you have 1/2 of signal circuit missing or blocked and using only the wiring in the walls.

Not true!  The conduit should be an excellent radiator for the airborne signal as long as it is earth-grounded.

Again, please use your ohmmeter to measure between the U-ground or conduit and the wire that feeds the TMCC signal to your layout.  This should be an open circuit, i.e. near infinite resistance.

I will Dale. That and the radio test. Since we went through this exercise a little more than three years ago, much has changed. I now have a nice digital meter that I can read and trust, and the layout has more than double the amount of live track that it had back then.

Since most of the trouble is on the main level, and a number of ground buses have been added there, I'm pretty convinced that with a little strategic cutting I may be able to clean things up. I'm leaning toward this conclusion based on the wiring on the upper level and the relatively trouble free TMCC signal there. That ground bus simply follows the track all the way around, no branches, no loops, just one very long wire. I also need to look at the wire that connects to the base, and how it enters the ground wire network.

bigdodgetrain posted:

now that you know the base is a working base.  have you tried holding your hand over an engine and see if it still takes off when powered up?

another thing I don't recall anyone asking is put the base over the layout.  at our club the base is in the center of the room over the layout a few inches from the celling.

I haven't tried the hand over the engine yet, mainly because until yesterday I had that pesky electrical bridge, and I couldn't isolate just one engine to experiment. Now I can!

Moving the base to "high ground" is not really possible, because of the way the layout is designed and where the outlet is located. The TMCC base has worked well from the current location, down low, for years. They are both at the center of the room. I'm not sure how these two factors would relate to the track signal. It would seem that they are more closely related to the handheld to base communication, and I'm not having trouble with that aspect.

I'm just getting up the gumption to head downstairs and start doing these tests that everyone has suggested. I think I'm up to half a dozen right now. I don't mind doing them, they're kind of fun, and all in the name of progress, which is the name of the game. I'll stay with it until I've fixed the problem or worn out the OGR braintrust, whichever comes first.

Scott T Johnson posted:

This would make for a very good reality TV series. Like Goldrush on the Discovery Channel only with smart people.

I think Unsolved Mysteries was taken.

 

OK guys, more test results are in.

My test to prove or disprove RickO's theory (see page 1) that the base needs to be powered first. It does not, both track and base power can be turned on simultaneously and the train will remain at rest with lights on.

GRJohn's wall wart ground test. Wall wart good, measured ~.5Ω from prong to outside barrel.

Dale's track ground to earth ground test. No connection, infinite ohms.

Big Dodge, hand over engine on layout test, using regular layout power supply. Engine wakes up in command mode, at rest, lights on. With hand in place, engine obeys commands sent from Cab-1 remote. Note, the area where this test was conducted is a known TMCC signal weak spot. I expected it to need my hand to run.

The test was then repeated hands free at startup. Again train woke up in command mode.

I would do Bob Bartizek's test, but I think that the Big Dodge test proved what he was going after with his suggestion.

What have we learned? The base can control a section of the layout and an engine. Both track and command power can come on at the same time. The wall wart is good, and there is no earth ground connection to the track ground network.

bigdodgetrain posted:

could it be that the legacy base being mounted vertical which turns the antenna horizontal have any effect?

my experience an antenna works best when it is vertical.

just throwing things out there.

If I'm not mistaken, that would only matter if I was using the Cab-2 remote. I still love my Cab-1's, I have 9 of them(I'm expecting company). That's why I won't let go of TMCC. The only issue I see with the way it is mounted is that the remote won't sit in the charger. For the little I plan to use the Cab-2, I can just use AA's.

Penn-Pacific posted:

I suggest doing some good old fashioned train running with TMCC for now. Do some switching maneuvers and have fun with what you have done so far. If nothing else, just to relax and enjoy your trains for a couple hours.....

I actually have a way to do just that without any signal headaches. I have an LC+ engine that hasn't been on the rails yet. It is sitting by my right foot as I type, like a puppy begging for attention.

Last edited by Big_Boy_4005
bigdodgetrain posted:

it is obvious it is a signal issue. 

holding you have over the engines proves a signal issue.

many have solved it with a ground plane wire.

 

you might want to get Dale's adaptor http://www.trainfacts.com/trainfacts/?p=704

I have many ground plane wires, where they won't be seen on the finished layout. Some locations will be very difficult to disguise it. I would really like to try to fix the signal. I still believe there are things that I can do to improve it. I have some engines that work everywhere, and others that only work on the upper deck.

This like trying to cure a disease, why do some get it and others not? Is it something in the engine? Why is the signal bad in spots? What do those spots have in common? Is the base weak?

The ground plane wire is an easy fix, it's like putting a band-aid on. I'm just hoping there's a way to not have to.

Wouldn't the metal conduit  act like an earth ground where ever it goes on the layout?  Perhaps more so than say 14/2 flex wire?   (fail TMCC works)

How  are the wall outlets  3rd connection (earth ground) connected to the metal outlet box.

    This may sound crazy but did you try turning off the florescent lights.  Perhaps a leaky or  noisy  ballast.

I think we had another  one of these mysteries  a few years  where  the location was just tooo dry , no  rain for weeks resulting in a poor earth ground.  

Big_Boy_4005 posted: I have some engines that work everywhere, and others that only work on the upper deck.

This like trying to cure a disease, why do some get it and others not? Is it something in the engine? Why is the signal bad in spots? What do those spots have in common? Is the base weak?

 

Engines with the "weakest" antenna will be most susceptible to ground plane issues. Often times its not every loco, just one or a few.

Diesels are more likely to have a weaker antenna than steamers. Lionel uses the handrails that run the length of the boiler on steamers for the antenna, doesn't get much better than that.

Given the "mammoth" size of your layout it seems you have may a few issues contributing to your signal problem, whereas the "average "sized layout may only have one or the other.

No one has ever stated the size limitations in relation to base output. Maybe Dale knows, I don't know if Lionel factored in the possibility of one base running over half a mile of track.

Mike Reagan has already posted some new product photos on another thread. I'm guessing himself and JonZ won't get anywhere near this thread.

Get that bed n' breakfast ready for Dale!

Gregg, as I've said before, the room is filled with earth ground sources. There are 3 major earth ground systems:

  1. The metal conduit that carries the 120 V power around the perimeter of the lower deck
  2. The chicken wire "blanket" ground plane between the upper deck frame and the plywood
  3. The entire ceiling grid, by virtue of the grounded track lighting being attached to it

It is because of number 3 that it is unlikely that the fluorescent lighting is having any effect on the track signal.

The ground wire from the cord coming out of the wall socket is secured to the first box in the chain with a proper ground screw, thus grounding all the conduit and boxes in the chain.

Rick, this conversation actually started three and a half years ago with this topic. Mike replied back then and explained about the coil on the railsounds board interfering with the signal. Lionel added a shield to later versions of that board. I had Matt go through a bunch of engines, adding shields where necessary, and lengthening antennas.

I'm convinced that the bad spots are related to wiring that has been added below the main level, because engines that used to get past these spots, no longer do. Bottom line, I unknowingly screwed something up, and I want to fix it.

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