Intermittent power loss on TMCC railroad-HELP!

Let me start by stating that I have an 8x20 O Gauge Layout powered by a post war ZW Transformer with a TMCC power base and two Legacy Powermasters.  I have 2 interconnecting loops each powered by a separate powermaster.    From 1995 until 2013 I used two TMCC powermasters but then switched to the Legacy powermasters in 2013.  My layout has been in the same configuration since 1995 and has operated flawlessly.  However, over the last month I have been experiencing an apparent loss of signal on an intermittent basis on my outer loop only.   Often times  the trains will run on this loop for 1/2 hour without a problem but on other occasions  right from the start I will lose power intermittently.  The inner loop runs fine with no problems whatsoever.   To begin with I have thoroughly researched the forum's archives and implemented every suggestion I was able to find.

I have checked the following things in an effort to track down the problem without success:

1.  Power output from the transformer for the outer loop is right on the money.

2.  Thinking that perhaps the PM-1 Power Adapter cable had gone bad I replaced it with a new one.  Power loss continued.

3. Replaced the TMCC power base with a spare I had.  Power loss continued.

4. Checked all hard wire connections  from the transformer to the track, to the power base and to the powermasters and all are tight and secure and the powermasters and the power base are wired correctly.

5.  Checked the track for any tell tale voltage drops and there aren't any. I cleaned an already clean track and the pick up rollers on a couple of my engines and still have intermittent power losses on the outer loop only.  Gave the track a railzip treatment in case continuity was a problem but it had no effect. 

6.  Power losses occur in both command control and conventional operations and occur at numerous locations on the layout.  No one or two locations are prevalent for these power losses.

7.  My power base has been plugged into the same outlet for 25 years and no problems.  Nevertheless, I checked the outlet for power and there are no problems there.    In any event, I plugged the power base into a different outlet and the power loss continued. 

8.  Changed the batteries in my cab1 remote-power loss continued.

9.  My cab 1 remote is responsive to all commands so I don't think the problem resides there.

The only thing I have not done is to replace the Legacy Powermaster for that problematic outer loop.  The Legacy Powermasters I installed in late 2013 are only six years old.  Is it possible this one went bad?  Anyone have any experience with a malfunctioning Legacy Powermaster? 

At this point I don't know what else to do so if anyone has any suggestions on what else I should check or do I would certainly appreciate it.  This is driving me nuts because I never know when this is going to happen.  Thanks in advance for any assistance which can be provided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original Post

Have tried wiring the transformer directly to the problem loop and running command to see how well it works? You don't need the powermaster when running command, so you can bypass it and see if it is causing the issue. 

Santa Fe, All the Way

Lou1985 posted:

Have tried wiring the transformer directly to the problem loop and running command to see how well it works? You don't need the powermaster when running command, so you can bypass it and see if it is causing the issue. 

Thanks for the quick response.  Well, I wired the transformer directly to the outer loop completely bypassing the Legacy Powermaster and when I started running it in conventional the same power loss began to occur.  That would seem to eliminate the legacy powermaster as my gremlin.  I'm wondering now if it could be the carbon rollers on the ZW.  Would bad carbon rollers cause intermittent power loss?  My common sense says yes but I'm not anyone's idea of an electrician.

All of the other three power circuits are working perfectly.  No "apparent" loss of signal or power on any of the other three lines.  As I stated I'm no electrician but to me loss of signal also means loss of power.  There are times everything on the problem loop goes blooey and will stay that way until I turn everything off and start over.  Then there are times the signal or power or whatever is stops and starts the engines intermittently.  As I asked before can anyone tell me if the carbon rollers go bad on one particular ZW handle can it cause intermittent power loss on the line controlled by that handle. 

I would switch your inner and outer track to opposite handles on the ZW. If the problem moves to inner loop, then a transformer issue. I can't definitively say what a bad carbon roller symptom would be, but power loss on the track seems reasonable.

I have seen ZW's where the carbon roller is actually worn away completely.  In this case, contact relies on the copper arm that held the roller rubbing on the transformer coil.  I imagine this results in frequent loss of power.  You didn't say, but I assume the problem handle in the big handle on the right.  Since most boys are right-handed, that handle gets the most work.  Usually on the old ZW's, the rollers on the two small inside handles are nearly new since these handles don't get moved much. 

Since you are only using the ZW for track power, I recommend powering your two loops using the inner "B" and "C" outputs.

KENJR,  I will be out of the loop for the next couple of days but as soon as I get back I will swap the inner and outer loops on my ZW's handles and see what happens. 

Bob,  you are dead on about what handle it is as I am as right handed as you can get.  Unfortunately, I also use the B and C circuits for a host of lamps and some accessories so I am going to have to know where and what this problem is so I can operate my trains without recurring power problems.  Thanks for your suggestion.

 

OKHIKER,

I hear you say that loss of signal and loss of power mean the same to you. When you suffer thot loss before doing anything, check out the rails with a volt meter and see if you have actually lost power to the track, or if you may have lost the signal.

Ray

Rayin"S" posted:

OKHIKER,

I hear you say that loss of signal and loss of power mean the same to you. When you suffer thot loss before doing anything, check out the rails with a volt meter and see if you have actually lost power to the track, or if you may have lost the signal.

Ray

Ray, I previously did what you suggested in your post.  WhenI lose power for an extended period of time I have checked the rails with a volt meter and they are not receiving power. I then checked the output posts (AU) which  controlled the problem loop of track and the output from the transformer was normal.  Other times the power comes and goes in the blink of an eye causing the engines to stop and start in rapid succession.  Can’t figure this one out.

I would suspect the power wires to the problem loop or a loose connection of those wires. Internal break, connection issue at ends from heat, frayed or broken strands on ends. You get the idea.

Do you have any inline fuses on the track power lines? Perhaps a fuse holder is loose.

A loose connection or almost broken wire will heat up. Feel any hot spots in the wire or terminals when it stops the train?

Carl

Arctic Railroad

When I got your reply my next thought was exactly what Carl wrote. That has to be it. This stuff isn't very mysterious, more time consuming to figure out. Look also for cold solder joints. Hope you can find the problem,it can be very frustrating. Good luck.

Ray

After being out of the loop for a couple of weeks I was finally able to get back on the layout to see if I could track down this electrical gremlin I am wrestling with.  As suggested I inspected all the power connections and there were no frayed wires, bad connections or noticeable hot spots but my intermittent power losses/signal losses continued to plague me.  As one other poster suggested I reversed the ZW handles and power connections and lo and behold my inner loop now controlled by my right hand ZW handle began experiencing power losses whereas before it had been the outer loop.  I cracked open the ZW to check on the carbon rollers and the right handle carbon roller has plenty left on it.  However,I did notice on that right hand carbon roller there appeared to be some kind of residue build up on the roller.  I cleaned the roller off with some contact cleaner  and also gently wiped down the coil because the build up of residue was heavy there as well.  I have taken this ZW off of my layout and have been testing it to see if the condition repeats itself.  After about an hour of constantly reversing the test engine's direction my power loss gremlin has not yet reared his ugly head.  I'm hoping the carbon roller just wasn't making good contact with  the coil which caused the power loss.  Does that sound reasonable to you guys?  Let me know what you all think. 

Sounds like you have solved the problem, now go to hook up the layout.

I went back and read your original post, I am now confused, I did not think the TMCC Command base would communicate with the Legacy Powermaster, different frequencies.

Am I mistaken?

Ray

Rayin"S" posted:

Sounds like you have solved the problem, now go to hook up the layout.

I went back and read your original post, I am now confused, I did not think the TMCC Command base would communicate with the Legacy Powermaster, different frequencies.

Am I mistaken?

Ray

Rayin "S", I'm going to test out the ZW 275 a bit longer before I put it back on the layout.  I've got a back up 250 ZW on there now and it handles everything fine.

In regards to your question regarding the TMCC Command base and Legacy  Power Masters the two systems are compatible. On the cover of the Lionel Legacy Power Master Owner's Manual it states the TMCC command base or a Legacy Command base is required to operate the Legacy Power Master.  The Legacy Power Master is controlled by a signal generated by  a Lionel Command base.  It is not controlled directly by the signals from a CAB remote.  In short, the Legacy Power Master does not use the signal from the CAB 1 remote but rather the track signal from the command base.  The owner's manual on page 12 provides specific instructions on how to set up the two systems.

If you wish to research this further go to the search function on this forum and call up the discussion from 2/10/14 concerning Legacy Power Masters vs. TMCC Power Masters.  It gives a full in depth explanation in regards as to how these systems work together.  Hope this helps.  By the way thanks for your help on my "Gremlin issue".

Could you have tested using constant voltage posts on the transformer instead of using variable voltage posts? That way removing carbon rollers from the equation and seeing if you still have power/signal loss anywhere.  My understanding is PM's work like TPC's -- provide them full power, they in conjunction with your Cab and Command Base regulate how much gets to the tracks.  

Dave

S happens

TCA, NASG, ACSG W&OD

x-Chief Wrench & Bottle-washer of Precision Flyer Repairs 

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