Our club layout has a 72 inch / 84 inch double track  U, and Legacy engines sometimes lose their signal and stop in the U.  The U has multiple sidings on the outside and inside of the U.  These engines have no problems on the remaining 90% of the parallel track layout.  The engines headlight blink as the engines pass through the U, another sign of a weak / interrupted signal I believe.  We have installed a grounding wire on elevated telephone poles ( 8 inches high) along the U. This has helped some.

I added an 8 to 10 inch long 32 g. wire to three of my Legacy engine's antenna by wrapping the wire around the screw that holds the metal strip antenna, then extending the wire to the back of the cab.  I secure the wire to the top of the cab with shipping tape.  This has also helped.  I have reduced the frequency of "engines stops" but not totally eliminated them.

Do these actions sound logical?  Any other ideas on why we lose the signal in the U?  Or how to strengthen the signal or block interference?

Thanks,  Dave

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Dave,

    If you are running both Legacy and DCS here is your fix, run your Legacy drop on the opsite outside rail from your DCS wiring, and run the Legacy base wire to the out Black Channel on your DCS TIU also.  This sets up dual signal path to your Legacy Engines and gives you double the signal to the engine.  If you can, get rid of all your rubber traction tiers also. I Credit Marty F once again, for this outstanding engineering knowledge, it works like a magic, on my multi level DCS/Legacy Christmas layouts.  The only thing that interferes with the Legacy signal is a Weaver lighted Masonic Caboose for some unknown reason.  Old Master Heirum and his magic I would guess.

PCRR/Dave

Never worry about what other people think, be strong and walk in the way of the Lord.

MartyE posted:

Is the Legacy system plugged into a properly grounded 3 prong outlet without a surge protector? 

This.   In addition, you can take a wire from pin 5 of the serial port on the legacy base and connect it to your earth ground, and ground plane wires on your layout to help the signal.  Dale Manquen here  on the forums has quite a bit of information on this on his website.  

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

Dave,

   Marty E makes a real good point, if you are running from a Multi-Plug Bar Unit, chances are you are not properly grounded, for the Legacy base. Always  run directly to a well grounded wall plug with your Legacy base plug, it makes a world of difference in operating your Legacy System.

PCRR/Dave 

Never worry about what other people think, be strong and walk in the way of the Lord.

I have found I need to plug the Legacy Base into the SAME grounded electrical circuit as the transformers.  However, the two transformers are plugged into a  power strip, and I believe the Legacy power cable is plugged into an outlet on the same circuit.  I will check tomorrow.   Should they be plugged into the same power strip / surge protector or should the Legacy base NEVER be pugged into a power strip / surge protector?

My grounding wire I have suspended along the track is  tied to a metal outlet box cover screw that is on the same circuit as the Legacy base.

Thanks for all your support / help.

Dave

One side of the legacy signal is transmitted via the ground lug of the base wal wart through the wiring of the room that the base is plugged into.

Some powerstrips/surge protectors can degrade this side of the signal. Eliminating any powerstrips and making sure the base is plugged directly into the wall outlet is an easy first step when diagnosing legacy/ TMCC signal issues.

Dave in Surprise posted:

My grounding wire I have suspended along the track is  tied to a metal outlet box cover screw that is on the same circuit as the Legacy base.

Just checking,  is this a metal outlet box of sort with metal conduit running the wiring?  If it is just a standard, in wall, box you may want to open it up to insure that there is a ground wire attached to the (green) ground screw.  I've seen cases where the ground wire is not connected, which would effectively leave your wire attached to nothing.  In either case, I'd recommend taking a wire from pin 5 of the Legacy base to that screw point as well to insure a solid ground plane connection.  

JGL

$ This is John Galt speaking.  $

“I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” 

 

 

Given the isolated nature of the transformers, I'd be very surprised if you had to use the same outlet for the transformers and the Legacy base.  I know I've run with them widely separated without any issues.

Gentlemen,

   Guns is absolutely correct, I do not care where the Transformers are plugged into, the Legacy 990 base should be plugged directly into a well grounded wall plug, you can see this for your self on the Lionel educational video.  Stay away from most plug bars they are not well grounded.

PCRR/Dave

Never worry about what other people think, be strong and walk in the way of the Lord.

Yesterday we removed the TMCC and Legacy bases from surge protectors.  There was some improvement.  My Vision Big Boy ran smoothly ( it always has).  I had extended the antenna on my AC6000 since the previous time I ran it, and it ran with no problems. So we can not say which change improved the results.  A friend, Mitch, brought two Mikados to run.   The Legacy Mikado ran through the U with no problems.  He said that was a big improvement.  He then ran his TMCC Mikado and it stopped five times within a 20 foot span of the U every time he made a full loop through the layout.  We have a 20 foot section of U on each of the two 200 foot long loops in the layout that gives us 99% of our problems. 

There is one other characteristic of the U. Our two 200 foot loops are controlled by five MTH TIUs.  Our Legacy / TMCC problems are almost all in a section of track controlled by one of those TIUs.  90% of our club members run MTH.  They are very knowledgeable on the MTH system and its hardware.  They have checked and rechecked the wiring to that TIU.  It has been changed out several times.  That's why we are now looking at the Lionel system primarily.  If anyone has an idea here, please let us know.

Thanks for ALL you help.  It is greatly appreciated by this minority (Lionel) club member.

Dave

I've heard that holding down the horn button can determine a location where the TMCC signal is weak. If the horn stops blowing the signal is weak at that location.   Forget this one , you know where the problem is.

I suppose you tried running an additional wire from the U connection  on the base to an outside rail in the weak area.  

Does putting your hand over the loco help?

Are both outside rail tied together?

 TMCC engines must be added to the TIU that the TMCC base is plugged into if using the dcs remote.

Dave in Surprise posted:

There is one other characteristic of the U. Our two 200 foot loops are controlled by five MTH TIUs.  Our Legacy / TMCC problems are almost all in a section of track controlled by one of those TIUs.  90% of our club members run MTH.  They are very knowledgeable on the MTH system and its hardware.  They have checked and rechecked the wiring to that TIU.  It has been changed out several times.  

I have a perhaps off-the-wall question.  Why in the world does it take 5 TIU's to control a total of 400 feet of track???  That should be easily accomplished by one, at the very most two TIU's.

Run an earth ground wire around your layout; especially in trouble areas.  It's easy; all you have to do is find an earth ground  in your place ( if unfamiliar ask an electrician) and then attach a small wire to it and hide the wire around your layout, especially in tunnels and areas where there is radio interference. We did this at our very large train club with fantastic results. 

 

Dreyfus Detail & Weathering / Central Operating Lines / TCA

"The empty space on the shelf is the most exciting place in collecting."

Dave:

An off the wall question - I noticed another layout behind the U. If that is an HO layout do your signal issues crop up when the HO guys are running trains? If so their signal is messing with yours. The same situation occurred with the Paradise and Pacific O gauge club in Scottsdale. I am not sure how they solved it.

All the tracks in the U are level so I have doubts about a grounding wire. I would think there should not be signal interference for a situation like this.

Also to be safe check the voltage on the tracks in the U. As John said there are a lot of TIU's. Maybe some 'extra' voltage is cropping up in the U??????????? In cases of a major difference you will see the roller or wheels spark then the engine shuts down.

Joe

Joe Fauty

If you run a ground wire around your layout or in between tracks as suggested above, you need to keep the ground wire approximately two inches away from the outside rails where the other part of the tmcc/legacy signal is connected.  Running a ground wire to close to where you have the U terminal portion of the tmcc/legacy signal connected, will degrade the overall signal.  Also keep this in mind when you run from your command base U terminal to the outside rail.

Bob D

 

 

    Bob D 

  

We resolved the interference problem several years ago.  The frequency the HO club was using conflicted with our MTH system.  The HO club changed frequencies and that problem was resolved.  After removing the surge protectors on 1/10/2015, we are monitoring the performance of different members trains.  We are also following up on other comments you all have suggested and  including adding another earth ground. 

Is there a preferable elevation for the earth ground?  Along the tracks, on poles just above the elevation of the train?  I understand the wire should be at least two inches from the rail.

 

Thanks,   Dave

You want to solve the issue of 2.4ghz range with the Legacy base, here you go!

DBPOWER 2W 2.4Ghz Wifi Wireless Broadband Amplifier,Wifi Booster,Wifi Extender

I bought this little item to boost my WiFi since my router is at one end of a large house.  Problem solved!

Here's some TMCC/Legacy signal improvement info I put together after a series of emails with a Lionel Sr.  Electronics Engineer (the guy who designed the Legacy radio boards.)  We've used this info at the NJ Hi-Railers and have vastly improved our TMCC/Legacy signal strength.

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Model Structures posted:

The same situation occurred with the Paradise and Pacific O gauge club in Scottsdale. I am not sure how they solved it.

If you notice from the photo in the OP's 1st post, this is the P&P layout.

And so, with this knowledge, I believe this U in question is towards the middle of the big open space, so I'd think the half of the signal that comes from the power lines is weak, so tying into pin 5 of the Legacy base and running a wire under the layout in that area will improve the signal, as I'm under the impression that the wire you ran on the poles is tied to the ground post of the transformers, which is not the ground you need.

Dave in Surprise posted:

Our club layout has a 72 inch / 84 inch double track  U, and Legacy engines sometimes lose their signal and stop in the U.  The U has multiple sidings on the outside and inside of the U.  These engines have no problems on the remaining 90% of the parallel track layout.  The engines headlight blink as the engines pass through the U, another sign of a weak / interrupted signal I believe.  We have installed a grounding wire on elevated telephone poles ( 8 inches high) along the U. This has helped some.

I added an 8 to 10 inch long 32 g. wire to three of my Legacy engine's antenna by wrapping the wire around the screw that holds the metal strip antenna, then extending the wire to the back of the cab.  I secure the wire to the top of the cab with shipping tape.  This has also helped.  I have reduced the frequency of "engines stops" but not totally eliminated them.

Do these actions sound logical?  Any other ideas on why we lose the signal in the U?  Or how to strengthen the signal or block interference?

Thanks,  Dave

The grounding wire you ran, where did you tap into the ground?  We found that tapping into the same outlet as the Legacy base was plugged into made a big difference in the signal strength.  One of our members build a signal strength meter engine that allows us to see a numeric signal strength.  We saw about a 25% increase in strength when we tapped off of the same outlet.

The grounding wire I ran on wood poles is connected to the same floor 120 V outlets that the transformers are plugged into.  I loosened one of the flat head, countersunk brass  screws that secure the brass plated outlet cover in place, looped the bare wire around the screw and tighten it back down.  I am using a grounded metal outlet box for my earth ground.  Is that correct?

How did you "measure " the signal strength with the "signal strength meter engine"?  I have seen the engines headlight blink when the signal is weak, and yes, the horn does not always function in a weak signal area.  But how to you "measure" the signal strength?  What type of meter are you using?  What are you measuring?

Dave

Here's some info on what one of our members Bob DeGuarde built. We also built a 455khz signal booster/filter based on plans found on the TMCC Google Groups site.

455kHz Earth Ground Signal Strength Meter - To check the signal strength which the TMCC/Legacy engines radio receives, we built a 455Khz earth ground signal strength meter that consists of a Lionel R2LC radio board and an additional capacitor & resistor.  On the R2LC radio board, I soldered a wire to pin 13 of the MC3372 IC, which is located on the R2LC board.  Pin 13 provides an RSSI output signal reading.  See the page 11 & 12 of the spec sheet for the MC3372 IC for further details for a RSSI connection.  Power, multi-meter and antenna connections to the R2LC board are outlined in the attachments below. 

The earth ground signal meter allowed us to obtain signal strength readings around our layout and showed us the areas where we need to improve earth ground signal. We first took readings on a small 4’x8’ test track, so we knew what an ideal reading should be.  On our test track, we obtained signal strength readings in the 45-49ua range.  When taking readings on the club’s layout, we originally obtained readings of upper 20 ua to high 30 ua range.  We used a Harbor Freight multi meter on the micro amp range to get our readings.  Some ways to increase the amount of earth ground signal to the engines radio is to add earth ground wires on the layout and or increase the size of the engines antenna.  Where it was practical we did both of these items and were now able to obtain readings into the high 30’s to mid 40’s ua for most of the layout.  We eliminated the vast majority of engine non-responsiveness (blinking head light) when we were able to obtain signal readings in the low 40 ua range. 

If you are extending the antenna of an engine, 3M makes 1/2” self stick copper foil which works out real well to improve signal reception.  Google “3M copper foil” for 20’ roles. 

Thanks to OGR forum member Gary Emmich for investigating on how to use the R2LC radio board to measure signal strength

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I don't think any of the earth ground solutions use an elevated wire unless it's blocking signal from and elevated track close the lower level. The telephone pole wire should be down on the ground (deck, table). 

The metal outlet box should be a good source for the earth ground.

I am still wondering about fluorescent light interference. have you played with the AM radio at the U? Do you hear any static?

Blur your brain and read through Dale Manquen's article at Trainfacts. Enough will make sense and you'll know where to look.

Another question, are there any locations near the U area that use an insulated outside rail to trigger an accessory on that loop?

Carl

Arctic Railroad

Moonman posted:

I don't think any of the earth ground solutions use an elevated wire unless it's blocking signal from and elevated track close the lower level. The telephone pole wire should be down on the ground (deck, table). 

 

I'm sorry but I don't think this is correct.  The Lionel Engineer we spoke to was adamant that the ground wire works best when elevated.  Diecast engines either use the handrails for the antenna or in the case of the centipedes a panel on the top of the engine.  The grounded shell can interfere with the signal.  We run the ground wires on telephone poles when possible.  

Chris Lord posted:

Here's some TMCC/Legacy signal improvement info I put together after a series of emails with a Lionel Sr.  Electronics Engineer (the guy who designed the Legacy radio boards.)  We've used this info at the NJ Hi-Railers and have vastly improved our TMCC/Legacy signal strength.

Very interesting stuff Chris. I haven't seen many of those tips you posted in that PDF. It seems I've done a lot of things very wrong in the way I've wired my layout, and some may be next to impossible to correct.

Chris Lord posted:
Moonman posted:

I don't think any of the earth ground solutions use an elevated wire unless it's blocking signal from and elevated track close the lower level. The telephone pole wire should be down on the ground (deck, table). 

 

I'm sorry but I don't think this is correct.  The Lionel Engineer we spoke to was adamant that the ground wire works best when elevated.  Diecast engines either use the handrails for the antenna or in the case of the centipedes a panel on the top of the engine.  The grounded shell can interfere with the signal.  We run the ground wires on telephone poles when possible.  

Thanks, Chris. A clarification that I was aware of until now. Makes sense.

Carl

Arctic Railroad

Big_Boy_4005 posted:
Chris Lord posted:

Here's some TMCC/Legacy signal improvement info I put together after a series of emails with a Lionel Sr.  Electronics Engineer (the guy who designed the Legacy radio boards.)  We've used this info at the NJ Hi-Railers and have vastly improved our TMCC/Legacy signal strength.

Very interesting stuff Chris. I haven't seen many of those tips you posted in that PDF. It seems I've done a lot of things very wrong in the way I've wired my layout, and some may be next to impossible to correct.

We're in the same boat on some of the issues.  Especially not running the wires in parallel.  But it's also too late for us to correct.  Bob's building of the signal strength car was a huge help in overcoming the issues we had.  We were able to objectively observe the effect of the changes we made.  

We made two classes of changes.

1. We wired what we call a "earth ground buss".  This runs from the outlet the Legacy base is plugged into completely around the perimeter of the layout.  Every  20 ft or so we wired in a terminal block. We tapped off of the block whenever we needed to run an earth ground near a problem area.  

2.  We did something similar with the U terminal from the Legacy base and tapped it to the outer rail in problem areas.

We would take a signal strength measurement before and after each change.  The earth ground by far made for the greatest increase in strength.  One issue we had to deal with is that we're in a 130 year old building with light manufacturing  on other floors.  Who knows what state the ground is in.  We briefly considered having out own service installed and isolating us from the rest of the building but fortunately we didn't have to go that route.

Some people might not agree with the tips in the document but I can assure you they come right from the horse's mouth at Lionel.

 

 

 

Our layout at the club is ~30' X 200" and we had issues with our TMCC/Legacy signal.  The only way we were able to start addressing the issues was to take measurement readings of the two portions of the 455kHZ signal (the earth ground/air link portion & the "U" terminal connection from the command base) so when changes are made on the layout, we knew if we were improving the signal.

455kHz Earth Ground Signal Strength Meter -The first piece of test equipment built was the 455kHz Earth Ground Signal Strength Meter, which information above was posted on how to build.  (I will also provide another post on this item in the TMCC/Legacy section so it will be easier for members to find in the future).  As we were using the 455kH earth ground meter and going through the various 455kHZ remedies which are also listed above, we saw what worked and what didn't on the layout.  As we went through the various remedies and checking results on the meter, we found this was a lot easier than trying to figure out if the engine head light is blinking more or less.  Using the meter in my option is the only way to to get a handle on the this portion of the signal. Thanks to OGR forum member Gary Emmich who initially found out that the R2LC board has signal strength measurement capabilities.

Testing Command Base unit "U Terminal - The other very valuable piece of test equipment is an oscilloscope.   I used this to measure the portion of the 455kHZ signal coming off the command base "U" terminal.   I would first take readings on a small set loop, so you know what the signal should look like under ideal conditions and get a voltage reading which should be in the neighbor hood of ~5 vpp.  If you don't have an oscilloscope see if you can borrow one or they can be purchased for under $400, which is much less than the price of what engines are going for today!  If you can't get a hold of an oscilloscope, then check out Dale Manquen post on measuring the signal output of the Command Base "U" terminal.  

The "U" terminal reading is VERY important and should be the VERY first item you test before doing anything!   You want to make sure the command base unit "U" terminal connection is working correctly before trying to address potential layout issues. 

Come and visit us at Trainstock 8 and you can see the equipment discussed above and talk to the TMCC/Legacy team Chris, Jim and myself.

Bob D


 

 

 

 

    Bob D 

  

Actually Chris, it's not all bad news for me, I did do a couple of things very right. One of them I knew would work, and the other was easy and cheap to do and I thought it was worth a shot, but I never knew why it worked, until now!

I started building my layout 13 years ago, and signal issues started as soon as I put power to the track. The layout is huge and consists of 3 distinct levels. These aren't the kind of levels that 3 railers typically talk about either, they have substantial vertical separation. From the lowest to the middle is 18" and from the middle to the upper is 30". These levels are connected by two helixes.

IMG_6182

So, where did I go wrong?

  1. I bundled my power and ground wires tightly together.
  2. I ran them directly below the track following the route very closely.
  3. I introduced a major source of earth ground when I ran a series of electrical outlets around the edge of the layout. These outlets are all in metal boxes, connected by metal conduit.

 

Here's what I did right:

  1. When I built the second helix, I glued aluminum foil to the bottom of the of the plywood, then tied it to earth ground. This gave me a perfect ground plane, and I have zero signal problems there.
  2. The upper deck was built entirely within the last 3 years. I decided to lay down a blanket of chicken wire on top of the 1x4 frame work before screwing down the plywood deck. When the layout lighting was installed, again in metal boxes and conduit, it created another perfect ground plane out of the chicken wire. As a result I have almost no signal issues on the entire upper deck. The answer must be that the ground plane is shielding the track from the effects of the power and ground wires below.

 

I now have a few ideas on how to retrofit the middle level where most of the problems are. The key ingredient will be 3M foil tape. I'll report back after some testing. I'm excited about possibly getting to the bottom of this.

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I have the prototype in captivity.  I was working with Dale and was going to do the actual PCB layout for the "production" version.  Sadly, as you know, he passed away before we got organized.  Since I never got a schematic for the prototype, I'm faced with having to reverse engineer it to generate a schematic before I can actually build a "production" unit.  It would have been a whole lot easier with the documentation, but it will eventually get done when I can fit it into the schedule.

John,

When you have a unit if you would like help with testing, I will be happy to do so. I have a large layout with about 2000 ft. of track 100+ turnouts and a large engine yard with a 36 in. transfer table and a 34 in. turntable with 25 stall tracks. It is multi level with a ground plane under much of it. I am having trouble in the steam facilities area of the engine yard. Most locomotives operate well. However, a Legacy EM-1 and a TMCC F-19 C&O Pacific are problems. I am going to extend the antenna on the EM-1 to see if that helps. It made an improvement on A TMCC S2 Turbine but not enough to meet my operating standards. I converted the Turbine to DCS but don't want to convert a Legacy locomotive. I hope you find time to finish development and will gladly purchase a unit when available.  

Dave

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