This is going to take a minute.  I have to explain my set up to ask my questions.

I have an elevated track I set up for my grandson's train.  Goal was to run it off a Z 1000 MTH transformer hooked to the Variable In 1 port of my TIU so I could use my remote to dial up and dial down the power to it.  Two engines to choose from.  One is a 1971 truly conventional, no frills, forward-backward-stopped position selector switch that has to be manually set each time you wish to change directions or keep it stopped.  Next is a more modern GP 20 Burger King engine with directional control that actually lets me use the DIR button to stop it, then send it backwards or forwards.  Finally, I bought one of those Southern railroad Mikado style steam engines that uses its own remote to operate, a Lion Chief style which we know is not a conventional engine, but in order to run it I have to use the only open track available and that's the elevated track.

Here are my problems.  When I set either of the true conventionals on the track, especially the 1971, they act like the track has no power or they're confused as to what they are supposed to do.  I thought maybe since they were old and hadn't been used in awhile they might be defective, so I put them both on the main track.  The main track system is the one I run my modern PS3 engines.  I set the DT&I (1971) on the outer track, turned on the system, and it shot down the main straight like it had been fired out of a cannon.  Same for the Burger King.  So defective motors or power pickup isn't the issue.

The Burger King has one of those directional control levers you can set to ON or OFF.  I had it set in the middle because ON seemed to mess with its mind.  It didn't seem to know what to do.  Setting it in the middle got a response that I thought had taken care of my issues.  Not so fast Jonesy.  Yesterday I was playing around with some back and forth between elevated track and main system running trains, ignoring the Burger King train because all it was doing is going around and around, and all of a sudden, after what seemed like 50 revolutions, it stopped right above my head and just made that irritating gurgling noise it makes in neutral before you press DIR and tell it to go backward or forward depending on where it was before it stopped.  I pressed DIR, pressed it again, and off it went.  Got back to the exact same spot, stopped again.  DIR, DIR, DIR, off we go.  One good turn of the track, two good turns, started to ignore it again, and guess what, it stopped again in the same spot.

I don't know if because my lever was in the in between OFF and ON location that it was causing an issue, if that spot on the track was shorting out.  But I do know the Lion Chief runs flawlessly regardless of power setting on the DCS remote.  As long as the DCS remote is dialed up to 5.5 or higher, my Southern 4501 works just fine using its remote as the driver system.  The only issue with 4501 is that when I try to activate the couplers, the rocker buttons either sound the whistle or the bell.  The whistle works to specifications, the bell works to specifications, the cab chatter works.  But neither coupler will fire when the respective rocker button is pushed in its direction.  Any ideas on that?

With what I have told you, can anyone give me some suggestions as to what might be the issue with two conventional engines?  Again, they work.  18 constant volts pouring in from the fixed out 1 port cattle prods them to immediate speed.  But when set on the variable port driven track, they start sluggish, and never seem to build up any speed.  Am I trying to run them too slow?  I don't want to fling them off the track, especially 7 feet in the air.  I used 18 gauge wire to hook it up and run my booster drops.  Any help, suggestions, or training on how to do this properly is greatly appreciated.

john

Original Post

What voltage coming out of TIU var channels?  Are you using the Controller too, or just the Power pack of the Z-1000?  G

MTH Authorized Service Center

Authorized ERR Dealer

Lionel Independent Repair Tech

Virginia Train Collectors Member

Sounds like possibly a combination of inadequate power and/or possible voltage drop across a particular section of your layout.  Are the problems seen with only one loco on the layout, or when you have more than one loco on the layout?  If it's the latter, you may simply not have enough power (wattage) for multiple locos, particularly if there is one or more voltage drop(s) on a larger layout or a bad section/connection or two.

As for the Lionchief couplers, read the manual carefully as to operating the couplers (if they are operable by the remote).  For some earlier models it requires rather fine control of the coupler buttons, which serve dual purposes.  In more recent remotes, you hold down the shift button and the electrocoupler button which is much easier.  Check and see if your remote has the shift button (lower middle button) or just a sounds button (speaker image on the button).  The latter, earlier version remotes require more challenging button pushing skills to get the electrocouplers to work without sounding the whistle or horn.

Thanks for the information.  I run just one loco at a time.  Single track system.  The DT&I barely moves at any voltage setting.  Burger King runs ok, but stops.  As I stated, a quick punch of the DIR on the remote, and it takes off again.  To answer a question from another forum member, I use the Z1000 transformer as the power source for the track, routed through the Variable 1 out port of the TIU to the track.  I have the dial on the transformer turned to the max position.  I have no idea what voltage is coming out of the port to the track, I only know what I have to dial in from the remote to get the engines to move.  5.5 gets me a hum, 8 gets me movement, 10.5 gets me good cruise speed, on the Burger King engine.  I think my selector lever being in the middle might have contributed to the stoppage.  As for the DT&I, I think age and incompatibility with no directional control might be a factor.  I have no idea.

As for the Lion Chief.  It has the older remote with just the rocker buttons, no shift button.  I think the quirkiness of the buttons is getting me.  I don't really need the coupler release, I just wanted to know why it wasn't working.  Thanks so much to both of you for helping me out with this.  I'll keep tinkering with it and see what I can come up with.  It seems odd the power supplied to the track is more than adequate for the Lion Chief to run flawlessly, but dialing in 18 on the voltage can't make an old GP 9 run, but setting the same GP 9 on a fixed powered track makes it take off like a scalded dog.

 

  A conventional engine with a pulmore motor like the DT&I, needs more amperage than a can motor loco (not sure where the BK lies in that respect). And more amps require a larger gauge wire to pass amps to the motor.

The motor will run slow, and get hotter if denied amps needed. Voltage=rpm, amps=brute force, but there is some crossover too 

18 gauge seems light to me. I'd start with beefing that to 16 or 14g and watch for an improvement.  Running too large a wire MAY effect some command signal delivery But as is, this doesn't apply to you. Your LC is basically radio controlled with no commands on the track. So larger wire just means nice cool wire vs hot, more amps and less voltage drop per ft.  (run the dti for a bit and see if the wires get quite warm/hot. If so; too small.

The DCS controls are not the issue and have no effect on conventional trains. Neither does LC control.  The dcs might be limiting power (a meter the only way.... outside of a test light, it's dimness, and a guess....  but the command signals produced have 0 effect on old e-units and less than 0 on locos with switch only (no e unit) 

It's either the locos have issue, or the track where it stops does, or the wire is too small for the draw.

A muti-meter is model RR tool #4 or #5

#1&#2 being screwdrivers, #3 pliers. Tough call on nut drivers or a meter. Harbor Freight gives them away at times (coupons). You can even find super duper cheap analog meters at dollar stores that beat nothing.

If it is tube track, you might have a bad center rail isolator. These tend to only short as the loco passes over the track, causing te e-unit to cycle as the short eats all the power.  It could be dirty or loose track pins as well. Tight? Or would the track fall apart if you lifted 2 pieces? Pressure at any connection greatly reduces the resistance there. They shouldn't be loose 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





While you do get more of a straight AC with transformer controller turned to full, you are still chopping.  And your have the TIU chopping it again. So you might not get a good signal to the LC engine.  I would connect the transformer directly to the track avoid TIU and see if this resolves your issues.  IF things work, plug the transformer of the Z-1000 via an adapter directly to TIU and try.  MTH recommends against using a controller and TIU as a source of power.  G

MTH Authorized Service Center

Authorized ERR Dealer

Lionel Independent Repair Tech

Virginia Train Collectors Member

I hope all of the members who have replied to my question are reading this reply so I can cover each one of you. 

As to using the transformer directly instead of going through the TIU as a liaison.  Great idea, thought of that, am going to do that after supper.  I won't be running any DCS engines up there because all of them require 060 or higher curve and I have 036 up there.

As to the question of track, I use Fastrack.  I haven't used Tubular since 1971.  I bought some when I got into model trains in 2017 for my grandson's train, but like everything in this world by the time I got to his train I changed my strategy and went with Fastrack.

As to the gauge of wire.  I used 16 to feed the track, but used 18 to hook up the track pieces.  It's easier to attach the 18 gauge using those small connectors you have to use to slide onto the plates under the track.  I used this same scenario on my big layout as well when I ran booster drops.  16 ran from the TIU to the board with the screws, then I used 18 gauge to run the wiring from the track piece to the board.  Works quite well down there, but I'll try using 16 upstairs since I do wish to try to run true conventional engines.

As for the Lion Chief, it runs great, no problems, just can't get the coupler portion to work.  Not an issue, just one of those, "it has a button that says it will turn the lights blue but when I push it the lights just blink."  Cosmetic issue, not critical issue.

Thanks again, always appreciated

John

GGG

You are a genius.  Granted I could stand to add some more power to a section of the track, the GP 20 runs fine now.  No more stoppages, dial it in to about half way and she runs fine.

I do have a question for you however.  Anyone can answer, I need all the help I can get.  I fielded this question in another forum and got many helpful answers but no one had a concrete idea as to what was causing the issue.

I have 18 Fastrack switch tracks.  All of them work the way they are supposed to work.  They are wired to the AIU's using 24 gauge telephone wire.  I used chokes on the auxiliary side to allow me to power them through the track instead of trying to find some way to power them individually using the auxiliary side.  Most of them are basic 072 fastrack switches, while 6 of them are the new programmable types if you have Legacy and not DCS.  DCS still requires you to enter them into the system via the remote where Legacy will allow you to push the button and while the light blinks you can choose a location in th Legacy remote and instant entry.

My problem is that I have an ES44AC 2018 model premier engine that keeps finding a dead spot in one of the switch tracks.  The pickup wheels are closer together on this model than they are on the 2017 models.  My 2017 ES44AC premier wasn't having this problem until a few days ago.  The problem occurs at low speeds.  I normally have an engine leave it's parking track onto the yard track via it's switch at 5 SMPH.  The Union Pacific ES44, 2018, has to be jacked up to 12 or more to make it out of the gate.  If I try to creep onto the yard track, the engine reaches the exact same spot on the switch track and stops, then shuts down due to, I guess, no power being generated through the engine.

The switch track it uses to leave the parking track onto the yard track is connected back to back with another switch track used to allow my Norfolk Southern to leave its track.  I was told back to back connection causes the "dead spot" phenomenon.  One of my questions is "why would any company create a product in which a dead spot problem is possible to begin with?"  Doesn't Lionel test this stuff before they sell it?  You'd think with all the wires inside one of those things, one of them could throw some power its way and keep the engine powered.  I thought it was a pick up wheel issue.  Because my 2017 has pick up wheels set further apart, when one hits a dead spot, the other is still resting on a powered portion of the track, where the 2018, due to the fact the wheels are set closer together, hits the sweet spot with both wheels and thus, shuts down.

The 2018 has the same problem on other switch tracks where it has to snake from one track to another to another on its way out to the main line or back to the yard track.  I also have an SD40-2 that has experienced it, and the other night my SD70ACE (Norfolk), had it happen.  One forum member said he had trouble with that and used WD-40 to clean the track then wiped it dry and the WD helped the engine draw electricity from the track.  Have any of you ever experienced this?  Again, fastrack, 072 remote controlled switches, 6 programmable remotes, switches are connected back to back, not much room for adding track between them.

Any information is greatly appreciated.

 

  Would chopped really slow conventional that much G?  I'm not even sure I ever tried conventionals at my brothers.(I'm pure sine & conventional)

It still shouldn't drop the e-unit into a stall on the King's loco. (hey, there is a KFC boxcar for sale near me. Let me know; I'll pass you the info )

I read it all again as I had mixed up issues between locos. No biggie on what I wrote though.

The rev. switch being in the middle to work "better",  points at some kind of issue there.  I like to work by process of elimination... Make some 16g+ jumpers with alligator clips for that toolbox too

  A jumper to ensure contact on the switch so the e-unit is basically 'hard wired' to "on" temporarily; does the issue clear up? 

  If so, it's the switch itself.   Clean the lever contact, and the contact pad/rivet, check other connections.

  Is the pressure of push nut/spring washer ok?; possibly re-seat the rivet to freshen the connection; wire brush the rivet top into the brim of the hole too, maybe fill rivet with solder for making a better pad; maybe pull the push nut and clean and shine it all. 

The other e-unit thought is if the amp draw increases along that stall area, it could be curling any already weak e-unit fingers with heat build up.  Again, jumping wires across it temporarily hard wiring it, if the issue clears, it's the fingers. (or maybe the drum or wires are broken/ shredded/ barely connected, cold solder, etc..)

 Now, amp draw/track...

16g feeding a FEW 18g...much better. If too far apart with those , or real long drops, still might be limiting amps to the pulmore. (Should be good for can motors)

  How large is the layout? (I think I know, but remind us please, 4x8ish ? "Overhead"?; around the room? 16g seems light for that distance imo. ). 

And which DT&I do you have? One motor or two?   I have the 8111 switcher (1 pulmore motor) and that has a 2-position e-unit, not a manual reverse switch.

  Is the King a pulmore or can motor?  (gives us a general amp use for comparisons)

If run alone or with all tracks going, is there an increase in issues? (track connections or wire/transformer may be too small.)

 The coupler bit... If not under a warranty I'd confirm they work by jumping in power to the coupler coils. If they work, it's the board or remote. I'm not sure anyone has much idea exactly what's going on inside those yet.  Try the loco couplers with the original power supply to rule out the chopped wave as the cause, (or an old pure sine transformer if one wasn't included with it.. even a car battery )

  A spill or splash of "sticky" into the buttons is the most widespread remote issue overall I think.

  Ive only had to clean/replace worn out buttons or replace LED&LCD screens in any remote of any kind ever, trains or not. (Increadible really. I never thought about it before today. Never even had a radio remote fully die on a toy that I recall)( I guess there are some knob issues with tmcc & thumb wheel on DCS...still "buttons" in a sense.)

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Adriatic

Wow.  A lot to digest but I'll give it my best shot.  As for track distance around the layout, I'm going to have to guess no more than 38 feet total, but the straights are only ten 10 inch fastrack straight pieces long, then you have two 036 curves to navigate at each corner, So 400 total inches divided by 12 gives you that 33.333333333333 jazz, then you add each curve, so let's go with 40 feet of total travel.  I put a drop, after the initial hook up, at each 10 inch piece that was connected to a curve going in and a curve going out.  So with that math, I have 8 drops all connected at a single point running back to the transformer.

As for the Lion Chief, it was one of Lionel's engine and tender only sales.  The series of Mikado's that Southern's 4501 came from.  It wasn't like the sets you get, like hogwartz or polar express, that come with a plug you plug into the wall and hook to the track via a plug n play connection.  Other than the coupler issue that one does fantastic.

The Burger King is a Pulmore.  I am guessing the DT&I is a Can.  I too have 8111.  It was part of a Yardmaster (hence the forum handle) set I got for Christmas in 1971.  It runs great on my main layout.  Which by the way, that one has one drop per straight away and parking track using the 16 feed, 18 connect method.  The 18 is so much easier to use on those tiny metal connectors.  As for the lever on the Burger King, I pushed that back to ON and since I fired the TIU as a liaison between the xfmr and the track, that problem has ceased.  It rumbles around the track like a big dog now.  The only issue, if that's what you want to call it, is that you have to tap the direction button on the xfmr a time or two to get it moving in the direction you want.  As you probably know, it's under the old method of Forward-Neutral-Reverse and visa versa.  Neutral seems to be the dominant location.  Kind of like a stick shift where reverse is an adventure.  Old Volkswagon beetles for instance.

 Now all that great information you gave me regarding how to check this and solder that and look for this and that, I have to admit, I'm not that far into the model railroad hobby.  I'm still in basic training.  But when I do get the fidge and decide to branch out, I will keep your information on file so I can use it as a guide.  Oh, I have the KFC reefer.  The only two I don't have are Bonanza Steak House, not interested, and whatever that last one was I didn't recognize.  Pizza Hut, KFC, Wendy's caboose that I don't run, and there was one more, Red Lobster?  I have that one too.

I have Asperger's , so short and sweet doesn't always work out for me. Im somewhat a shut in too, so very bored. My mind is racing over everything under the sun 24/7. I'm quiet, but once once "on", it flows full blast. Hurts me some days, helps on others.  I've had trains since day one, Gramps was a big collector. My "real" experence is actually a bit more practical than train focused, but the trains kinda started me out I guess and it all does crossover pretty well. I get nervous when folks say "expert" or "guru". Someone almost always knows more than I do. I know a little about a lot of things is my view

  There is a DT&I GP or RS in saftey orange too. The 8111 should be a pulmore motor as well for sure though. Mine had an armature plate the was loose on the saft and the rivets holding the field coil on had a bad connection. Grounding by wire helped, I swapped armatures because I failed to lock it down well with epoxy, super glue or JB ...then the coil died. (but I swapped shells with the DT&I and a can motor loco while fixing the pulmore frame with an F-unit truck w/magnetraction, and the new loco shell has that old frame for a while. I.e. 8111 was updated if it has a can motor. Not good or bad imo, just fact. I do like the horizontal open frame best; the  later vertical pulmore is a pita sometimes, early are much better imo; and can motors are much better than the intro to those, so I'm not as apposed to those as I was even 5 years ago...they run ok. I just miss the e unit buzz and ozone... like I miss whistle/purr of a Bug and the smell of German horsehair seat pads. ( I find old VW and Porshe shifting extremely predictable. If gentle, you can feel every little mechanical arm in the shift cone bump home via of the 1 rod. Play is there to absorb over exuberance. Americans never quite caught in to Euro saftey reverse lockouts needing a push down or pull up to get past the gate.  Except for a plate panel guided gated shifter like in an old big block Vette, or a gated Ferrari, nothing better imo).

Can motors are small, like those fist seen in toys 50+ years ago, but better quality, a little bigger too. Pulmore is a bigger open frame motor were you can see parts; like inside a fan.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





My great nephew has Asperger's.  He's my niece's son.  He is graduating from High School tonight.

My train fascination didn't begin until 2017.  Long story but when my grandson's neighbor said he had a train he wanted to give him when he was old enough to enjoy it, a territorial gene kicked in and I said, "if anyone is going to give my grandson a model train, it will be me."  Normally I'm not like that, but since he has been here I have discovered that side of me.  I have the Yardmaster set, so I bought some track for it and discovered the world of model trains.  I now have 7 locomotives and 57 rolling stock mostly of the billboard variety.

Thanks for the education.  I am always interested in anything model train, real train, or railroad in general.  I lean toward the big 7 but we have a short line that runs through Frankfort, Ky that is the brain child of a wonderful man named Rick Corman.  I watched a you tube video documentary about him.  I wish I had the chance to meet him, but sadly he passed away in 2012 I believe it was.  But the RJ Corman Rail Line is still operational today and one of my MTH DCS engines is the SD40-2 that came out in 2018.  CSX is the class 1 that frequents my area, but Norfolk Southern runs through Lexington and Louisville.  I wish I was closer to Madisonville, as BNSF and Kansas City Southern have come as far as there.  My cousin, lucky cuss, lives in Nebraska where UP is king.

 Oops forgot to hit post....many hours ago.

Your ok with a few 18g as the distribution points can be added and averaged above the 16g value. You lose  about 1.2v at 3.5a  40' witth 16g.

0.7v lost at 3.5a /40'/14g.

0.4v lost with 12g.(common household extension cord gauge)

5a at 40' calls for 12gauge per awg chart I just peaked at.

I think the DCS maximum amp ability should be matched by your wire gauge. I think Barry said staying at 14g for a max was best for command signals on the rails.

The max amp suggested by awg guidelines on 16g is 3.7a as a power delivery line. I think the Z-1k and DCS might be able to deliver 4a or more (? manuals say) ...anyhow, that's why I keep thinking you are a bit light on gauge. 

I think my DT&I had a two position e-unit too.

Watch the Kings e-unit drum turns and is clean. Also look at it's stance. The pawl relies on being plumb or slightly leaned so the pawl always rests on the drum. Otherwise the pawl hook may miss the teeth as it pulls the coil plungers in... maybe a broken tooth allowing a mis-position that takes an extra cycle to overcome.

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





GGG already pointed out the original problem, but to put it in perspective, modern transformers like the z1000 or the TIU it's self don't actually lower the voltage.  Instead they just turn the power on and off really fast.  the problem arrises when you put two of these devices in a row because they can be out of phase with each other, cutting off different parts of the wave form.  

If you use a non-electronic transformer such as a postwar type ZW or KW or whatnot it will work as you originally wanted where you could limit the top speed with the TIU and the transformer will still vary the engine speed.  

 

$ 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.” 

 

 

non-electronic?  You'll need to help me understand that one.  The transformer that came with the Yardmaster set I was given in 1971 plugged into the wall just like the one I have now.  It was a small black box with a silver lever and two round knobs that screwed down a stud thus trapping the 24 gauge wire it came with and making electrical contact.  The other end of the wire hooked under the spring loaded clip of a ctc connector.  Sorry but I'm unfamiliar with non-electric transformers.  Please advise.

Yardmaster96 posted:

non-electronic?  You'll need to help me understand that one.  The transformer that came with the Yardmaster set I was given in 1971 plugged into the wall just like the one I have now.  It was a small black box with a silver lever and two round knobs that screwed down a stud thus trapping the 24 gauge wire it came with and making electrical contact.  The other end of the wire hooked under the spring loaded clip of a ctc connector.  Sorry but I'm unfamiliar with non-electric transformers.  Please advise.

Bmoran4 had it right, by electronic I do not mean electric.  I suppose I could clarify...  postwar transformers and similar devices that physically tap the transformer (using the term transformer here to refer to the actual electrical component of that name, not the entire device as it commonly means for toy trains) actually vary the voltage that they output.  On the other hand, modern electronic transformers, typically referred to as "chopped sine wave" transformers on this forum, use a method called pulse-width modulation which uses semiconductors to cut off part of the output sine wave.  in the case of using two modern controllers back to back the problem arises of chopping off different parts of the wave, effectively multiplying the "voltage drop".  

In any case, if you use a postwar transformer as opposed to one with that uses semiconductors to chop the waveform, it will work as you planned.  

I guess I'd expect someone given a set in 1971 to have grown up with all the "solid state" marketing wank and to know the difference in analog devices and transistor controlled ones.  

$ 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.” 

 

 

I was 6 in 1971 and beyond playing with the one I got for Christmas I didn't experience anything beyond the scope of my bedroom floor regarding model trains, track, scenery, buildings, improvements, especially the ins and outs of electronics and how they worked.

It wasn't until I was 49 and my grandson was born that I took even a modest interest in the hobby that exploded out of nowhere.  Since then I have become very interested in how all this works and what makes them tick.  Until 2017 I had no idea fastrack, MTH, Lion Chief, DCS, and other types of transformers beyond my little black box with the silver lever hooked to thin green wires even existed.  Thanks to the internet, ebay, a keen interest in the hobby, and all of you I have become competent.

I appreciate any and all information regarding transformers, wiring, wire sizes, how engines work, amperages, volts, the list goes on.  Thanks to the O gauge forum as a hole, I have learned many things that have helped me solve problems.  The reason I write this is to clarify to the forum that I am 53 years old but barely out of diapers when it comes to model trains, how they work, why they work, and what I can do to make them work more effectively and efficiently.  So please, when you explain to me what I need to do to fix my problem, use examples and keep in mind, I'm not that experienced where it comes to this hobby.  I saw this in a movie.  Some people were sitting around a table talking about something difficult and hard to understand and were having it explained to them by a man who knew his stuff and assumed everyone in the room knew it like he did.  Finally a member of the group chimed in and said, "Ok, for expediencies sake, let's pretend that none of us have a clue what you are talking about."  He stopped, stared at the man for a second or two, then changed his approach.  "It's like when you have...……"  I need that approach.

So I understand what you are trying to tell me when you say use this size wire rather than that size, but when you were 6 and saw a model train work just fine using tiny thin green wire hooked to a tiny black box plugged into the wall and when you shoved the silver lever all the way to the right it went so fast it jumped the track, it's hard to understand why your newer GP20 which is supposed to be better because it can go forward or backward without flipping a switch and is hooked to what is supposed to be a better transformer and stronger wire, chatters along like a confused turtle and stops for no discernable reason over and over again.  But, now that I know about chopping and transformers that use circuits and not coiled wire, and that mixing chemicals can be counter productive, I fixed my problem.

So for the record I didn't grow up with model trains, I fell into them.  I like them, I like railroads, I want to know anything about both that anyone is willing to tell me.  I have questions.  Thanks again for any and all information you have given me.

John

I apologize for coming off like a Richard, if I did.  The bit at the end, reguarding your age and solid-state marketing and such however has nothing to do with model trains specifically, but rather technology in general.  Up until the early 50's if you wanted electricity to do more than just turn on or off  the only games in town were complex mechanical devices for switching things relatively slowly, or vacuum tubes for more complex functions.  Both were expensive, complex, and slow.  When the transistor came along it changed everything, and the world of consumer electronics exploded with inexpensive gadgets based on it.  At the basic a transistor is a power switch with no moving parts, hence the term solid-state.  The term was used heavily throughout the 1960's and 70's in marketing any sort of electronic devices, especially things like pocket radios, home stereo equipment and television sets, two of which had previously use vacuum tubes and the third simply didn't exist because it couldn't be made before the transistor.  

On the green wires you mention, the reason that "tiny" wires worked fine on that little set but thicker gauges are recommended when building a layout is two-fold.  First, on a layout it's likely you'll be running things that take more power such as more than one engine, lighted or operating cars, electro-couplers, etc.  The second is that those little green wires were really your layout is designed for without having the voltage drop very much over the length of the wire.  you can plug the relevant numbers into a voltage drop calculator like this one: https://www.rapidtables.com/ca...drop-calculator.html to see what effect different gauges of wire have on high current long runs.  So you have two reasons to use different wire, needing wire thick enough not to melt when using larger transformers powering more demanding equipment, and avoiding voltage drop over distance.  

On the original point with transformers, the old school ones you grew up with were actually transformers in the proper sense of the word.  Not sure how much detail you need since this is the sort of thing they teach kids in elementary school, but you said treat you like you're 6 years old... Two coils of wire that share a core such that when you apply alternating electricity to one coil it creates a alternating magnetic field.  That magnetic field then creates electricity in the second coil of wire.  As the name implies this device is used to transform the electricity. By making the wire coils different sizes the voltage and current of the electricity can be changed.  For example in a common Lionel ZW train transformer 120 volts in is converted to up to 20 volts out.  In train transformers the variable voltage is done with a wiper, a piece of metal that is moved by the throttle and rubs against the output side coil of wire.  doing this it changes how many turns that second coil uses, effectively acting like there are more turns as the throttle is turned up, raising the voltage.  

Modern "transformers" control the output voltage in an entirely different way.  While they still use a transformer to convert the wall outlet's 120VAC to the max voltage of 18VAC the actual speed control for our trains is done with solid-state electronics.  The actual method and parts used are slightly different than what I'm going to explain here but the basic idea is the same. (there's no need to go into the difference between transistors and triacs or what a zero-crossing is for a super basic explanation). The modern style of train transformer is commonly referred to on this forum as a "chopped wave" transformer.  This is because it chops off part of the wave of electricity.  As you may recall from grade school the electricity we use from wall outlets is alternating current.  It "flows" in waves, up and down 60 times a second. as the wave goes up the voltage rises and as it goes back down the voltage lowers again.The voltage we read or are talking about when we say 120VAC or 18VAC is what is called RMS voltage which stands for root-mean-square.  While not technically true, you can think of it as the average voltage of that wave of electricity from one wave to the next.  When we measure 18 volts to the track there are actually the point when the wave is at the bottom, at 0 volts and the time when it's at the top, at close to 25 volts, but the "average" is 18 volts.  

The modern transformer works by using special transistors called triacs to very quickly turn on and off the power.  So quickly, in fact that they chop out parts of that wave of electricity.  The math in real life is different because of the shape of the wave, but you can picture things like this: If you turn off the power half way through the wave, then turn it back on as the next wave starts, the average voltage over the time of one wave will be cut in half.  if you vary where you cut off the wave it will vary the average voltage at the output.  this is how modern transformers work using solid state electronics to adjust the voltage rather than a mechanical wiper physically tapping the transformer in different places.  

As to the problem with connecting two modern speed controllers back to back it start with knowing that these devices have to know when the wave is starting so that they know how much to cut off.  They also typically cut off the first part of the wave.  So a throttle set to 75% will be missing the first quarter of the wave.  The problem can come in when the second speed control device, such as a TIU is looking for the start of the wave and it sees the wave starting at that later point after it has already been chopped by the first transformer.  things get confused and the wrong part of the wave gets chopped off.  Basically the electronics in the TIU think they are at the start of the wave when really they are at the top, so it chops off the wrong part of the wave for the desired result.  Not until one throttle is nearly all the way up do things start working correctly again.  

As stated before, if you use a non-electronic transformer as the input, you won't have any problems since that post-war style transformer is actually changing the voltage, or the height of the wave, but it is still a full, un-chopped, wave that won't confuse the TIU.  It just has less voltage as the upper limit.  

P.S. As an entirely different discussion, since LionChief is mentioned in the title, it is worth noting that changing the voltage to the track actually has little or no effect on the speed of LionChief Plus engines.  Lower voltages may cause a slow down if the engine runs out of power to suck in but for practical purposes there's no reason to run them at lower voltages.  It just makes the electronics have to work harder.  I seem to remember the same being true on regular LionChief engines as well, but cant say for sure, and I don't have access to testing it right now.  

$ 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.” 

 

 

Yardmaster96 posted:

 

My problem is that I have an ES44AC 2018 model premier engine that keeps finding a dead spot in one of the switch tracks.  The pickup wheels are closer together on this model than they are on the 2017 models.  My 2017 ES44AC premier wasn't having this problem until a few days ago.  The problem occurs at low speeds.  I normally have an engine leave it's parking track onto the yard track via it's switch at 5 SMPH.  The Union Pacific ES44, 2018, has to be jacked up to 12 or more to make it out of the gate.  If I try to creep onto the yard track, the engine reaches the exact same spot on the switch track and stops, then shuts down due to, I guess, no power being generated through the engine.

The switch track it uses to leave the parking track onto the yard track is connected back to back with another switch track used to allow my Norfolk Southern to leave its track.  I was told back to back connection causes the "dead spot" phenomenon.  One of my questions is "why would any company create a product in which a dead spot problem is possible to begin with?"  Doesn't Lionel test this stuff before they sell it?  You'd think with all the wires inside one of those things, one of them could throw some power its way and keep the engine powered.  I thought it was a pick up wheel issue.  Because my 2017 has pick up wheels set further apart, when one hits a dead spot, the other is still resting on a powered portion of the track, where the 2018, due to the fact the wheels are set closer together, hits the sweet spot with both wheels and thus, shuts down.

The 2018 has the same problem on other switch tracks where it has to snake from one track to another to another on its way out to the main line or back to the yard track.  I also have an SD40-2 that has experienced it, and the other night my SD70ACE (Norfolk), had it happen.  One forum member said he had trouble with that and used WD-40 to clean the track then wiped it dry and the WD helped the engine draw electricity from the track.  Have any of you ever experienced this?  Again, fastrack, 072 remote controlled switches, 6 programmable remotes, switches are connected back to back, not much room for adding track between them.

Any information is greatly appreciated.

 

If this has not been resolved, my guess is your rubber tires and the non-derailing mechanism insulated rails have created a "Common" dead spot, not a pick up issue.

Bobby D

You are the first person to mention that as being a possible issue to this ongoing problem.  However, the only two engines I have, if I'm right, that have the non-derail mechanism installed are my Railking scale ES44AC designed for sharper curves down to 031 in MTH numbering, and the SD70ACE Veteran Salute engine that comes with a complimenting Caboose accessory.  The two ES44AC's that have experienced the problem, at low speed I again want to stress, only have the two pickup wheels at the front and rear.  Based on your experience with this type of locomotive, would some rearranging of the rubber wheels help?

John

By no means did you come off as a 'Richard'.  I too wish to say the same thing to you regarding my reply.  Your intent was not taken harshly, and my reply was simply to let anyone trying to help me out know, that when it comes to Model Railroading, I am as green as a golf course fairway.  But, as my mother used to say, and said just last Thursday, John, (my name is John as well), you can do anything you set your mind too and if you are interested in it, you will learn it.  She then went on to say, now take an interest in my yard and go mow.

In regards to the Lion Chief engine, that issue was more related to why the coupler side of the buttons didn't work.  I have since learned that the reason the front coupler won't fire is due to an important visual issue.  There is no front coupler on this engine.  As to the why's and why not's of the rear coupler at the back of the tender not firing, so what.  It's an elevated oval with only one starting location that becomes it's final location.  There are no side tracks to leave the rolling stock and move on, so why would I want to uncouple the cars and have the engine complete the circle by crashing into the caboose.

As for the rest, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your explanations as to how old and new transformers work.  I also realized that if any of this stuff ever stops working correctly, I have a ton of money in shipping involved to either send the TIU to MTH to have it inspected and repaired, same goes for the transformer, or I can just go into debt and buy a new TIU.

My problem is that I don't have any train stores close that I can go pick someone's brain and learn hands on what you took the time to tell me.  NASCAR was easy.  Watch the races, learn the lingo, become familiar with the driver's, and like Harley-Davidson's, get interested about the time both phenomenon's hit a major boom in sales and fan interest.  I picked exactly the right time to buy a Harley, and exactly the right year to get interested in NASCAR.  Television shows and documentary's were all over the air waves, Harley's were a waiting list that never ended, everyone rode bikes so finding a group to ride with was no problem, and you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a stock car fan.

Trains, Railroads, Model Trains, NASCAR, and Harley's all have a common theme.  I got into them for all the wrong reasons, and wound up making a wonderful mistake.  Heck, the whole reason I joined the Guard was for the wrong reason and even that wound up a wonderful mistake.  If I ever write a book, I'll title it, Me: Life's wonderful mistake. 

But this forum isn't about me or my wonderful mistakes, it's about asking for help with an issue regarding conventional and Lion Chief engines.  Help that I have more than gotten thanks to you and everyone else who has taken the time to read these mini-novels and answer the call.  I've been reluctant to read other threads on other forums because I fear I think I know what I am doing, but do not wish to mess someone up telling them the wrong or better yet, the uneducated information.  I just know what worked for me and what appears to be working now since it hasn't broken.

Thanks John. 

  A loose paraphrase of Plato I think, "To teach well, the teacher should assume the student knows nothing."  I heard  it for the first time addressed to Bill Gates as a critque of the MS Help program, before Windows was launched, before MS sold stock publically, when Bill was still just as broke as anyone else (help buries you fast in terms only the experienced will understand. It was continued with in an an aim aid A.I. development... no excuse for continuing today though, there are better data sources)

  I'm not a "teacher", but had to teach teens and young adults enough to help run "mousey pizza arcades" with minor repairs and yet not destroy things, cause fires, shock themselves or someone else.   What I found was everyone needs a slightly different approach sprinkled with "wild" comparisons to other things they can relate to easily, and then reeled in closer to reality asap after.  I've even had some past employees seek me out to thank me for showing them the ropes years later. That and for my approach to work ethic "I WORK at a tech's pay rate, but I'll take out the trash too if needed; my JOB is help this place make money ...so they can give me some... And if they don't make money; then I don't get anymore more money... I like money. Do you like money?  (heck, that even landed me 3 jobs, nailing interviews shut right then and there )

  No greater reward than helping and instilling a "can do or die trying" kinda confidence in folks. Mostly I respond to "I can't" with "yet"

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





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