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Going to be setting 12 trains on 5 layout tables for a Winterfest event.  One of the Promoters primary requirements is for children to be able to "Run the Trains".  The trains will be primarily conventional using older transformers.  Will have 3 independent transformers on each table operating 3 individual tracks.  Thus affording maximum exposure for children.

Of course a major concern is keeping the kids from running the trains of the tracks, given they will have "Throttle Control".  I've been considering different methods of doing this.....

1.  Installing a physical device on the transformer, preventing the throttle being moved past a mechanical stop.  (Least desirable.)

2.  Installing a fixed resistor across the transformer output, restricting the track voltage to say 8 or 9 volts.  Transformers being used are various low power transformers, 20vac, 25-30 watts.  (Probably most desirable method)

3.  Using a "dimmer" switch to restrict the output of the transformer.  (I don't think it would be effective on the input side of the transformer.)  Probably the most expensive.

Would appreciate any comments or suggestions.  Thanks!

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Don:

Our club here in the Atlanta area sets up a kids layout at various shows throughout the year.  The layout has four tracks / trains in operation with four CW 80 transformers, one on each corner.

We tried different methods to limit the maximum amount of power each transformer could send to the track and the best was to install a small potentiometer on the back of each transformer.  This allows us to adjust the maximum power level very easily.  We've used this method for about three years now and surprisingly, the kids still haven't figured it out.

Curt

Last edited by juniata guy
juniata guy posted:

Don:

Our club here in the Atlanta area sets up a kids layout at various shows throughout the year.  The layout has four tracks / trains in operation with four CW 80 transformers, one on each corner.

We tried different methods to limit the maximum amount of power each transformer could send to the track and the best was to install a small potentiometer on the back of each transformer.  This allows us to adjust the maximum power level very easily.  We've used this method for about three years now and surprisingly, the kids still haven't figured it out.

Curt

Curt, it would be great to see a picture of how that looks and works. I am also looking at adding a similar feature at home for the Christmas layout for kids to play with. Thanks for the great idea. 

juniata guy posted:

Don:

Our club here in the Atlanta area sets up a kids layout at various shows throughout the year.  The layout has four tracks / trains in operation with four CW 80 transformers, one on each corner.

We tried different methods to limit the maximum amount of power each transformer could send to the track and the best was to install a small potentiometer on the back of each transformer.  This allows us to adjust the maximum power level very easily.  We've used this method for about three years now and surprisingly, the kids still haven't figured it out.

Curt

Curt, That sounds fantastic!  Do you have any size of pot was used, I'm thinking 10k, 2watt.

Thanks,  Don

p1p8p9

I never let the kids near any transformer controls, always worry about the risks if they get into the wires.

I have 7 LionChief engines with remotes.

I bolt then down to the fence with photos of the engines they are running with a plastic bracket to keep them from turning the speed control too far and breaking it ( from experience)

Using the LionChief remotes allows them to run trains without touching any wires.

I power the tracks from Transformers and set them so the trains will not run to fast when the kids turn the LionChief remotes to full throttle.

Here is my latest set up but similar to what I attach to the fence for several shows each year. Click on photos for a larger view. Wood either side of the LionChief controller and screws on sides to keep them from shifting, zip straps to hold them in place. Room to slide a screw driver down the side to turn controls on and off. I have the sound buttons covered as when kids have all 7 trains with bells on drives you nuts. And they cannot tell which engines have sounds. I have a little sound engine in front of each controller if they listen close and push top of train they hear all sorts of sounds from that train.

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Last edited by kj356

Another option would be to use "Beep" locomotives which have built in speed limiters. It doesn't matter where the kids push the throttle to, a "Beep" will not exceed 35 scale MPH. I've also pulled the boards from some worn out Beeps and installed them in old Lionel starter set 4-4-2 locos and gotten the same speed limiting. Which was good for my grandkids when they were younger.

Pete,

The Variac is a good approach for a continuous application.  The specific situation I am trying to control will be at a county fairgrounds facility, and will have a total of 12 single tracks with trains.  The transformers planning on using are small inexpensive ones, and conventional engines only.  And, only be in place for 2 1/2 weeks.  So cost is a factor.  I think the pot on the output would be best if I get the correct rating.

Don, one high power pot will likely cost more than a single used variac and you will need one for each transformer. Then you have the heat factor. Variacs are very efficient and waste very little power. True a new variac would be very expensive but there are hundreds of used one out there.

How close are you to Van Nuys? There is an eBay seller there that sells refurbished items and lists many variacs. I have purchased a few lab power supplies from them. Very reliable.

Pete

Last edited by Norton

Don,

A pot(entionmeter) is usually used as a volume control in an amplifier, etc.  It is a low current device.  A typical radio shack pot will carry a watt or two.  A rheostat is usually associated with controlling higher currents.  They are significantly more expensive when you get above 10W (which will control less than a 1 amp train or burn up trying!)

Another option would be an adjustable wirewound resistor (google it).  But again, they get expensive for higher loads.

In the long run, two of the variacs I pictured would probably cost less! And as mentioned above, the transformers you use will be getting a nice pure sine wave to plug in to, so any transformer should work well, (just at a lower voltage in which will result in a lower voltage out.

Ed

Another thought.  If you're using Z-1000 type transformers, don't use the supplied brick.  Instead, use a (fused) heavy duty 12V AC transformer.  The Z-1000 will get 12V in instead of 18V, so the top output will be about 2/3 of normal.

ps. see what happens when you type S-l-o-w-l-y!

Last edited by eddiem

I'll agree with the use of the variac.  You'll likely only need one to power all 12 of your transformers.  Just make sure you don't plug anything else into the 'turned down' power strip.   For dead simple and cheap, however a mechanical stop may be the way to go.  

A bit more complex route, if you were so inclined, and using engines with can motors, might be to open up the locomotives and add a string of diodes on one of the lines to the motor.  this would leave any lighted cars and such to keep getting full power while slowing the locomotive.  

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