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I'm pretty disappointed in Menards right now.  Been through 2 Amtrak stations and both of them play a modulating whine (almost a scale) when the  animated sign is lit and a constant whine when they are detached from the circuit board.

Then I do a bit of research and find that Menards had known about this for years.  It's so loud that everyone in the living room can hear it on my Christmas layout.   Why they heck haven't they done anything about it?

But I digress, so my questions are has anyone had success with ...

- a lower power transformer?

-a different power distributor that runs without hum, if only to run the exterior lights, which are connected with a JST plug?

- wiring the Amtrak sign wires together so they light continuously (with a different power source)

-removing the Black cardboard backing and just putting a regular bulb in there to illuminate a the structure like an old Christmas house?

I really like the structure itself as I have memories seeing many of these when riding Amtrak as a kid.  However I'm not sure I want to invest more in this and the noise is intolerably annoying for individuals with intact hearing.



Open to suggestions.

Last edited by Eilif
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It’s the nature of the power circuit for the animated electroluminescent lights, not a menards problem.  The Miller engineering lights do it, the Atlas theater marquee does it.  Just turn up the volume on the trains or disable the animated lights.

Your spot on, also for the overall quality and price in O gauge today, Menards is a welcome addition to the hobby.

I bought a Hunter 300 watt landscape transformer several years ago that gives off an annoying whine.  I never returned it and probably should have.  A few years later I bought a 600 watt version that makes zero noise and it a work horse. I bought both of them for powering lights and some accessories.

Why does one whine and the other does not from the same manufacturer?  Should I assume one is just defective?

Mike

It’s the nature of the power circuit for the animated electroluminescent lights, not a menards problem.  The Miller engineering lights do it, the Atlas theater marquee does it.  Just turn up the volume on the trains or disable the animated lights.

How does one disable the animation circuit?

  The buzz is even louder when I disconnect the animated lights. And it continues even when disconnecting the overhead lighting.

I'm prepared to be partially wrong if theres a way to silence the whine by disabling the animation, but otherwise it's definitely Menards problem if they install a sub par electronics package.  ,

@IRON HORSE posted:

I bought a Hunter 300 watt landscape transformer several years ago that gives off an annoying whine.  I never returned it and probably should have.  A few years later I bought a 600 watt version that makes zero noise and it a work horse. I bought both of them for powering lights and some accessories.

Why does one whine and the other does not from the same manufacturer?  Should I assume one is just defective?

Mike

It's not defective if it supplies power and does so safely.  The whine is an undocumented feature that allows the price to be reasonable.

If you don't like this feature buy a more expensive unit.

The marketing whiz that signed off on the whine was betting that the end user would prefer a less expensive unit over a quiet one.  As such this is a marketing issue and not a technical one.  So, from a technical perspective it's not defective.

You get what you pay for.

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

It's not defective if it supplies power and does so safely.  The whine is an undocumented feature that allows the price to be reasonable.

If you don't like this feature buy a more expensive unit.

The marketing whiz that signed off on the whine was betting that the end user would prefer a less expensive unit over a quiet one.  As such this is a marketing issue and not a technical one.  So, from a technical perspective it's not defective.

You get what you pay for.

Mike

Got a nice chuckle out of..

"an undocumented feature that allows the price to be reasonable."

That's a hilarious way of saying "we  cheaped out and hoped our customers wouldn't notice or care"

We're talking about an 80 dollar product here. Regardless of price comparison, that's enough cash to expect quiet operation.

As I said above if there's a way to disable the animation circuit and kill the buzz I'm all for it but so far it seems to make the buzz even when all lights are disconnected.

I've got a number of other LED items on the layout, and nothing else buzzes.   I realize there are plenty of Menards fans who will put up with this sort of malarkey. I'm a hardcore bargain guy myself but I've always preferred a budget product do fewer things well rather than more things poorly.



Anyway...

Continuing the search for a solution, is it safe to test the animated sign wires with low voltage source (an AA battery maybe) to determine which pairs of leads light each section?

Is there a standard wiring pattern for this sort of thing? I'm looking at 2 plugs each with 8 connections.

Brought out the box of power supplies, plugs and such. Will try some things out this evening and report back.

Last edited by Eilif

@Eilif,

I'm glad you did but I wasn't really trying to minimize your point.  To me it seems like 98% of Menards customers don't have an issue with the whine.  It's come up here in the forum before, but not often and not in a widespread fashion.  You are one of the few who have highlighted it.

I'll say it a different way.  They, and other retailers and manufacturers, can't design products to cover every possibility, especially when there's little demand.  At one time such overdesign didn't have a big price tag but it has in our hobby for at least the last 60 years.

$80.00 in today's market, with shortages and inflation rampant, is peanuts for what you get.

With all of this in mind most people are happy with it, whine and all.

You're asking for too much at this price point.  To eliminate the whine would cost Menards big bucks, to be passed on to you and to all the others who don't have a problem with it.  Since they outnumber you 49 to 1, and they're likely to stop buying because the fix will be too expensive for them, Menards isn't likely to upgrade future production.

However I do wish you luck finding a 'fix'.  It will certainly help the others who have spotted the same issue and have the same problem with it.

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

It's an interesting niche Mike,

For an operating O gauge layout it is probably not noticable over the din. I assume the novelty of the moving sign is entirely worth it if you can't hear it over the trains. Likewise, if (as often happens over time) an individual has lost the ability to hear some of the very high end frequencies it would print not be noticable.

Unfortunately for a constantly lit, living room Christmas display in a home without any hearing loss and without constantly running trains it's a real annoyance.

With a bit of chagrin I notice that (unlike HD)  Menards doesn't have customer reviews on it's site so you can't leave a note to let folks know about this sort of thing.  At least a google search reveals this issue.

Did a deeper dive and there isn't a plastic kit in O scale of a similar Amtrak station (if there was, this would be going back)  so I'll be keeping this one.

Will report back on progress or lack thereof as I experiment.

Last edited by Eilif

It's not defective if it supplies power and does so safely.  The whine is an undocumented feature that allows the price to be reasonable.

If you don't like this feature buy a more expensive unit.

The marketing whiz that signed off on the whine was betting that the end user would prefer a less expensive unit over a quiet one.  As such this is a marketing issue and not a technical one.  So, from a technical perspective it's not defective.

You get what you pay for.

Mike

No, Mike, I don't think so because both transformers were made by the same company, just different watts, I'm pretty sure one is just a little defective with that annoying whine.  I have the whiny one reserved for, as Bill Sherry suggested, the outdoor mice. The 600 watt unit powers lights wonderfully on the layout.

I have several Menards buildings and the only whiny one is the Red Owl.  As I stated on a different post on the same subject, I think it is the flashing light that causes it.  And I will probably disconnect it and put in a solid LED light.  The Miller Engineering signs I have may have a slight minor whine (that I don't hear)-- but nowhere near my Red Owl whine.  I'm a fan of Menards, warts and all because they offer the best valuable in the hobby for what they sell.  They have cool buildings and good customer service and if there are issues with the electronics, you can either modify them or exchange or return them -- which this post confirmed at the beginning.  So I do agree you get what you pay for.

@IRON HORSE posted:

No, Mike, I don't think so because both transformers were made by the same company, just different watts, I'm pretty sure one is just a little defective with that annoying whine.  I have the whiny one reserved for, as Bill Sherry suggested, the outdoor mice. The 600 watt unit powers lights wonderfully on the layout.

I have several Menards buildings and the only whiny one is the Red Owl.  As I stated on a different post on the same subject, I think it is the flashing light that causes it.  And I will probably disconnect it and put in a solid LED light.  The Miller Engineering signs I have may have a slight minor whine (that I don't hear)-- but nowhere near my Red Owl whine.  I'm a fan of Menards, warts and all because they offer the best valuable in the hobby for what they sell.  They have cool buildings and good customer service and if there are issues with the electronics, you can either modify them or exchange or return them -- which this post confirmed at the beginning.  So I do agree you get what you pay for.

What device do you use for non blinking led control?

I remembered that I had a Sauerkraut factory that I'd gotten in a trade and have no plans to use. I popped it's circuit into the Amtrak just to get the regular lights going. Works silently.  It's a simpler circuit with only a three part animation on one sign though it does have a rate knob which the Amtrak does not.

Sauerkraut circuit

IMG_20221204_174552378

Amtrak Circuit



IMG_20221204_174516134



Next up to try and figure some way to chain the Amtrak signs into an always on configuration.

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Last edited by Eilif

Finally getting around to messing with this some more and I've got a basic electronic question.

This is the wire coming from the Amtrak signs.

IMG_20221228_130354425

For all parts of all 4 signs to be always on, is there any reason not to simply wire all the grey together and the reds together and power them from one source?

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Last edited by Eilif

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