"Universal" Motors: AC Vs. DC

I'm sure this has been discussed before, but since every site I've looked at seems to have a different answer, I thought I'd ask here.

Does the universal motor in an American Flyer engine actually run any different or better on DC?

I have a large and very nice Heathkit power pack, which runs my DC trains wonderfully. However, although it can run my AF engines very well, it does show a tendency to trip the "overload" circuit when powering one of these AC/DC locos. These same engines run fine with my MRC AC pack, with no signs of "overloading". Is this due to amperage, or what is the cause?

Any thoughts or experiences are most welcome. Thanks.

Mark in Oregon 

Original Post

Mark,

The open frame motors in the Gilbert locomotives. especially steamers with a smoke unit, require a lot more current than modern can motored diesels or even steamers.  If your diesel has two motors, you can almost double the power requirements.  Your Heathkit power pack may not have enough wattage to handle a locomotive, especially if it has a few passenger cars behind it.  Check the power output on the Heathkit compared to the MRC one.  I'll bet the wattage on the MRC is higher. 

 

 

Thanks Jerry

The info on the MRC (Tech ll Trainpower AC) shows "0-17VAC Variable /18VAC Fixed Total Output 40VA"

The Heathkit (RP-1065) shows 0 to 15 volts and "Overcurrent Trip point greater than 1.5 amperes"

Does that help?

In any case, I remember seeing a "Tracks Ahead" episode featuring the "Robinson Layout", and the narrator says that running on "filtered DC" makes the trains run quieter, pull more, and run cooler. It then goes to show Mr. Robinson explaining how installing a rectifier (available at Radio Shack!    will do the trick.

It's just something I've been curious about...

Mark in Oregon

Your HealthKit power supply of only 1.5 amps is no where enough.  Need a DC supply with at least ten amps capable.  Your MRC power pack is only some what better at only outputting 2.3 amps at full volts.

https://www.rapidtables.com/ca...o-va-calculator.html

Volt-amp and amp are different.  You can argue the technical aspects, but I think VA is often used just because of the higher numbers involved; the numbers seem more impressive.

Ten amp is big transformer.  I'd say it's "what you want" more so than what you need (minimalist need). But buy big and the future is ready for "anything"  

Ac will tend to run cooler than dc. Everything, even wire, gets a tiny break from ac's rising and falling of voltage each cycle (60hz.. 60 cycles per second) Dc is a constant push, not much rise and fall of voltage beyond some latent "bumps" from flipping the negative ac wave and smoothing all the voltage peaks with a capacitor. (batteries have no lumps... pure dc)

A Lionel ZW, KW or A.F. 18b, 32b  should be plenty for postwar A.F. (with bridge rectifier used for your dc trains..$5-ish, over rate it to near double for a cool, non-cooking, long lasting component ). 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Okay then Gary, I think you're no doubt correct.

I just tested the Heathkit (again) by running an AF #310; I tried this engine because it does not have a smoke unit, so I figured the current draw would be (somewhat) less. It did fine for about a minute, then it over loaded. 

 I re-hooked up the MRC; it ran the 310 fine. I'm always impressed with how quiet this engine is. 

 I tried (2) different locos with smoke; a 312 and then a 302AC. Both ran well, with plenty of smoke and room to spare on the throttle. I will say that this unit does have very nice low-end speed control.

Dunno it this proves anything, other than I guess the Heathkit needs to stick with my other (DC) stuff... 

Mark in Oregon

VA means volts times amps.    A power pack rated at 25 VA means 2.5 amps at 10 volts, or any combination of numbers that multiply to 25.    That means if the loco is drawing 5 amps (highly  unlikely), then the max voltage the power pack will put out is 5.    Conversly if the loco draws 1 amp, the power pack theortically could  support 25 volts but probably has circuitry to limit it to about 12.   

The amperage draw from any loco/item is what determines the required power pack/breaker rating.    The heathkit at 1.5 amps is a pretty lightweight power pack.   It probably will work pretty well with a lot of more modern locos with more efficient motors but not so well with older stuff, espically multiple units.

The Heathkit transformer I’m thinking of was designed with HO trains in mind (single-motor, open frame or can, DC) from the 1960s and ‘70s.

The max amperage draw of the typical HO locomotive of that era would have under 1 amp and, more importantly, would have responded more aptly to a lower voltage setting, operating realistically at less than 12 volts, thus allowing a higher amperage draw within the VA rating.

Your AF locomotive probably runs at close to 15 to 16 volts and also demands more amps at that voltage. My O gauge locomotives with dual can motors can draw between 2 and 3 amps at normal speeds and under load from my MTH Z-4000 transformer, which displays both the applied voltage and amperage.

You can’t simply use any DC power source to run a universal motor, and you always need to determine the amperage requirements in any electrical application.

Jim R. 

My thanks for all the suggestions and comments. The only reason I brought this up in the first place was that if indeed DC was "better", I thought I might look into that as an option.

I have a couple of post-war transformers, but they both start around 5-6 volts (I think), so the locos tend to "leap" into action.

As I mentioned, the relatively "little" MRC Tech ll runs my locos very well, and at all speeds. What I like best about it is that it actually starts at "0", so even these old '40s-'50s beasts are capable of nice, slow speed starts, with plenty of "high end" for decent smoke action as well.

Guess I'll stick with it for the time being.

Thanks again.

Mark in Oregon

There is a cure for the jumpy 5v start up; diodes on the output to the track.

+5volt .           --->l---->l----- +3.5v

+5volt(same) -----l<----l<----  +3.5v (same...connect ends)

A general purpose diode ("a one way check valve") will eat at least /about .75 v . So 2 or 3 inline eats about 1.5v-2.25v.DC. ....For AC, since it's power moves both directions, you need double the diodes, 4 or 6 diodes, faced to opposite each other and connected, + to - & - to + (arrows/lines above) to form an inline bi-dirrection string. The string can go on one output (if equipped with 2+) or just as often at the common to lower multiple tracks/acc.s..

  Bridge rectifiers are just 4 diodes in one package and can be an alternative choice. Maybe cheaper and more common with heavier amps. Overating on amps gives a cooler mod (the power loss =heat) over on voltage is good for spike resistance. Rate to the max transformer output. (Parraleling diodes for increasing amps doesn't work well IMO. They tend to fail that way. I'd run two of a same batch/same brand parrallel of I was barely over min tolerance though.)

Now you'd start at 3.5v-2.75v (etc) while the transformer is at 5v output. Your max voltage will be shy the same amount fyi. 

This trick , plus removal of diodes temporarily is one way of getting AC  with a an offset wave output (+ > -) or (- > +). Lionel uses that offset with a special DC only relay for blowing whistles.

    Especially where a linear motor is used (solinoid coil and plunger... Reverse unit?), DC can more likely cause the plunger to become magnetised and stick to a steel strike pad/stop. It happens with AC too, and DC usually don't use an e-unit, but an AC engine run on DC might be a different story as the fields are more constant.  

And back to cooling, AC coils are expecting the cooling break. They run hotter and pull harder on DC.

This cooling can apply to motors too fyi. That would a matter of case by case as to which way is "best".   (Just like old Williams Pittman's on half wave vs full wave AC: heat/power at X-speed via timing of coils is a balancing act.) (Half wave is like bumpy DC/ or one direction of diodes on AC...or a major offset thats skipping one wave 100%) .   The point is that you may get more heat on DC, you may get less, but with heat, DC can be more brutal to equipment in ways

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





RoyBoy posted:

Just get a postwar American Flyer or Lionel transformer and put a bridge rectifier between the out put and the track. Simple and cheap.

True - but without some filtering on the BR's output you then have a huge 120Hz ripple in the resulting DC.  It certainly will work - but with that amount of ripple I'm not sure that any "benefits" of running a universal motor on DC would still accrue.

IT consultant by day, 3rd generation Lionel guy (raising a 4YO 4th generation Lionel Lil' Man) by night in the suburbs of the greatest city in the world - Chicago. Home of the ever-changing Illinois Concretus Ry.

JTrains posted:
RoyBoy posted:

Just get a postwar American Flyer or Lionel transformer and put a bridge rectifier between the out put and the track. Simple and cheap.

True - but without some filtering on the BR's output you then have a huge 120Hz ripple in the resulting DC.  It certainly will work - but with that amount of ripple I'm not sure that any "benefits" of running a universal motor on DC would still accrue.

The "Tracks Ahead" fellow did indeed mention "Filtered" DC...whatever that means.

Mark in Oregon

A filter in this case is smoothing the ripple of voltage peaks in AC to DC convertion. On an osililscope the AC waves appear like:  nununu . After a rectification of the negative wave you have  nnnnnn  (or you can produce a  "negative" version uuuuuu )  but ideal dc looks like ------- . A capacitor can be compaired to a battery, storing power fast and releasing power fast. Added to a rippled ac line, it can help maintain the peak voltage as a smoother line on scope by suppling voltage during the valleys between the supply peaks, then it returns to charging up again, very quickly, during the next peak. The result is little voltage fluctuation or low ripple.

  Ripple and other instability can be confused with intentional modulation for signal/communication purposes by some modern components...they like "clean" "filtered" "smooth" power.

  Filtering ac is more about choking off erratic slopes and spikes in a line, and developing a consistency of voltage/hertz

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





To resurrect this thread a bit...

Currently on eBay is an AF 4-8-4 #332 DC: what type of power pack would have existed back then (the listing says "1948"!) to run this, if my modern packs can't handle "regular" AF locos?

Again, and as always, just curious. 

Mark in Oregon

To operate their DC only engines Gilbert sold 3 products. #14 Electronic Rectiformer, rated at 150W, 1948. The #16 Electronic Rectiformer, 1950. The #15 Directronic Rectifier which is a 4A rated selenium disc full wave bridge rectifier with an included DPDT reversing switch.

In the older posts there is mention of VA ratings. Watts and VA are only equal in DC circuits and AC circuits with purely resistive loads. Universal motors present a load that is a combination of resistive and inductive so the current will be out of phase, lagging , the voltage. This results in Watts and VARS. Watts are real power and Vars are reactive power. Only real power provides work and heating in the circuit. VA is just the product of volts times amps ignoring the phase angle between them. In DC the phase angle is zero so it is a meaningful rating. In inductive AC circuits VA is always greater than the actual available wattage from the power supply. This is why universal motors usually run better but hotter on DC, the Vars are eliminated because the phase angle between voltage and current is zero providing more watts (real power) to the motor. This is a simplified explanation but it may help.

Tom

Just to give some dimensions to the current draw of Postwar Flyer locomotives with Universal AC/DC motors, attached are links to the factory service manuals with upper specification limits on the current draw under various loads.

http://myflyertrains.org/gallery/album209/285_295_1

http://myflyertrains.org/gallery/album209/4745_1

You can see that a typical AF steam locomotive with smoke/choo choo may draw a maximum of 2.1 amps at 12 volts when pulling four boxcars.  An dual-motored Alco AA set would draw up to 3.25 amps at 12 volts while pulling four passenger cars.  Although the Electrical Engineers among us may quibble with applying this relationship to AC, I have always used the approximation of Volts x Amps = Watts.  Therefore, to be able to run your dual-motored Alco up to wide open throttle (15-16V on most Flyer transformers), would require a transformer of at least 52 Watts (16V x 3.25 amps).  And that does not include capacity for anything else such as switches or other operating accessories or even lighted cars. 

This explains why Gilbert typically included a 4B 100 Watt transformer with their dual-motored diesel sets.

 

sgriggs posted:

Just to give some dimensions to the current draw of Postwar Flyer locomotives with Universal AC/DC motors, attached are links to the factory service manuals with upper specification limits on the current draw under various loads.

http://myflyertrains.org/gallery/album209/285_295_1

http://myflyertrains.org/gallery/album209/4745_1

You can see that a typical AF steam locomotive with smoke/choo choo may draw a maximum of 2.1 amps at 12 volts when pulling four boxcars.  An dual-motored Alco AA set would draw up to 3.25 amps at 12 volts while pulling four passenger cars.  Although the Electrical Engineers among us may quibble with applying this relationship to AC, I have always used the approximation of Volts x Amps = Watts.  Therefore, to be able to run your dual-motored Alco up to wide open throttle (15-16V on most Flyer transformers), would require a transformer of at least 52 Watts (16V x 3.25 amps).  And that does not include capacity for anything else such as switches or other operating accessories or even lighted cars. 

This explains why Gilbert typically included a 4B 100 Watt transformer with their dual-motored diesel sets.

 

Wow...guess I've been used to can motors, so that seems like a lot of current. 

So then...if I wanted to run my Flyers with DC {and I guess there's no real advantage in doing so (?)} I would then need a large capacity unit; perhaps like one made for G scale?

Mark in Oregon

The current draw in the Factory service Manual is for new engines on level track with a light load. Put that dual motor Alco on a 4% grade pulling 5 lighted passenger cars and dummy A and B units the complete consist will draw at least 5A. The 4B is 100W input, not output. The output is 75 to 80 watts, basically a 5A output transformer when continuously loaded. It will run the consist I describe plus 2 pairs of track switches and a Talking Station and billboard whistle. After 15 minutes running the train and accessories it will be hot to the touch.

I have no experience with DC supplies for track power other than HO and N. My HO supply was 80VA, it would not run my AF trains. My recommendation is at least 5A for each Gilbert train you want to run plus a separate supply for all the lighted accessories. I used a dedicated 4B just to power all the turnouts (8 pairs) with their lighted controllers.

Be careful about the ratings, almost all are input or primary side VA or watts. Multiply the input rating by 80% to approximate the output rating.  If operating Gilbert trains with universal motors use .9 for the power factor to convert VA to watts. For example a 150VA AV power supply input rating is 150x.8x.9=108W output. At 15V it will supply 7.2A. If the output is filtered DC leave out the Power Factor. All this a good reason to switch to high efficiency can motors.

Sorry about the italics, not sure what I did.

Tom

Mark,

Either that, or do what I did.  I got a 10 amp full wave bridge rectifier from Radio Shack a while ago.  See the attached photo with the dime for size comparison.  Since they're not found much any more, I'm sure there are other suppliers out there.  I made a small "project box" with AC inputs on one side and the circuitry inside which included a DPDT slide switch for reversing polarity.  The other side of the box had two terminals which goes to the track.  And because I like to complicate things, I also have a DPDT switch on the box that allows me to select AC or DC output.  I hook the box's input up to one of my Flyer 13B or 18B transformers, which gives me plenty of leeway in the power department.

The nicest thing about running DC is that you can reverse the locomotive when you want, and not have to go the F-N-R cycle that a the reverse units make you go through.  But if the loco has a DC motor, it's mandatory to use DC, like my 332 Northern which pulls 5 illuminated heavyweight cars easily.  It's also handy for any other DC locos that I have.

 

 

Attachments

Photos (2)
JTrains posted:
RoyBoy posted:

Just get a postwar American Flyer or Lionel transformer and put a bridge rectifier between the out put and the track. Simple and cheap.

True - but without some filtering on the BR's output you then have a huge 120Hz ripple in the resulting DC.  It certainly will work - but with that amount of ripple I'm not sure that any "benefits" of running a universal motor on DC would still accrue.

There are no benefits to running a series wound universal motor on DC. They run the same as they do on AC.

RoyBoy

There are, in fact, two advantages for DC over AC with a universal motor. With the bridge rectifier modification circuit, rotation becomes dependent on polarity like a can motor. (Can eliminate Eunit). The second is they run much smoother with less wear on the brushes.

The issue of smoothness is based on design; timing and fields used. The way and where of polarity changes are based on a personal preference for DC. I could just as well argue the cooling period between AC waves has a cooling advantage. Don't forget that DC voltage drop per foot and fancy switch wiring to reverse loop either. There is only "best" for you and if it's Tuesday or Wednesday at the power company. Purple Hemi, Cross Ram, or Ford Hemi... now get it to "hook up". The brushes wear is a bit into electrical theory with particals jumping with current, especially with the contstant direcction change of ac. I'll conscede to that, but I only need to clean or change brushes every decade or so anyhow. If it bothered me, a brushless motor would be my quest. Occasionally you will get an open frame AC motor that does not like DC. It will run, but hot, jerky till you hit just the right speed. I found that out running postwar on car batteries at car shows, and on vacation in the woods, etc ..where rain is REALLY boring.. Any hot motor continuous motor may or may not, benefit from being run on half wave or rectified AC as during the ramp up and down of voltage waves the return of waves to 0v provides cooling time. Poles and fields balance, and timing is what decides smoothness. That said, most of mine run smooth on DC. The first time out on a battery I forgot about the whistle though and had to couple loco to coupler with wire as I didn't grab a non Whistler. It was a last minute thing, the stuff was still in the truck, new diesel & track, all I needed was some diodes for a throttle, (took ceramic resistors too) cars, a steamer, fishing pole, box, duffel and bedroll. That's best for a rained out Saturday .

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Once again, I like to resurrect this thread, and here's why:

During the course of this discussion, I learned that the smoke unit draws a fair bit of current, so that's perhaps why any of my DC power packs would over-load and shut off when attempting to run the post-war Flyer steamers I have.

When I first started this thread, I hadn't yet obtained my 1947-ish(?) #300 Atlantic. This, as you know, has the reverse unit in the boiler, as it has no smoke unit. Now, this particular engine runs very well; better even than my other Flyer locos. 

I was doing something else with my DC MRC "Controlmaster VI" power pack, and for some reason decided to try this loco with this pack and sure enough, it runs really well, without over-loading the power pack.

Is this because of the lack of the smoke unit? If so, why can't I also run my #310 with this same unit? I tried it before, and, like the smoke-equipped engines, this also non-smoker would over-load the pack.

Really none of this matters, as I'm perfectly happy now that I have a 15B, which works great with all my Flyer locos; I'm just curious... 

Mark in Oregon

  Sure, a smoke unit uses lots of power. That supply might even have trouble with just a smoke unit alone if it's 1.5a .

You're making less available for the motor, splitting whats there. Your smoke unit is likely weaker than it will be with more power as well.

  The breaker shutting off is telling you that the draw is too high.  It's either wire/track issues, or the loco draws more than max output.

An underpowered motor can get very hot without ever tripping a breaker. Always supply excess amps. Always avoid supplying excess voltage. (or too low, too near stall voltage)

It doesn't matter the scale or ac or dc, more amps supplied than used is a given. My advice is always buy plenty of amps (and close match volt range) the largest you can manage really. That way you are always covered for bigger, better, and just plain more.


 

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





You could pick up a Bridge Rectifier for a few bucks, and turn the higher amp 15b AC to DC too. That might allow you a new perspective on ac vs dc .  I'm a firm believer in forming your own opinion. Screw what me, he, or she say.

I thought AF actually had more dc trains than Lionel or Marx. It might be wise to be ready too. A 10a Brdg Rect. & dpdt toggle and you're set ($10 total after wire ?).

I see some varience in my postwar (O) from ac to dc.  Some better some worse. All satisfactory!

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"

 

"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.

 





Ukaflyers response is a good one, basically you got lucky with the 300.

Here are some basics for Flyer steamers. The sum of the DC resistance of the armature and the field of a Gilbert universal motor is about 2.6 ohms. So if 8V is applied at startup the motor draws 3A for a short period as the speed builds up. The motor has a 6 to 8 Ohm AC impedance in operation pulling a short train, less up grades or pulling a longer train. The apparent DC resistance if a DC supply is used is about the same. The reverse unit coil, if early production has 15 Ohm resistance, if later production it is 27 Ohms. So at 8V it draws another 1/4 to 1/2A. A boiler smoke unit draws about 1/2A, a tender unit much more because it also has a second motor. Add to this the current to supply any illuminated cars in the train.

No HO Power Pack will reliably provide this much current. The VA rating is at rated voltage, typically 12VDC. A 35VA transformer will supply a maximum of 3A if the rating is at the output, much less if that is an input rating, more like 2A.

Gilbert made a lot of DC motored Northerns and 0-8-0's. The Permanent Magnet DC motors used a different armature that has a resistance of 2.6 Ohms to make up for the resistance of the missing wound field. No reverse unit was needed, these were efficient performing engines when new. Over 70 years the magnetic field strength of the AlNiCo field magnets will have degraded so they generally do not run as well as when new.

Try what Adriatic says, it is very inexpensive. Personally I still run mine on AC.

Tom

First off, I want to thank everyone who has chimed in today; I appreciate the interest.

My thoughts on re-opening this discussion was based on:

1. My newest acquisition (the 300) does not have a smoke unit so I thought maybe that, in and of itself, is why my DC unit was able to run it, and not my other Flyer steam engines.

2. Since my 310 (which also does not have the smoker, but would throw the breaker) made me think that perhaps it just wasn't an efficient a runner as the 300. I based this theory on the fact that the 300 does run a bit smoother and quieter than the 310...

3. One last thing: when I started this thread, I was using original Flyer track; am now using Gargraves. I'm seeing almost no sparking from the tender wheels, and my lighted cabooses don't flicker hardly at all. Could there be a connection between the track conductivity and current draw (if that's the correct term)?

4. In any case (as I stated earlier) everything runs great off my 15B, so it makes all this somewhat moot; again, I was just wondering.

5. I promise I'll never bring up this subject ever again! 

Mark in Oregon

Mark,your thoughts in #1 and#2 are likely correct. Item #3, the lack of sparking would make a very, very small difference in the current (Amps) supplied from the transformer. It does not take much energy to make those small sparks and wheel pits. Now, if you are starting to weld the wheels to the rail then that would be different!!!

Regarding #5, remember Sean Connery, Never Say Never Again!

Tom

AmFlyer posted:

Mark,your thoughts in #1 and#2 are likely correct. Item #3, the lack of sparking would make a very, very small difference in the current (Amps) supplied from the transformer. It does not take much energy to make those small sparks and wheel pits. Now, if you are starting to weld the wheels to the rail then that would be different!!!

Regarding #5, remember Sean Connery, Never Say Never Again!

Tom

Re: #5: ...  ...

I mentioned the track only because I thought that if the electricity had a "cleaner" path, it might effect the performance of the engine: I guess not.

Mark in Oregon

 

Add Reply

Likes (2)
Ted SAlan Mancus


OGR Publishing, Inc. PO Box 218, Hilliard, OH 43026 330-757-3020
www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
×