Newbie Question

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by BlueMeanie, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. BlueMeanie

    BlueMeanie New Member

    Hi there!! I'm new around here and I have a quick question. I am looking at setting up a small (2.5'x4') mobile train set as a tail gate display for my PT Cruiser for when I go to shows. Unfortunately, I dont have an AC power source to tap into when I'm at the shows, so I need a battery powered option. Does anyone know of a battery powered option for HO gauge systems?



    All you need is love. - John and Paul
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Welcome to The Gauge, Blue!

    The first thought that sprang to mind was a converter - the kind you plug into the cigarette lighter that converts the 12V DC to AC to run a computer or whatever. Then you can plug your powerpack into the converter... to convert back... to DC to run your trains... :confused: :rolleyes:

    Wait, there has to be a better solution, since there is a DC source under the hood. I'm sure someone will be along with it soon...

  3. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    As Andrew pointed out, there is a DC source in the vehicle, but it still has to be regulated and adjustable. Plus you would need a source of low voltage AC for your turnout switches and some other accessories. Your easiest way would probably still be a DC to AC converter, then plug in your power pack to it. Just be cautious not to buy a cheap unit since the AC on some are just a modified square wave and could cause damage to some power packs.

  4. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Turnouts can be thrown with DC, and a simple throttle could be built as well. Just be sure to fuse it, car batteries packa wallop!
  5. Sir_Prize

    Sir_Prize Member

    I like the idea. I've looked into the Power Inverters. Some have
    very decent line conditioning, but you trade integrity with money.
    More-or-less the more money the better the quality (most times).
    I have seen some that are suggested by Computer Makers to run
    laptops. Do a search in a few Search Engines for Small layout
    Plans, there are several books out there that deal with this issue.
    You can do the same for the Automobile Power Converters. Even
    the last Model Railroader Planning Issue (that yearly thing they do) had a section on "cabinet top" layouts.
    The big questions are:
    1. What time do you want the Rail.
    2. What location (geographically) is the Rail.
    3. How much time and money can you put in.

    The last one is the killer.:rolleyes:
    Welcome aboard!
    I'd loved to see some pics of your PT, maybe even help with the
    theme. :rolleyes: ;)
  6. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    I suggest you join for an answer to this one. All layouts at one time were run by battery. Then there was the great switch to power packs. I'm sure there was a raging debate then about batteries vs power packs, just as there is a debate between dc power packs and dcc.

    The reason I recommend trainboard is that there is a person there who is called Watash (one of the moderators) who still runs his trains with batteries. So he can give you the scoop on them and how to do it. He is the only person I know who still runs his trains with batteries.

    Post your question in the HO forum there. That is one of his primary areas Watash hangs out. A title something like - "Watash - question on battery operation" just might do it.
  7. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    I agree with rsn48. Watash's handle on trainboard is "The answer man"
  8. BlueMeanie

    BlueMeanie New Member

    Thanks for the great info!! I wonder if my fish tank's UPS can power a train for a short time. hmmmm....

    I'm trying to remember the turning radius for HO, its 3 feet, eh?? The layout will be very simple, probably an oval with a few buildings in the center. I'll probably put in a drive-in diner, a 5 & dime, and a bunch of Hot Wheels PTS.

    Sir_Prize, here is an old, poor quality photo of my cruiser. I'll try to get a better one up soon.


    Thanks again for the info and please keep it coming!

  9. GNRail

    GNRail Member

    If you decide to run your train layout from your car battery just be aware that you may need a boost to get going after a few hours if the vehicle is not running. Traditional car batteries do not have large reserve capacities they are primarily designed to supply large starting currents for very short durations (that makes them very dangerous if you short the terminals together). If you want to use battery power you are better off to get yourself a "deep cycle" battery such as one use for trailers or electric trolling motors (12 Volt rating). They are designed to be discharged over longer periods. You will also require an external charger!

    As for controls if you are confortable building electronic projects there are alot of easy to make throttles. I believe a link was posted some time earlier. If you can't find it I can dig up the site for you.

    If you are not comfortable with DIY then running the Inverter with a deep cycle battery and powering your normal power pack from the 120V should be your simplest option.

    Now just to confuse things further WRT Inverters

    Check the power requirements for your power pack it should be either so many amps at 120 Volts or it could be in Watts (Watts are Current in amps X Voltage in volts for DC).

    Use this number of Watts to help you choose the inverter. Inverters are usually rated with surge capacity and continuous rating. Becareful that the rating in the bold lettering on the package is the continous number not the surge number.

    Another aside realizing that cost is always an issue is that heat is an enemy of electronic components. If you purchase an inverter just big enough for your power pack it will be running at full capacity and generating maximum heat. This may cause it to wear out faster than a slightly larger unit that you are runningat only half capacity.

    I guess I should stop now


    PS I missed reading your last post. UPS's are rated the same way as inverters . Typically UPS's for PC's are designed for 10-20 minute operation at 1/2 rated load.
  10. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    UPS's can get grumpy driving a linear (transformer'ed) power supply. Typical cheaper UPS's like for computers, put out a stepped wave and make a heck of a current surge at the transformer. The transformer or the UPS can burn. Not always a problem, it depends on factors (that won't be published) about the two products. True sine wave output UPS's are very expensive.

    Best bet I think is run off the battery, just build or modify a throttle to bypass the transformer and the rectifier and connect straight to a cig lighter adaptor.

    And welcome to the gauge!
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I would suggest you install a second deep cycle battery in your car with one of the isolators sold for rv use so the second battery can be run down dead without affecting your main battery. Deep cycle batteries, designed for use in electric vehicles like golf carts, can be completely discharged and then charged back up without damage. I would also suggest on a small layout that you consider ground throws to operate turnouts instead of electric machines.
  12. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Regarding the posts recommending either a different or additional battery, I (let me say I'm no expert!) doubt that the less than 1/2 amp draw that can be expected from such a small layout will drain a good battery in less than, say, 5 or 6 hours. Somehow I don't think the layout would be operated anywhere near that long. And the engine could be started after an hour or two to charge the battery in any event. A throttle could be as simple as a rheostat and toggle switch mounted in a plastic box.
  13. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    And here I thought you were a beatles fan :D :eek: :D Nice car!!!! I Love the Flames!! :) Welcome aboard!! I was thinking of making a "Shelf" layout in N or Z just for the rear of my PT. (2002) Somebody just suggested it to me in the chat room a couple days ago. :) Did you know the power outlet in the rear only seems to turn on with the Ign key on?? At least mine does... I run my Z gauge with a 9V battery. All you would need to do is build a regulator circuit. and drop the voltage to 9V. I haven't experimented with N or HO yet.

    Here's a site for Circuits

    So where abouts do you live??? I've had the Woodie in a couple cruises & I'm entering it in a show in Sept. I also have a '72 Catalina that I show at the antique car shows. And the Mustang is mine too. :) btw - the building in the background is one of the only remaining Baldwin Lima Hamilton buildings.

    Attached Files:

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