Severe Layout Power Failure.

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by green_elite_cab, May 4, 2008.

  1. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    My layout has been acting strangely, to say the least. It is a DCC powered layout.

    Trains just stop working on most of it, and there is almost no reason. If i fiddle with the tracks of one block, a totally unrelated block shuts down.

    The track is clean

    Nothing can run on the outside loop of my layout, despite various feeders to each block unless i bump my throttle, and then the train will move freely, then stop right in the middle of a 9" section of straight rail. The real kicker is that the track section is only dead in the center. If i nudge it either way without anything bridging the gape between rails other than the rail joiners, it works. I pulled this track out, and it is still straight, so it does not appear to be out of gauge or kinked. the only block that works is the one where the common rail is wired in, and a couple of other blocks on that inner oval between. My indsutrial park never fails to fail, and for some god forsaken reason, nothing i do can ever get the rails to connect electrically.

    Its as if the whole layout died. I might check to see if any wiring got yanked, but the layout had been operating fine until right after the holidays (the same thing it does every year), but this time its more catastrophic.

    Should i totally replace or relay the rails and wire hook ups? Right now its all ancient sectional track i layed down 4 years ago. I have some spare flex track, but not enough for the whole layout. I'd also hate to do this, because i'd have to repaint everything. I've already resorted to replacing one block on part of my layout with flex track because of the gaps between sectional track (i'm thinking that part of the layout was the rest of the layout's achilles heal, because with it disconnected, nothing works right).

    also, i can't get the solder to go between rail joints (I figured this might alleviate some of the porblems). No amont of flush or scraping/cleaning will get it to go where i want it. I know i've seen a billion articles on how to solder rail joints, but it never works.
  2. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    It does seem as if rail joints are your problem. There is no need for the solder to get bewtween the gaps between the rails...There should be very little gap, of course...What needs to be well soldered is the rail joiner to BOTH rails. You need a soldering iron that is very hot so you need only touch the rail side and joiner for a couple of seconds to make the solder flow. You should also use soldering flux to make sure the solder flows freely into both halves of the joiner. If your iron is not hot enough, it may seem you've got a good joint when in reality you have a cold joint which is as bad as no joint at all....Check your iron temperature by touching the tip with a bit of solder. It should melt instantly...If it doesn't, it's not hot enough. I use a 40 watt "pencil" tip iron, tin-lead solder, and flux. Works like a charm...
  3. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I use a 40 watt as well, and it did as you said. i even got the flux in there, but the solder sticks to the iron, it won't flow off, even when i hold it there.
  4. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    GEC: how many amps do you have powering the layout and how much load do you have? The last DCC layout I worked on had a 2.5 amp supply and tons of locos. We had all sorts of odd problems that we finally thought were due to inadequate power. (layout was dismantled before we solved anything).
  5. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    i have a prodigy express, but the only locomotives on the layout at the time was an Atlas U23B , a Bachmann 44 tonner and a Bachman E60CP (the newer kind). I added a U34CH, to try and nudge the E60CP since it was stuck on a known trouble spot, and it to, would not start or run more than a 1/8". that seems within its limits.

    I did have lighted Amtrak cars on the layout this particular time, but its been giving me problems without them as well.
  6. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    You wouldn't be using steel track, would you..?? Steel won't take tin/lead solder-you'll need silver solder, good clean surfaces to join....and lots of heat....
  7. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

    Is the tip of the iron clean?
  8. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Sounds to me too as if the rail is steel. I didn't think that steel rail was that common, but you should be able to verify this with a small magnet. :rolleyes::-D

  9. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    While I do wipe off the tip of the iron everytime i'm finished, and i also leave a new coating of solder on it before it cools, I suppose the tip of the iron does look pretty scary as far as cleanliness goes.

    As it turns out, i was trying to solder steel alloy to brass,:rolleyes::mrgreen:, so yeah, in this case, you might be right. I do have some silver solder though. i'll have to try it.

    In the case of the catenary i'm building though, i'm only using Nickel Silver rail, and i'm also soldering the rails directly to eachother. Is there any special considerations i should take into account?

    Most of my track is ancient, and I only bought what i didn't have lying around from family memembers or other secondhand places. The track hasn't really failed me, and i only have to clean it every once in a while to keep things rolling.

    In reality, it looks like the Steel rail is worse than the brass! on top of it rusting, steal rail seems to accumulate more dirt, among other problems.

    However, i found the cause of the problem. Because my layout was originally block wired, i realized that my out oval was only connected to the "common" rail in two places, both at crossovers. there was a huge gap in the rails here that must have formed over the winter or something, so i just repositioned the track alittle bit closer so that the lights on my AEM7 turned on (the numberboards light on their own wherever there is power, they make great test locomotives). I used track nails to keep the track from shifting (but i didn't hit them down far enough that the head could touch the ties. Thats a one way ticket to more track failure).

    As for the other sections, it turns out that me working on one of the blocks dislocated a feeder, and since the block wasn't fully connected, the common rail on that end wasn't getting across, which probably caused issues there. I think once i get the new track layed in that section, it will roll again!:thumb:sign1
  10. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I probably should have suspected as much. I knew that the rails were already kinda gapped, simply because when i built it, the track didn't fit together right then. In fact, that particular spot has always been trouble, and i replaces the switch there earlier last year, but i never actually secured it. Later on, Trains would die when they passed on the adjacent tracks around that turnout on the outer oval, but i thought the problem was on the oval itself. When i started testing connections, i bumped the turnout with my hand, and there we go, power!

    My favorite problem is when a brand new locomotive's wheels are mysteriously dirty, lol. You almost won't believe it until you wipe some goo-gone on with a paper towel and scrub it off.
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    GEC, something to look at in the future, if you have problems getting a hot enough iron to properly melt the solder, do you have an iron with interchangeable tips? If the tips are interchangeable, a loose or dirty connection between the tip and the iron will kill the iron's performance.

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