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I was running my layout for the last week or so ever since I got on of my trains fixed. My layout consist of fastrack with the first loop having 0-48 curves, then it is connected by two pairs of O-36 right and left hand switches to make up a second loop on the inside. My layout is a command layout using classic Tmcc system. I think my is losing power or something because when I ran it a few times today the train would slow down and speed back up to the normal speed I have. This has been happening for a few weeks. I dismissed it as just being one of my locomotives SP 4-4-2(6-28070) and other locomotives from that time frame did this atleast every now and then. But what happened today is that my engine’s power completely shut off on my first loop. Including the passenger cars. I think I have footage of my train doing this also.(Not cutting out but it slowing down and speeding back up)  It’s the orange steam locomotive with some passenger cars  behind it. I also have a picture of the track it keeps getting stopped on. I just hope it isn’t the engine itself because I just got that one fixed a few weeks ago. What confuses me is that I already have a 180 watt power brick that is connected to a power master and to the first loop. And I’m sure I have everyone wired up correctly. I’ll send a photo of that also just in case. I hope it’s just a track power issue that can be resolved.

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Unfortunately, Fastrack does have some connectivity issues.  Usually, it is the center rail pin not making a good connection to the next rail.  There is a video somewhere with Mike Reagan showing how to slightly bend the center pin to make better contact.  There pins are brittle, so bend carefully - you don’t need much.  Add a little no-ox or electrically conductive grease (not dielectric grease) to the pin, and outside rail pins, before reassembling the track.  Also, adding power drops every 3 or 4 feet will greatly increase reliability.

Using just a locomotive you could track down the exact track section(s) with a problem but, since you do not have ballast or scenery, I would take everything apart, tighten and grease the pins and add power drops before you build further.

@Danr posted:

Unfortunately, Fastrack does have some connectivity issues.  Usually, it is the center rail pin not making a good connection to the next rail.  There is a video somewhere with Mike Reagan showing how to slightly bend the center pin to make better contact.  There pins are brittle, so bend carefully - you don’t need much.  Add a little no-ox or electrically conductive grease (not dielectric grease) to the pin, and outside rail pins, before reassembling the track.  Also, adding power drops every 3 or 4 feet will greatly increase reliability.

Using just a locomotive you could track down the exact track section(s) with a problem but, since you do not have ballast or scenery, I would take everything apart, tighten and grease the pins and add power drops before you build further.

Would CRC 2-26 work for the electric grease? This is what I use to clean my track.

@Danr posted:

Maybe.  I have never used it.  If your problem were moisture or corrosion it might help.  I don't think it is a good substitute for tighten the pins or power drops.

I went to the hobby shop and I was shown how to tighten the pins. I also bought some track as well. I ran my locomotive on the first loop without the other engine and it rang fine. But as soon as I ran my lioncheif engine, my Tmcc engine began to start up and slow down a little on my outer loop.(It’s not as bad as it was before) Is this a power issue?

I went to the hobby shop and I was shown how to tighten the pins. I also bought some track as well. I ran my locomotive on the first loop without the other engine and it rang fine. But as soon as I ran my lioncheif engine, my Tmcc engine began to start up and slow down a little on my outer loop.(It’s not as bad as it was before)

Is this a power issue? Likely YES

It's still basic electricity 101. Wires and connections have resistance. As you load down with higher current- the greater the voltage drop across the resistance.

Tightening pins is 1 part of the solution- however, it's still best to run copper low resistance wire as either a bus or star wiring methods- to provide distributed low resistance power inputs around the track.

Again, solely depending on steel rail and track pins to carry power is exactly how you cause power drops and slowdowns.



On fastrack- I go no more than 4 pieces of track before a power drop, and on permanent layout track plan, I even solder wires between the 4 track sections- meaning nowhere on my layout am I depending on a track pin as the sole source of power. Instead- they are merely secondary paths that further increase total conduction. You might say overkill- but I'm not pulling up track and trying to add track feeds after the layout was done.

Do it right, do it once, and then it's done.

It's still basic electricity 101. Wires and connections have resistance. As you load down with higher current- the greater the voltage drop across the resistance.

Tightening pins is 1 part of the solution- however, it's still best to run copper low resistance wire as either a bus or star wiring methods- to provide distributed low resistance power inputs around the track.

Again, solely depending on steel rail and track pins to carry power is exactly how you cause power drops and slowdowns.



On fastrack- I go no more than 4 pieces of track before a power drop, and on permanent layout track plan, I even solder wires between the 4 track sections- meaning nowhere on my layout am I depending on a track pin as the sole source of power. Instead- they are merely secondary paths that further increase total conduction. You might say overkill- but I'm not pulling up track and trying to add track feeds after the layout was done.

Do it right, do it once, and then it's done.

I’ve thought of soldering wires to fastrack. I’ve halted most of my future layout plans until this problem is gone. But before I go any further, can adding another 180watt powerbrick to my layout solve the problem? I have a second inside lope with a terminal track section. ( I also forgot to mention my layout is an 8x8 layout)

I’ve thought of soldering wires to fastrack. I’ve halted most of my future layout plans until this problem is gone. But before I go any further, can adding another 180watt powerbrick to my layout solve the problem? I have a second inside lope with a terminal track section. ( I also forgot to mention my layout is an 8x8 layout)

No.  You could throw 1000 watts at it and your locomotive will still slow down at those locations.  This is a connectivity issue not a power problem.  Fastrack solders easily.  Use a little flux and a hot, well tinned, iron - you want to solder quickly so you don’t melt the plastic.  As Vern said, this not overkill, nothing is more frustrating than finding a bad section of track after you put in your scenery.

@Danr posted:

No.  You could throw 1000 watts at it and your locomotive will still slow down at those locations.  This is a connectivity issue not a power problem.  Fastrack solders easily.  Use a little flux and a hot, well tinned, iron - you want to solder quickly so you don’t melt the plastic.  As Vern said, this not overkill, nothing is more frustrating than finding a bad section of track after you put in your scenery.

Ok, if you or Vern have any examples on what a power drop looks like, please send some photos. I would also like to know what type of wires to use and the AWG (gauge) of these wires. I would also like to know if how many wires I would have to solder to each  piece of fastrack. Also, would these’d wires just connect to another piece of track themselves or another external power source? I have the solder itself with flux already inside of it. It’s non-lead and nontoxic.

Very simply, you run a hot wire and neutral wire from your transformer under your layout.  Connect a wire from the outside rail and another from the center rail.  Connect these wires to the wires you ran under the layout.  The solid wire conducts electricity much better than the friction connection of the rails.  The neutral, or common, wire can be shared by all wire drops from the outside rail.  You will need one hot wire for each power zone.  For example, you seem to have two loops, assuming that you are powering them separately, you would need a separate hot wire for each.  Geometry is up to you.  You can run the wires under the track or you can make a straight run down the middle of your layout from the transformer and use longer wires on your drops.  For the main feeders use an AWG 14 solid copper wire.  For the drops, use either AWG 16 or AWG 18 stranded copper wire.

@Danr posted:

Very simply, you run a hot wire and neutral wire from your transformer under your layout.  Connect a wire from the outside rail and another from the center rail.  Connect these wires to the wires you ran under the layout.  The solid wire conducts electricity much better than the friction connection of the rails.  The neutral, or common, wire can be shared by all wire drops from the outside rail.  You will need one hot wire for each power zone.  For example, you seem to have two loops, assuming that you are powering them separately, you would need a separate hot wire for each.  Geometry is up to you.  You can run the wires under the track or you can make a straight run down the middle of your layout from the transformer and use longer wires on your drops.  For the main feeders use an AWG 14 solid copper wire.  For the drops, use either AWG 16 or AWG 18 stranded copper wire.

So the AWG 14 would be considered the Hot wire/ main feeder and the smaller one would be the power zone? I apologize for any confusion but I’ve never done this before.

Trust us.

If you read enough posts on the forums, you will see that most of us, with a layout larger than a loop under a Christmas tree, use power drops.  The weakest link on your layout is the connection between track sections whether it is a pin, a fishplate or something else.

Besides that, enough people read these posts and, if it were wrong, you can be sure that someone would post their thoughts.

Last edited by Danr
@Danr posted:

Trust us.

If you read enough posts on the forums, you will see that most of us, with a layout larger than a loop under a Christmas tree, use power drops.  The weakest link on your layout is the connection between track sections whether it is a pin, a fishplate or something else.

Besides that, enough people read these posts and, if it were wrong, you can be sure that someone would post their thoughts.

I think that this idea will work, but I still don’t know what a power drop looks like. That’s why I’m not sure about this. Is there any photos on the forum so I know what a power drop looks like?

I think that this idea will work, but I still don’t know what a power drop looks like. That’s why I’m not sure about this. Is there any photos on the forum so I know what a power drop looks like?

A "power drop" is simply another connection from your power source (transformer) to the track at location removed from where you currently have a transformer connection.  I have around 500 feet of track, and I have about 50 power drops all around the layout.

Think of it this way in layman's terms - the electrical current coming from your transformer travels along the track rails to supply power to your engine wherever it is on your layout. If you only have one connection point (power drop) from your transformer or brick to the track (as you do), then by the time the electrical current travels to the far end of your layout, it will no longer be as strong as it was, because resistance in the metal rails has lowered the voltage to that far end. That's why your trains are slowing down and then speeding back up as they get closer to the original transformer connection point. They are experiencing voltage loss.

The solution is to add more transformer (power) connections (drops) to the layout at different points around the layout so that every area of your trackage will have full power from the transformer and not be slowing down.

One way to accomplish this is to run 14 gauge "bus" wires from the + and - terminals of your transformer under your track in the same basic shape as the track on top. The wires do not connect to anything - think of them as extensions of the + and - terminals of your transformer.

Once the bus wires are in place, you can then connect smaller gauge wires (16-18 gauge) from the bus wires to your track at various points along your layout - those are the "power drops" One method would be to divide your layout into four equal sections and put a power drop at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 points along your layout. That may be enough or you may have to add others if the trains still slow down and speed up.

An alternative would be to purchase the 12 port MTH distribution board pictured, mount it underneath your layout and connect your transformer to the red and black posts. Then run two 18 gauge wires (pos and common) from 3 or 4 of the other ports to various other parts of the track on your layout.

MTH 12 PORT 

   

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It's not ideal to have two separate power sources providing power to the same loop at the same time.

First, you'd have to separate the loop into two halves by cutting a slit in the center rail (you could also use Fastrack's 1 3/8" fitter pieces with the wire underneath disconnected) halfway around the loop in each direction. That divides the loop into two separate power districts in the same loop, each powered by a different transformer.   

However, that is not recommended because it's hard to exactly match the voltage coming out of each transformer and any variation will mean that an engine will either be speeding up or slowing down as it navigates each half of the loop and changes speeds from the power being supplied by each transformer.

Far better and your trains will run better to use either the bus wire or distribution board methods pointed out earlier. These are not difficult to do and are tried and trued methods to supply equal power around the track and prevent trains from randomly speeding up or slowing down. It's not necessary to try and re-create the wheel here.   

@Richie C. posted:

Think of it this way in layman's terms - the electrical current coming from your transformer travels along the track rails to supply power to your engine wherever it is on your layout. If you only have one connection point (power drop) from your transformer or brick to the track (as you do), then by the time the electrical current travels to the far end of your layout, it will no longer be as strong as it was, because resistance in the metal rails has lowered the voltage to that far end. That's why your trains are slowing down and then speeding back up as they get closer to the original transformer connection point. They are experiencing voltage loss.

The solution is to add more transformer (power) connections (drops) to the layout at different points around the layout so that every area of your trackage will have full power from the transformer and not be slowing down.

One way to accomplish this is to run 14 gauge "bus" wires from the + and - terminals of your transformer under your track in the same basic shape as the track on top. The wires do not connect to anything - think of them as extensions of the + and - terminals of your transformer.

Once the bus wires are in place, you can then connect smaller gauge wires (16-18 gauge) from the bus wires to your track at various points along your layout - those are the "power drops" One method would be to divide your layout into four equal sections and put a power drop at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 points along your layout. That may be enough or you may have to add others if the trains still slow down and speed up.

An alternative would be to purchase the 12 port MTH distribution board pictured, mount it underneath your layout and connect your transformer to the red and black posts. Then run two 18 gauge wires (pos and common) from 3 or 4 of the other ports to various other parts of the track on your layout.

MTH 12 PORT

   

Can I see this on your layout that you have? Just so I can get a better picture on what I have to do. It’s helpful that you’re showing me this and I appreciate this, I just need to see what it looks like wired up if you don’t mind.

Another question, how do I know this will work?

In the past week I've encountered this same problem with a new  Fastrack loop I'm testing,  except with conventional control. What @Danr and @Vernon Barry suggest works. My engine ran well past the single power connection, then slowed down or stopped at the far end of the loop. Last night I added one power connection to my same transformer at the far side of the loop and now the engine runs well past there. It still slows down at another place so I'm going to add another power connection there. It's just a temp layout on the carpet, but before I put it on a table I would solder the track.

John

Here's a shot of the MTH distribution board hooked up to the transformer (I have more than one distribution board, but one is all you need for now). You can see a red connector with blue wire and a black connector with white wire coming from the transformer and plugged into the respective posts on the distribution board.

I don't have any pictures with the wires coming from the ports, but from this point you would just run a twisted pair of 16-18 gauge wire from the + and -  connectors of port #1 to the underside of the layout where you want your first power drop connection and then drill a hole up through the layout and connect the pair of wires to the tabs on the underside of the closest Fastrak piece of track.

I used red and blue spade crimp connectors to attach the wires to the port screws on the distribution board and these blue female crimp connectors to connect the other end of the wires to the Fastrack tabs. These connectors slide right over the tabs.

Then just move on to the next power drop connection you want to make on port #2 and so on, until you have at least four new power drops about equally spaced around your layout.



ELECTRONICS 4ELECTRONICS 5ELECTRONICS 6FASTRACK .110 FEMALE CONNECTOR

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@Danr posted:

Maybe you are being confused by our nomenclature.  Try this simple picture.  Try to make a power drop every 4 feet, or so.

Ok so this is supposed to be a wire running under my table? I’m sorry for any confusion but I talked to someone at the hobby shop and I was told to tighten my fastrack pins, the outside rails specifically. So I’ve been doing that. Have you ever had to do this?

Ok so this is supposed to be a wire running under my table? I’m sorry for any confusion but I talked to someone at the hobby shop and I was told to tighten my fastrack pins, the outside rails specifically. So I’ve been doing that. Have you ever had to do this?

Yes, in fact I mentioned that in my first response.  The Fastrack pins can be problematic.  The hobby shop is right, to a point.  Checking and tightening the pins may work for a while but over time those connections can become oxidized and will again have slow spots on your layout.

Back to wiring and my little picture, the bold red and black lines would be under the table.  The black and red wire from each piece of track, 4 feet apart (or whatever you choose), would be connected to the wires under the table.

You indicated that the brick is connected to your outer loop.  What is the CW80 doing?  As Richie said, it is a bad idea to have dissimilar transformers connected to the same tracks.  I will assume that all of your track is connected together and powered by the brick.  If you want to add more power you could isolated the inner loop from the outer and add another power supply - not necessarily another brick.  Note that you only need the one CAB 1L.

Tightening the Fastrack pins is a good idea, but that will probably not end the speeding up and slowing down of your engines - adding more power drops will do that.

The method you use to add more power drops is your choice - you can either use the bus wire method shown by Dan or the distribution board method I showed. They're equally good. Personally, I like the distribution board method because when using the bus wire method, you have to figure out a way to attach your power drop wires to the bus wires. There are various ways to do it, like using suitcase connectors, but I just think the distribution board is easier. Either method should solve the problem.

Attached is a photo showing my distribution board with red/white and black wires coming from each port and eventually going to a piece of track as a power drop.   

Not sure how much farther we can go with this - we've given you the best advice possible on how to solve your issue; explained how to do it and why it needs to be done; and shown you pictures and diagrams of how to do it. Now it's up to you to follow through and let us know your results.



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I was busy yesterday so I couldn’t read everyone’s replies. You guys gave me a lot of great advice. I read them all and I’ll go with Dan’s idea because of simplicity. Theirs just not much going on according to the diagram and it looks easier to construct. A few things only concern me now.

1.Does this work on curved peices of track? I’ve been having this issue on curved track pieces as well.

2. I understand that according to the manual, the CW-80 can hold up to two wires on each terminal at a time.(It’s also the main power source of my layout)  If I’m correct, how would I go about extending them to each track piece after 4 feet knowing that I’m gonna need more wire?

I just would make sure I do this right the first time so I can safely distribute a constant 18 volts. I’ll also send a picture of the terminals of my transformer just so you guys can show me where to place this second wire. It’s probabaly very simple, but just in case.

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I was busy yesterday so I couldn’t read everyone’s replies. You guys gave me a lot of great advice. I read them all and I’ll go with Dan’s idea because of simplicity. Theirs just not much going on according to the diagram and it looks easier to construct. A few things only concern me now.

1.Does this work on curved peices of track? I’ve been having this issue on curved track pieces as well.

2. I understand that according to the manual, the CW-80 can hold up to two wires on each terminal at a time.(It’s also the main power source of my layout)  If I’m correct, how would I go about extending them to each track piece after 4 feet knowing that I’m gonna need more wire?

I just would make sure I do this right the first time so I can safely distribute a constant 18 volts. I’ll also send a picture of the terminals of my transformer just so you guys can show me where to place this second wire. It’s probabaly very simple, but just in case.

@TheRoyalHudson988 Adding more power drops/connections to the track will work on curved, straight, any track.

As mentioned above, I had the same problem. The engine stopped at the far end of my Fastrack test oval (about the farthest from the single existing power connection which is next to my transformer), and again about 3/4 of the way around closer to the transformer. I thought it needed more power connections to the track, but wanted to test that idea without getting elaborate with what is only a temporary floor layout.

I just added two pieces of wire from one post of my transformer to the Center rail at the two slow places on the oval, and another two wires from the other post of my transformer to one of the Outside rails at those same two slow places on the oval. (These are in addition to the existing two wires that were going to the Fastrack power connection section of track.) It's not pretty, and it's not the best - and I'm embarrassed by how crude it is - but it's only temporary and it works. See below. In the first video the power wire connection to the curved section is broken and the train stops, even though the power is still connected to the track at the transformer about 5 feet away. In the second video I reconnected the wire at the curve and the train runs through. The 3 red wires on my transformer all go to the CENTER RAIL at three locations, and the two white and one black wire all go to one of the OUTSIDE RAILs at those three locations.

It is an improvement in how my train runs, but when I set this up on a permanent table, I will solder connections between the Fastrack sections and add more power drops. And I will have power distribution blocks as the gentlemen above recommend, so that I don't have those three wires from each post of the transformer.

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Last edited by John's Trains

@John's Trains in your case some of the issue might be that your floor is not level.  ANY traditional train with an AC motor will tend to slow down going uphill, and increase speed going down the other side.  I would put your transformer feed at the highest point of your floor loop.

If you build a permanent layout on benchwork, take a small bubble level 4"-6" long and go all the way around along the rails to make sure there are no bellies or sags in the platform or track.  Perfect leveling AND multiple power feeds will help you get fairly constant speed operation from your prewar tinplate.

@Ted S posted:

@John's Trains in your case some of the issue might be that your floor is not level.  ANY traditional train with an AC motor will tend to slow down going uphill, and increase speed going down the other side.  I would put your transformer feed at the highest point of your floor loop.

If you build a permanent layout on benchwork, take a small bubble level 4"-6" long and go all the way around along the rails to make sure there are no bellies or sags in the platform or track.  Perfect leveling AND multiple power feeds will help you get fairly constant speed operation from your prewar tinplate.

Thank you, @Ted S

I have that out of level issue with another layout that's on a temporary table setup. Cars roll downhill and trains speed up and slow down. Additional power drops of course did nothing to help that.

In this case though, the problem is only on the Fastrack. Other loops have no slowing. And this problem was fixed by adding power connections to the Fastrack. But because of your suggestion I got out a 24" level and it checks almost perfect along the length and width.

I’ve been busy again but I got some time to get a volt meter and test my layout. I also got 18 AWG wires and some connectors to go along with them. As I began to go around the outside loop on my layout, the first thing I noticed was that every piece of track has 17 volts. I also did a continuity check of the whole outside loop. The volt meter beeped on every single piece of track. I’m wondering if it is my transformer. It is 14 years old or a little older than that. I made sure to run my train on the inside loop and it ran fine also. I also did this same test again with the engine on the track with my lighted passenger cars just to see if I can find a difference in something.

Im still going to wire it, but I have a two questions.

1. Can replacing my old CW-80 transformer with a new one bring up my voltage? (This my contribute to the problem I’m having)

2. If not, can soldering one wire end to the middle rail tab under the piece of  to another work?

@TheRoyalHudson988 : I've had instances several times like what you are experiencing.  I did what you did: I checked the voltage for every piece of track and it was perfect everywhere.  But, what I have learned is that connections can 'fail', in a sense, with the weight of the train on that piece of track.  it took me a LONG time to determine that and figure out which piece of track was the culprit.

Just a thought for something that you might not have considered yet.

- walt

If you have the handle of the CW-80 all the way up and you are only getting 17 volts then the transformer may not be performing at an optimum level.

You're getting a reading of 17 volts under "no-load' conditions. It is possible that once an electrical load, like a train, is placed on the tracks, the voltage will go down at various points along the layout. So, I would run a train on the layout and take your voltage measurements again while the train is running and see if they change.

Last edited by Richie C.
@Richie C. posted:

If you have the handle of the CW-80 all the way up and you are only getting 17 volts then the transformer may not be performing at an optimum level.

You're getting a reading of 17 volts under "no-load' conditions. It is possible that once an electrical load, like a train, is placed on the tracks, the voltage will go down at various points along the layout. So, I would run a train on the layout and take your voltage measurements again while the train is running and see if they change.

How would I do that while the train is running? Only because I would have to pick the leads up in time before the train runs into them.

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