Monday, October 25, 2010

Power Problems Solved!

Well, after a lot of research on the Internet, a lot of testing on the layout and great input from blog followers, the power problems have been solved.  After some experimenting on the layout, I found that the system was cutting out when the number of locomotives running on the layout was at 15 or 16.  When this limit was reached, the system would stop functioning, the PM4 power managers would trip in a very random fashion and the DCS100 command station would make continuous clicks.  The DCS100 manual indicates that continuous clicks mean low voltage.  For a while I thought it was too many throttles on the loconet or too much/incorrect loconet wiring or a bad CMOS battery or too many idle engines in staging, etc.  I eventually come to the conclusion that the layout was just too much for one booster and that the solution was a second booster.  So, I ordered a new power supply and bid $100.01 on a DB150 5A booster on ebay.   The power supply came in the mail today and the ebay auction ended @ 3:55 p.m.  The auction was @ $75 all weekend, so I was pretty confident the 100.01 bid via a sniping program at the last second would be successful.  Turns out two other bidders had sniping programs running and I lost the bid @ $102.05.  I was dissappointed, but figured there would be other auctions.  While I had the new power supply, I thought I would give it a try to see if the problem might be the Digitrax PS515 power supply.  So I swapped them out and started to run trains.  Much to my surprise, the system did not cut out with 18 locos running on the mainline.  Not being able to put anymore trains on the layout, I put a phone books on each end of the engine facilities and began running locos into the phone books and letting their wheels slip.  I got up to a total of 29 locos running on the layout without any problems.  When I started up one more consist, locos 30&31, the DCS100 circuit breaker tripped and all trains comae to a stop.  When I turned to power to 30&31 off, the system  powered back up and trains were running again.  So, I must conclude that the problem has been a faulty PS515.  I'm not sure if it came that way and I am only finding out about it now with a full operating session on the new, bigger layout or if it has gone bad lately due to age.  I've only had it for less than two years. 

   So, I am glad the issue has been resolved for now.  The number of locos running at one time should not ever exceed 20 so I think I am fine with just the one booster.  I am very glad now that I did not win the auction.  I saved myself $100!  Maybe I should buy a new engine to celebrate!
   I'd like to close with a few words about the new power supply I ordered.  I did not like the idea of spending $40-$50 on a new PS515 for the second booster so I looked real hard for an alternative at Mouser and Digikeys.  The cheapest I could find was $26 which ws still too expensive in my view.  Then I got to thinking that my Dell laptop battery charger puts out 3A, there must be a charger out there that puts out 5A or more.  So, I went to ebay and the > Buy > Computers & Networking > Computer Accessories > Laptop Adapters & Chargers category and searched for 15V 5A.  The search yeilded 143 results most of which were for chargers for a Toshiba laptop.  Most were between $10 and $15 including shipping.  So I picked one that was actually 15V and 6A for $12.99.  When I opened the package, I was not too confident in its ability to put out the power as it was much lighter than the Digitrax PS515.  But it works like a champ powering 29 locos, plus loconet, etc.   Time will tell how it does over the long haul.

Here's a link to the item charger  and a picture.


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  2. Nevermind, I found some verbage on the Digitrax website that sez "...Digitrax boosters have maximum output current limits of either 5 or 8 amps.", so a 6A feed may not be too much after all. Yay!


  3. I think I should be okay, too. I have an op session coming up 11-21 so we will see how things hold up. I may look into a small fan to circulate air around the command station heat sink.