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Thread: DC and DCC problems with Kato Unitrack Granite Gorge & Northern

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    Icon9 DC and DCC problems with Kato Unitrack Granite Gorge & Northern

    I have re-assembled my Kato Unitrack layout (Granite Gorge & Northern) so that it is sort-of just like it was 2 years ago before I moved from KY to Toledo (2 yrs ago it worked, now it doesn’t). When I dissembled the track, I left it in sections and numbered all of them with painters tape so that I could easily put it back together. Before I moved, I was able to use my old Atlas DC controller to run a single engine around the entire layout looking for problems. It worked well.

    Now when I try to run the same single engine via the same Atlas DC controller, the engine barely moves with only one quarter of the track powered (I have left most of the power-to-track connections disconnected, otherwise, it won’t work at all). And after a little bit of engine movement, the short light illuminates on the Atlas DC controller.

    When I try to use the Atlas Commander (DCC) with the accompanying generator, I get numerous results. Sometimes, the correct engine address displays on the Commander and the engine can be selected and run. But it stops as soon as it moves into one of the No4 turnouts. At the recommendation of a Fifer Hobby you-tube video, I have insulated both of the outgoing rail connectors, so that power for all of the turnouts feed in from the single track entry (the end of the turnout with only one track). I have then wired each subsequent section of track for power using the kato rail joiners which feed into a Kato 3-way extension.

    Sometimes when I power up the Atlas Commander, it flashes OFF and wont respond to any button inputs. If I unplug the generator for a few seconds and repower it, it may say "con" meaning it's in slave mode. If this happens, I go through the SYS menu and set the Commander so that it is not in slave mode. Then it may flash OFF or it may show the address for the engine on the track. It's hit or miss. If the engine address is displayed, I can run that engine, but as soon as it hits the turnout, the engine dies and the Commander flashes OFF.

    The section of track that I am powering to run these tests have two Kato No4 turnouts that feed one into the other. They are isolated from each other and individually powered. For troubleshooting purposes, on Sunday afternoon I poured myself a very large 8.0%ABV locally brewed IPA and set up a small oval in my living room. I used both the Atlas DC controller and then the Atlas Commander and in both cases, the units and the engine responded as expected. I did not try to set up a test track with turnouts since that would mean taking the existing layout apart. That may be the next step.

    Regardless, it’s clear that the engine and the Atlas controllers are ok. It is interesting that before I took the layout apart to move, the Atlas DC controller was able to supply enough power to run a single engine on the entire layout. Now, the DC controller can barely get the engine moving before it shorts- and that is with only about 4 feet of track powered.

    I fly the Airbus A321 for a living and have managed, with time, to master that electronic beast. Clearly, whatever electric voodoo I am up against now has me outmatched. Any thoughts would be much appreciated. I tried to upload a photo or two but didn’t see that I had that option I'm not sure they’d help much anyway. Thanks in advance for any advice or dope-slaps. Tom
    Last edited by Allen H.; 12th Oct 2020 at 09:23 PM.

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    You said it's been 2 years ago when this worked and you haven't touched it since? My bet is on dirty tracks and dirty loco wheels. All that you have reported smells like issues caused by intermittent or unreliable electrical contacts.

    As a quick and dirty test to make sure it's dirty tracks, get a big pink eraser and start scrubbing the tracks. There are many better ways to clean tracks but let's take baby steps. Otherwise you'll end up with a plethora of cleaning devices and liquids.

    Once we realize it's dirty tracks and wheels then we'll get to some more sophisticated cleaning methods.

    Tell us what engine you have?

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    Get the DC working before deep diving into DCC. It'll be easier to localize the problem.

    If you have a volt meter I would start by unhooking the power, removing all locos, and testing for a short in the track (s/b infinite ohms between rails). Be sure to throw the turnouts both ways and all combos.

    Then attach the power. One loco. Try it on one track then another. Switch locos - same result means the short isn't in the loco. Remove a turnout and see if that fixes it. Remove the other, etc until it goes away and you just removed the culprit.

    If all else fails I recommend Bells Double Two-Hearted, Hopslam or Stone Ruination.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingmeow View Post
    ou said it's been 2 years ago when this worked and you haven't touched it since? My bet is on dirty tracks and dirty loco wheels. All that you have reported smells like issues caused by intermittent or unreliable electrical contacts.
    Yes, I was thinking the same. How did you store the track? Also, near the sea or other 'salty' environment could cause a corrosion or some buildup in the joiners in particular, causing a higher resistance and/or dirt/gunk buildup. Sounds like it's also affecting the contacts in the #4 switch.
    As @NtheBasement says, try a voltmeter and use DC first. Also, try changing out the joiners with new ones and see if that improves things.
    And when you do get everything up and running (and you will, just takes time and perseverance) do a search here on 'NO-OX' as one of many future preventative treatments.
    Cheers,
    Russ

    CEO Moss Lake Lumber Co.

    Pennsylvania logging circa 1890s

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    My layout is Kato Unitrack, DC only. It is less than six months old, I'm a newby. I find that I must clean the track on a weekly basis. I use CRC QD Electronics Cleaner, spray it on a clean dry cotton rag, and run it along the tracks with my finger. I was surprised at the amount of black oxides that come off the track, and pleasantly surprised that the cleaner works so well. Most of my rolling stock is on steel wheels, I think the black oxides are due to my living in the South with a fair amount of humidity.

    I also use a method to clean the locomotives. Same rag sprayed with the cleaner, set the locomotive on the track power, with a set of trucks on the rag. Make it run on the rag a bit.

    This cleaning has helped issues with electrical pickup by the locomotives.

    I have a passing track where I have insulated two straight sections from each other, to allow one locomotive to back up to another parked on the track to couple them together. I have noticed that even using Kato insulated rail joiners there is some electrical connection between the ends of the track sections. Slight, but there.

    I suggest thoroughly cleaning your track with electronics cleaner. Then disassemble each piece of track from the next, and reassemble. You may have some corrosion in the unijoiners. Also check the ends of the track which are insulated from each other. Are the track pieces touching?

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    Kato insulated joiners have a VERY thin piece of plastic as the "insulator" (unlike the Atlas version) and they are notorious for breaking. So you think they are insulating but they are not.

    Been there done that at a train show when setting up a large T-Trak layout. "Why is the command station shorting when we have insulated regions????".
    Last edited by kingmeow; 13th Oct 2020 at 04:21 PM. Reason: Typo

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    I have an Atlas Classic RS-3 and an AtlasC-630 with a Lenz decoder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cedarbarnbuilder View Post
    I think the black oxides are due to my living in the South with a fair amount of humidity.
    The black gunk is primarily due to microarcing between the locomotive wheels and the rails. No-Ox reduces this significantly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    The black gunk is primarily due to microarcing between the locomotive wheels and the rails. No-Ox reduces this significantly.

    I see the No-Ox in a tube on Amazon...I assume No-Ox stands for no oxidation? Do you apply it to the rails or the wheels, or both? Thanks. Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by TominToledo View Post
    I see the No-Ox in a tube on Amazon...I assume No-Ox stands for no oxidation? Do you apply it to the rails or the wheels, or both? Thanks. Tom
    Everything to help you is here. Just make sure to order the correct Sanchem product!

    https://www.nscale.net/forums/showth...cott-and-No-Ox
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    Quote Originally Posted by NtheBasement View Post
    I too bought a 2-ounce tub. It shall be an heirloom of my kingdom, and we shall be known as the House of Sanchem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    I too bought a 2-ounce tub. It shall be an heirloom of my kingdom, and we shall be known as the House of Sanchem.
    Hmmm, Moose thinks Paul's been sniffin' his tub a wee bit lately.
    = >

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    The issue turned out to be two things...me and me. I had a wiring error (polarity) and also didn't realize that there is a scenario where the position of several switches can cause a short when the train passes through the switch. The old DCC Atlas Commander works great. I was not able to get the DC power pack working. It doesn't put out enough juice to power the layout but it works ok on a small oval. Thanks to everyone for the assistance. I gave the tracks a deep cleaning and bought the No-Ox grease. At this moment in time and space all is well with my layout. As for tomorrow....

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    Photos?

    Happy to read that all is well!

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