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Trains Grind to a Halt a Few Days after Completing Track Work

Daniel is desperate for suggestions:

“Last week I was proud of myself for the job I did unaided on my track work. My layout is HO and I’m using Digitrax Zepher by the way. I wired everything myself (I thought I was really clever!!), and ran a couple of locos on the different routes and tested different turnout combinations. I powered things down and went to visit my daughter for the weekend.

frustrationYesterday I powered everything up again and NOTHING! I thought maybe a short when the track status blinked. I then searched for a stray track nail and double checked each connection, but couldn’t see any issues. I just don’t understand how everything was working perfectly one day and not working a few days later?

I disconnected and reconnected the track wires from different sections, but I still have the same problem. I just can’t understand why it worked then it didn’t. I’m almost tempted to go visit my daughter again for the weekend and try powering up again next week. Maybe it will magically work again? Help please?”

20 Responses to Trains Grind to a Halt a Few Days after Completing Track Work

  • Chrissays:

    It sounds like your power supply died. Have you checked to make sure you don’t have a short under your layout. Check your power supply with a meter and see if you have power. If you do not remove the wires from the power supply and check for voltage. If you have voltage then there is a dhortsomewhere

  • Chrissays:

    Check your power source. Verify you have voltage at the power source. If not disconnect the wires at the power source and check for voltage.if you have voltage you have a short somewhere. Drop your wiring one at a time, keep checking for boat the source until you find which lead is grounded

  • henry niersays:

    As above, if the powerpack is working, then check each section of track with a volt meter set on dc around 12-15 volts and check each section of track. May take a while, but there is an obvious short that you may not see. I had this happen and checked the tracks. I found power in the track until i hit a dead spot. One of my track connectors was loose and not making a tight contact. Yet i could not see it. Your test leads one one one side of track and the other lead on the opposite track.

  • Moby1says:

    Take an ohmmeter and check for shorts. Especially every turnout. If you don’t have an ohmmeter get one, seriously you will need one. If your track is broken into blocks, check each block.

    Otherwise, Chris gives you good advice about the power supply.

  • Barry Hespenhidesays:

    Did you try looking at your switches, some of them have metal frogs which could cause a short.
    Or look at your bus wiring from your DCC Compand box it my be loose , which would cause a direct loss of power. Just a thought my friend.

  • Ron Scannellsays:

    I have been using digitrax for years….I would never reccomend it. I often have the same problem with it. 1st, mame sure the power is not OFF LINE, if the Zephyr has that feature. Either way, power off the throttle and power it back on….on the throttle, select PWR, follow the instruction on the screen to power off, hit ENTER…press PWR, follow the on screen instructions to power on, press ENTER. Try that.

  • Ron Scannellsays:

    I have been using digitrax for years and have had this problem many times. Try this. Press the PWR key on the throttle, follow the on screen instructions to power off, press ENTER. Now repeat follow the screen instructions to power on, press ENTER.


    If you are using a power booster it can cause this, Mine has a jumper wire and it needs to be removed or reinstalled as needed. Look up power booster on net. Wayne

  • Robsays:

    If you are not familiar with multi meters and ohm meters get a 12 volt automotive sidelight, 5 watts, or panel (about 2 or 3 watts) bulb. If a holder is not available for it you can solder on 2 lengths of wire. The beauty of this is that you can work your way around the track starting at the power source and immediately see if you have power when the bulb lights up without having to keep one eye on the test leads and one on the meter.

  • Mark Jsays:

    I’ve had the exact same issue 4 times now, and it’s been a faulty turnout every time. It’s definitely a short so you’ll need to test the track to find it. Clip your leads to the track and operate each turnout one by one and/or check the whole thing block by block. It’s tedious but you’d best get used to it.

  • David Broadsays:

    You need to divide the layout into sections like they did with DC. Chop the Bus into small chunks and feed each with a DPDT switch. OK it takes time but you can switch one bit on at a time and identify which bit has the fault without snipping wires. Maybe run 80% of the railway without clearing the fault.
    Other alternatives include taking therapy, taking up fishing and going Radio Control.
    Shorts happen, points fail and if you have 20 or 100 points to check each time it fails you are going to find an alternative hobby. Divide the layout into sections or “power zones”

  • Jaysays:

    I have read all of the above comments, and they are all good suggestions, I would do the same. However, one thing not mentioned, is the environment. If you have your layout in a room that can have fairly large temperature changes, it can expand or contract the trackage. I say this because my train room is in an attic room. The temperatures up there can vary a lot. I have found that the track expansion has caused shorts where I have had isolated rails. It is not a common occurrence, but it has happened, and it sure was difficult to find that fault in the system. With all this said, be sure to check your power source first, by disconnecting it from the track, and verifying the output is good with either a voltmeter or a locomotive. Then proceed to look for shorts in the tack. Having a good volt-ohm meter is a must for all of us model railroaders.

  • Lyman Dunningsays:

    Check to make sure you don’t have derailed cars or engines. Many cars have metal wheel frames.

  • Bruce Webbsays:

    sounds like some guys are hitting the nail on the head here. you said you tried it out before leaving and every thing worked fine came home and nothing. is that correct ? i’ll assume yes Question no need to send me any answers here how steady has the humidity, temperature or ant thing else been steady. If so then you probably cooked tour power supply. check it first thing if weather has changed then maybe you have a not so visible loose connection or a poor connection volt meter will help (weather can cause track to expand or retract more than you realize. HOPE I HAVEN’T CONFUSED YOU THAT IS OT MY INTENTION. good luck Bruce

  • anselmosays:

    check if there are any metal wheel (of a car obviously) parked just over the frog of a switch. I have had this sort of short caused this way. The funny is that the power pack lights on, every thing seems to be ok but locos does not run.
    Since then I take much care to do not park metal wheels over a turnout frog.

    good luck!

  • George Kernsays:

    All of the above comments sounds good. I had the same problem, took a little detective work and this is what I found. I had a car that was shorting out. How did I find it? I turned on the power, and removed each car at a time, until I found the culprit. I fixed the car, and all is OK. It was a worn wheel set that shorted the system.

  • W Rusty Lanesays:

    That’s why I don’t do DCC!

  • James H Taylorsays:

    Digitrax Dcc power can be in 2 states. standby and full power. I don,t know how to tell on Zephyer. On my DT400 throttles there is a dot on screen that blinks when in standby an steady when in full power.

  • Billsays:

    What do you mean by the Track Status light blinked? It is either on or off. When it is on there is power. If it blinks on when you press the power button but goes off right away then you have a short.

    If you have power and the train(s) are not responding are you sure you entered the correct address for the loco(s) you are trying to run? Check the loco address on the programming track if you are unsure what address you programmed it/them to. Default address from manufacture is usually 3.

    If you have a short, start by verifying you don’y have a piece of rolling stock on a turnout that is not aligned properly. If not then remove all rolling stock from the layout. If the light stays on after this then your issue is a piece of rolling stock. Put them back on one at a time until you see which piece is the culprit.

    If the Track Status light stays off after removing all the rolling stock then your short is either on the track or in your wiring.

  • Brucesays:

    Rusting track problem.
    Try cleaning the track with CLR this is a household cleaning product so fairly harmless but it contains acids among other things.After following instructions on label put a drop of automatic transmit ion fluid on each track at about four meter intervals and distribute it with a train running on all the layout.
    You will never stop dust gathering on the track so when necessary clean the track your faverit way and reapply the transmition fluid.

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