Adventures in a ceiling track

natsb May 1, 2015

  1. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    Back in December, I posted that I was going to build a ceiling track. Well, I finally finished the last corner.
    [​IMG]

    Then, I finally mounted the last section giving me a complete loop.
    [​IMG]


    As you can see by the test cars, I have even managed to lay some track.

    I will be using DCC to run the trains on the two loops. Therefore, I dived into studying DCC wiring. This brings me to the reason for this post. The total length of the loop is about 64 feet. So… Am I okay running a continuous power bus along the loop? Or, am I better off using insulators and treating the track as a 64 foot long track with a snubber instead of a loop?

    I used my oscilloscope to measure the voltage drop on thetrack I have already put down. In the short section I have, there is already a 4V drop from end to end.Therefore, the need for a power bus is obvious.I am planning on using 12AWG for the power bus. I will also be running a separate bus for the track lights since there will be a lot of them. There are only two switch machines, so they will just be attached to the track power bus and controlled via DCC.
     
    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    63,062
    9,516
    652
    Your construction method looks interesting. Is it self supporting? Or does this require some attachment to the ceiling?
     
  3. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    8,222
    763
    106
    Interesting coincidence. I was daydreaming about doing this with my excess track. Hmmm.
     
  4. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    It is a floating design.There are no brackets or ceiling guy wires.The design uses ¾ inch c-channel and ¾ Poplar crossbeams. The c-channel is directly bolted to studs behind the wall.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2015
    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    63,062
    9,516
    652
    Just for fun, when you have this running, could you post a few seconds of video?
     
  6. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    I sure can. As soon as I get some help with the DCC wiring, I can get something running.
     
  7. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    63,062
    9,516
    652
    If you have questions, perhaps try posting them in our DCC & Electronics Forum?
     
  8. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

    2,206
    583
    44
    With at least 32 feet from power source to the most distant section of rail, you will definitely need bus wires and feeders. 12 gauge bus wires should work just fine.
    My N-scale DCC (Digitrax) layout has several blocks that are over 70 feet long (power to the bus wires is in the middle, so longest power to rail distance is about half of that). I'm using 12 gauge bus wires, 24 gauge feeders about every 6 to 9 feet, and most rails are soldered into 6 to 12 foot lengths. I've twisted my bus wires, but didn't see any benefits from the snubbers, so they have been removed. A friend with similarly wired long blocks on his HO layout says his snubbers DID lead to better reliability.

    I was surprised the oscilloscope showed a 4-volt drop in a short length of track; that seems like a lot for a DCC system.
    1. If you start a locomotive from where your power ties into the rails at one end of the already laid track, does the 4-volt drop actually produce a noticeable falling off in speed as the loco moves toward the far end of the track?
    2. Have you tested how well your locomotive decoders receive signals when they are farther from the power source? (Um... you should probably test the decoder's signal reception by checking whether the lights of a stopped locomotive at the far end of the track can be turned on or off, because failure to receive a signal to slow or reverse a loco speeding toward the end of the track is...not good, said the Voice of Experience, sheepishly.)
     
  9. gcav17

    gcav17 TrainBoard Member

    1,066
    560
    28
    Uh... My only question. How bad, will a derailment be? Not being negative, I think this is a cool idea. But if someone slams a door just as Ole #1 is going over said door...
    Still a cool idea though!!! I like it.. having an inspiration here .....

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
     
  10. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    The voltage drop could be blamed on sloppy connections. When I took the measurement again after the track sections had been soldered, the voltage drop almost disappeared.

    I don't see any advantage to snubbers either. Twisting the bus cleaned the signal right up. I always had full control of the trains, but al least now the signal is pretty on the oscilloscope.

    Before twisting
    [​IMG]
    After twisting
    [​IMG]
     
  11. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    I am a step ahead of you... I don't have any doors in my office, but I did thump the wall and the track itself. The support shelf is very stable and does not move until at least 3.5 PSI is applied. Given that, I did do some derailment testing with some strategically placed toothpicks on the track and a safety net underneath. The worst derailment broke a coupler (usually does), but the entire train stayed on the shelf. Having said that, my plans involve adding street lights with a safety rail between them. Better safe than sorry.
     
  12. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    Update:

    I finished the inside loop. I used a 12 AWG bus with 24AWG feeders soldered to each section of track. Twisting the bus made the signal pretty, so I stayed with it. No snubbers were needed.

    In preparation for the outside loop, I installed a switch machine with two remotes at each cross over. Circuitron Smail switch machines were used for their simplicity, the embedded auxiliary switches, and low power consumption. And besides, they were the only thing I could find that had remote turnout controls. I powered the Smails directly to the power bus and used the embedded switches to juice the two frogs in the cross over pair. I used one of these set ups to cross from outside to inside loop, and a reverse setup to cross back. Walthers #10 turnouts were used so I could maintain the trains at full speed during the cross.

    Switch setup:
    [​IMG]
     
    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  13. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    Here ya go...
     
    FriscoCharlie likes this.
  14. gcav17

    gcav17 TrainBoard Member

    1,066
    560
    28
    That's pretty cool. And a good thing there is no door. You put a lot of thought into it. And that would be a great distraction in an office!

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk
     
  15. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    63,062
    9,516
    652
    A person could get dizzy following it around and around!
     
  16. glakedylan

    glakedylan TrainBoard Member

    402
    4
    13
    you have done a very fine job with this
    I like it! I am guessing from size, that this is HO scale?
    I think your method of providing subroadbed with the C channels is quite creative
    thanks for sharing!
    sincerely--
    Gary
     
  17. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    Thank you.
    Yes, it is HO. When I started, it was going to be G, but then I decided I wanted two tracks.
    Next task is to build a bridge as the outer loop track is almost complete.
     
  18. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    1,976
    80
    29
    I don't get it. You will have HO way way up at that high ceiling ? What am I not getting here ? Up that high seems so unnecessary, enjoyment-wise. The angle and distance from trains seems hard to see them. Or you can, but why ? To watch them run in a 4 corner loop all week ? On top of this you're going to have dust collecting and maybe even spiders. What will you do for a derailment or false uncoupling ? You'll have to get out the tall ladder each time. What about stall-outs and cleaning track ( It and wheels will get schmootzy )? What if you instead bring the shelf down to top of that next moulding down (above pictures/lamp shade ) and do same. Sorry, HO up that high seems, well,....inane (no typo) to me. Again, I mean no ill will, but I think this will get tired in a few months. And so might the motors if trains are going round and round every day, for hours, maybe 8 if it's your office. Finally, as there are switches (turnouts) , will the whole thing be automated ? If not, how will you control this activity (cross-overs I suppose ) ?
    Sorry my friend, but I guess I'm the odd man out, here. Your shelfwork itself looks A1 yet, why not instead do it with clear plexiglass like they have G scale situated in some hobby shops. At least you'd have more of a view of it all from the bottom...I truly apologize if have burst you bubble. It's just my personal take on this project.. At any rate, I do wish you the best outcome with it.....Mark
     
  19. natsb

    natsb TrainBoard Member

    77
    27
    9
    Mark, thanks for your input. My adventure seems to trouble you, so let me take the time to ease your concerns. I get a great deal of enjoyment from the track, and so has everyone who has seen it. There is no difficulty in seeing the train on either track as the trains are actually only about 24 inches away. We have all seen trains run much further away than that on waist high layouts

    Don't worry, no spiders will be harmed. Dusting is just as easy as the rest of the office, and so far my track cleaning car has not come back to me with any schmootzy build up. No, there are no tall ladders involved. I just pull the two step folding stool out of the closet when needed.

    Again, nobody who has seen it has any concerns about the HO scale as the trains are very visible. What scale is your ceiling track? I am thinking about doing another in the rec room in G scale. Actually, it doesn't run all that much. Maybe a total of a half hour a day. I just run it when someone wants to see it, or I need some relaxing. As the project has been going on for over six months, I don't think it will tire soon. At this point, I foresee working on it far into the future. Next are the bridges over the door and fireplace, then hiding all the exposed metal under a wood laminate, then the safety rails and streetlights, then the four seasons dioramas in each corner, and somewhere in there I still need to finish kit bashing my early 1900's passenger cars to make then fit the Western Maryland theme.

    Oh, and since this is in my office, placing the track low would be an inconvenience to traffic.

    The track is wired for DCC. DCC is wonderful. I only needed to run a single power bus around the shelf, and everything feeds off of that. Therefore, the switch machines are controlled from my wireless cab. I also have JMRI running on my computer and I can run the trains from that if I am too lazy to dig out the handheld unit. I have a wireless USB adapter that allows the computer to talk to the track control unit.

    The shelf did indeed take a long time to engineer. The only rule I had was that it would be free floating; as in no shelf brackets or support wires from the ceiling. I tried lots of different materials including Plexiglas and polycarbonate. Unfortunately, the thickness of polycarbonate required to keep the design free floating would have been cost prohibitive; and I am not a wealthy man.

    Again, thanks for your comments. It is good to know someone out there is trying to keep us honest. And don't worry, my bubble is made from some pretty thick skin and is far from bursting.
     
  20. MarkInLA

    MarkInLA Permanently dispatched

    1,976
    80
    29
    Sorry. I am confused. How can trains be 24" away when you are down on floor and shelf is like 10" below the ceiling ? My reference to spiders was that they'll get mashed by trains and possibly cause stall-outs. When I look at the photo where I see what looks like top of a bald person's head next to a blue lit up screen and lamp shade, I don't get how you say they're only 24" away, when to me it looks like you have 12' or more high walls. This would make you 10' tall, no ?
     

Share This Page