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"Model Train Set" may have caused a fire?

3847 Views 32 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  cmanvell
I have just come across a report about a garden shed fire in Kent. The Fire Service said that there was "A model train set in the shed and a workshop and we believe the fire started due to an electrical fault." They went on to urge householders to employ qualified electricians to carry out electrical wiring, so I assume the fault was in the mains wiring, not the 'train set' !
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John Webb
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You said: "Richard - don't blame Gary here , blame me."

***Sincere apologies to Gary and you for the confusion

I'm not an electrician , but the stuff in question comes from Maplins and is described on the packet, as 7/0.2 wire, 16/0.2 wire and 24/0.2 wire, figures of 1.3A , 3A and 5A being quoted on the labels in the shop

The stuff being commonly sold in the UK at shows labelled "layout wire" seems to be the lightest of these 3. If people are using this for main runs of wiring to sections on DC layouts(and I suspect some people are), then I have my doubts about simply hooking a DCC system up to a DC layout

***Sadly, many are - everything from old telecom wire to far too light recycled alarm system wire from skips. We had cause to rewire a club layout recently - I could have knitted with the wire it was so fine - one older member harrumphed at us "no need to rewire it, its fine" and a couple of hours later commented - "why don't the loco's slow down on that far corner anymore" - he wouldn't accept it was the fact that it was the heavier wire reducing the voltage drop of course.....

On my own current small project , I've tried to use 16/0.2 wire for the droppers , though its a little awkward to solder neatly and conceal especially in the thin ballast that results with using SMP. There is a little 7/0.2 wire used where I ran out, and all pieces of track have their own dropper - longer ones have two droppers. Connections from bus to sockets for interboard cable and from NCE facia panel to NCE autoswitch device are 24/0.2 wire

****Actually finer wire is OK for droppers - just keep them less than 300mm long. There's room for compromise on short wires - even fine wire will handle enoug hcurrent, just keep it short! MUCH better to use a wire that you can solder easily and tidily to rail!

Droppers are connected to buses which are taken from 240V mains cable (live and neutral wires) , which is solid core . The layout is 8'6" long, and the system used is NCE PowerCab - the transformer supplied is labelled 1.11A at 15V. I'm being prudent in case something capable of delivering 3A to 4A is ever connected

**** Mains wire is fine for small to medium layouts.

The current club project uses 7/0.2 wire for droppers , wired to power buses made from solid mains cable . The club chairman was talked out of demanding replacement of all dropper wires with 16/0.2 wire on health and safety grounds by someone with a professional electrical background

**** Good - no point in making it harder than it needs to be

I don't think there are any of what you would class as "very large layouts" - the big perminent layouts in 100' x 30' rooms - in existance in the UK - certainly not DCC ones

**** Large layouts to me are over say 40 feet long - but its the length of the bus thats the key - if a 30' long layout has a bus with the booster in the middle of the length, then the run is only 20' really, safe enough with the mains wire "voltage drop wise".

The way I tackle larger layouts is to give each section/baseboard its own "sub bus". These sub busses can be smaller (about 3mm square wire) and they in turn attach via plugs to the main bus, which can be up to 6mm square wire. That way the voltage drop is taken care of and so is the ability to trouble shoot the layout, as its easy to disconnect it a section at a time.

For large layouts I also usually run TWOpower busses - one for all accessory items, one for train power.... that keeps the bus signal clean which gets critical if there's a lot of accessory and computers are also involved....

Actually there are a few very large layouts in UK - but they are very private and seldom see any publicity.


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QUOTE (Gary @ 6 Oct 2007, 11:50) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>PS that Kent online link. The news is full of hangings, murders, shootings, drugs and kerb crawling! I didn't think the area around Margate was like that!

Perhaps I should point out that some parts of Kent are more than 50 miles from Margate, and anyway we get a better class of crime(?). I suspect that you would find much the same on any other comparable site anywhere in the country.

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I had a big model railway related fire in the house this morning!

Whilst servicing a Triang Princess the fumes from the lubricant were ingnited by a spark from the X04 motor and whoof a large part of the work area was engulfed in flames. I was more concerned about getting the mint Triang Princess box out of the way than putting the flames out!

Once the mint box was safe the flames were tackled and within seconds the fire was out.

The Triang Princess is now a very smooth runner so being engulfed in flames did the trick!

The grey Triang Standard track that I was running the loco on survived the flames also with the rails being cleaned up with a track rubber after looking a little black in places.

Happy modelling

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QUOTE (Gary @ 9 Oct 2007, 11:49) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Whilst servicing a Triang Princess the fumes from the lubricant were ingnited by a spark from the X04 motor and whoof a large part of the work area was engulfed in flames.

Surely a better warning would be don't use spray lubricants on railway models at all - it really isn't the best solution.

Gary - what on earth were you using to cause that amount of fumes - surely a "mint boxed" locomotive would only require gentle treatment ? - otherwise it surely could not be classed as mint - or was that just the box.
I don't suppose it was the aerosol propellant? My understanding is that Butane replaced those nasty Ozone depleting CFCs. If it was Butane, Gary is lucky he didn't end up with a flame thrower.

I must admit I was slightly surprised as this has not happened to me before. It was a can of French "Protection antirouille lubrifiant multi usages" purchased in France and with warnings in French and up until the point of ingnition it was doing a fantastic job! Even mint locos can get s little stiffness in the never regions if not used for a long time! This particular example had the X03 motor without the lubrication retaining felt.

Of course new Hornby can motors are self lubricating and so the trials and tribulations of servicing electric motors is an art that is slowly being lost.

There are some who upon reading this would say "just as well!"

James Bond got up to simliar antics in Live and Let Die but on that occasion Bond used a cigar to ignite the fumes from the can and not a model train!

Happy modelling
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Well it would make a change from being "flamed" on this site!

Glad you're OK Gary.
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QUOTE The Triang Princess is now a very smooth runner so being engulfed in flames did the trick!

I think I might stick with oil.
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QUOTE (neil_s_wood @ 10 Oct 2007, 04:00) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>I think I might stick with oil.

Does it work better than glue then?
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QUOTE (Edwin @ 10 Oct 2007, 18:18) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Does it work better than glue then?
Depends what type of oil you use!
Just a quick suggestion gary but try using a contact cleaner (NOT WD40) then oil using a cocktailstick in some clock oil (can be purchased from good jewelers).
It does the trick on XO4's and other open frame motors very nicely.

Then you are left with the task of quatering the wheels!! (i have never managed this totally sucessfully)

There are number of different elements here.

1. In the work environment it is a legal requirement to have a *portable electrical appliances* checked for electrical safety. Usually this done by visually checking the condition of the wiring (frayed, tight, etc.), the appropriateness of the plug fuse (13A for an appliance that uses just 1 amp is not on) and then, usually using an automated system, insulation and leakage tests. Depending on the item the test is valid for varying periods (say, 24 months for a computer, 6 months for an electric kettle or iron).

2. Non-compliance could affect a club's insurance and lead to massive personal losses.

3. Initially H&S was about reducing risk and hazard to a reasonable level. (Tipex was a prime example of how it all went wrong. Very high hazard so it got banned by most companies, but very low risk as such small quantities are used. Risk multiplied by hazard was very low.) It applies right across the board: ladder, cars, electrics, chemicals, ad nauseam - and I *mean* 'nauseam'. However, H&S is increasingly becoming a method of protecting those who are no longer able to asses risk and hazard. In fact we have bred a generation that is becoming incapable of assessing risk and hazard.

So, before a model railway is connected up at an exhibition, the mains side (technically know as 'low voltage') should have been checked and some form of certificate issued, or at least the owner should be able to prove competence at doign it them self.

4. The regulations regarding external mains supplies are more rigorous than for internal wiring, and I would have thought 'external' included garden shed. Having said that, wiring is common sense.

I hope that helps throw some light on teh subject.

All the best,
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