Lightening Strike just before Simon’s Birthday Party

Well it had to happen but did have to happen 2 weeks before my grandson’s 5th birthday?

On 7/2/17 we had a large electrical storm and lightening struck my next door neighbors yard. He lost TVs and other components. My house electrical was protected by my whole house surge protector but any networked component got fried.

Unfortunately this happened to all of my train electronics too. I use Digitrax and all of the boards are connected via a Loconet wire (6 wire Ethernet cable). I had to replace each component initially only to find out the next one was fried. I eventually ended up replacing every board (30 boards in all) including the main Digitrax computer and power supply. All power supplies that powered the boards were fine, I guess protected by the whole house surge protector.

Hopefully all will be covered by insurance less deductible.

Now the real challenge is how to protect in the future.

My boards are enclosed in metal waterproof boxes. Wires and network cables connect the boards between the boxes but nothing is connecting the actual boxes. I decided to ground all of boxes and then hopefully keep any voltage variances low.  This meant installing 8 foot grounds rods at each box location. Not an easy task because the ground in my back yard is rocky. Google to the rescue… you can make a water hydraulic drill using metal conduit, a water hose adapter, and my water hose. This worked most of the time but took a while.

2nd step was to disconnect my loconet cables into and out of the metal boxes when not using the train. A pain but might save the boards next time.  I have also found that they make network surge protectors and I am installing them at each place the network cable enters and exits my metal enclosures for protection even when I am home.

3rd step is to use surge protected power strips where the train power supplies Connect to AC as an additional step. Even though all of power is on the whole surge protector this protects the circuits in-between my main fuse box and the train circuits which are all in my covered pool area.

I am sure if I have a direct strike nothing will stop some damage but the 3 steps above will help to minimize everything being fried.

I am now a true believer of the whole house surge protector. I highly recommend it and for $500 or less you will save yourself a lot of damage.

I know ….. back to Simon’s 5th Birthday party. I had planned some fancy train movements using JMRI programming but all of my time leading up to the party was just getting the trains running again. No time to debug the programs. Oh well I simplified the trains, manually did most and it was a success. Simon did not know how close he came to having no trains.

I hid 2 trains inside the mountain and his Mom, Kelly put cupcakes in the Thomas Train box cars and while everyone was singing Happy Birthday, Thomas train rolled out of the mountain it was the highlight of the party for Simon. We had a second train with flat cars and Kelly put the party favors on the cars but they got stuck coming out of the mountain.  Simon didn’t care, he had a blast.

Hopefully this electrical strike is a once in a lifetime event but you never know.

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