Thursday, May 1, 2008

Safety Inspection program

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There was a tremendously interesting thread on Trains.Com yesterday about whether foam on our railroads constituted a 'illegal' safety situation. Why it was locked so quickly baffles me.

But the larger topic of safety issues on our railroads is, I think a very important one. Something we should take seriously and make sure that we minimize any risks our layouts may pose to our family and of course ourselves.

What are some of the ares where we could or should be paying close attention, as we build and expand our hobby presence in our homes?

Street rodders have annual automobile inspection programs where their street rods are checked to make sure you are not driving a suicide ride.

Perhaps the NMRA or our local clubs cold implement a program where a team of railroaders visits a fellow's layout and gives things a good once over looking for safety and fire hazards.

Personally, I've been surprised when my Rod failed inspection only to find out that I had missed some critical item.

I'd welcome an objective look at my railroad and train room from a safety and fire perspective.



Here is my response to someone minimalizing the need for layout inspection under the disguise that there really is no problem.

John Doe wrote:

You'd have to have some sort of ignition source for the layout to catch fire, and unless you've done something really stupid like using 26 gauge phone wire as the feeder buss for your 10 amp DCC system, you'll not have a problem. SNIP


I have been thinking about your comments for several days. Your words stimulated these thoughts. "Yesterday, my life changed forever because:"

the 35 watt pencil soldering iron, I left idling on the ash tray on my layout (homasote, not foam) while I finished the honey dew fell off the tray and burned through. The new smoke detector I bought for the layout room is still in the utility room. . .

the extension cord we used to connect the lighting valences was only 18 gauge. I only had a 'few' 60 watt bulbs in the valence. . .

my cigarette lighter I was using to shrink some heat-shrink caught the skirting on fire and the whole place went up like a bomb. I was lucky to escape alive. . .

the ballast I'd installed with liquid nails to the bottom of my foam staging yard caught fire. I never knew ballasts got hot. . .

the string of CFL lamps I mounted behind the valence had their bases touching the wood frame to keep the bulbs straight. I did not know that a CFL had a ballast and could get so hot that it would set wood on fire. . .

the new outlet I wired for my workbench had the polarity mixed up and I got an arm to arm shock when I turned the light on. Doctor says I am lucky to be alive, but I do have permanent heart damage now. . .

our beloved poodle was electrocuted when she stepped on the layout room carpet. Seems some water that had spilled on the extension cord that ran under the carpet. I did not know that wire insulation will break down if you step on it a bunch of times. My grandson will not keep his shoes on and he loves to play in the train room while I . . .

our home burned down because I had connected my layout and the under the shelf lighting to an extension cord that was too small for the load. In fact the insurance man tells me that they are probably going to deny my claims for the $32,000 for my layout because it caused the fire. He kinda laughed when I tried to show him the receipts that had survived in the filing cabinet. Unfortunately, our home was under-insured so we are only getting $99,000 for our new home and all its contents.

my layout caught on fire while I was sweating some copper on the hot water tank next to the layout. I was not worried because I had a fire extinguisher handy. I never knew that fire extinguishers have to be tested periodically. . .

my son's room caught on fire when he plugged in that old TV set. I did not realize that the little change I did to the wiring had put my layout and all its electronics on his bedroom circuit which had undersized wiring from when we remodeled. Interestingly, my buddy who did all that wiring was fired from his job last month because they said he lied about his electrician's license. Guess they were right, huh!

Each of these imagined situations can easily happen. I know, because several of them have happened to me, fortunately without serious consequences.

In today's world, catastrophic events are a regular part of our lives, not just someone else problem. The building which housed the branch office I worked in 1972 was also blown apart when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah building. (Fact). The house that I lived in 1972 while working at the branch office was wiped off the face of the earth in a class 5 tornado about 5 years after McVeigh. (Fact) Many of us have been in the World Trade center and the Pentagon. I worked in New Orleans the summer before Katrina.

Some things we can prevent, some things we can't. Trouble is we don't know the difference until it is too late. Minimalizing real and potential dangers that may, or may not exist in a layout room, well that just doesn't make sense to me.

While having a buddy come look at your layout might help prevent a problem, having a friendly, voluntary inspection by another model railroader trained to look for specific criteria applicable to model railroading is, in my opinion, a far better and wiser solution. When I have my inspection on my layout, I hope the modeler is a 'rivit counter'!

Just my 2 cents

Joe Daddy