PENNSYRR.COM by Jerry Britton

Jerry Britton's PRR Middle Division in HO Scale

1920 lightning 2

On Monday, August 9th, 2021, at 6:30 p.m., disaster struck the PRR Middle Division! A bolt of lightning struck a 60 foot tree located about 50 feet from division headquarters.

The outer skin (bark plus a half inch of wood) of the tree literally exploded off the core of the tree. Pieces were found up to 100 feet away. Just inside the outer band of wood of the tree is where the water and sap move through the tree. The lightning superheats this moisture and creates a steam explosion. Pretty massive amount of force.

The surge went through the ground and impacted a number of homes, mostly ours. On the first floor, it fried a cable model, TiVo box, an Apple AirPort wireless router and backup device, an external hard drive, and a 55 inch television. My wife was holding her iPhone, which was plugged in, and she got shocked, The breaker for our septic system tripped, but thankfully it was operational upon reset.

Unfortunately, the lower level -- the PRR Middle Division -- took the brunt of the surge. The entry point was the electrical circuit, which tripped, but not soon enough. It fried a surge protector, successfully got through a second surge protector, and exploded one of my power supplies. I mean, it blew off the rocker power switch and blew the fuse right out of the back!

From there it followed the accessory power bus and fried all of my Berrett Hill Tough Toggle controllers; 14 of them.

It jumped to LocoNet and fried my Digitrax DCS240 command station. The two boosters -- a DB150 and a DB220 -- power up and look okay, but I cannot confirm until a command station is in place. The remaining three power supplies power up and are outputting proper voltage.

Over LocoNet, the surge fried my RRcirkits LocoBuffer-USB adapter and the Dell laptop attached to it. That's my JMRI system which also was used for MiTrains and Waybills applications.

That's what I know is fried. Now, there are all of the following that I cannot easily test without the command station and one power supply being replaced...

  • The two boosters
  • Three DCC Specialties RRampmeters
  • Three DCC Specialties PowerShields
  • 10 Digitrax BDL168 detection boards
  • 9 Digitrax UP5 throttle bus connectors
  • Soundtraxx Programming Track Booster
  • Digitrax LocoNet Repeater
  • Logic Rail Technologies LocoNet Fast Clock
  • Four Digistrax throttles that had been plugged in
  • 18 locomotives that were on the track
  • 11 lighted passenger cars that were on the track
  • countless NCE SwitchIt stationary decoders
  • countless Tortoise switch machines

A new power supply and command station will be ordered shortly. This will allow testing of all of the above. Insurance reimbursement will be factored in, but if there is a widespread loss of Tortoises, it could spell the end of the railroad. At my age and with my physical limitations, I don't have it in me to replace all the switch machines.

Some photos:

IMG 0942One view of the tree. The bare spot is about 10 feet long and about 20 feet above the ground. There are two similar blast sites on the opposite sies of the tree, The tree is scheduled to be cut down next week. IMG 0969 The controller for the local control panel at Yesgertown East. Blew the cover off. None of the controllers work.
IMG 0961The front of the power supply with blown out parts. IMG 0962The back of the power supply.
IMG 0974The local control panel at the west end of Lewistown Yard. The power input was blown off at upper right (haven't found it yet). The force dented and chared the wood. IMG 0975Top down view of the same controller. All of the leads were fully seated. One blew off and several were displaced.
IMG 0978The LocoBuffer which connected the laptop to LocoNet.