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Voltages used in carnivals, fairs, etc.

  1. Aug 9, 2015 #1
    I have been wondering for some time about the power systems used in carnivals and fairs to power the rides. Is there a standard voltage used, like 480 VAC for instance, or is it even standardized?

    It looks to me like it is 3 phase, based on the cables I usually see. Typically 4 individual cables that look to be at least 2AWG or larger, with cam lock connectors. One is usually green for the ground.

    The local fair is powered from semi trailer generator sets that feed the rides directly and also seem to supply 120/240 and maybe 208 for smaller stuff.

    Article 525 of the NEC doesn't really give me a clue to this, but has some good insight on how a fair SHOULD be set up, not that the local one that comes here is! :S

    As for amperage, I'd guess the bigger rides can go into 100-200 amps or more, depending on the ride.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2015 #2


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    Are you sure none of the rides are powered by gas engines? Many of them used to be.
  4. Aug 9, 2015 #3


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    Some of the older rides are powered by gas engines but most of the new stuff uses pretty up to date methods. VFD motors are often used for good control. I would suspect most rides are fed with 3 phase 240 or 480 to help keep conductor size down. I am sure it varies in how the lights are run. I would not be surprised if some rides that have florescent lights use 277. The last bumper cars I rode in about 5 or 6 years ago were small 2-stroke engines in each car. Never thought I would see that.
  5. Aug 9, 2015 #4
    I was looking at bumper car info, and it appears most run on 24-90 volts DC, which I found interesting. all of the rides at this fair were powered from generator trailers with 3-4 individual cables hooked to them, so 3 phases, a neutral and a ground, as the colors were usually green, white, red, blue and black. Seems there is somewhat of a standard for the colors, as described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camlock_(electrical)

    some 3 phase systems don't make use of a neutral either, just the phases and ground.
    So, maybe it's 277/480, as that seems to be common for large stuff.
  6. Aug 12, 2015 #5
    looking up the manufacturers of some of the rides shows they tend to use 120/208 in a wye configuration, while others are 277/480, so, they can probably do both, with either separate generators, or transformers. Any other ideas?

    (Last time I asked a carny a technical question, I got a blank look, lol)
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2015
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