Wiring for track

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wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#2
Paul,

This is a "general rule of thumb" answer ... I use 12 gauge wire (solid or stranded) for my "main bus wiring" and either 18 gauge or CAT 5 wire for my drop feeders. I have an NCE Power Cab and 5 amp booster BUT, that shouldn't matter where the wire gauge is concerned.

In broad terms, depending on how much track you have (I have around 170' of n scale) you could use any wire from perhaps 12 - 14 gauge for the main bus and anything between 18 and 22 gauge for the drop feeders.

For drop feeders I prefer to use solid wire, it seems to be easier to control when soldering to the track.
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#4
No problem Paul. You might want to ask about the differences between using stranded or solid wire. I can't remember but I think they have their individual pro's and con's.
 
#5
What is a good size wire for powering the track from my DigiTrax controller?
That depends on how you are going to wire it. Is this a large layout that is going to need multiple feeders, or is this a simple loop that is only going to need two wires to the track? The more feeders there are the smaller the wire can be.
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
#6
A small to medium layout I would recommend 14 gauge stranded wire. If possible, locate the Booster/Command unit in the center and run the buss wire out in either direction. Drop wires should be 18 to 22 gauge. Solder the rail joiners.

Stranded wire is more flexible than solid and conducts electricity somewhat better than solid since electricity travels on the outside of the wire. Stranded wire is more expensive than solid wire.

Greg
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#7
A small to medium layout I would recommend 14 gauge stranded wire. If possible, locate the Booster/Command unit in the center and run the buss wire out in either direction. Drop wires should be 18 to 22 gauge. Solder the rail joiners.

Stranded wire is more flexible than solid and conducts electricity somewhat better than solid since electricity travels on the outside of the wire. Stranded wire is more expensive than solid wire.

Greg
Greg,

Thanks for that, I knew there were pro's and con's just couldn't remember what they were.

Paul,

Horseman and Kevin make good points, not the least being the size of your layout and the more feeders you use, the smaller the gauge of wire that can be used.

As nothing more than a guide, I attach a drop feeder to each length of flex track. Yep, that is over kill most likely but I do so I know every section of my track does have power to it and not reliant on rail joiners for the transfer of power from one section to the next.

Kevin also suggested soldering your joins. I'm not sure if I would agree with that, at least not all of your joins. Depending on where you live and it's climatic changes, you may want to keep in mind expansion joints. Soldering all of your joins removes the possibility of the track expanding due to climate, humidity and so forth. This is a personal preference of course but the only joins I solder are those that occur on a curve, any curve and even then, I will only solder the "outside join" to hold it in place.

Only other thing I would suggest is that whatever wire you use for your main keep that main wire bus for your track power only. For wiring accessories, structure lighting, street lighting etc, run a second bus wire and keep that for your accessories only.
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#9
Paul,

I'd use 12 or 14 gauge for the main then maybe 18 or 20 gauge for the feeders. I'd put a feeder at the N,S,E & W points of the main outer loop, a feeder half way round the inner loop, a set on each of the spurs and one on the little passing track at the top.

Another way to identify the absolute minimum feeders (if any) you need is to connect your power to the track and run a train. If the train runs around all of the layout and all tracks within it then that is all the power you "actually" need. If the train stops half way around, then put a feeder in at that point and so on.

Looks good by the way.
 
#10
Thanks Tony. There are I suppose, whatcha call it's :), A box that you run the main wire to, then run your feeders from there? Just need a name for that so I can look up and get them.
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#11
Paul,

I think what you are thinking about are "Terminal Blocks":



or larger like this one:



Your "main bus" would be the wires going from the controller/power source to the terminal block main POS and NEG terminals (possibly centrally located beneath the layout) and all track power would then run from the terminal block to the various points of the track plan.

With a layout the size of yours, the only benefit to this method I see is it removes the need to solder or join your feeders physically to the main bus wire, and that could be a good thing if your not that keen on soldering or climbing under your layout.

The biggest issue I see is the addition of something that could fail resulting in the loss of power to the entire layout. I'm not saying the terminal block will fail as I have had mine for years without an issue. That being said, I only use mine for my accessories not for track power.

Although time consuming and a task, I honestly think you would be better of running a single main bus around the layout beneath the track and just join your feeders to it as needed.

Anyway, hope the terminal blocks are what you were after, if there is something else, hopefully someone will direct you that way.
As said, what you propose will work without a doubt, just not sure if it is the best option for your layout.
 
#12
On my old layout, I ran the main wire the length of the table and spliced the feeders off of that where needed. Now, I can't get up and down so easily. Once I get down and under the table, it's hard to get back up again. I guess one way or the other will be a little difficult in that respect,
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
#13
Paul:

Using terminal blocks for the DCC track power really increases the amount of wiring needed for the DCC stem and the wiring, if using 14 gauge wiring, from the terminal block maybe be a bit large of wiring to solder to your track as a feeder and not be seen as opposed to 18-12 gauge wire which once painted to match the rails, almost disappears.

Don't forget about adding feeders beyond the diverting route of each turnout to get power pass the turnout(s).

Stay with a 14 gauge buss wiring for your size layout, drop 18 -22 gauge feeders for every six feet of track, solder all rail rail joiners and enjoy the results.

Buss wiring also works great for lighting and switch machine wiring. I have a buss system for the layout's DCC track power, my Tortoise switch machines, LED lighting, signals and regular incandescent lighting. Color code the wiring.

I use terminal blocks as a point to wire groups of feeders for groups of lighting or signals. The feed to the terminal block comes off the lighting wiring buss.

My last two cents worth.

Thanks.

greg
 
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wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#14
I do agree with Greg ... with one exception, using your track power for running accessories as Greg described. That to me is a no no, but that is just my belief.

As Greg said, using terminal blocks (or similar) is going to add more wiring to the layout and from perspective, the less wiring the better primarily because it isn't one of my most favorite things to do.

As you pointed out Paul, no matter what method you decide upon, there is going to be some time spent beneath the layout - another of my pet hates. One way that might eliminate your needing to work beneath the layout is to loose lay your sub roadbed (ply) or what ever material you used. Lay your track but have the ability to "lift the layout" so you can work on the underside without the need to crawl beneath it. It maybe too late to adopt that option though.

One other way maybe to lay our main (14 gauge bus wire) out on top of the layout, around the track, and solder the feeders (18 or 20 gauge) to it, working on top of the bench work instead of beneath it. Mark where the feeders will pass through bench work and drill the holes for them. All you would need to do then is crawl beneath the layout with your pre made bus wiring with feeders attached, push the feeders through the holes that were drilled and attach the main bus wire to your frame work. You may need a helping hand to pull the feeders through and bend them over to help hold the bus in place to start with.

The only other thing I can think of is to run your wiring across the top of the layout and cover it with scenery some how; although, tat would not be my first choice.
 
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Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
#15
Paul:

There a tool that strips a short section of wire, anywhere along the length of the wire, which then allows you to attach a feeder to the buss. Simply a couple of wraps of the feeder around the exposed buss, a hot soldering iron, some flux and a bit of solder and touch the connection and you have a finished joint. The tool is available at most hardware stores for under $10.00.

It will strip almost any gauge wire.

Use mine often.

Greg
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
#16
Paul:

I was a miss in not mentioning in using suit case connectors to attach the feeders to the buss wiring. No soldering!

Oops.

Greg
 

wombat457

Well-Known Member
Staff member
#17
Greg,

There is another option as well, one that I am told is better than the suit case connectors. I'll be darned if I can think of what they are called. If I think of them, I'll post a link.
 
#19
Thanks guys for the info. My layout is 36 X 80, and not a great deal of track.
View attachment 63997
Oh yeah, I remember this layout now.

I almost hate to be a contrarian, but on something this small I would just run a wire through the middle with 4 or 5 feeders off it (red below). Why? The entire main line length is 47.2 inches of curve, 82 inches of straight for a total of 129.2 inches or 10.7 feet. With two sets of feeders exactly across from each other would mean they are 5.35 "rail" feet from each other. That means the maximum distance a loco could be from a feeder would be 2.7 feet. If for some reason there is slowing on the far edges of the curve, or a short in either of those places does not trip the circuit breaker I would run another two sets of feeders (blue) to the two ends. That would make the max distance to a feeder to be 1.4 feet, and theoretically way overkill.

oplholikwiring.png
 
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#20
Looks good to me. I'm just doing the outer oval first with switches installed so that I can add inner track at a later time. I want to get the outer oval up and running, and some scenery work done before going to the inside.
 



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