Layout Wiring Question

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  • Member since
    March, 2018
  • 3 posts
Layout Wiring Question
Posted by Eagle86 on Tuesday, July 03, 2018 6:39 PM

Good evening, folks!

I finally have my track back together and am ready for wiring.  I was wondering what veteran layout builders out there might recommend for wire size to use?  I probably have enough 24ga on hand to do the job, but am wondering if I should use a little bit larger?  My layout is small & not very complicated.  It is 34 sq ft powered with a 1044, has plain ol' Lionel O31 tubular track, 4 turnouts and 2 operating tracks.  Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Hope everyone enjoys a safe & happy 4th!

Thanks!

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    April, 2013
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Posted by Michael6268 on Tuesday, July 03, 2018 7:56 PM

Given the size of your layout and Transformer I would go with 16 gauge wire.  If you ever plan on going bigger with a more powerful setup, 14 gauge would be the way to go.

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    April, 2018
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Posted by Jushavnfun with trains on Wednesday, July 04, 2018 5:40 AM

24 gauge is what I use on some lighting  accessories and I use 16 gauge lamp cord wire on 100' layouts & 18 gauge speaker on 60' layouts, placing connections every 10' and always before and after switches and crossings.

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  • From: Austin, TX
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Posted by lionelsoni on Wednesday, July 04, 2018 10:11 AM

There are two considerations, ampacity and voltage drop.

Ampacity is the maximum current that the wire can handle, which should be at least the maximum current that your transformer can put out before the circuit breaker trips.  For your 1044, that is about 5 amperes, which calls for 20 AWG.  You may want to anticipate using a bigger transformer in the future, for example, a KW at 10 amperes and 16 AWG or a ZW at 15 amperes and 14 AWG.  The ampacity needed depends on the transformer's rating and not at all on the layout size.

Voltage drop depends on the wire length and the current drawn by the train, according to Ohm's law.  The wire resistance should not exceed the maximum voltage drop that you can stand divided by the current that the train draws.  For example, for a voltage drop of .5 volt and a train current of 5 amperes, the resistance should not exceed .1 ohm.  This corresponds to 100 feet (two 50-foot wires) of 10 AWG (.001 ohm/foot), 63 feet of 12 AWG (.0016 ohm/foot), 40 feet of 14 AWG (.0025 ohm/foot), 25 feet of 16 AWG (.004 ohm/foot), 16 feet of 18 AWG (.0064 ohm/foot), and 10 feet of 20 AWG (.01 ohm/foot)

I would go with 14 AWG, which should cover you for any future enhancements.  It is easy to find at home-improvement stores since it is the lightest gauge that is used for building wiring.  Stranded wire is easier to work with than solid wire but is electically equivalent.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by bobhwalker on Wednesday, July 04, 2018 1:45 PM

Although wire size is important, in my opinion, for a new layout there are more fundamental steps. First is a good wiring plan that carefully powers all loops and sidings. Second is careful choice of wire colors and documentation of the wiring plan so that later problems can be tracked down. Another issue that comes up often is the choice of powering accessories separately from the locos.

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    March, 2013
  • 405 posts
Posted by BigAl 956 on Monday, July 09, 2018 8:52 PM

lionelsoni
I would go with 14 AWG, which should cover you for any future enhancements.  It is easy to find at home-improvement stores since it is the lightest gauge that is used for building wiring.  Stranded wire is easier to work with than solid wire but is electically equivalent.

Bob is spot on! 14 stranded is perfect for power runs around the layout and is readily available in 10 standard colors. For taps to the track I use 18. I do not reccomend 16 lamp wire because it's diffacult to tell the conductors appart. In the electrical accessory isle you can usually find 18 bi-color speaker wire. That is easy to work with. Use blue 18-14 tap splices to tap the 18 feeder wires to the 14 bus lines.

For everything else like accessories and switches use 22.

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