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Bus/Feeder Connections: Why Not Wire Nuts?

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Bus/Feeder Connections: Why Not Wire Nuts?
Posted by karle on Monday, February 11, 2019 7:49 PM

I see lots of conversations about connecting the feeders to the bus by soldering, IDCs, and terminal blocks. Why not use wire nuts? Easy to do, insulates the connection at least as good as a terminal strip, really inexpensive, fast, and easy to revise. I did this on another layout and had no problems, though I only ran that layout for a short time. About to wire my current layout, and wire nuts seem an attractive option.  So, why not wire nuts? Bus is 14 ga., feeders 22 ga.

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, February 11, 2019 7:58 PM

I've been using wirenuts all along. Started my layout in 1995, converted to DCC around 2003. Never had an issue. Easy to modify, troubleshoot and I've never found a troublesome connection.

Generally I leave enough surplus wire so that if I need to make a major change I can snip off an inch or so and re-strip for a "fresh" connection.

There are some places where I have barrier strips, say near the circuit breakers or command stations, but the runs and sub-feeders, then feeders to the rails are all wire nuts.

Quick and easy. No regrets.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, February 11, 2019 7:59 PM

Well then you just go for it!  

I soldered mine,  but thats the way I wanted to do it, it was no problem, as it's no problem to unsolder if I want to change something.

Have at it Karle!

Mike.

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Posted by karle on Monday, February 11, 2019 8:03 PM

Thanks guys, guess I’ll “go nuts”! (but I’m still interested in other opinions)

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, February 11, 2019 8:27 PM

I’m different.  My layout is 10’ x 14’ and I use #20 solid home runs, no buss.  My longest run is less than 10’ from my control panel.  A double header draws less than 1.6 amps, max voltage drop is .09 volts.  The #20 wire is unbroken from the rails to the block switch connector in my control panel.  The voltage drop is measured at the rails with a pair of powered E7s and a fully lit 11 car passenger train.   
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by PC101 on Monday, February 11, 2019 9:13 PM

As long as the wire nuts you use have metal threads inside, ok I guess, but some small wire nuts I've seen have plastic threads inside (I do not think you will find plastic threads in a nut for 14g, so you will be fine). I soldered my drop down track feeders to the buss wires that run parallel to the track. If I'm thinking correctly, if I did it your way with wire nuts, then I would of had to cut the buss wire to add the track feeders. I have a double main line around the wall layout. I just can't see me doing that type of work with wire nuts. Would you have two 14g wires and one 22g in that nut? I'm wondering how many times that 22g wire will break/twist off in the wire nut?    

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Posted by oldline1 on Monday, February 11, 2019 9:30 PM

As you pointed out in your original post and others have supported.........there's more than one good way to do it. It depends on what you're comfortable with and what you prefer. Some folks have a big aversion to soldering....especially over your head! I sure can understand that. Some think the IDCs tend to corrode or losecontact after a while.I have never actually talked to someone who experienced that. I prefer soldering my connections relying on terminal strips in some specific areas just for troubleshooting.

Whatever you prefer is the correct way!

oldline1

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, February 11, 2019 9:36 PM

PC101
 If I'm thinking correctly, if I did it your way with wire nuts, then I would of had to cut the buss wire to add the track feeders.

I have twelve "power districts" each fed off a PSX breaker. When I ran my main #12 buss wires I pulled them to the area that they were intended for, then started making "sub-buss" connections where I tied in two or three #14s and continued with the # 12 a few more feet and made another junction with two or three more #14s. I used the big blue or gray wirenuts here.

Most of these main runs are in a PVC buss duct with a snap-on cover. Really makes it handy for wire runs and easy modifications.

From there, I now have maybe eight or ten # 14 "sub-buss" wires that I can then thread to a locale where there is a group of feeders coming together. Here I divide these again to some 18 gauge wire that then ties into the track feeders.

Imagine our own blood circulating system with a web-like network of main lines, trunk lines, branch lines then finally the tiny capillaries.

While running these sub-buss lines (#14) I would tie in an extra one here or there if needed, and I have, for future tie ins or modifications. I simply coil it up and tuck it out of the way. It's there if I need it.

All this is connected using gray, then red, then yellow, then orange, blue and on down to the smallest — gray wire nuts. I haven't found any problems with the very small all plastic ones but I generally only use those on Tortoise or signal wiring.

Everybody has a preference. I buy good wirenuts, Thomas & Betts or Ideal. Again, never had a problem and I like the quick and versatile features. Most of the wire is stranded MTW or THHN.

I don't believe I've ever used a suitcase connector, ever. I would solder each joint before going with those. I've seen modelers wire buss lines that follow the path of the track. I don't see any need to do that. I run these main busses and sub feeders following the shortest path.

Regards, Ed 

 

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Monday, February 11, 2019 9:43 PM

I use 14ga bus, 22ga feeders. I use a suitcase connecter a short [8in] feeder to bus and then wire nut to add 3or4 more feeders. No issues,easy to disconnect if needed.

Just remember to leave slack in case a end should break off.

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Posted by PC101 on Monday, February 11, 2019 11:11 PM

gmpullman
 
PC101
 If I'm thinking correctly, if I did it your way with wire nuts, then I would of had to cut the buss wire to add the track feeders.

 

I have twelve "power districts" each fed off a PSX breaker. When I ran my main #12 buss wires I pulled them to the area that they were intended for, then started making "sub-buss" connections where I tied in two or three #14s and continued with the # 12 a few more feet and made another junction with two or three more #14s. I used the big blue or gray wirenuts here.

Most of these main runs are in a PVC buss duct with a snap-on cover. Really makes it handy for wire runs and easy modifications.

From there, I now have maybe eight or ten # 14 "sub-buss" wires that I can then thread to a locale where there is a group of feeders coming together. Here I divide these again to some 18 gauge wire that then ties into the track feeders.

Imagine our own blood circulating system with a web-like network of main lines, trunk lines, branch lines then finally the tiny capillaries.

While running these sub-buss lines (#14) I would tie in an extra one here or there if needed, and I have, for future tie ins or modifications. I simply coil it up and tuck it out of the way. It's there if I need it.

All this is connected using gray, then red, then yellow, then orange, blue and on down to the smallest — gray wire nuts. I haven't found any problems with the very small all plastic ones but I generally only use those on Tortoise or signal wiring.

Everybody has a preference. I buy good wirenuts, Thomas & Betts or Ideal. Again, never had a problem and I like the quick and versatile features. Most of the wire is stranded MTW or THHN.

I don't believe I've ever used a suitcase connector, ever. I would solder each joint before going with those. I've seen modelers wire buss lines that follow the path of the track. I don't see any need to do that. I run these main busses and sub feeders following the shortest path.

Regards, Ed 

 

 

Thanks Ed, I like to hear/see how others do their work. No suitcase connectors here either. There are many ways to do certain things with Model railroading. Which ways are the most correct, I guess a body needs to watch/see/listen then see what work for them. I have read MR articles where the writer condemns an item (suitcase connectors for example) then a year or two later a article writer will praise them. Saw it happen with curved turnouts, (don't use them, ok to use them). One time I went to a friends layout and I guess he noticed me looking under the layout more then looking at the above grade work. He said to me, "Most people that come to see never look under the layout as long as you have if at all." My answer was," I love to see the machanics of the layout as much as the top side." Everyone out there is a teacher in one way or another. I'd guess everyone out there will agree 100% on at least two thing regarding Model Railroading, do not use acid core solder for electrial connections and do not use wooden skids or pallets for benchwork. Model Railroading is fun till the trains don't run.   

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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 3:21 PM

    Since I run DC, not DCC, I am perfectly ok with using wire nuts. Actually many of my connections I just twist the wires together and don’t bother with wire nuts. It’s low enough voltage that it’s not a danger.
    On the other hand, my friend who is an AV geek by trade and works at a university says to never cut a digital line. When he starts to explain in geek speak why not my mind wanders and I start thinking about all of the beautiful college girls walking by…..
    My advise for people using DCC is to use suitcase style connecters to splice into the bus because it keeps the buss as one solid wire and the feeder wires only tap into it without breaking it up. Plus they are faster and easier to install that using wire nuts.
    When I first learned about suitcase connectors I was working as an electrician and we were hanging strip lights in a factory’s warehouse. All of the light fixtures in a strip were connected to the adjoining light fixture. We just pulled a pair of bus wires through all of the fixtures and used suitcase connectors to hook up the light ballasts. If we would have had to cut and splice the wire using wire nuts it would have taken 3 or 4 times as long to do it. Plus with wire nuts there are possibilities for loose connections which are far less likely with suitcase connectors.

 

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 4:18 PM

 

Lone Wolf and Santa Fe
We just pulled a pair of bus wires through all of the fixtures and used suitcase connectors to hook up the light ballasts.

I've used these to do internal wiring for fluorescent ballasts:

http://www.idealindustries.ca/products/wire_termination/push-in/in-sure.php

Maybe there are suitcase connectors for 120 or 277 lighting wire but I've never seen them used by any of the electricians I've worked with. Of course, there are those IDCs used with zip cord so I guess it would be OK.

I found these which are CSA/UL and good for 600 volts so I sit corrected!

https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-Scotchlok-Electrical-IDC-558-BULK-Run-and-Tap-Flame-Retardant-Red-22-16-AWG-5000-per-case/?N=5002385+8709319+8730567+8740774+3294757603&preselect=8710679+3291661291&rt=rud

 

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by CGW121 on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 4:40 PM

I use wire nuts as well as terminal strips, The club I belong to uses suitcase connectors. I have had no problems that can be traced to connections. The club has had a lot of connection problems. It has convinced me to never use suitcase connectors. Just saying.

 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 4:56 PM

Why not wire nuts? 

Only one reason - neatness. As an Electrician trained in industrial control wiring, wire nut fail my test for necessary neatness of exposed low voltage wiring.

Wire nuts are great on solid wire in junction boxes, or jointing stranded wire to solid wire to hook up light fixtures.

But to join small gauge stranded wire together? In an exposed setting? Not me.

Compression screw terminals or solder for me.

But I don't do DCC and my "buss wire" requirements are different on my advanced cab control DC system.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 5:12 PM

This is a really neat job]

I'm guessing Sheldon wouldn't like the wiring in the trolley wiring thread

https://tinyurl.com/y3q89lge

Where the black on one side of the terminal block, went to red, which went to gray, which went back to red, but the red also went to green and black.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 5:18 PM

I don't see anyplace on that board where I would use a wirenut either. Every device has a dedicated terminal.

Regards, Ed

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Posted by karle on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 6:35 PM
Yes PC101 it would be two 14 ga . and one 22. I did not have problems with the 22 ga. breaking on my first DCC layout. Agreed, some small wire nuts don't have a metal insert. But the ones I used do.... And they are not real small as they need to be large enough for two 14 ga.
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Posted by karle on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 6:39 PM
Thanks Ed. Yes I too have used "good" wire nuts, e.g. by Ideal.
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Posted by j. c. on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 7:04 PM

one thing i might add is in using any wire connector i use a product called no ox .

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 6:03 AM

Sheldon mentioned in passing the best reason not to use wire nuts.

.

A wire nut connection must have one solid wire in the connection. If all of the wires are stranded wires, it will not bite correctly.

.

I guess if you are using solid wire as the bus, they could be OK.

.

Another reason I do not use wire nuts is they require you to cut the bus, which I do not do. I strip off a section of insulation and solder on feeders, but the bus wire is not cut from one end of the layout to the other.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 7:34 PM

SeeYou190

Sheldon mentioned in passing the best reason not to use wire nuts.

.

A wire nut connection must have one solid wire in the connection. If all of the wires are stranded wires, it will not bite correctly.

.

I guess if you are using solid wire as the bus, they could be OK.

.

Another reason I do not use wire nuts is they require you to cut the bus, which I do not do. I strip off a section of insulation and solder on feeders, but the bus wire is not cut from one end of the layout to the other.

.

-Kevin

.

 

What do I know, I just designed wiring for, and wired in the field, houses, schools, sky scrapers, factories, hydro electric plants and such for a good part of my life.......

Henry, thanks for the kind words.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, February 14, 2019 6:33 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
What do I know

.

I was agreeing with you. I said your answer had the best reason in it.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, February 14, 2019 8:14 AM

SeeYou190

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
What do I know

 

.

I was agreeing with you. I said your answer had the best reason in it.

.

-Kevin

.

 

I understood, I am refering to all those who always think I'm too opinionated.......not you.

Sheldon

    

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