Getting ready to wire new layout. Plan is to use 22 awg from rails, then 18awg leads to the 14awg bus line. I thought it would be best to stick with solid copper wire but I keep finding a lot of stranded that comes in various colors which would help for keeping track of what each wire is for. Are there any important considerations in choosing stranded versus solid wire for the layout?
Stranded is more tolerant of flexing. If it won't be moving then it doesn't matter.
Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow
For buss use, stranded is easier to work with. No way are you
going to flex solid used for the buss enough to break it.
Now for feeders, our club use solid #22 and when we strip the
cover off the copper, we do not knick the wire because that will
cause a weak point which might snap when we make a sharp ninety
degree bend for soldering to the rail. The bend could snap and not
notice it after soldering when puling on the feeder wire under the
I have used both for many years.
I have done all of my fixed wiring with solid wire, because that's what I have several miles of. However, I only use it for wiring that will never be moved in any way once in position. If there is even a slight chance that the wire might be flexed after installation I use stranded wire.
This is my 'last in this lifetime' layout, and I expect it to last thirty years or more. I have designed my wiring accordingly.
Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)
The higher the gauge, the smaller the diameter of the wire. I find that higher gauge solid wire breaks easily, so I always use stranded wire for such purposes as feeders.
Stranded or solid, either will work. Color coding is a good idea, so use what you can get or have already.
Stranded is used for wiring that needs to move. e.g. lamp cords, auto a trailer wiring, my NTRAK modules.
Solid is used where the wiring stays fixed. e.g. House wiring, my home layout wiring.
I use #20 solid for feeders, #14 stranded for bus. No intermediate wires - this is another reason I don;t use suitcase conenctors, they do not make one that can mate #20 to #14, and it seems a huge waste of time to me to cut and strip short pieces of #18 to make an intermediate wire just so I can use the crimp on connectors - that makes 4 per feeder, and they aren't cheap, plus the extra time cutting and stripping the short pieces of #18. I can have the two joints soldered in that time.
I use the solid for feeders because it is easier to push down through the whole in the layout. I use the stranded for the bus because it is much easier to work with than the solid. My feeder wires comes in a spool of two loosely twisted conductors, sold as alarm or thermostat wire at Home Depot. One wire is red and the other white. Conveniently, they have both #14 and #12 stranded in spools of matching red and white. I originally was goign to use red and black, but in the dark under the layout, red and black look alike. They also tend to look alike for someone who is color blind, although I am not. The red and white look a LOT different even in less than ideal lighting.
Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's
Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.
I use only stranded wire. 14 AWG for the buss and 20 or 22 AWG for track feeders. If you get your wire from a mailorder dealer like allelectronics.com you can get it in many sizes and colors like red, black, white, yellow, orange, blue and green. Stranded or solid. Forget Radio Shack.
FOR WHAT ITS WORTH
I use #12 solid for my buss and #20 solid for my feeder drops. Any power drops for accessories are done with stranded and sized dependent on current requirements and mechanical strength. I solder EVERY joint and use heat shrink or "liquid" tape to insulate EVERY joint. I too use red and white color coded wire for DC/DCC and yellow for AC applications. I use printer address labels (Avery 1' x 2 5/8") to mark each feeder at the buss connection and at the point it goes up to the block or accessory. I size the print so that the name is duplicated on both ends then fold it around the wire and back on to its self.
My track feeders are soldered on the under side of the rail. Gives a little more surface to insure a good mechanical joint, also is undetectable. I use both hand-laid and flex track. I have found that if I place a small alligator clip on each side of the solder joint, that I greatly reduce the chance of melting the plastic ties and saves having to go back and add "***" ties.
Don't forget to keep the soldering iron tip clean and use a touch of flux to each joint. The mechanical joint between the solder tip and the barrel of the iron needs to be "exercised" before each use to maximize heat transfer. Above all....every part being joined by soldering MUST be clean.
I use solid wire to solder feeders to the track. Stranded feeders can look big and ugly if not soldered to the rails correctly.
I have used 22 solid from the rail to just under the layout, then made a loop. From the loop I have used 18 stranded to the bus. This will work.
However, now I use 20 solid for the feeder and take it directly to the bus.
My present layout is 2 ft wide so the longest feeder run from the track to the bus is 3 foot.
The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.
(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.
At the electron level, they run mostly on the surface of the wire. Comparatively, there is much more surface area in a bundle of strands than there is in a single filament many times the thickness of any of the strands. So, transmission is more efficient. I don't know that it matters a whit at the low voltages and for the short runs we use on our layouts nearing 100 square feet of surface area.
I'm almost done wiring an 11x15 two level HO layout, my second in 15 years. As I'm now retired with a little more time and money and experience, I wanted to do this one as good as I could. Also, being my first try at DCC, I seeked out all the advice and information I could get.
The layout has 8 circuits (power districts) and each has its own colored 14 awg buss wires (stranded). Feeders (a ton of them) were all black or red #20 solid wire. I cut them all out beforehand, all 12 inches in length, with one end stripped. By pre-cutting them to 12 inches, I was constantly reminded that the feeders would be this length or less. I thought of using #22 solid wire, but went with the #20 as it was more readily available. Feeders were placed every 3-4 feet - all soldered to the rails. Joints to the buss wires were soldered as well - with the exception of yard tracks where I used push in connectors with one wire then going to the Buss wire.
Ok, perhaps some of this was overkill - but I am thrilled that so far everything works just fine, including all the sound locos.
Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central
can you tell me where you found the multi-colored 14awg stranded wire? And have you found it really useful to have 8 power districts in your layout? My layout will be about 15 by 18 , one level. Do the bus wires for each district feed all the way back to your power source or to some junction point along the way?
I am new at this. Thanks
I picked up the 14 awg stranded wire at both Lowes and Home Depot. While you can get white in big rolls, the colored wire is on the huge rolling racks that have to be hand cut by a clerk. I originally scaled out the lenghts of wire I would need, added about 20-30 percent, and bought them accordingly. Well, I have had to make two return trips for more, and probably one more next week.
I located the DCC components and 8 breakers in a central area of the layout. Being that it is a room filling 11x15 oval, the longest buss wires are about 25 feet. Most are shorter. Some of the circuits have two sets of buss wires, one set coming from the left side of the layout, and the other from the right.
While you do not have to split up the layout into power districts, I would recommend you do so - even if for now you connect all the buss wires together. The reason is, sooner or later you will want to split up the layout, especially one that size.
HD and Lowes here both have 14 and 12 in large rolls in about 5-6 colors each. Stranded and solid. No waiting for the cutter guy. 100 foto and 500 foot rolls. The 500 foot rolls are less than 2x the price of the 100 foot rolls, so unless you are sure you will need less than 100 feet, buy the 500 foot roll. Soon as you pull the 101st foot off the roll you saved money.