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Best methods for connecting structure lighting wiring to layout power supplies?

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Best methods for connecting structure lighting wiring to layout power supplies?
Posted by Onewolf on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 6:17 AM

Hello,
Eventually I will have 400+ structures on my layout that I am planning to provide interior/exterior lighting for.  I plan to run 12v power bus wires (12ga) specifically for structure lighting/sound/animation/etc from centralized power supplies.  I would like the ability to remove structures (where feasible) from the layout for maintenance and I would like to standardize on one method (or a couple) for connecting structure lighting leads to the main structure lighting bus.  I was thinking about possibly using micro connectors (like for example https://www.amazon.com/eBoot-Female-Connector-Adapter-Electrical/dp/B06WGN56V2?ref=dp_atch_dss_sdp_ce_2) and then connect one side of the connector to the 12ga structure lighting bus wires via suit case connector (or stripping/soldering).  I would drill a 3/8” hole thru the foam/homasote/plywood base to pass the connector from the structure down through the base.
It’s time to start working on this, so….
Better solutions?  Better connectors?
Thanks.

Modeling an HO gauge freelance version of the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line and the Utah Railway around 1957 in a world where Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden, UT.

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 7:02 AM

 As good as anything, Might need more than a 2 pin connector if you want to do more than just basic "all lights on/all lights off" and have multiple lighting circuits. ANother way might be to use magnets to place the structure, and also use the contact points as the electrical connections, though that may restrict moving buildings around since the magnet layout for one may not fit another. No crazy rare earth magnets, just basic low power ceramic types, otherwise you might rip the structure apart trying to lift it off the magnets. Metal plates on top of the fixed magnet in the layout, metal plate attached to the structure, click them together - electrical contact. One in each corner would give you up to 3 lighting circuits and a common. 

                                 --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by Onewolf on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 7:29 AM

rrinker

 As good as anything, Might need more than a 2 pin connector if you want to do more than just basic "all lights on/all lights off" and have multiple lighting circuits. ANother way might be to use magnets to place the structure, and also use the contact points as the electrical connections, though that may restrict moving buildings around since the magnet layout for one may not fit another. No crazy rare earth magnets, just basic low power ceramic types, otherwise you might rip the structure apart trying to lift it off the magnets. Metal plates on top of the fixed magnet in the layout, metal plate attached to the structure, click them together - electrical contact. One in each corner would give you up to 3 lighting circuits and a common. 

                                 --Randy

Randy,

Thanks for the reply/info.  For the time being I plan to have a single simple (all on/all off) structure lighting circuit/power bus. Eventually I may start installing Arduinos in specific structures to provide control of individual structures/lights, but for now the plan is 'simple' as a I have A LOT of structures to build/install.  :)

Doug

 

Modeling an HO gauge freelance version of the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line and the Utah Railway around 1957 in a world where Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden, UT.

- Photo album of layout construction -

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Posted by kasskaboose on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 8:56 AM

What about LED connectors?  I too plan on putting in lights and read that not securing the structures avoids future issues.  There are plenty of ways for adding lights.  They add another diemsion of reality.

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Posted by peahrens on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 9:06 AM

If you plan to use suitcase connectors, make sure you use the 3M brand, not the knockoffs, and that the right ones are available for the 12AWG bus size and the smaller takeoff.  The 12AWG carry a LOT of current, so unless just having that on hand, perhaps consider something lighter that would also be ok.

https://www.solaris-shop.com/content/American%20Wire%20Gauge%20Conductor%20Size%20Table.pdf

Rather than so many suitcase connectors or soldered joints to the bus, perhaps use barrier strips, in various places, as an intermediate point between the bus and the structure wires.  Use the jumpers to provide one half (+) and one half (-) connection points for the structures. It requires screwing the structure leads to the barrier strips but the frequency of removing and replacing a structure is usually pretty low so not very difficult.  I use 22AWG radio rip cord for the structure leads.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 9:07 AM

I'm thinking of using USB plugs for structure power. They're only 5 volts, though, but that works well enough for LEDs.The little cube wall taps are cheap if you know where to look ($5-7 each), and they provide the ability to easily unplug the LEDs.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, January 03, 2019 12:12 PM

Remember that not all power supplies have circuit breakers.  I install fuses for every supply to make sure I don't toast one, either by accidentally crossing wires or by overloading a circuit by putting on too many lamps.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, January 03, 2019 1:30 PM

 You cna run 12V low current rhought a USB connector with no problem, USB itself is limited to 5V, but the connectors are more robust than that.

 However - I dislike using an already defined connector type in a way that is not compatible with what the conenctionw as designed for - sooner or later some supergenius will try to plug in a USB device to your layout wiring and fry something (most likely their expensive gadget, not your layout). Though this is better than some things I've seen - like using standard 120VAC plugs and sockets for an interconnect between modules, or for a walkaround throttle.

 Granted I am plannign to use RJ45 jacks on some of my boards, however the pinout I am using is such that even if some dumb bunny (read, me) managed to plug in a cable that terminated not in another of my boards but an actual Ethernet switch, it will not apply voltage or current exceeding what the Ethernet port can handle, so no harm should come to anything.

                                         --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, January 03, 2019 1:34 PM

For years I’ve made my own connectors for my structures.  It’s also been a must for me to be able to remove and reinstall them easily.  I use K&S brass tubing for the female and brass rod for the male.
 
This is a link to a post on my blog on the brass rod/tubing connectors.
 
 
I used the same process for my vehicles.  I have 90+ vehicles on my layout that I like to move around.  I installed over a hundred female Mel sockets (pairs of brass tubing) so that I can jut pull the vehicle up and put it over any of the available sockets.
 
 
That type of socket won’t work easily with more than three contacts.  I use a common wiring plan (rod & tubing spacing) two spaced at ¼” and several with an additional rod & tube for vehicles with flashing emergency lights.  The third contact is ¾” from the ¼” headlight contacts.  I don’t use LED vehicle lighting so polarity is not an issue.  All my vehicle lighting is 1mm 1½ volt bulbs.
 
I have modified 8 houses for Random Lighting Controllers for 14 to 20 individual lights.  I went with 16 conductor ribbon cable using micro connectors, a double row of 8 pin header type connectors for those houses.  The connector easily fits through a 1” hole.  I use a short piece of 4lb fishing line on the female ribbon cable so when it drops through the hole accidently I can retrieve it easily.
 
 
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, January 03, 2019 2:33 PM

I have a bunch of magnetic wands that came with the easy peasy lighting system for my Rapido coaches. I am thinking of hiding little magnetic reed switches at strategic places in my buildings and using these wands to turn the lights on and off. Is there any reason I shouldn't do this? 

I can get a gazillion nitrogen reed switches from China for cheap.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, January 03, 2019 2:53 PM

BATMAN

 

I can get a gazillion nitrogen reed switches from China for cheap.

 

Do you have a source for latching reed switches.  The magnet has to keep a non latching reed switch closed.
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, January 03, 2019 3:04 PM

BATMAN

I have a bunch of magnetic wands that came with the easy peasy lighting system for my Rapido coaches. I am thinking of hiding little magnetic reed switches at strategic places in my buildings and using these wands to turn the lights on and off. Is there any reason I shouldn't do this? 

What's the capacity of the Reed switches?  If you need dozens of them, you'll spend a lot of time futzing with them.

I have a bus for structure light, a bus for streetlights and a bus for grade crossing signals, with panel toggles for each.  The lights are all hard wired. we

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, January 03, 2019 3:32 PM

RR_Mel
a double row of 8 pin header type connectors for those houses.

Mel is light years ahead of me in figuring out random lighting.  I'm just happy that a building lights at all.  I'm in the early stages of adding lights to pre-existing buildings and I am using those header pins that Mel shows with the dime picture.

You have to solder your own wires, but it's easy work and you have control over the length of wires.  I run them down the least visible inside wall and drill a hole in the layout big enough to drop a 2 wire pin down the hole.

Here is the first set of pins on an ebay search, there maybe better prices or sellers

https://www.ebay.com/itm/20pcs-Male-Female-Header-1x40-2-54mm-40-Pin-PCB-Through-Hole-Arduino-and-Pi/223054186518?epid=8021310418&hash=item33ef10c816:rk:1:pf:0

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, January 03, 2019 3:45 PM

 The magnetic wand thing might be impressive to visitors, especially little kids, the first time. But it's going to get old after a while. Better to just wire them all into some toggles to control the power. Simple on/off, from one common location instead of walking all around the layout waving your magic wand at each building. 

 My approach will be different than Mel's, I plan to use smaller microcontrollers and make the random lighting effects local to each structure that has them. But to start, the lights can be wired to a simple 2 pin connector to just turn them on and off. Later I can go back to the same building and add the controller and lights on different floors, a flickering TV, etc - and plug the thing into the very same 2 pin connector used for plain old lights. I'm not a big fan of central anything - some people put all their DCC boosters together on a "power shelf" and just run long bus wires everywhere. Some people use block detectors like the Digitrax BDL-168 which clusters 16 detection sections on one board - meaning 16 bus lines runnign out to the detected track. I prefer the transformer type detectors which are located right out at the ONE bus that has just local taps to form each detection section. It would be cheaper int he logn run to make one controller board hat drives say 32 servos for turnouts - but then that board would have to sit in one place and there would be 32 lines going out all over to each turnout. Instead I'm making boards that control 2 servos, which get located near a crossover or a passing siding to control the two turnouts, with short wires - just more boards, each located where it is needed. 

                                               --Randy 

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, January 03, 2019 3:58 PM

Henry
 
The link for the connectors you have is for the larger Arduino connectors.  The connectors in my picture are much smaller.  I have been using the Arduino connectors more since I got the Arduino bug for easy compatibly.  I use the Arduino connectors on the Arduino end of my ribbon cable and the Round Pin micro connectors on the load or structure end to keep the hole smaller.
 
Here is a link to the male micro connectors.
 
 
And this is the female.
 
 
Round Pin is the difference between the larger Arduino (square pin) and the micro connector.
 
Both work very good!
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, January 03, 2019 4:14 PM

rrinker

 

 My approach will be different than Mel's, I plan to use smaller microcontrollers and make the random lighting effects local to each structure that has them. But to start, the lights can be wired to a simple 2 pin connector to just turn them on and off. Later I can go back to the same building and add the controller and lights on different floors, a flickering TV, etc - and plug the thing into the very same 2 pin connector used for plain old lights.

                                               --Randy 

 

 

Actually Randy’s way has an advantage over my way.  If you put the controller in the structure you can get by with a simple pair of wires to the structure.  My way I use the 16 conductor ribbon cable to feed the structure.  It’s just a personal preference, I prefer to locate my controllers in my control panel.
 
If you go with the Arduino type connectors on your lights they can plug directly onto the Arduino as Randy does.  Again personal preference.
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, January 03, 2019 4:34 PM

 Always tradeoffs - I'm not using any prebuilt Arduino boards, I'm using the ATTiny85 chip. This takes more than just plugging in to a USB port on your computer to program. And more than just connecting a 5V power supply - but not much. The chip itself, a capacitor or two for bypass, and a regulator if the power supply isn;t 5V. I use LEDs for everything, so I can drive them right from the micro's pins, just a dropping resistor same as any LED setup. Otherwise it works the same - a couple of lights in different rooms of the house the come on and off at random, flickering effect for a TV in the living room (I am modeling the mid-50's, so plenty of people would have TVs). For a business - flickering welder effect, etc.

                                    --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, January 03, 2019 5:10 PM

Maybe I don't understand reed switches. Are there not some that turn on when touched with the magnet and then turn off if touched again? How do the Rapido lights work? I know you touch them to turn them on and off. 

I saw a layout where the guy ran his Rapido cars on a certain track under a signal bridge to turn them on and off. There was a magnet mounted on the bridge.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1

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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, January 03, 2019 5:31 PM

Pruitt
I'm thinking of using USB plugs for structure power.

I have been using the mini-USB for engine-to-tender connections on brass locos with decoders. They are perfect with five conductors for 1 rail pickup, 2 motor and 2 headlight leads. If somebody wants to plug their Iphone into the tender of my decapod, they're more than welcome to Devil

 IMG_9725_fix_w by Edmund, on Flickr

 

For under layout "quickie" connections I use these push-type spring connectors:

 IMG_8738_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

I have doubles and triples, as shown. I tin the ends of stranded wire to make them a little easier to insert. They are nice for building lighting as they are quick and easy to make the connections and I don't need a plug dangling from the end of the structure wiring.

https://tinyurl.com/y9gmhvoa

As you see, I also use them for making the frog wiring connection to a Tortoise.

A #4 x 5/8 sheet metal screw holds it to the benchwork.

Good Luck, Ed

 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, January 03, 2019 5:34 PM

BATMAN

Maybe I don't understand reed switches. Are there not some that turn on when touched with the magnet and then turn off if touched again? How do the Rapido lights work? I know you touch them to turn them on and off. 

I saw a layout where the guy ran his Rapido cars on a certain track under a signal bridge to turn them on and off. There was a magnet mounted on the bridge.

 

The Latching reed switches do just that they latch.  If they don’t say Latching then they are on when the magnet is close and off when you remove the magnet.  Latching reed switches are not an easy item to find cheap.
 
I have used a bios magnet on a regular reed switch but it isn’t an easy task to get them to work correctly every time.
 
I continually watch eBay for latching reed switches and when I find some I usually buy all they have because they don’t last very long.
 
I use them in all of my cabooses and shorty coaches.  I also parallel relay contacts on my DCC passenger trains for when I’m operating on DC.  I control my passenger train lighting with a DCC function decoder, the latching reed switches bypass the decoder operated relay.  
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
 
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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, January 03, 2019 5:44 PM

The Rapido EZ-peasey circuit board has an IC that handles the latching from a pulse from the momentary reed switch.

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, January 03, 2019 6:12 PM

Got it. Thanks all.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BATTRAIN1

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, January 04, 2019 9:37 AM

Do they make latching Reed switches that power up in the closed state?  I'd hate to have to walk around with a wand every time I walk into the train room and power up the layout.

Barrel connectors might be a solution.  They don't need as much of an opening to get through the layout base.

My layout stood for years before I dismantled it to move.  In all that time, I seldom had to remove a structure once in place.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, January 04, 2019 9:54 AM

 
 
A latching reed switch is essentially a mechanical device and stays in the last position directed with a magnet with or without power.  Like a normal switch only operated with a magnet.
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, January 04, 2019 10:14 AM

Onewolf
 
If you don’t plan on more than one circuit per building I used the brass rod connectors for over 30 years and they never gave me any problems, simple and cheap.  I have only gone to the micro connectors for my houses with multiple room lighting driven from a random lighting controller.  I don’t plan on changing any of my single circuit structures.
 
I flare the brass tubes for easier rod insertion with a sharp awl or ice pick.  I also file the rod ends to a point so they slip in easily.
 
You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.
 
 
 
 
 
Most hobby shops stock K&S products, even the RC shops stock it here.
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
PED
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Posted by PED on Friday, January 04, 2019 11:36 AM

Onewolf,

I have used those connectors in several past projects and they work well. However, for the lighting in my current N scale building, I wanted something a bit smaller so I went with a 2 pin JST connector like these from Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0188YKCFC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

They work well also but they require you to crimp a small pin in the wire and you need a special tool like this one to do it right.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OMM4YUY/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I have been struggeling with the best way to place building on my layout such that I can easily remove them. Randy's magnetic approach sounds like it would work good for me and I will experiment with it. Probably use it for placement but not as an electrical path.

Paul D

N scale Washita and Santa Fe Railroad
Southern Oklahoma circa late 70's

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, January 04, 2019 12:28 PM

The magnets work great on the houses that I overhauled for the random lighting.
 
I went with ⅛” D x ⅜ L neodymium magnets to hold the houses in place.  I glued one in each corner.
 
 
 
I used a second magnet in scenery base to attach to each magnet in the structure.  The picture above has the base anchor magnet attached to the glued magnet.
 
 
I made a paper template of the footprint and drilled 3/16” holes for the base magnets, filled the holes with silicone glue and dropped the houses in place.
 

 
The small magnets have very good holding power and when I drop the structure in place they grab and align it perfectly.  The small Neodymium magnets should hold fairly large structures as well as small ones.  I wouldn’t go with very large magnets fearing damage to the structure during removal.
 
 
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 

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