Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Wiring help!

1122 views
29 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Wiring help!
Posted by Cali on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 12:22 AM

Hey guys new to the site and new to the hobby! I am a railroader and looking to get some useful info that I’ve been searching for, for a while. 

I’m a little confused on how exactly the wiring works. I am going with DCC and have started laying cork on my 12x8 L shaped benchwork. 

I have been told by a few hobby shops now that a pre soldered joiner along with my NCE power cab starter system which is the controller I’ve decided to go with is all I need to get trains running is this correct? Also I don’t know if this falls in this category but soldering each joint will carry the signal better? But what about if I ever want to change anything isn’t it pretty well set in stone once soldered? I have custom line #6 turnouts if I do use just the pre soldered joiner will this carry the signal through each turnout lined for normal as well as lined in reverse Coming from 1 fixed location from my powercab? 

  • Member since
    January, 2009
  • 3,394 posts
Posted by RR_Mel on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 9:18 AM

Welcome

If a large temperature swing from hot to cold is possible soldering all the track joiners can be a problem even on a small layout.
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 4,085 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 9:19 AM

Not sure what you mean by "pre soldered joiner", but soldering rail joiners is a good idea, along with installing feeder wires, every 6' or so along the railroad.

Nothing is set in stone, as far as model railroading goes.  If you can solder, you can easily unsolder something you want to change.

Mike.

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Phoenix, AZ
  • 1,721 posts
Posted by bearman on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 9:37 AM

As I understand it, Atlas sells joiners that have feeder wires already soldered to them.  It is a waste of money.  What I have done is soldered my 18 AWG feeders to the rail joiners and then soldered the joiners to the track.  Joiners are also soldered to the track where there are no feeders.  I have left some joiners unsoldered to provide for some contraction and expansion.  Have never had any problems. 

Bear "It's all about having fun."

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 4,085 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 11:08 AM

OK, now that Bearman reminded me of the Atlas "pre soldered" joiners, lets break this down.

Cali
pre soldered joiner along with my NCE power cab starter system which is the controller I’ve decided to go with is all I need to get trains running is this correct?

Yes, that will get a train running, temporarily, but you'll want to make more permanent connections as you build the layout, and install feeders along the way, and solder rail joiners, so the power isn't just coming from one spot.

Cali
Also I don’t know if this falls in this category but soldering each joint will carry the signal better? But what about if I ever want to change anything isn’t it pretty well set in stone once soldered?

Yes, soldering the joiners will carry the signal (power) better.  And as I said before, nothing is permanent on a model railroad.  If you want to change something, unsolder it.

Cali
I have custom line #6 turnouts if I do use just the pre soldered joiner will this carry the signal through each turnout lined for normal as well as lined in reverse Coming from 1 fixed location from my powercab?

You can put your joiners at each end of a turnout, both ends of the through route, and on the end of the diverging route.  But as I said before, you want more than one fixed location, you want feeders along the layout, and these feeders is what you can put on each end of the turnout.

There is some good reading on setting this all up, I'm sure someone will come along and link to some it. 

You will learn about "bus" wires and "feeder" wires to spread the power of your controller over the entire layout, and not just coming from one location.

Did I make that all as clear as mud? Laugh

Mike.

 

  • Member since
    December, 2015
  • 4,616 posts
Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 11:30 AM

bearman
What I have done is soldered my 18 AWG feeders to the rail joiners and then soldered the joiners to the track.

Randy also does this.  I have tried it once, and found it unwieldy to connect the track, as the joiner is tethered to a wire.  Do you have tips?  What I did was to drill the hole for the feeder, then take a dremel with a burr and made the hole a long narrow oval about 3/8" deep so I could move the joiner fore and aft.

I am a believer of either a solder connection or a feeder to every piece of rail and my first layout was all soldered and I had big problems with rail kinking.  I will probably solder a couple pieces of flex track when I get to laying the big curves, but so far I'd rather attach feeders directly to the rail.

Soldering is a skill that few are born with.  Melted ties happen when you are new and not very skilled.  Practice on a piece of sectional track.

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • From: Southern California
  • 1,516 posts
Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 1:42 PM

    I use to buy the pre soldered rail joiner made by Atlas but they were kind of expensive and the stranded wire was pretty thin and would sometimes break so I started just making my own. I just buy a bunch of Atlas rail joiners and solder a bunch of foot long pigtails onto them using solid 18 gauge wire. I make them with both red and white wire so I can tell them apart when hooking them up to the main ‘bus’ wires.
    I suck at soldering so I make them on the workbench were I have more control. I never solder my track ever and I rarely have problems with getting good connections using only rail joiners. I use the pre soldered rail joiner about every ten or twelve feet.
    A lot of people like to solder every piece of track to the next piece but that is a lot of time that I would rather spend doing something else. I just make sure I use new or like new rail joiners and make sure they are on tight. I also like to make sure that the rails actually touch.

Modeling a fictional version of California set in the 1990s Lone Wolf and Santa Fe Railroad
  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: Phoenix, AZ
  • 1,721 posts
Posted by bearman on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 3:34 PM

Henry, Lone Wolf and Santa Fe does it more or less the way I do.  I solder the feeder to the bottom of the joiner on my work bench and drill a hole at the end of the rail.  Feed the feeder wire through the hole and then join the track sections and solder the joiners to the track.  And you don't have to solder the joiner inside the track, the outside alone works fine.

Bear "It's all about having fun."

  • Member since
    July, 2009
  • From: somerset, nj
  • 2,328 posts
Posted by gregc on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 4:25 PM

BigDaddy
I am a believer of either a solder connection or a feeder to every piece of rail and my first layout was all soldered and I had big problems with rail kinking. 

there's no need to solder a separate feeder to every piece of rail.  Solder together the rails at every other joint and solder a feeder to that joint.   You will then have a feeder to two rails.

every other joint does not need to be soldered and a gap can be left for expansion/contraction of wood due to humidity more than temperature.   Not sure if the gap is needed in the summer (humid) or winter dry.

soldering is not difficult.  make sure the surfaces are clean.   if both parts are pre-tinned you may only have to heat them together and hold in place to cool w/o needing to add additional solder. 

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 25,548 posts
Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 4:50 PM

 Some things about the way I do it:

The ones I solder wires to (I do this at the bench - I never buy the Atlas ones, they are insanely overpriced) are always fresh out of the pack.

 For trial fitting of track, I keep a few around with no wires, that have been connected and unconnected several times, so they slode on easily. These are the kind that would be a problem if relied upon to conduct electricity, since they are a loose fit to start with adn any paint used on the rails will surely get down inside. But for frequently connecting track to mark and measure placement, the loose ones are the way to go.

 So now that I know where the next piece of track goes - and thus the joiners - I can drill my holes for the feeder wires and stick a pair of wired joiners in place - NOT attached to either the already placed track or the piece I am about to add. THEN I connect the track with the joiners. SO the wires really don;t interfere with anything.

 Using flex track, there aren't THAT many joints, even on a bedroom size layout. I do put wired rail joiners on all 3 legs of Atlas turnouts.

 Lots of people say this whole thing is unreliabe - especailly with additions like "wait until you paint the rail" or "wait until you ballast" - well, I did both on my last layout and never had the slightest dead spot. All that exposed shiny metal around where the points pivot on Atlas joiners? Yeah, that all got painted so I didn;t have shiny bits standing out. Joiners got painted over, a little extra heavy too, to make sure the paint covered the edges. No loss of power.

 I have a hard time trusting things not to move, even when the layout was in occupied living space to temperature and humidty didn;t vary wildly. And it was on extruded foam which isn;t nearly as affected by humidity swings as wood. So I only soldered every OTHER rail joint, and never soldered a joiner to a turnout. Perhaps I'm overly paranoid, but it definitely meant no espansion/contraction issues. 

And then there's the layout before the last one, which I did the same thing. However, I test ran the layout by connecting ONE pair of feeders to the DCC system and had no problems anywhere around an 8x12 double track oval. No slowdowns, no power problems of any sort. It just worked. Same organization - every OTHER rail joint soldered, no turnout soldered. Some of the track was painted, but I think by the time it all got done I had run the bus lines and hooked up all the feeders. 

                                              --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Tuesday, February 05, 2019 11:28 PM

Okay so feeder wires every other peice of flex track(6’ give or take)will work well solder every other joint but not in turnouts. 

and I know this might be a dumb of me to ask but just want to make sure! Can I use 1 bus wire for double track? And how exactly do you run it out from your controller around track? Is it a connected loop or just dead ends back at its point of origin? What size wire for bus and what size for feeders? 

You guys make it sound so easy I hope that’s the reality of it haha 

  • Member since
    July, 2009
  • From: somerset, nj
  • 2,328 posts
Posted by gregc on Wednesday, February 06, 2019 9:49 AM

why not solder turnouts?   do you want to have to wire additional feeders to the turnouts.    of couse you may use insulated connectors on the frog rails

i see no benefit is running any more than a single pair of bus wires for one, two or more parallel tracks.

there's no need to connect the bus in a loop, but there's no need not to, in other wordshave two ends next to one another.

however, you may want to be able to disconnect sections of the layout in order to isolate shorts

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Reading, PA
  • 25,548 posts
Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, February 06, 2019 4:47 PM

 One bus is fine for 2 or more parallel tracks. Just wire them all the same. For each parallel track, one rail will be closer to the backgrop and one will be closer to the aisle. Or however you want to differentiate them in your head. The rail on every parallel track closest to the wall should go to the smae bus wire, and the rail closest to the aisle on each parallel track should go to the other bus wire. That way if one of the parallel tracks happens to be a siding off the other, there won;t be any shorting issues at the turnout. 

                               --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 4,085 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, February 06, 2019 7:37 PM

And, may I add, stick with a color code.  I used 14 ga. for the bus, and I think 24 ga. for the feeders, black and red.

Use what colors you want, but stick with it, and don't change as you go.

My bus wire just ends.  I put a wire nut on each one, just so they don't ever touch together.

Mike.

  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Friday, February 08, 2019 11:04 PM

Okay so there is no need to wire switches or anything like that just wire every 6’ and everything should be good? 

  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Monday, February 11, 2019 8:08 PM

And do I need to run the bus lines down into the yards? Or will the bus and the feeders running to the mainline be enough?

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 4,085 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, February 11, 2019 8:14 PM

I would run power to the yard, but that's just me.  If you do, just remember to keep the same polarity as the main.

Mike.

  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Thursday, February 14, 2019 12:47 AM

So just a few more questions! I’ve been doing some more research and I’ve read about cp6 circut breakers are these necessary? I was just going to run the bus from my controller Around the main line.. also read about blocks which I’m not even sure how you up.. just looking for someone to really lay out what I need to do from start to finish. I have a 12 x 8 L shape layout - 1 yard is triple traxl one yard is double track and two more singles track yards. If someone could help me out that would be great! 

  • Member since
    December, 2015
  • 4,616 posts
Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, February 14, 2019 2:09 AM

It would probably be best if you posted a sketch of your proposed layout.  This forum has specific rules on how to post a pic, otherwise no one sees your picture.

http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/88/t/249194.aspx

If you are a one man operation, having a bunch of power districts, so that the whole layout is not shut down by a short, isn't that much of advantage on a small layout.

The bus ought to start near the middle of the layout and go to either end, rather than start at one end of the layout and having a 20 foot (12+8) run from the command station. 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 17,630 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, February 14, 2019 4:17 AM

Cali

So just a few more questions! I’ve been doing some more research and I’ve read about cp6 circut breakers are these necessary? I was just going to run the bus from my controller Around the main line.. also read about blocks which I’m not even sure how you up.. just looking for someone to really lay out what I need to do from start to finish. I have a 12 x 8 L shape layout - 1 yard is triple traxl one yard is double track and two more singles track yards. If someone could help me out that would be great!  

A 12' x 8' L-shaped layout is small enough to wire with a single pair of bus wires running right down the middle of the underside of the layout surface. Then, just wire the track feeders to the bus wires and connect the bus wires to the command station. 

The only reason to use circuit breakers would be if you feel the need to create separate "power districts" which are essentially blocks of track. For example, each of your yards could be a separate power district. But, honestly, if you intend to be the sole operator, there is no need for separate power districts on such a small layout because the main reason for separate power districts is to isolate shorts so that the rest of the layout does not come to an unexpected halt.

When separate power districts are created, the section of track forming the power district is isolated by gapping each end of that section. Power to the input side of the circuit breaher can be provided by a pair of wires from the bus. Power to the track inside the power district is provided by a pair of wires from the output side of the circuit breaker.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Thursday, February 14, 2019 6:25 AM

Okay! And there is no need to wire each of my switches on each route of the switch? Or my crossovers? I have a line from my mainline that braches off into the middle of my layout that branches off into a yard in the opposite direction but also continues and connects back into my mainline... would this be considered a reverse loop? Or more like a siding? Does this need any special wiring attention? or is a simple bus line running the main with feeders running to track give me what I need? 

( trying to figure out how to post my layout could be coming soon Bang Head)

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 4,085 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Thursday, February 14, 2019 6:41 AM

You might have a reversing loop going on with that siding, but we'll wait for a picture of your track plan.

Mike.

  • Member since
    December, 2015
  • 4,616 posts
Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, February 14, 2019 9:47 AM

One advantage of blocks, is a place to park unused locos.  Of course most of us would never admit to having too many locos. Surprise

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 17,630 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, February 14, 2019 1:38 PM

Cali

Okay! And there is no need to wire each of my switches on each route of the switch? Or my crossovers? 

Need?  Only if you want trouble free performance. In that case, install feeders wire on all of the ends of every turnout (switch). So, three pairs of feeders on a standard turnout and six pairs of feeders on a crossover.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 17,630 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Thursday, February 14, 2019 1:44 PM

Cali

I have a line from my mainline that braches off into the middle of my layout that branches off into a yard in the opposite direction but also continues and connects back into my mainline... would this be considered a reverse loop? Or more like a siding? Does this need any special wiring attention? or is a simple bus line running the main with feeders running to track give me what I need?  

It may be a reverse loop in which case it would need special wiring attention as well as gapping. How about a track diagram?

You should also get used to drawing two-rail track diagrams in which each rail is a different color, say, red and blue. If, at any point, the red rail connects to the blue rail and the blue rail connects to the red rail, you have what I call a "point of opposite polarity" which will cause a dead short unless you pay special attention to the wiring and gapping of the entire "reversing section".

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 4,085 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Thursday, February 14, 2019 3:03 PM

BigDaddy
One advantage of blocks, is a place to park unused locos.

Yep, I do that.  Of course I wired the layout for DC blocks, NOT common rail, gapped both rails, so yes, I park, and shut that track off.

What I didn't tell you is that I still have a few of my favoites on address 3  Smile, Wink & Grin

Mike.. 

  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Sunday, February 17, 2019 9:14 PM
  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Sunday, February 17, 2019 9:16 PM

There I’m pretty sure I got a pic up!! 

  • Member since
    May, 2010
  • 4,085 posts
Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, February 17, 2019 9:21 PM

Yep, I see your pics.

I don't think that siding, that comes back to the main is a reversing loop, just a siding or you could call it spur.

Mike.

  • Member since
    February, 2019
  • 12 posts
Posted by Cali on Sunday, February 17, 2019 9:43 PM

Yeah it does seem to work fine I have the track all done and fastened down, all I’ve been using to power it are those atlas rail joiners that are pre soldered and it runs well with nce powercab Smile

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!