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Wiring? Boosters? Circuit Breakers?

Aaron models HO scale and asks readers this:

“I am currently building a layout about 5 -6 pieces of plywood (standard size) formed in a horse shoe shape.. with a under ground staging yard to park the locomotives.. my question is how would I wire my system up? How many boosters? What about circuit breakers? Etc”

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5 Responses to Wiring? Boosters? Circuit Breakers?

  • Bill says:


    Sounds like a big project. A hard number is not going to be possible here as there is not sufficient info. From your question I assume you are planning on installing DCC. The number of boosters is dependent on the current your pike will draw. Only you can figure this out, To do it you will have to know how many locos will be running simultaneously and what current they will draw. .A rule of thumb is 1/2 amp per loco for newer models, older ones can easily double this then you have to allow for sound.
    Then you have to add in accessories probably the biggest one is switch machines. The cicuitron type ones draw very little current but they are continuous so you have to add them together (50 =1 amp). Don’t forget to add other items such as sound effects and lights.
    You will definitely need circuit breakers on something this size. The number again will determined by what your trains will be doing. The staging yard will need a circuit breaker as will any area where there are a lot of switching activity on he main level. Circuit breakers allow you to divide your system into districts so that a short in one district doesn’t shut down the entire railway. The smaller the districts the easier it is to find the short and the less impact on the rest of the system. Again you will have to decide your needs here based on your track plan. Long mainline sections are not as likely to be a source shorts as intensive switching areas.
    I would suggest you do some reading on this. There is a lot of info available to get you started on the internet. From there you should plan on picking up some basic information that you will probably have to purchase. Once you get through that you will have a good idea of any other specific info you need for your railroad and can hunt it down via the internet.
    Just remember to have fun doing it, that is the reason we are in this hobby.


    • Aaron says:

      okay, thanks. another question, on a dcc system, would I be able to operate more than one train in a block/district?

      • Bill says:

        A district will have all the current that is not being used elsewhere. So as long as the other districts are not using all the the available amps you will have current (amps) to run as many trains as the remaining amperage will allow.
        An example could look like this. A railroad divided into 4 districts (4 circuit breakers) Power supply provides 5 amps, district 1, 2, & 4 are consuming 2.5 amps between trains, slow motion switch machines, light and sound effects (assuming all this is being powered by the one power supply). In theory you have 2.5 amps left in district 3. Deduct the consumption of non train items (say 0.5 amps for this example). You are now down to 2 amps to run trains. I suggest you not go to the full 5 amps so leave 0.5 amps which still leaves you 1.5 amps. This is enough to run 3 newer locos (without sound) in district 3. Also when the train from district 2 moves into district 3 you are ok as the load from 1,2 & 4 has been reduced by the consumption of the train that just moved into district 3.
        If this is not enough power than you can always add additional boosters. For the example above your command station/booster powers districts 1 & 2 and an additional booster powers districts 3 & 4.
        In both cases it important to follow your power supply manufactures directions as to how to setup these districts and ensure an insulated gap between both rails at the boundary of each district.

      • Randall Styx says:

        Perhaps some clarification will help. The term “block” is commonly used in connection with the older DC layouts. Dividing the layout into “blocks” enabled operation of more than one train on the layout, but each block was limited to one train – usually one locomotive, but multiple locomotives with similar speed to voltage characteristics could be joined together as a unit on the same train. All the locomotives in the same block would do the same as every other.

        What Bill is talking about here is different. With DCC the power throughout the whole layout remains constant and signals are sent to the loco’s so they use it differently than other locos. This enables multiple loco’s to operate and do different things at the same time. The purpose of dividing up the layout into districts or areas is not to change how loco’s are operated, but to protect the rest of the layout from a problem that occurs in just one district. The power going to all the districts remains the same throughout the layout, but the wiring and track are separated after circuit breakers, one for each district. Each district is like its own complete DCC layout and multiple loco’s can be operated in different ways at the same time. The loco’s can go from district to district without a problem because both the power and the DCC signal go to every district so the loco can get them no matter in which district it may be. But if there is a problem in one district, that district shuts down because of the overloaded circuit breaker. The rest are unaffected.

        Using the term “block” for a district is no surprise. Many of us grew up with “blocks” and almost automatically use the term for dividing up the layout electrically. However you use the terms, just remember that breaking up a DC layout electrically into (blocks/areas/districts) is to enable multiple locos to do different things at the same time on the same layout. Breaking up a DCC layout electrically is to protect other areas of the layout from shutting down because of a problem in just one.

  • skip says:


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