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Can Copper Telephone Wire Be Used For Model Railroad Wiring?

Phillip asks readers:

“I was wondering if the copper telephone wire would be suitable to wire up a DC N or HO/OO layout, or would the wire be to thin to carry the electricity?  I have stacks of telephone wire if I decide to build an N scale layout.  Any ideas/thoughts please?”

7 Responses to Can Copper Telephone Wire Be Used For Model Railroad Wiring?

  • Neville Parrysays:

    Copper Telephone wire is only suitable for use on low power control circuitry. Wire sizes should be selected to minimise voltage drop along the complete supply circuit from the controller to the locomotive or locomotives to less than about 5%. The supply circuit includes any wires from the controller to the track feed, and the maximum length of track. Remember that the circuit is out and back and so double the length of wire and track must be considered.

  • Dale Arendssays:

    If you’re talking about the type of wire used for punchdown blocks or in-wall wiring, that could be suitable for feeders to the track. I would run feeders of that size wire every 3 to 4 feet to minimize the current each individual pair has to carry. It’s too small for bus wires or for larger scale layouts. If you are talking about handset cords, then no. It’s too small for reliable use as feeders. It can, however, be used as feeders to 3 volt street lighting or building illumination.

  • Kevin Chingsays:

    Hi Phillip
    Telephone wire is really not heavy enough to carry a lot of current even for droppers from the track to the main bus wire being DC there is a bit more current involved as at low voltage At low speed the amperage is higher than that at full voltage Telephone wire is suitable for signals and lighting circuits if you are using LED’s or grain of wheat lamps as long as not to many lamps are connected to any one circuit.

  • Don Jenningssays:

    Phillip I have no new way to operate model trains that the three gentlemen have not already mentioned. Those three gentlemen know what they are “talking about. I am a retired New York Tel employee so I know what they are saying. donj

  • Max Mobiussays:

    Everyone else has said it all just to say I use telephone wire on my layout for lighting etc and it works fine.

  • Timothy Morloksays:

    Just as an aside, as a teenager I tried to run power to my layout through shellac coated solid copper wire strung on Atlas telephone poles…..the heat from the resistance of the wire melted the cross arms. So much for that idea!

  • Morgan Bilbo, PRR fansays:

    The best way to tell is to find out the gauge of the wire. Check the sources that tell what gauge wire to use for what. I have some wire that ? looks like telephone wire. But it measures 20 gauge. That is adequate for feeders in HO. So should be OK for N. But it’s 20 gauge, not 22. And some t.w. is 22 or even 24. So you need to know the gauge. OK?

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