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What’s The Best Distance Between Track Feeders?

Jim R models OO gauge and posted this question:

“I am about to install Kato Unitrack and am confused with what distance to put the feeders apart? I read every 6 track lengths on one webpage, and then read of another guy who ran power drops every 6 foot, and of some else who had 10 foot of track with a single feeder. I don’t know what to believe.”

18 Responses to What’s The Best Distance Between Track Feeders?

  • George Lewissays:

    Unless you have a series of switches or cut outs in th line you can go 10ft easy

  • Fire21says:

    Dirty track and wheels are the two greatest inhibitors of electrical flow. The metal of the track itself is a great conductor, but dirt causes poor connections between it and the wheels or other electrical pick-ups. That being said, I feed my 4×8 N-scale layout with a power drop about every 6-8 feet and have no problems at all. I am using sectional and flextrack. I have heard that Unitrack has excellent electrical connection between sections, so I’d think a 6-8 foot distance would be adequate. You can always add more if problems show up.

  • Edsays:

    Not sure if you are modelling DC or DCC? I’m relatively new to the hobby (i.e 2 years +/-). I’m modelling HO DCC and my layout is approximately 10 ft x 10 ft. And with all that I’ve read it’s very important with DCC to have a constant voltage throughout the layout. Based on my research I have drops every 3 ft and a very robust buss system of 14 ga wire. I’ve been running my layout for a year or so with no operating problems.

  • TERRY LEFEVREsays:

    Whether it be 9 inch sectional or 36 inch flex. I have found every 3 feet to be an excellent choice.
    I also drop feed each turn out switch and have had no problems in 10 years (other then dirty track).

  • Steve Berlinersays:

    I say start with one feeder and run your trains. If they run fine, your done, if not, put a feeder in the middle. Keep adding feeders in the middle of each electrical section until the trains run smoothly and to your satisfaction. You have to take into account the layout design. If you have 10 ft ( approx. 2.5 meters) of track and form it into a circle, then your train is never more than 5ft. from a single feeder. The gauge, purity and length of your feeder wire are important to consider, the wire adds to your length. Supposing that a track rail was equivalent of 20 AWG wire and you use 20 AWG wire as the feeder, then every foot of feeder wire from power source to the track, adds 1 ft of track. An 18 AWG feeder would add 1/2 ft per ft, etc.

  • phil johnsonsays:

    I like feeders every 12′. I ise 3′ rails on Tru-Scale roadbed with rail joints soldered at 6′ intervals.

  • Walter Normansays:

    I run Dcc and put feeders every 3 feet with min 22 gauge solid wire

  • ROBERT SCHWORMsays:

    I have been informed, for at least DCC, to run a dropper on every section of track. In my case that is flext track and each section is 39 inches. The idea of soldering joiners is a mixed opinion. Preferably, I do not care to solder the track and no point to it if each section has a dropper. That includes turnouts.

    In my own installation, I have 1 inch of foam board on 1/2 inch plywood. I then use foam board adhesive and run a smear over the track plan to hold down foam roadbed. I then use 1″ nails thru the members, down thru the smear and foam board to hold the track. The smear really grabs the nails, but are still easy to pull up if you need to adjust the track. Also, a putty knife under the roadbed nicely releases the roadbed, and both can be easily moved or recycled. I do not prefer to glue down my ballast with pva as it turns into concrete and then if you need to move, you will destroy it and loose all your investment in the track work. DO NOT ballast track until you have extensively run your trains over all track for at least 6 months to be sure all is solid.

  • Rguerciosays:

    Iran drops every 4 to 6 feet on over 600 feet of American Flyer track I don’t show any power sags in anywhere

  • Tom Osterdocksays:

    I put a feeder on every switch and switchable power to the frog. I put at least one feeder on every section of track. I use flex track. If I have a piece of track 3inches long between switches it will have a feeder on it. I use 22 gauge wire for feeders and 16 gauge for the DCC bus.

  • David Stokessays:

    If bus lines for + and – are run under your baseboard, then I recommend a dropper from each length of track. This might be 3′ or 1 metre on the main, but as close as 6″ in yards and complex situations. Anything less is false economy. Expense is not an issue as each dropper need only reach the bus – maybe 6″ at most. The upside is that you get very good at soldering – a skill you need to develop to its highest level in order to build a layout.

  • Keith parrishsays:

    I am here in the UK and I found that every 4ft works for me but an easy way to work it out let’s say your track size is 15ft. So put your droppers say 10ft if all locomotives struggle the add more until your locomotives run smoothly then yours is set up. Therefore track layouts sizes is not the problem, droppers can be fit to what your track size, but also think about you may need put power steps ups

  • Don Jenningssays:

    Not knowing how big or small a layout you have every 6 to 8 feet is a general rule what we in the USA use. You do not have to use this. You are a model railroader, use what suits you. . These feeder wires connect to a Positive and Negative Terminals from your power supply and are under the table ==CORRECT??== That is a BUSS wire. This is so you do not rely on the rail connectors on top of the table that connect to your track. SO bottom line here — use what you want do and let the other guys ask you what you used.

  • Dave Winslowsays:

    I’m with Steve. If you can add them conveniently later, don’t try to anticipate how many you need. Use one and add on as performance indicates the need. It all depends upon how much current is drawn, and that depends upon what engines, how many cars dragged along, etc. Steel track is not a good conductor, brass is excellent, and that might be the biggest variable of all. Good luck

  • Ian McIntoshsays:

    Track and wiring oxidize, so what works now may not in 5 or 10 years. I’ve seen layouts with “40 year wiring rot”. The answer depends on how long you expect your layout to last.

  • Louis van Zylsays:

    When deciding the distance that drop wires must be, the voltage and current must be taken into account. A 22 awg wire of 6 feet will give a 2% drop in voltage at 12V / 2A and a 16 awg wire under the same conditions will only drop 0.7%. I use the Model Railroad Calculator Tool to calculate the losses on wires when deciding on wire thickness. The tool is free if anybody is interested.

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