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Wiring the Tracks

Josh sent in this question:

“I have read quite a bit on how to wire track etc., but still don’t know exactly which wires to use. Could someone guide me please?”

11 Responses to Wiring the Tracks

  • Michaelsays:

    I am N scale. Bus wire 14 gauge stranded. Feeder wire 20 oe 22 gauge solid. My Feeders are 30 inches apart. I strip a small portion of the bus wire and stick the feeder into it, wrap it around and put a bit of solder on it. It is that simple.

  • Docsays:

    What gauge?

  • Chuck Holsclawsays:

    If your using a dc power pack, all you need is 2 wires to power your track. Wire size can be 20 to 24 gauge. If your using dcc, its a little more involved because you have a control panel that you plug a power supply into also your throttle and then 2 wires to a bus wire that is installed below and around the track perimeter.Your locomotives have to be dcc compatible for this system.

  • Morgan Bilbo, PRR fansays:

    Josh: need more info. HO or N. rail code 83, 70, 55 or even 100. In general, it depends on how you approach it and how to make decisions intelligently.
    If HO, code 83, PECO track. I suggest AWG 20/22 for feeders. And AWG 16 for buss. Feeders every 3 to 6 feet. However, there’s other ways. I use AWG 20 for “all the way from the rails to the command station. Each feeder goes all that way. But I have a shelf layout and the longest run is 8 feet. In my case, those 8 to 12 feeders don’t take up more room than a pair of 16 AWG.

  • Geoffsays:

    Stranded wire is more flexible, so less prone to breakage. But if you are soldering wire to track, solid wire is easier to use.

    The NCE website has a useful chart (https://ncedcc.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003102886-Recommended-Wire-Gauges-by-Scale) that shows recommended wire gauges for different model scales and lengths of wire you will be using.

    But perhaps the most important thing is to have wires of DIFFERENT COLOURS, one for each rail, and to make it easier to correctly wire up accessories such as point motors. If you are going for a really big layout, you might want different colours for track vs accessories and lighting.

    • Sheldon Clarksays:

      Even then, it’s a good idea to tag each wire so you know where it’s going to (and where it’s coming from); I use about 9 colours on mine, and have a wiring diagram a bit like those you get in your car maintenance handbook or workshop manual. I should have tagged them all at various places (beginning, middle & end).

  • Dale Arendssays:

    A lot depends on the size and scale you are modelling. O takes more power than HO, for example, and therefore takes larger wires. The same is true for a large layout vs a small one. For HO or N, I would recommend 14 or 16 gauge solid copper wire, not aluminum, for the bus wires, going to 12 gauge for a larger layout or larger scale. The same holds for the feeder wires to the track; 18 gauge for the larger scales and 22 or 24 gauge for the smaller scales. Layout size doesn’t matter for the feeders wire size. Feeders tot he track are typically every 4-6 feet apart. A larger layout should just have more feeders.

  • phil johnsonsays:

    I like 26Ga, for feeders . Since I run both DC and DCC I use blocks. For each block I use 20Ga. The feeders are solid wire. Everything else stranded.

  • Tonysays:

    Very Helpful Thank you for the link

  • ROBERT SCHWORMsays:

    Here is a wiring tip. Take a boxcar and label with tape one side called RED. I use red and black wire, 14 gage for S gage, for buss lines and 16 gage for droppers – – that is just me, so I have minimum current drop. Now run that boxcar around your track, and put black and red pins on each side where you will droop your feeders. The boxcar will always show you which side of the rails should be the red wire.

  • David Stokessays:

    Use 20 or 22 gauge wire for H0 and N Scale droppers. Try and connect ever piece of track to a “dropper” through the baseboard. Use three main colours, black and red for + and – and green for frogs at switches (points). If you can get it, strip the outer insulation off 3 core house grade wire for your “bus” wires (again red and black) and connect all your droppers to the relevant “bus”. This works whether you use Analog (DC) or Digital (DCC) control. Red to red, black to black.

    The only complication is where tracks turn back on themselves (return loops) or for turntables and triangles. Here I recommend Lynn Westcott’s classic book from Kalmbach for guidance.

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