Build #15: Good Wiring is An Essential Lifeline to A Model Railway

It was a nasty Saturday this weekend but it was a good time to spend indoor. I corresponded with Jason Reis about DCC wiring my modules some 3 months back and in between, I let the notes of our discussions set for awhile. A recap of those notes:

  • The bottom level (pic below) will be divided into 5 small power districts.
  • For circuit breakers, Jason recommended auto tail-light bulbs. Cheap and effective.

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  • The top level (pic below) will have 4 small power districts.

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I started with the bottom level wiring first: the track 2 (dark blue marking). I have read from forums and seen many photos on how wiring is done. The N-trak has guidelines on wiring modular layout. For mine, I had improvised. I wanted to make sure that the wiring on my layout is easy to manage especially to the tracks and inter-modules. It is important to make sure that the wiring is properly on your layout. So take your time to think how your wiring will be and how you want to lay them. I am sure many model railroader will agree with me that good wiring is essential to a model railway. It is like the blood circulation system in our body. You know it is important to carry all the juices through your layout yet it will be hidden under your layout all the time. People will not see these wires but when they see your trains not running smoothly, you will know that somewhere underneath you have a wiring problem you need to fix. Where is the source of the problem? Well, you better know where to troubleshoot.

I have decided to use AWG16 (1.5 sq.mm) for track bus and AWG20 (0.5 sq.mm) for feeders (see Standards on germaN160)

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I did not want to lay the track bus in the middle of the module and the bus looking “suspended on air”. Rather, I used 12-points terminal strips as terminating points at each end of a module. I divided each terminal strip into two, marked 1 to 6 for positive polarity (red) and 1 to 6 for negative polarity (black).

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Each track bus terminated at the point 2 on respective polarity. I cut short length of track bus wires (about 4cm) and made them into horseshoe. The purpose was to create a loopback to point 1 on the strip. The point 1 will connect to point 1 on the other side of the module by another track bus wire: thus, creating a continuous track bus. I used this method as it allowed me to unscrew one side of point 1 before removing the modules.

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I did the same for point 2 to point 6 on each polarity. This time, I used the thinner wire AWG20 (0.5 sq.mm) for feeder purposes.

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The result was a neatly track bus and feeders termination points for each polarity. The track bus was ran around the backend of each module, using cable clips to hold them in place. I twisted the pair of wires to cancel out any noise interference from the digital signals.

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The above photo showed how track bus was connected from one side of a module to another. A simple and effective method. Before removing a module, just disconnect the wires from point 1.

Sometime in March, I posted the method of making DCC wiring buzzer using 9V battery, buzzer and couple of wires and alligator clips. I wasn’t sure how to use the device but I recalled that when wiring, I should connect them to the rails, or in my case, to each track bus terminating point.

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At one end of the module, I connected the DCC buzzer: on the other (above pic) I connected short wires. I intentionally touched both wires and the buzzer went off. If the wiring is done correctly, no sound from the buzzer should be heard. So each time I complete wiring a module, I test them with the DCC buzzer.

After reassembling the modules to its original place, I tested again the wiring end-to-end with the buzzer. Before I did that I made sure the point 1 on all modules were connected. And, the buzzer went off (to show that it was a complete circuit)

Next would be to feed the wires to each rail using the feeder wires from terminating points 3 to 6.

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4 thoughts on “Build #15: Good Wiring is An Essential Lifeline to A Model Railway

  1. Nice work. Well done.

    I like the 9V battery and buzzer idea. Even for a non-DCC layout this might be a good idea to do live tracking of short circuits. Thanks!

    • Thanks Chris. Finally I know how to use the buzzer. Try to short the rails so that you know the wiring is done properly.

  2. I added a few turnouts over the weekend and suddenly there was no power to the tracks. I took out my buzzer and it sounded. There was a short somewhere. Checked all the wiring and they were okay. Removed piece by piece all the turnouts and found the problem. Thanks to the buzzer, I was alerted of any shorts and made my troubleshooting easier. I highly recommend anyone to build one and use it whenever you add new tracks, wiring, and turnouts.

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