Bus wires and feeder wires

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by CAS, Jan 3, 2007.

  1. CAS

    CAS Member

    I received my Zepher starter set yesterday, from the big brown truck, my companys competitor, LOL.

    So i figured i go to Home depot for my wiring supplies. They had they 12 guage wire, but in 500'. I only need like 40' the most. They didn't have any 20 - 24 guage wire either.
    Then i looked for the RJ-12 six-wire cable. they didn't have that either. The phone jacks they had, only had 4 connecters, not 6.

    1 - What is done with the bus wire at the end? Do you just leave it hanging there? DO you tape it with electrical tape? Don't know on that one.

    2 - When you connect your feeder wires to you bus wires, how do you take the wire casing off in that postion of the wire? so you can connect the feeder wires , to solder them.

    I had ordered this book, http://www.dcctrain.com/shop/item.asp?itemid=304&catid=,
    but i didn't receive it yet. Hoping the book would have answer some questions.

  2. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member


    A couple of suggestions. For a 40' bus you can probably get away with 14 Gauge house cable. You might find 50' packages at a Wal-Mart. For the feeder wires and the RJ-12 I went to Radio Shack where I found both as well as the 6 prong jacks and a sturdy wire stripper/crimper.

    your questions - 1 - since my layout is not point to point. I have connected my bus wires at the end to form loops. But you can leave them unconnected as well no special treatment required. Some people have terminated them on connector blocks.

    2. Using that wire stripper, I spread a section of insulation at a point where I wanted to connect a feeder drop, wrapped the wire and soldered it. When it cooled I painted it with a drop of liquid insulation. very easy process.

    Have fun:)
  3. 91rioja

    91rioja Member

    Go to Wally World or an auto parts store and look in the automotive electrical section for Insulation Displacement Connectors; they are sometimes called Suitcase Connectors. Here is a link to the 3M page about them. No muss no fuss involved; they just snap right on.
    Hope this helps.
  4. CAS

    CAS Member

    Thanks for the replys.

    My layout is 5' x 10' oval. To form loops, are the loops at the very end of the wire? Or did you make the bus wire a continuous circle?:oops: So then i can cap them off with a wire connectors?

    Just got done reading about these in Feb. issue of MR magazine.

    Really appreciate the help.
    Thanks again,
  5. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    The IDC connectors can fail, and will lead to problems later. On 1 5x10 layout, I would just use 18 guage lamp cord or any other stuff you have laying around that is extra or whatever. You should have a soldered connection all of the way back to a terminal strip or whatnot. So if you solder all of your rail joiners, then you only need a few feeder drops that are maybe 20, 22, or 24 guage off of an 18 guage bus. You could even try not using a bus, just a single pair of feeders. As long as the quarter test works, you are all good. As for the ends of the busses, just make sure they don't touch and short, just tape them to the benchwork or something.
  6. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    I have that book just bought it a couple weeks ago. Great book lots of information, but there are better wiring books and information out there.

    Another gauger pointed me to this:

    Which is great and there are other wiring books that offer an indepth view into wiring your layout.

    Click the search and do a search for basic wiring in the forums you will turn up a veritable cornucopia (2 sat words in a row!!) of information about wiring :).

    To be honest this forum taught me how to wire my layout, i've just recently run my 14gauge bus wire and am building the terminal strip now. There was a recent thread on leds adn how to wire them so they light up when you throw a turnout switch :) it was enlightning!!
  7. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    CAS: in Chicago, you should be able to find all sorts of electronics junk stores. There should be "surplus" stores that carry parts, boards out of old computers, and bankrupt stock. You should also be able to find stores that sell all the itty-bitty plugs and sockets and resistors by the pound. Either of these should hae some reasonable sized wire.
    Even Home Despot should be able to cut you some conduit off a reel.
    Loop? i don't think it's necessary; it may even cause signal problems. I would run the bus to the far point and wrap the wires around 2 screws. I've seen feeders put in by cutting the bus wire and joining 3 ends. Also by stripping the insulation from the middle (not sure how) and wrapping the feeder.
  8. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hello CAS. You simply stretch the bus wires out underneath your layout. One end is connected to your Zephyr. At the other end you simply wrap any exposed wire with some electrical tape or shrink tubing so that the wires can't short out against each other.

    As to a source for a wire supply for the bus, most automotive parts distributors sell colour-coded stranded copper wire that is referred to as trailer hook-up wire. This comes in a number of different colours - (white, black, red, yellow, blue, brown) in a number of different wire gauges (10 AWG, 12AWG, 14 AWG, 16AWG, AWG)(the lower the AWG number, the thicker the wire), in different lengths on the spool (25' 100'). You should be looking at a minimum 16AWG thickness, although conventional wisdom says to go with 14AWG. Some people are even using 12AWG. For a small home layout, 16 or 14 AWG should do.

    As to hookup wire, 20 AWG or 22 AWG should do. Try to stay away from the solid-strand telephone wire (24AWG). You can usually pick this up at an electronics supply store.

    Its usually best to solder all connections (track feeds to the bus wire). This can get a little tricky when you're working underneath your layout trying to solder some wires onto the power buss that is tucked up nice and flush against the plywood or styrofoam of your layout. A little trick that I use is to solder some 18AWG pigtails about every 2' - 4' into the track power buss. I then solder a bunch of track feeds into the pigtails. To see what this looks like, take a look at this page on my website.

    Try to stay away from mechanical connectors like suitcase connectors. Mechanical connectors may cause problems in time if they don't properly guillotine the wire or are subject to movement. You can usually pick up a 20 - 40 watt soldering iron for under $10 if you shop around. And to keep things nice and neat, use a bit of shrink tubing over the solder joints to insulate any exposed wires.

    Hope this helps.

    Have fun. (I am!)

    Bob M.
  9. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hello again CAS. Here's a trick to make life simple when it comes to RJ12 telco jacks that shouldn't require any crimpers.

    Locate some surface-mount 6-wire telco jacks. These are jacks that protrude about ½" from the surface of the wall. They are usually used to hold wall-mounted telephones that you might have in places like your kitchen.

    These surface-mount jacks have a female plug in the front (you plug your throttle into this plug) and two female plugs on the side. These two side plugs can be used to "daisy chain" 6-wire telephone cable from your Zephyr and on to the next telco jack. You can purchase ready-made 6-wire cable in short lengths (eg 6' - 7'), medium lengths (eg 12' - 15') and long lengths (25'). Or custom made lengths from most DCC suppliers. It's a simple matter of buying the length you need to fit the situation.

    You can hide any extra lengths of wire behind the fascia of your layout (if you mount the jacks on the side) or underneath (if you mount the jacks on top) by simply drilling a couple of holes on each side of the jack and threading the cable through.

    To mount the jack to your layout, you will have to pop off the front cover. This is simply a matter of taking a screwdriver and pushing on the four plastic tabs located on the backside of the jack. They're easy to see. Two woodscrews through the read-made holes in the top and the bottom of the jack will keep the jack securely in place.

    When you pop off the front cover, you will see that the pins of the jack are nicely colour coded. If you want to hard-wire a series of jacks together, it's a simple matter of running some solid 6-wire cable between jacks and screwing down the 6 wires underneath their respective spade terminals in the jack. Of course, you will need to run a flat-ribbon cable from one jack into your Zephyr.

    For more info on RJ12 telco jacks, visit this page on my website.

    Some thoughts on the problem. Hope this helps.

    Bob M.
  10. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    As for the loconet connections, you should always use Digitrax- approved UP5 panels. 18AWG will do just fine. At my modular club, we can do a 20x40 layout with a mix of 18 and 20 guage lamp cord for the busses, and god knows what for the feeders. The total bus length is over 175' in a loop, as there is an extra 18" at each end of each module. Both DC and DCC seem to work just fine. I wouldn't recommend using that long of a bus with that small of a wire, it works for us. YMMV.
  11. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    It's not necessary to use Digitrax UP5 panels for your LocoNet. You can invest a lot of money in UP5 panels. Right now, in my car downstairs in the parking garage, I've got 5 modules (http://www.hotrak.ca) ready for a big blowout weekend of module railroading in Ottawa. Two jacks per module would require an investment of $125 - $150 in UP3 panels as compared to an investment of $12 - 15 for telco jacks.

    RJ12 6-wire telco jacks just work fine. In some cases, the telco jacks are easier to mount and wire together than the UP3 panel.

    Power degradation starts to occur when you add more items that draw current (eg locos) to the layout. Add to this a long run from the command station/booster to that part of the layout, a short or two as somebody somewhere else runs through a switch and causes a short - that's when you will wish you had installed the heaviest AWG power buss you could have found. For a home layout, the power buss and track feeds aren't that critical. Where wire size becomes critical is on large layouts where you can pile on the locos, or where you have long runs of wire. You don't wire the layout for when everything is running fine. You wire the layout so as to minimize potential problems.

    As an experiment, see how many locos you can have running on the layout at once, and then, at the same time, have one loco run a switch to create a short. See whether the command station/booster shuts down. That's where the wiring comes into play. Good wiring will detect the short and shut down the command station. Inadequate wiring will keep the short going.

    Bob M.
  12. CAS

    CAS Member

    Went to another Home depot today, also Menards, and Lowes. No luck finding these. :curse:

    I did find a 6 conductor phone jack, made by Philips (#PH60624), no female plugs on the side. But its not called (RJ12 Telco Jack ). And a 2 face wall mount, with a RJ12, RJ45 jack, but did not take this one.

    Then i found normal 6 wire phone wire, its like your normal phone wire. Made by Philips, (#PH60686) line cord with plugs. http://www.railwaybob.com/Modules/WiringRJ12s/RJ12s01.html(RJ12 Double-Female Extension Cord) But with 2 male plugs.

    its not as thick as this, (RJ12 Male Plug to Flat Cable) http://www.railwaybob.com/Modules/WiringRJ12s/RJ12s01.html.

    The rate im going at, it looks like i'll only be able to run with my starter set throttle, and no add ons.:cry: :cry: :cry:

    Or i can buy it from http://tonystrains.com/products/digitrax_wireacc.htm, MCC6PP. $14.95 each.

    Is this the one? http://www.providencecable.com/products.asp?cid=2812462,
    RJ12 Wallplate, Dual Port, 3rd one down on the right side?

    Maybe, i should stay away from all electronic projects.
    Please remember, i am a big time newb at this.

  13. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Buy the UP5s and cables pre-made if you want an easy intall. Plug and play.

    Doing the quarter test will ensure that your bus wiring has plenty of capacity for detecting shorts.
  14. CAS

    CAS Member

    Thanks NYNH&H,

    This is what i probally will do.

  15. Santa Fe Jack

    Santa Fe Jack Member

    An electronics surplus store is the ticket! We have one nearby that gets surplus from our local nuclear weapons laboratory. They have some unbelieveable stuff. In addition to the exotics, though, there are bins and bins of toggle switches, half-used spools of hoolkup wire in many colors and gauges, and other stuff that just gets your imagination going.

    Good luck in your searches.

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