Fremo US inspiration needed :)

Discussion in 'Modular Layout Forum' started by berraf, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. berraf

    berraf Member

    Hi all!
    I'm building a modular N-scale layout with a US-theme and I'm fascinated over the concept.
    To tell the truth I'm so excited that I use more time in the armchair planning and dreaming then at the workbench.
    I'm looking for some inspiration so pictures or/and links would be very appreciated :)
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Much of the Nscale modular stuff I see here (Ottawa, Canada) is designed for multiple mainline running, rather than operations. While Nscale might be considered (by some people) too small for operations, you might get some inspiration from here: -> go to the gallery

    You might look in the resource thread at the top of this (Modular) forum.

    Also, there is some great inspiration (again in HO scale) via 's Wolfgang Dudler who models in Germany, but with a North American prototype. Truly inspirational shots from their last meeting:, although the text is in German. I seem to recall he said somewhere that there was over one kilometer of modules...!

  3. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    The modular concept is applicable to most applications - the idea being to build and complete your layout one section at a time (ha ha - it's taken me over 18 months just to get started on the scenery); or to make it as portable as possible so that when you move to new digs, you don't lose all of the time and investment having to tear down a layout that is permanent (we've all been there at one time or another.)

    There's lots of resources to help you along the way at the top of this discussion topic - all the way from how to construct the module frames, to wiring, to DCC. What you want to do is all up to you.

    As Mason Jar points out, a lot of the N-scale modular clubs focus on running the trains and not to much on operations (local freights that switch industries, passenger trains that follow a timetable and schedule). There's even lots of HO scale modular clubs that do the same thing. For those of us in clubs that focus on operations, the key has been the introduction of DCC to the hobby. This has allowed us to focus on running the trains, rather than focusing on running the layout.

    Given the cost of getting into DCC as compared to getting into a half-decent analog throttle, I'd go the extra bit and get into DCC. It really adds a new dimension to this great hobby.

    Bob M.
  4. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    It sounds like you are building a home layout in sections as opposed to a module as part of a club? In this case, I would go with a sectional layout, as opposed to a modular layout. A modular layout can be built in any configuration, as the tracks are at standard interfaces, but with a sectional layout, the tracks just run across the joints between sections, and are cut and joined, so you have a LOT more freedom in terms of the configuration. A modular home layout can get boring.

    If you are looking at joining a modular club, of course you will have to adhere to their standards. If you are looking for module ideas, there is a thread about that somewhere around here.

    I belong to an HO modular club, and all we do is run trains in circles. We have two mains and an optional branch line. The branch line would be cool, but we don't use DCC everywhere, as we have a few hard-core luddites who won't use DCC. It is split up into DC sections, so not much can be done with it. Even with our screwed up electrical system, however, modular railroading is FUN!

    As for DCC, it is by far the best way to control trains no matter what you are doing.
  5. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    There is some crazy notion floating out there that N scale isn't suited to operations. One of the best N scale layouts that features operations is here in Vancouver - owned by Brian Morgan, the one and same man who has had many articles run in the N scale mags. People fly in from all over North America to operate on his layout.

    Don't buy the N scale myth that it isn't suited to ops.
  6. berraf

    berraf Member

    It's a shame that I live in Sweden and I believe I won't be able to join a operating session sign1
    But I do agree with you that N-scale works just fine for operations. I've seen some layouts here in Sweden that proofs that :wave:
  7. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Berraf: Maye you can be the man to start a modular club in your area. Can you post notices at some of the local club meetings and on your local websites?
  8. berraf

    berraf Member

    We have something like that coming up :)
    In January we had our first meeting and in April we have a new meeting where we will help each other with some practical things like measurements and electrical wiring.
    We will also try to dock some modules together and drive some trains :thumb:
  9. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hi BerraF. I presume you've cruised some of the websites about module railroading and have developed some ideas of what you'd like to do. Your challenge is to convince your friends that this is a good idea and that the standards you propose make sense.

    There are a couple of things to consider when thinking about module railroading in a "club" context. Standardization of key elements is very important.

    Module size - How wide at the ends of the modules? How long? How will the modules be built - styrofoam deck in a module frame? ½" plywood on 2"x 2"? The easiest way is to take a look at how some modules are built and adopt this as a standard. For convincing your friends, a couple of demonstrator modules might be in order. A picture is worth 10,000 words in this case.

    Track standards - what code rail to use? Where will the track cross from one module to another? How far back from the edge of the module will the track end? What length of joiner track will you use to connect the tracks from one module to the next? Double track, single track, or both?

    Control system - with the advent of DCC, this is the only way to go. It allows a simple standard, rather than a bunch of dpdt switches, reams of wiring. The question will be whose system - Digitrax, Lenz, NCE, etc? This will probably depend on what is the most popular system that is used in your neck of the woods. I use Digitrax simply because my module railroad club uses Digitrax.

    Wiring standards - Assume you use DCC. This will involve a 2-wire power buss that runs along the length of the module from one end to the other. What kind of plug system will you use to connect this power buss from one module to the next? While many clubs use a "Jones Plug", my club uses a 4-prong and a 2-prong "trailer plug".

    If you can build a couple of modules that incorporate those standards that you would like to see, you will be off to the races. The modules don't have to be fancy, fully scenicked, with lots of sidings. Once your friends see these modules and the potential of what can be done, they will be off to the races to build their own.

    Bob M.

    PS - For some tips on how to build modules, visit my website.
  10. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hello again, BarraF.

    If you decide to build a couple of modules, it might be an idea to do it with a couple of your friends. In this way, you can start to develop the cameraderie and expertise that comes with belonging to a club. For example, I'm good at building the module frames but lousy when it comes to doing the scenery or assembling car kits. So, I make some trades. I help my friends build their modules, and, in return, they assemble those tricky car kits for me. Or, a couple of my friends are good with scenery so they show me their techniques.

    Not everyone has the tools or the skills to do everything - like building module frames. So, a workshop is a good opportunity to share those skills.

    And, I find that those of us who are in model railroading are a very friendly group of people. Back in 2004, I made a business trip from Ottawa, my home town to Quebec City - a distance of about 500 km. I had made the acquaintance of a guy via the Free-mo discussion forum, Les Halmos, who lived in Quebec City and was a member of a module railroad club.
    I sent him an e-mail, got his phone number and gave him a call when I arrived. He picked me up at my hotel and drove me out to his club where his friends were working on their modules. Ever since, whenever I travel to Quebec, I always give Les a call to let him know that I will be in Quebec. From Les and his gang, I've picked up many neat tricks on how to build modules.

    So, jump right in, invite some friends and strangers, and get started! You'll be glad you did.

    Bob M.

    PS - Some club websites that might give you some inspiration
  11. berraf

    berraf Member

    Thanks railwaybob for your most impresseving and inspiring answers :)
    I feel lucky having friends all over the world that gladly gives me both advice and inspiration.
    I promise to take your thoughts and advice to my friends...
    A big thanks from me :wave:
  12. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Ah, so you are making a modular layout. As for the modules, if they are Free-mo, then you have most of your specs already. The comments I am about to make are about the North American Free-Mo (HO scale although they are *very similar* for N) standards, the European ones are the same idea, but they might be a little bit different, mainly due to local availability of lumber and materials and such.

    While Free-mo does allow you to make bizarre corners that are 37.2 degrees for example, and are some weird size, I would advise you to require corners to turn through 90 degrees. This will make setup a lot easier, and it will make the layout fit in a square room without wasting a lot of space. Within a set of modules that make up a 90 degree corner, there could be smaller modules that do not go 90 degrees, as long as that person always brings modules that match up and turn through 90 degrees.

    With Free-mo, you will be using Code 83 track single mainline, with the option for dual mainline. Styrofoam is the best material for modules, as it is lightweight, although wood and foam modules can be mixed in a layout interchangably.

    With Free-mo, you will be using Digitrax DCC, which in my opinion/experience is by far the best system anyways. :D

    For the wiring, take a look at the American Free-moN, the N scale version of the American Free-mo. They have a much better wiring bus structure based on Anderson Powerpoles for the wiring, and 12 guage busses, which are useful for long DCC runs, although slightly overkill. 14 guage would probably do just fine. The HO version uses Jones connectors, which are ill suited to modules that can be turned 180 degrees, as they are genered connectors, so each module has two at each end. On the other hand, Free-moN uses the Anderson Powerpoles, which are genderless, and are set up for either module orientation with only one connector.

    In more general terms, keep everything simple. The modules should be self-contained, and ready to go. Try to tap everything off of the accessory bus, as trying to get mains over to a module and set up transformers is a whole huge task. Lighted buildings are a great place to add a little bit of complexity to the wiring (not the setup, however), as if one doesn't work its not a big deal, as long as there isn't a dead short anywhere, which would bring down the whole layout's accessory bus. If you have to add a lot of buildings to plug a lot more tings in when you get to a show, setup is more stressful. If you run the track and accessory bus according to spec through the modules, and tap a feeder off for each peice of rail, with insulfrog turnouts, you will have reliable operation. There shouldn't be any track electric switches on a DCC based system, or any switches for that matter. Just straight to the rail. The same is true for turnout control. Simpler is better. Free-mo can be run from either side, which means that turnout electrical controls are complicated. The turnouts are best controlled manually, some are already set up to do so, like Pecos, that have a spring that throws the turnout against one side. Others can be run with a simple mechanical ground throw, just make sure they don't get glued together or jammed up.

    I know a lot of this from being part of a modular group. We have more traditional modules, and are located in the Northeast USA. Our modules have a front and a back, and are made into a doughnut, which does create a nice fort. :D This shape is something you may want to consider, as it is a lot easier to operate in a protected fort. Free-mo modules could be built within spec in 4' lengths, with 4' corners to be made into a loop, even though this is not their intended method of setup. This would add a lot of flexibility for smaller shows, and allow a "mainline run" to be simulated with 5 laps around, then switching or whatnot. And then there is always the "how many trains can we get going in a circle without crashing???" :D:D:D At larger shows, or with other clubs, you could make a real Free-mo style point to point, point to loop, or loop to loop mainline type setup.

    The other thing we have that Free-mo does not is 120VAC (note while I talk about 60hz, 120VAC in the US, it is probably different in Europe, like 240VAC, but the implications on layout design, power use, and wiring are the same) on our modules. We do not have an accessory bus. This requires extra transformers, typically mounted to the underside of the modules, but also allows more uses of mains power. Various groups around here have different accessory methods, some 120VAC, some accessory bus, some both, and some neither, with temporary 120VAC for accessories as needed, typically with DCC for the track. Free-mo can't have this, as it has to be reversible, and legal where daisy chaining power strips is not (pretty much the whole US including where we display). If needed, a multi-outlet extension cord could be run under the layout for accessories, although most things should be able to be run off of the accessory bus with the approppriate resistors, rectifiers and such, overhead lighting is not possible with Free-mo, as there is no back side to have a backboard, and DCC covers all of the track power needs.

    The team effort of a modular group is great, whether you just want to talk about local trains for a while at the meeting, or share modelling info.

    Hope this is good food for thought, post any questions you have along the way, and I am sure someone here will have an answer, suggestion, or information to think about. :D
  13. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

  14. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Sorry I can't provide more Europe-specific info.
  15. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    For connections between modules, Ottawa Valley HOTRAK uses a 4-wire trailer connector plug for conventional 2-track modules and a 2-wire trailer connector plug for single-track Free-mo modules.

    We also uses a height of 45" from the floor to the top of the track, rather than the 37½" shown by

    In Europe, and in particular, Germany, there is a very active Free-mo group that you might want to correspond with so that you can get their point of view from a European perspective.

    Bob M.
  16. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member


    Free-mo is set at a nominal height of 50", NOT 37.5. Regular NMRA modules AND Ntrak are at 40" All heights are to the top of the railhead of the proper code, 100 for NMRA HO, 83 for Free-mo, and 80 *I think* for Ntrak.

    While trailer hitch connectors are better than Jones connectors (and the new Ntrak powerpoles are the ultimate connectors of all), the HO Free-mo standard, at least in North America, specs out CJ connectors. They are quite possibly the worst connectors for free-mo, as they are cheesey, take thin wire only (16-18 ga), AND they are gendered. They used a 2 pin trailer connector for the ACC/DCC bus, which is a MUCH better idea. Powerpoles would be the ultimate for both. The Free-moN spec, at least in North America uses Powerpoles.

    I suppose that you could use any connector you want within a group, as long as you provide adapters when you meet with other groups. Some Ntrak clubs used molex and trailer connectors before the powerpole standard was made, they may still, they just have to provide adapters to the CJ spec when they go to multi-club shows. Wiring is very easy to adapt, track connectors are not so easy, track spacing is harder, height is even harder (alternate legs probably) and control system is totally impossible (NCE and Digitrax just don't play together). This is only an issue in HO traditional modular setups, though, as there is no widely followed spec. In Ntrak and Free-mo (HO and N), there are national or international specs so that multi-club setups are easy.

    All of that being said, I am not sure if you can even buy a CJ in Europe, as I'm not sure what the state of the EU requiring everything to be ROHS compliant is, and if CJ connectors are ROHS compliant (I would guess not), and if they are not I don't know if they can be maufactured so that they are ROHS compliant AND work with the older, non- ROHS compliant plugs at the same time.
  17. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hi, NYNH&H. I find there are two types of rules in this world - those which we call standards (eg the width of standard gauge track on North American Railroads shall be 4' 8½" between the rails), and recommended practices (to reduce weight on your modules, it is suggested that you might want to consider using styrofoam instead of ½ plywood and plaster scenery).

    When does a recommended practice become a standard? Well, one of those times is when you belong to a club. Now, just because the NMRA standard says the module height from the top of the floor to the top of the rail should be 37½" doesn't mean that is a standard for me. It only becomes a standard if I belong to a club which says that, if I want to bring my modules to our HOTRAK club meet, then my module height has to be 45" - regardless of what the NMRA might say. Ditto for trailer plug connectors versus Jones plugs and anything else. Of course, I'm not about to change the width of the track for obvious reaons.

    Now, one might say that this might limit my ability for you and me to get together with our modules. That will all depend on whether one deals in problems or one deals in solutions. Me, I only deal in solutions. For you and me to get together with our modules, all I need is an extra set of legs that will lower my modules to the 37½" level and a Jones Plug - Trailer Plug gender bender. Add a bit of wire, some soldering, shrink tubing et voila - a gizmo that will allow me to connect my wiring to your wiring - assuming we are using DCC. Easy, eh?

    We could probably debate the issue of Jones plugs versus trailer connectors, or any other device till the cows come home. Suffice to say that for Free-mo modules, at HOTRAK, we use a 2-wire trailer plug so it doesn't matter which way the modules are oriented - as long as I follow the rule that the left rail feeds the male pin at the other end. My trailer plugs are loaded with 10 AWG wire so I'm not looking at 16 - 18 gauge wire. BTW, it's not that well know but trailer plugs are available in several wire gauge sizes. They all connect together, regardless what the AWG wire size that they are loaded with. The ones you mostly see in the stores are the 16 - 18 AWG size. One the conventional modules, since we use a 2-wire power buss, we solder the white - yellow wires together and the green-brown wires together so that we end up with a 13 AWG wire throughput. The track power buss wire is 14 AWG. The reason why we changed from Jones plugs to trailer connectors was because of scarcity of the Jones plugs and their price.

    We like to keep things simple which is why we don't run 110 AC under our modules. We don't need it as we tap everything off of the track power buss - provided the device has a low current draw (which it does). Connecting the modules together is very simple - 2 clamps to bolt the modules together, a 6" joiner track for continuity of the rails, plug in the two ends of the trailer plugs, insert a female-female gender bender to connect the LocoNet.

    To each their own. I tend to take a look at how other people do things. I then take those great ideas, add my own improvements so that I have a really great idea - originally not my own but slightly modified based on my own experiences.

    And that's what I like about this hobby - meeting interesting people, seeing what they have for ideas, and seeing if I can use those ideas to improve my own personal modules.

    I'd be interested in seeing wht the Powerpole connectors look like.

    Bob M.

    PS - If you're interested in seeing what our next setup for March 31 - April 1 looks like visit and click on Our Next Setup. There's going to be lots of action. If you're in the area, consider dropping by.
  18. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member


    There was a misunderstanding between us on Free-mo. I was referring to the Free-mo standards that are associated with, the national standards. HOTRAK's "Free-mo" standards are not the real Free-mo, but rather an improvement upon them that work only with HOTRAK's layout. The NMRA spec says 40" to railhead, while the Free-mo standards say 50" height to railhead.

    It is true about club specs. I hate Jones connectors, they are overpriced peices of garbage, but thats what my club uses, so thats what I have to use. If I build a module set, however, I am going to use Powerpoles in the middle of the set so that I can avoid those pesky jones connectors. This also brings up the point of a non-standard standard. An oxymoron for sure, but my module is compliant with my group's spec's but not with the NMRA's. In terms of solutions, it is a little more complicated than that, but it can be done to create a "mega-mush", or even to reuse a module built to a totally different spec with a club that uses a standard standard or a different non standard standard.

    Like you mentioned the legs can be made to fit to whatever height, as long as they are not the built-in kind. Beyond that, the wiring is adaptable, although if I were to use my module wired with 18 guage wiring in a layout like ABEL that uses 12 guage wiring, I would need to have a 12 guage cable to jump over my module's electrical bus in order to eliminate extrantaneous voltage drop that their DCC booster system is not designed to take. For multiple clubs, the connectors don't matter, you could just put each layout in its own booster district.

    The track joiners may be different from the standard standard of 9" joiner tracks with a 4.5" setback on module. If the track centers are both 2" on center, then the modules could be connected with a weird looking peice of track. This is especially true of Free-mo, where the Free-mo spec uses rail only, not complete joiner tracks. I much prefer the joiner tracks. If the modules have different track setbacks, problems could arise with corners. For example, my module has 4 and 6" setbacks for the tracks, whereas the standard standard has 5" and 7" setbacks. If my module was used in a standard standard setup, then it would be easy to do, mine would just jut in an inch, not big deal. If a standard standard module was used in our layout, it would stick out an inch. Again, not a big deal. If you use different corners, however, you could have a problem where there is more"slop" in the layout, although with a bigger setup, this probably wouldn't be a problem, it would just get bent out. This is also a problem with reversible corners in Ntrak, as they are not quite the same in either direction, although a setup big enough to need inside corners probably has enough bend to run off the slop.

    The last problem is control system. Free-mo and Ntrak both use Digitrax, for Free-mo it is the exclusive, codified spec for control, while with Ntrak it is an agreement between clubs that Digitrax will be used for DCC, although Ntrak also uses DC extensively, often with DCC on one or two lines, and with DC on the other one or two lines. In the Northeast US, there is a HEAVY penetration of NCE for modular clubs as we are close to New York where NCE is, while about half use the industry standard Digitrax and one actually usues Lenz. I'm not kidding. Lenz. Because NCE usues an RS-485 bus, and Digitrax uses Loconet, one system would need to have enough throttles in the participating clubs to supply the whole layout. Boosters are easier, they just need an adapter cable. Then there are two clubs, mine being one that are still stuck in the dark ages of DC. Unfortunately, there are some people who don't understand anything about DCC, and refuse to learn about it. If they did, they would want it too.

    I'm not going to argue for Jones connectors. Not that it even matters unless you are starting a new club. Trailer hitch connectors are much cheaper and can handle heavier wire.

    The use of 120AC works well for some, and not for others due to the configuration of modules. For my club, we use DC, so we can't run off of the track bus, and we have no accessory bus. A number of members have extensive collections of wall-warts under their modules to power various things, one even has two power strips crammed completely full of them for his module. He needs 15VAC, 12VDC, 1.5VDC, a power pack, and a bunch of other stuff. Other people don't need AC power at all, so they just have a 6' extension cord to pass it on to the next module. We also set up in a doughnut, and the 120AC runs around clockwise so that everyone can run their collection of wall-warts off of the 120 tap. We also use section control on our third line for limited switching, so we have a half-dozen or so power packs hooked up to mains as well, and I usually bring my Zephyr to shows, so that gets plugged in as well. We also sometimes run desk lights for module illumination, laptops, camera chargers, soldering irons and the like.

    HOtrak's modules wouldn't work with a mains bus, as the Free-mo like modules are revsersible, 120AC is not. This is also why Free-mo has implemented a DCC/AC accessory bus. Running accessories off of the track bus, and only having one track bus, means that for the same sized setup, HOTRAK would need more booster districts, for short protection and for accessories, than a club with a separate accessory line. In net, however, the setup is probably the same for HOTRAK's metod, or with an accessory bus, as the more complicated setup of having more boosters is offset equally by the simplicity of only having one bus line on the layout.

    Ntrak, on the other hand, has separate bus lines for each trak, not even common rail is allowed. This is necessary for multi-club setups, or even within a single club, when DCC is used on one line, and DC on the others. Because you never know what system will be used on what line, Ntrak does not allow accessories to be tapped into the track bus lines. Ntrak has a white DC bus, which is for DC throttles, and just recently, for accessories as well, if they are connected temporarily with CJ or Powerpole connectors. They also have created a 15VAC accessory line, that allows modules that have a lot of accessories to be powered off of a low voltage line that does not violate the NEC, which states that a power strip can't be plugged into a power strip. My club just doesn't care about the NEC, we haven't been busted yet.

    I like taking other ideas and changing them to suit my needs. Your module construction page is an example, we are probably going to make some modules with your method modified for our leg standard, or possibly for folding legs. Your method is ligher and stronger than our current foam method, and a LOT lighter than wood modules, like my current one. I have also taken the Ntrak standard for PowerPole connectors and used them for my DCC to layout connection.

    For PowerPoles, take a look at the Ntrak web site, there are some documents by Doug Stuard of NVNtrak on the connectors. They are replacing jones connectors in Ntrak to use 12 guage busses. It is really cool. I have some of the lighter connectors for 18 gauge, and they are really nice. One really nice feature is that the 15A (16-18AWG), 30A (12-14AWG) and 45A (10AWG) connectors can be connected to each other. This is great for using DC on a layout upgraded for DCC, as the DC feeds may need to be smaller to connect to the power pack or whatnot. They can be stacked any way for a plug that has any number of connectors you need. They are also genderless, so they can be plugged in on a reversable module, like an Ntrak corner or Free-mo. On Ntrak corners, Red connectes to Black, and Black to Red for each bus line, but they keep the phase right nonetheless. For Free-moN, they are used as totally reversable connectors, with a Red connector for the track bus, and a Black connector for the accessory bus. This way, the modules can be turned 180 with no problems.

    I think that many clubs will consider switching to PowerPoles if they are currently using Jones connectors, although for clubs already using trailer hitch, molex or other "alternative" connectors, there really isn't much point. PowerPoles also are much cheaper and more durable than CJs. They are only about $1 per connector as opposed to $3-$4 for CJs.

    My club's electrician was impressed with them, and he is going to use them for the club power supply, as its current 4 conductor jones connector is falling apart. We are probably going to use them for everything except track busses, as they are great connectors.

    I would love to take a look at your setup, but I live in southern New England. :( The PDF looks really neat though, I like how your standards are flexible to have different types of modules and conversions between them with weird shaped layouts. Do you do mostly private setups that are model railroading for model railoaders type of events? The club I belong to does just the opposite, which is running trains for the public, and running trains in circles. While it is really fun to do public and charity event, having some operation would add quite a bit. I have seen some clubs who have created a balance between the two, at public shows. They typically have operations, with plenty of yards and industries, but they also have a long mainline packed full of trains for the general public. Unfortunately, the general public thinks that model railroading is all about running trains in circles, and it is also unfortunate that running trains in circles is what most of them want to see.

    I have seen a shift towards operations, however, both in standards like Free-mo, and with traditional doughnut type layouts. Some Ntrak clubs are even trying to do more than keep a zillion trains in non-crashing orbit around the fort. They are starting to use the Orange passing siding line for bidirectional operations with DCC, and using sidings on the blue and green lines for more prototypical operations or switching puzzles while the usual zillion trains are in orbit.

    EDIT: Spacing and clarity. The forums software eat my first set of edits to this post. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Good thing I ctrl C'ed it, as it just eat another post. Or, as Ted Stevens would say, the tubes got clogged. :D:D:D Finally, I think I am done with this post!
  19. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hi NYNH&H.
    those PowerPole connectors sound interesting. Is this what they look like?{Anderson_Powerpole{powerpole_connectors&gclid=CO7_r73_9ooCFRhmSgodpAbkBA

    Now, help me out here a bit. Are the wires crimped onto a metal terminal which is then pushed into the back end of the plastic sleeve until it "clicks" into place? I assume the plastic sleeves come in a variety of colours? If the wires are crimped onto a metal terminal, does it require a special crimper or is it a standard wire crimper? And I assume, if one wishes to really make sure things are fastened, one can solder the whole thing - wire and metal terminal?

    It isn't quite clear from the pictures, but do they simply push together and pull apart or does it require pushing down on some kind of plastic tab?

    Bob M.
  20. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Yes, that is what the PowerPoles look like. The 15/45 ones are the ones we care about. The bigger ones are useful for higher amperage applications like plug-in Prius modifications and electric subways (these connectors were developed originally for transferring power between cars on the BART train in San Francisco). The 15/45 also includes the 30A model, which is what Ntrak uses for their 12 guage Red/Black zip cord busses.

    The wires are crimped onto a metal terminal, and that terminal sticks into the housings, which are available in many colors. This is one way that Ntrak labels the bus lines, using a colored housing (yellow, blue, green, white, brown) for the appropriate bus line, with that housing replacing the red half. The other way is the traditional CJ tape, but the colored housings are a lot cleaner and the colors are bright, so I imagine they would be easy to identify under a dark layout setup. They just push together, and they slightly snap in place, but it remove, you just pull them apart. The contacts bend a bit to "snap" them together.

    As far the attachment of the terminal to the wire, I am going to make a contradiction and then explain it. You have to use a special crimper, but there is one available for about US$10. I crimped mine with a regular spade terminal crimper is that it takes a few tries, and the metal terminal will come off the wire a couple of times, and you have to put it back on and crimp again. I would use a real crimper if I were using these in a critical application. The wire could eventually come out. I have heard of people soldering them, I always solder terminal lugs, but there is no obvious way to do so without making it impossible to get the terminal in the casing, but with a small, fine solder, and a large, hot iron, you could probably get away with a thin coating of solder of the botton of the joint.

    If you want to know more, go to, click on standards, and then click on wiring and connectors recommended practice. There you will find the actual recommended practice, a quick reference guide, a crimp tool comparison, an FAQ, and the original RP recommendation, I think they are all done by Doug Stuard of NVNtrak. There is a great cutuaway view of a PP in one of the PDFs. In one of the PDFs, there is a link to, which is the best source for zip cord of any size, including 16, 14, and 12 AWG, and the Powerpole sets and their alternate colored hoods. There is also a ham radio site you can find by googling for PowerPole that shows how an alternate tool can be used to crimp the connectors, although I would still recommend the real crimp tool. They are extremely reliable when used with the correct crimping tool.

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