Ho gage newbie, new to the forum, asking for tips

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by prodigy2k7, Dec 18, 2006.

  1. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 Member

    Hey, ive always played with trains for a long time and now I want to start making them into models. I already have a 4x8 in the garage from a while back. I found a cool layout that I like at the following link:

    There we go, I dont think this is TOO complex for me, but I dont know,

    I am HO gage and if I read correctly this would fit on 4x8 just barely.

    I need some help understanding a few things such as using different engines and wiring. I am 18 years old and know nothing of wiring. What are some good tips, books, etc...

    This is going to be 100% level and no mountains or huge scenery, I dont even know how to do that yet lol... I am probably going to use some cheap grass stuff and what not...

    I know this will be a channelge for me to get wiring done but Ive already done stuff with 1 engine on 1 track, now I want to try and go further.

    I also have one quick question. How many power sources do you use? (the power boxes i mean), do you use one for each track section that has a different power source? im kinda of confused about that.

    Sorry everything is scattered about, im just putting down my thoughts. I hope you can understand what I have written. Thanks guys for helping me. Any ideas?

  2. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    Hi Kenny and welcome.

    The track plan you have there likely has 22 inch radius curves on the outer oval and 18 inch curves along the inner loop. This is a classic style plan that lots of modelers have enjoyed building and running. By power boxes I imagine you are referring to the power pack that provides electric current to the track? You only need one and can then break the layout into "blocks" with one rail insulated from each other that can have power routed to them or shut off using a variety of switches or you can use the easy to wire Atlas components. You can add another power pack and run two trains at the same time by using switches that will allow you to route power from either pack to the blocks you want.

    Here's one book that describes the Atlas components:

    You might want to check your local hobby shop for an introductory book about wiring and then decided how to proceed.

    Best wishes!
  3. jasbourre

    jasbourre Member

    Hey Kenny, welcome to the Gauge. The book that Ralph is refuring too, is a great book to start, with the layout you have in mind you will only have to read about half the book, if you say you are just starting try this site http://www.greatesthobby.com/
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Just to confuse matters a bit ;) :D you need as many powerpacks (DC operation) as you want locomotives running simultaneously. If you go DCC )digital command control), need a decoder ("computer chip") for each locomotive, and having one throttle (controller) for each loco is highly recommended.

    Welcome to The Gauge!

  5. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Ignoring DCC for the moment, the usual method is block wiring. You have as many powerpacks as trains, as Andrew said. The track is divided into electrically insulated sections. Selector switches allow you to connect any pack to any section.
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    To follow what Triplex said, you also need a mimum of twice as many blocks as trains. E.g. if you want to run 2 engines simultaneously, you need 2 throttles, but 4 blocks. One for each engine to be in, and one for each to go to.

    Operating in this environment, especially on a relatively small layout like a 4x8 involves a lot of "switch flipping" as you throw electrical switches to make sure your train keeps moving.

    It's been generally said (not in this thread though ;)) "you don't need DCC with such a small layout". I would argue that the smaller the layout the more you need DCC (for multiple train operation). Since the locos are operating in such close proximity, it is easier to run the locos, rather than the track. Kinda cliché, but true. ;)

  7. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Kenny...the block stuff their talking about is actually pretty simple. Basically you have an on/off switch for a stretch of track. What you do is you insert plastic railjoiners in place of metal ones so that each section can be turned off seperately. You then have a 2-way switch to turn each section on and off. This is very nice if you have say a siding with 1 train and a second train on the mainline...it allows you to run the mainline without the second train moving.

    What most model railroaders like to do is to not only break up our sidings, but also our mainlines. And instead of using 2-way switches (on, off)...we use 3-way (powerpack 1, off, powerpack 2). This allows us to run two trains at once on a single mainline...or allow you to switch your industries while the mainline train comes through. You might also want to consider turning that into a single track mainline by adding a "diamond" at some point so that a complete lack around the mainline includes a trip over each oval.

    What type of trains would you like to model? 19th century wild west? 2006? 1950 steam and desiels? If you plan on running 8 axle desiels and Virginian 2-10-10-2 steam locomotives...you wouldn't want to tie the two tracks together. If you're modeling with 4-4-0s of the 1860s...a double track is out of place.
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I have a couple of reccomendations regarding wiring this track plan. If you are going to run only one train on it EVER, then you can forget about block wiring and wire it as one continuous layout. If you want to run 2 or more trains on it you will need a power pack for each train, and you will need to isolate sections or blocks. One obvious way to operate this layout with three trains is to have one train running on the outside mainline, a second train running on the inside mainline, and a switch engine working the industries in the center of the layout. To do that you need to isolate the sections. If two power packs are EVER connected to the same section of track simultaneously, you risk destroying them both. To wire it for 3 train operation, you will need to put insulators on the crossover tracks between the switches on the crossovers between the inner and outer loops. This will allow the inner loop to operate separately from the outer loop. You can still move one train from the inner loop to the outer loop or vice versa by making sure both power paks are set for the same direction and at the same speed. When you run the train over the crossover, the locomotive will go smoothly from one throttle (powerpak) to the other. It is especially important to insulate those crossovers to isolate the inner & outer loops if you are going to run 2 trains in opposite directions.

    If you want to run a third train with a switch engine working the stub sidings in the center of the layout, you will need to install insulators to isolate the center switching section from the inner loop. I'll warn you ahead of time that the layout will work better with the industrial section wired as part of the inner loop so that you can use the switches that provide access from the inner loop to the industries as a runaround to allow you to get your locomotive in the correct position in relation to the train to work both trailing point and facing point sidings. If you do that, you will be restricted to running 2 trains. To run 3 trains, you will need some sort of run around in the industrial section. I think you could do it with a double ended siding coming off the first set of industrial sidings and using a 30 degree crossing between the switch and the siding that splits into 2 sidings on the right center of the picture. If you do that, you will probable need to shorten one or both sidings coming off of that crossing.

    Finally with the track running that close to the edges of the benchwork, I would reccomend either putting clear plexiglass or masonite around the benchwork to keep the trains on the table if they derail near the edge.
  9. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 Member

    good tips guys, i never thought about it derailing off the table, thanks for that too.

    I got one question, one powerpack per train right? but if you switch the train between the mainlines you will use a different powerpack to control the same train right? since its on a different track.

    You use the same number of powerpacks for each trains, but the powerpacks arent assigned to trains right? only the tracks...

    One more question, how do you wire each individual block, (besides sodering which i heard isnt a good idea, heh), do you just use a terminal track on each block? or what.
  10. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    With switches or Atlas components you can make any or all of the blocks on your layout come under the control of one power pack or the other if you have two. The train can move from one oval to the other under the control of one pack or be under the control of the other as you wish. Block wiring will also let you run one train on each oval simultanesously and even in different directions if you wish with two power packs.

    Actually soldering is a good idea. :) That's how many of us do it. You could use a terminal track for each block if you wanted, however. Your hobby shop may sell rail joiners with wires soldered to them as well to make it easy.
  11. dr.5euss

    dr.5euss Member

    Kenny, if it were me I'd wire it into 2 blocks; the outer loop hooked up to one controller, and then the inner loop and yard hooker up to another. When you cross from one loop to the other, if the controllers are set to the same speed then the train will glide from one to the other.

    If you're coming off a loop at 7 volts, and the other one is set to 9v then the train will speed up.

    As Ralph says, soldering is a good idea. Make sure you solder to the out side of the rail, and practice on some old track first. Soldering gives a good, strong bond, and will not wear out or tarnish like contacts on a power clip. Not to mention the fact it's almost hidden when you add the gravel round the track.

    You're in good hands, so any probs just give us a shout ;)
  12. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    You're close...

    When you run a train from one mainline to the other...you still use the same powerpack (transformer is actually the proper term...so you'll hear that too)...but you have your mainlines wired with 3-way switches...so you can control a train running from one track to the other with the same powerpack. What you have is a switch that sets each block to pp1, pp2 or off. If the outside is set to pp1, and you are running a train onto the inner loop, you just set the inner loop blocks you want to run into to pp1 also.

    To wire...add plastic rail joiners to each place where you'd like to form a block...only add it to one of the rails...you can pick either outside or inside...and be consistent over the entire layout. Solder leads to each blocked rail and run to your control area. Run these to a three way switch available from Atlas...used o be black with four green switches. Then run a wire to your common (uninsulated) rail...and I recommend running a few additional leads to other parts of the layout, as the current can grow weak if it has to pass through enough rail joiners.

    You then solder the common feeders together with the common feeds from your two powerpacks...you then connect the other terminals of each powerpack to the "A" and "B' sections of the selecter switch...it has wiring schematics explaining it

    Good luck!

    EDIT: be careful soldering...you can melt the ties! I recommend soldering to the bottom of rail joiners if you have problems.
  13. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 Member

    man im all confused, im 18 years old with no wiring experience at all....

    Can someone draw a small simple diagram in Microsoft Paint or something?

    I plan to have two trains, one on outside plus one in the inside oval plus inside

    Edit: one more question, why do switch tracks have 3 wires? my old ones are cut and I was planning on taking it apart and re-soldering the wires instead of buying a new track. I just figured positive and negative....whats this 3rd? grounding or something? lol
  14. trainwhiz20

    trainwhiz20 Member

    If it makes you feel better, I'm a 17 year old with no electrical background... yet have a successfully wired DCC layout and lighted buildings.

    Block wiring turned me off, but then again, my layout is really small, so it was inefficient as MasonJar pointed out. But, don't worry, you can do it. Personally, to bypass the complexity, I used an Atlas DCC system. And I couldn't be happier.:D
  15. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 Member

    everyone is different, i already bought a wiring book from atlas waiting for it to get here, its just that everything is using terms or electrical things that i dont know what is...
  16. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    I think you'll like that Atlas stuff. It makes it pretty easy!
  17. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    The three wires to the switches are this:

    The Common is always on...your switch control works by you sliding it to left or right...and then you press the button...MS Paint coming...
  18. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Here's a schematic of how a switch is wired, as well as a block.

    Red is the common rail. Blue is the rail with the plastic (insulator) rail joints. This consists of a mainline and a passing siding...there are 5 insulators (plastic rail joiners) to create the four blocks. A train can run on the mainline...blocks 1-3...while a second train sits on the passing siding....block 4. As I drew, the 2nd transformer, B, isn't doing anything...but it is wired up. blocks 1-3 are all set to transformer A. Block 4 is off. You can see how the wires run from the rails to the selector switch...and it is then wired to the transformers.

    Attached Files:

  19. prodigy2k7

    prodigy2k7 Member

    thanks i think i understand it now, another thing, some people are trying to convert me from EZ track to flex track, the only thing is, im not sure about it because isnt flex track nailed down to keep its shape? EZ stays where its at. I dont want to nail anything down yet. Especially since u gotta have it wired n stuff and holes drilled before u nail some stuff down...right?
  20. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    If you want to consider cost and complexity of wiring, forget the DC power system. I would say that your money is better spent on a DCC system. Three power supplies to run three trains is close in cost to a startup DCC system and you have much less wiring to deal with and you can still run your three trains.
    The January issue of Model Railroader magazine has some excellent articles for new modelers, including one on terminology.

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