Really basic wiring question

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by zener, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. zener

    zener New Member

    I'm sure there's a thread out there , but I have a really newbish, wiring question. For the track, how do you actually run the wires and connect them? I take it you solder the wire to the bottom of the track, and then just drill a small hole through the roadbed (if its not just ballast) down through the base (plywood or foam usually)? Or is it that you go down through the road bed, and string multiple wires along the crease in the middle of the road bed to one point where it goes through the base?

    HO Scale, DCC
  2. seanm

    seanm Member

    Soldering to the bottom or side of the rail is correct. I would go strait on down through the roadbed and ply. These are feeders and are usually a much smaller gauge of wire. 20 gauge is OK as long as you keep it short ( a few inches)... Then below the table you connect up to the much heavier buss wires from the booster.
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    You would want to solder to the bottom or the outside of the rail. If you solder to the inside of the rail, it changes the gauge. If you are using flex track and are worried about melting the ties near your solder connections, cut out the small "braces" that run between each pair of ties on either side of the place where you want to solder. Now the ties can be slid back away from the solder connection. If you put a wet wash cloth over the track and ties that you slid back out of the way, the water in the wash cloths will act as a heat sink to keep the ties from getting too hot. Now you can solder the small wires to the outside of the rails without melting ties. Once the drop wires are soldered, drill a small hole through the roadbed and plywood and then solder the wires to your main buss wires. I would run the drop wires after putting down the flextrack and cork, but before ballast. That way the ballast will tend to hide the connections. It is also a good idea to have a dc locomotive available to run on the track you have wired. That way each time you connect a wire, test run the locomotive to check for shorts. It is much easier to find shorts by checking one wire at a time as you make connections than to have the entire railroad wired up and then find out that somewhere you have a short circuit!
  4. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    For a couple of bucks a piece, and if your soldering skills aren't the best, you could pick up feeders already attatched to the rail joiners, call terminal joiners.
    Using the same method Russ mentioned above by drilling a hole small enough to run the wire through the roadbed. These will also be hidden when ballasting the track.
    Atlas and Model Power, as well as others make terminal rail joiners.

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  5. zener

    zener New Member

    Thanks guys, I'm a little more educated on that. Yeah, Russ I am using flex track wherever possible, partially because its cheaper. My soldering skills are ok, but I do like the look of the terminal joiners, I'll have to keep that in mind. I've got more confidence on rail soldering. I'm used to getting frustrated by circuit boards where the connections are smaller and the spacing is tighter.
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Keep in mind that (generally speaking) rail joiners are used for mechanical connections. The most reliable electrical connection comes from soldering siad rail joiner in place, or by soldering feeders directly to the rail.

  7. zener

    zener New Member

    Yeah, from what I've read, I think the best course of action is to solder in the rail feeder and leave the rail joiners not soldered (or at least don't depend upon the rail joiners for electrical connectivity, especially for dcc).
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The one problem with using the rail joiners soldered in place is that the trains put a lot of stress on the joiners. That is one reason why they will loosen up and give poor electrical connections if not soldered. If they are soldered, the solder joint will tend to crack over time and may give you the same electrical problems as unsoldered joiners. Unfortunately, because you soldered the joiners, you don't think to check them for the problems that arise because soldering solved any potential problems. Solder to the rails and let the joiners float to absorb the stress. The only time to solder the rail joiners, is where the joiner occurs in the middle of a curve or if the joiner falls at the beginning or end of a grade.
  9. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    I did solder my track, all flex-track. But I had a problem with heat, and a few pieces kinked, and actually came up off the ties. So instead of having to replace one piece of track, I had to replace two or in some places three.
    I'm not knocking soldering the joiners. It worked great! But with the location of my layout being in the attic, and the heat that built up, it was more a pain.
    So, now I leave it un soldered, to allow for expansion.

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