type of wire should be used?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by radrian, Jan 2, 2003.

  1. radrian

    radrian New Member

    I am new to this hobbie and really not sure what I'm doing. My question is what type of wire should be used to wire the layout? My layout is HO with nickle silver code 100 track. Does it make a difference if I use copper or aluminum wire and what gauge?
  2. billk

    billk Active Member

    First of all, I don't think you should use aluminum wire if you are planning on soldering it to anything. I believe (maybe someone can confirm) that it is difficult or impossible to solder, and that there may be corrosion problems if it comes into contact with copper.

    As to what size, things to consider are DC or DCC (the latter typically needs heavier wiring) and the length of the wires (the longer the wire the heavier it may need to be.)

    As a starting point, let's say use No 16 AWG (12-14 if DCC) for bus wiring, and No. 20-22 for feeders - the bus being the long wires under the layout and the feeders being the short wires connecting the bus to the rails. Bigger is better, or at least won't hurt, except when soldering to the rails.

    Sort of a tangent, but does anybody know what AWG a rail would be equivalent to? (Code 55, for example?)
  3. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    I used telephone wire to do all of my wiring. Comes in a wonderful variety of colors and I have found that even at full voltage pulling at full capacity, my least efficient locomotive pulls less than 1 amp.

    I model N scale but I don't think you need any thing larger than 16 AWG for ANY model train.

    (...3/4" plywood, 4X4 frames, 12 AWG wires... you people over-build everything!)

    I did get a bit of good news this weekend, The 220V dryer outlet in my garage was run with a neutral and a ground so I was able to put in a 50 Amp sub panel and dedicate one circuit to my air compressor, one to the welder and run all new lighting and outlet circuits in the garage.:D
  4. Railery

    Railery Member

    Hi Radrian, welcome to The Gauge. Buy electrical wire, then u don't have to worry what its made of. The size (diameter) of wire is expressed by a number. The smaller the number, the larger the wire. In North America house wire is usually No. 14. #18 or #20 wire are quite suitable to conduct current to the track and switches. Larger layouts would require larger wire or a bus line. So if your layout is 4x8' u don't have to go to a bus line. Wire is of two types: solid and stranded. i prefer solid. i hope this helps u for your layout. :D
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I'm using a real mix of wire, because I found it hard to get what I really needed.
    My most recent wiring is using 18 gauge stranded.
    My oldest wiring used telephone/computer cable wire. I use double wires for switch machines because of the load; sometimes I double up on track wires.
    I used lamp wire (zip cord) for the wires from power pack to control panels and from transforemers to throttles. I have some old speaker wire -- useful because it's colour coded-- but one wire is silver coloured and I haven't tried soldering to it.
    I use a 12 gauge bare wire (the ground from in-wall wiring) for my switch machine common return.
    Generally, use stranded wire where it will be flexed often, solid or stranded elsewhere.
    The old recommendation was something called "bell wire" used for hooking up doorbells. Nobody seems to know what it is anymore. I went to an electronic store and bought 100' reels in six colours. (Not Radio Shack.) Definitely use the small stuff where you attach it to the track.
  6. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member

    What you have seen here is that there are a variety of options for you to choose from. Billk's post is very good and provides most of the detail that you need. I have wired my layout as follows: (BTW - I am in N-scale and the layout is 17 1/2 ' x 10' with a 10' peninsula in the middle, using Digitrax DCC)

    Power District Busses - 14 gauge house wire - solid
    Track feeders - 20 gauge - solid
    Turnout machines - 18 gauge stranded

    DCC LocoNet 6 conductor flat wire Data cable w/RJ-12 plugs

    Check out the Basic Wiring Book from Kalmbach for an easy to read summary of wiring concepts and techniques.
  7. Paul Davis

    Paul Davis Member

    One thing I'd reccomend is getting good quality wire not the cheap stuff. As it will cause far fewer problems. Higher quality wire will generally have more thiner strands than low quality so it will be more flexible and less likely to break. It'll also have been plated so it'll look a silvery colour rather than a copper colour and will be much easyer to solder.
  8. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    David,the silver wire on the speaker wire is just tinned or plated with and as Paul points out, should take solder well. Another advantage to speaker wire is the clear or translucent insulation which allows you to see if the wire is corroded into the insulation, which happens in moist environments. If you just look at the end, it might not look bad, but with the clear insulation, you may see a different color a few inches into it. There's no practical way to clean up corroded stranded wire; just cut it back. My personal pref is stranded everywhere as it handles current better because of more surface area. Electrons travel onthe surface of each strand. It also pulls solder in and makes for a better/easier solder job. Just an opinion, either works.

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