Wiring help please

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by spitfire, Jan 28, 2005.

  1. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I need some help in figuring out where my bus wire(s) should go, and I'm asking for your help, all you wiring gurus. :)

    First question: Do I have one single bus wire snaking around the layout, or more than one branching off each other?

    Second question: could someone show me where I should locate the bus wire?

    A couple of notes.
    1) I want to have my power and main control (Digitrax Zephyr) located at the yard.
    2) The outer oval is elevated 3" above the switching track and yards, and will be on blue foam.
    3) I'll be adding throttles later, hooked up to the "Loco-net" ports on the Zephyr.
    4) All yard turnouts will have Tortoise switch machines and dwarf signals.
    5) Layout size is 12' x 16'

    I've shown the feeder wire locations as red dots.

    Thanks in advance for the help folks. :)


  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Val,

    I would think that you would want the bus to pretty much follow the track, as the feeders should be kept short - about 6" or so. I would run one in each direction from the yard, with the break (conveniently) at the swing-out section.

    You may want to consider more feeders - the modular club recommends one every three feet, although I have also seen one every six feet recommended (basically, one per every two sections of flextrack).

    Getting the feeders through the blue foam should be easy - you can "drill" a hole with a hot piece of coathanger (just open the windows for ventilation...!).

    Also, if you plan to use all those tortoises, you may need an additional power source. Are you planning on running them via stationary decoders controlled by the Zephyr?

    Good luck, hope this helps... :)

  3. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Thanks Andrew! I never thought about how I will wire the tortoises. Should I use a secondary power source? I have a DC power pack - would that be good? Or should I get a separate transformer?

  4. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Hi Val, gotta agree with Andrew, run the bus from the Zephyr in both directions around the room to the lift out section. I'd use the DC pack to power the Tortoises (Torti?) I'd also add more drops. One method you may want to consider is to solder drops to the underside of rail joiners, then soldering the rails together on those joints which have feeders. Use them every other joint and you've effectively powered every piece of rail.
  5. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Gary, I'm cheating and using the Atlas terminal rail joiners - the one that have feeder wires already attached, so I could easily add feeders at each joint if necessary.

    I have tested my BLI Hudson on the track already with the Zephyr hooked up to one of the feeder wires (the highest and farthest right one of the left side switching area before the curve). The engine made it all the way around to the lower right side of the layout before stalling on the turnout there, which I thought was pretty good. Of course, I'm going to be running more than one engine at a time, and I haven't tested that yet.

    I've had so much conflicting advice about soldering rails together that I'm really not sure what I should do. The guy at the LHS (who's the DCC expert as well) says not to - not even on curves.

    My thinking is that it's easier to solder the joints later if I have electrical problems than it would be to un-solder them if I have expansion and kinks.

    Thanks for the advice on the feeders and power pack for the Torti! :thumb:
  6. hminky

    hminky Member

    I always felt they defeat the purpose of feeders. They are still rail joiners that will oxidize or fill with ballast glue and fail:curse: . I only trust feeders soldered to rails:eek: . I have always soldered rail sections together as groups.
    Just a thought
  7. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Val, I know there's a lot of differing opinions out there. Forget about temperature influenced expansion problems. Your basement won't vary enough to be a problem. Garages and attics without air conditioning are a different story. Your problem will be humidity. I assume your basement gets quite humid in summer? And you have a furnace running in the winter which will dry up the basement. These are the swings which will affect your trackwork. Actually, they affect the benchwork and roadbed, if wood. When wood gets damp from humidity, it swells. Track nails get brought further apart. Conversely, when the wood dries it shrinks, bringing those track nails closer together. My experience has been that when track is laid (using track nails) in the summer humidity, the kinking caused by the drying of the wood is substantial. Regardless of whether or not you soldered any joints. In fact, you will see the flex track bulge to one side or the other between track nails, even in the middle of one lenght of flex track. When the track is laid during the heating (dry) season, the pulling apart of the track nails doesn't seem to cause a problem. I now lay track only in the winter.

    Note that it is actually the track nails going into wood that causes this problem. My handlaid track has never given me a problem. Except for some street running handlaid which I spiked directly into Luan plywood. This was a mistake! Same problem.

    As Harold mentioned above, the feeders you are using are only fastened to a joiner, the contact with the rail is just mechanical and subject to dirt and oxidation. The advice to feed every rail is often considered overkill. As you mentioned, you can not solder any joints and use just one set of feeders and trains will run around even a fair sized loop, subject mostly to voltage drop. Over time, one joint will fail, then another. To solder them then will require a good cleaning first. Much easier to do up front.

    The above on humidity was meant to show that soldering the rails is not the cause of track irregularities with weather and temp swings. I strongly suggest, when using flex track on curves, to solder the sections of flex track together prior to finsihing laying the first piece. Lay say half the length of the first piece, pull the movable rail on the second piece out a bit to match the way the inner and outer rails end (staggered joints are better) connect them with joiners, keeping the rails sraight, solder them together, continue laying and repeat. You should feed the length of rail thru the cast on "spikes" using a chisel Exacto blade to remove spikes which lay under the joiner. By soldering while straight you won't have any problems with kinks where the rails join.

    If you use an adhesive to fasten down your track you will have far less of a problem with kinking due to humidity, since there won't be track nails to be brought closer together. And if you are gluing to foam, that potential problem ought to be eliminated completely.

    Solder away!
  8. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Hi Gary

    You're right - if anything the problem would be humidity in the summer. I've spiked the lower track into 1/2" homasote over 1/2" plywood. Does that make any difference? The upper level will be on pink foam. I do plan to solder those curves.

    I've heard that you can apply an anti-oxidant to the rail joiners. Haven't been able to find any though. Also my search for rosin flux has come up empty so far. Getting very tired of blank stares! :rolleyes:

    Are you suggesting I pull up all the track, clean the joiners and solder them? Turnouts too? For obvious reasons I would rather not do this, on the other hand, if there are going to be problems I'd rather deal with them now and not after all the ballast is down. On the other hand (yes I have 3!) I'll probably be taking this layout apart in 5 years or so, since this is my mom's house and she's 85 now, and it will be sold when she passes.

    Thanks again for taking all this time to help me out!!! :)

  9. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Val, I've had "temporary" trackage in use for over 5 years. This trackage, Atlas code 100, was (is) going to be replaced with hand laid "someday". My railroad is large enough that the section I'm speaking of provides operation while I build the rest to a higher standard. The reason I mention this is that I only had one set of feeders for about 100' feet of track and it worked for a year or so. Since I hadn't ballasted, it was easy to clean a spot and add a feeder when needed. It's been 7 years now and I still only have 3 sets of feeders for that 100' of track. So the advise to feed every section of rail can be taken to meant to be applied to layouts intended to be around for a long time. Still, if you are going to ballast that will speed up the corrosion of your joints. You don't need to pull up track you've laid to add feeders. I like to add feeders to the bottom of rail but will add to the side when needed. You want to avoid unsightly solder joints, so solder feeds to existing track on the side away from view. You don't have to put feeds on the outside of rails, tho it is easier. Drill ahole for the feed next to a joiner, use a needle file to file a notch in the joiner (the file can pass into the hole, it can be large enought to fit the file) solder the feed in the notch, cut even with the top of the rail base and you're all set. It would be a good idea to solder that joiner to both rails before soldering the feed. If while you get used to soldering you melt a few ties, remove them and slip other ties, without the spike casting, in their place. The hole for the feeder, large enough for the file, can be filled with some putty prior to ballasting.

    In the interest of saving the turnouts for future use, you may want to skip soldering feeds to them now. When you feel more confident in your soldering skills, go ahead and feed them. In all likelyhood, if the rails abutting the turnouts are fed, you'll be alright.

    I've never heard of the anti-oxident you mention.

    Spiking into homasote isn't quite as bad as spiking into wood, but you can still expect some problems. The fact that you're laying during heating season will help a lot. If you do see kinking it will likely be next winter. All you'll need to do is use a dremel with cutoff disc to make a gap, enough rail will be removed to solve the problem. You may need to add a feeder then. In my hidden staging, I laid Atlas track directly on plywood, I had major kinking. Track laid on homasote over plywood has less severe kinking. Track I fixed using the Dremel cutoff disc years ago has never given me a problem again. So it's not the end of the world if you see what I mean.

    Model railroading is fun!

  10. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    Val E mail ME.
  11. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Val, radio shack carries rosin core solder, this is really all that is needed.
  12. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    $2 for a life supply:


    CAT# SP-44

    If you feel bad about such a small order, get a soldering stand, a solder sucker, a pound spool of solder, and the veri-temp soldering iron :D
  13. moria

    moria Member

    Val, greetings :)

    I don't necessarily follow the rules with Bus wiring, so all I can say is that my method works for me:)

    I run a double pair of twisted wires.. right around the outside edge of the layout each way from the command station which is mounted centrally on one side, so each run goes half way round the layout.

    From this Bus, I splice additional twisted pairs from that bus to the centre of an area that has upto 12 feeds nearby. These I run to the master terminals on a Miniatronics 12 way distribution board.

    From there I do what network people call a star network and run the wires to the track from the distribution board.

    Imagine, if you like, construction of a tree.. my main outside bus is the trunk, that routes into branches, which route to the the track(foliage). This way, all the main power wiring is out of the way and only my distribution points take up valuable under the track real estate:)

    As to Tortoises.. I use NCE Switch-it decoders..(They work on all DCC systems) they take power from the track ( so in my case also run to my Miniatronics distribution boards) and run direct to the tortoise for control. Additionally the decoder sticks to the side of the Tortoise with double sided tabe, so again, you don't loose valuable under board real estate for them.

    As to dwarf signals.. I used this site, and again power from track bus and point frog (if you are using insulfrogs this wont work:cry: )... cheap and easy and totally automatic:) This is the wiring... http://nietzsche.mems.duke.edu/%7Eauro/trains/tech/DCC_DWARFS/ and this is the led's I use.. red over green 3mm already in a package that look like a dwarf signal.. http://www.quickar.com/discrete.php?session= with the led I use looking like this :- [​IMG]

    OKay, now heres the warning :) You have a zephyr which is 2.5A and I am suggesting taking power for all these things from the track, which will mount up... you may want to keep a close eye on Power consumption and start saving for a 5A booster at some stage:)


  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Val: I found a bottle of liquid rosin flux at one of the electronics stores on Matheson W of Dixie in Missississauga. (ther's a little plaza full of them)
    I would solder rail joints on curves for alignment. I don't do it on straights. I wouldn't use the rail joiner feeders. Run the bus wires under where the mainline is or near the front of the benchwork or wherever convenient.
  15. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Thanks for the tip David! :thumb:

  16. Goattee

    Goattee Member

    Gang if the anti-oxidant you are talking about is the balck goo that you put on aluminum wire, forget it! It is the kind of stuff that will be around for years and then some. It is a greasy stuff that you can't completely wipe off anything. I know because I have Aluminum wire in my house (built in 1970) and have to check and re-grease every year or so, just to be safe.
  17. a good anitoxidant for the rail joiners which I use is ford dielectric grease. Yes I spelled it wrong I know. But since it doubles up as brake slider grease I'm sure that the 1800 dergrees or so of heat and the ton of brake dust and road grime it has to deal with that it keeps out dirt moisture etc out of my rail joints.
  18. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Thanks for all the help folks. Update on the wiring dilemna is that it's done!! I got over my newbie fears and tackled it head on, and turns out it wasn't that difficult after all - certainly not as difficult as I was making it in my mind.

    I have to say that this hobby has been like that every step of the way. Things that seem intimidating on first glance, like track planning, or wiring, or re-painting an expensive engine, but which have to be done, usually turn out to be not nearly so hard as my fears made it look. What a great learning experience this has been!!!! And continues to be. :)

  19. SAL Comet

    SAL Comet Member

    One problem with using dielectric grease is that the definition of dielectric is a material that will not conduct electricity. Preventing the lose of conductivity with nonconductive grease doesn't seem like a good idea. IMHO
  20. XavierJ123

    XavierJ123 Member

    Boy, I wish I knew what ya'll were talking about. I need that book, "Basic Wiring for Dummies." I guess the "bus" is one main electric wire from the transformer and you connect "feeder wires" to it every 6 feet of track. I think this is called wiring in series.

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