Wiring my New Layout

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by jawharp92, Mar 31, 2008.

  1. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    Alright. Yesterday I went to the local model train show hoping to get a new engine so I could start my planning around the road name on the engine, but I came up with this.

    My first thought when I saw this was "Oh golly. This would be perfect", and it was because I have no experience in laying flextrack at all, so I bought it. It was only $60, and it came with an operational transformer (not the one in the picture) and a box with 6 more pieces of flextrack and a lot of wires/cables.

    Now, the wiring on the layout now is just temporary, and I will have to wire it myself this spring break when I get the switches. The thing is that I just don't know how to connect the wires to the track and make it look good. I can't add in the little connectors made by atlas because the track is all ready glued in. Also, the track is all split up into different segments by insulators. I mapped it out onto microsoft paint here. The red track is going to be controlled by one transformer and the blue track will be powered by another. The different shades go with the main color, and all sections will be hooked up through a switch.


    The X's represent the insulators. The one siding on the blue line isn't insulated, but oh well. If you guys have a different plan for this, please tell me. This is the first layout I have ever had, so I am not the professional. (I would have said "my layout", but I didn't lay down the track)

    Ok. Now, remember, I really don't know how to connect the wires to the track. How do you guys do it? Thanks a ton for reading through this all. I hope to keep everybody updated on it. It will be a lot of fun.
  2. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    Personally, I solder all my wires directly to the outside of the rails. If done correctly, your viewing public will be hard pressed to point them out.

    I don't have any pics to show, but what I've done is drill a hole as close to the rail as possible. Then I took a 8" piece of small gauge (22) solid copper wire, and stripped 2" (yes, 2 inches) of one end to solder. Only solder about 3/4" of the exposed wire to the rail. The reason you strip so much off is so you can bury the wire jacket below view. Having only to deal with a small piece of copper wire is then easily camoflauged by some gravel or paint. One the solder has hardened, just drop the other end through the hole and repeat.

    Once you've connected all your wires, you can work underneath the board. What I'm doing is running stranded wire from the control boxes and using small twist caps to connect the stranded wire to the solid wire.

    I use the solid wire for the track because it's easier to solder and disguise. The stranded wire is easier to work with when running your wiring underneath the board and carries the current better. Using the short solid pieces doesn't limit the current in any noticeable way (at least in my experience). Using the twist caps makes troubleshooting a bit easier as well should you need to disconnect or replace a section of wire.
  3. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Others have discussed attaching the wire to the track, so I won't go there.

    Unfortunately, the previous owner was headed down the all-too-typical path of assigning a separate power pack to each loop. Practically a guarantee of rough operations, if not outright problems, when you go to switch a train from one loop to the other.

    May I propose rewiring for cab or block control? Details are explained in books and article on model railroad wiring, with much prettier diagrams than I can draw.

    The basic principle of cab control is to assign a particular power pack ("cab") to a particular train, no matter where it goes on the layout. The second principle is that a given train receives power and control from only one power pack at any given point on the layout and/or in time.

    It is when 2 power packs are trying to control a train at the same that things get ugly. This will happen in your current setup when the locomotive bridges the insulated rail joiners at the cross-overs between the 2 loops.

    To avoid the 2 power packs controlling the train at once scenario, each loop should be divided into 4 "blocks" or insulated electrical sections. Only 1 rail need be insulated at the section boundary for this purpose (called common rail wiring), but insulating both does no harm. If you use common rail, the insulators must always be in the same rail, with the other rail common. Additional blocks may be formed by insulating the spurs (dead end tracks). These are needed if you anticipate parking a locomotive or train on the spurs while another train goes by on the loop. Remember, the goal is only 1 train per power pack, and only 1 power pack per train, no matter where it is on the layout. So you should have between 8 and 12 blocks on this layout. Block boundaries can be made by either insulated rail joiners, or by cutting a saw blade width gap in the rails (a Dremel cutoff disc works well).

    Each block can select which power pack controls it through an Atlas Selector or SPDT center-off toggle switch (use DPDT center-off toggles for non-common rail wiring). When you are running you set the blocks your train is using to the power pack you are using. Unused blocks are set to "center off" so another locomotive can be parked there. Now, when you go to change loops you set the adjacent blocks in both loops to your power pack, and you have a seamless transition. The other train can use any blocks you are not using.

    If this is difficult to understand, I strongly recommend one of the Atlas or Kalmbach books on wiring model railroads. The books do a much better job of explaining how to do what I am suggesting than I can do in an already too long post.

    yours in wiring
  4. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    I completely agree with pgandw...blocks are the way to go. My ultra-simple "test" layout uses only one throttle control, and has 4 blocks (1 for mainline, 1 for passing track and 2 for the yard). I can draw a schematic in paint and post it if you wish. It's pretty staright forward and simple to understand.

    Let me know :mrgreen:
  5. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    Ok. I got totally lost when I read pgandw's post. I am just beginner here with little money and little tools. If you guys could give me some sort of picture like the one I drew and show me were I should add more block barriers, please do that.

    One reason why I though this would work well is because I have 2 transformers that are exactly alike, and I thought that the cap wouldn't be much because I could set them both to be the same when I wanted to switch loops. That's just my thought though.

    Also, I got the impression of like a DCC thing going on when you were explaining all of that to me. I can't really afford that kind of equipment, and I can't really understand what you mean when you say that I could control one train with one power pack and another with another power pack.

    I appreciate all of this help, it's helping a lot (duh)
  6. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    No DCC is involved here. I don't use it and I probably never will. I like using blocks and switches.

    You don't want to ever control the same engine with two throttles. It will greatly reduce the life of your engines. As the engine enters one block to the next, it will create a surges that will eventually burn up the motor, throttle, or both. You wouldn't control your hair-dryer while it's plugged into two separate outlets, so why with your engines?

    I'm going to take your plan and edit it to show you how to wire the blocks and how to control them. It may seem intimidating at first, but it's not really that hard to understand or operate. As soon as I have it drawn up, I'll post it here.

    The only thing you'll need to purchase is one or two Atlas DPDT selector switch control blocks (each box will control 4 blocks). Cost about $6-7 for each switch. Click this to see what they look like: ATL-215 Atlas Selector Switch Panel
  7. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Hi...Here's a diagram I drew up for another member that was having the same problems you are dealing with.

    Attached Thumbnails

    It's not as complicated as it sounds. You can have as many "blocks" as you need, just keep adding them following the diagram.
    Here's a link to the thread that dealt with this problem.


    Good luck..!! :thumb:
  8. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    I attached an image of a generic schematic for your layout. Forgive me that it looks like bug-guts.

    You'll have 6 blocks, so you'll need two Atlas DPDT Selector boxes. Basically, you'll insulate each "block" from the others (I color coded each block). I recommend you use plastic rail joiners ($1.00 for 24 at most hobby shops) to separate the rail connections. Then you'll wire each block individually. You can use a "common rail" for the negative current, or you can keep them separate. As this is your first time, I'd recommend keeping everything separate.

    Starting with Throttle #1, wire your positive to the "A" side of the Selector box. Then, from the Selector box, run the positive line from switch #1 to the positive rail of the #1 block. Then run a positive wire from switch #2 to the positive rail of block #2, etc...

    With Throttle #2, all you have to do is connect the positive line from the throttle to the "B" side connection of the Selector box.

    Oh, I forgot, make sure you have the two Selector boxes connected to one another (also known as "ganging). The package comes with metal strips to make this easily done.

    You should pick up a small electrical bus from Radio Shack to run all your negative (common) lines as they all run to the same ground.

    I was never a good teacher so I don't know how well I'm explaining all this. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. You could always email me privately if you feel more comfortable doing so. Let me know.

    Attached Files:

  9. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    sorry, I had to fix the schematic as I had the power running to both the A and B sides of the Selector boxes....big boo boo.

    Also, the "c" that you see there are just reminding you that this is the common rail side of the block.

    Lets say you want to run engine abc from block 3 to block 6 using throttle #1. On your Selector boxes, you would switch them from neutral to side "A" on blocks #1, #3, and #6. Use throttle #1 to run your route...all the while, any engines sitting in the open blocks (2, 4, and 5) do not go anywhere.

    I hope this is all making sense. I tend to ramble... :mrgreen:
  10. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    jeez...now I forgot to add the new schematic -- LOL

    disregard the first one

    Attached Files:

  11. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    So If Im reading this right, throttle 1 controls blocks 1, 2, 3, and 4 while throttle 2 controls blocks 5 & 6. What if I want to run my train from block 2 to 5?

    Im sorry if any of this sounds stupid, but this is my first layout and I have NO experience with wiring up a layout.
  12. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    Don't beat yourself up...you're not stupid. Like I said, it's pretty intimidating at first. Heck, I have experience in aircraft wiring and I had to sit and think out how to wire blocks at first.

    To answer your question...No, you can control any block with either throttle. It depends on where you set the selectors.

    Take a good look at the picture of the Atlas selector (see link a couple posts back). You'll notice that each of the 4 green switches have 3 positions. The selections are: UP, MIDDLE, DOWN...and respectively that means Position "A", Position "Off", Position "B".

    Simply: A & B on the Selector box corresponds to your throttles. Throttle #1 is position "A" on the Selector -- Throttle #2 is position "B" on the Selector. You decide which throttle controls which block by simply flipping a switch on the Selector boxes.

    For Example: you are running block #1 with throttle #1, so this means your #1 selector on the Selector box will be in position "A"...

    But lets say you change your mind and want to run that same block with throttle #2 instead...you would then simply switch the #1 selector on the Selector box to the "B" position. You can now go about your business with throttle #2. No fuss, no muss.

    Make more sense?
  13. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Sabretooth...I fail to see how the grounds are handled. I insist the use of SPDT switches with common rail involves less wiring (therefore less $$'s), and seems to be a heck of a lot less "spaghetti" thrown about....
  14. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    I have a butt load of wire. It's just the switches I need.

    I now get the diagram and it makes sense, but if there is an easier way, that would be great to see so I could compare them.

    The sad thing is that I got so excited to start wiring my layout, I went to radio shack and bought me a few simple flip switches. I haven't used them yet, and I think I will just take most of them back (except for 2 maybe for future projects of some sort). I also didn't wire anything or start drilling holes. See, a few years ago I would have just went straight into it, but now I am willing to wait :p

    Thanks again guys
  15. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    I also made a schematic that cleans up what steamhead had posted:

    Attached Files:

  16. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    So if I'm looking at this correctly, you could hook up up to 4 throttles to the switch mechanism?

    Also, I would need 2 switch mechanisms for my layout, right?
  17. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    You are 110% right...I've meant SPDT this whole time (I did mention the right Atlas selector box, though).


    With the grounds, what I've done is get a small connector bus from Radio Shack and just sent all the commons to that point. I agree that a common rail is the best bet, but you are still going to run more than one ground wire to the tracks.

    I mentioned that jawharp should completely separate the blocks as a visual means. That way he can see that each section operates independantly from the others. That way each block gets it's own + and - and it's easier to visualize...if that makes any sense.

    Thanks for pointing that DPDT switch mistake...I woulda had the poor guy sitting in a pile of tangled mess.
  18. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    No, 2 throttles max with this setup (throttle "A" and throttle "B").

    Yes, because you have 6 blocks on the layout. Each Selector box only can control up to 4 blocks.
  19. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    Thank you guys for all of this help. As soon as I am able to I will run back to radio shack to return the unneeded switches and go to the hobby store to get the Atlas switches.

    If there are any more suggestions that I should know about before I start wiring this bad puppy up, please tell me. I need all of the information I can have.

    Also, what's a DPDT and an SPDT?
  20. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    SPDT = Single Pole / Double Throw

    DPDT = Double Pole / Double Throw

    I wouldn't wrap yourself up in that one. Just get the Atlas switches I mentioned and you'll be all set.


Share This Page