Wiring my New Layout

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

  1. Stu McGee

    Stu McGee Member

    All of this is making me like DCC more and more. I do separate my yards: passenger, locomotive, and industries and mains and staging: yet to be build but in the plans.
  2. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    DCC is a little "kinder" in that respect. Initially, you can just connect 2 wires to your track and you're all set to go. But if you like a lot of "hands-on" operating, there's nothing like flipping switches right & left to set up the route your train will take...
  3. Stu McGee

    Stu McGee Member

    Understood, and I like to set my turnouts by hand as my pike is small enough. Of course once I get my kids to expand my operational horizons a la lap top any thing goes. One of the best explanations of dcc operation was told to me as an excercise in networking a computer sytem like we had at home before the kids left.
  4. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    "Pike"...Now that's a word you don't hear (see) used much nowadays...Now we all have "layouts"....:mrgreen:
  5. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    Amen to that :thumb:

    I LOVE flipping switches :mrgreen:

    I can't wait for the day I move out of this apartment and into a house so I can expand my layout.

    I need more track!wall1
  6. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    Thanks again guys for helping me with this.

    So here is the status of my layout (If you don't want the back story on how I got the switches, skip this huge paragraph). I went on a small road trip with my mom today around the area. Our first stop was the Radio Shack to return the switched I bought earlier. After that, it was off to out local hobby store, which is like 25 miles away. When we got there, we found out that they went out of business. Dag Nabbit! Well, so we went another 10 miles to another town that we thought would have a hobby shop in it, but it didn't. So... we went maybe another 15 miles to a town were we knew there was a shop that held the switched you guys recommended. After searching for an hour trying to find the place, we got there, and got the switches.

    Now, after a 6 hour trip around the area, I have 2 4-switch SPDT switches made by Altas. Now my question is this. How would I wire my layout? I can't have the common rail like I should, because the guy who made the layout insulated both rails. Also, the inside turnout on the bottom of the inside loop is not insulated. How would I make it insulated?

    Thanks again guys. You are all very helpful, and it helps having people that know how to do it tell me how to do it. That was a mouthful. :p
  7. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    1. Why do you feel the need to insulate Atlas turnouts? Atlas turnouts are already built to conduct power at all times in all directions with the correct polarity. The frog is insulated so that frog polarity is not an issue.

    2. Since you have SPDT switches, you need to establish one rail as the "common rail". Doesn't matter if there are insulating rail joiners or other gaps in the common rail. Every piece of the common rail get joined together electrically by adding feeders to any insulated sections of the common rail. Then tie all feeders to the common rail together, and then to a terminal on each power pack. Thus, your "common" return.

    3. Hook up one of the Atlas Selector slide switches to each insulated block by running the feeder for the non-common rail to the Selector (or SPDT). If you want to be able to have one train follow another in a given loop, that loop must have at least 4 blocks.

    4. Break down and get the Atlas book on wiring - it's less than $10. It's much easier to understand when you have diagrams and pictures to accompany words.

    my thoughts, your choices
  8. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    Ok. First thing first. I didn't make the layout. I bought it at a local train show about 2 weeks ago. Also, I don't have extra money to buy the book. I spent it all on the switches today. With the books again, the closest store that might carry it would be about 1 and a half hours away, and I don't even have my license yet, meaning my mom has to come with me.

    I'll just work on this for a while, but if anybody could please make a diagram to show me how to do this, that would be nice. Also, how could you make a new block? The extra turnout is NOT insulated at the turnout. What should I do?
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Are these Atlas Selectors you bought? I have a bunch on my layout.
    You need two wires connected to each block. One goes to the screw terminal on the selector, the others are all gathered together at one point -- maybe a terminal strip or soldered to a length of bare wire. I would pick the inner rail for the common but the outer rail woks just as well.
    To make a new block, you need to cut the rail (if you can't remove the track). A very small hacksaw or a razor saw is good. Cut all the way through the rail and then put a small piece of plastic or a flat tothpick to keep the ends apart. Carve toothpick/plastic to shape of rail.

    You need to hold the rail while you cut it -- can't trust the little spike heads.
  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Sabretooth and Steamhead already posted diagrams on this thread. More information on wiring for beginners is available at NMRA - Expanded Track Plan.

    The point I was trying to make is that it's a lot easier to learn wiring from a book that was specifically written and created for that purpose - with lots of diagrams that are time consuming for any of us to duplicate on a volunteer basis. The book I recommended (Easy-To-Understand Wiring Basics and Atlas Electrical Controls), the cheapest one that does a nice job, can be ordered online from here: https://secure.atlasrr.com/mod1/items.asp?CartId={58E15200-236A-EVEREST4059-9B71-CA51B2BB4F33}&Cc=BOOKS&Bc=

    Blocks are formed by creating an electrical gap between sections of rail - either by insulated rail joiners at track section joints, or by physically cutting the rail with a fine saw (Atlas makes a track saw, I prefer a jeweler's saw) or Dremel tool with thin cut-off disk.

    Model railroading, as you are discovering, is a lot more than just slapping down track and turning on the power. It is a hobby that teaches and requires an incredible variety of skills and knowledge, including a basic knowledge of DC wiring. In fact, it was through wiring a large Lionel layout and a small HO layout that I got my interest in things electrical, leading to a career in electrical engineering. Telling you step-by-step (attach this wire to this screw) how to wire this layout does not teach you the limited amount of theory you will need to make changes or build your next layout.

    Please take the time to understand the diagrams provided you, and then ask more questions.

    You said you have Atlas turnouts. They do not need to be insulated at the joints. You do not need any insulated rail joiners at all to run one train (as long as there are no reversing sections). Simply hook up the power pack and go. It is when you try to run 2 trains at the same time that you need blocks, switches, and a second power pack. The purpose of the blocks and the block switches is to keep a train assigned electrically to the correct power pack.

    Blocks are train length sections of electrically insulated track. A block switch (Selector in your case) determines which power pack provides power to that block.

    As a train controlled by power pack A reaches a block boundary, power pack A is selected for the block the train is coming into. Once the locomotive is past the block boundary, the block it is leaving can (doesn't have to) be turned off, or power pack B selected. In this way, 2 trains can follow each other around a loop, with blocks being selected first for one power pack, and then for the other. To have 2 trains follow each other without stopping at block boundaries to wait takes a minimum of 4 blocks in the loop.

    hope this helps
  11. sabretooth47

    sabretooth47 Member

    jawharp - imagine this:

    A simple oval loop of track. No spurs, no nothing. Just a single loop of track.

    Now cut the loop in half. So you have two sections of track that look like giant "C".

    To power both section, each will have to be wired separately. From your powerpack (aka: throttle), you would run 4 wires...1 positive and 1 negative wire to each "C".

    You'd place your positive wire to the outside track rail of each "C", and you'd place your negative wire (aka: common) to the inside rail of each "C". Now each “C” is powered independent of the other.

    This is the simple premise on how blocks work.

    If you want to run two separate trains simultaneously, yet independently, you need two throttles and a switch that will define which throttle is operating which block. This is where the Atlas switches come into play.


    Keep this in mind:
    The “A” selection on your switch is throttle “A”.
    The “B” selection on your switch is throttle “B”.
    The middle selection on your switch is “OFF”.

    Now, let’s take just one piece of plain ol’ straight track. About 24" long.

    Wire the track with one rail positive and one rail negative. It doesn’t matter which is which.

    Run the positive wire from the track to switch#1 on your Atlas selector.

    Run your positive wire from throttle “A” to the TOP LEFT screw of the selector.

    Run your positive wire from throttle “B” to the BOTTOM LEFT screw of the selector.

    Now take the three negative wires (the two throttles and one track) and twist them together. DO NOT connect them anywhere on the selector.

    Put an engine on the track and push up the selector switch to position “A”. The train will operate using the #1 throttle.
    Leave the same engine on the track and push down the selector switch to position “B”. Now the train will operate using the #2 throttle.

    Let me know how this works out for you.
  12. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    Guys, thanks a lot. What I did with the wiring was I took the layout, set it sideways so I could see the underside and the topside, and I just thought really hard. I mean REALLY hard. After 3 hours of work, I finally got the layout wired correctly. Well, I got the wires in the right place. Then, I waited another hour while I waited for my mom to come back from town to get the materials needed to solder the wires into place. After an hour of tinkering, I have the layout all wired! YAY!

    Thanks for all of the help guys. Without you, I would just be frustrated with my layout and I would have probably destroyed it.
  13. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Well Jaw....That's a happy ending to what seemed an impossible task for you....Perseverence and patience are virtues you will acquire as you grow in the hobby....Too many folks get frustrated easily and just chuck the whole thing out. Good to see you hung in there and have taken a major step in becoming a MODEL RAILROADER...!!!

    Good luck to you...:thumb: and keep us posted....
  14. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    When I start making buildings and scenery, I'll post to show you guys
  15. wannabe-nscaler

    wannabe-nscaler New Member

    Watched your video on YouTube, awesome! I about fell out of my seat when you pointed at the steamer and said "that engine is a piece of crap". I don't know how times I've done that. Thought you were going to pick it up and throw it (they don't run too well after that).
  16. jawharp92

    jawharp92 New Member

    Well, it runs like a piece of crap because when I get it, I was like 8 and was still using the G scale Christmas train. I had no idea on how to use it properly or to care for it. If I got it a year ago, I would not call it a piece of crap.
  17. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    And you folks think DCC is complicated??? The previous question is meant to stimulate discussion. Please don't take it as a condemnation of old school DC systems.

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