Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Partsman, Oct 12, 2002.

  1. Partsman

    Partsman Member

    Good day, gentlemen. I wish to tap the collective knowledge for the answer to some simple questions.

    What gauge of wire should be used to wire a layout ?

    Stranded or solid ?

    Would bell wire work ?

  2. kettlestack

    kettlestack Member

    Partsman, This is quite a subjective subject but.......
    N gauge locos take about 1/5 amp on full load, quite a number of HO locos need 1 Amp on full load and since you may want to run 3 locos MU'd together you will have to cater for three times the max load per loco.

    What is known as "equipment wire" is often used and it is generally stranded.
    16 strands of 0.2mm copper conductors can carry 3 amps and has an overal diameter of 1.6 mm. This is what I use for everything :)

    However, the wire itself has resistance and long runs (ie 20 feet or more) will deliver a voltage to your track less than your throttle output voltage if the current is above roughly 1 1/2 Amps.

    1) Use stranded wire, it is more flexible and breaks are less likely.
    2) Use a heavier gauge of wire rated at 6 Amps for large layouts.
    3) Some modellers like to run track feed "busbars" under the baseboard following the route of the track and tapping into these busbars to feed the track at regular distances.
    4) Do draw a circuit diagram of your wiring and label it..... You have no idea how much effort this can save you in 5 yrs time when you have all sorts of wiring added to your layout and problems occur.

    All the foregoing is for single throttle or block wiring with multiple throttles.

    I believe DCC controlled layouts have much simpler wiring but the wire sizes indicated above is still valid.

    No doubt, other members will advise in this thread based on their experience, no opinion is ever wasted if you are aware of the fundamentals of the loads you are trying to supply and how far from the controller the most distant connection is to the track.

    (Just my two British pennies worth) :)

  3. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hey Bill, This is a subject that comes up every now and then and it seems that there's a lot of differing opinions on it.

    If you are going to use dcc to control your layout use the gauge of wire that the manufacturer specifies as that could be critical to its operation. If using the block and toggle method via buss wiring use # 18 ga.(that's lampcord size) for the buss and 20 or 22 ga. for feeders to the track. If by chance you may be using Atlas components them you are probably limited to #20 or #22 wire becuse of the small connectors on the Atlas components.

    I prefer stranded wire simply because its more flexible but again thats a matter of prefference.

    Bell wire will work...its about the same size as telephone wire which I've used on occasions to wire entire layouts.

    Hope this helped. :)
  4. billk

    billk Active Member

    I'm using a 16AWG bus and 20AWG feeders. Why? Because that's what I had laying around. The bus I stripped out of some leftover Romex, the feeders were left from one of the kid's science fair projects. Both are solid, which I prefer because it is easier to form.
  5. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    All my wiring on all railroads I have ever built has always been stranded wire. I buy it in 100' drums from an electrical shop which uses it for house fire alarms. It comes in six different colours which is handy for colour coding track/points & lighting. The cost for 100' is £9 ($14)

  6. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Bill:
    I model in S-Gauge so my current demands are greater than most of these guys, except for that wierd O conspiracy bunch. Watch out for them! I think they're Borg. Just kidding guys!

    Almost all my wire is stranded. I use 16 or 14 gauge wire for all the busses on my modules. Local stuff is run with 20-16 ga wire. Some local accessories use 22 gauge solid wire because it's easier to conceal and form. You can get 100 foot of 16 or 14 gauge wire for $5-$6 at auto supply stores, Auto Zone, etc. They call it "Primary Wire" Comes in six colors typically.

    There's a lot of ways to skin this cat. I posted this same question here a year ago when i was building my modules. I've run them for nine months and the above has worked well. Can't speak re: DCC.

  7. Partsman

    Partsman Member

    Thanks, guys. There is no better place than The-Gauge to get the proper information.

    My needs at the moment are quite simple and I just happen to have a bit of 20gauge stranded wire available..


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