Need advice on wiring

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Laird Knapp

New Member
I'm about to wire up my HO train layout. The instructional videos talk about a wide range of wire sizes used for running bus lines and feeder lines depending upon who is doing the video. I have a lot of 12 gauge and 16 gauge wire. Would they be acceptable for running bus lines and feeder lines or should I get other sized wire? If so, what sizes do you recommend? Appreciate anyone's input regarding this as my knowledge in this area is close to zilch.
 

santafewillie

Same Ol' Buzzard
Both 12 and 16 gauge are acceptable for buss lines, although 16 will be more flexible. Feeders should be in the 20-24 gauge range. My experience only.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Your layout's size is going to determine the buss wires size, it would need to be very large to need 12G. Feeders as Willie has indicated. 16G too large for soldering to rails. Single core is easier bent at the ends where they are soldered to the rails and poked through the base board, but fine stranded for flexiblity underneath if a long run of feeder and has to pass through several supports and braces. An idea that makes the joining of feeds to Buss, is to have the Buss around the outside face of the base and drill holes to bring the wires through from behind. Sldered joints are accessible, rather than beneath, mount spacers around the face and apply a fascia over the lot. You can do a lot with thin hardboard sheet including cutting to the forms of hills etc.
 
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Laird Knapp

New Member
Your layout's size is going to determine the buss wires size, it would need to be very large to need 12G. Feeders as Willie has indicated. 16G too large for soldering to rails. Single core is easier bent at the ends where they are soldered to the rails and poked through the base board, but fine stranded for flexiblity underneath if a long run of feeder and has to pass through several supports and braces. An idea that makes the joining of feeds to Buss, is to have the Buss around the outside face of the base and drill holes to bring the wires through from behind. Sldered joints are accessible, rather than beneath, mount spacers around the face and apply a fascia over the lot. You can do a lot with thin hardboard sheet including cutting to the forms of hills etc.
Thanks for you input.
 

dave1905

Well-Known Member
16 ga is fine for a bus unless you have a huge layout with bus runs of 100+ ft, then you would want the 12 ga. For feeders, you want 18ga or less, I use 20-22 ga. Pick a color for your feeders and make sure you use the same color wire between each rail and bus. Keeping at least one wire consistent with the bus makes it easier to trouble shoot. I used red/black for my buses (14 ga stranded) since I had a bunch of it already. Then I used red/white solid 20 ga. for feeders, always connecting red to red and white to black. Frogs used a yellow or green feeder.

It helps to have a mnemonic for the wiring (black in back, red to the rear, white to the wall, etc) so that when you are under the layout you can remember which rail goes with which color. Frogs wires are green (yellow) because frogs are green.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
Great answers so far, obviously lots of experience.

The wires are necessary, but there's wire...and then there's wire. Some build 2X4 monstrosities and learn that it's not going to be a two-story structure. 1X2 construction would have sufficed. The same applies to wires. You want to avoid voltage loss, which takes place over distance. 12 gauge is quite a bit too much unless you need a main bus capable of handling 20 amps over 100'. On the huge majority of layouts, 14-16 gauge will be lots, be safe, and be easier to thread through all those small holes you gotta drill.

For the the feeders, I use the wire found in the white flexible plastic sleeve, four of them with red, yellow, green, and black coatings. You can get it by the yard at HD. I think it's 22 gauge, solid copper. It's easily flattened at one end to solder to the rail web or to slide it into a joiner.

I run my benchwork around the walls. So I'm boxed in, and must duck under to enter and exit. That means, when watching trains, I'm always facing a wall. My memory tool is that the two darkest colours for the pairs, red/black and yellow/green, can be kept separate. Red for the closest rail, facing the wall remember, and the darkest wire coating is for the far/closest-to-the-wall rail.
 

wvg_ca

Well-Known Member
on my layout i used leftover parallel printer wire, maybe 24 gau, not real sure, for the feeders ... ran them every 4 to 6 feet, depending on the section being wired ....
a relatively easy chore ...
for the main bus wires i used 10 gau, maybe too heavy but i already had it on hand
 

Greg@mnrr

Section Hand
I'm about to wire up my HO train layout. The instructional videos talk about a wide range of wire sizes used for running bus lines and feeder lines depending upon who is doing the video. I have a lot of 12 gauge and 16 gauge wire. Would they be acceptable for running bus lines and feeder lines or should I get other sized wire? If so, what sizes do you recommend? Appreciate anyone's input regarding this as my knowledge in this area is close to zilch.

I would use the stranded 16 gauge wire if the layout isn't and smaller gauge wire for the feeder drops. Larger buss wiring is fine, but I believe 14 gauge is preferred for small to medium size layouts. Solid wire of 22 gauge works great for the feeders.

Use IDC (suitcase connectors) connectors to join the buss and feeders.

Greg
 

boatwrench

Member
Use IDC (suitcase connectors) connectors to join the buss and feeders.
I used these connectors on a layout for the 1st time a couple of weeks ago. So much easier than the western union splices or even terminal blocks used on precious layouts..

The 4x8 layout I am currently supervising being built by my son-in-law and grandson used automotive 16g primary wire for bus and 22g feeders. Feeders were very 4-6' of track length.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I used these connectors on a layout for the 1st time a couple of weeks ago. So much easier than the western union splices or even terminal blocks used on precious layouts..

The 4x8 layout I am currently supervising being built by my son-in-law and grandson used automotive 16g primary wire for bus and 22g feeders. Feeders were very 4-6' of track length.
The main thing with IDC connecters is to ensure they have the gaps in the connector splice matching the wire gauges.
 

Laird Knapp

New Member
16 ga is fine for a bus unless you have a huge layout with bus runs of 100+ ft, then you would want the 12 ga. For feeders, you want 18ga or less, I use 20-22 ga. Pick a color for your feeders and make sure you use the same color wire between each rail and bus. Keeping at least one wire consistent with the bus makes it easier to trouble shoot. I used red/black for my buses (14 ga stranded) since I had a bunch of it already. Then I used red/white solid 20 ga. for feeders, always connecting red to red and white to black. Frogs used a yellow or green feeder.

It helps to have a mnemonic for the wiring (black in back, red to the rear, white to the wall, etc) so that when you are under the layout you can remember which rail goes with which color. Frogs wires are green (yellow) because frogs are green.
Thanks for your input. Lots of good advice coming in.
 

Laird Knapp

New Member
16 ga is fine for a bus unless you have a huge layout with bus runs of 100+ ft, then you would want the 12 ga. For feeders, you want 18ga or less, I use 20-22 ga. Pick a color for your feeders and make sure you use the same color wire between each rail and bus. Keeping at least one wire consistent with the bus makes it easier to trouble shoot. I used red/black for my buses (14 ga stranded) since I had a bunch of it already. Then I used red/white solid 20 ga. for feeders, always connecting red to red and white to black. Frogs used a yellow or green feeder.

It helps to have a mnemonic for the wiring (black in back, red to the rear, white to the wall, etc) so that when you are under the layout you can remember which rail goes with which color. Frogs wires are green (yellow) because frogs are green.
Thanks for your input. Lots of good advice coming in.
 

Laird Knapp

New Member
on my layout i used leftover parallel printer wire, maybe 24 gau, not real sure, for the feeders ... ran them every 4 to 6 feet, depending on the section being wired ....
a relatively easy chore ...
for the main bus wires i used 10 gau, maybe too heavy but i already had it on hand
Thanks for your input. Lots of good advice coming in.
 

Laird Knapp

New Member
Thank you! Just wanted to thank everyone for their responses and advice. I feel confident going forward with my wiring now. I have two 4 X 8 sheets of plywood with a 3 x 4 connecting panel, making a U shape. Keeping things simple to start with, so just a single, DC track. Planning on using the 16 gauge for bus, 20 gauge for feeders, run the bus lines around the circuit and using connectors rather than soldering feeders to bus lines.
 




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