I want to use 12 gauge wire stranded on a loop.  I want to use power pole connectors/power distribution block on one end and I want to connect the wire to fastrack on the other (in blocks). I want to try a loop around the room to see if I like it.  I have seen some use the .110 and some use the .81 connectors but I don't see either being able to accept 12 gauge wire.   I would like to know if anyone has used 12 gauge and what connector they use.   I  know I could solder them but I don't want to. 

Original Post

12 ga buss then 10" or so of 18 ga with those little spade connectors plugged into the spades with are provided on the underside of every piece of Fastrack. Every 3-4 track pieces. Oh, and connecting the risers to the buss is done with standard 120V wire nuts.




Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

There is one way you can do it, but it's overkill. Take some of the smaller crimp connectors that will slide onto the FasTrack blades, remove the insulation and carefully spread the crimping area for the wire. Insert the end of the 12-Gauge wire and solder it to the connector. Seal with shrink tubing and you're good to go. Personally, I'd advise running a 12-gauge buss as mentioned above with 18-Gauge feed drops to the track. If you don't like soldering you can use crimp connectors with terminal barrier strips and screw everything together.

Matt Jackson
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I am not going to run a bus wire, I'm going to put in a power distribution block and run pairs of wires to each of the fastrack blocks.  Want to make it so everything can just be unplugged and rearranged if I want that's why I prefer not to solder. 

Go with  14 or 16 gauge   to the distribution block and 16 to 22 gauge for your feeders to the track blocks



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Thanks all for the ideas... from the looks of it most people seem to use 14 gauge or smaller and that will fit into the disconnects that I have.  I was just worried about running an ABA all powered with smoke and 6 or 8 lighted passenger cars.   The cars are newer with leds so it might not be that much of a draw. The engines are all newer MTH PS3 

It's important to use the thick wires (12-14 gauge) to get the power across the longer distances. Once you've got it near the tracks, the smaller stuff (16-18 gauge) will work fine for the short runs to the tracks (2-5 feet).

Think of it like the blood vessels in the body. The big stuff is near the heart but as you move out to the extremities they get much smaller.

To connect the feeders to the track, the .110 spade connectors are good to use with FasTrack. Distribution panels or terminal blocks allow easy connecting between the heavier wire and something smaller.

The Wago connectors also give an alternative for bus wire to the feeders. These have lift up tabs that make them reusable. You just stick the wire in the holes, flip down the tabs and you're ready to go.

They can be found on eBay at reasonable prices. There are some copy-cat versions from China but I've heard that they are also expected to do the job.


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Powering a Fastrack loop around a room ... implies this is a carpet central layout subject to disassembly and reconfiguration, so your power feeds need to be adaptable and easy to connect and disconnect.

Since you mentioned Powerpoles, you can get PP15 crimp blades that accept 16 to 18 Ga wires.  Make a short pigtail for the Fastrack spade connection, or just use 16 Ga all the way the distribution point.

You didn't mention room size, but Ohm's law, amperage draw, and voltage drop over distance dictate the recommended wire size.   12 Ga is overkill for rooms in a typical home and you will probably find that 16 Ga is suitable for your needs.  If you find the train slowing at the farthest points from the distribution point, upgrade the feed(s) to that track to 14 Ga.

Use crimp connectors.  There are bendable tines on the underside of the track for these.  Slide the connector + wire over the tine.  I used these or very similar.  https://www.autozone.com/stere...-terminal/421754_0_0 

The key is getting the exact right sized ones and unfortunately I'm not near my box of them ... so this is a guess.  You can search ogr on this topic because it's come up before and some folks know the exact size. [ note these are available at places like digikey etc...]

As for the wire diameters.  I made it work.  I'm not sure I used 12 gauge, maybe 14.  Even that's a tight fit on these.  Well I made it work.  I'm not sure that big gauge is needed or even 14. 

While I used to have 100s of feet of fastrack looped around in a say 20ish x 25ish space.... i don't any longer.  But I found two flexible wires twisted together with crimps on the end the easiest to deal with and hide under the track. I bought one spool of this on a whim pre-made somewhere... but i also made my own with a vice holding the ends of two wires and a drill on the other... anyway can't say i really recommend that approach but it did work and produced some twisted together wire that stayed that way.

After that I just went out from one of those breakout strips -- you can buy these from MTH or they make no frills one and sell them at home depot.

All I did was run wire on a need to basis from the break out.  Since my layout was temporary in nature I favored flexibility first and on the carpet. 

Then, I found if I ran a conventional engine very slowly around the track set at minimal transformer power it was easy to see the weak power spots or even dead spots.

I'd either run a long set of wires from from breakout or jump from another track piece.  Either way I got good enough power to do what I wanted.  And I could tear it all up with ease.

Two other observations.   i found that reliability improved with 30" straights vs many 10" straights or smaller.   But the price is that it very easy to snap the diecast connecting tines because of the longer leverage of 30" track when dissembling. 

So take care there, there's no place to get replacement tines except another track piece or you can jump from another track piece using the bendable tines on the under side.

Legacy and dcs worked fine after all this.

I soldered to the Fastrack underneath.  Rough the place you want to connect using sandpaper, use rosin flux, and a hot soldering iron (vs. a soldering gun). As said above- I agree that 12 AWG wire is overkill- better to use smaller 14 or even 16 AWG wire with more frequent "jumpers", say every 4-5 feet.

12 gauge is bloody overkill! That's what is used in 110 volt 15 amp house circuits - trains are running on 18 - 20 volts drawing maybe 8 amps max. Even 14 gauge is overkill. My around the wall layout in a 17 x 28 room is wired with nothing larger than 16 gauge wire and I've never had a current drop (even while running 3 trains of which 2 were 6 - 9 car passenger trains).

jackson, CEO, Not-So-Great Eastern RR, aka The Never Done Line

          Division of the Southern Adirondack Railway Cartel



modeltrainsparts posted:

12 gauge is bloody overkill! That's what is used in 110 volt 15 amp house circuits - trains are running on 18 - 20 volts drawing maybe 8 amps max. Even 14 gauge is overkill. My around the wall layout in a 17 x 28 room is wired with nothing larger than 16 gauge wire and I've never had a current drop (even while running 3 trains of which 2 were 6 - 9 car passenger trains).

Not really.  There's a big difference between 120V and 18V power distribution, specifically the amount of loss you can tolerate.  Let's take your #16 wire as an example.  The 1.67% voltage drop at 120 volts is pretty insignificant in the greater scheme of things.  However, the 11.15% voltage drop at 18 volts is significant for a train layout.  Note that this computation doesn't take into account ANY additional resistance of connections, track drops, conductivity between the rails and wheels/pickups, etc.  I went with 25 feet, but odds are that there are runs larger than that in a 17 x 28 room, so the voltage drop would be even more significant.

120V Example

18V Example


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Wire Ampacities- "amp carrying capacity":

Ampacity is the maximum current that a conductor can carry continuously under the conditions of use without exceeding its temperature rating. Current is measured in amperes or “amps”. (Cerro Wire)

AWG gauge               Resistance

                            Ohms per 1000 ft.        Maximum amps for 
                                                                  power transmission*
12                              1.588                                9.3
14                              2.525                                5.9
16                              4.016                                3.7
18                              6.385                                2.3
20                            10.15                                  1.5
22                            16.14                                  0.92
24                             25.67                                 0.577

*This is the maximum rating for 90 degree C insulation, anything higher would get LONG term embrittlement of the vinyl-  loss of ductility of the vinyl insulation material, making it brittle,  so instead of forever, maybe just many years.  So- it would appear that anything we would need for trains would be fine using 16 AWG wire.

Mike, you're ignoring the most basic problem with smaller wire for low voltage power transmission!  Here's a computation for 100 feet (200 feet total wire length), you lose almost half the voltage in the run!  It's not the maximum ampacity that's the issue here.  For layouts, the voltage drop usually creates the major issue first.


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Mike, I was more interested in the runs from the transformer to the other end of the layout.  I'm building a 20 x 12.5 layout, and I figured #14 was sufficient, but I don't think I'd have considered #16.  I figured there would easily be 25 foot runs, and dropping 2 volts is a bit too much.  With #14, my maximum voltage drop is: 1.26 at ten amps, I can live with that, typically I'll be drawing more like 5 amps, so the drop would be half of that.


Bob, if the runs are 35 feet or more, I'd personally be looking at #12.  Note that you can mix gauges of wire, short runs with #14, longer ones with #12, save a bit of money.

I had less than 15ft between two different sections of my layout.  Wire pull to the second/last section to be wired.  (5 ft ) wire termination at the control power location. 8 ft up the wall, 10 ft along the side of a floor joist, (5 ft) perpendicular to several joist.  8 ft down the wall, 5 ft wire for termination.  41 ft of wire used for 15 ft of distance.   

True Mike, and my statement of "wire run" is obviously the length of the wire, not the distance between points on the layout.

gunrunnerjohn posted:

True Mike, and my statement of "wire run" is obviously the length of the wire, not the distance between points on the layout.

A lot of hobby-ists, are experiencing model train layouts for the first time.  Sometimes projects ,(wiring), become a bit more than what they might anticipate. IMO.  Mike CT. 


Severn posted:

I never really considered the voltage drop of the wiring.  Oh the spool is right here.  It's 14 gauge.  And I made that work in those little crimp connectors which are: .110.

It was interesting to note the 14 ga solid wire will fit some of the small terminations provided on IC Controls BPC (Block Power Controller) modules.  14 stranded is difficult at best, maybe cut a couple of those strands.  

That's it  exactly but often it seemed to work with a slight cram only.  I did have some loosen though. One could potentially put a little solder but I just recrimped. I did some track piece to piece jumpers this way also. I broke some end connectors and made it work with jumpers. At one time I had this vision of power line dongles pre installed on every under side tine on every piece. Then just connect them up as desired.   But never followed through and I'm not sure my vision would really work. 

I also have used these to splice things together -- also pretty easy to pull back apart.  I did not consider or measure the voltage drop.


For small wires, something like this --


I've not used these but seen it pics.  In fact, I notice they are stock at my local HD, and since I'm going there today anyway, I'm going to grab a pack.  save on some soldering!

A picture is worth a thousand words and I finally got around to taking a pic:


Cheap, quick and simple. Oh, the buss is 12 ga "speaker wire", stranded copper coated aluminum so cheap and easy to work with.

If you embiggen the pic you can see the standard screw-mount cup hook it is suspended from.




Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.


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