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I added another lighted scenic piece to my layout today. Lighting is a must have in almost all of the scenery I've done.

Brings me to the issue at hand. When I built my layout, I sort of planned out the wiring and laid out an electrical panel for all of the track power, switches, and accessories that I had at the time. Now, almost 7 years later, as I've added various scenery, both AC and DC powered lights, has lead to the mess I have today.

Brings me to the title of my topic, Mission Creep!

How many folks have started with the best intentions to keep all of the layout wiring neat and organized, only to have it devolve into a mess. I will tackle the mess and sort it out one day but that day is not today.

I'm not ashamed to share, so please post pix and share your story.

Bob

2022-01-22 15.51.12

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Bob, what you have there is a virtual ven diagram compared to my rats nest.  Be proud and don’t look back my friend. It’s all about running the trains in the end and as long as everything runs, life is good.

Thanks Strap.

In my electrical contracting days, I was meticulous when it came to neat wiring. It was much easier when the smallest wire was 14 ga.

Bob

@SteveH posted:

Bob, I only see one power strip there, so I think you're doing fine.   That looks like a well loved distribution panel.  Good topic and thanks for sharing.

Yep, better not have any hidden power strips daisy-chained to that one or you're in trouble with the power-strip police!

LMAO.....😂😂😂😂😂😂

That's the only one... I swear....😏😏😏

There is a thing called "best practice" in most jobs. In wiring, it can mean that all wires are of one or two colors, but labelled with numbers (in the case of a harness that is pretty much permanent, and not subject to getting manipulated often) or the individual wires conform to an established color code (when you suspect or intend to go back into the harness and change things often.)

Other practices that can help you avoid the rat's nest syndrome include running all wires in straight lines, all along either horizontal or vertical directions. This means no wires just hanging about loosely or run diagonally.

Creating a modular approach also helps. That means taking as much real estate for your wiring scheme as you think you need, but also leaving adequate room for expansion. Take twice what you think you might need when you create the backboard, then add even more.

Make a drawing first, in some manageable scale, like 1/4" to a foot (remember that from somewhere?)

Use industry standard terminal strips, but once you decide what type and size, stay the course and don't mix-n-match.

GRJ's system illustrates these concepts perfectly. He uses screw terminals for the larger-gauge wiring and 66-type IDC terminal blocks (insulation displacement connections) for the smaller wires.  Note the empty spaces for expansion.

When I installed large telephone systems for a living, it was not unusual to use a 4 x 8 plywood sheet for a relatively small system. It just made sense to grab as much real estate on a wall long before it became necessary to expand.

I had an old-world (from Germany) telephone company foreman who would go around inspecting wiring jobs. He would critique the jobs and expect them to be picture-perfect, like carefully-trained vines on a trellis. His favorite expression, made even more entertaining because of the accent, was "I vant it to look like it GREW dere."

@Arthur P. Bloom- Early in my career, I did a lot of new residential work. We used to put a half- sheet of 3/4 ply on the foundation wall for the panel. In the days before the internet they stayed pretty empty. Today even that's not enough. I also had German foreman, Gunther, great electrician and troubleshooter, but he was not the neatest and we used to give him grief about it all the time.
I like the 66 blocks and will incorporate them next time. I wired my house for internet and TV when we bought it and have a Leviton Home Control low voltage panel to keep everything organized.
@romiller49- I've been using all the left over wire I have from my contracting days, 4-wire telephone, and Cat 3, and 5, for lighting. The track power is mostly 16/2 speaker wire. This layout will be replaced after the kids are out of the house so I will develop a standard and stick to it for the next one.
@Consolidated Leo- Not horrified at all. Just pointing out what I'm sure many of us go through. Yes- I need to sort out all of the lighting and get it cleaned up.
@Putnam Division- I hope you are taking notes Peter.
@OddIsHeRU- You have a pipe organ in your house? I worked on one briefly in an old church years ago. Very neat machines.
@gftiv- That's what happened yesterday. I have a notebook where I keep wiring diagrams, etc. I sketched out the terminal block for the lights so I don't have to guess next time.

Thanks for the comments.

Bob

Very timely thread Bob!   I'm about 16 months into the new layout and I started to clean up the wiring yesterday... both under the layout and on the back of the control cabinet.   Because the cabinet is on casters (movable) I started grouping and coiling the cables so they can move about four to five feet without power disruption.  I should finish the electrical cleanup today and finally start thinking about scenery and structures.

20220123_072520

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Last edited by Dennis-LaRock
@DdotCdot posted:

John - I've never seen the DCS Remote Commanders set up like this. In what way are they repurposed here? / What benefit are they providing via passive-configuration in conjunction with TIU channel outputs?

The DCS-RC boxes are watchdog generators, they have my Watchdog Reset Board in them to generate continuious WD signals on the TIU channels.  Each box generates a DCS WD signal once a second for it's respective channel.

@Putnam Division , @rayins , clearly you are both men of higher intelligence.  I look at it this way.  Us non-electrician types could have planned ahead and cleanly sorted every wire out like Bob, gunrunner John and others on this thread, enabling the quick identification and disconnection of any short or defective add on.  Nope. Not us. We chose a more intellectually stimulating  path.  Instead of doing it their way, we focused on getting things quickly  operational so we can operate our layouts, creating  wonderful rat's nests in the process. Now, when there is a short or defective accessory, we get to spend countless hours tracing the wire through the nest, unraveling years old electrical tape connections and continuously re-figuring out exactly how everything is connected all over again.  It’s like a never ending crossword puzzle, rubiks cube, and sudoco all wrapped up into one, worthy of our intellectual endeavors unlike those “clean wiring” luddites.  They’ll never know the joy of saying things like “Oh, so that’s where that wire goes” or “Huh, why did I ever connect those three together?”.  Anyone can fix a problem on one of their layouts, but only an elite few can ever unravel the mystery of our wiring.  So, take pride in your rat’s nests, my friends and leave that clean, neat and electrically sound wiring to the simpletons.

Last edited by Strap Hanger

Bob, I knew as soon as I read the title of this thread where you were going, even though I always heard it as 'Scope Creep' instead of 'Mission Creep'.  Even on a new layout that was built by a 'neat-nik' as my brother called me growing up, there has been creep for sure, and it keeps getting harder to keep it neat.  Here it is when the 'creep' started.  I was checking out AIUs I purchased last summer.  I had no intention of using AIUs when I laid out this panel last spring.

2021-07-31 15.57.17

What started out as a fairly neat project...

2021-10-14 19.51.34

Ballooned into this.

Reverse side of the original panel.  It's not quite what I wanted, but electrons don't know the difference.

2021-11-06 18.58.24

Original side of panel.

2021-11-07 18.55.15

Also, I have pushbutton controls for the turnouts temporarily wired until I put in a proper fascia and decide how to arrange the buttons.

2021-12-15 14.28.25

I managed to find 4 AIUs (1 spare), a spare TIU, a spare Remote, and 2 Remote commanders for GunrunnerJohn's watchdog circuits.

Also a note on utility wiring.  I worked approximately half my 43 years for power companies and half for a telecom company.  The relay panel wiring at the power company were works of art, on par with the server farm cabling above.  Wiring on the backs of panels from the '50s and '60s was perfectly spaced #14 wire tied with waxed string.  The wires from panel to panel and switchyard devices was #10 wire fed from overhead cable trays in a perfectly vertical upside down tree.  Each wire fanning to the terminal blocks as perfectly horizontal.  The electricians would actually use torpedo levels to assure this.  By the time I was working, plastic cable ties were used instead of waxed string...usually.  When I got to the telecom company, even the best of wiring looked sub-par after being exposed to 'perfect' wiring for 20 years.  Today, no one wants to pay anyone to take the time for such works of art.  Electrons flow any which way. 

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  • 2021-07-31 15.57.17
  • 2021-10-14 19.51.34
  • 2021-11-07 18.55.15
  • 2021-11-06 18.58.24
  • 2021-12-15 14.28.25
@RSJB18 posted:

I added another lighted scenic piece to my layout today. Lighting is a must have in almost all of the scenery I've done.

Brings me to the issue at hand. When I built my layout, I sort of planned out the wiring and laid out an electrical panel for all of the track power, switches, and accessories that I had at the time. Now, almost 7 years later, as I've added various scenery, both AC and DC powered lights, has lead to the mess I have today.

Brings me to the title of my topic, Mission Creep!

How many folks have started with the best intentions to keep all of the layout wiring neat and organized, only to have it devolve into a mess. I will tackle the mess and sort it out one day but that day is not today.

I'm not ashamed to share, so please post pix and share your story.

Bob



Mission creep is part and parcel of model railroading (and many other things in life, too).  In fact, I know myself well enough to realize that certain areas of the layout will not be fully fleshed out ("elaborated" to use the software engineering term) immediately.  I expect to re-think sections of the layout and don't go into construction with everything planned out in exhaustive detail.  It's going to change.

In fact, over on the Panhandle thread I am about to discuss a good-sized change to several building sizes and locations as well as the re-arrangement some some sidings.

It just comes with the territory.

George

@rplst8 posted:

Wow Mark, that still looks pretty nice! And as a former HO guy I like the vintage MRC Throttlepack!

Thank you!!  The MRC Throttlepack is probably 35 years old, from my HO days as well.  I could have gone through my box of wall warts, but it was easy to use the Throttlepack to power the linear actuator for the two lift up bridges, one extending down in the upper left hand corner.  Since it was there, I used it to power the Z-Stuff DZ1000s as well.

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