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Arnold, your  re-wiring my layout topic has generated a lot of important information that many will prosper from.  

btw, when I first saw the original wiring set up you had , I was amazed to see that you knew where every wire went and it’s function!  Rats nest was a gentle description. I thought maybe you should call an exorcist! Lol.
but I am thrilled to see the support you have generated.

Well, you've heard from the prosecution, so let me make a statement for the defense. I LOVE your "invention". In fact, I've been using it for years for all my outer rails. I have copper-clad board at strategic locations around the layout, all wired together and all drops from my outer rails go to these boards using solder connections at both ends.

But all types of connections have their place. For the hot wires, I have 4 junction boxes around the edge of the layout from which I can access any power needed--the center rail for the two nearby local blocks (I use 8 blocks--too many--it probably should have been 4 blocks), 12VDC for LEDs, Miller signs, and etc., and 14VAC for switch machines, accessories and so on. The junction boxes are fed from a cabinet with 12VDC "ham-radio-type" power supplies and a big variac turned way down to 14VAC. At the top of the cabinet is a big line filter that (I hope) cleans the power before it gets onto the layout.

Anyway, pix below. Every setup is different I guess. I just looked for lowest-cost solutions at every step and this is what I ended up with. Everything from copper clad board to terminal strips to spade lug connectors is from my substantial junk box.

Don Merz

IMG_1724IMG_1726IMG_1727

Arnold and Don,

Here are two terminal strips/boards that power two rooms full of my table layout.  A third, twice the size, came from the old attic layout and powers the third room.   Two ZW's, a Z4000, and two small transformers for the trolley lines.

100_0142

This was over 10 years ago, the beginning of the layout.  Pretty crude, but it all works and always has on multiple layouts over the years.  Never a problem with these homemade devices.

It's a wire mess under the tables.  I'd love to rewire and take advantage of the new connectors and such.  It would be nice to clean it all up, color code and label everything but, I haven't the energy or inspiration.  The overhead and the new N scale layout get run a lot more than this huge table layout because they are both prominent in the rec room.

Good luck, Arnold, with your wiring project!

Jerry

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Update: eliminated one of the copper strips.

There is a split of opinion on my invention, which served me fairly well for 25 years, but the wires soldered to the copper strip would occasionally come loose, which could cause short circuits and other problems. Incidentally, if I did a better job soldering, my invention would have worked better.

The hot wires for the left Z4000 throttle that were connected  to one of the copper strips, are now connected using fork lugs (both crimped and soldered to the end of the wire) to the red (hot) row on an MTH Terminal block. It is much less likely that any of those wires will ever disconnect. That left Z4000 throttle powers my inner main loop.

Everything else is wired as before.

As a test, I ran a conventional engine, and it ran fine. Then, I ran an MTH Proto 2 engine using DCS, and it ran fine.

About 25% of this re-wiring project is done.

Will give further updates as I make further progress.

All of your input and advice has been very helpful, and I thank you all for it. Arnold

@Bruce Brown posted:

As a follow-up to my earlier comment on cheaper alternatives to the MTH distribution block, I failed to mention that the MTH Terminal board has 12 terminals electrically connected to the red post and another 12 connected to the black post. In order to get an equivalent functionality with the cheaper 12-terminal strips, you would need to purchase two strips plus two barrier strips to electrically connect all the terminals together on each strip.

Or even cheaper, a single piece of solid copper wire looped over each terminal, snaking from one screw lug to the next, and tightened securely - very cheap and effective.

George

Arnold that is one heck of a undertaking.

I have been going through a heck of a under taking by taking charge of our clubs new layout wiring. We really don’t want this to be a rats nest but it needed to be flexible as a lot of the scenery is still not set in stone.

Z-mainlines

This is what is seen up top the layout (ignore bridges as they only represent what track goes over the other)

we ran a 14AWG  “bus” down the length of the layout then came off of that down each of the 3 peninsula’s. From there there were 18AWG feeders every 8ish feet that tied to the main bus.

327A07BE-F403-48D3-8550-76736C57BE04

Unfortunately this is the only picture I have from when we put the bus in. Crimp connectors are used and we soldered the wires to the connector just for good measure.

612C4EED-3FE1-4761-BA0C-FF7001E7C9FA

every drop was then soldered to the Ross/GarGraves track

I don’t have many pictures from under the layout I’ll have to get some more when I’m under it tomorrow.

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Applying George's idea, what do you think of the wiring scheme for the ground/common wire, shown in the photo below:

20211027_151651

I took a short piece of 18 gauge bare copper wire and wrapped it around the metal stem of each of the 4 fork lugs screwed onto the terminal strip. (If I use this to serve as a common or ground bus wire, I will also solder the short copper wire to each of the 4 metal stems on the lugs).

I will also solder the bare copper wire to the right of the terminal strip to a long 14 gauge stranded black insulated wire the will connect to the black terminal on the MTH Terminal Block near the Z4000 transformer.

Getting back to the Terminal Strip shown in the above photo, I will connect the ground feeder/drop wires (16 gauge solid copper wires from the track lock-ons) to the screw beneath each of the 4 fork lugs.

If the above scheme works, I can substantially reduce the number of wires near the MTH Terminal Block and Z4000 transformer.  Doing so would, hopefully, eliminate the rat's nest I had beforehand.

What do you think?

Arnold

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Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari
@zhubl posted:

Arnold that is one heck of a undertaking.

I have been going through a heck of a under taking by taking charge of our clubs new layout wiring. We really don’t want this to be a rats nest but it needed to be flexible as a lot of the scenery is still not set in stone.

Z-mainlines

This is what is seen up top the layout (ignore bridges as they only represent what track goes over the other)

we ran a 14AWG  “bus” down the length of the layout then came off of that down each of the 3 peninsula’s. From there there were 18AWG feeders every 8ish feet that tied to the main bus.

327A07BE-F403-48D3-8550-76736C57BE04

Unfortunately this is the only picture I have from when we put the bus in. Crimp connectors are used and we soldered the wires to the connector just for good measure.

612C4EED-3FE1-4761-BA0C-FF7001E7C9FA

every drop was then soldered to the Ross/GarGraves track

I don’t have many pictures from under the layout I’ll have to get some more when I’m under it tomorrow.

Zachariah, your club project is much bigger than mine. Thanks for your input, which is very helpful.

How did you connect your feeder wires to your main bus wire?

Arnold

Arnold

The reward for your sharing good advice to hobbyists for years is ... receiving good information from hobbyists when you need help. You got plenty of help!

I had already applied many of the tips to my L-shaped layout:
* MTH terminal blocks for track power via bus wiring and feeders - from a Lionel 135w brick or a MTH Z1000 (the 18v output),
   selected by a knife switch
* Barrier Terminal Strips with 14v to action accessories and switches - from a separate MTH Z100 (the 14v output)
* Color coding
* Plastic cable clips for support of under-the-platform wiring  (no holes through lumber), avoids the "spaghetti effect"
* Spade lugs for wire connections to terminal strips and ring lugs at connections to #90 control buttons for accessories
* Lighted lockons to confirm power is ON at main lines and insulated sidings (activated by a toggle switch).

Good advice is priceless. Carry on, valiantly ...

Mike Mottler    LCCA 12394

Arnold,

Everyone of my track feeds is terminated with a terminal strip as others have discussed. White-black is my wire convention for AC track voltage.  I use color tape or label maker to denote which main line the wire is associated. In my case I have Blue, Yellow, and Red main lines. In the photo below I use a larger terminal strip to feed two main lines.

I use a method called Home-Run Wiring with wire pairs going from a central distribution point to each of the feeders. (I use some daisy chaining)

IMG_3099

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Last edited by Bruce Brown

In my Trade, we use those types of terminal strips, for lower voltage systems…Door Alarm/Security/Access, which are mostly passive monitoring

Have you noticed, over time, that the screw/wire connection become loose due to heat expansion?

As I said, I like the Electrical Panel Bus Bar, because of the secure mechanical connection..the wire is trapped in the hole, and the square head allows for extra torque, and they don’t come loose.

This is an update, which I'm sharing to not only get further input, but also to possibly help others regarding the use of terminal strips.

What I have endeavored to do is apply the advice I've received on this thread, particularly that of George and Rich.

I've never had anything like MTH Terminal Blocks or terminal strips until recently, so using this equipment was very foreign to me and awkward.

This afternoon I tried to re-create what Rich did by threading a bare 18 gauge copper wire through the screws of a terminal strip, and found it to be a juggling act that I initially could not do. I decided to take a break for a few hours. (I've found that taking a break enables me to harness my subconscious mind, which in my case, is far more powerful than my conscious mind.)

When I resumed my efforts this evening, I ended up stressing the bare copper wire so much that it broke. LOL. Then, I stripped the insulation off another 18 gauge solid wire and it occurred to me that I had to take the little screw out completely, position the copper wire and then put the little screw back in. Once I did that, it took me a mere 10 minutes to re-create Rich's terminal strip/bare copper wire arrangement. See photo below.

I already have enough 14 gauge stranded copper wire to make long runs from the hot (red) row of terminals from my MTH Terminal Blocks near the Z4000 transformer to the short drop wires connected to the hot connections of all the lock-ons.

(I may later on remove all the lock-ons and solder wires to the sides of rails on my tubular track once I get a high powered Weller D550 soldering gun, which I purchased on-line today).

I am only using terminal strips with the bare 18 gauge copper wire threaded through it (like the one in the photo below) for the cold ground bus wire. Notice there is about 1 inch of bare copper wire at each end of the lower row of screws. I will use that inch of wire to daisy chain the terminal strips.

The top row of screws in the terminal strips (see photo below) will be connected (using fork lugs) to 16 gauge solid drop wires attached to the ground terminal of each lock-on in the vicinity of the particular terminal strip.

I think what I've said makes sense. Do you agree?

Whatever input you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Arnold



20211027_233523

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Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Arnold your continuing to make great progress…keep it going. I’m glad your working on a loop at a time and verifying your work as you completed it. That’s the easiest way to troubleshoot work that was just completed.

Yes, backing out the screws was necessary to loop around the easiest. The terminal block looks good and will serve you well. Is the tail you left long enough? How do you plan to daisy chain? Remember you have the mounting  screws at each end, and you will need to double up the wire under the first screw on the new block.

Question for you, how are you connecting the power lock on wire to the stranded wire running to you MTH block?

Keep making progress and the trains will be running in no time.

Zachariah, your club project is much bigger than mine. Thanks for your input, which is very helpful.

How did you connect your feeder wires to your main bus wire?

Arnold

Finally got around to getting another picture. As you can see there’s only a couple of feeders on this one but some have more. The barrier strips are strung out every 8-10’.

6B49F2A7-AEC7-4790-8BDD-D2198F7740E1

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Arnold your continuing to make great progress…keep it going. I’m glad your working on a loop at a time and verifying your work as you completed it. That’s the easiest way to troubleshoot work that was just completed.

Yes, backing out the screws was necessary to loop around the easiest. The terminal block looks good and will serve you well. Is the tail you left long enough? How do you plan to daisy chain? Remember you have the mounting  screws at each end, and you will need to double up the wire under the first screw on the new block.

Question for you, how are you connecting the power lock on wire to the stranded wire running to you MTH block?

Keep making progress and the trains will be running in no time.

Rich,

Here is my same photo of my terminal strip with the bare 18 gauge copper wire threaded through the bottom screws, illustrating what I say below:

20211027_233523

First scenario: my thought about daisy chaining, which may or may not work, is to connect the tail of the 18 gauge bare copper wire to a 14 gauge stranded copper wire that will run and be connected to a similar tail on the next terminal strip. I will make the connection by twisting,  crimping and soldering the bare 18 gauge tail wire to the 14 gauge stranded wire, then put black electrical tape over said connection. I would do the same thing with the tail of the bare wire at the other end of the terminal strip.

What do you think of the first scenario?

Second scenario: I could also cut off the tails and, using a fork lugs, attach the 14 gauge stranded wire to the 1st screw on the bottom (doubling it with the bare wire) or on the top of the terminal strip, and do the same thing at the other end if the terminal stripm

The 14 gauge stranded wire will start from the U or ground (common) post on the Z4000.

What do you think of the second scenario?

Concerning your question about how I will connect the power lock on 16 gauge solid drop wire to the 14 gauge power stranded wire, my plan was to make the connection the same way. That is, by twisting, crimping and soldering the wires together and covering the connection with black electrical tape. Do you think that will work?

By the way, to be clear, 3 or 4 of the top screws on the terminal strip will be connected to the ground 18 gauge solid drop wires from the lock-ons in the vicinity of the particular terminal strip. The series of daisy chained terminal strips connected to the ground 14 gauge stranded wire will serve as my ground bus wire running the entire length of my 35 to 40 foot layout.

Arnold

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Last edited by Arnold D. Cribari

Arnold think of the weakest link.

If I understand your concept the common terminal blocks (TB) will be daisy chain across your layout with the 18 solid on the TB and 14 stranded between each TB and lock on 16/18 solid drop with a return to the Z4000 by 14 stranded. Your weakest link being the smallest wire carrying the largest amount of current closest to the transformer. That would be true if you are connecting to one U terminal post. This would negate the need for using the 16 and 14 gauge wire.

Now if you split this daisy chain up by positioning strategically around and distributed this across the 4 U posts by running a 14 stranded from the U to your TB you would eliminate the weakest link of overheating your 18 wire.

I would personally just remove the short drop of 16 and replace with another 16 going directly to the TB and eliminate the connection with the 14. It will be cleaner and again less connections less potential problems.

This same method can be used for your hot connections also.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by Rich Wiemann

That can work, but electrical tape gets gooey and miserable over time and can fall off. Also, why go through the hassle of soldering upside down under a train layout?. Why not consider the Wago Lever Nuts discussed earlier?

@bmoran4 posted:

I enjoy using Wago lever lock connectors. They are infinitely better than suitcase connectors or wire nuts and less hassle to install than crimps. They are worth the extra costs hands down and are reusable! They also are good at joining varying sizes of wire (in this case AWG sizes 28 to 12 which is just perfect for our trains).

Here is are two assortments - one is the 222 style, the other 221 (40% smaller footprint):

https://www.amazon.com/Wago-22...rtment/dp/B01GVTVY12

https://www.amazon.com/Wago-22...018MGMFDI/ref=sr_1_3

Just be sure to get real Wago ones and not the off brand knock-off lever nuts as the knockoffs do not meet UL or other safety standards and are of inconsistent quality. That is not to say that one may not find that certain knockoffs are just fine for this low voltage purpose, but I can't justify taking the chance after getting burned.

@bmoran4 posted:

With the WAGO connectors, they actually act like mini terminal strips, but use surprisingly strong levers instead of screws to retain the wires. So yes, you need to cut/terminate your bus wire, but this is not a big deal at all. For illustrative purposes, the thick red wire could be the 14AWG BUS wire, the green could be 16AWG feeders:

In terms of command control signals or even just plain power delivery, the connectors themselves don't matter, but the quality of the electrical connection does matter, and that IS influenced by the connector type. Use of suitcase connectors are not typically used for connecting different gauge wires. Each gauge combination needs its own specific connector. The suitcase connectors actually sever the wire and can nick or even cut the copper conductor creating an intermittent hard to find wiring issue that can wreak havoc on command signals and power delivery. As such, I find suitcase connectors make a poor choice for quality electrical connections, especially compared to WAGO connectors that do not have these issues at all. Sure, some report success with suitcase connectors, but why invite the potential headache?

I used lever nuts to do my wiring, they were easy to use and allow for changes with no soldering and secure connections.

I used three position and five position models.

Lever Wire Nut 5 Conductor Combination

Lever Wire Nut 3 Conductor Combination

@bmoran4 posted:

That can work, but electrical tape gets gooey and miserable over time and can fall off. Also, why go through the hassle of soldering upside down under a train layout?. Why not consider the Wago Lever Nuts discussed earlier?

Just curious, how do you screw them to the underside of the layout? Do you use a Glue gun? I plan on using these going forward but don’t know how I’d connect them to the underside.

Nice to see you are making progress Arnold. A couple of comments;

I'm not sold on the 18 ga to act as buss wire for the TS, especially if you are going to daisy chain them. If you want to keep the 18 ga jumpers, then I would run separate feeds to each.

I like the WAGO connectors but don't overlook the humble wire nut. I've used them for years as an electrical contractor. Properly sized for the wire you are using, they provide solid connections with no need to tape over the splice. Look at the wire charts on the boxes until you find the proper size. You will quickly find soldering under the layout and overhead to be a giant PITA!

This is a chart for Ideal WN's.

https://elechut.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/wire-nut-color-code-nuts-fitted-vision-like-php-attachmentid-d-1.jpg

Properly securing stranded wire under a screw can be problematic. I would recommend forked crimps for all terminations........however....... I'm going to share an electrician's secret (so don't tell anyone) . Normally the wire strands are twisted clockwise, when compressed under the screw they will open up. Twist the wire in a counter clockwise direction instead, and when compressed, the strands will remain tightly twisted. Try it, you will be amazed.

I've soldered all of my track drops with a 40 watt pencil iron. I have 027 tubular track and it works fine. I usually place the wire at the base of the side of the rail where it forms the bottom flange. Clean the track well where you want to connect the wire and apply some soldering flux paste. Heat the wire and track with the iron and apply the solder until it flows nicely over the connection. The wire will need to be held securely until the joint cools and the solder hardens. I use a rosin-core solder as well.

2021-10-24 21.36.452021-10-24 21.36.492021-10-24 21.36.54

Keep us posted on your progress.

Bob

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For connecting wires, is twisting, crimping, soldering and then black electrical tape over the connection a good way to do it?

I realize this may be a belt and suspenders approach that may be overkill. Arnold

No, no, not a good way to do it. Bob RSJB18 and @bmoran4 are giving you good advice not use black electrical tape and, if you are only connecting two 14-18 gauge wires, using a spring wire nut (I like orange, but gray is good for smaller wire diameters). The lever nuts (suggested by GRJ, for example) or use of terminal strips with crimp spade terminals are great choices for terminating large numbers of wires. You should only be needing a soldering tool just to connect the wire to the track.

Last edited by Bruce Brown

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