Hi folks,

Maybe this has been discussed before but I haven't seen it.  I'm working on finalizing a moderately sized (10'x14') layout (O31, O54 and O72 sections), my first real layout, and could use some assurance that my approach to testing it out is sound, not scattershot and I don't miss anything.  I'm wiring for DCS and will add Legacy eventually.  Ross bed or foam track bed on top of painted plywood tables is the plan.  I want to operate both conventional and using command control throughout with up to 6 power districts (some isolated, some simple back an forth trolley and such).  Very soon I'll have 5 districts up (elevated and isolated O72 will come later) with 12" 16 gauge power drops soldered to each block with blocks having 8-10 sections. 

My goal is to get to the point where I can put down painted roadbed, screw the tracks into the table and wire track power underneath.  I'm feeling that that is a point of no return to some extent. 

So the order of things is what I could use some expert commentary on.

  •  I'm assuming I will wire on top of the table to temporary terminal strips (on top of table) and confirm section by section that it all works, at least conventionally, using a cheap conventional engine.  Look for shorts, derailments, etc.
  • Figure out where to mount hardware (terminal strips, relays, other controllers) under table, probably in two locations.
  • Add DCS (star) and make sure that works as hoped.  Never done that before but I'll have a lot of wiring on my table for 20+ blocks and a lot of tape to keep it flat.  Evaluate DCS signal strength.  When I'm satisfied with this then...
  • Test fit trackside accessories for fit and clearance with larger engines and cars (some accessories are more worrisome than others).  
  • Confirm operation of all switches with temporary wiring and evaluate... fix as needed.  Eventually these will be wired to a control panel with momentary SPDT and then to AIU eventually.  Don't wire switches yet (can manually switch as needed for now).  (BTW, when I get to it should switch control wires go to a terminal strip or just be continuous long wires to the SPDT/AIU?
  • Prep for roadbed (no ballast but Ross roadbed and foam under flex and O31 tubular). Paint roadbed and add, super elevate curves.  How is this done?  1/16" shim around outer edge entire curve? 1/8"?
  • Add uncoupler and UCS track 
  • Drop power wires to under table.  I'm not trying to scenic this to the max at this time so is it safer to drill holes just outside of the road bed or should I drill and drop straight down under the track?  I'm thinking outside is more forgiving.  Drop wires for uncouplers and UCS.
  •  Screw down track.  Or should it wait until I add most of the trackside accessories (which are powered on a separate bus)?

Does this make sense to you all?  I'd like to get to the point that the track is primarily positioned and I can confidently wire track power under the table.  What things am I missing?

Any comments on this would be welcomed.

Kirk R.

Original Post


I mounted all of my terminal strips to a piece of plywood in one central location on the edge of the layout where I could get to them to pull, strip and connect wires. Don't forget to come up with some sort numbering system to identify where each wire segment starts from and terminates at. For example, you might designate a terminal strip TB-1, for terminal block one. Each terminal would have a number, I did mine top down, so the first terminal would be TB-1-1. The other end might be a track block number one. You will want to keep a record of all those wire segments. It will come in very handy for trouble shooting.

Dave:  I certainly will extend the invite to you!  

TNCENTRR:  That makes a lot of sense.  Given my space constraints (9 1/2' x13 1/2') and my desire to run some big engines (e.g. centipede and PRR T-1 4-4-4-4 for now) I wanted an O72 loop (7" elevated) so this is a looping layout with operations in the center and access to swing out door.  I'll attach a picture.  Given your advice I'll put two terminal strips to the upper side (city scene) and two terminal strips on the lower side (metro/passenger and yard scenes).  This should at least let me to run conventional and see where I may have clearance issues.

I realize there isn't a lot of storage on this layout but if the boss let's me break into a 7' wide closet (top right, unfinished right now) I'll have loads of room to store trains on shelves and set up my consist.


 KR layout, V5.0 picture


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Good morning Kirk, 

With a new layout, or even a significant change, I run an inexpensive engine first with my widest, longest, and the tallest cars in my fleet.  I am looking for any problems in clearance or misalignment issues.  When all is good I do it again with my largest engine and a full consist.  Make the track right first.  Your track plan looks great.

BillBald Rock Mountain

The Bald Rock Mountain Railroad


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david1 posted:


yes you are over thinking this. We can get together and talk about what you want to do or we can come over to your place and show you. 


Take Dave up on his offer....you are overthinking, but it's ok....happens to most of us.   And if you are ballasting your track there is no need to screw it down - it's not going anywhere.  But it's your railroad so if it makes you feel better go ahead.  


Member of the Brotherhood of the Crappy Basement Layout

Associate Member of the NJ Hi-Railers

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Odenville Bill  I'll try an assortment of cars to see how it works.  Can really test the heck out of the O31 portions with some larger passenger cars but for my O54 loop I may need to buy (or borrow) something bigger.  My longest car is only 18" (70' passenger).  What would be the ultimate test car for this (89' car rack, superliner, husky)?  For my raised O72 it has to run my centipede and if it does that then I'm okay.

Greg Houser  I don't intend to ballast.  Tracks will be on foam, cork or Rossbed (for Ross and Atlas track) and eventually screwed down.  I've bought terminal strips, 8-relay boards, etc. that I need to find and then I'll get to planning.  May have a wiring party if necessary.

Is 16 gauge wire for track power okay if just going from track to relay outputs (all power through relays)?  Longest distance may be 10 feet.  I'm using 12 gauge from transformer to TIU to relay inputs.

Carefully bench-test all of your track switches, switch controllers, uncoupling electromagnets, and even your panel toggle switches for insulated blocks BEFORE you install them into the layout or control panel.  (Don't ask me how I know this...! )

Not sure which brand of track you're using, whether it has metal ties, or the outside rails grounded together.  As you lay your track and wire it, check periodically for short circuits and open circuits.  It might save you the need of opening a gap after the layout is complete.

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

To test out the layout after the components are in place,    Run trains on it and keep notes of derailments by location and car or locomotive number.    If you get a lot of occurrences of problems in one location, it is a track problem.    If you have a loco or car that seems to derail in multiple places, it is probably the loco or car.   

Another version of this is to drop little paper tabs with the car number at the location of the problem.    then after running awhile go back and see what the tabs say.    the same car number all over the place is the car and a pile of tabs in one location is the track.



More tedious than I thought but all good... I think.  Had issues with stalls on an older Ross O72-O54 curved switch that needed to be wired as it was never motorized.  Followed what instructions I had and, well, now the stall is gone.  It appears as though there were some stray metal fragment in some of the cuts made to the center rail that were shorting.  That's past now.


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