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Had time this weekend to work on the layout.   Track is pretty much finished.   I’ll add some additional sidings but it’s not a priority.  Plus, I don’t think I have much room to add any more.   Still have to return and swap the turn out that won’t program.

Didn’t think I would be able to have an entrance and exit crossover between the 2nd and 3rd loops but I was able to tuck the extra turnouts near the crossings.  

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Really like how the double crossover section came out.  The Fastrack geometry came together nicely.   This area is a scene that will carry over to the future layout where I’ll have a branch line crossing a double mainline, though there will be additional turnouts to accommodate interchange switching.

If I was adding detail to this layout, the parallel sidings would be perfect for an engine maintenance facility.  

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Next I need to double check the wiring and program the new turnouts.   Hopefully I can do a few test runs tomorrow.  

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Last edited by VJandP
@VJandP posted:

Found an inexpensive, sturdy storage option that required little effort to set up.  

A lateral filing cabinet cost me $60 from Facebook Marketplace.  A few more bucks for rubber liners for the drawers and I have someplace to store much of my rolling stock and engines.  This should keep them dust free, too.  And now everything is easily accessible.  Ideally something that has more shallow drawers and a few extra drawers would have been sweet but I can’t argue when the universe drops an opportunity in front of you  

He had a few of these cabinets and I think I’m going to grab another one since this one is working so well.  

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Vin

Welcome to the Forum.....you have done a lot in the past 2 months.....I love your storage idea and look forward to your progress.

Peter

Today was a little frustrating.  Was hoping to have some trains running but electrical issues derailed those plans - pun intended.

Issue: Track power is erratic.  Engines will stall and the lanterns on the turnouts will go out.    

I think part of the issue are the turnout’s sensitivity to how level they’re laying which I’ve already noticed.   But now that I have the track Tetris’d together, the slight bows and humps are causing issues.   If I press down the road bed, that section will be ok.  I need to order more screws to fasten down a larger part of the layout.  But before screwing everything down ….

After doing some searching, I might have a power issue - too much load per channel.   The outer loop has 5 turnouts on track power.  The 2nd and 3rd loops each have 4. The 3rd loop also has 2 lighted bumpers. It might be in order to run a bus around the layout to distribute the power better.   I’m going to post in the electrical forum with some questions.

The other thing is that I noticed the ZW-L was humming.   Not sure if that has anything to do with anything or if it was there before, but it was really noticeable today. I swear sections of the track sounded like they were humming too but that could’ve been sound from a different source that I couldn’t localize.

Last edited by VJandP
@VJandP posted:

Today was a little frustrating.  Was hoping to have some trains running but electrical issues derailed those plans - pun intended.

Issue: Track power is erratic.  Engines will stall and the lanterns on the turnouts will go out.    

I think part of the issue are the turnout’s sensitivity to how level they’re laying which I’ve already noticed.   But now that I have the track Tetris’d together, the slight bows and humps are causing issues.   If I press down the road bed, that section will be ok.  I need to order more screws to fasten down a larger part of the layout.  But before screwing everything down ….

After doing some searching, I might have a power issue - too much load per channel.   The outer loop has 5 turnouts on track power.  The 2nd and 3rd loops each have 4. The 3rd loop also has 2 lighted bumpers. It might be in order to run a bus around the layout to distribute the power better.   I’m going to post in the electrical forum with some questions.

Vin, I empathize with your power issues.  Been there done that with FasTrack.  My first two recommendations would be to wire the switches directly with Aux Power and Ground.  The Second, sounds like you're already thinking this, add track feeders (hot and common) every 6-10 track pieces.

If you post on the electrical forum, I would suggest including your latest SCARM plan.

@SteveH posted:

Vin, I empathize with your power issues.  Been there done that with FasTrack.  My first two recommendations would be to wire the switches directly with Aux Power and Ground.  The Second, sounds like you're already thinking this, add track feeders (hot and common) every 6-10 track pieces.

If you post on the electrical forum, I would suggest including your latest SCARM plan.

Using a separate power source for the switches or just wiring them direct off the track power bus? Not an issue for me at the moment but thinking about the future when a dozen switches are in play.

There are 2 main reasons I prefer to have FasTrack switches wired on their own separate bus, powered at about 14 - 16 volts AC.  This allows a different track voltage (good for conventional and command).  The other reason for this electrical separation is that in addition to having TVS diodes installed in appropriate locations around the layout, keeping switches on a different bus helps protect the electronics inside them from the transient voltage spikes on the track power circuit caused by a derailment.

Last edited by SteveH

If anyone has links to a thread or a good guide on how to do this, it would be appreciated. All the searching I’m doing, there’s always opinions on what the best wway to do it is.

I am going to use one of the accessory channels on the ZW-L.  I’ll run that to a bus and from there to the turnouts. What gauge wire would be best to do this with?   Also, one video I watched said to only run a hot lead to the turnouts and use common ground through the track? Or do I need to do a hot and ground to eat turnout?

Last edited by VJandP
@Greg Kwolek posted:

Using a separate power source for the switches or just wiring them direct off the track power bus? Not an issue for me at the moment but thinking about the future when a dozen switches are in play.

@Greg Kwolek Like you, I was fine while there were only 5 turnouts.  Now I have 13 and things are getting a bit wonky.  Power delivery isn’t consistent.    It’s not just the turnouts, the overall performance of the layout decreased dramatically as I expanded it.  

@VJandP posted:

@Greg Kwolek Like you, I was fine while there were only 5 turnouts.  Now I have 13 and things are getting a bit wonky.  Power delivery isn’t consistent.    It’s not just the turnouts, the overall performance of the layout decreased dramatically as I expanded it.  

My little 4x8 layout with 2 loops seems fine with only one track drop on each loop, but I’m still doing two on each loop just to be safe. Like the others said, just need feeders every so often. People also bend the center FasTrack pins to encourage better contact but you have a ton of track… I would think on a layout your size, 3-4 drops per loop would give you good coverage. But I’m no expert, just basing that on with the pros post here. 😊

@Greg Kwolek posted:

My little 4x8 layout with 2 loops seems fine with only one track drop on each loop, but I’m still doing two on each loop just to be safe. Like the others said, just need feeders every so often. People also bend the center FasTrack pins to encourage better contact but you have a ton of track… I would think on a layout your size, 3-4 drops per loop would give you good coverage. But I’m no expert, just basing that on with the pros post here. 😊

Good call out on bending the pins. Every little bit helps, right?   I had read that somewhere also. I definitely need more drops to the track for starters.  How are you connecting wires to the track? Using the built-in terminals? Soldiering?

I just realized, the way my track plan is laid out, most of the straight sections on the loops are taken up by turnouts and crossovers. I don’t have many 10” straight sections with terminals to connect to. I’m gonna have to figure out a way how to attach power to curved sections, 5” straights or something else…

Dedicated turnout power bus wires' gauge will depend on the number of turnouts connected and the bus length.  If only a few switches, 18-16 gauge would be fine on a small layout with 18 gauge feeders.  For a larger layout I'd suggest 14 gauge bus wires with 18 gauge feeders.  Switch grounds should be tied to track common at the main distribution point near the transformer(s, and phased if more than one transformer).

Feeder wiring to the turnouts would be: Hot to Aux power terminal, Common to the power ground terminal.

Track Power can be connected to any piece of track by soldering to the rail tabs under the roadbed.  Track pieces with spade connection tabs include: Full curves, 10" and 1-3/8" straights.

@VJandP posted:

Good call out on bending the pins. Every little bit helps, right?   I had read that somewhere also. I definitely need more drops to the track for starters.  How are you connecting wires to the track? Using the built-in terminals? Soldiering?

I just realized, the way my track plan is laid out, most of the straight sections on the loops are taken up by turnouts and crossovers. I don’t have many 10” straight sections with terminals to connect to. I’m gonna have to figure out a way how to attach power to curved sections, 5” straights or something else…

Like Steve said, you can solder or use the spade connectors on the tabs under the track, like on your full curve sections. My layout is mostly curves as well, and that's where my connections will be. I bought these https://www.ebay.com/itm/38157...0:g:lgIAAOSw6lRaiXu5 so I can make my own - insert wire and crimp. For connecting bus to feeder, there are a lot of options, but some people use these https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/topic/wago-connectors and I bought a variety pack to try.

For a three way connector, you could run the bus into the connector (1), then the feeder wire up to the track (2), and then continue the bus to the next feeder from the third connector (3). Then do the same for the common. I suppose you could also run drops to multiple tracks from one of the five way connectors as well. Are your loops isolated/blocked or is everything on the same circuit and sharing the same power?

Based on forum feedback, I'm using 14AWG for my bus, and 18AWG for track drops.

Thanks, guys.  I didn’t realize the curved sections had terminals under them.   I think I’ll run a feeder to each “corner” of each loop - 4 drops per loop.  Maybe 2 more on the longer sides of the outermost loop.  I picked up the .001 spade connectors or whatever that size is, so I can make feeder wires w/ connectors.   For the future layout, I think I need to pick up some soldering skills.  

@SteveH Thanks for the detailed info. Hate to sound like a total newb, but can you break it down a little more for me?    After reading your input, here’s what I was going to do.  Let me know if I misinterpreted or there’s a better way …

For the turnouts, from an accessory channel [C] on the ZW-L, I was going to set the channel to 14 volts.   Since everything is being run off of the same transformer, I don’t think there will be any issues with phasing.   I’ll feed a hot wire and a ground to 2 separate bus bars.   Each turnout will be tapped into a hot and ground respectively on each bus bars.

When you mentioned “Switch grounds should be tied to track common at the main distribution point near the transformer…”, I wasn’t sure what you meant by the main distribution point.  Will the bus bars do the same thing?

@VJandP posted:
..“Switch grounds should be tied to track common at the main distribution point near the transformer…”, I wasn’t sure what you meant by the main distribution point.  Will the bus bars do the same thing?

Bus wires and bus bars are essentially the same thing electrically; a means of connecting more than one electrical load via a central current carrying apparatus (bus) to the power source.  In the case of grounds, they should all be tied together somewhere, typically at or near the transformer.

If you're planning for DCS then all power should be tied back to a central distribution hub that is fed by the transformer.  The latter is known as star wiring.  For more on that I would recommend reading the DCS Companion.

@VJandP posted:

@Greg Kwolek As of right now, I do not have blocks though that is in the future. Do I need isolated blocks to run feeder wires around the loop?   Or is it OK to have multiple hot and grounds on the same continuous loop of track?

Isolated blocks are optional and depend on whether you'll be running DCS and/or conventional and other factors.  For what you're doing right now with your test track you could skip them for the time being.

Multiple feeders on the same block will help reduce the voltage drops you're experiencing.  But if you'll be running MTH DCS locomotives, there are limitations to the way feeders can be connected to track blocks without interfering with the DCS signal.

Last edited by SteveH

Invest in some good needle nose pliers. Helpful when slipping the spade connectors onto the track tabs. They make a really snug fit and are a good alternative to soldering but a bit of a pain to slide on. The little spade connectors work well tho. Slide a wire in and crimp it. Forms a good bond and I imagine it wouldn’t come apart under normal circumstances. I put a few together tonight from the ones I posted from eBay.

@SteveH posted:

Isolated blocks are optional and depend on whether you'll be running DCS and/or conventional and other factors.  For what you're doing right now with your test track you could skip them for the time being.

Multiple feeders on the same block will help reduce the voltage drops you're experiencing.  But if you'll be running MTH DCS locomotives, there are limitations to the way feeders can be connected to track blocks without interfering with the DCS signal.

Thanks, Steve.  As it turns out, the conventional engines are DC powered and will have to have their own dedicated loop or sit on the shelf for now.   I’ll wire some blocks on the test layout but primarily for sidings to park engines.  For now I’ll skip the block and get the power continuity and turnouts straightened out.  👍🏼

@Greg Kwolek posted:

Invest in some good needle nose pliers. Helpful when slipping the spade connectors onto the track tabs. They make a really snug fit and are a good alternative to soldering but a bit of a pain to slide on. The little spade connectors work well tho. Slide a wire in and crimp it. Forms a good bond and I imagine it wouldn’t come apart under normal circumstances. I put a few together tonight from the ones I posted from eBay.

Great suggestion.   Really appreciate all of your input on my posts.   👍🏼

@VJandP posted:

Thanks, Steve.  As it turns out, the conventional engines are DC powered and will have to have their own dedicated loop or sit on the shelf for now.   I’ll wire some blocks on the test layout but primarily for sidings to park engines.  For now I’ll skip the block and get the power continuity and turnouts straightened out.  👍🏼

You can use those 1 3/8 fitter sections to wire the blocks. Put them at the beginning of the siding, and remove the jumper. Then wire a hot with an on/off switch to a tab on the siding. Easy enough but can consume a lot of extra wire with runs to the control panel. Unless you just place the on/off switch right at the block.

Haven’t made much progress on the layout itself but I have been able to get organized and prepare for the wiring extravaganza.

I didn’t have many electrical tools and supplies so I’ve been digging through what I have and ordering some new stuff.   I have a PC tool kit with extra small tool attachments that have been perfect for working with the turnouts.  I’ve built up a supply of wires, spade connectors and splurged for some new crimping tools and voltmeter. At some point I’ll start experimenting with a soldering iron as well.  Everything is laying out on the workbench for now until the new cabinet arrives next week.

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Speaking of the workbench, I was finally able to clear out some space to work.  Until I get the layout table organized again, the ZW-L will sit on the workbench Ultimately I think I need to buy a small transformer to keep there so I have something to power up and test things.  Not a fancy area but it will do for now.   The only other thing I’d really like to buy for this area is an antistatic mat.  I need to move the totes in the background and I’ll be able to shift the work area down. Speaking of those totes, part of the organizing I’ve done was to get all of my eBay Fasttrack purchases sorted.

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And, the layout itself… I’m ready to begin work on rewiring, adding direct power to the turnouts, and then finally mount the track to the tabletop with screws to help with the electrical connections.  I’m hoping this weekend I can at least get the outer loop set up. It’s been weeks since I’ve been able to run any trains.  We’re supposed to be hit with a really bad ice storm so we might lose power for part of the weekend. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen and I have the better part of the weekend.

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@Greg Kwolek posted:

If you run into any difficulty with your wire to wire connections (e.g, bus to feeder), consider the Wago lever connectors. You can buy an assorted pack on Amazon, for example, and they are excellent. I've done all my wiring with them so far, and it makes connecting (and re-connecting) everything a breeze.

I second the recommendation for using Wago lever nuts sized for 24 to 12 gauge wires.  They come in 3-way and 5 way connectors, allowing easy branching.Wago Lever Nuts



@VJandP the red and blue cylindrical crimp connectors you have pictured above are hit or miss for reliability with stranded wire, I don't use them anymore.

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All, as always, thank you for the suggestions. I think I have something very similar to the connectors mentioned. They are Home Depot brand I believe, “Insure”.  They look very similar to the Wago connectors.   I’ll share a few pictures of the connectors in my next update.  👍🏼

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