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I am using DC power from a separate transformer under the table to power my free-standing track-side accessories.  It looks like most accessories use 20 gauge, 22 gauge and even 30 gauge wire as the lead wires.   

I generally use 18 gauge wire for short AC runs under the table, but the 18 gauge seems like overkill for these DC items, and it is hard to connect to the smaller leads.

On the other hand, I don't want to use wire that is right at or just under the gauge this is sufficient.

Can anybody recommend the proper gauge wire to use?



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Thanks.  I have trouble seeing up close, and because I don't have the knack of stripping down pat, I seem often to cut a few strands of wire in the process, even when I use the right hole in the tool.  Cut one or two wires in 22 gauge, and you aren't left with much.

And, when I splice wires together, I find crimping tough to do with really thin wire.   They always want to pull out, even with the correct size of connector.

So, for me at least, the 20 gauge is nice, because it isn't as stiff and resistant as 18 gauge, and it isn't as thin and delicate as the 22 gauge.

I am now soldering all of the wire to wire to connections that I can make on top of the table, which is fairly easy using the type and composition of solder that you recently recommended in another thread.   But, if I have to splice wires together underneath the table, I can't solder, so I am trying to use crimp connectors, which is tricky when you are lying on your back and only have two hands, instead of the three you need.    I know there are other types of connectors, but they are a bit expensive and hopefully I am almost done with the under-the-table stuff.   

I think I'm going to try using spade connectors under the table, without solder, but with an inch of shrink cover over the connection to keep it protected.

Thanks for all of your advice.


Having neuropathy fingers I found using a short piece of electrical tape for holding a drop wire in place for setting up a connection to a buss to be very helpful.  Whether crimping, clamping, lever nuts or soldering.

I find Wago lever nuts great for wire ends when the wires may need to be reoriented.  Quick'n easy $.30 to $.70+ each depending on quantity purchased.  Time is money.

Incidentlly, I flame solder most solderless  terminals.  I prefer the solderless  terminals because of the insulated sleeve.

To flame solder a crimped end, position the wire and terminal end free from an immediate combustable, hold the flame directed away from the end of the terminal but just touching the side of the very end with the flame.  You will notice a glazing flowing from the tip down to the crimped portion.  Just touch a thin piece of solder  to it.  Done.

A similar thing can be done with an iron, just a tad trickier for me.

Do not solder a screwed down connected terminal.  You can damage the plastic base.

Hint, when pulling a wire to be used as a buss consider cutting a hand full of short pieces of shrink tubing and slide them along the installed buss wire for future attachment points.

Soldering might sound cumbersome but I learned it from an electrician I hired to wire a layout decades ago.  He worked like a sewing machine knocking out the job in half the time I would have taken.

One of his tricks was using a thumb actuated Bernzomatic.   Thumb on flame on, thumb off flame off.

Never had a wire come loose since soldering.

If you are a little skittish on soldering grab a good iron or torch, pick on some wire scraps, click around U-Tube and ask some questions on board here.

After some bubble gum sloppy initial attempts you can become very comfortable.  Just give yourself the freedom to fail at first.  Read, watch, ask, learn.  Once you understand the concept you will be on your way.

Last edited by Tom Tee

Thanks for all of that great info Tom.   It will be very helpful.

John, thanks for suggesting the Lever Nuts.  I think that Lowes carries them.  If I can buy a small packet of them, I will give them a try.     One factor is, that when I joint two wires together under the table with a crimp or spade connector, I can staple the wire and connector flush to the bottom of the layout board.   I think that the Lever Nuts would be hanging down though.



At the end of a star run where a drop comes down through the subroadbed  I will trim the insulation, usually tape the two wires together with the bare ends lined up, then using a electrical crimp end I join the two ends.  I always allow some extra wire for possible need to lift the track for whatever track or turnout adjustment.

When I use solid wire for my drops I wrap the extra length around a thin tube for a compact surplus.

The wires in the following photos all come from a local panel.  The star feeds are each switched and are 14 ga averaging 15' in length.  The drops are all 20 ga.

Below is an example of a 2' X 16' staging yard with a second level decking hinged up:

toy boxes 013Ends are taped, crimped and clamped

Note the color tape and numerical bands coding the circuits.

toy boxes 016

The angled 2 x 4 braces are to hold the decks up for service.   The white tape holds the wires into a routed out slot for clearing the cross braces.

The wire loom under the cross members runs horizontal for a short distance in loose clamps to accommodate the deck raising via a torsional movement of the wires.

toy boxes 008


Images (3)
  • toy boxes 013
  • toy boxes 016
  • toy boxes 008
Last edited by Tom Tee


It was doubly necessary on this job.  I was called in after someone already built the platform using inexpensive 1/2" Pine plywood decking which of course took on mild warping in a few months which would not work well with two rail using long rigid wheel base steam engines.  Even 1/2" OSB can be far superior to Pine Plywood.

Replacing the decking was not in the budget so I had to splice in quite a few longitudinal stiffeners across the  seams and 16' of piano hinge took care of the pivoting edge.   Use each and every pre drilled screw hole in the piano hinge.

IME.  Unless you are boarding up a fire job never use Pine plywood.  Opinion.

Also, I used the same piano hinge "Toy Box" lid approach with the 21' long staging yard:

toy boxes 005toy boxes 007


Images (2)
  • toy boxes 005
  • toy boxes 007

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