I’m in the process of restoring Lionel O Gauge layout consisting entirely of track, engines, cars, and accessories from 1954-1957.
My question is about proper gauge wire and recommended connectors. This question has been asked many times. I know since I’ve spent considerable time reading various threads. I’ve also read other resources online and as well as several guides/books (including Greenberg’s Wiring Your Lionel Layout by Peter Riddle—3 vols.). Often different answers throughout. I suppose there might not be one authoritative right answer—perhaps due to vastly different layouts and equipment and personal preferences.
I apologize for asking again, but I’m still not entirely certain with my decisions about the proper gauge wire and connectors. Please understand I am a novice when it comes to this sort of thing. Also inexperienced—the last and only time I held a soldering iron was when I built a HeathKit shortwave radio 55 years ago.
I’ll briefly describe my layout since this should have a direct bearing on wiring decisions. I’m using 3-rail tubular track and O22 remote switches (turnouts) and UCS uncouplers/unloaders—again from the 1950s. CTC and LTC and OTC lockons. Powered by 3 restored/refurbished ZW 275-watt transformers. The benchwork is “L” shape with 12 feet on one side and 8 feet on the other and 5 feet wide (utilizing three pieces of 5 x 5 Baltic Birch plywood).
I have lots of industry accessories (e.g. coal loaders, coal ramp, ice depot, etc.) together with passive and automatic accessories and lights (such as signal blocks and crossing gates). My plan is to have a number of separate track lines and I hope to incorporate block wiring with automatic train control and toggle (center-off) switches. I’m sure I will be asking more questions about that!
Important to note—this is not intended to be a permanent layout per se. There might be one or two lines that will be more or less unchanged, but I want to ability to redesign or remove or add lines and accessories as I go along.
Here is what I’ve tentatively decided (apologize if my terminology is inaccurate)—
- Track Power Bus (and also ground loop wiring): 16 Gauge stranded wire. Some sources recommend solid wire. But I’ve read that stranded wire is more flexible and easier to work with in this instance. I almost decided on 14 Gauge stranded wire but concluded 16 is probably adequate for my particular size layout. You tell me.
- Feeder Wire (from track to the power bus line): Solid wire because of the better ease of connecting it to screw terminals. 20 Gauge. But I may go with 18 Gauge if this is more strongly recommended for my situation.
- Toggle Switches (to facilitate “blocks” operations): Same as Feeder Wire—20 Gauge Solid.
- O22 Remote Switches and UCS Uncouplers to the Controllers: 22 Gauge Solid (3 wire or 4 wire respectively). These are already wired this way. I’ve got spools of these two wire configurations to use in those cases where I need to extend the length).
- O22 Remote Switches Fixed Voltage Plugs: 22 Gauge Solid.
- Industry Accessories and Lights: 22 Gauge Solid. Or should this be 20 Gauge Solid?
Now about the connectors. After considering different options (including suitcase connectors and Ideal In-Sure Push-In connectors), I’ve decided on the following:
A. To Connect Feeder to Bus Line: Posi-Tap Connector. This connector is approved for both stranded and solid wire and the size wire I would be using. I’ll have to remove small amount of insulation from the bus line stranded wire to use with this connector.
B. Alternative Option for Feeder to Bus Line: Wago 221-413 which is the 3-conductor splicing connector. This is also approved for both solid and stranded wire and 24 to 12 Gauge wiring. In this case, I’d have to actually cut the bus line in each instance and there will be one conductor for “bus-in” and another for “bus-out” and the third for the feeder. This would seem not to be ideal with possible power loss due to repeated cutting of the bus line. But maybe there is no appreciable power loss and this is better/easier than utilizing the Posi-Tap Connector arrangement.
C. Splicing other wires when longer runs are necessary—such as extending the length of O22 remote switch controllers or UCS controllers: Wago 221-412, which is a 2-conductor splicing connector. Again, approved for either solid or stranded wire and 24 to 12 Gauge.
I hope the length of this post is not objectionable. I very much look forward to your advice and guidance. Thanks for your help!