Wiring Questions:

Okay, so I've got the last of the track laid on the industrial section of my switching layout, and am ready to start wiring.
What gauge of wire would youse guys recommend for the main busses that run from the transformer to the individual feeder wires, and would you prefer solid or stranded wire for same?
Despite the fact that solid-conductor wire is a bit more difficult to thread through the layout's underpinnings, I tend to prefer it because I find it's easier to strip and solder the feeder wires to.
The length of the main busses won't exceed 25', and I'm using single- strand #22 copper wire for the feeders.
Yay and nays, thoughtfully reasoned opinions, and frothing "Real model railroaders always do it *THIS* way" type replies will all be considered after approprate sorting.
~Pete
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Okay, so I've got the last of the track laid on the industrial section of my switching layout, and am ready to start wiring.
What gauge of wire would youse guys recommend for the main busses that run from the transformer to the individual feeder wires, and would you prefer solid or stranded wire for same?
Despite the fact that solid-conductor wire is a bit more difficult to thread through the layout's underpinnings, I tend to prefer it because I find it's easier to strip and solder the feeder wires to.
The length of the main busses won't exceed 25', and I'm using single- strand #22 copper wire for the feeders.
Yay and nays, thoughtfully reasoned opinions, and frothing "Real model railroaders always do it *THIS* way" type replies will all be considered after approprate sorting.
~Pete
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Now *that's* interesting: I only pushed the "send" button once.
Let's see if it'll do it again... (pushes button)
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On 8/23/2010 4:20 PM, Twibil wrote:

Hi Twibil So rule of thumb has been 14 to 16ga wire, solid or stranded. I have run 12ga stranded as my mains run. If you go on line, Apex Junior here in Los Angeles sells 12ga Teflon covered stranded wire. Cheap and good.
What I realized a few months ago was that DCC is no different than Audio signals. It's subject to the same noise and garbage issues that audio enthusiasts have fought so hard to eliminate. Once I realized this and started to treat all my DCC as an audio signal almost all my problems have cleared up. I audio, stranded wire is used. Skin effect. More surface to carry the DCC signal. In audio solid only gives you the outer circumference of the wire. Multi-strand is more surface. The scientific community rebuts all this, but In blind testing, I can hear the difference in wires as well as a few Audio Engineers I'm friends with.
So I suggest 12gauge stranded and 22 gauge drops every 3 feet, or between fish plates. No signal loss around loose fish plates that way. I also wired up not only the frogs but the 3" sections before and after all my switch frogs. A lot of wiring I know, but I no longer have a stalling problem. As a matter of fact I have a small Fly Zoo motor car that I just ran this weekend and it crawled all around the layout and never once stalled.
Until I changed my train of thought this was an impossible task. Good Luck Mike M
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Skin effect is not a significant factor at the frequencies DCC uses. You MIGHT have more issues with really thick solid wire on a super-long run, but it's not likely. The major reason not to use solid wire is that it tends to be awkward to handle, and won't take bending as well as stranded wire does. *
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On 23/08/2010 17:31, Twibil wrote:

Your control method will determine what electrical rules you must observe, but aside from them there are only two rules I would recommend that you follow: a) colour code all wiring, no compromises; b) label and document everything.
People make too much of a fuss about wire sizes. Use whatever you have on hand. 22 or 24 gauge feeders are OK. I use scrounged 4-wire phone cable, that's #24, still good enough. It's good enough for short power runs, too, up to about 6ft.
For your 25 ft busses, anything #18 gauge or larger will do. Buy the cheapest available, if you can scrounge it, so much the better. Stranded or solid, as you wish.
Also, I suggest you get a good wire stripper, not one of those 98 cent ones.
HTH wolf k.
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The club layout is all 12 or 14 gauge main bus wire. But since you're only going 25', you're not likely to be subjected to the same voltage drop issues that we'd experience. It's pretty much all solid wire, but some sections (and many of the feeders) are stranded. It all solders together the same.
My suggestion is to use the largest wire your terminal blocks will support. Too many autoreversers or circuit breakers require a short "leader" to be connected to the larger bus wire.
Puckdropper
--
Never teach your apprentice everything you know.

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Twibil wrote:

I wander down to my local recycled house parts yard and buy odd bits of house wiring. It's usually two core consisting of 10 amp (3 strand) in red and black insulation covered by an outer white plastic sheath. Don't bother with older wiring. As I'm happy with relatively short lengths (10-25ft) they sell it to me for a few dollars per quite a lot. :-) It might be cheaper if I sent my daughter!
Regards, Greg.P.
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You ever use those suitcase connectors? I'm having a bear of a time getting them to close.
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None wrote:

Seems electricians do things differently over here - I've never met a "suitcase connector" and I have only come across those screw-on "hats/nuts" on imported US electrical equipment. Presumably you use similar plastic coated copper/alloy wire ;-) but I have to go looking in obscure reference books to figure out what AWG gauges are.
Regards, Greg.P. NZ
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On 8/24/2010 2:42 PM, None wrote:

I avoid them like the plague. Those are what's known as "insulation displacement connectors" or IDCs. As someone who's done field service repairs on a lot of industrial equipment over the past couple of decades, I've had to replace a number of IDCs of various types because the wires become loose in them causing arcing, annealing of the connection and wires, and eventual failure. Crimp lugs that were not crimped tight are another similar failure I've seen repeatedly.
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On 24/08/2010 19:03, Rick Jones wrote:

Could you do us a favour, and rate different types of connections, based on your experience? Eg, solder, wire nuts, screw-type terminals, etc.
Thanks, wolf k.
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Wolf K wrote:

The rating of each type of connection will depend on the situation and conditions it is used for.
Much of the wiring on a model railway is fixed, not subject to vibration mechanical force and is never subject to disconnection and reconnection.
Mechanical connection, such as 'through insulation clips' (suitcase) nuts and even screw terminals rely on mechanical presure and will eventually degrade through oxidation and relaxing mechanical force.
Crimp lugs generally have greater mechanical force (provided they are properly fitted) but spade terminals will eventually degrade contact between spade and socket. (20 years) Disconnecting and reconnecting the spade connection solves that problem.
Solder plus mechanical connection is still probably the best connection for model railway purposes.
The exception is of course components/modules that will be replaced. (eg point motors)
The most common cause of failures in modern electronics is failed solder joints, but then most electronics have huge numbers of such joints.
Probably rocket scientists will plump for the cut/clamp type connections but the application's lifetime will be shorter than model railways. Telephone infrastructurewiring mostly uses the same system, but that relates more to the costs of instalation and much lower currents than typical MR situations.
Greg.P.
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On 8/24/2010 9:34 PM, Wolf K wrote:

OK, you asked for it. A bit of background first: I've been involved with industrial electronics, mainly motor controls (variable speed drives), for nearly 2 decades. Prior to that I mostly worked on computer or microprocessor-controlled equipment going back into the late '70s. That included mainframes to PCs. As mentioned in my previous post, in the field I have had to replace many connections that failed or were failing because they were getting loose. Badly crimped lugs and insulation displacement connectors (IDCs) make up very close to 100% of these failures. The connections that very, very rarely seem to fail are the screw clamp type, wherein a wire is inserted into a slot or hole and a screw is tightened clamping the wire in place. IDCs work by having a metal piece with a slot, sometimes with sharpened edges. The wire is pressed down into this slot and the metal sides cut through the insulation making contact with the wire. Unfortunately, as Greg mentions in his post, flexing or movement or vibration of the wire and IDC can work the wire until it becomes loose in this slot. A loose electrical connection - ANY electrical connection - builds up resistance. As electrical current passes through a resistance it generates heat; heat can cause annealing of the wire and connector, which creates more resistance, which creates more heat, etc. Poorly crimped ring lugs, fork lugs, butt splices and other sorts of crimp connections can suffer the same failures. Overwhelmingly, the failed connections I have had to replace over the years have carried much higher current than we typically have flowing through our wires, track and layouts. The half amp that a modern loco with a can motor might pull at most probably won't burn up many connections. Intermittent operation is probably a bigger nuisance we have to watch out for. However, on a large home or club layout with multiple engines drawing power from one DCC booster or multiple analog throttles using a large common transformer for power, we could pull sufficient amperage to cause an eventual problem at a connection which is not tight. What will I use on my layout once I have a satisfactory design and can afford to get it started? As mentioned above, screw clamp terminals have proven the most reliable in industrial applications. I have seen these used on input and output terminals for variable speed drives carrying hundreds of amps at up to 600 volts AC and they have rarely failed. They are also widely used where control wiring needs to terminate to a circuit board. I have a few hundred single terminal blocks that can be bunched together on a piece of DIN rail to create whatever size of terminal strip I may need. Here's a link to a photo of this style of terminal block: http://media.digikey.com/photos/Phoenix%20Photos/3044131.JPG?cshift_ck=null&client_idP42
The other type of connection that I would trust is the common screw terminal strip that we're all familiar with, using ring or fork lugs that are PROPERLY crimped. For this you need the right tool. Avoid crimpers with jaws that look like a pair of parentheses (). These are the worthless crimpers that create all of the bad crimp lugs I've had to replace. Get a good pair that creates an indented crimp, sort of like this: D). The crimpers I use are made by Klein. When I crimp a wire with these it WON'T come apart or work itself loose. For feeders from the bus to the track I think there's only one way to do it: strip a short bit of the bus, wrap the feeder wire around the bus wire a few times, and solder it. It's more time consuming than the quicky suitcase connectors but it should give worry free, reliable operation for decades. With a pair of wire strippers you can just cut through the insulation without nicking or cutting the wire, and push the insulation an inch or so back on itself, leaving a bit of bare wire to work on. I hope some of you can find this information useful.
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I did. Thanks.
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This is really true. I've found one single kind of displacement spade lug that seems to never fail - ones sold by radio shack for use on the end of phone wire. I use a lot of these for lighting wires hooked to terminal strips, and they're bulletproof. Normal insulated spade lugs? Not so much.
Another kind of connector I experimented with and liked was a splice block that telco people use. It looks like a little circular 'wart' with a button on the center. You stick two wires to be spliced into it (no stripping required), squeeze the button with pliers, and it snaps shut with a satisfying click, stripping the wires and squirting them with some kind of conductive glue. 100% effective, but not cheap! *
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On 25/08/2010 19:59, Rick Jones wrote: [...]

Thanks, Rick. Several layout construction stories I've read recently mention IDC connectors. The price of the crimping tool and the connectors has deterred me, I'll stick to the tried and true. ;-)
wolf k.
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wrote:

I've been successful using a simple parallel jaw pliers(which I got at my local hardware store specifically for this task) to crimp IDCs. I like the ease of making splices with them compared to soldering -- especially connecting feeder wires along a bus wire -- and will use them again for future power wiring work.
I got my IDCs on-line at Mouser Electronics.
__________ Mark Mathu Whitefish Bay, Wis. The Green Bay Route: http://www.greenbayroute.com /
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On 8/25/2010 6:59 PM, Rick Jones wrote:

<snip>
One more thing I meant to mention: When doing field service work on these industrial electrical and electronic installations, there are 4 things we told customers to keep in mind in order to keep their equipment operating reliably.
1. Keep it clean. Dust, dirt and other contaminants on electrical and electronic circuitry is bad. Not only can it conduct current, causing sensitive electronics to begin acting flaky or major arcing in a high power circuit, but a heavy film of dust acts as an insulator holding in heat and adding further stress to components.
2. Keep it dry. Just common sense that anybody working around electrical circuits should know, but I've seen some very poorly thought out variable speed drive installations that could easily get wet from wind blowing rain in through vents, or just the nightly fog that comes in off the ocean in some locations.
3. Keep it tight. This applies mostly to the screw type terminals I mentioned previously since crimps mostly can't be re-tightened. They can work loose over time and we suggested that a maintenance person come back and re-tighten the power connections a few weeks after a new installation or retrofit is done, and then check them twice a year as an ongoing preventative maintenance routine.
4. Keep it cool. As mentioned above in #1, heat stresses electronics and other electrical equipment such as motors. Keeping it operating within a comfortable temperature range will help lengthen the lifespan of equipment.
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wrote:

You ever use those suitcase connectors? I'm having a bear of a time getting them to close.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------- There is a tool for that. Something like a pair of pliers. Last time I saw one it was in the $40+ neighborhood and I decided wire nuts would be just fine.
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