Info Request: What gauge of wiring do you use?

Discussion in 'DC' started by yardmaster, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Folks -
    Before I head to the home improvement store to buy wiring (gotta finish repainting my son's room, first), I wanted to survey others.

    I'm thinking of 14 AWG for the bus lines and what I think is 22 AWG that I have on hand for feeders.

    I'm going with traditional DC with plans to convert to DCC, but DC fits best with what we have currently. Don't know that I'm going to do any blocks right now - I'd hate to install all of those toggles in the fascia just to convert to DCC not long after.

    Best Regards,
  2. bob_wintle

    bob_wintle Member Supporter

    14 AWG is fine for your buss if your layout isn't too big. Mine is 22x9 and that is what I use. For feeder wire I have started buying thermostat wire that has about 6 to 8 conductors in it. I have been using 18awg solid for that. I wouldn't go any less than 20awg.
    Take my advice and go dcc now. It will save you time and money in the long run. Good luck.
    Bob Wintle Layed off Electronics Tech.
    Parsons Ks.
  3. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    I'll go ahead and throw in my two cents.
    As for the feeders I think I'm using either 14 or 12 gauge, and I have a 4x8. Feeders, well I used some Model Power wire that was given to me. I think its about 22 gauge, but it has 4 wires put to gether, so I just take the insulation off all 4 and twist them together. But probably the most important thing (in my eyes) for feeder wire is that it needs to be very flexible so you can work with it easily, but the bus doesn't mater as far as flexibility goes.
    As for DCC I don't think layout size is the only thing holding back getting DCC. I have it for my small 4x8. It is so much nicer than DC. I HIGHLY recommend the NCE power cab as a way to start out. If you have a large layout with a lot of locomotives to run, then you can get the PH pro from NCE. Both of the NCE sets include the same type of cab, but the power cab only puts out 2 amps, but the PH pro comes in 5 and 10 amp packages. Keep in mind that a loco with out sound will draw 1/2 amp, so you can run 4 engines on the power cab system, but sound will draw more. There is one other route with the power cab, and that is to start with the power cab now, then get a smart booster later. A smart booster is a booster that comes in 3, and now 5 amp packages. It is cheaper than the regular 5 amp booster, and is designed for the power cab. Regardless on whether you get the power cab or PH pro, the NCE system has a few extra features over Digitrax and MRC. Off course it programs CV's, but it also has some extra programing features that literally spells it out in WORDS on the screen. One of these things is NCE effects. It is a "short cut" to light programing. Instead of having to go through a decoder manual and look up the CV's, you just need to know the output number that the light goes to and then it has a list of different effects.
    Any way that's my two cents. If you wish to learn about the Digitrax systems, talk to Bob Wintle. One more thing, I would recommend not even thinking about the Bachmann EZ command, it's just a power pack that controls locos, that's it.
  4. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter


    Bob is spot on about taking the leap into DCC now vs. waiting until later. Others have different perspectives on this point than I do, but I want to point something out that I firmly believe about making the decision to do it.

    To me, and others for that matter, DCC makes one look at the hobby differently. Because of the cost of decoders and the time and learning curve necessary to install them, some modelers upon changing over have taken a whole new attitude about the size of their motive power fleet. One gentleman who is in HO actually dropped his fleet down to about a dozen locomotives and equipped them all with sound decoders. Of course in N scale if you want sound you may need to run dummy B units or dummy sound units.

    One decoder company in particular, TCS, in recent years has concentrated on N scale decoders and they are a superior product. Also, when a new product such as the upcoming Atlas GP7 is announced, you can just go ahead and purchase the decoder equipped versions.

    Several companies offer entry level systems that will get you up an running in no time. If you make the decision to go wireless, which I encourage you to consider doing, with some systems you won't even need to wire a throttle bus.
  5. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year


    I think the 14 ga is fine for a bus and 22 ga is good for your feeders. Full speed ahead.

    When are you planning on coming to visit your in-laws or out-laws in Bonner? Let's operate!
  6. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Thanks Bob, El Bobo, Ethan and Rick for the feedback. I figure that I will use solderless suitcase connectors to get up and running more quickly (I believe that topic's already been covered ad nauseum, so I won't get into that this time around.

    Rick: thanks for the note. I've been a pretty poor communicator. Honest to goodness: what happened to the 'Hawks in The Big Dance? I try to set aside my Mizzou tendencies at tournament time in the hopes that all Big XII teams will succeed.

    At any rate, we keep hoping to get over to KC soon. We discovered there is a Curling Club in Johnson County - we're eager to try it out! We stopped very briefly over spring break on our way to Omaha, but just hit the Swope Park Zoo. Our KC Star reporter friend did mention that it's still on their radar to do a model RR feature. I'll nag her and see if they can give a more firm time-frame commitment. Regardless, I'm eager for some operations, and to see the Big Orange/White era up close.
  7. FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018)

    FriscoFriend (Bob Hoover RIP 4/12/2018) Passed Away April 12, 2018 Supporter


    On the subject of suitcase connectors I may be able to be of some help as I have been researching them in more depth lately. When Rick, Bob, and Mike came out last summer and started my RR for me they soldered everything and it is a masterpiece of wiring to say the least. The situaiton that I now face is since I have had successful back surgery I want to move forward on my own but (A) hate to solder, and (B) still can't get up under the layout. I had studied the use of suitcase connectors before they came and since they were masters at soldering they did it that way and I am both happy and grateful.

    If you don't already own it, I would suggest that you purchase the Kalmbach book "How to Build Realistic Reliable Track" that came out last summer. There is an article in there by Andy Sperandeo intitled "Bulletproof Track Wiring" that covers this technique in great depth. If you don't have the issue and don't want to purchase it, contact me via PM and I will copy it and send it to you.

    Since you are in N scale this may be the right ticket as he uses 22 AWG solid wire and crimps the end flat to make it look like a spike head. He only uses the 22 AWG wire for a short distance and then goes to 16 AWG and the to a 12 AWG buss.

    You can also see a short demo of this online at and then go to the Online Extras section under the Model Railroader Expert tips video series tab. There are actually two videos available but the second one is Andy's.

    One more important point is that in the article in the magazine he references using a pair of pliers available from Sears called Robo-Grips vs. spending $70.00 or more on the special pliers made by 3M for the IDC's. They have also been mentioned on one of the Yahoo Groups and the one to buy is the biggest one they make (10 in.) and they sell for $14.95.

    This has been one of the biggest criticisms of using IDC's over the years in the fact that people use regular channel lock pliers and they just don't crimp good enough. Believe me these are no regular channel lock pliers! I even used mine to open a new jar of Polly Scale paint yesterday and I will never use a pair of Channel Locks again.

    The use of IDC's seems to be gaining momentum as Model Railroader is using them on their club layout and prominent model railroaders like Andy Sperandeo and Tony Koester are now using them also. I still don't think they beat soldering, but probably are a good alternative to consider.

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