As is mentioned elsewhere in our pages, we suggest you fasten your track to a permanent foundation so the sections of track do not keep coming apart as the train travels over them. As you are doing this, and if you have the space, we are going to use a 4X8 sheet of plywood as an example and also show you a larger track plan you can use that will allow for a more interesting layout. There is plenty of room in this basic plan for buildings, streets, etc., plus the train is not just running in a basic oval which makes the run more interesting.
Wiring this Basic Layout
There is some additional wiring that will be needed for this basic track plan. The reason for this is that each of the rail joints cause some minor resistance in the layout and your train will more than likely slow down the further it gets away from just the original set of feeder wires that came with the train set.
When expanding any train set or small oval/circle of track as we are doing here there are some electrical principals to keep in mind. The first, speaking electrically, is that the rails are simply extensions of the wire coming from the power pack to the electrical motor in the engine.
The second thing you will want to set up during your wiring is what is called the right hand rule. This simply means that when you view your layout from the power pack and with the direction switch pushed or turned to the right, the engine travels the track in a counterclockwise direction, to your right. Once you have the wires connected between the power pack and the rail to cause this direction of travel the outside rail is the positive (+) rail and the inside rail is the negative (-) rail. All two rail model railroad engines operated on DC (Direct Current) thus the use of the terms positive and negative.
You will need to be sure that any additional feeders to your layout are wired exactly the same or you will create a short circuit. The best way to make sure you are correctly wiring your layout is to use wire with two different colors of insulating jacket. We recommend the use of doorbell wire for any additional track wiring. Normally doorbell wire comes in small coils, in 25 to 50 foot coils, and with a red and a white insulating jacket. Use the red jacketed wire for your positive wire to the outside rail and the white for the negative wire to the inside rail. Also, doorbell wire is normally #18 US Wire Gauge wire which will handle any current draw on a model railroad. Common telephone wire can be to small to handle the current draw of even a small layout such as we are working with here depending on how many engines you decide to use at one time in the future.
There are several ways of connecting wires to the rail of a model railroad. The very best way is to solder the feeder wire to the outside of the rail as this makes the most positive electrical connection. However, there are several things to be taken into account when soldering wire directly to the rail and since this is just a basic layout we won't go into that until a major expansion. We suggest you visit your local hobby shop and purchase two sets of rail joiners that have the wires already attached. Or, if you have soldering equipment already available, you can simple make these up yourself by soldering the wire to the bottom of a rail joiner. The latter is preferred because you will be able to color code the rail joiners with the wire and now which one will need to be placed on the outside rail and which one goes to the inside rail. Many of the commercial pre-wired sets of rail joiners use the same color of wire on each joiner making it a little more difficult to figure out which rail joiner goes to which rail with out causing a short.
On this particular layout we suggest you put one set of feeders at the top of the dogleg and another set in the middle of the straight track directly across from the first set in the straight sections of track. Even if this layout is only going to be what you want to build and you don't want to expand it, we suggest you purchase an 8 place terminal block to connect all of the wiring to and not double wires up on the terminals of your power pack. The reason for this is all power packs vibrate from the AC current used in the transformer part of the power pack. This vibration can cause your wires to come loose causing un-needed problems and destroying the fun of watching your train run.
Terminal blocks/boards can be purchased at most hobby shops, electronic stores such as Radio Shack or at auto parts stores. To wire your feeders from the power pack to the terminal block simply strip back enough insulation on each wire so you can loop the wire from the first terminal screw of the positive half of the board to the second. Do the same for the negative wire. Then you can connect each set of track feeder wires to the screws opposite of the ones already used. This way no terminal screw has more than one wire connected to it.
If this is as far as you want to go with building a model railroad, great, enjoy watching your train run through the layout, the scenery and buildings you add. If you would like to do more with your layout than this, continue on to our expanded version of this same track plan and we will show you other things that can be done. The main purpose is for you and yours to enjoy the fun of model railroading.
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Page last updated December 22, 2000