Helpful Tips for Model Railroad Wiring

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Wiring for a model railroad layout – it‘s a subject that can be easy or complicated. I like to manage my wiring so that later on, if need be, I’ll be able to trace each wire back to its source.

Years ago, I developed my own personal wiring color codes along with standardized schematics for repetitious situations that I keep in a “my layout” notebook along with my other layout information. Wire gauge standardization is important, too, as a function of wire length and electrical current considerations. More length and/or more current require a heavier gauge wire.

Related video: Wiring a Model Railroad Track

On large layouts, I’ve used buss wire up to 12-gauge (stranded for easier installation) and down to 22-gauge solid wire track feeders that solder to the outside of the rail, hardly seen. That includes the code 55 rail that I use for my Sn3 trackage. And, I’m a fan of using labeled terminal strips at wire junctions to avoid the “What is this wire for?” problems.

Related video: Model Railroad Wiring Considerations

I like to string wiring neatly into bundles that are tie-wrapped and hung through or under the benchwork, avoiding access areas. Buss wires for track feeders should ideally be run under the primary trackage, enabling the use of short, light gauge feeder wires up to the rails.

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In the old days, block wiring required a feed wire from a control panel to each block. In a large layout, that could add up to a lot of wire! Remember the old “spaghetti bowl” wiring scenarios? If you add switch control wiring, along with signal and accessory wiring, you could end up with a real mess! One of the great benefits of DCC is wiring simplification. I know, I’ve done it both ways!

My suggestion is to be as logical as possible when installing wiring so you don’t end up pulling your hair out later. If you have any specific wiring questions, leave us a comment below or feel free to email me directly at doug@modelrailroadacademy.com. I’d love to talk with you.

More in this series:

So You Want to Build a Model Railroad Layout?
Choosing Model Railroad Track Configurations
Assigning a Theme for Your Model Railroad Layout
Ideas for Unique Layout Concepts
Tips on Trackwork
Helpful Tips for Model Railroad Wiring
Creative Ideas for Model Railroad Structures

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