Help! A Beginner's Wiring Confusion

jshglass Oct 27, 2017

  1. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    First off, I'd like to thank those of you who've already been extremely helpful in the beginning stages of my 2'x3' Z scale layout. You've all given me a lot of great information. But for all of the clarity I gained, there's that much more confusion. I know this is kind of a long post, but getting these questions answered will clear up most of my beginner's confusion.

    Now that the first steps of my benchwork are complete, it's time to start laying track and wiring things up. I've been thinking about my industries a lot and how they will determine the end result, but I would like to run my original track plan by you all, the experts, before I solidify too many aesthetic details.

    Essentially, what I've thought up is a two loop system connected by two turnouts with a shunting yard in the inner circle. (See attached image.) There are four blocks connected by a common rail (in black); the two main loops (red, blocks 1 and 2), the yard (green, block 3), and the crossover between the two main lines (blue, block 4). Each block is separated where you see yellow highlighted lines. This is where I will attach insulated rail joiners on the non-common rail. Before I ask about my wiring plan, does this track plan present any challenges I should know about?

    I'm going to have to build this in stages, for sure, due to the high cost of the track. Any recommendations on where I should start? Innerloop? Outerloop? OR Do you think I could construct the main track sections in flex track? That would save some coin, no?

    Thanks to @tracktoo I think the best option for a delicate and integrated control is this one from Medvend connected to a variable power supply (10V); especially because I want to make this a mobile layout. So here we go with my novice-level questions:
    • When I wire this up to each block, should I just use regular Atlas block selectors? Or is there another brand/type to consider? Perhaps one I can integrate more seamlessly into my control panel?
    • Do I need Block 4 at all? I'm not reversing any polarities, nor do I plan on running two locos on the same loop.
    • I opted not to make the little single track turnout on the left a separate block. I figured if I store a loco there it won't run once the turnout is thrown back to the mainline. Right?
    • I connected each controller to separate ports of the selector per the schematic from an Atlas wiring guide. Did I do the right thing?
    • Are there any glaring issues with my wiring?
    • Do I need to run a bus wire for a layout this small?
    • What gauge wire would you all recommend for Z scale loco operation? I know turnouts are different, and I ask about those below.
    • The only problem with this layout I can see is if I choose to run my locos in opposite directs on each loop and decide to cross one of them over.

    At the moment, I do not have a plan to wire up any turnouts. I could throw them manually, but where's the fun in that? Given the type of controller I plan on using, I'll need to use a separate power supply for all of my turnouts. This might be a later stage of the build, but I figured I'd ask these questions now in case I can do it all at once.
    • What products should I look into using since I don't plan on using a "normal" power supply for this project? According to this page, I should use a springloaded mechanism to not burn up the turnout motor. Is there another way?
    • What gauge wire is needed to throw turnouts?
    • How many volts are needed? Fewer than loco operation, I assume.
    • It's my understanding turnouts and other accessories use AC. Can I use the same power supply to run my turnouts and any lighting I put into the layout?
    If you made it this far in my post, thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.

    Looking forward to all of your responses.

    Thanks,
    Josh
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  2. Greg Elmassian

    Greg Elmassian TrainBoard Member

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    First comments, no you don't need block 4. Also, make block 3 only the "yard" do not include part of the mainline. If you were to include part of the mainline, you would include the part "west" so if you are doing switching, as the loco pulls the train to clear the yard switches, the loco can stay in the same block on the main.

    Greg
     
  3. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    Makes perfect sense, Greg. Thank you.

    Other than that, does this look right?
     
  4. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    Update:
     

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  5. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Whether switches cut off power to the track beyond depends on the switch. Some do, some don't.
     
  6. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    I assume an insulated frog will not. No?
     
  7. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    First, on your update, you still show block 3 extending into the mainline. I presume you don't want that. Block 3 should just be the yard beyond the left-hand switch.

    The frog, itself, doesn't really determine whether a switch is power routing or not. Typical Atlas HO and N scale snap switches have insulated frogs and both branches are powered all the time. In fact, switches with all-metal frogs pretty much have to be power-routing unless gaps are cut in all around to isolate the frog. But, to really determine what a given switch does, you need to find out from literature or the manufacturer.

    Doug
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
    acptulsa likes this.
  8. zscaler

    zscaler TrainBoard Member

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    Isolate 1 and 2 between the switches. Isolate 3 just into the yard. Then you have two separate loops. Isolating 3 gives you a place to park an engine. Also use double throw center off switches and get a second power supply. Then you could run an outside train and do some switching into the yard. The track feed comes off the center post and the two power packs connect to the other ends. Then you could park an engine anywhere using the center off feature. The common rail will work great.
    Later you could go to DCC and just remove the switches.
     
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  9. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    BTW, I like your little layout. It is very similar to my Treble-O-Lectric layout.

    Doug
     
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  10. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    Actually, he shows an Atlas selector which is 4 SPDT, center off, switches and he shows two packs, "A" and "B" so he has two train capability.

    Good advice on keeping the crossover switches and putting insulating joiners in the crossover rails. In fact, without the joiners, those two blocks are actually just one big block if nonpower-routing switches are used.

    Doug
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  11. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the shoutout on my track plan. I think it's pretty interesting for such a small surface area...if I do say so myself. :)

    I've taken all the advice from above and redrew my blocks. (Did things in pencil now so I don't have to keep redrawing things.) Why are there three positions for the Atlas selector? Isn't the direction controlled by the three-position switch on my CABS?

    Speaking of which, can I not plug the two CABS into the same port? Splice the wires so I only have to buy one power supply?

    How's this look? It still feels a little wonky, and I'm still not sure how I'm going to wire up the turnouts.

    @zscaler - is this what you were describing between blocks 1 and 2?
     

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  12. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Why are they three-position switches? The three positions are Cab One-Off-Cab Two.
     
  13. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    Ohhhhhh duh
     
  14. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    :) There are no stupid questions.

    Or, rather, there's only one stupid question: Why didn't I ask questions before I smoked the motor in my new locomotive?!
     
  15. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    Yeah, they're so you can completely disconnect any of the blocks by centering the slide switch.

    Usually, a "cab" is a self-contained power pack and you don't need any external power supply. However, you could have one supply and the cabs could just be speed controllers both connected to the power supply. The units must all be common rail compatible.

    Doug
     
  16. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    Here is my Treble-O-Lectric layout I mentioned. Please excuse the mess. It's in a different place now:


    P1030474.JPG
     
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  17. markm

    markm TrainBoard Supporter

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    Josh,
    You ask a whole bunch of questions, let me try to cover some of the ones that haven't been answered.

    Regarding track, a I recall you are using Märklin turnouts and track. Yes you could use the Atlas flex track for most of the layout, although I'd suggest using it only to replace the straight sections. Doing flex curves can get complicated and you are probably better off using the Märklin sectional curves for your first layout. Also be aware that there are differences is the tie sizes and spacing between the U.S. and non-U.S. track (matching the prototypes):
    tie pitch.jpg

    You may not like the mixing the types.

    I am assuming that you want to run two independent trains (one on each oval). The Märklin turnout (like most in Z) are non-power routing, meaning both directions on the turnout are powered regardless of the position. So you siding and yard would be always powered. This also means you must isolate the turnouts. For the siding, you would have to isolate it from the Märklin turnout and run a switch to it. Also I like your idea for block 4. This allows you to build a train from the yard onto the inner oval and move it to the outer oval using throttle A. Then switch over the block 4 to B to run on the outer oval. I've attached a modification of your original drawing: orange marks where you need to isolate both rails and green indicate the A-off-B switch connection. Also, you do not want to use a common connection out of the throttles. If you change direction (polarity) on one of the throttles, you suddenly have + connected to -...not good. If interested I can go into more detail.


    As for wire size, as I recall the Atlas rail joiners are about AWG 18 which is more than enough for a layout your size.

    Hopes this helps,

    Mark
     

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  18. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    I think most power packs are made so there will be no shorts, regardless of train direction, using common rail circuits but, yes, you want to be sure by reading literature or asking the manufacturer.

    Doug
     
  19. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Mark,

    I realized soon after my updated track plan that I needed to insulate the inner and outer loops on the crossover tracksw. I did not, however, think about what you said concerning my common rail wiring. Should I just attach two common wires to each common rail; one from each throttle? This will, of course, mean I'll need to be careful not to have two trains on the same loop, even in different blocks. Does this also mean I can't connect my throttles to the power supply the way I currently have it set up? Or does this only become an issue in the output?

    If you look a few posts up, I have a second update on my track/wiring plan with new assigned blocks.

    Thanks again,
    Josh
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
  20. jshglass

    jshglass TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, Doug, but I'm not using conventional power packs for this layout, rather basic speed controllers from Medvend. Just basic electronics there, so I think I might need to reconfigure my common rail connections.
     

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