N Scale T-Trak

billmtx Oct 28, 2010

  1. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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  2. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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  3. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Okay, I remember that now. Cool!


     
  4. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    So tonight I got some time to mess with my T-Trak modules… at least a couple of them. My branchline was causing some issues at the last show, and also it’s first show too but I was at the first show and was able to get it good. Anyway I found that there was an open circuit on the red line from one end to the other, on the outer rail, and really high resistance on the inner rail. The yellow line seemed fine. When joined with my front to back modules there was really high resistance on the red line when measured from plug to plug (the plugs are on the front to back modules, there is no direct connection on the branchline. I discovered the point of failure as a rail joiner that wasn’t happy. And since I was unable to remove the tracks as they were glued down, I was left with soldering them. So I did, and now the resistance between the plugs is 0 ohms. Perfect.

    I also made a new wiring harness for this setup, as I didn’t realize I didn’t have one till we were at the show. Oops! I designed this harness to work as an extension as well as feeding the modules their power. I wrapped them in the blue/black wrap I have used on all my other harnesses and called it a day!

    And lastly I made sure all my harnesses were compatible with each other. I have a total of 3 of them now, and any of the 3 can plug into the command center on one end, and each other at their ends… perfect!

    Here is the new harness, sorry for the bad lighting, if yo want I can get a better pic in the morning.
    D2023D6C-DD7C-46F4-85F1-505675BD7C77.jpeg
     
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  5. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    Got some module work done today. My 4 corners now have track and are good to go. I opted not to add wiring to these modules, they will be passive.

    6FE15046-D7B4-45A3-9A65-114DF003CB69.jpeg
     
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  6. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    Ok so I have been asked by a few people how I make my wiring harnesses for my T-Trak modules. So while not a how-to on building them, it is a bit of an explanation.

    First off the materials:
    I use flexible silicone wire from Amazon (pic below) in 16g.
    Anderson Powerpoles. I get the real deal here, the cheaper knock offs are not that great, plus Anderson has a much better barrel in the connector that holds the wire better. The connector pieces are also silver coated for better conductivity. The knock-offs are usually just thin brass with a nickel coating (not much different from automotive crimp connectors)
    Wire wrap, 1/2” and I use blue/black. This stuff comes in many colors if the blue isn’t your thing. I have 1/2” for 4 to 8 wire bundles and 1/4” for 2 wire bundles.
    Shrink tubing and electrical tape
    Solder. I do not use twist links, or those suitcase taps, they are just not reliable enough.

    So for the 16g wire I use the 15amp power pole pieces. This requires me to twist the wire pretty tight to get it in the crimp end but that only helps with the holding power of the crimp. I use an industrial grade crimp tool as well. This tool does cost more than the average crimp tool at the auto part stores, but the quality of the job is worth every penny. (See tool below). I cut the wires to size and strip about 1/4” of insulation from the end. Twist tight and work the wire into the crimp end carefully to avoid strands from escaping. I found that twisting the wire as you insert it helps prevent this.

    At this point you can also do the same thing to the other end, but do not insert the ends into the plastic housings. Figure out how long the jumpers are going to need to be to access the module and also where in the main harness are they going to be attached. Prep the jumpers the same as the main pieces by crimping one end in but the other end we will want to tin with solder.

    To tin the ends, I found using a high wattage iron, or a solder station turned up hot will allow you to get in and out fast. I also use paste flux and dip the end to solder into it to get a light coating on the wire. Put some solder on the tip of the iron (clean with a wet sponge if needed) and then apply to the wire. Add more solder as needed to get a nice smooth coating on the wire.

    Using a sharp razor blade cut out a section of insulation about 1/4” long where you want to add the jumper wires. Give the main wire a bit of a twist to tighten up the strands, then using a small screw driver wipe some paste flux on the bare patch of wire you just exposed. Tin as before. Now you simply add a bit more solder to the tip of the iron and link the jumper to the main harness. Make sure there is a good solid connection and the solder flows through both sides of the connection. Once cooled wrap in electrical tape to prevent a short. Do the same to the rest of the wires but make sure to keep them roughly in the same spot.

    Once you get all the pieces made, it’s time to wrap the wires and make them look pretty. For each section of your harness you will want to cut 2 pieces of heat shrink tubing that is large enough to go over the wire bundle and the wrap. Depending on how thick and long the wiring harness is will determine the length of the wrap. The thicker the harness the longer wrap will need to be. Insert the wires into the wrap all at once, and feed the wires all the way through. Depending on the size of the shrink tubing you may need to insert that first. Once the wrap is on and inside the tubing on the “bottom” end, put the second piece of tubing on the “top”. Now we can insert the plastic housing pieces on the wires. Black to black, and red wire to whatever color you choose for your lines. Mine are yellow and red.

    Wiggle and position the wrap and shrink tubing so that the tubing covers the wrap and the wires at the same time, I use a heat gun at this point to shrink the tubing. Using a flame may cause the wire wrap to melt and leave holes in it. You can also forgo the shrink tubing and wrap the ends with electrical tape, but this doesn’t look as good. Also you will want to wrap the points of the harness where the wires split off with electrical tape to create a distinct “Y” which will help prevent things from coming apart later.

    Arrange the power poles to meet your wiring needs. In my case my harnesses have an input and an output side. The input will plug into any of the outputs from other harnesses, but will not plug into modules correctly. This prevents accidental shorts from plugging something in the wrong way. If the colors match, the wiring is good. I use a multimeter to determine which wires are common, and make sure to match each one up.

    Lastly finish each leg of your harness as described above and most of all enjoy running trains. Following this method will help take the worry of wiring out of the T-trak layout.

    Finished product.
    5C0A32BD-450E-4695-8561-7FA070EE3602.jpeg

    Here is the wire, available at Amazon
    FFB7A6EC-CA7F-4935-93ED-A77534E60DC2.jpeg


    Here is the wrap, also from Amazon
    34428BC0-BDA0-4B9F-A1CF-61E4EB6F891F.jpeg F54EE4C9-4DE9-43E9-B82A-FFCDBB927646.jpeg

    Here is the crimp tool.
    E51A0EC7-AB28-4F2F-B458-E218A7BCB42E.jpeg

    And if you are still with me, I really appreciate it but I have a few more tidbits that simply make life a bit easier. First off all my modules use a 2x2 power pole socket where the harness plugs into. This makes life easy. Under the module I use terminal strips that correspond to the number of lines (usually 2 lines so 4 terminals) that allow me to make changes to the wiring simply by loosening screws and moving them to a different socket. To make movements over and over again the ends of the Kato wires need to be protected. I accomplished this with ferrules. I crimp a ferrule to the ends of the wires so the crimp action of the screws doesn’t hurt the wire. This also produces a much better connection. See the tools and pics below.

    Ferrules
    8DF8F116-3ECA-4B86-B9CC-6F8206C77957.jpeg


    4 Jaw ferrule crimp tool
    793CBD52-DC90-45F7-8020-98C514727FA3.jpeg

    And the underside of my module showing the terminal strips.
    42EDBC76-2728-44D0-B8A9-E19C66918904.jpeg

    hope you all enjoyed, and while I intended this to be short, it ended up being long any way.
     
  7. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    I do find the wire wrap interesting and the second crimper as well. Now were to find them.
    Would have to find out more about the ferrules first.
    More to do some day.
    Now it's off to get a flu shot. :eek:

    Rich
     
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  8. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    I think I got the tool off EBay, but they are common and can be had at fry’s (if there is still one near you), or Amazon too. Sometimes you can get them in a kit with the ferrules too.
     
  9. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Fry's is now history. All the stores have closed.
    I found out what the ferrules are and the tools to crimp them on. Also found two dealers to buy directly. Plane and productive.
    Back when I was more involved I would just solder the ends for that results.
    I also found the wire wrap I believe your using from a dealer.
    Thanks again for helping bring into the future.

    Rich
     
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  10. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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    We went to the Fargo, ND Spud Valley Model Railroad club show last weekend and had a good time. The local T-Trak club had their layout up and running, with more to come.

    PIC_0160.JPG PIC_0162.JPG

    And the video,
     
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  11. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    OK, so I created some footage of me building some pieces of my T-Trak wiring a while back that I never made into a video. Here I decided to finally make that video. This shows the basics of how I make the harnesses while I am making one of the smaller ones that go under my branchline and Front to back modules. I used this part because it shows the ferrules as well as the Anderson PowerPoles. I choose to use the ferrules for a few reasons. First off they are cheap and easy to use, secondly they are much easier than tinning them with solder. Another advantage is they are stronger than the solder so compressing them in screw terminals doesn't cause any damage, and they can be used over and over and moved as needed. Solder is soft and will crush, making it hard sometimes to reuse more than once or twice. All and all enjoy!


     
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  12. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the video. It has helped answer some questions I was about to ask and a few I hadn't thought of yet.
    I have used similar but more rugged processes for wiring cars, trucks and motorcycles. And some in electronics and home construction.
    ;)

    Rich
     

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