Maine Central, Lamoille Valley

Maine Central, Lamoille Valley
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I think it is safe to say that most (not all, but most) model railroaders do not enjoy wiring. It is one of those necessary tasks to make a model railroad work and increase the enjoyment. This means the wiring has to be done well of course! Personally, I don't mind doing wiring, but I can't say that I look forward to doing it. I have tried to keep the wiring installation concurrent with my track laying. This means putting in feeders on each track section and ensuring that connections to the bus wiring is made and tested right away. The pay-off is being able to run trains on new track sections right away, making the task a little more enjoyable. But, as the pictures in this post show, wiring in itself does not do much to make your layout look any better to you or your visitors.

I'm not fanatical about by wiring. Some guys do really nice jobs under the layout with labeling, routing and neatness, and I admire that. But I'm more functional and pretty much just use color coding to make trouble shooting a little easier. That's about it. I am, however, more particular about how the wiring looks above the benchwork. In that regard, I take care to solder my feeders to the underside if the rail so the connection is totally hidden once the track is ballasted. I also make sure that all pieces of rail get a feeder to ensure continuous electrical connection. Sometimes this seems like overkill, but it really makes a difference, especially when you operate sound-equipped locomotives.
Recently I made the decision to finish up some wiring work that I put aside in order to have other things completed in time for last year's open houses. This included dividing the layout into separate blocks and installing circuit breakers. I picked up a Tony's Train Exchange PSFour Intelligent Circuit Breaker last summer and decied it was time to get it installed. I also needed to complete the installation of some turnout decoders to complete the control of all installed Toroise switch machines. (This is a picture of one of the Digitrax DS44 turnout decoders (blue) installed on my layout)

I had already knew how I was going to split up the layout into blocks. Basically each "leg" of the E-shaped layout would be isolated. This meant that the LVRC section would be one block, the St. Johnsbury peninsula would be another section and MEC Whitefield/CP Rail Wells River section on the far wall would be the third block. I have found from operating experience that is nice to have separate operating areas under separate blocks so that one short doesn't interrupt other operators in another area. This left me with one circuit on the PSFour and I soon knew what I would use this for. With the layout under one block, if a short circuit occurred because a locomotive encroached on a turnout, I had no way to reverse the decoder controlled turnout to clear the short. By putting all of the Digitrax DS44 turnout decoders on their own circuit I was able to eliminate this issue across the entire layout.

What this meant is that I had to run a new bus wire just for the turnout decoders. I also needed to take the existing sets of bus wires and separate them out to the separate connections on the PSFour. This took 2 afternoon sessions to get completed, but everything went well and worked. I tested shorting out blocks to make sure trains in other areas continued to run. I also installed a center off switch to set up a programming track for locomotive decoders. The picture here shows the completed wiring of the Digitrax command station with the PSFour board attached to the shelf. This area is hidden by a layout skirt, but removing it gives me full and easy access. There are a set of leads I wired to a terminal block for remote LED short circuit indicators. These are real handy on my friend John Rahenkamp's (much larger) layout, so I know I want to have these installed in relevant areas on the layout. I just need to figure out the best spot for each one. That will be a wiring job for another day!