Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Let's wire this up


I have to be honest, I hate wiring. It is the one area of building a model railroad that I always dread. Fortunately, after more than 30 years of working in N scale, I found soldering wires to HO scale track a breeze. Not only are the wires easier to conceal on a larger scale track, but the bigger sized rail made my 'bodgy' soldering skills even look half decent. When wiring a simple layout like this using PECO insulfrog turnouts, you only have to remember one thing, you need to position a positive and negative feeder wire at the throat of each series of turnouts (as shown above). As it turned out, I only needed to add two feeder points. One at each end of the layout.

I always solder my rail joins and find that I get years of trouble-free running.

I remember building my first layout back when I was 16. There were more dead spots on my track than dead phone reception areas in the outback. Along the way, someone suggested soldering each and every rail join to have perfect electrical continuity. It worked, and beginning with my C&NW exhibition layout back in the year 2000, I've done so ever since. Not being an expert on the subject however, I simply buy the general purpose flux core solder and use a do-it-yourself 'el-cheapo' soldering iron to get the job done. Holding an outstretched piece of the solder against the outside edge of each rail join, I simply place the hot tip of the soldering iron against it until a small dab melts between the tiny gap and the rail joiner.

I never said I was the world's best solderer, but using a file will soon conceal the mess.

My soldering skills usually fall somewhere in the vicinity of "well, that's not too bad", to "bloody hell!". So I need to take a little more care than most to file each join back until it resembles something more presentable. But, with no sleepers melted into a mess from holding the soldering iron in place against the rail for too long, I'd say I gave myself a pass mark on this project.

File each rail join smooth so that it will provide a flawless join for your locomotive to pass over.

A good rail join should always allow you to run your fingernail along the inside edge of the rail without it catching. If your fingernail jumps out from a poor rail join, then chances are, so will your locomotive each and every time it passes over the track. After a little filing, my soldered rail joins passed the test.

Power supply wires should be discreetly soldered to the rail. The wire to the left will be hidden once the track is ballasted.

I never like my power supply wires to be visible on a layout, but it isn't always easy when working in small scales. My example in the bottom left of the photo however will be fine once the sides of the rails are painted and the track is ballasted.

A blast from the past! The same power pack that ran my first train set back in 1979, powers the first train on Philden.

Getting Philden operational was a simple affair. Two sets of wires, both marked on the underneath of the layout with a band of red and yellow electrical tape, run beneath the layout and are soldered together in a loop that then attaches to the back of a power pack with a screw attachment. Later I will upgrade the layout to basic DCC operation when I'm ready to sound equip my locomotives, but for now it will do. As for that Hammant & Morgan Duette power pack? It was bought for me along with my first Hornby Railway OO train set back in 1979 by my late Grandmother. At the time I was just 9 years old, so there was a touch of sentimentality in letting it take control of the first train to run on my new HO layout some 36 years later. I'm sure my late Grandmother would approve.

The proof is in the locomotive headlights. Philden is now wired for action!

With the power connected, I placed my new 82 class locomotive on the track and fired her up, making sure I ventured over every piece of track-work on my layout to detect any trouble spots. Despite my own error in setting the road wrong the first time I crossed the double slip, it ran flawless, without so much as a headlight flicker. Now I can get to work on marking the clearances for the station, goods shed siding and cement works. So long as I can pull myself away from playing trains for the next couple of days. Oh well, whatever the case, that's a story for another day.


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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil