Sunday, February 11, 2001

New layout electronics, wiring, and control panel

And I really got into the electronics and wiring this time, including TMCC.

Ross switches are operated by Tortoise slow-motion switch machines mounted under the table.There are 4 power drops for each main loop, which provides a power drop every 6-7 track joints throughout the layout. A common 12-gauge ground bus wire was run under the layout to ease the wiring task, with 14-gauge used for the power drops and control panel switches. 18-22 gauge wire was used for the Tortoise switch motors.

I recommend the use of crimp connectors and terminal strips, but discourage the use of "tap-in" type insulation displacement connectors. 12 and 14-gauge wire proved too big to consistently crimp successfully.

The layout is currently powered by an MTH Z-4000 and (2) Lionel PowerHouses paralleled together and running through an IC Control TPC3000.

My biggest undertaking was the custom control panel I designed and built. It took a couple months to figure out, design, and build because I could not dedicate a lot of time to it and it was the first time I ever did anything on this scale.I printed the track layout on acid free RC paper and sandwiched it between 2 sheets of thin plexiglass. I then went about drilling and filing the more than (50) ¼" holes using a glass cutting bit. I then mounted the miniature toggle switches and LED holders and LED's for the switches and power.

I used pine to make a box and stained and polyurethaned it. I really like the way it came out.

You can see some of the tedious soldering and wiring on the underside of the control panel. I had to hook all those mini toggle switches up to 14-gauge wiring in a lot of cases!

The power blocks use DPDT center off toggles rated for 10 AMPs. I used DPDT switches rated for 6 AMPs for the Tortoise switch motors, and the center lead from each went through a dual-color LED in an LED holder mounted in the plexiglass.

I'm sure it doesn't meet UL Listed standards but it did work perfectly without modification since installation.Wiring was routed through the back of the control panel to the terminal blocks under the layout.

Wires were numbered using stick-on labels.

Saturday, January 20, 2001


So I took a break for a year or two and studied up.

The new layout begins...

The 12'x12' basement layout was constructed using 2x4 framing and 3/4" plywood covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting with 4x4 pressure-treated legs. The layout will have (3) connected mains, a passing siding on main 1, (6) dog-leg sidings to park motive power, and a 5-track yard. There are about 20 Ross Custom Switches and 20 blocks. The track is Gargraves Phantom Rail and Ross pre-formed sectional curves laid on Hobby Innovations Vinylbed. The minimum radius is O-54, but there will be (2) O-42 switches in the yard. The 4x4 hole in the middle provides access for maintenance and track cleaning. And most importantly, NO GRADES!