Re: Keeping It All Nice Neat And Tidy!!

Steve Haas

<<When it comes to choosing how to bundle wires together, you do so by first identifying which of TWO GROUPS the layout wires fall into in terms of its function.>>


<<1) Power.   Any wire(s) that carry any form of power.   DCC track Power.  DC or AC Accessory Power, track drops, Turnout wiring (Frog, Switch Motor), Occupancy Detection Input (Track side). Structure lighting.>>


<<2) Control.  Any wire(s) that carry small control signals or functions.  DCC Cab/Throttle bus,  Signals, Occupancy Detection output (Control side).>>


<<It is NEVER MIX 120VAC or House Hold AC power with LAYOUT WIRING of any kind.  Layout wiring is all LOW VOLTAGE.    AC House Power is HIGH VOLTAGE.  The former is safe to touch.  The latter is not.>>



I concur with Mark on most of this, with one exception: DCC track power carries a signal and therefore should be separate from other wiring.


Here’s my perspective:


1)      As Mark says, always separate your high voltage (110/220) voltage from everything else,

2)      Separate track buses from all other wiring, A good location for track buses (everything from the booster out to the track) is at the back of the layout (thinking walk around here).  While either twisting wires, keeping them together by some other means, or keeping them far enough apart to cause problems are all acceptable, keeping them together is neater and frees up space under the layout.

3)      Separate cab bus from all other. Jacks for cabs are typically on the fascia, putting the cab bus near the fascia keeps it close to where it is used.

4)      All other – typically your AC and DC supplies for building lighting, etc.

5)      Wire routing:

a.  Avoid spaghetti wiring – wiring bundles should always follow the structural members of your layout – an example: along L-girder, then up to a joist and along that joist to a riser, up the riser to the roadbed, then along the roadbed to the point where the feeders drop down through the roadbed. If you run a local track bus, the feeders from your local distribution point to the track block should follow a similar route to the local track bus and then feeders dropped down to the that local track bus from the rail above.

b.  Always anchor wiring bundles where they turn (say from a joist to a riser).  

c.  Wiring should also have anchor points before they are attached to a device (signal, switch machine, stationary decoder, terminal strip, etc.) These anchors prevent a any tug on the wire somewhere out on the layout from causing a break of some type (broken sold joint, wire pulled from screw terminal, damage to device).

d. There is strength in numbers: always bundle wires of a like type.  I do a lot of electrical work on a DCC layout that was originally wired by folks without a lot of knowledge.  Retrofitting the layout has been a bit of a challenge.  In order to get the layout up the a desired level of DCC performance we’ve had to do a lot of rework, and sometimes one has to implement a temporary solution on the way to a permanent one.  In this case, we have often used scrap ends from surplus telephone cables to provide temporary cabling.  Once the layout has fully transitioned, the wire scraps will be replaced by more permanent cabling methods.

6)      Except for modules, I would discourage the practice of drill holes through joists or other framing materials (with the exception of holes through the road bed for track feeders and other equipment located on the surface of the layout).  Drill such holes is extra work. Routing wires through those holes results in the inability to easily re-route wires when needed – particularly if the wire in question is a track bus and has feeders soldered or otherwise connected to it – all those feeder joints need to be undone in order to move the bus.


Some one also mentioned the need to trace wires. One should never have to trace wires more than once. If you have wired correctly, you have documented your connections as you go. If you didn’t, the first time you have to trace a wire you should document it and never have to trace it again.


As a hobby, we seem to have lost sight of good wiring procedures over the years. If you want some good resources for “wiring right”, I recommend the following:


1)      Bill McClanahan’s “Wiring for Model Railroads” (Kalmbach),

2)      Any/All of Linn Westcott’s wiring articles in the 60’s and 70’s, and

3)      Both Volumes of Paul Mallory’s “Electrical Handbook for Model Railroads”.


While I suspect these are all out of print, they can be found occasionally on the used book markets, and they provide vital insight into how to do it, and more importantly, _Why_ you should do it right.


In closing, I’ll say that the smaller the layout, the less one needs to pay attention to this. However, as soon as one gets beyond a simple module or the classic  4 x 8, one needs to design, install and document.


It is also interesting that if one does it right to begin with, one rarely has to maintain things – the more you plan for the ease of maintenance down the road, the less you actually have to maintain things.


Food for thought.


Best regards,


Steve Haas

Snoqualmie, WA





On Mar 19, 2016, at 9:53 AM, SBB_BLS_Bahnen@... [WiringForDCC] <WiringForDCC@...> wrote:

I've found Velcro tape to work quite well. I cut short strips, and screw them to the benchwork. It's really easy to bundle the wires with them, and quick and easy to separate them again if you need to work on them.

Timothy A Johnson, Tucson, AZ (
European Train Enthusiasts, Central Arizona Chapter (


---In WiringForDCC@..., wrote :

Another option for a small project is Velcro tape.


Best Regards,


Mark Gurries

Electrical Engineer

DCC Website & NMRA DCC Clinics:



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