A friend has been debating the advantages/otherwise of DCC over analogue control. He’s uncertain about how to wire his layout for analogue but having difficulties getting his locos to run reliably with witchcraft.

There’s really nothing complicated about low voltage wiring for model railway layouts. I’d check everything three times when working with mains power but trial and error is as good as any other method when messing about with electric string under the baseboard.


As seen above, the Pampa y Fernandez has grown to be quite an extensive layout but it operates (as do all my layouts) on simple 12vDC power. There are three controllers, two at Centrales and one at Cuarto de Pulgada.

electrickery-1Controllers 1 and 2 at Centrales

Controller 1 at Centrales provides juice for the low level line between there and the staging yard beyond Frog Rock. Controller 2 powers the upper line from Centrales to Cuarto de Pulgada. The switches beside the controllers are redundant, they used to be connected to the off stage traverser at Centrales but this has been replaced with cassettes which need no additional wiring.

electrickery-3An off stage cassette, connected to the layout using prongs which provide both alignment and electrical continuity.
electrickery-7Crocodile clips used on the low level staging traverser.

The low level traverser has built in switching, using crocodile clips to select the required track as shown in the wiring diagram below.


A double pole/double throw switch at Cuarto de Pulgada is used to select track power either from controller 2 at Centrales (for arrivals and departures) or from the local controller (for shunting).


The spaghetti underneath the baseboard looks complicated but it just boils down to six wires to/from the terminals on the DPDT connecting to the track and controllers.


Three simple on/off switches are used to isolate the tracks in the terminus, allowing the shunting loco and two trains to be in the station at the same time.


At the end of the line there is a turntable. These can be wired with a split ring to automatically reverse the track polarity as the deck is rotated,


but it’s easier to just use a two pin plug and swap it round to match the orientation of the turntable.

I’ve been twisting bits of wire together, and burning my fingertips on a soldering iron, for a long time. I still get it wrong occasionally (see previous blog entry) but the cut-outs on the controllers let me know when I have. There’s nothing to be scared of with layout wiring though, you’re not going to blow the world up with 12 volts/1 amp of direct current!

However, the layout lighting runs on mains power, which is to be treated with respect. I have used extension leads from plug sockets at each end of the layout providing power to commercially available domestic lighting appliances varying from reading lamps to inspection lights. The mains leads are kept safely out of the way but easily accessible so that they can be replaced if necessary. One of the leads also feeds a hidden plug socket between Resurreccion and Centrales so that power tools can be used for layout maintenance without trailing leads across the garage floor.

stop board


About Bob Hughes

Ex railwayman, life long railway modeller, lover of real ale and spicy food.
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