Don’t be Intimidated by all the Wiring!

I got down on my hands and knees to photograph some of the wiring needed to make the railroad run flawlessly every time for years to come. All the wiring seems intimidating at first but for the most part it is the same circuit repeating several times. I know DCC has nice sound capabilities and is basically a two wire system but I enjoy working with the wires knowing how it all works and being able to fix the problem without having to ship a module to the manufacturer. Some of the wiring is for directional LED’s on the control panels, switch machines, block feeds, etc… It’s also a good idea to have a wiring schematic or directory laid out before hand. I use mine as a guide to ensure all the connections are correct. If it doesn’t work on paper it probably won’t work on the railroad. It also helps identify all the connections and wires down the road when you want to change something.


These are my switch machines. They work every time with no chance of burn out. I also try and color code my wiring to help me sort out where the wires go.


Here is where most of the wires funnel into the main control panel or relay board.


A full view of the relay board which controls the operations of the main turnouts and LED’s on the control panel. The yard throttle can be seen on the right side.


This is the main control panel for the town and yard. It is laid out the same as previous control panels for a neat and clean consistent look.


These are the power packs that my Grandfather built for me. The two on the left are for the walk around throttles, the middle pack feed one yard throttle and feeds DC power to the blocks. The last pack on the right supplies reduced DC for the LED’s and turnout switch machines with an auxiliary for additional signals, crossings or building lights down the road.


12 responses to “Don’t be Intimidated by all the Wiring!

  1. the time spent detailing is so obvious…time should really be spent understanding the flow of current with future expansions in mind
    your handy work looks amazing
    great job Daryl

    Thanks Garry for the great comments.

  2. Hi, I’m trying to get a hold of the drawlings for wiring up LED on my control panel. Using them with Track switches, showing direction, blocks, on and off or red & green, and signials a long the lines. Can you help or point me in the right direction? Thank you.

    Thanks for your inquiry. A great resource that will help you out is I frequently visit the forums and get numerous ideas from the other members.

    Thanks again and have fun railroading

  3. is this basically all dc operation? I operate lionel on ac and was wondering about developing a control panel like yours. My layout isn’t too complicated at the moment but I do have many operating features that are dc current and have lionel operating accessories on simple on off switches and of course typical lionel switch mechanisms for their switches..any advice or links would be appreciated.


    Thanks for your comment. The layout is all DC. Making the control panel is the easy part. Making it all work properly and fit in the control panel is more challenging. I am not sure what voltage is used by your lionel equipment but the switches and push buttons could be made to function on DC. You would have to have a dc circuit if you wanted the LCD routing lights or you could use very small flashlight type bulbs. Check out as there is a lot of great information to be found that I am sure will assist you.

    Thanks again and have a great day

  4. Can you help please? At 87 I’m not as bright as I used to be. Consequently I cant fix a Peco turnout that shorts for no apparent reason. I have two complete tracks with turnouts to each and a third portion of track betweem them. When I switch the turnout to the third track, it shorts.
    The yards tracks with several turnouts works fine.

    Thanks for your comment. I am not sure what to say as I do all hand laid track. I would try subing out the problem turnout with another one to see if the problem remedies itself. Check the problem turnout for any metal particles that may be in between the tracks like a spike or soldier .
    Hope this helps.
    Thanks again and happy railroading

  5. How about locating blocks on DC common rail line. Also, for a siding do both rails have to be insulated? Where are insulators put, if any, in
    atlas or similar switches–for purpose of block isolation?

    Thanks for your inquiry. If the siding is not connected on the tail end then you do not need to gap the rails as the siding will take the polarity of the frog. The stock rail will be constant. If you are referring to a passing track then yes both tracks will need to be gaped in some form or you will have shorts if either turnout is reversed. I would put the gap if you needed one inside the foul limits as to allow an approaching train to stop before the foul limit without loosing power.
    Thanks again and have a great day.

  6. Maybe some of you experts can help, I’m building a large layout, which will be DC for now. My main line run is just under 200 feet, and my feeders are in place, but I’m in a quandary as to the number of bus wires I should run. I start off with four main tracks, which narrow down to three, then two and, finally back to three. My question is; should I use two buses for each main, or would one do? I plan to use a DC wireless control system for the time being.. I’ve gotten various opinions on this. Some say use one pair, others say one pair for each main.Also, I’ll be using #12 wire because of the length of mainline run. What say you?

    Thanks for your inquiry. I would not be able to help you as I do not use a computerized DC system. I would google your question as I am sure it has been asked before.
    Thanks again and I wish you all the best with your layout.

    • Depends on how you wire your track into blocks. A pair for each block, basically? I have 4 circuit-breakers (and two auto-reverse/circuit breakers for two short reversing sections) which will feed 14 blocks on an elongated figure-8, about 13 feet long. I am running a main from each breaker, with a feeder about every 6 feet to the tracks. Each main will feed a few blocks. (The largest of my small blocks – 8 foot max? – have a feeder-connection near each end.) A current-flow type block-detector on each block’s feeder will indicate whether electric flows through a particular track section. This way, I can detect each section of track, using fewer breakers. BTW, 12 AWG on the bus, 18-20 on the feeders should be fine. (I use DCC.)

      Thanks for your comment.

  7. I have a double main line with each line on a separate power supply, so I can run one train on each main line at the same time. I have a double crossover connecting the two main lines. Where do I have to insulate the 4 switches and the crossover track?

    Thanks for your question. If you can email me a track plan of this section I will show you.
    Thanks again and thanks for visiting.

  8. Hi Darryl, I also have a double crossover that I am having wiring for DCC I am using 4 Atlas switches and an Atlas crossover can you help with the wiring? Thanks John

    Thanks for stopping by. I use simple DC and not any of the new computerized systems so I am not sure what wiring is all involved in your situation. I would start with a google search. Sorry I can’t be of any decent help. Keep me posted.

  9. hi.please can you help i can run train in forward but when put in reverse i either get no power or intermitant power.hope you can hels.graham

    Thanks for stopping by. It sound like there may be a gearing problem or a burr on a gear or sprocket or simply needs some oil. I am not sure what type of drive your engine uses but is just sounds like it needs to be taken apart, cleaned up and a little oil added and I am sure it will be hauling loads in not time. Thanks again.

  10. Hi i am new to this model railway game and am confused when buying loco’s because some are advertised as a/c and some d/c will they all run on same lines with same controllers thanks ie latest hornby controller not dcc

    Thanks for stopping by. All engines to my knowledge are powered with DC, whether it be direct like in my case or controlled through a computerized controller. If an engine is listed as DCC ready, that means that the dcc control circuitry has already been installed. Otherwise it is simply a dc engine and you would have to install the controller system yourself. Since I do not use a computerized system, I am not too familiar with them or the Hornby system you mention. Sorry i can’t be of more help, but I appreciate you visiting.

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