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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  09:27:58 AM  Show Profile  Visit ELNScale's Homepage
I'm using DCC and my new layout will be too. The old layout was converted to DCC from DC and so I basically just powered up all of the blocks. For the new layout it will be done the "right" way, using buses and feeders.

For the wiring, I'm planning on 12 or 14 guage bus and 20 guage feeders.

What do you recommend and why WRT to solid or stranded wire?

Does the choice of wire make a difference if you are soldering to the bus versus using something like a POSI-TAP (

Country: USA | Posts: 558


Posted - 2006 November 25 :  09:36:59 AM  Show Profile
I say use stranded 12 for the buses
Current is carried on the surface of the wire. The more surface area, the more current that can be carried. However, the thinner the strands, the more heat is generated under high current loads. This is why houses use solid wire. For your purposes, this won't be an issue unless you plan to fry your DCC station; by the time you have the wire heating up you won't have any DCC equipment left.
Therefore stranded is the way to go for buses because it has less voltage drop.

For your feeders, use solid wire because it is easier to solder to the track.

I would suggest keeping some blocks because that way it is easier to troubleshoot problems.

We will fight
Or we will fall
'Till the angels save us all

Hollywood Undead, Young

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  09:47:19 AM  Show Profile

For the bus on my new RR I have gone with 14gauge stranded wire. For me I found that the flexability of stranded over solid was the main deciding point. According to ALL of the electrical references I have checked at the frequencies DCC operates there is no skin effect with using stranded.
For drops I have used a mix of solid and stranded, as I use up my stash of wire I am replacing the wire used for drops with solid. I find that I can bend it to a shape and hold it in place better when I am soldering.
I solder my drops to the bus wires and have had no problems. I have a clamp and cut type of insulation stripper that allows me to strip a 1/4" to 1/2" of insulation where I need to connect a drop, the process is quick and cost free.

Do your part buy stuff!

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  11:47:46 AM  Show Profile
Quickest way ever to start a war is to ask this question. That said, I will jump in anyway. It is all a matter of personal choice to me. I have worked for years with both stranded and solid and had lots of hands on type schools. The simple answer to me is that they both have their advantages and disadvantages. For layout size wiring jobs there is little difference in the current carried at these frequencies. I look at what industry uses that work rather than getting bogged down in hi level theory. For things that need to be flexible like cars and boats, stranded is the choice. The wiring is cheaper and still accessible to repair when needed. Also one might keep in mind there is a whole industy dealing with the repairs. For things that need to last for forty years like houses, solid is the norm. Solid strips, cleans, and tins easier to solder as well as taking smaller size wire for a given current capacity. Some like stranded because they feel it will be less likely to break if snagged. Some like solid because it can be bent to hold a shape better. It depends on where and how you build your layout which you will find better. Portable layouts or ones where there is a lot of activity where the wires are located, I would use stranded in some places. If there is to be no moving around the wires once finished I would use solid. Now let the wars begin in earnest. My two cents are said.

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  11:57:03 AM  Show Profile
Originally posted by Iain

I say use stranded 12 for the buses
Current is carried on the surface of the wire. The more surface area, the more current that can be carried. However, the thinner the strands, the more heat is generated under high current loads. ...


Have you taken physics yet?

It is the total cross sectional area that determines current capacity, not surface area. If the scenario you descrbed were true, high current conductors would be tubular to increase the surface area, as air is far cheaper than copper.

As far as layout wiring, use what you feel comfortable with.

Rod Schaffter
C'mon in! Sit a spell...

On your Layout, do what you think is fun. If it doesn't work, fix it and learn from the experience so you will have fun next time. It's your Railroad.

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  12:12:58 PM  Show Profile  Visit TrainCat2's Homepage
I tend to be old school in this subject. I prefer solid #12 wire for my busses in a non-portable layout. I place feeders from the buss spaced 5ft apart and use solid Telco wire. Easy to strip and solder to the rail web or bottom. Telco wire, if bought in 25 pairs can be useful since each piece is color coded. Solid color/white stripe go to "hot rail" and white/color stripe goes to "ground rail". Makes things easy while under the benchwork.

Bob Knight

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Lou D

Posted - 2006 November 25 :  12:27:48 PM  Show Profile
Actually,you're both right.Current does flow more freely on the surface of the wire,but not exclusively.Stranded flows the current faster,with less resistance,but the differences are so miniscule,it means nothing.The biggest advantage of current flow in stranded VS. solid is at the solder joints,where stranded is better,because the solder makes a bigger footpring on the wire end connection,with lower resistance.This too,means just about nothing in applications with the power requirements of a model railroad.In RC car racing,we use 12-14 guage wire on the batteries,with strands like hairs,just because of that reason,but that's in a 100+ amp application.Use solid in stationary applications where the wire never moves and receives little abuse,and soldering ease is desired,such as track jumpers.Use stranded for hooking up transformers and switches.Pretty much use whichever feels right,and don't worry about it.

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  12:33:44 PM  Show Profile  Visit Zug's Homepage
I use two standard 14 AWG house wite fore the bus. One is DCC, the other is DC for building lights and electronis. and i use the ground (bare wire) from each bus cable to run AC for the switch machines. So 6 wires in total.. THen I use 20 or 22 AWG for feeders.. I like solid best because it's easier to push in holes..


author of ZugDCC - Simply the best software for Lenz ExpressNet *

Country: Canada | Posts: 1033 Go to Top of Page

Bill Pearce

Posted - 2006 November 25 :  12:42:56 PM  Show Profile
First, skin effect is frequency dependant. At the frequencies we have with dcc, skin effect is insignificant. Second, quite a few years ago, my father, a structural engineer in the aircraft industry, calculated the surface area of solid household wire (12-16 guage) versus the comparable stranded, and found that there was more surface area in the solid. To gain surface area, super fine stranded is required.

I used 12 guage solid for the busses, as it is readily available in big box home centers, and is the least expensive. I like how you can form it and it stays put. I then ran short lengths of 16ga. stranded from the bus to the block switches, and to the track feeders, which are short lengths of 22 ga.

Don't seem to have problems.

Bill Pearce

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  1:12:05 PM  Show Profile
To tell the truth, the biggest reason I used stranded buses on my old layout is that I got my hands on a largish roll of stranded 14-2 for a dollar. Best deal I have ever gotten on wire. Really, my deciding factor initially was the cheap wire. I had a setup where the black wire was a common and the other two wires (white and ground) carried the two cabs as I used DC. With DCC I would ground the ground. This would cut down on interference with the DCC signal. This is actually a problem around here as a local radio station run by a bunch of arrogant jerks causes interference all over the place; the FCC dosn't care enought to do anything about it despite even Newport's government complaining.

I will also admit that despite theory my next layout may be wired with solid 14-3 because I can get it for next to nothing, once again showing that cost is my biggest concern. The 14-3 can carry two DC cabs and an extra AC circuit that can supply lights, switches, and even be rectified and controlled by a pot for local use, ie yards, staging, etc.

Oh yeah, 22 guage solid feeders for me becuse I can get the wire for them for free. I happen to have a length of decomissioned telephone line, the line that is hung from power poles. about four feet long, contains I think 200 feet of wire. I am not about to count the number of wires in the bundle!

We will fight
Or we will fall
'Till the angels save us all

Hollywood Undead, Young

Edited by - Iain on 2006 November 25 1:14:22 PM

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  1:20:55 PM  Show Profile
I always love the technical replies to these types of questions.

For the gauges you mention you will be fine. I used 12 gauge house wire for the buss, because I have tons of it. I was hard to get in place due to being less flexible, but so what it took me a little longer to install the buss wires.

Be sure to color code the buss and feeders. This will make life easier in the future.

I use solid wire for the feeders because it made it easier to poke through the 2" foam, also solders nice to the rails.

I solder a feeder wire to each piece of flex track and turnout, and solder the feeders to the buss. Overkill? maybe, but I generally don't depend on track connectors to carry current. I like leaving them unsoldered to allow for some movement. One or two exceptions, curves and what have you.

There is no easy answer to this question that everyone agrees on.

As far as connectors, I am sure they have their place. I just think is is cheaper to solder, just as quick, and a good chance to improve skills.

It's all scenery.

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  1:46:54 PM  Show Profile  Visit Robbman's Homepage
Originally posted by Iain

I will also admit that despite theory...

It's not theory when you distort the fact to meet your ends...

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  2:03:38 PM  Show Profile
It appears that stranded wire of 3 strands or more will always
have a greater surface area than a solid wire of equal diameter.
The ratio increases with the number of strands, and is determined
solely by the number of strands regardless of the size of the wire!!
This is just in the FWIW department, since like Bill stated,
there is negligible "skin effect" at DCC frequencies.


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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  2:08:56 PM  Show Profile
I used 12 solid because I like the way solid holds a bend or its shape better than stranded. As far as one having an electrical advantage over the other, for our use it wouldn't even be worth arguing about. Use what you have available, can get for the best price or whatever you happen to like better. Bottom line is, whatever suits you is the best.

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  3:18:57 PM  Show Profile  Visit Robbman's Homepage
For those who are interested:

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Posted - 2006 November 25 :  4:41:34 PM  Show Profile
I won't get into the debate of which is better but here's what I use and the method to my madness.

I have small portable layouts. A 2'x4' and a 3'x5.5'. I use 12 gauge solid for the buss. It holds its shape around bends as another has pointed out. It's also easier to strip out sections (1/2" per connection or so) with a wire stripper and an x-actor knife.

For feeders I use 24 gauge for flexibility. Less than a handful are greater than 6" with most mainly in the 4" range so there's really no difference between 20, 22, or 24 gauge.

The underside of my bigger portable layout:

Here's a close up of the feeder joints:

[Edited for crorrection: I meant 14 gauge solid for the buss. The 12 gauge is a bit too stiff for such a small protable layout.]

Edited by - mk on 2006 November 26 09:01:16 AM

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