Wiring III

Bus wires are going in. “Quick splice” connectors are key here; initially I thought I’d have to strip and splice, which would have taken days of soldering and shrink-tubing. Each connector takes maybe a minute or so to pry open, place the wires, plunge the metal clip, then snap the top down.

I ran out of connectors though, so can’t finish it all today…

I also connected the wires to a terminal strip at the “open” end of the module. This will make it easier to connect a second module later on.

Wiring II

I spent the better part of today cutting, stripping, and crimping wires, then (making a mockery of) soldering the feeders to the track.

Once the feeders were all in place, I started running the bus wires down the layout, but I didn’t get too far yet. Perhaps this weekend I will finish connecting all feeders to the buses, and then the Bellwether will be able to traverse every inch of the layout except the turntable and beyond.

Wiring I

After all track (except a few short lengths leading from the turntable, which will be dealt with later) was glued and had set for a few hours, I started drilling 1/16″ holes between ties on each side. These will be used to run short lengths of 22-gauge wire (feeder wires) from the tracks to the main lengths of 16 gauge wire (bus wires) under the layout. I didn’t want to drop too many feeders, as each will need to be soldered to the track and suitcase-clipped to a bus wire, but I also didn’t want to risk any dropouts. So I dropped feeders at 6″-10″ intervals and, of course, I had to feed each isolated section of track coming out of a turnout.

This week, I will start dropping feeders and hopefully connect the bus wires next weekend.

And, while this won’t be exciting to anyone except me, I slugged up some wires and soldered them to the headshunt, then cleaned the track with a Brite-Boy. This allowed me to program the 0-6-0 “Bellwether” to run back and forth on about 10 inches of non-isolated track. Really exciting to see it working. The Bellwether is running on address 6407, which is the loco number painted on its side.

As far as I can tell, the little engine runs beautifully; I can keep it at a very slow crawl.

Turnouts II

I spent about an hour soldering terminal blocks to each side of the circuit boards on the SMAIL motors. This will allow me to connect and disconnect wires as needed. I figured this would be easier than soldering wires after the SMAILs are in place. I’m not great at soldering, but I think they came out alright.

Laying Track III

I pulled the springs out of the turnouts this morning, then started the slow process of gluing the track down. I used Aileen’s Tacky Glue, based on many recommendations, as it dries more quickly than some white glues, but not so quickly that adjustments can’t be made.

I laid one section at a time, to ensure good, tight connections, and weighed down sections with books while the glue dried.

To fill in the gaps under fishplates and near turnouts, I used some Peco SL-308F ties, slipped under the rails. I ordered another package of those a few days ago, as I will need them before gluing a couple of sections (the short length leading into the turntable, as well as the rearmost spur). I should be able to start wiring everything up while I wait for the spare ties to arrive.

Turnouts I

$250 later, I have six Circuitron SMAIL switch machines and mounts.

SMAIL is an acronym for Slow Motion Actuator with Integrated Logic. SMAIL switch machines are essentially Tortoise motors with DCC decoders built in. These are not cheap, but by all accounts they are leaps and bounds beyond solenoid switches in terms of performance, and are reliable and long-lasting.


I purchased the remote mounts for two reasons. First, the SMAIL machines are slightly too tall when mounted vertically. My layout simply doesn’t have enough clearance to mount them that way without some significant modification. To keep the profile low, I had planned on using SMAIL (or Tortoise) machines with horizontal mounts from the start. Second, the remote mounts are designed to transfer the sweeping motion of the SMAILs’ swing-arms to a pivoting wire. This means I don’t need to drill a large hole directly under each turnout, but can drill a small hole near each throw-bar instead. I can then attach a narrow wire to one of two pre-drilled holes on each end of the throw bar, and it should work. Much easier to install that way, and I can finish laying track before mounting the SMAILs.

I spent about an hour today reading instructions and assembling the mounts, then I attached the SMAIL machines.