Before we start with track wiring lets first refer to the locomotives and what supply they need to run. This section will refer to RTR (ready to run) locomotives manufactured by the major manufactured like  
      • Bachmann
      • Graham Farish
      • Dapol
      • Hornby

Locomotives are powered by electric motors  which require a DC (direct current) supply to the wheels via the track. The speed is controlled by an increase or decrease of voltage to the track and the direction is controlled by the polarity of the DC supply; for example the '+' and '-' connections to the track are reversed. The voltage and direction of travel are controlled by controllers available from many manufacture.

The first thing the controller must do is reduce the 'mains' voltage (usually 240 volts AC) to a  safe and usable lower voltage of 16 volts AC. This lower voltage is now adjusted according to which system is being used.



Now we must move on to the difference between DC and DCC controls because this will effect how you wire the layout. Although both systems have locomotives with DC motors the main difference is as follows.

Analogue control  (DC)

The 16 volts supply is changed from AC to DC withing the controller  together with the speed. Using the system you are controlling the track so all locomotives on the track connected to the controller will move in both speed and direction the same.

Gaugemaster Model 'D'

Hornby HM2000


 So, if you want to be able to pick and control a single locomotive you will need to devide the track into sections so sections can be switched on and off as you select the locomotive to be controlled.

 Acknowledgement to 'Peco' for the very useful drawing above


A controller must be provided for each section of track, for example if you have two main lines (one up line and one down line) and an area for shunting you will need three controller.

This style of wiring can be quite involved and looking from below board level can look like a 'birds nest' of wires so it is important to use many colours of wire to help follow where each wire goes. It is important to record each wire colour and what it joins to assist whenchanges are required or tracking down any problems at a later date.

Digital Command Control

The supply remains AC and 16 volts to the track and is changed to DC within the locomotive by a 'chip'. The speed is also changed within this chip but both speed and direction are controlled at the controller by means of a control signal sent down the track to the locomotive. Now for the best bit !!  

DCC chips

Using DCC you are controlling each locomotive via the 'onboard' chip within each locomotive meaning that although you could have several locomotives on the same track you can move one without the others moving.

Gaugemaster Prodigy

Hornby Select


Using the DCC system the layout does not have sections so you do not require miles of wiring and extra switches for section.

An added bonus is that train running light are always on regardly of the speed of train and even when stopped in a station. Also 'onboard' sound units in each locomotive can be controlled.

Another great bonus is because you are controlling the loco and not the track the only wiring is to wire all tracks back to the controller so any locomotive on any part of the track can be controlled by one controller. If you are using Hornby setrack the quick and easy way is to fit the Hornby 'link clips' part code R8232 to all the points. Each pack contains 20 clips and you require two for each point.


If you plan to have a return loop where the train runs round a loop and returns back down the same track and you are using DCC controls this is a very useful piece of equipment made by Hornby part code R8238




Wiring your layout is infact fairly basic with most of it being low voltage and current so safe to work with.  You will find that much of the work is repedative, for example, wiring from point switches to point motors is the same circuit over and over again. When wiring point motors we recommend a larger size of wire because of  the current required to operate a point motor coil and reduce volts drop; resulting in poor operation.
As most of the wiring is under the baseboard it is advisable to wear protective glasses when working under the board because of off cuts of wire and even solder could fall on you causing a great danger to your eyes and face. A good light sourse is also a good help. 

When using Peco streamline points there can be a problem with the metal wheels shorting on the frogs so it is advisable to use insulated fishplates as shown below


Acknowledgement to  for the very useful drawing 


If your layout has long lengths of track it is advisable to 'feed' the track in several positions to eliminate any volts drop along the rails.  Try to keep the cables straight and tidy using either holes throught the base board framework or screw hooks and cable ties to hold them together making it easier to trace and record the routes of each wire. It is important to use as many colours of wire as you can of the correct to ensure a good job.

 The tools required are a good quality wire cutter, a wire stripper, connector blocks (often known as 'chocolate blocks'), small screw driver, and a soldering iron, plus solder.



  A quick and easy way to check that power is reaching the track.

Works on both DC and DCC

Available from all good model shops and mail order from Gaugemaster and train-tech

Part Code   TT1 

Price  £5.00  (January 2016) 



Using ribbon cable is a neat way to wire low current connections


The type of wire is PVC covered multi-stranded copper wire with a minimum size of 7/0.2 (that is 7 strands - each strand being 0.2 inches thick). Use large sizes, for example 16/0.2 or larger for high current uses like point motors to inprove performance.





Lots of colours are required so the route of each wire can be recorded to assist fault finding at a later date.

Use plastic connector blocks to join wires labeling each wire as you go. Because the wires are clamped under screws the position of each wire can be altered easily.  Then record what you are doing and test as go rather than test at the end.




Other forms of terminal blocks are available.



Use 'spiral wrap to keep wires tidy.




An alternative connection system is using snap connectors that are used in the car industry and known as 'Scotchlocks' which are quick and easy to use but once used cannot be altered without cutting out the wires.







Soldering is the art of joining metal together so it is an essential art to learn when building a model railway.  Wire have to be connected to each other and to items like track so lets have a look at the art of soldering. 
The material surfaces (wires, rails  &/or tags) being soldered together must be prepared and be clean. With solder melting at around 170 degrees a soldering iron has to raise the temperature of the materials above this figure to ensure the solder flows and joins all materials together. It is important to add flux to the jount to help the solder flow. The flux can be added before the solder is applied or use solder with the flux built into it.  
The main tool required is a good soldering iron which come in different sizes and wattages; the size being small for small electrical joints to large when soldering larger pieces of metal together. Below are a few items which are available from any good model or electrical outlet.

This is the basic soldering iron which is a heating element at one end with a copper bit attached and a handle at the other end. This one plugs into a mains socket but they are also available to run on 12 volts.




Because the iron gets very hot it would be wise to invest in one of these stands.

The iron is put into the spring part to keep is safe.

The sponge on the base is kept damp and is used to wipe the hot tip of the copper bit during use.




An alternative to above is a soldering station. These are a complete unit including a base unit with a soldering iron, a holder and sponge.

In aditiion most of these unit have a control for the temperature of the tip.

Although cost more than  seperate pieces they are best if you are expecting do a lot of soldering.


 Solder is a mixture of tin and lead although an alternative to lead is now available.  The solder is packaged on reels of difference sizes and weight.

To help clean and assist the solder to flow a small amount of flux is required which is a mild acid. 

The eaasy way to solder is to use solder with the flux included and known as 'Multicore Solder'.