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Wiring & electronics

The electronics for this purely analog operated model train layout didn´t take long: 2 electrical circuits (track ovals), thus 2 transformers. The current feed for each electrical circuit occurs at several places; the wires are just twisted together in the transformer terminals. Not exactly elegant, but soldering and electronics are the things that interest me the least about model railroading.

Wiring for dummies - but works for me!

Model train layout wiring

Wiring for the experienced: The ring line

So my wiring system above obviously is just model railroad electronics for beginners. Experts may wince upon seeing that, but it meets my needs: 2 trafos, 2 ovals, 15 minutes to work, and you are done! Nevertheless: A "mini star line" like that is not adequate for larger track plans. As a rule of thumb, one power connection should be provided for every 2 meters of track. Otherwise a voltage drop can cause electric trains to drive more slowly in those areas where the power supply is worse. Instead of a star line, this situation calls for a "ring line". A ring line has a somewhat larger cable cross section, and runs in a ring under the entire model railway layout. Then at appropriate intervals, you would lay individual (and thinner) lines that branch off the ring line.
Anyway: Somehow you´ve got to supply power to the track. The infeed to this model railroad layout was done with 2-pole track connectors from Fleischmann, each placed in the hidden areas so as not to be visually distracting.

Power connection

This little hut from Fleischmann also can serve for power supply. But in this case it is not wired. It´s just there because it looks nice!
If you have long visible route sections, then soldering becomes an option. Everybody´s got their own way of doing this: either directly from below to the rail, or by soldering the cable to the track connectors.

Electric loco BR 141 waiting for the next job

Electric trains

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About track sections and track ovals

If a model railway is exclusively analog-controlled, then the main consideration is: Every current section has its own power supply (model railroad transformer). The current sections are electrically isolated from each other, and only 1 locomotive can run on each current section. Current sections in this context can be track loops (such as the classic 2-oval concept), or (block) track sections. The track plan above follows the first principle. Every oval has its own speed control; plastic rail isolator connectors (on both sides of the rail ends) take care of electrical isolation at the point where the two electrical circuits cross. If a locomotive wants to switch from one track loop to the other, then both transformers just need to be set to the same polarity (with the controllers in the correct direction) and if possible to the same speed. And that´s how a locomotive is handed off from one transformer to the other.
If you´re more ambitious about model railroading, or more sophisticated with respect to electronics, you´ll think in terms of (electrically isolated block) sections rather than separate track loops.
However: These considerations are not necessary, when making track plans or layouts for DCC electric trains (digital command control). But read here, why I still prefer analog controlled locomotives:
DCC vs. Analog Operation?

The "stop point" principle

Stop points are an ingenious thing, if you don´t want to bother with complicated wiring. N scale stop points are fortunately standard these days for many large manufacturers like Fleischmann, Peco, Kato, Arnold and Minitrix, and are thus a convenient option for parking electric trains (or in other words, for removing current from engines). Assuming clever track plans, this makes it possible to give the impression of multi-train operation even on a purely analog operated layout. That doesn´t mean on a single loop in the narrow sense, but on the overall layout. Stop points obviously allow you not only to remove the current from sidings at the train station, but also from entire (albeit short) route sections. Thus in principle you can have a simple "switch-off" controller, operated entirely means of points, that determines which route sections are supplied with voltage. The current flow (connecting rail) here must always be thought of as from the tip of the point (the one-railed end). Always set both points correctly for sidings, or you´ll get a short circuit in points with a polarized frog.

Model railroad philosophy

What´s the point of this section? Because it has something to do with my philosophy about model railroading. What I see is more important to me than all the "technical train operation" stuff. Seeing an electric train set driving in a well designed landscape with nice bridges, tunnels or a genuine scenery is more meaningful than all of the switches, routes, diodes, signals, block sections or control panels - notwithstanding my associate´s degree in electronics. Switch diagrams? Automatic train operation? I´d rather place points by hand; and for controlling the speed of the trains the good old transformer knob is good enough for me!
How much technology and electronics a model railroad needs is thus a matter of opinion. In my case that means: As little as possible, and I try to take it into account before going into track planning design. Points (switches) should be easily accessible; electrical turnouts are only used where they´re unavoidable (in this track plan there are exactly 3 of them, plus a crossing point). The overhead contact line (catenary) is just a fake; it isn´t connected to anything. And because I even spared lighting, the question of electronics for this layout is reduced to a level that I can stand.

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