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Scheming towards a solderless train layout

I’m rewiring my train layout. You’re supposed to wire every third track section back to the transformer to prevent voltage drop, which presents a challenge when you’re using traditional Lionel lockons that clip onto the track.

A lot of people just solder a pair of wires to the track. But that’s a lot of soldering. And soldering under a table exposes yourself to lots of nasty chemicals (such as, oh, lead) that you don’t want to be breathing in.So I bought 3 different colors of 16-gauge wire, some quick-disconnect lugs, and t-taps.

What I’ll do is run a common ground wire (you only need one if you phase the transformers), and a second wire for each transformer, in a loop around the inside of the table. Use a different color for each wire to keep the wiring straight. Then I’ll drill holes for feeders, which I’ll attach to the loop with t-taps, and to the track with the quick-disconnect lugs, which crimp onto the wires. Spread the underside of the track slightly with a slotted screwdriver, then the lugs push in relatively easily.

I’m sure the connection is more prone to voltage drop than a solder connection, but if I measure too much drop, I’ll just add extra feeders. I can probably run 10 solderless feeder pairs in the time it would take me to solder one pair.

I’ll probably talk about the experience in more detail once it’s done. (Update: There wasn’t much to talk about. It works well, the connections I hooked up six years ago still work, and each pair of feeders takes me about 5 minutes to do.) Of course, I guess this means I have to finalize the track plan, since I’ll have to drill some holes for the feeders.

I’ll probably run the under-table loops, then connect feeders with lockons while I’m tweaking the track to get it just how I like it.

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