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What does silicone mean when wiring trains?

Hobby shops sell silicone wiring with high strand counts for wiring train layouts. But what is silicone wiring? What does it mean? And what is special about silicone wire for model trains and do you need it?

What is silicone wire?

silicone wiring for trains

Silicone wire costs more but is more flexible than wire with PVC insulation. No one brags about their wire, but the flexibility makes silicone wire for model trains easier to work with. Some people also call it flex wire.

Silicone wiring refers to the plastic insulation on the outside of the wire. It’s more flexible than traditional PVC insulated wire. Typically it has more strands than PVC wiring too, which is important. Without the higher strand count, you lose the benefit of the silicone insulation, since the wire contributes to the overall stiffness.

And it’s silicone, not silicon. Silicon is the semiconductor used in computer chips.

It makes the wiring easier to work with but at a higher cost. From an electrical standpoint, the insulation makes no difference. All it has to do is protect the wire from shorting. The flexibility of higher end wire makes it easier to pull through when you’re wiring your train layout, and it makes the wire less likely to break if it ever snags.

For this reason, sometimes silicone wire is also called flex wire.

Speaking of breakage, when you go to use it, make sure you use the right tool and technique to remove the insulation. Otherwise you risk damaging the wire.

If you can afford higher end, high strand count silicone wire, it makes your life easier. And there’s no difference other than branding between silicone wire you can buy at a train store and silicone wire you find at an electrical supply store. The pricier wire is easier and more pleasant to work with. But if you’re on a tight budget, as long as the wire is thick enough, you can get by with cheaper, more traditional wire.

Silicone wiring inside trains

When refurbishing an old train, if you have to replace a broken wire, it’s not a bad idea to use silicone wire for replacement. If the old wire broke, the newer, more flexible wire will be less prone to breaking. I’m more apt to use silicone wiring inside a train or accessory than I am under my layout.

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