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Adding Power to a Lionel Train Set or Other Model Railroad Set

Whether youve purchased a Lionel train set or another brand of model railroad trains, you will need to know a few things about the power supply. This article offers some helpful tips from the National Model Railroad Association which can help you get off to a good start.

Something to remember is that the more intricate your layout, the more turns and other pieces, the more places you will need to add power, since those rail joints cause some resistance and the train will tend to slow down as it gets further away from the feeder wires coming from the original power source.

When adding power, always remember the right-hand rule. What this means is that, looking from the direction of the power pack, when you push the direction switch to the right, the engine will travel the track counterclockwise.

This rule is important to remember, so that you when you add any additional feeders, you wire them just the same, otherwise it will short-circuit. When following the right-hand rule, the outside rail is positive and the inside negative. Two rail model locos all operate on Direct Current (DC).

The best way to keep track of your wires so that positive and negatives match up is to use color-coded wire. Doorbell wire works well. It normally comes in small coils of 25 to 50 feet and #18 gauge, meaning it can handle the normal draw for a model railroad telephone wire is too small a gauge, stick with doorbell wire. The insulating jacket on doorbell wire is red or white. You can use the red wire for positive and the white for negative. Then you just have to remember red for the outside rail, white for the inside rail. Remember, the rails are just extensions of the power pack wires, and provide the electricity to the engine.

Next, you will need to connect the wires to the rails in your layout. The best way is to solder on the feeder wire to the outside rail, but since this is your first layout and that can get complicated, its probably a good idea to just use a rail joiner purchased from a hobby shop, or at least solder them to a rail joiner if you already have soldering equipment. Soldering to the joiner yourself has the advantage that you can keep the color-coding purchased rail joiners have the same color wire on both sides.

With multiple feeder wires connected to your track to give that power boost so the train doesnt slow down after getting further from the power pack, you may be tempted to double up the wires on the original terminals of the power pack. But the problem is the power pack vibrates, since its running on alternating current (AC). Some people have had problems such as wires coming off, etc. So the best plan is to go with an 8 terminal block and connect the wires to that instead of overloading the terminals in the power pack. You can buy one from a hobby shop or an electronics store or even an auto parts store.

Now just strip back the insulation on each wire a little bit so you can wire the feeders from the power pack across to the new terminal block. Then, make a loop with the wiring from the first terminal screw of the positive half of the board to the second one and follow up with the negative on the negative side. After that, its simple to just connect the feeder wires from the track to the screws opposite the ones already used. And this way, each terminal screw will only have one wire on it. Youll avoid the vibrations from the power pack and have a lot fewer problems with wires coming loose, etc.

For adding power to your first model railroad layout, thats about all there is to it. Once youve completed this project, you can begin to think about expansions. Most enthusiasts dont want to stop with their first Lionel train set, but go on to build expansions, which get into some interesting scenarios with adding feeder wires for switches and other more advanced connections.

About Author Joe Kanooga :

Joe Kanooga is a father of two kids, a successful business owner and the author of numerous articles about <a href="" target="_blank">Lionel train set</a>. Click here to download our free <a href="" target="_blank">model railroad</a> guidebook filled with helpful tips, ideas and information.

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Article Added on Wednesday, December 2, 2009
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