Wiring & handicap limitations

RR Dick Jun 17, 2012

  1. RR Dick

    RR Dick TrainBoard Member

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    My personal physical limitations prevent me from accessing some areas of my layout from underneath the platform for wiring track, buildings, etc. Are there any suggestions on how to run wiring & make necessary modicications (when needed) w/o having to do it from under the table, ie. coiled bus wires along the table edge, wire connectors instead of soldering, junction boxes, ?????
    Thanks
    Dick
     
  2. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    The idea is to have reliable track. Period. Without that, with niggling derailments now and then, or stuttering locomotives, or poorly running ones, your fun factor gets dragged down rapidly. Thats a cold realistic fact. So, you must figure out a way to get good track placement, support, and alignments so that your trains work well on the geometry you provide them. Thereafter comes the problem of electrification. The metal joiners will statistically let you do down in the one of two ways they are meant to help, those being alignment mechanically and electrical transmission. The way they fail over time is due to oxidation/contamination between their inner surfaces and the rail feet where they do their mechanical work. So, you must prevent the electrical transmission component of the reliable trackwork from being caused at the joiners. Most of us either solder feeders directly to the rails, bypassing the electrical problems at the joiners, or we solder the joiners and create a much better electrical connection, and one that is about 20 times more durable if done correctly.

    Can you solder? If you can, try to solder as many feeders at intervals as you possibly can, although you should never need more than one pair soldered to every second joiner. That way, you get robust voltage to every two lengths of track.

    If you can't practicably solder, then maybe spade connectors will work. If this is a 4X8 layout, then two or three feeder pairs will suffice unless you have many gaps in the rails for some reason; each gapped section will need its own feeders.

    Coiling wires is rarely desirable, and it can cause weird problems. Keep your layout wires of all kinds as short as possible, neat and tucked up under the layout, except where you need to be able to reach, say to change connnections or reach electrical switches. You don't want stuff dangling if you can avoid it. Some people use 'terminal blocks' for connections, but they must be fastened/anchored somewhere or you get the sloppy dangling problem. If you can keep them safely at the edge of the layout, then use them. You still must run reasonably short and tidy wires to them, though, and the other ends of those feeders must make some sort of RELIABLE contact with the rails. For you, that might be the real challenge.
     
  3. RR Dick

    RR Dick TrainBoard Member

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    Crandell,
    Thanks for the GREAT info/help. Yes, I can solder (actually pretty well) and will be able to solder feeders as you describe. But, I don't quite understand... did you mean that once the joiners are in place betwee two tracks, that you then, additionally, solder them? Or, solder the feeder to the joiner which is connecting the two tracks?
    As to terminal blocks, I think that is a fine idea & may well be the way that I need to proceed. I do have areas along the edge of the layout.
    I may need to post here again, so I hope you'll contribute more info as I need it.
     
  4. UPBigBoy

    UPBigBoy E-Mail Bounces

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    It may help if you would let us know what your limitations are, that way we could offer better solutions that hopefully would help in your situation.

    Jim
     
  5. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    What some do is hammer flat the end of a feeder and try to slide that into the slight gap between the rail foot edge and the curved 'shoulders' of the feeders, and then yes, do solder the whole shebang. the iea is that if the solder takes up a lot of volume in there, corrosion and other contaminants can't erode the intended nature of the mechanical connection. For example, if you are using flex track and intend to ballast with sand/sifted gravel, and to fix it in place with glue, the glue can cause a barrier inside the joiner if only the joiner is slid in place with the thought that it will suffice for the duration of the layout's life. In the hobby, joiners are among the least reliable items in the electric connectivity components. Solder has a much better reliability expectation when you poll old timers.

    If you are not keen on the flattened tip, then you must curve the last 1/4" into two sharp curves and place the horizontal part on the top of the foot of the rail and solder it in place. I do that myself 'cuz I'm basically lazy and do it on the side of the rails away from the eye/camera. Same with weathering the rails on that side...why bother?

    On a wooden frame, changes in humidity impart dimensional changes in the frame members. If your rails are rather firmly adhered to the frame, even via roadbed of some kind, there is the risk that when the wood dries in the right conditions, the shrinking linear dimensions will force aligned rail elements to want to come together. If there is no accommodation for those changes, you will get buckled rails, either horizontally bowed or even vertically. Alternatively, when the wood expands seasonally and in an uncontrolled environment, the gaps may open so much that you have wheels dropping into them quite badly. So, what do you do to mitigate each polarity? You solder some and leave some free. Usually we solder on the curves to keep the curvature constant as we intend, and allow one or two non-soldered joiner gaps to do what they must. Balance. Or, you could build on metal framing.
     
  6. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    I am physically handicapped due to polio when I was 4 years old; I'm 61 now. I can stand up for a moderate period of time, but I can not crawl under the layout to work on it from the bottom.

    My solution was threefold.

    First, I decided that keeping the layout small was a smart thing to do. It needed to be small enough for me to handle.

    Second, I did some of the trackwork and wiring by placing the whole layout on top of my workbench. This put the underside of the layout within easy reach.

    [​IMG]

    Third, I later hinged the entire layout along the back edge so that I can tilt it upward to work on the underside. It is still difficult for me to reach the back portion near the hinge, but I designed the track plan so there isn't too much going on back there.

    [​IMG]

    Obviously, these solutions might not be practical for a large layout, but I accepted from the start that my layout would necessarily be small in order to accommodate my physical limitations. The final wiring is much neater than the "rat's nest" shown in the photos above!

    - Jeff
     
  7. RR Dick

    RR Dick TrainBoard Member

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    Sorry it took a few days to respond... out of town guests. Anyway, I can't kneel, squat, or sit in anything lower than a standard chair. So, any normal undertable/platform activities will have to be done along outside edges, hidden in foam (my sub structur on 1/2 " plywood), or from above. Any ideas, suggestions, experiences regarding this challenge will be appreciated
     
  8. RR Dick

    RR Dick TrainBoard Member

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    Verrrry cool & well planed. It might be doable or adaptable. Thanks for the idea. Really appreciated.
    Richard
     
  9. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    Since the photo above of the hinged layout was made, I have installed better supports to secure the layout in the raised position. Even a small layout is heavy enough to do some damage should it come crashing down on your fingers, so if you use this method, be sure it is safe.

    - Jeff
     
  10. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

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    Looking at your layout it seems like you have it under control already.
     
  11. Armchair

    Armchair New Member

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    I am 73 and had polio in '52. Not handicapped, but still have a hard time getting down and under the layout. We who are older find it harder to get up from the floor, don't bend enough to not bang our heads, knees hurt by the slightest stone or screw on the floor and I find I walk more like a robot than a young boy. Someone should design a layout that works with a reclinner, up and down, in and out, rotates like the welding robots in the auto body factory.
    Probably should just make it the best we can to reduce those undertable experiences.

    Armchair
     
  12. agent9843

    agent9843 TrainBoard Member

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    Dear Dick,
    I too am unable to get beneath a table.... First time I ran into someone else with this problem. I have a neck injury that prohibits me. I built my entire layout with that in mind. The layout is 4'x6' (small i suppose) I made it out of lightweight poly/plastic frame and Styrofoam top. With everything mounted the entire layout or diorama weights about 39 pounds. To do my wiring, I simply raise it up and place blocks (stacks of books) under each end. Best of luck.
    IMG_1685.jpg
     
  13. jdetray

    jdetray TrainBoard Member

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    Outstanding solution! And the layout looks nice, too.

    - Jeff
     
  14. agent9843

    agent9843 TrainBoard Member

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    My bad... it measures 28 x 52 inches (but does only weigh 39 pounds)
     

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