Friday, May 10, 2013

Electricity Is the Bane of My Existence

My plan was to start putting up the hills around my first module.  I explain in previous posts about styling my pike on N-Trak principles and how the hills help to visually separate one module from the next.  But as I started to put up the first length of hills along the left edge of the module I realized something.  Before I could go any further I would have to hook up electrical connections to the two tracks at the back of the module.  I planned on hiding these tracks --  which would be Great Northern mainlines that circle above the multi-module valley I'm building -- and before I could close them off I had to do some soldering.

Of course I had done everything backwards.  I had glued down the prefabricated Woodland Scenics Styrofoam riser that I had bought from my local shop.  Then I glued down the track.  Then drilled holes for the wires.  I did all of this by stretching myself over the module to reach back across the 38 inch spread of the model.  Very uncomfortable, and very difficult to maintain my position on a step stool.  Add to that, I had stupidly forgotten to remove some of the ties so that I wouldn't melt them when I soldered the wires to the track.  What a mess.

But ... I finally finished it.

Then I had to connect the tracks to a pair of feeders.

N-Trak uses a main electrical feed that passes through all of the modules.  Because the modules are often not made by the same people, or may not be included in a layout at a show, each module must have connections at either end rather than simply running a wire through all the modules.  The N-Trak handbook calls for specific connectors, but I couldn't find them.  I tried Home Depot, Ace, a local store that sells only electrical needs, and Radio Shack.  The manual suggests certain Radio Shack parts.  Well, the guys at RS had no clue.  And HD and Ace only sell the most basic pieces.  So I had to spend a couple of hours figuring out replacements.  This wasn't easy.  I don't like electricity.  I don't understand it.  But with a little help from a guy at the local electric parts store I was able to put together something that should work.

Some years ago I went to workshops at the hobby shop that taught me about most facets of the model train hobby.  When it came to the electrical workshop, I was lost.  These guys showed me how to make all kinds of connections, how to design wiring plans, and lots of other stuff.  The thing that really caused me concern was looking under their layouts.  These guys had wires everywhere.  They were color coded and bundled, but there didn't seem to be a plan in the madness.  It was all easy for them to understand, but I was confused.

That had a great affect on me.  I realized I couldn't do everything these guys had done.  I couldn't electrify everything.  I had to make choices.  So, for now, I'm just supplying electricity to the tracks.  No motorized switches, no crossing gates, no building lights.  Just the basics.  Only what makes the choo-choo go around.

Also, I just cannot work underneath the layout.  My back won't allow me.  So I put a couple of terminal blocks in at the front of the module, just under the 8-inch front extension.  It ain't pretty but it works.  And when I'm finished, I'll put in a fascia board to hide the mess below.  And the great part?  It actually works!  I tested it and the house didn't burn down!