Control Panel Wiring - Part II

By Ty’s Model Railroad - 1/12/2011 10:05:00 PM

Finished control panel with Atlas controller, Atlas selectors, Atlas switches and MRC 280 Tech 4 controller

My wiring and control panel are finally complete! My challenge this past week was to move the control panel down to my basement and connect it to my layout. 

Model railroad control panel installed to the underside of wood benchwork with 3 steel hinges

Model railroad control panel installed to the underside of wood benchwork with 3 steel hinges

I first attached the back of control unit base to the three 4” hinges with six 1/4” bolts. This allows the control unit to fold under the table when not in use. However, I have not yet made a final decision on how the unit will latch when in its upright position. For now I fastened it in the upward position with three screws.

3 terminal strips installed in a row under model railroad benchwork with power leads attached to each terminal

Completed wiring below model railroad control panel and benchwork

I ran the leads from the control unit and hooked them up to the corresponding terminal screws on the previously installed terminal strips. The terminal strips made it very easy to detect any crossed over wires, and even easier to correct the problems as I only needed to swap the crossed wires to the correct screws. Remember, it doesn’t matter how organized or well planned your wiring layout is, mistakes will happen, so leave room to make corrections!

Completed wiring below model railroad control panel and benchwork

I kept the layout wires attached to the benchwork using small metal cable fasteners. These can be purchased at any local hardware store. I purchased mine at Canadian Tire for $1.99 for 20, which compared to other products and retailers I found, is a pretty good deal. Small zip-ties also help to keep wires organized and looking neat. 

Additional cab controller fastened to the underside of model railroad benchwork

While testing my control unit, I realized that I needed a higher powered AC power source to power my switch machines, separate from my MRC Tech 4 280 power pack. For this, I mounted an older MRC power pack to the underside of my benchwork and ran the new AC line back into my control box. This second power source can also act as an additional 12V DC source in the future. You can see it in the top right corner of the image above. 

Underside of model railroad benchwork showing wiring and surge protector/power bar

To provide reliable safe power to the different components, I installed a surge protected power bar below my benchwork. This is then connected by and extension cord to a 120V wall outlet. 

Front of a 120 volt toggle switch with blue power leads and brown face plate

I originally didn’t plan a master on/off switch into my control panel design, something I definitely should have done. Now I have no way to turn my components off, including the power packs. To solve this, I purchased a rocker switch ($2.99 from Princess Auto) rated at 120V 20A, which I tapped into the cord on the power bar. 

Backside of a 120 volt toggle switch with blue power leads and brown face plate

120 volt toggle switch hanging out of a hole in the face of wooden benchwork

I then mounted the switch into a standard light switch cover panel. I drilled a hole into the front of my benchwork beside my control unit so the rocker switch panel could fit flush against the bench. This switch now cuts the power off to the power bar so I can leave my layout plugged into the wall outlet at all times. 

120 volt toggle switch with a dark brown face plate installed into the front of wooden benchwork

The track signals are still all displayed together on a temporary paper panel. This is purely for testing and making sure the signals work correctly when switching tracks. They will eventually be positioned on standards in the necessary positions along the tracks. 

8 trackside signal face plates with LEDs temporarily attached to a sheet of cardstock hanging from under benchwork

Other than a few small required adjustments, everything works great as far as the electrical system goes. The dual cab control works awesome and I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. The next step will be to find a method to easily raise and lower the control panel and latch it when it’s upright. I’m also going to start smoothing out flaws in my track work and most importantly, take out the steep grade coming off of my trestle. 

Also check out my Design and Planning page for updated schematics for different systems on my layout so far!

Finished control panel attached to benchwork in an upright position

Finished control panel with Atlas controller, Atlas selectors, Atlas switches and MRC 280 Tech 4 controller

Finished control panel with Atlas controller, Atlas selectors, Atlas switches and MRC 280 Tech 4 controller

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3 comments

  1. Wow! You've cleared up a lot of questions I had about wiring! Thanks and well done!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! You've cleared up a lot of questions I had about wiring! Thanks and well done!

    ReplyDelete