Why am I not ballasting the tracks now that they are down, some people ask. Okay, if that's what you want to do, there is no reason why you shouldn't go ahead and ballast, (Flick to Ballasting)

On the other hand I prefer to wire a layout first and make sure that all is working fine, then I ballast.


Lets wire the railroad

Some people refer to having a common return wire under their layout,  I cannot for the life of me understand why. I know it had been mentioned 1000ís of times that the need for a common return wire is most important, but, I don't know why. Color coding is the name of the game, if you keep all your outside rail wires for example (RED) and the inner rail (BLUE) and follow this rule all around the layout, which one is common, RED or BLUE? There are no bare wires underneath my layout, for hookup and feeder wires. There has been much talk about feeder wires, these are only necessary when the length of track between to blocks is around 20feet other than that, they are not needed. You will not get a power drop in anything less than 20feet, and that's using the wire mentioned above, not heavy stuff as some modellers advocate. 

The wire I use is nothing spectacular, just plain alarm system wire which comes in 100' drums and have 6 colour coded wires in them. 

1- Black  2- Red  3- Yellow  4- White  5- Green  6- Blue I tend to use Red & Blue for wires to tracks, and Green & Black for point motor control leaving me the Yellow & White for any accessories like lights in buildings. Keeping the model railroad wiring simple colour wise. 

These RED & BLUE wires all come back to a Double Pole Double Throw Ė centre off switch, Not Single pole single throw as some people advocate and are soldered to the centre pins. The other set of pins TOP or BOTTOM are used to connect the controller power unit to the tracks. With the D.P.D.T.ís , you can use two controllers to run two trains at the same time on different tracks. It is also possible to run one train around both tracks by simply switching the D.P.D.T.ís  to either the up position or the down position depending which way you wired the D.P.D.T.ís in the first place. 

As I mentioned in the chapter on Benchwork I always use a "Weller Soldering Gun" (similar to the one in the photograph) for soldering all joints, soldering track together and all wires onto the control panel. If you have one of these heat guns, press the trigger and heat the gun before applying it to the rails. Press the gun onto the rail and Then apply solder, it will run easy and leave a nice clean solder joint. 


Wiring a Railroad with block control and using a Control panel

Now that all your track and points (turnouts) have been laid, I would suggest that before you ballast your tracks that the wiring of the railroad and a suitable control panel be made in order to run  trains.† 
I have been asked many times over the last 50 years, how do you wire a model railroad for block control, then make a control panel to control the trains afterwards. So for those how are about to start in the wonderful hobby of ours, hereís how I have always wired a model railroad up to a control panel.† 
Once all your track and points (turnouts) are down and ready for wiring, first make a simple drawing of your Track plan on an A4 sheet of paper. This Track plan you draw will help in determining where to place each D.P.D.T. (Double Pole Double Throw center off switch) Every place where you have back to back points, need to have a power supply, if you are using Electro frogs. Even if you are using standard insulfrogs, if you want proper block control, then I would suggest that you follow these instructions as for Electro frogs.

This Track plan below is not any particular plan, just a way of showing how to wire up the track & Points. Below the track plan is a diagram showing how to wire up a D.P.D.T. switch, note that two controllers are used even for a single piece of track. , (I always wire my switches so that when the switch is in the up position, it is feeding the outer tracks) 
†By simply switching the D.P.D.T. from down to up, or up to down, any controller can be used with any part of the track work. This is the beauty of block control. Looking at the Track plan you will notice that the outside tracks have three RED power supplies (3 blocks), and the inner tracks also have three RED power supplies (3 blocks.) with one single RED power supply in the middle feeding back the spur.
With this arrangement, it is possible to run two trains on the outer tracks from block to block, simply by switching the D.P.D.T as you go along, using the two controllers. The same applies to the inner tracks also.
†Another advantage of block control is that should you wish to travel around the outer tracks and then cross over into the inner tracks without stopping, all you need do is set each D.P.D.T switch to the up position. Now, when you wish to come out of the inner tracks back to the outer tracks, you can either leave the switches as they were and run out or switch the D.P.D.T.ís to the down position, and use the other controller. Itís as simple as that.† 
All BLUE strips show where to put in the two plastic rail joiners, (BOTH rails need isolating) for "Electro frog" or Live frogs if you prefer. RED circles show all power sections to the tracks and (D.P.D.T.ís) 

The terminals for each controller to the D.P.D.T.ís are 12 volt DC only. The idea of the D.P.D.T. switches is to switch power from controller (BLUE) to controller (RED)
†Okay, now you know why you need D.P.D.T.ís for, lets set about showing you how to  Daisy Chain the D.P.D.T switches. 

You will notice that you only need to wire the two Controllers once to a D.P.D.T switch, as all the rest of the switches are in fact Daisy Chained to each other. Just make sure that you start TOP right to TOP right for every switch that you are using. (On my layout, I have 9 blocks (9 D.P.D.T. switches )
Once you have daisy chained the top rights of every switch, start TOP left to TOP left and so on until all switches have been daisy chained in this manner.
Once all are daisy chained, you are ready to run trains.
Now to reversing loops, and still using the D.P.D.T switches. The diagram below shows a simple straight piece of track representing the loop. You will notice that I have included the use of two controllers in this loop, should you wish to use either controller to reverse a loco.†
The reverse polarity switch is on the right, whilst the other D.P.D.T serves as a switch to govern which controller you wish to use.


The control panel  

Making the control panel it 'self, I use two pieces of polycarbonate (Lexon)  the right size for my panel. The sizes can be

cut to what ever you wish, in my case I use A4 size.

Once the paper has been stripped from both sides, it is clear.


Next thing to do is draw out the plan on a computer programme to your size. When finished I print one copy on plain paper and another on Photo paper at top quality to use as the finished product. The first paper is sandwiched between the two polycarbonates.

The first piece of plain paper is used only to provide the places to drill the holes through for the D.P.D.T switches. Mine are 1/4" holes for my switches. (Micro switches) and also where to drill the holes for point control.†
When all drilling is completed, I remove the plain paper and clean up the two pieces of Polycarbonate. Now I insert the new Photo Paper printout and I have a professional looking control panel just waiting to be wired up.

No need to keep the markings for the holes to be drilled as they have already been drilled.

For my point control I use the stud and contact method utilizing a capacitor discharge unit, which has a 16/24 volt output for my PL10 point motors which I use to throw the points. The reason I prefer stud and contact over momentary or passing contact switches (To throw the points) is I only need two tiny nuts and bolts (Brass) fitted to each point on the control panel.†

Here is what my control panel looks like, notice the nuts and bolts, these are my stud and probe contact for changing point direction. You will also notice that I have two switches per block, the reason, I could only buy D.P.D.T without centre off, so I had to put in beside the D.P.D.T.'s a separate on/off switch.