Helpful Tips for Model Railroad Wiring


Wiring for a model railroad layout can be easy or complicated. I like to manage my wiring so that later on, I’ll be able to trace each wire back to its source.

Years ago, I developed my own personal wiring color codes along with standardized schematics for repetitious situations that I keep in a notebook along with my other layout information. Wire gauge standardization is important, too, as a function of wire length and electrical current considerations. More length and/or more current require a heavier gauge wire.

Related video: Wiring a Model Railroad Track

On large layouts, I’ve used buss wire up to 12-gauge (stranded for easier installation) and down to 22-gauge solid wire track feeders that solder to the outside of the rail, hardly seen. That includes the code 55 rail that I use for my Sn3 trackage. And, I’m a fan of using labeled terminal strips at wire junctions to avoid the “What is this wire for?” problems.

Related video: Model Railroad Wiring Considerations

I like to string wiring neatly into bundles that are tie-wrapped and hung through or under the benchwork, avoiding access areas. Buss wires for track feeders should ideally be run under the primary trackage, enabling the use of short, light gauge feeder wires up to the rails.


In the old days, block wiring required a feed wire from a control panel to each block. In a large layout, that could add up to a lot of wire! Remember the old “spaghetti bowl” wiring scenarios? If you add switch control wiring, along with signal and accessory wiring, you could end up with a real mess! One of the great benefits of DCC is wiring simplification. I know, I’ve done it both ways!

My suggestion is to be as logical as possible when installing wiring so you don’t end up pulling your hair out later. If you have any specific wiring questions, leave us a comment below or feel free to email me directly at I’d love to talk with you.

More in this series:

So You Want to Build a Model Railroad Layout?
Choosing Model Railroad Track Configurations
Assigning a Theme for Your Model Railroad Layout
Ideas for Unique Layout Concepts
Tips on Trackwork
Helpful Tips for Model Railroad Wiring
Creative Ideas for Model Railroad Structures

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24 Responses to “Helpful Tips for Model Railroad Wiring”

  1. Lou Lapointe

    I need help with a wiring diagram for a six stall roundhouse with independent tracks with led lights ( independent) with spst toggle sitches for on/off

  2. John Steadman

    I am new to. I am new to model railway. I have just purchased a n gauge layout and wiring is all bundled up behind the control panel. Could you please tell me what buz wire is.

  3. model railways

    Keep on working, great job!

  4. Benjamin

    Is there a way to run wire throughout my O gauge layout so I can get better running speed throughout my layout. I’m getting voltage drop when it gets far away from the power of electricity. Any throughs, please help me. Would really like to get my Trains running smoothly.

  5. William Emley

    My layout is all Lionel tubular track. Could you provide me the pros & cons and the ROI of converting from tubular track to Lionel Fast Track. Tks.

  6. James

    Nice site

  7. Joseph Schaul

    I'm building a layout for a train show/display at my Scout booth. I want a button kids can push and make the trains run for a specific time. I'm trying to figure out an inexpensive way to do it. I can make it run as long as you hold the button, but I'm going to need some kind of circuit to get it to stay on. Got any ideas? Thanks IC Joe

  8. Dave

    I have visual challenges and am looking for some help on how to wire my ho scale track. It goes completely around the room so it's probably 30 ft long. Can you tell me about wring bus bars or terminals and where to get them or how to make them myself. Thank you so much

  9. Cliff

    Building first DCC layout. A small 2x8’ shelf. Using starter DCC system from NCE. This may be a dumb question but here goes anyway. With such a small layout could I forego a buss line and just go from pcp panel to multiple terminal strips and then run feeder wires to the different tracks/sidings from the terminal strips.

  10. Rick Staley

    Question: when installing bus wires beneath your layout table does the bus wires need to golliw the shape of the main line track?