How To Wire Model Trains

Written by c. paul martin
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How To Wire Model Trains
Model railroads can provide hours of enjoyment for hobbyists of all ages. (model railway image by Shirley Hirst from

Model trains, whether large G scale or small Z scale, have similar but critical wiring needs. These toys require voltage to be filtered through a transformer before it can be connected to the track, thus powering the train. Whether you purchase a kit to begin your model railroading, or are adding onto an initial set, the basic wiring instructions for model railroads of all sizes are the same.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Y connector specific to your model size
  • Wire strippers
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Transformer specific to your model size

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  1. 1

    Hook up the Y connector to the railway track. For smaller gauge model railroads, the Y connector has a split-end with clips that slide onto the end of a track piece: replace the usual clips on the end of a track piece with these connector. For larger gauge model railroads, the split-end has screw-on clips which fit between the sleepers of the track before screwing into place. Whichever type of connectors you have, be careful to connect each of the split ends to different rails of the track.

  2. 2

    Bring the other end of the Y connector over to the transformer. Separate the two wires at this end of the connector by pulling them in opposite directions with your fingers.

  3. 3

    Strip away the last 1/2 inch of insulation off of both of these wire ends using the wire strippers. Use the gauge on the side of the strippers to determine which slot to use to strip the wires.

  4. 4

    Connect each of the stripped wires to the transformer. Unscrew the bolt underneath the "-" symbol, slide one of the wires underneath, and screw the bolt back in to secure the wire. Repeat with the last wire and the "+" bolt.

Tips and warnings

  • Though the wires must attach the track rails to the transformer, you may choose to disguise these wires by running them underneath the table on which your railroad runs. Simply drill a hole near where you attach the wires to the track, pull the wires through the hole, and string the wires to the transformer underneath the table.
  • Never plug in the transformer before you are finished wiring your model railway. If you do this, you risk electrocution and ruining your transformer.

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