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Getting Electronic Parts

There are several suppliers of electronic parts that advertise in Model Railroader and other model train magazines.  Circuitron has a good selection of parts applicable to the model railroader.  Check out your local train store.

This section is intended to introduce you to suppliers of electronic parts that do not advertise in model train hobby magazines.  These are companies that I've had good experiences with that you may want to try.  They don't bite and may offer lower prices.  Their main business is electronic parts.  Virtually all take charge cards.  Some have a minimum; usually about $25.

Most have quite substantial catalogs with more choices than you may have ever seen before.  Call and get a catalog before you need something.  Then use my suggestions below to zero in on exactly what you want.

You can ask questions about the product.  The people who you place you order with will not usually be able to answer them.  Tell them you need to ask someone a technical question about a part you want to buy.  They may ask if you want to talk to an applications technician or engineer.  Say yes.  When you are connected with that person, ask away!

SUGGESTION #7-1: Radio Shack

Radio Shack is a great place to get the components you need to make a track wiring buzzer or when you need just a few things in a pinch.

Getting #18AWG solid wire in the color that you want at Radio Shack has a curious problem.  Catalog item #278-1217 is available in both red and black.  Since both colors are stocked under the same number, a store cannot order the color you want if they don't have it.  You cannot call a store and have them just look on their computer to see what they have in stock.  You need to make sure they go look at what they have hanging on the wall.  Fortunately, a store employee knew of this problem and he called around and found the black I was looking for.  You might want to buy a roll or two extra when you see it as there is no telling when you will be able to buy the color you want when you need it.

SUGGESTION #7-2: Digikey

1-800-DIGI-KEY  (344-4539)

Good prices, items in stock, and popular with hobbyists.

SUGGESTION #7-3: Allied Electronics


If you think DigiKey's catalog is impressive, this one is even bigger. There is almost nothing this company doesn't sell. They cost a little more, so they are not usually my first choice.  Allied is also quite good.

SUGGESTION #7-6: Mouser Electronics


This company carries similar products to Digikey.  Their catalog is on-line, or you can get a free copy of the catalog in print, on a CD-ROM, or both!  Very popular with hobbyists.  This company carries the Insulation Displacement Connectors (IDCs) mentioned in Tony Koester's August 1998 article in Model Railroader.  For IDC part numbers, see below.  Mouser's prices are even better than Digi-Key's.

SUGGESTION #7-12: Hosfelt Electronics:  Hobbyist Supplier and Transformers.

Hosfelt isn't quite as big as any of the above, but they are a supplier friendly to hobbyists and they are one of the few that carry transformers appropriate for DCC use.  They do not have an online catalog.  So go to their web page now and order a catalog so you will know what they have when you need it.  Hosfelt Electronics

SUGGESTION #7-7: THIS is an Electronics Store!  Fry's Electronics

This is the store an electronics hobbyist always wished Radio Shack would become.   It's interesting they now occupy dead Incredible Universe stores in the Dallas, TX area.  They have what seems like everything.  Parts, computers, test equipment like oscilloscopes.  In the silicon valley area, one store is reported to look like a giant IC.  Another, a pyramid.  They even sell snacks for those all-night work sessions and non electronic magazines to make sure you stay a well rounded individual.

SUGGESTION #7-4: For Layout Wire, Tie Wraps, and Heat Shrink Tubing:

Your local home improvement store!  See the track wiring section for the types of wire they carry.  They also have a great selection of heat shrink tubing and tie wraps.

SUGGESTION #7-5:  Decoder Harness Plugs:

Samtec manufacturers the plugs.  Their web page includes listings of their dealers.  I have not dealt with Samtec.  They are a manufacturer and as such may not want to do retail sales.  Be sure to contact one of their dealers, especially if you need small quantities.
Male plug P/N:  SDL-104-TT-19      Female plug P/N:  BDL-104-T-F

Note:  This information came from Larry Puckett's column in Model Railroading.  He frequently covers DCC topics.  I found I liked the rest of the magazine, too!

The following carry decoder plugs.  No doubt, there are many others.

Tony's Train Exchange

Tried & True Trains

RECOMMENDATION #7-11:  Use #6 Screw Terminal Strips.

Terminal strips come in several sizes.  Below I list locking spade lugs.  When you compare the availability of terminal strips and locking spading lugs, you find the #6 screw terminal strip and locking spade lugs are a good all-around size for model railroaders.  I recommend you standardize model railroad on this size.  All parts below having to do with terminal strips I have based on this standard.

Useful Parts

Looking through a train catalog is sometimes fun, but electronic catalogs rarely are. So here are common items that are frequently needed by model railroaders.

I'm sorry it isn't practical to provide pages numbers. As soon as a given company comes out with a new catalog, any page numbers I would list are all doomed to be wrong. Murphy makes sure of it!

Please note!  The prices provided are only provided to give you an idea of what the items cost.  I do not intend to try too hard to keep these current.  These are the prices at the time I purchased them and entered them into this page.  If you buy a larger or smaller quantity, your price will vary accordingly.  If you are inclined to send me the current price you pay, I will be glad to update the list.

 Hosfelt Electronics
Part #
56-590 $24.95 4 A  18 VAC  Transformer Power DCC boosters and command stations for all scales.  However, do not use with boosters and command stations capable of putting out more than 4 amps.  Doing so would keep the short circuit protection from shutting down and damage to your track and equipment could result.

Part #
68513 $13.95/10 19V replacement lamps Use these to replace 5V LGB lamps in their standard locomotives with voltage regulators running on conventional DC power packs.  Use these with DCC decoders.  You will no longer need the LGB voltage regulator.  Note:  Feel free to use these lamps with any of your G scale locomotives that use voltage regulators regardless of who the manufacturer is!

Digikey & Mouser Electronics

Lately, it seems part numbers are changing a lot. This information is current as the last time I ordered a given part for myself. I buy in quantity, so the information may be a year or more old. If you find that part is no longer available or its number has changed, please let me know.

Part #
Mouser Electronics
Part #
Description Usage
3M Scotchlok connectors are the only IDC's you should consider using.  They have a double knife where most only have one.  Modelers that have used IDC's believe the 3M ones are far superior to cheaper alternatives.
Not Available 517-905
18-14 AWG Bus 
22-18 AWG Feeder
Track bus/feeder wiring.
Wire O.D. max 0.11"
Not Available  517-567 
12-10 AWG Bus
   18-14 AWG Feeder
Track bus/feeder wiring.
Wire O.D. max 0.145" tap, 0.19" run  
Not Available 
22-14 AWG
Join up to three wire ends.
Wire O.D. max 0.15"
Not Available 
18-14 AWG
Join two parallel wires.
Wire O.D. max 0.145"
Not Available 
Crimp Tool
Modelers who use IDCs report more reliable connections are made when using this tool over pliers.
Waving Deutschland  Flag For suppliers in Deutschland, see below.


6 conductor flat phone cable, black, 100' Digitrax Throttle Networks


6 conductor flat phone cable, silver, 100' Digitrax Booster Networks
Note: The current trend is to locate all boosters in close proximity for easy troubleshooting.  You would not need a booster network.


6 conductor flat phone cable, white, 100' Accessory Device Networks
6 pin flat phone cable plug Use with 6 conductor flat phone cable.
Tool for 6 pin flat phone cable plug.


4 conductor flat phone cable, silver, 100' For interconnecting Digitrax DS-54 accessory decoder with accessories fitted with 4 pin jack. For more info, see Switch machines controlled by Digitrax DS-54s.
4 pin jack with 4-6" wire leads. Switch machines controlled by Digitrax DS-54s. Glue these on switch machines and use 4 conductor handset wire from the DS-54 to the switch machine.  For use with 4 conductor flat phone cable.
4 pin handset plug Fits Digitrax DS-54s  for use with 4 conductor flat phone cable.
Tool for 4 pin handset plug
Part #
Mouser Electronics
Part #
4 lug solder terminal strips. Miscellaneous use solder terminal strips.  Use them to solder fine wires from block detectors.  I definitely recommend them for the fine wires from signal masts.
8 lug solder terminal strips. Same as above.
#6 locking spade lug. For wire 22-18 AWG.
#6 locking spade lug. For wire 16-14 AWG.



#6 locking spade lug. For wire 12 - 10 AWG.
Female slide on crimp terminal.
22-18 AWG Uninsulated.
Use with relays or micro switches listed here.
Female slide on crimp terminal.
16-14 AWG Uninsulated.
Use with relays or micro switches listed here.
Female slide on crimp terminal.
12-10 AWG Uninsulated.
Use with relays or micro switches listed here.


#6 Internal star lock washer solder terminal. Use when you want to attach a wire to a terminal block that you want to solder to the terminal.
No Longer Available
No Longer Available

3/4 W Solder terminal 140 series. 


If you can find it, buy it!

Useful for attaching tiny wires to terminal strips.  Solder the small wire to the tab after this terminal has been attached to a terminal strip. 

Useful for attaching block detector wires like the BD-1. 

Bend one in the middle so the end stands straight up and solder on a car tail light bulb.  Now you have an inexpensive ballast lamp holder! See section on track wiring for more info.

Fits #6 screw terminal strips.

($1.38 ea)
#6 2 terminal barrier strip.
#6 4 terminal barrier strip.
#6 6 terminal barrier strip.
#6 6 terminal barrier strip number strip. If you want each of your screws to have numbers, buy this.
($3.37 ea)
($2.83 ea)
#6 8 terminal barrier strip.
#6 8 terminal barrier strip number strip. If you want each of your screws to have numbers, buy this.
#6 10 terminal barrier strip.
#6 10 terminal barrier strip number strip. If you want each of your screws to have numbers, buy this.
#6 12 terminal barrier strip.
#6 12 terminal barrier strip number strip. If you want each of your screws to have numbers, buy this.
Part #
Mouser Electronics
Part #


($1.07 ea.)

1 mH Use to isolate motor and DCC driver noise from sound system inputs that use the motor voltage to trigger it's effects.

d is diamter:
364 = 3/64" ($1.78 /5')
116 = 1/16"
332 = 3/32"
018 = 1/8"
316 = 3/16"
014 = 1/4"
038 = 3/8"

c is color choice:
K-Blk   C-Clr
B-Blue  G-Grn
R-Red  W-Whi

X is length in 5' multiples

5174-1116c  1/16"
5174-1332c  3/32"
5174-118c  1/8"
5174-1316c  3/16"
5174-114c 1/4"
5174-138c 3/8"

c is color choice: 

1  Black
2  Blue
3  Clear
4  Red
5  White
6 Yellow

Colored heat shrinkable tubing. Use anywhere, especially in tight spaces, like inside locomotives.

d is diamter:
364 = 3/64"
116 = 1/16"
332 = 3/32"
018 = 1/8"
316 = 3/16"
014 = 1/4"
038 = 3/8"

X is length in 5' multiples

5174-31161 1/16"
5174-33321 3/32"
5174-3181 1/8"
5174-33161 3/16"
5174-3141 1/4"
5174-3381 3/8"
Heat shrinkable tubing that stays flexible.

($1.96 ea.)

Wire marker tape dispenser with 1 roll each of 0 through 9.

n = is number printed on roll.

Refill roll You may want to order extra rolls of low numbers if your layout will have wires labeled in the hundreds.
Part #
Mouser Electronics
Part #
Cable tie mounting block. Screw down with a dry wall screw.  Has 2 slots to slide a cable tie through.
4.9" Releasable cable tie, standard release Yes, you are reading this right.  These are cable ties that you can release and reuse!  Perfect for keeping your under layout wires organized.  If you need to snake another wire through, no problem!
5.9" Releaseable cable tie, standard release
7.8" Releasable cable tie, standard release
11.7" Releasable cable tie, standard release


5.8",Releasable cable tie, push release
( $18/10)
SPDT microswitch 5A  Use on Switchcraft (Hankscraft) slow motion switch machines.  If you need a 10A microswitch, see 7-15.
22/44 pin edge card connector. Use for the CVP AD4x; Digitax PM-42 & BDL-16.


10 pin edge card connector. Use for mating to Tortoise switchmachines.
Part #
Mouser Electronics
Part #
1/4 watt, 10k ohm resistors, "1206" surface mount Glue to axles for block detection.  See section on Block Detection.



22 ohm, 1/2 W, 5% resistor. Put in series with lamps used for DCC special lighting effects - like ditch lights, flickering firebox, Mars lights, strobes, etc.
291 - 1/4 watt
294 - 1 watt
General Mouser: The first three digits are the series and size. Follow that by the value you need.


12V 44mA coil, DPDT 5A, circuit board mount. Highly sensitive coil can be driven by stationary and mobile decoders.  Use for controlling high current switch machines and other general model railroad needs.
Not Available
12VDC coil, DPDT 10A Ideal for miscellaneous model railroad needs.  Has 2 screw tabs that make it easily screwed to benchwork.  No socket required!  Solder wires or use slide on crimp connectors. 

Can also be used to reverse loops, but does not have an extra set of contacts to replace the ones borrowed from a switch machine. See below.

Not Available
12VDC coil, 3PDT 10A Ideal for miscellaneous model railroad needs.  Has 2 screw tabs that make it easily screwed to benchwork.  No socket required!  Solder wires or use slide on crimp connectors. 

Can reverse polarity in reverse loops.  Has extra set of contacts which can be used to "replace" a switch borrowed from a switch machine to operate the relay. 



1000uF 25V Bi-Polar(Nonpolarized) Electrolytic Capacitor 1. Use for filtering out motor and DCC noise for sound systems that sense motor voltage to trigger their effects.
2. Better bass with Soundtraxx decoders.
3. Use instead of two 2200uF capacitors back to back when unpolarized capacitors are needed.


1A ,100V Diode General purpose - clamping on relay, power supplies, constant lighting, etc.


2A, 100V Bridge Rectifier General purpose - use for lighting in cars, cabooses, or powering your mobile sound system.  Also, use to power track side accessories - especially in your garden.
6A 200V Diode Use for balancing out the voltage applied to blocks that you are not block detecting.  For use only with systems employing block detectors that use diodes like the Digitrax BD-1.  Not necessary for block detectors that use current transformers like North Coast Engineering's detector. Good for use with boosters up to 6A of output power to track.


27V 2000A Surge Suppressor

Use on wires coming back from garden track wiring to protect your booster against lightning. Lightning is a powerful force!  Protection is NOT gauranteed!  This will work with most garden railroads having about 18V on the track.

Buy one of these and put it across your booster output.  If your booster does not shut down, then use this surge suppresor.  If it shuts down, use the one below.

33V 2000A Surge Suppressor Use on wires coming back from garden track wiring to protect your booster against lightning. Lightning is a powerful force!  Protection is NOT gauranteed!

See above.

($12.38/1 lb)
16 AWG (0.062" diameter) solid core 60/40. This solder has no flux of it's own. It also has no silver so it melts at a low temperature minimizing the possibility of melting track.  It's ideal for use with the liquid flux mentioned elsewhere on this page that is so good on preweathered track by Micro Engineering or Tillig(Pilz.)


100mAHr AA NiCd rechargeable battery.  "high capacity" type. Railfan scanners.


(For Zimo Decoders)


16 pin, tin plated contacts, multicolored, 18" ribbon cable with connectors on both ends. Cut this cable in half and you will be able to do two Zimo decoders.  Since you will mate this connector one time and leave it alone inside the locomotive, you don't need higher grade connector

Note:  Ribbon cables will fail if it flexed alot, handled often, or if strain is placed on the cable.  Strain is particularly important to a cable that is inside a locomotive.  Be sure there is no strain on the cable.  It will fail eventually - and probably a lot sooner than either of us wants!


16 pin, gold plated contacts, multicolored, 18" ribbon cable with connectors on both ends. For those who would prefer a gold plated connector for their Zimo decoder.


Single connector without ribbon cable, 16 pin, gold plated contacts, with strain relief.  The ultimate ribbon cable connector with strain relief.


Not Available Panasonic Hall Effect Sensor, 3 lead SIP, Open Collector output. Use for triggering chuff sync, whistles, and bells.  MUCH more rugged than the incredibly delicate reed switch.  Requires 4.5-16VDC.


Double the price for the same thing. 602-3053/1-100-0x

100' roll of 20 AWG solid


Radio Shack

Part # Price Description   Usage
272-1098   6V, 60mA Grain of Wheat Bulbs 1 red, yellow, & green w/leads Flickering Firebox
272-1099 $1.29 12V, 60mA Grain of Wheat Bulbs 1 red, yellow, & green w/leads Flickering Firebox w/Digitrax or O/G only.   Requires decoders that can adjust brightness of effects.  If you use two of the 272-1098 in series above, you will never go wrong.
271-151 $.49/2 10 ohm 1 watt resistor Digitrax now recommends this lower value resistor for reliable programming feedback of their DS-54s.
271-1103 $.49/5 22 ohm 1/2 watt resistor Surge limiting on FX functions like flickering firebox, Mars lights, ditch lights, beacons, strobes, etc.
271-1104 $.49/5 33 ohm 1/2 watt resistor Surge limiting on FX functions like flickering firebox, Mars lights, ditch lights, beacons, strobes, etc.
271-1105 $.49/5 47 ohm 1/2 watt resistor  
271-1108 $.49/5 100 ohm 1/2 watt resistor  
271-1111 $.49/5 220 ohm 1/2 watt resistor  
271-1113 $.49/5 330 ohm 1/2 watt resistor  
271-1116 $.49/5 560 ohm 1/2 watt resistor  
271-1119 $.49/5 1.2k ohm 1/2 watt resistor  
275-005A $3.99 12A relay that operates on 7-9VDC and only 18mA Useful for operating bigger relays or air solenoids from low current slow motion motor controllers like the Digitrax DS44 and DS54. Note: The catalog in some places says this is a 2A relay. The package says 12A and it appears large enough to handle 12A.
275-241 $2.99 "Micromini" 12VDC relay, SPDT, 1A Useful for controlling things like smoke generators with decoders.



3.5" Full range speaker 1 5/8" thick. 163-16kHz

G scale speaker.

40-1197 $11.99 4" Full range speaker G scale speaker.
278-1610   Colored heat-shrink tubing assortment.  
278-1627B   Heat shrink assortment, black.  




Set of 4 pairs of terminals. Solder to PC boards. Can be left in group of 8 or broken off two at a time. Great for various projects under the layout.


$4.49 Straight locking forceps Hold wire to side of rail up to G.



Long, narrow circuit board for one row of IC's. Used with Radio Shack terminals, makes excellent mount for Digitrax DS-44 slow motion turnout controller. Center row for IC's is used for current limiting resistors for slow motion motors.
276-150A $1.19 General Purpose Use for mounting voltage regulator circuit and filter circuit for Sierra sound unit.  Contains rows of holes attached together for use with simple integrated circuit projects.

SPEAKERS from Dallee or Throttle Up! (Soundtraxx)
Part #  Price Description Usage
    Intervox 8 ohm ,1.2 watt speaker Excellent HO speaker

Part #  Price Description Usage
189-5900  $11.99 Conductive Paint Connecting wheels to resistors for block detection. 

Connecting chuff sync disks or cams to axle for sound systems.

SUGGESTION 7-8:  Circuit Board Throw Bars and Phosphor Bronze:

Making circuit board throw bars isn't fun.  In fact, it can be very dangerous!   Ed McCamey sent me the following tip:

"...Russ Clover of Clover House.  Although only by mail order - he has excellent, affordable, and responsive service PC Board Tie and Throwbar materials.

They are available in two size thicknesss (0.31 and 0.062) with widths of scale 8" and 9" in N, HO, S, and O.  The N-HO sizes are only $2.50 per package of ten pieces of 12" long.  This is real convenient packaging and the consistency is great.  Russ respnds very quickly.  A catalogoue of all sorts of craftsman supplies and tools is available for $4.50.  He has sheets and wires of phosphor bronze as well as sheets of brass and nickel silver.  I can really recommend Clover House.

Contact:  Clover House, POB 62, Sebasstopol, CA  95473-0062."

If only the cable company could please me as much as Clover House has pleased Ed!

Note:  Phosphor bronze is a great material.  It's springy, conducts electricity well, and doesn't corrode badly.  I recommend it over anything you might use strips of brass or copper for.

RECOMMENDATION #7-9: Liquid Flux:

H&N Electronics  Their Supersafe flux is great!  Amateur and advanced solderers will wonder how you ever soldered without it.  For more information, see the section on Soldering.

SUGGESTION #7-12: Sockets for the 1156 Tail Light Bulb - Reasonably Priced!

Contributed by one of my readers, J. Krestel:

The price is 1.73 each, and by far the cheapest I have found. This is by far the cheapest I've ever seen, too - Allan. They come with about 6" leads.

Globe Specialty Company
2700 West 50th Street
Chicago, Ill. 60632
(773) 778-3300
1-800-THE LAMP

One may send check or M.O. or they will ship UPS COD.

SUGGESTION #7-13: SwitchMaster is Available Again!

SwitchMaster is now available through Builders-In-Scale.
Builders In Scale / SwitchMaster
P.O. Box 1427
Mukiteo, WA 98275
(425) 355-5622
You may have heard that SwitchMaster went out of business. The SwitchMaster product is now available again through Builders-In-Scale. You can order direct or your hobby shop can order them for you. Caboose Hobbies is carrying them.

Similar type of switch machines:
1. has recently written me and said he, John Pautz, is carrying them at American Switch and Signal.
2. TrainsAmerica in Canfield, Ohio hast them. They are at Ask for Mike at 330 533 7181.
Thanks to John and Harrison B. for bringing this information to my attention!

I have contacted Rix. They intend to keep making the bracket and ultimately come out with their own switch machine. Be watching their website for when this happens.

SUGGESTION #7-15: Flat Cable (Telco) Supplier in Germany. waving deutschland flag

Thanks to Sebastian Daeunert for supplying information on where someone in Germany can find the flat cable used on Digitrax and some other of the US made DCC systems. This cable is frequently referred to "Telco" cable as it is used on US phones. Telco is simply short for telecommunications.

Note: If you are using Digitrax, they do not require that you use this cable. It is simply convenient to do so.

Sebastian found the cable at Conrad Electronic ( He was able to get the right plugs and found the price reasonable - 4.70 Euro for a 3 Meter cable.

921442-41 for 3 Meter Cable

921442-42 for 6 Meter Cable

921442-43 for 10 Meter Cable

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