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 http://www.RadioShack.com
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) http://www.digikey.com
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 http://www.hosfelt.com
SUGGESTION #7-7: THIS is an Electronics Store! Fry's Electronics http://www.outpost.com
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
H&N Electronics http://www.ccis.com/home/hn 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.
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
One may send check or M.O. or they will ship UPS COD.
SwitchMaster is now available through Builders-In-Scale.
Similar type of switch machines:
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 (www.conrad.de). 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
Free counters provided by Andale.
Copyright by Allan Gartner 1996 - 2006 © All rights reserved. You may print this for your own, personal, non-commercial use. Non-commercial, non-personal reproduction may be requested by visiting www.WiringForDCC.com/writeme.htm . All users, commercial and non-commercial, may link only to this site at www.WiringForDCC.com.
Thanks to all who contribute to this site and the Q&A forum!