Introduction to Basic Electricity

Introduction to Basic Electricity

By Roger & Wynn Heid


There is no such thing as a ‘Typical Model Railroader’. They come in all forms and guises. Most of us know this. Some layouts are simple. Not much in tracks, but a substantial amount of time and effort goes into meticulous detailing of buildings and landscaping, reflecting a plethora of particulars. The train itself may play a secondary role.

On the other hand, you may observe rather lavish layouts, adorned by many buildings and landscape details. There is an overwhelming maze of tracks, often including complex shifting or shunting yards, featuring a complex arrangement of turnouts and a forest of signals. There are many different trains running simultaneously. When you darken the room and turn off all the lights, the whole affair looks like New York City, at night. What a wonderful show! Your first impression may be: Wow!!! How will I ever be able to do this?

Oh well! You see, some of the model railroaders are electricians or electronics technicians, possibly even engineers in a related field. When they open up a starter kit, they will have things going, in no time flat.

Let us assume you are not the technician or engineer type mentioned above. You may belong to the category of population who is happy when the light turns on after you flip the wall switch. You are proud of yourself when your flashlight works, after you changed the batteries. You may even struggle to plug in an appliance, until you realize that the prongs of the plug you are trying to plug in, has two different widths, and the slots of the outlet consists of two different sizes.

If you fit into this category, it may take you hours to make that electric train starter kit finally run. You may even need the assistance of the kid next door. If you do that, you may not be able to play with your new train, simply because the neighbor kid will hog it, for weeks, if you’re lucky. If he mows your lawn, he may ask for play time rather than cash.

As time goes by, you may want to expand your layout. But you keep putting it off. Why? You have saved up for it. Maybe you are just afraid of having to deal with more wires and are afraid to ask questions. You are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Don’t you be afraid now. We are here to help you, in any way we can. If you just got started, go to the Forum Beginner’s Corner. Find the topic ‘Just Got Started’. Look and see. There you will discover helpful hints. For now, this will keep you going.

As you bop along, you will probably need to learn more specifics about basic electricity.

This is when my technical advisor Ulrich Albrecht comes in. He has taken it upon himself to publish a series of four articles. You can find these on the Forum Home Page, under the topic Technical Corner. He will teach you the basics of electricity. You may study all this, at your leisure.

When your time comes, you should also read a Blog referring to Power Supplies. It explains all the essentials about the various types of power packs.

Always feel free to post questions under the appropriate forum topic. Don’t worry; nobody will come to your house to confiscate your train, just because you asked a question.

Our philosophy is: A dumb question is the one not asked.

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