Blocks are isolated track sections modelers use to help control multiple trains on the same layout. Real railroads often use blocks as well. Theirs don’t control power to the trains, but do separate the railroad into separate districts to keep trains safely spaced. These blocks are often marked by signals.
Wiring your railroad for blocks has several advantages.
- By turning off blocks when not in use, you can store additional trains and reduce the draw on your power supplies in either conventional or command control.
- Installing breakers on separate blocks or loops can prevent a problem on one part of your layout from shutting down the entire platform.
- Troubleshooting is much easier when you can identify a location.
- Multiple trains can operate independently on the same platform, even with conventional control.
To isolate track blocks, you’ll need to create a break in the circuit on the rails. If you have wired the track normally, with the outside rails connected to the common ground (U), then you only need to create a break in the center rail. Insulated outside rails can be used to activate accessories. This type of wiring, with a shared ground between blocks, is usually called common rail, or common ground wiring.
The easiest way to create a separate block is to use our FasTrack insulated center rail track (6-12060.) You can use this track, with pre-cut rails, to isolate any or all of the three rails. Simply remove the center jumper wire on the underside of the track.
For tubular track, you can make your own insulated section by cutting a gap in the center rail using a cut-off disc in a rotary tool. These tools, made by Dremel, Black and Decker and others, are very useful modeling tools that can be adapted to many jobs by simply changing the attachments.
After isolating the blocks, you’ll need to connect each section to the power supply. Attach a feeder wire(s) to each side of the gap. You can use conventional lock-ons or power adaptor tracks to do this or solder the feeders directly to the rails.
While the common (outside) rails can all be wired together, the hot rails must pass through something else to turn off or on the power between the track and the power supplies. Depending on what you want to do, this can be a simple SPDT (Single Pole Double Throw) toggle switch (available at hardware and electronic stores), a circuit breaker, or one of our control switches (for command control).
To see how to hook up one of these switches, take a look at this instructional video: