Wiring Color Code

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Summary: Suggestions on the colour coding for DCC Wiring


A wiring colour code can save your life when trying to determine which wire is doing what within a layout. However, the most important rule to follow is: Whatever the colour code is, stick to it! It may help to buy your wiring locally, so that if you run out, you can call at the store and buy more. This will help you keep to your colour code.

It's best to develop a colour code when you're just getting started.

Heavy gauge wire on 30m spools

Need suggestions (or example) on colour codes? Based on the fact that many modelers want to use regular house wiring, so let's start there. Use white and black from your booster out to the tracks (note: this is not the wire you use to connect directly to the track; this is the main bus wire), remembering that feeds between booster districts are NOT to be connected together! Red and yellow for reverse buses. All that is left is to pick two more colours for bus feeders (sub buses), such as blue and orange.

It is best not to use green as that is associated with ground. Green wire is best used for common returns so it is indefinable as to its purpose.

If you use the bare copper wire as part of your feeder system, be careful it doesn't contact anything that is grounded to your home wiring.

Digitrax suggested a wiring colour code: use this or use your own - it's your choice.

Suggested Wire Colour Codes for DCC
Track Power Bus Red Black
Switch Machine power leads, Solenoid switch machines Yellow - Closed White - Open Blue - Common
Slow motion and Polarity dependant solenoid switch machines Yellow White
Direct current accessory motor power leads Orange Gray
Alternating Current power leads to boosters and command stations Violet Brown

Purchase Wire from a Favourite Home Improvement Outlet

The advantages are numerous. The most important one is that if you run out of wire, you can easily get more, which helps you stick to your colour codes. As a benefit, you may get a better price than an electronics supply store.

Heavy stranded wire. At Home Depot, they stock:

  • 14 AWG: Black Beige Red Blue Green White
  • 12 AWG: Black Red(Rose) White Blue Orange Yellow Brown Green
  • 10 AWG: Brown Orange Yellow Black Red Blue White

Similar stock is carried at Lowe's and other big box home improvement stores. Check your local options!

Heavy solid wire for wiring homes. This stuff is cheap, so you may want to base your power distribution buses on this. It is stiffer and more difficult to work with than stranded wire, so try it out before committing yourself. Stranded wire is much more flexible and suited to layout wiring requirements.

Solid wire, if accidentally nicked during the stripping process, can break at that point. Stranded wire can also be nicked, but the nick won't impact the integrity of the wire.

Wire Gauge and other Considerations

With DCC wire gauge is important. The nature of the DCC power signal demands better wiring than that used for analog layouts. See the page on Wire Size and Spacing for more details. Do not let the colour choices influence the selection of wire gauges.

Black to Back

  • Don't forget: It is important to be consistent in applying the feeders from the power bus to the track. A good way of ensuring consistency is to have an easy way of remembering - try this saying if you use black and red for the power bus - "Black to Back" where Back is the back of the layout

See Also