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Thread: Quick disconnect control panel

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    Default Quick disconnect control panel

    Okay guys - everyone has been a big help to me in navigating the deconstruction of my old layout, and the construction of a new smaller layout. Now that I'm making progress I'm trying to think ahead about how to fabricate a quick disconnect for my control panel. My new layout is suspended from the ceiling by a kayak lift and I need to disconnect the control panel when I raise the layout to it's storage position.

    Now for my questions. The framework of the layout is made with 1x4s. I'd like to use something like banana plug jacks for the connections between the control panel and the layout but I can't find anything that would go through 3/4" wood. I'm an old guy and maybe "banana plug jacks" (or something like stereo speaker jacks? )is the wrong name for today's connectors - I just can't seem to find what I'm looking for. Any suggestions on this search?

    Another question; since the turnouts and their controllers are 3-wire connection is there some kind of "pin-plug" (again I don't know the correct name) that would be compatible with the other connectors for the track, lights, etc.? Again it would need to go through 3/4" wood.

    On my old layout I used the old screw type terminal blocks on hinged "drop-down" Masonite panels. They worked great but I didn't need to disconnect them until I started my deconstruction.

    As always I appreciate your comments, tips and whatever other guidance you can provide. Pics help a lot too !
    Thanks again
    Ralph

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    Some random thoughts....

    Andersen PowerPole connectors, as used by the ham radio crowd and adopted by NTrak are easy, cheap, and can be ganged together in multiple configurations. They would be one of my first thoughts, particularly if power is involved.

    Historically a lot of folks have used multi-pin "molex" style connectors. They work, but are not designed to be operated a lot, and are somewhat frustrating to plug/unplug.

    The modern solution would be to make the control panel talk to a smart device (either LocoNet, or even like a Raspberry Pi) and have a single "network" (e.g. LocoNet) connection to the layout that controls things like turnout controllers and such under the layout. That provides a single connection. Indeed, with the right tech, the control panel could even be wireless, or virtual (e.g. on a smartphone, tablet, or PC).

    Digikey and mouser probably stock at least 10,000 connectors that could possibly be used.
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    If you have some old computer guts lying around (or have a friend who has outdated computer parts) then you might find something like a parallel port or SCSI connector that you could repurpose. You would then have a bank of roughly 25 pins on one connector, just have to do the work of soldering/connecting wires to each half. Big-box hardware stores also have a variety of connectors you can use, and in my case since I needed a total of 8 pins, I bought some 9-pin versions (in general they are keyed so that they can only connect in one orientation).

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    I'm not exactly sure what you are looking for, in terms of "how many contacts" and "how much current" and also I don't exactly know how you plan to connect them through the wood (Will you drill holes? Is it OK to make more or less rectangular cutouts in the wood?) so these ideas may be just way past what you need...

    There are the classic D-SUB connectors for reasonable amounts of current and up to ~50 pins. Lots of connectors available, solder to PCB, solder to cable, clip to ribbon cable - but they need rectangular cutouts.

    There are about half a million circular connectors available from Digikey: https://www.digikey.com/products/en/...connectors/436 if you just want to drill a hole. Filter them for price, number of contacts, maximum current... if you need just five contacts, you could use something like this: https://www.digikey.com/product-deta...-1250-ND/97021

    Quote Originally Posted by bicknell View Post
    Andersen PowerPole connectors, as used by the ham radio crowd and adopted by NTrak are easy, cheap, and can be ganged together in multiple configurations. They would be one of my first thoughts, particularly if power is involved.
    ...and they also make panel holders / housings for them: https://www.andersonpower.com/conten...s/CAT-PPMP.pdf on pp 25, 29 and 30. I've been looking for a good application for that

    Mouser and Digikey both sell them, though the pricing looks steeeeep. Although if you only need one or two for your entire layout...

    Hope this helps, and if not, please do give us a little more details,
    Heiko

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    For PowerPoles, use https://powerwerx.com or http://www.westmountainradio.com/

    In QTY 100 they are about $0.30/shell + $0.18/contact. Basically figure $1 for a two-connector power cable end. Since they are designed to move 15/30/45 amps (depending on connector size) there are cheaper options if you need signal only.

    I go through them like crazy, every NTrak module needs 6 pair minimum, plus cables to command stations and such. They would not be cost effective if you only need say, 10 total one time, which may be the case here.
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    I guess since I do things the old fashioned way - DC. My wiring will be very simple too. I will probably have no more than 2-3 blocks for the track and 4 turnouts, plus some lighting for buildings. The new layout is much smaller than the one I am taking apart. (also DC). My most complicated connections would be 3-wire turnouts - all else being two wire connections. Very elementary but finding the connections I want is getting frustrating. I had planned to drill through the front edge framework of the layout (3/4") install a female "jack" or plug and use male plugs, similar to banana plugs ( ? ) to make the quick disconnect connection. Thank you all for the detailed responses and links to further explore potential solutions.

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    One other suggestion for the turnout wiring. You can buy ribbon cables (like you may have seen all over older PC's to connect drives and such) with a male and female cable on the ends. That could be your "quick disconnect". Then you can split the cable and use the wires as you see fit. 40 pin ribbon cables are quite common, and would give you 13 turnouts w/3-wires per.

    Something like this: https://www.amazon.com/UCTRONICS-Bre...dp/B07D991KMR/

    Cut it down the middle, use the two connectors for the disconnect and the cut ends to terminals.

    For the track power, while I think PowerPoles are the modern ideal, simpler may be the older N-Trak standard of Cinch Jones. NTrak used to use these: https://www.amazon.com/CINCH-P-302-C...dp/B00HPLWE10/ (you can probably get a cheaper price elsewhere), but they also make multi-pin versions like https://www.amazon.com/Connectors-P-...dp/B00B88CWYU/

    Very easy to solder and use.

    Maybe one connector for the turnouts, and one for power?
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    WOW - Do I have a lot of research to do ! Thanks everyone. 'Be back later - I think

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    Just a couple of suggestions...

    1. You don't necessarily have to run the wire through the side boards. Rig some kind of bracket that you can easily take the control panel on and off the layout. The wiring harness can loop down and under the edge of the frame.

    2. If you end up using multiple connectors, consider color coding them. This would make hookup simple and quicker - just match the color and plug together. And use keyed connectors, the kind that can only go together one way.
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    Atlas 56 switch control box can be surface mounted to control the turnouts. Have 2 wire in put but 3 wire output to turnout, also can be daisy chained to each outer. My suggestion would be to cut a rectangular hole in the 2x4 and mount a piece of plexiglass

    or some hard plastic. Use that to mount banana plugs for the disconnect. Also you could mount the control for blocks there, use terminal blocks on back side of 1x4 to power toggle switches and switch control box.

    Souf

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    why not simple bolts trough the wood and then wire connectors like for automotive
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Sid - good thought but that's basically what I've got now and trying to "streamline" down into maybe 4-5 "plugs" Here's what I'm trying to get rid of.
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    Hi Ralph,

    Get to your local electronic surplus store...they might have some old high current, multi-pin pairs of connectors.
    Happy Modeling

    Bruce

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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceNscale View Post
    Hi Ralph,

    Get to your local electronic surplus store...they might have some old high current, multi-pin pairs of connectors.
    He Bruce - Thanks for your comments. Funny you should refer me to an electronics store. I just went to a couple of electrical supply houses and I agree with them - there aren't any left anywhere (just like real hobby shops). You must be living in the right neighborhood. I never went often but Radio Shack sure would come in handy about now.
    This is basically what I'm looking for (but these are automotive, waterproof and expensive)
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    Build your own:

    MUYI 5 Kit 8 Pin Way DT Series Connector Gray Receptacle IP67 Waterproof Heavy Duty 14-20 AWG 13 Amps Continuous DT04-8P DT04-8S w/Wedge Lock W8P W8S (5 Kits, 8 Pin) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01G9XY1BK..._XSqiEbA3FGDKK

    Pigtail:

    Deutsch DT 8-pin Pigtail Kit 14AWG Pure Copper GPT Wire, Made in USA https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FTG8GNF..._pUqiEbRETFVK6

    And those two choices should send you down a rabbit hole of a thousand more.

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    Does Mouser still send out the 3 inch thick paper catalogs? I loved browsing through those back when I had time to do cool projects that required ordering stuff from them.

    Andrew

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    Quote Originally Posted by conrailandrew View Post
    Does Mouser still send out the 3 inch thick paper catalogs? I loved browsing through those back when I had time to do cool projects that required ordering stuff from them.
    I don't think so. See https://www.mouser.com/CatalogRequest/Catalog.aspx, all online, but there is a PDF version.

    Too much cost, gets out of date too quickly, doesn't have a lot of the info people want (like data sheets). It's all online now.

    I can only remember getting two paper catalogs in the mail this year, and for two very different reason. Every year I get an Ethan Allan catalog, and I find this odd because as far as I know I've never ordered from them, or even set foot in one of their stores in my life. But I've been getting them for about 15 years. I also got a catalog, get this, from Amazon! It was magazine sized, and 100% toys, right before Thanksgiving. We do have a small child (which no doubt they figured out from purchases), so I think it's an effort to let the little ones browse paper since they might not all be good with the mouse yet. Not a bad idea on their part.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph View Post
    This is basically what I'm looking for (but these are automotive, waterproof and expensive)
    Do you have a U-Pull-It kind of junkyard handy? Maybe you could just get some off old cars?

    I was actually thinking maybe some sort of D-sub connector:
    https://www.mouser.com/Connectors/D-...tors/_/N-9gxxm
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    D-subs work, but aren't rated for any real current. They were designed to be signal connectors. I think most are 3A max rating, and some are a lot less.

    Radio shack used to carry knock offs of the Molex connector line, which is what I've seen most people use. Something like this:

    https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Molex/150177-2081

    https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Molex/150179-2080

    You also have to buy pins, they come in different sizes depending on the wire gauge. Here's one:

    https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Molex/150180-1016

    You crimp the pins on the wire, shove them in the connector, and viola you're done. 11 Amps per Contact rated, so plenty good on the power side.

    The down side to these is they are only rated for 25 plug and unplug cycles. Now, they will last a LOT longer than that, that's to maintain all of their ratings, but they weren't really designed to be plugged and unplugged a lot. Same is true of most automotive connectors, they assume they will only be disconnected and reconnected a handful of times in the life of the car.

    By comparison, the PowerPoles are rated for 1,500 cycles.

    Truthfully though, any of these suggestions work. I get the impression the original poster is not a big "electronics" person from the responses so far, which is 100% ok. Going with the Amazon plugs with wires already attached so they can just be screwed directly to terminal blocks may be the easiest overall.
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    The thing I like about PowerPole is that they aren't gendered (no male and female parts to keep track of). They can also be configured into whatever number of wires that you need. without having to worry about keeping separate shells.
    Tim Rumph
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