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Wiring your home track with UK club controller box
#1

   

If you’re thinking of getting involved in your local club, it’s not a bad idea to upgrade your track at home so it is wired the same as UK club tracks and has the same controller plug and socket system. That means you can get used to using whatever controller you decide to buy for club racing. Anything beyond a basic resistor controller won’t be compatible with both a UK club track and a Scalextric powerbase (‘positive’ polarity / ‘common ground’ vs ‘negative’ polarity / ‘common positive’). You do want lots of practice, but you don’t want to damage your new fancy controller!

   

Almost all UK club tracks use an old-fashioned 2-amp round 3-pin plug and socket system (you might also still find them used in caravans). The plugs and the sockets are still sold – for example at TLC Electric Supplies (https://www.tlc-direct.co.uk/Products/CM1245.html). There is also a larger 5 amp round 3-pin system – that’s not the one you’re looking for.

I’ll show you how to rig up a single fused controller box that plugs into a good quality power supply (eg the Fusion models at Pendle Slot Racing: https://www.pendleslotracing.co.uk/brand/fusion.html) via banana plugs and attaches to a Scalextric straight so that it controls both lanes – ideal for solo running on a test track. If you add single crossover to the layout (to make use of both lanes in one ‘big’ lap) this power piece will act as a power tap. It isn’t compatible with turnaround loops.

The wiring diagrams I always refer to are these from the British Slot Car Association (BSCRA) website Tech section (http://www.slotcarracing.org.uk/) - specifically ‘Track Construction Part 5: Wiring & Power Supplies’ (from here: http://www.bscra.org.uk/trackbuild/index.htm)

   

And ‘How do I wire it up?’ in the Controller section here: http://www.bscra.org.uk/control/index.htm

   

These are the basic components I’ll be using…

2 Amp 1-gang round pin socket (£3.24 from TLC)
1-gang 47mm plastic surface box (£1.19 from TLC)

Pair of red & black 4mm banana plugs – 36A 60V rated (£0.95 each from Bitsbox)
20mm panel-mounted fuseholder – 250V 6.3A rated (£0.74 from Bitsbox)
20x5mm 5A quick-blow fuse (£0.22 each from Bitsbox)
2 metres twin stranded 42/0.2 speaker wire – 60V 15A rated (£0.76 from Bitsbox)
15A terminal block – aka ‘choc’ block (£1.06 for 12 way strip from Bitsbox)

   

That’s about £8 for the controller box, plus a 2-amp roundplug (eg £1.87 from TLC) for each of your controllers and a few extra fuses to have handy. You’ll also need a soldering iron, flux, solder and a few other basic tools. I will mount the track piece and controller box on some foamboard – mdf or hardboard would do just as well to keep things neat and compact. The only loose cables are the ones to the power supply. You’ll should work out how long those wires need to be and adjust your speaker wire order accordingly. The cable I’ll make will be about 5 foot long to reach a power supply under the table.
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#2

The first thing to do is to create a half inch diameter hole in the surface box to fit the panel-mounted fuseholder…

   

This is by far the most time-consuming (and tedious) part of the whole job. The boxes I use are made from melamine, which gives a lovely finish (and is also flame retardant) but really isn’t easy to drill or cut. Going in gung-ho with a big drill bit will turn your lovely box into a dozen or so pieces of shattered melamine.

   

The easiest way I have found to create the hole for the fuseholder is to use a small-ish 3mm drill bit on a multi-tool (eg a Dremel) to drill the first hole. Take your time and don’t press too hard. The hole can then be opened up with increasingly bigger drill bits – or by using a milling bit on the multitool – or by using a convex needle file by hand. If you use a drill rather than a multi tool, hold the box in a vice, use a very slow speed and don’t push – a hand drill is ideal.

As my milling bit seemed rather worn, I opened the hole up to 6.5mm with a drill bit and then used a needle file. The file does work well on the melamine and it only took me about 20 minutes of meditative whittling to have a reasonable round hole that the fuse holder fits into (including over the screw thread). I also had a work surface covered in dubious white powder... Melamine itself is not hazardous, but inhalation of any particles should be avoided – I worked with a cloth mask over my mouth and nose and then cleaned up the dust immediately after this picture…

   

So here is everything cleaned up and the holder test-fitted with the retaining ring. I will be removing it to 'tin' the contacts ready for soldering…

   

Of course, none of this was really necessary! A fuse holder (containing a quick-blow fuse) is absolutely necessary to protect your controller, power supply, cars and track. However, a simpler inline fuseholder could be fitted inside the box or in a separate box - or as part of the cable. I just like the ease of use of this arrangement - and it looks good.

There is more melamine drilling that needs doing in this build... I will be fitting this box on a solid surface, so want the wires to the power supply and to the track to come out of the sides of the box. Normally, it is easier to have the cables coming out of the box where there are pre-made holes covered by an ultra-thin 'membrane' that can be broken very easily with a large-ish screwdriver.

   

There are also two thinner areas in the walls of the box – front and back – to help with the extra holes I'll be making for the cable. I simply drilled two 3mm holes close together within each of these thin areas - and then used a combination of milling bit and needle file to create rectangular hole the speaker cable fits into snuggly. There are corresponding areas of 'melamine membrane' behind the thin-walled areas which create a path into the box interior. Again, they are removed with a screwdriver...

   

The box is now ready to have all the wiring fitting, which - thanks to the BSCRA diagrams - is a pretty straightforward task.
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#3

When I do any wiring or soldering, I like to draw my own wiring picture with pen and paper. It’s not anything technical – it’s something that has to make sense to me. I might just be copying a diagram I’ve found online (like the BSCRA diagrams), but the process of drawing helps me decide whether I understand what I’m trying to do. If I don't, it's probably not safe to continue. I can also refer to it on my bench as I work, rather than have to look at a screen. Diagram done, I assemble all my tools and components…

   

Most of the connections in the box are screw terminals and the only soldering is in and out of the fuse holder, two wires to the track and a wire to each of the banana plugs. However, I am going to tin (cover with a layer of solder) the ends of the wires going into the screw terminals – not entirely necessary, but it will make the wires more robust. That means measuring up and cutting the lengths of wire that I’ll need – as per the wiring diagram. Within the box, I will use longer wires than I need from the fuse holder to the L terminal and from the E terminal to the terminal block. I’ll do this so not to pull on the connections – and there is a lot of room in the 47mm deep box.

There are plenty of online guides to soldering – most of them really good. My dad taught me when I was a teenager (soldering was part of his job), but I’ve since picked up plenty of useful tips from various online tutorials. I clean surfaces (and soldering iron tip), use flux paste, tin each surface before I join and don’t skimp on the solder. I also work on one component at a time and keep things simple. I’d normally use colour-coded wire, but the wiring box is something I’m familiar with and I’ll use the same twin wires – one has a black line on it – which will be the positive (usually red) power wire.

   

The positive wire from the red banana plug at the power supply, runs through the fuse and to the L terminal and then to the positive rail on the track via the N terminal – the power has gone through the controller from L to N. Do check for the N and L on the terminals. The BSCRA diagram shows the three-pin plate from the top down – we wire it from the bottom.

The other – negative – wire goes from the black banana plug to the loose terminal connector in the box… Here it meets a wire from the E terminal (the brake wire of the controller) and continues to the negative rail on the track.

Here is the box wired up, with the only soldered joins on the fuse holder...

   

Can you see how the actual wiring matches the diagrams?

Here's the same picture annotated...

   

The next step is to solder the banana plugs to the end of the long 'power-in' cable - and then solder the ends of the shorter 'power-out' cable to the underside of the track.
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#4

Soldering the wires to the solid metal banana plugs does require a hot iron, tinning the wire and tinning of the cavity in the end of the plug (using flux paste and plenty of solder) – and then the final joint should solder well. Once the join has cooled, give the wire a very good tug to make sure it will hold up to being manhandled on a regular basis. The ‘helping hands’ set-ups are useful for a job like this – clips to hold wires and components, plus a magnifying glass to see what you're doing. An alternative is to hold the banana plug in a crocodile clip stuck in some blu-tack. With proper tinning, the soldering shouldn't take very long and the plug shouldn't be getting too hot - but never be tempted to hold the plug in your fingers.

Now the banana plugs are attached (hopefully to the correct wires...), I have added a small cable tie to the cables going in and out of the box to prevent them being pulled from their connections in the box. I’ve pulled the cable ties nice and tight, so if I pull the cable, the tie catches on the inside of the hole in the box wall and prevents the cable being pulled any further…

   

Then I carefully compress the wires inside and close the box.
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#5

It’s now time to wire up the track...

   

Again we’ll be working from the bottom, while the diagrams look down from above… It’s important to mark the underside with the direction and which wire goes to which rail…

   

I have already tinned the tabs (flux paste, solder and a quick dab of a hot iron) and the wire ends. So it is a straightforward join without having to apply heat for very long and risk hot rails melting any plastic…

   

The wire I’ve used is big – rated at 15 amps - and doesn't give the neatest joins to the track tab. The wire is a lot bigger than we need, but I’ve always followed the advice of wiring a slot car track with large gauge wire. To be honest, 10 amp cable would be more than adequate for a home track, but this cable is readily available and easy to use.

Flipping the track back over, I hooked the banana plugs up to a power supply and used a Parma resistor controller to test a car would work – and move in the correct direction. It did…

   

The final bit of wiring was an optional power tap. This set-up will be used for solo running on a test track, so I wanted the controller box to drive both lanes. I used large-gauge component wire to bridge the two lanes – making sure I connected the same rails so the car would go in the same direction…

   

I tested it and car does indeed run on both lanes in the same direction. This link also acts as a power tap if the track is run with a single crossover piece.

That could be it… but I want to tidy up and protect the wiring with a foamboard base, which I’ll also attach the box to.
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#6

I've used a strip of 1mm thick foamboard with two smaller pieces of 10mm foamboard to hold the track in place...

   

The foamboard is stapled together using a staple gun. The box is screwed onto the 10mm board. I've also taped the wire to the underside of the track and have a notch to seat the cable from the box to the underside of the track. I was going to use silicone sealant to attach the track to the foamboard underneath, but it is held perfectly tightly by the thicker board each side. That also means the track could be rotated 180-degrees (I have left enough slack wire in the box) to change the direction...

   

A little more testing and it's ready to go in a track Thumbup

As this is for use on a temporary track, it is very compact and has just the one cable coming out of the module. On a permanent track, you'd want the box further from the track. It probably won't be a bad idea to place the appropriate lead-in border and barrier (C8233) to protect the box from oncoming cars. Just in case.
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#7

This thread could be the start of a very useful track wiring resource.
I see club tracks wired differently and often , it's not clear why.

The big one i see is the interlinks between boarded track sections (tracks that have been laid on multiple large MDF boards) 
Different plugs used, often with obsolete plugs (no longer available) and using differrent wiring methods. 
Most tracks seem to suffer some continuity problems with voltage drop on some lanes or some track sections during the evening.

The big difference between 2 of the tracks I raced at (pre covid) is the handling of the negative rail. 
One track wires the  negative separately for each lane whereas on the other , all of the negatives for all of the lanes are strapped together. 

One track has brake choke controls at the plug in points, one not. 

When we get back to club racing, I'll start a thread and post some photos.
 
Alan W
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#8

Alan - I don't think there's any better resource out there than Christ Frost's track building guide on the BSCRA website: www.bscra.org.uk/trackbuild - all the wiring info is contained in 'Part 5: Track Wiring and Power Supplies' and 'Part 6: Wiring resistance explained'.

How Chris Frost describes BSCRA wiring protocols is based on decades of collective experience and expertise within the BSCRA community and you'll find the vast majority (if not all) BSCRA tracks built and wired in exactly the same way. What type of connectors are used isn't too important - only that they should be rated to comfortably handle the current being drawn by the cars the club is running.

Power drops are dealt with well on the BSCRA site in parts 5 and 6. There's a pragmatic acceptance there will be power drops (ohms law), but careful siting of power taps ensures you get the power where you need it (straights) and making sure there are no sudden or intermittent drop-offs...

Quote:Certainly adequate power is needed all the way round, but less power is "adequate" in a bend where you cannot put your controller full down than on a straight where cars are accelerating on full power. As long as the power available on any particular part of the track is the same every lap, it just becomes part of learning the track... Drivers learn to deal with the different levels of power just as they learn to deal with different radii bends on different parts of the track.

The negative wires should be kept separate - ideally each driver station should be wired separately to the negative pole on the power supply, but certainly never joining between track and driver station! If racers are spending upwards of £250 on a controller, clubs do need to make sure they provide robust and safe wiring. And - of course - the BSCRA site is great guidance for building and wiring home tracks too.
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#9

There is one missing part of this electronic puzzle in my head...

How do I wire up my controller to the plug, i.e. which controller wire goes to which plug pin?

I love puttering with gears
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#10

You beat me to it!

The final part of this tutorial is to wire up a controller to a round 3-pin 2-amp plug...

   

Some retailers will supply a new controller fitted with a connector of your choice. Pendle Slot Racing list the option of 'Club 3-pin 2-amp Plug' on all their DS resistor controllers for an extra £4. You can find them here. Otherwise, the plugs are available widely, including at TLC Electrical Supplies here.

The wiring diagrams for socket and plug (from the BSCRA website) were shown in the opening post. I've included them in this image...

   

The metal connecting blocks inside the plug are handily labelled in the plastic casing 'L, N and E' - corresponding to the connectors in the socket. There should be no confusion over which is which. If you study the image above, you'll see how a basic resistor controller (like the Parma shown) is wired.

  • The controller controls the amount of power going to the track by the trigger arm moving along the resistor coil. If the Neutral and Live blocks were connected by a wire rather than the controller, the track would have full power all the time. The coil adds resistance to the electric circuit - the further away from Full Power, the more resistance and less power.
  • At each end of the resistor coil is a thicker metal ring connected to a wire. The natural resting place of the trigger arm is on the brake position, which is connected to the Earth terminal. The Red wire is connected to the Brake ring on the Parma controller.
  • At the opposite end of the resistor coil is the Full Power position - the Live terminal feeds into this end of the coil via the White wire. The Neutral terminal attaches to the trigger arm that moves up and down the coil. The Black wire connects to the trigger arm. When the trigger is squeezed hard, the arm should rest on the full power ring, the Neutral and Live terminals are connected directly - full power is applied to the track.

Essentially all controllers work on the same principle, just with different components controlling the power. It should be a relatively easy task to wire any controller to a plug - find out which wire goes to full power, brake and the trigger arm and you know where to connect it in the plug: Brake to Earth, Full Power to Live and Trigger Arm to Neutral.

   

There's even a diagram on the Parma controller packaging. You don't get that on the DS controllers, but it is reasonably straightforward to look through the transparent handle and follow the wires to where they go - Brake, Full Power, Trigger Arm. On the DS v3.0 controllers, it's the standard Parma colours. Not all resistor controllers follow the same colour scheme -  for example if you wanted to wire up a Ninco controller for use with a UK Club controller box, you will definitely need to take the controller apart and see where the wires go.

However, it's not very easy to follow the wires (and circuit boards) on most electronic controllers - we need to rely on the manufacturer's instructions. The Parma standard wiring - Red Brake, White Full Power, Black Trigger Arm - is a reference for many manufacturers, but not always... Let's look at two commonly-used controller brands, Truspeed and Slot.it...

   

This is an early version Truspeed MT1 PWM controller. The instructions on the website give us the info we need, including the Parma wire colour equivalents. The Brown wire is 'Power in' so should be wired to the Live terminal on the plug. The Blue wire is 'Output' - power from controller to track - so should be wired to the Neutral terminal on the plug. The Green wire is the 'Brake' and should be wired to the Earth terminal on the plug.

   

This Slot.it SCP2 controller is fitted with an analogue cartridge. The SCP2 comes with a 'quick start' wiring diagram in the box. After some preamble - including the statement that the controller uses the standard Parma wire colours - two explanations are given. The second one is probably more useful - the White cable goes to the "positive terminal of the track" (the Live terminal on the plug); the Red cable goes to the "negative terminal of your track" (slightly confusing... this is shown as the Brake wire, so goes to the Earth terminal on the plug); and the Black cable to the "motor connector of your track" (meaning the +ve rail on the track via the Neutral terminal of the plug). Thankfully, the diagram makes the wiring explanations much clearer and confirms it is identical to the Parma wiring diagram.

Understandably, no-one wants to wire their controller incorrectly and risk damaging an expensive PWM or transistor controller. That's why it's important to try and understand the wiring diagrams as well as making sure all the connections are 100% correct. If you're in any doubt about a manufacturer's wiring instructions, contact them.
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