Getting Electronic Parts
There are several suppliers of electronic parts that advertise in Model Railroader and other model train magazines. Circuitron has a good selection of parts applicable to the model railroader. Check out your local train store.
This section is intended to introduce you to suppliers of electronic parts that do not advertise in model train hobby magazines. These are companies that I've had good experiences with that you may want to try. They don't bite and may offer lower prices. Their main business is electronic parts. Virtually all take charge cards. Some have a minimum; usually about $25.
Most have quite substantial catalogs with more choices than you may have ever seen before. Call and get a catalog before you need something. Then use my suggestions below to zero in on exactly what you want.
You can ask questions about the product. The people who you place your order with will not usually be able to answer them. Tell them you need to ask someone a technical question about a part you want to buy. They may ask if you want to talk to an applications technician or engineer. Say yes. When you are connected with that person, ask away!
Jameco Jameco.com 1-800-831-4242
If you find the Digikey and Mouser website intimidating with their huge selection, check out Jameco. They have been catering to hobbyists since at least the 70's (I know, I'm showing my age.) when I was first introduced to them. They have a little bit of everything, but not so many choices that you are overwhelmed. You will find parts, tools, hobbyist kits, and test equipment. Their prices are good, too.Their prices are good, too.
SUGGESTION #7-2: Digikey
1-800-DIGI-KEY (344-4539) http://www.digikey.com
Good prices, items in stock, and popular with hobbyists.
SUGGESTION #7-3: Allied Electronics
If you think DigiKey's catalog is impressive, this one is even bigger. There is almost nothing this company doesn't sell. They cost a little more, so they are not usually my first choice. Allied is also quite good.
SUGGESTION #7-6: Mouser Electronics
This company carries similar products to Digikey. Their catalog is on-line, or you can get a free copy of the catalog in print, on a CD-ROM, or both! Very popular with hobbyists. This company carries the Insulation Displacement Connectors (IDCs) mentioned in Tony Koester's August 1998 article in Model Railroader. For IDC part numbers, see below. Mouser's prices are even better than Digi-Key's.
SUGGESTION #7-12: Hosfelt Electronics: Hobbyist Supplier and Transformers.
Hosfelt isn't quite as big as any of the above, but they are a supplier friendly to hobbyists and they are one of the few that carry transformers appropriate for DCC use. They do not have an online catalog. So go to their web page now and order a catalog so you will know what they have when you need it. Hosfelt Electronics http://www.hosfelt.com
SUGGESTION: Electronic Tools for the Professional.
These companies are the Micro-Mark of electronic tools — Ideal brand wire strippers, electric wire strippers that don't put much pulling force on small wires, magnifying lights, and much, much more. Some of the tools are exotic tools for the professional that does electronic work day-in and day-out so they may be out of your reach. But if there is an electronic tool you have seen and want, these companies seems to have it.
HMC Electronics: http://www.hmcelectronics.com
SUGGESTION #7-7: THIS is an Electronics Store! Fry's Electronics http://www.frys.com
This is the store an electronics hobbyist always wished Radio Shack would become. It's interesting they now occupy dead Incredible Universe stores in the Dallas, TX area. They have what seems like everything. Parts, computers, test equipment like oscilloscopes. In the silicon valley area, one store is reported to look like a giant IC. Another, a pyramid. They even sell snacks for those all-night work sessions and non electronic magazines to make sure you stay a well rounded individual.
International Electronics Suppliers: Farnell and Element 14
For those not in the United States, here are two international suppliers of electronic parts. Farnell seems to be in every country except the United States. Element 14 has a social media portal for electronic design engineers and contains datasheets and advice on parts.
SUGGESTION #7-4: For Layout Wire, Tie Wraps, and Heat Shrink Tubing:
Your local home improvement store! See the track wiring section for the types of wire they carry. They also have a great selection of heat shrink tubing and tie wraps.
SUGGESTION #7-5: Decoder Harness Plugs:
manufacturers the plugs. Their web page includes
listings of their dealers. I have not dealt
with Samtec. They are a manufacturer and as
such may not want to do retail sales. Be sure
to contact one of their dealers, especially if you
need small quantities.
Note: This information came from Larry Puckett's column in Model Railroading. He frequently covers DCC topics. I found I liked the rest of the magazine, too!
The following carry decoder plugs. No doubt, there are many others.
RECOMMENDATION #7-11: Use #6 Screw Terminal Strips.
Terminal strips come in several sizes. Below I list locking spade lugs. When you compare the availability of terminal strips and locking spading lugs, you find the #6 screw terminal strip and locking spade lugs are a good all-around size for model railroaders. I recommend you standardize model railroad on this size. All parts below having to do with terminal strips I have based on this standard.
Looking through a train catalog is sometimes fun, but electronic catalogs rarely are. So here are common items that are frequently needed by model railroaders.
I'm sorry it isn't practical to provide pages numbers. As soon as a given company comes out with a new catalog, any page numbers I would list are all doomed to be wrong. Murphy makes sure of it!
Please note! The prices provided are only provided to give you an idea of what the items cost. I do not intend to try too hard to keep these current. These are the prices at the time I purchased them and entered them into this page. If you buy a larger or smaller quantity, your price will vary accordingly. If you are inclined to send me the current price you pay, I will be glad to update the list.
Lately, it seems part numbers are changing a lot. This information is current as the last time I ordered a given part for myself. I buy in quantity, so the information may be a year or more old. If you find that part is no longer available or its number has changed, please let me know.
Until more is known about what will be done with what remains of Radio Shack, I will leave these parts shown here.
SUGGESTION 7-8: Circuit Board Throw Bars and Phosphor Bronze:
Making circuit board throw bars isn't fun. In fact, it can be very dangerous!
Fast Tracks Hobbyworks, Inc. sells PC board ties already cut to size and gapped. Order on line at: http://www.handlaidtrack.com/Fast-Tracks-PC-Board-Ties-s/38.htm While you are at it, you may want to pick up a Frog Juicer for your turnout. U.S. modelers will note that Fast Tracks is a Canadian company. I have dealt with several Canadian companies, including Fast Tracks. Shipping cost and normal ground delivery has never been a problem for me.
Cloverhouse has a catalog of strips of PC boards you can use for ties, as well as, all sorts of craftsman supplies and tools. He has sheets and wires of phosphor bronze as well as sheets of brass and nickel silver. Clover House, POB 62, Sebasstopol, CA 95473-0062. www.cloverhouse.com Clover House does not accept phone orders, but you can fax orders to him. Also, you cannot order from the website.
Note: Phosphor bronze is a great material. It's springy, conducts electricity well, and doesn't corrode badly. I recommend it over anything you might use strips of brass or copper for.
The price was $1.73 each abd come leads about 6" long.
Globe Specialty Company
One may send check or M.O. or they will ship UPS COD.
Here is another source that is even cheaper and seems to be an ideal choice. They are $0.99 each and come from a company called SuperBrightLEDs.com http://www.superbrightleds.com
The socket you want is the one on the right with the white wire and single contact in the socket. As you can see, the socket is metal and has two mounting tabs with holes. You can screw down the socket to a terminal strip or your benchwork.
You can tell by the name, this website primarily sells LED products. So finding the 1156 socket is a little difficult. Follow this link and it will take you right to it:
Then click on "See Prices and Buy." Then click on 1156. You want the BA15S-SW socket. If you are like me, you are a little skeptical of a socket for a hot light bulb coming from a company that sells cool running LED products. I obtained one of their sockets and it is the real deal made of metal.
Note on Using LEDs. You might be thinking, "Why don't I use LED tail light bulbs?" They run cooler, use less energy, and generally is the green thing to do. It won't work as a short protector. Don't try it. Don't even think it. The reason is that a light bulb has a property that makes it work. That is, it has a very low resistance when cold. There is minimal voltage drop across a light bulb when cold. This allows trains to run. When it heats up, it has a high resistance and limits the amount of current to a short. An LED tail light has a significant voltage drop, even when off, and allows only a minimal current to flow. Your trains won't run.
Thanks to Sebastian Daeunert for supplying information on where someone in Germany can find the flat cable used on Digitrax and some other of the US made DCC systems. This cable is frequently referred to "Telco" cable as it is used on US phones. Telco is simply short for telecommunications.
Note: If you are using Digitrax, they do not require that you use this cable. It is simply convenient to do so.
Sebastian found the cable at Conrad Electronic (www.conrad.de). He was able to get the right plugs and found the price reasonable — 4.70 Euro for a 3 Meter cable.
921442-41 for 3 Meter Cable
921442-42 for 6 Meter Cable
921442-43 for 10 Meter Cable
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