Suitcase connectors

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UrbanHermit
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Suitcase connectors

Postby UrbanHermit » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:32 am

Last night I was amusing myself by watching some YouTube instructional videos about wiring track, both British and American. What intrigued me about the American ones (apart from the fact that they apparently 'sodder' instead of solder, which sounds a little rude to me) was that it seems to be universal over there to to wire the droppers to the bus with suitcase connectors. You know, those ones where you force a blade down with pliers to cut through the insulation and make the connection. I have always been led to believe that these are A Bad Thing, but the Yanks seem to accept them unquestioningly.

Thoughts, anyone?
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Bufferstop
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Bufferstop » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:27 am

They are a "bad thing" in as far as if they are not accurately matched to the wire sizes involved the slight nick in the conductor which they rely on may become a major point of weakness resulting in fracture at a later date. They are designed to work with specific sizes of wire, any variation can lead to poor connection or the above point of weakness.
It all depends very much on the individual, being of the old school of "why buy if you can beg steal or borrow" and a lifelong re-purposer, they just don't enter into my train of thought when planning or carrying out a wiring job. Solder or choc-block connectors have always sufficed for me, are both reversible and reusable so just suit me better.
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Mike Parkes
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Mike Parkes » Thu Dec 07, 2017 6:47 pm

I have started using quick release connectors from Screwfix / Toolstation stuck in place with No More Nails double sided stickytape . Far easier to wire up albeit possibly slightly more messy in appearance as each connector block has a common connection so for a dcc bus wire for example you need to use two and for a solenoid point motor three. They will take 32/0.2 wire so you can double up wires if using 16/0.2 and four wires are possible with 7/0.2 in each socket. Big advantage is making changes and fault finding, you simply lift the lever and pull the wire(s) out/ push wires in,
They come in two way, three way and five way sold either in boxes of each type or a set of 10 of each
I.e. https://www.screwfix.com/p/ideal-lever- ... -set/6472g

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Ironduke
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Ironduke » Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:46 pm

they are thought to be better because they cut into the wire and insulation leaving no room for air to get in and corrode the wire but they do rely on using the correct wires sizes, as BS said. They are popular here in Aus too, especially in the auto-electrics industry.

UrbanHermit wrote:they apparently 'sodder' instead of solder, which sounds a little rude to me


but very appropriate to describe the process when lying on ones back under a layout.
Regards
Rob

Paul-H
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Paul-H » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:21 pm

And what that Aluminum stuff they go on about, and why do they use Nycon cameras and what's a meeyor?

UrbanHermit
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby UrbanHermit » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:48 pm

'... but very appropriate to describe the process when lying on ones back under a layout.'

That is one thing I will go to any lengths to avoid.

I would have thought that if suitcase connectors can stand the heat, damp, vibration and God knows what else you get in a car they'd be safe enough under a model railway layout.
"I fell out of favour with heaven somewhere, and I'm here for the hell of it now." (Kirsty MacColl)

RFS
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby RFS » Thu Dec 07, 2017 10:10 pm

I gather all my DCC droppers together in sections using earth blocks (eg https://www.screwfix.com/p/4-way-earth-block/12386#_=p) and then connect these to the DCC bus via thick, short wires using suitcase connectors. Easy to do, very robust, and no soldering under the baseboard!

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Ironduke
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Ironduke » Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:41 am

UrbanHermit wrote:'..
I would have thought that if suitcase connectors can stand the heat, damp, vibration and God knows what else you get in a car they'd be safe enough under a model railway layout.



I agree. In fact they are almost impossible to remove if you change your mind later.
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Rob

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stuartp
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby stuartp » Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:57 am

I believe their reputation as 'a bad thing' came about from their indiscriminate use in cars, especially by teenagers who might or might not have bothered to check whether the circuit would take the additional amperage of whatever bolt-on-goody they had just bought from Halfords. Properly used they are fine but It was often an indication that the mod might have been carried out by someone who was not a qualified auto electrician, or indeed just sensible.

A friend equipped his Mini with a full set of Paddy Whassname rally spots once using these things, they were wired into whichever circuit was handy. They looked great until you turned them on then the engine died because they drew more load than the thing could cope with. One trip saw us driving home from the pub by the light of a torch held by the passenger after the lighting circuit literally went up in smoke.

I don't think they'll be much of an issue under a layout, they should be more reliable than chock-block connecters (which I use) and certainly easier than trying to solder upside down.
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Tricky Dicky
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Tricky Dicky » Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:26 am

UrbanHermit wrote:'...

I would have thought that if suitcase connectors can stand the heat, damp, vibration and God knows what else you get in a car they'd be safe enough under a model railway layout.


Used correctly they are good connector the issues with them relate to connecting wires of different diameters. Each connector can be used to connect a limited range of wires. In cars you are mostly connecting wires of similar diam. And as long as you use the correct connector for that wire then you will be OK.

It is when you use them to connect wires which have considerable differences in diam. That you can get problems particularly over time. An example being a thick bus wire and a thin dropper. Use a connector appropriate for the thicker wire and you may find that the blade does not displace sufficient insulation on the thinner wire. Likewise if you use one more suited for the thinner wire you may find it almost cuts through the core of the thicker wire. Initially you may get what seems a good connection but over time both situations can lead to problems.

If you want solder less connections then as someone has already mentioned Wago connectors are your best choice especially the lever type. They grip quite a range of wires from 7/0.2 up to 4mm2 which is way beyond what most layouts require. Each wire is gripped by its own terminal giving a more secure connection.

Richard

UrbanHermit
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby UrbanHermit » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:46 am

OK, confession time. My real agenda is that a year or three back, in a moment of weakness (or under-confidence) I bought one of these layout wiring kits, and it uses suitcase connectors. I then got cold feet about using it, but now I'm having second (or should that be third?) thoughts. As I said, I really don't fancy soldering under the baseboard, and at least I should be able to rely on the connectors being the right size for the wires, since they were bought together. I think I'll go with it.

At least I seem to have mastered the art of soldering the droppers to the rails. After watching one of the videos I mentioned in my original post, I thought 'I can do better than that.'
"I fell out of favour with heaven somewhere, and I'm here for the hell of it now." (Kirsty MacColl)

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Bufferstop
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Bufferstop » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:08 am

Richard gives a good description of what can happen with the wrong size connector or the wires involved. I once traced a nasty smell of burning in a friends car to an undersized connector on a thick wire. The blade had cut through most of the strands in the core of a thick wire. It was relying on the uncut part of the insulation to maintain contact. Under load the joint ran hot. The insulation charred and hardened leading to a runaway failure of the joint. Wago lever type connectors and earthing blocks can also have wire diameter issues but can usually be redone to get a good connection.
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Allegheny1600
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Allegheny1600 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:08 am

I found them easy to use on my big 'test track' of some 32' x 12'.
Because of the disparity between the size of my bus wire and my dropper wires, I simply stripped back a lot more of my dropper wire than normal (for soldering), folded them over and over until they were approximately the same thickness as the bus wire and made a good positive connection.
No problem!
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Tricky Dicky
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Tricky Dicky » Fri Dec 08, 2017 5:15 pm

UH

The only thing I can suggest is if you do not know what the specs for the type of connector you have regards the range of wires it is designed for, then sacrifice one on a test connection with the two wires you propose to use. If I recall opening them up tends to destroy them, however if you can extract the blade and the wires examine the cut if the insulation is adequately displaced and the core wires are not frayed or cut then you should be OK. If the wires are frayed and/or the smaller wire does not have the insulation clearly cut through or feels loose in the blade slot then you will have to think again.

Richard

Mike Parkes
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Re: Suitcase connectors

Postby Mike Parkes » Fri Dec 08, 2017 8:00 pm

The quick release connectors I referred to earlier in the thread proved their worth today as a short materialised on the dcc bus. By disconnecting sections of it the short was quickly traced to being caused by wires having worked loose slightly on Cobalt point motor such that a single strand had jumped across the bus connecting wires = short.


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