Gargraves track and switches

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Gargraves track and switches
Posted by sarpilot on Sunday, June 08, 2008 12:44 PM

Is it just me or is installing Gargraves track and switches the most frustrating evolution you can subject yourself too. Yesterday I had to reinstall 3 switches and a DZ-1000 switch motor that my dealer replaced for me because of defects (they were band new and didn't work properly). After 6 hours alternating above and below my modest layout I was ready to go on a 5 county shooting spree. Pulling up half my trackwork was bad enough but add in installing jumper wires (why doesnt gargraves put these in already and then you can take them out if you don't want them) and dealing with sluggish operation forced me to leave the room for several timeouts. After all that work I'm still not satified with the operation. Some of my locos run rough through the divergence and sometimes derail when going through in reverse. At 55 bucks a shot I expected better performance. One of the brand new switches doesn't work right. When the switch is open the green light in on at the turnout but both lights are on at the selector switch. When the turnout is closed no lights are on at either the turnout or the switch. But there is no way I am tearing out that switch again. Ill just live with it. Gargraves may be a fine product for the seasoned layout builder who wants to spend the next 3 months laying down trackwork but Im more of an operator. I just want the layout done so I can enjoy running my trains. I get no pleasure at all from laying down track and doing wiring. If I had to do it all again I would go with Fast Track in a "New York minute". My local hobby shop owner tried to talk me into it. I thought it was just a sales pitch. (sorry Marion)  The cost would have been about double but well worth it to me. I may get some arguement from the gargraves fans, but to all you new guys like me out there, if you are into toy train operating and not layout building HEED MY WARNING and go with Fast Track, MTH Realtrax or at least Lionel O Guage. I should have listened.

Thanks guys I just had to vent. I feel better now.

STEVE 

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Posted by tex702 on Sunday, June 08, 2008 5:25 PM

     I agree with you Steve.  My layout so far is 5 sheets of 4x8 plywood.  99% of the track I had laid down was Gargraves track.  For the realistic look its great but I do think it was more trouble then it was worth.  I bought a remote controlled switch (sorry I dont remember wihich one) but everytime my loco went over it derailed.  I sent it back to have it worked on.  The loco no longer derailed but everytime the loco went over the switch it made a loud clunking noise and rocked back and forth.  I got so mad at the track I took it all up and threw it in a box switch and all.  Went down to the local hobby shop and bought $500.00 worth of fastrack and I have never been happier.  I also bought  6 new remote control switches and $80.00 a piece and I am in heaven.  Everything runs smooth and works properly.  Lets hear it for fastrack!!!!

                                                    Greg

                                                           

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Posted by sarpilot on Sunday, June 08, 2008 5:42 PM

Thanks for the input greg. For a while there I thought I was just being a moron and wasn't putting it down correctly. You are right. Every time a loco goes over the switch it makes a loud "clunk". I'm into this for about 400.00 switches and all. Too deep to change now for me although I wish I could. Guess I'll just have to ride it out now until I win the lotto. Thanks man.

STEVE

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Posted by Brutus on Sunday, June 08, 2008 9:31 PM
Steve, is it the switch that's the problem?  Which switch are you using?  Gargraves o-42?

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Posted by sarpilot on Sunday, June 08, 2008 10:10 PM

Hey Jim, Its an O-42 with the built in DZ-1000 motor. I don't know if its the switch motor or the control button. I do know that the DZ-1000 I took back to the Hobby Shop had the same problem but that one was purchased seperately from the switch it was on. If I had to guess I would say its the control button. I could check by disconnecting one of my other controllers to see if I have the same problem but I just don't have the energy right now to break open the control panel and start cutting and splicing wires. Thanks

STEVE

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Posted by DennisB-1 on Monday, June 09, 2008 6:39 AM

I don't think it's fair to condemn a product because you had a bad experience with it. I've been using GarGraves track and turnouts for many years without any problems. Twenty years ago, you had to supply your own under table switch machines. For control, I used single pole momentary contact switches. LED's were used to show position. I didn't have a clue as to how to do it. I took my time, read books on wiring and figured it out.  

The problem today, as I see it, is many expect "plug and play." When something doesn't work, instead of trying to figure out what's causing the problem, it's assumed that it's a defective product and back it goes. That may be true in some cases, but more often than not, it's due to operator error. 

 

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Posted by sarpilot on Monday, June 09, 2008 7:33 AM

Thats the whole point Dennis. I don't want to spend 5 hours to figure it out. I was not bashing Gargraves products. I made it very clear in my post that for the guy who wants realism and doesn't mind spending hours laying track and wiring its a great product. For some people piddling around with the layout is relaxing and enjoyable. I'm just not into this hobby for that reason. I want to spend 5 hours running my trains, not laying on my back under my layout clipping wires together. At 55 dollars a switch I expect them to work first time, every time. Now if I went out and bought a bunch of Post War second hand equipment and tried to restore it I would expect a glitch hear and there but not brand new gear right out of the package. I want plug and play. "GIVE ME PLUG AND PLAY OR GIVE ME DEATH". Thanks.

STEVE

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Posted by BILLBOBBOY1 on Monday, June 09, 2008 8:23 AM

Steve,

I share your frustration, as I have, on occasion, uttered more four letter words than George Carlin does on an hour show.

I use Gargraves track and Ross Custom switches.  Ross uses the same DZ-1000 switch machines and the same control buttons.  There are 22 of these on my layout, and believe me, I have had issues.  Gargraves switches are configured almost identical to the Ross ones, meaning both require a bunch of soldering if you want the non-derailing feature.  I agree with you that it would have been better for us to have the manufacturer wire the switches for non-derailing and let those that do not want that feature to disable it.  Having to solder 22 switches for non-derailing appeared to me to be just too much of a job.  I was anxious to get operating and that process would have caused a major delay.  Why Ross and Gargraves do not sell switches already wired for de-railing is probably an issue of cost and demand.

Now, as to those DZ-1000 switch machines: some of mine have the three wires connected to it with small screws; some are hard wired.  I'm no expert on judging wire gauge, but those wires are smaller than any wire I have purchased - 22 gauge.  Thus, the switch machine wires are most likely 24 guage.  Connecting wires of that gauge require more care to get a good connection, especially if you are using suitcase or solderless connectors.  One of the wires that was hard wired broke at the solder point.  At the time I did not have a soldering capability for micro soldering, so the switch machine went to my junk parts bin.  Had the wire broken on one that was connected with screws, it would have been a simple matter to screw down another one.  I was lucky that I had an extra switch machine left over from a Gargraves switch I never used.  Bottom line here is you/we are dealing with very small, fragile wires requiring extra care in hook-up.

Gargraves track: this track has been referred to in various literature as a more "advanced" track for modelers, especially when bending flex track for a custom curve.  I lost count a long time ago on how many 3 foot sections I ruined trying to get just the right curve I needed.  Bending flex track is, for the most part, a one shot deal.  A very slight bend can be straightened, allowing for a retry.  A bend of several degrees, however, would be very difficult to straighten.  On the plus side, Gargraves track offers some electrical advantages over traditional track because all 3 rails are insulated.  I'm not an electrical expert, but it provides for easier/niftier wiring and operation of accessories.  I, too, am an operator but I have that desire to make the roadbed a little more prototypical than what you can do with "factory roadbed track" such as Realtrax.  A layout with Gargraves track,its' wooden ties, and your own custom appllied ballast provides the best realistic appearance (my opinion, of course).

I won't bore you here with all my wiring/electrical problems, but just to let you know you're not alone.  Some of my issues have caused delays in terms of months while I tried to resolve the problems.  Nevertheless, it's a great hobby.  Don't give up; just walk away from it for a while when frustration develops, and then, come back with a renewed vigor.

Regards,

Bill

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Posted by J. Daddy on Monday, June 09, 2008 8:31 AM
 sarpilot wrote:

Thats the whole point Dennis. I don't want to spend 5 hours to figure it out. I was not bashing Gargraves products. I made it very clear in my post that for the guy who wants realism and doesn't mind spending hours laying track and wiring its a great product. For some people piddling around with the layout is relaxing and enjoyable. I'm just not into this hobby for that reason. I want to spend 5 hours running my trains, not laying on my back under my layout clipping wires together. At 55 dollars a switch I expect them to work first time, every time. Now if I went out and bought a bunch of Post War second hand equipment and tried to restore it I would expect a glitch hear and there but not brand new gear right out of the package. I want plug and play. "GIVE ME PLUG AND PLAY OR GIVE ME DEATH". Thanks.

STEVE

Steve,

You are correct in your findings. I use Gargraves S gauge track and even the track gauge and rail section is different. Gargraves has a 2 mm wider track gauge than the standard American Flyer 2 rail track. Also if you take a cross section of the track, gargraves is a tubular section (more rounded) than the AF track which has a T section. This causes the wheels in most locos to slip, which in turn pulls fewer cars.... Also the switches are not plug and play, many need additional power feeds and contacts to power the frogs, especially the manual switches. Plan to spend allot of time on these to hook up switch machines, and power routing contacts. I even had to add guard rails next to the after the frogs to keep wheel flanges from climbing the rail. Gargraves looks great over regular tinplate track, but it does take allot of work to get it running flawless, is it worth it? I say it is but then again I am still working on my yard switches to get them wired up... If you are a plug and play person then stick with the Lionel.... however has anyone tried Ross switches? I am planing on a Lionel portion of the layout and was thinking of using gargraves mixed with Ross switches.....

When the men get together its always done right! J. Daddy
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Posted by sarpilot on Monday, June 09, 2008 8:38 AM

Thanks for the post and encouragement BILL. I guess I'm a Gargraves man now because of economics and the sooner I work these glitches out the sooner I will be up and running. It seems that once the switch is wired and fastened down Its pretty trouble free. The trick is just getting to that point. Thanks again. 

STEVE

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Posted by sir james I on Monday, June 09, 2008 8:39 AM
It is very true that Gargrave or Ross products are not the ideal choice for those in a hurry. On the other hand once set up and tweeked either one makes a great model railroad. I too have the older switch's with a switch machine added and since 1980 this layout has been completely trouble free. But I do agree it does take patience to get it right.

"IT's GOOD TO BE THE KING",by Mel Brooks

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Posted by John_L on Monday, June 09, 2008 12:30 PM
J. Daddy 

Do you somehow regauge the Gargraves S-Gauge track?

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Posted by runtime on Monday, June 09, 2008 2:12 PM

Perhaps the older Gargraves switches were better made.

I purchased two this year, because I needed a very long radius turnout for some space constricted sidings ( 98in. rad I think). The cars all 'bump' over the switch. I believe it's caused by one of those little plastic guides along the outer rails at the open end of the Y. They have a slight curve at the end which is supposed to guide the wheel flange, but the guide does not curve far enough towards the center of the track. The wheel flange bumps into the end of the guide rather than being guided by it as intended. The guides appear to only be glued down, I'm thinking of trying to pry the offending one up and reglue it, slightly repositioned.

Gargraves looks nice, but current product seems to be flimsy, cheaply made, and with shakey tolerance control. Plus, my switch derails prewar wheel flanges at the frog, in this case because of the frog design.

Few people mention Atlas O, which, from my inspection, seems of much better quality. But is nickel-silver track magnetic?

runtime

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Posted by sir james I on Monday, June 09, 2008 3:11 PM
Magnatraction will NOT work on any NS track.  The flange guide can be snapped off the GG switch, then reglued with plastic cement. I prefer the tube type cement for large pieces like that it seems stronger.

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Posted by phillyreading on Monday, June 09, 2008 3:23 PM

Never experianced any problems like what sarpilot is talking about. One thing about GarGraves switches is that they must be 100% level on the layout. Second thing to consider with GarGraves switches, are you changing track from 027 to GarGraves or O gauge tubular?, need to keep transitions three feet away from a GarGraves switch.

I replaced Lionel 6-23011 series O gauge switches with GarGraves 042 switches and could not be happier with the GarGraves product. The only downside to GarGraves track is that it can bend easier when a derailment happens than high rail O gauge tubular.

A better quality switch than GarGraves is Ross Custom switches, even has more variety than GarGraves, have not heard any of complaints with Ross switches and they are 100% GarGraves track compatible.

Lee F.

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Posted by phillyreading on Monday, June 09, 2008 3:27 PM
 tex702 wrote:

     I agree with you Steve.  My layout so far is 5 sheets of 4x8 plywood.  99% of the track I had laid down was Gargraves track.  For the realistic look its great but I do think it was more trouble then it was worth.  I bought a remote controlled switch (sorry I dont remember wihich one) but everytime my loco went over it derailed.  I sent it back to have it worked on.  The loco no longer derailed but everytime the loco went over the switch it made a loud clunking noise and rocked back and forth.  I got so mad at the track I took it all up and threw it in a box switch and all.  Went down to the local hobby shop and bought $500.00 worth of fastrack and I have never been happier.  I also bought  6 new remote control switches and $80.00 a piece and I am in heaven.  Everything runs smooth and works properly.  Lets hear it for fastrack!!!!

                                                    Greg

                                                           

You must be made of money to switch over to Fastrac! That is one the reasons I won't go to Fastrac, also curve size is totally oddball for use on my layout!

Lee F.

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Posted by runtime on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 2:41 PM

Thanks sir james; puts me back on square one for layout expansion planning, since I need magnetic track.

For the flange glueing, I was going to use superglue.?

runtime

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Posted by sarpilot on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:38 PM

Well I pretty much got all the Gargraves problems hammered out. After reading from all your posts that Gargraves turnouts need to be perfectly flat, I removed all the cork roadbed from the "yard " area and lower level of the layout. Got much smoother operation from the switches and no derailments in forward or reverse. The noise level is alot higher but I kind of like the rummble. Still have the problem with the lights on one of the turnouts. When the switch is open "Set for straight through" I get a green light on the turnout as I should but both green and red on the control button. When the switch is closed "Set to diverge" I get no lights on the turnout and no lights on the controll button. Also the buttons are reversed. Top button " the one closest to the wires" closes the switch and bottom button opens the switch. Thats just the opposite of the buttons that are operating correctly. Also if you hold down the button to close the switch you will get a red light on the turnout but it goes out as soon as you release the button. I have double checked the wiring and it is (exactly!!) the same as the other switches. Anyone have the same problem. I have already returned one DZ 1000 with the same problem and want to make sure this is not a quick fix before I take this one back.

Thanks for all the input guys

STEVE

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Posted by phillyreading on Thursday, June 12, 2008 3:26 PM

If you are 100% positive that have the switches wired right you have a bad switch motor or control, try replacing a known good control for the one that is acting up, also replace the DZ1000 switch machine if you still have the same problem. Also may need to check your wires for an open circuit or wire not pushed all the way into the DZ100(no electrical connection being made), the older DZ1000 switch motors had small screws that held the wires in place, newer DZ1000 has wires coming off it.

Just for your info, I don't use roadbed on my layout, has caused too many problems for me in the past.

Lee F.

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Posted by sarpilot on Thursday, June 12, 2008 8:54 PM
You are so right Leef. When I took the cork roadbed out about 90 percent of the problems went away. Thanks STEVE
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Posted by 3railguy on Thursday, June 12, 2008 9:50 PM

Just about any track system has its share of problems. The thing to do is test everything as you install. Check continuity with a continuity tester as each joint is made. Test each switch as soon as you set it before laying more sections of track. Run equipment as you install too. Testing as you go saves alot of trouble shooting down the road. The best plumbers and electricians work with defective material and make mistakes. They are the best because they test everything as they install and rectify any problems before they go any further.

John Long Give me Magnetraction or give me Death.
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Posted by phillyreading on Friday, June 13, 2008 12:29 PM
 3railguy wrote:

Just about any track system has its share of problems. The thing to do is test everything as you install. Check continuity with a continuity tester as each joint is made. Test each switch as soon as you set it before laying more sections of track. Run equipment as you install too. Testing as you go saves alot of trouble shooting down the road. The best plumbers and electricians work with defective material and make mistakes. They are the best because they test everything as they install and rectify any problems before they go any further.

I agree with what 3railguy says but from experiance I have had problems come up after the track is installed and have trains running. Make sure your tack connections are tight at every pin, not just two pins. Lionel tubular track between two 022 switches has given me the worst problems, had to add jumper wires to a very short section of track.

With tubular track I used a digital multimeter to try to find my power loss but couldn't find any thing, tried two differant voltage checks(one for power drop), even used the resistance or ohm-meter setting and still didn't find anything with the power wires removed, but the train slowed down over that section of track.

With GarGraves track I can honestly say it has been some trial & errors made using GarGraves track. I had to shim the curve track right after an 042 switch with GarGraves track to make it work with a 4-8-4 northern steam loco. On two GarGraves switches I have had to re-glue the plastic frogs into place after a derailment at the switch, also had to cut down the frog height just a small bit with an exacto knife.

Just for info, I will not give up my GarGraves track & switches as I feel they are better quality than current production Lionel tubular switches(not talking about Fastrac).

Lee F.

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Posted by J. Daddy on Friday, June 13, 2008 1:24 PM
 John_L wrote:
J. Daddy 

Do you somehow regauge the Gargraves S-Gauge track?

Actually I pick the locomotives that I run on my layout and change the wheel gauge a bit with a wheel puller... only about 2 mm. This prevents it from waddling down the track like a duck, and it can pull about 25 cars on gargraves. It will still run fine on S gauge tin plate track, just have to go a little slower around those curves, otherwise it will fall over....especially the big 4-8-4's.

But since my layout will eventually be all done in gargraves the radii will be enlarged to 46 inches...that another good thing about 3 foot sections of gargraves, you can customize your radii you need and add easments...

When the men get together its always done right! J. Daddy
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DZ 2500 Switch motors
Posted by broadythecableguy on Saturday, June 14, 2008 10:10 PM
Has anyone tried DZ 2500 switch motors?

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