American Flyer Switches

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American Flyer Switches
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, April 30, 2010 10:50 PM

I bought a pair of American Flyer switches (#720) from a reputable source and they arrived today.

Aside from the fact that one of the bulbs was burned out in one of the switches, the switches don't seem to be working properly.

Let me begin with a simple question.  If the button on each switch is set to Regular Operation, shouldn't there be power on each leg of the Y at all times?   In other words, if I understand the Regular Operation correctly, there will always be power at each end of the straight track and at the end of the diverging track.  Unfortunately, there isn' always power at each end of the switch.

 When both switches are set to run an engine straight through, the diverging track of the left hand switch has no power, but the two ends of the straight through track of the left hand switch have power and all three legs of the right hand switch have power.

When both switches are set to run the engine through the diverging track, there is no power on either diverging track.

There are other configurations where power is lost, but I will stop here to get some feedback.

Incidentally, the power routing feature of the "2 Train Operation" seems to be working properly, but I have a question about that setting.  When I first tested the switches, I had the wire terminal set up in such a fashion that when I flipped one switch setting to divergent, I lost power on the mainline.  So I needed to move the wire terminal to a point on the mainline where power would not be lost.  In other words, the wire terminal needed to be placed "below" the switches, not "above" them to prevent loss of power to the engine.  Does that make sense?  What would happen if I wired the mainline both above and below the switches which I would like to do to maintain full voltage to the engine at the far end of the layout.

I hope this all makes sense and that someone will have some advice.  I am wondering if I am going to have to return the switches as defective.  Or, am I doing something wrong?

Thanks.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 01, 2010 10:30 AM

After posting this message last night, I decided to sleep on it and then further analyze it this morning.

One thing that I realized is that it apparently matters which side of the layout the wire terminal is positioned when clamping it onto the track.  Yesterday, I had positioned the terminal "above" the switches, that is beyond the upper two legs of the switch.  This morning, I repositioned the wire terminal on the other side of the layout "below" the switches, that is before the bottom single leg of the switch.   (I tried to post a series of diagrams but I am having a hard time linking them so I may try that later). 

In Regular Operation, when both switches are set to run an engine straight through, the diverging track of the left hand switch has no power, but the two ends of the straight through track of the left hand switch have power and all three legs of the right hand switch have power.  When both switches are set to run the engine through the diverging track, there is power on both diverging tracks but no power "above" the switches on the upper portion of the layout.  I then tried the same set up with my original switches and they operate the same way.  That is weird because I thought that when the button is set for Regular Operation, every track is constantly powered.  Not that I would want to do this, but if an engine is in the upper portion of the layout "above" the switches and both switches are thrown to diverge, power is lost in the upper portion of the layout.  I didn't think that was supposed to happen in Regular Operation.   It happens with my original switches the same way.  Any thoughts or ideas?

The 2 Train Operation performs correctly, routing power either straight through over divergent, depending upon which way the switches are thrown.  However, this raises a question.  I want to add a set of wires at the far end of my layout, the upper portion "above" the switches to maintain full power to the engine motor.  In 2 Train Operation, if the switches are set for divergent, will power be cut off to the upper portion of the layout, as happens now with the single wire terminal in place "below" the switches, or will the addtional set of wires placed in the upper portion of the layout keep power on in that section even though the switches are set to diverge?

I get exhausted just typing this let alone trying to comprehend it.

Rich

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Posted by Texas Pete on Saturday, May 01, 2010 12:40 PM

 The additional terminal and wires placed in what you refer to as the "upper" portion of the layout will keep the power on in that section.  If you ever want to not have power in that area a simple double pole single throw (on-off) switch can be used on those wires to turn the power on and off in the "upper" portion.

Pete

 

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Posted by Sturgeon-Phish on Saturday, May 01, 2010 1:48 PM

Hi Rich,

Do you have both switches set to the two train operation, or both to regular operation when doing your test?

Jim

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 01, 2010 2:06 PM

Let me see if I can post these four diagrams of my new switch with the button set to Regular Operation.

As to whether there is power in a leg of the switch, Y stands for Yes, while N stands for No.

I refer to the switch on the left side of the diagram as the "right hand switch" and the switch on the right side of the diagram as the "left hand switch".  Hope that helps rather than confuses.

In this first diagram, both switches are set to run engine straight through the switches. As you can see, there is no power on the divergent leg of the left hand switch.  Shouldn't that leg be powered?

In this second diagram, both switches are set to diverge and run the engine through the inner oval.  Power is shut off to the upper end of the layout.  Is this supposed to happen in Regular Operation?

In this third diagram, with the right hand switch set to run straight through and the left hand switch set to diverge, all of the legs of both switches are powered.  This is the situation that I would expect.

In this fourth diagram, with the left hand switch set to run straight through and the right hand switch set to diverge, all of the legs of both switches are powered except for the diverging leg of the left hand switch.   Is this supposed to happen in Regular Operation?

This situation occurs not only with the used pair of switches that I just purchased but also with my original pair of switches.  Again, the four diagrams shown here are with the buttons set on the switches for Regular Operation.

Rich

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 01, 2010 2:09 PM

Sturgeon-Phish

Hi Rich,

Do you have both switches set to the two train operation, or both to regular operation when doing your test?

Jim

Jim,

I have tried it both ways, but my main concern is when both switches are set for "Regular Operation".

I just posted a set of 4 diagrams illustrating the results for Regular Operation.

If it would help, I can also post the results when both switches are set for "2 Train Operation".

Rich

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Posted by Timboy on Saturday, May 01, 2010 2:54 PM

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 01, 2010 2:56 PM

Timboy
Richhotrain: When I have switches with rails that malfunction electrically, it is usually because the contacts underneath have become corroded and/or gunked up. When I take the metal plate off the back and clean/shine those contacts up, the problem ceases. - Big, Bad Timboy

 

Tim,

I wondered about that.  What do you use to clean the cotacts?

Rich

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Posted by Timboy on Saturday, May 01, 2010 3:12 PM

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, May 01, 2010 10:37 PM

I used a very light grit sand paper to clean the copper contacts and got the diverging leg of the left hand switch to work properly.  So, now, in the first and fourth diagrams, all of the legs of each switch are powered in Regular Operation.

However, in the second diagram where power is lost in the upper portion of the layout when both switches are thrown to divergent, that situation continues to exist.  That seems wrong to me since my understanding is that the power should remain uninterrupted in Regular Operation.

I will look at that situation further tomorrow.

Rich

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Posted by Timboy on Monday, May 03, 2010 8:00 AM

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, May 03, 2010 11:42 AM

Timboy
Richhotrain: I also clean the contacts that power the "regular" and "two-train" button when I clean switch contacts. I didn't mention that in my previous post on cleaning my switch contacts. - Big, Bad Timboy

 

Tim,

That was the first contact that I cleaned.  That alone seemed to make the difference.

Everything seems to be working fine now with one exception.  On both the new switches that I recently purchased as well as my original switches, with the button on both switches (left hand and right hand)set to Regular Operation, if the engine is "above" the switches and I throw both switch levers to divergent, power is cut above the switches and the engine halts.  From everything I understand about Regular Operation, all tracks should remain powered.  Has anyone else experienced this "problem"?

Rich

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Posted by Timboy on Monday, May 03, 2010 12:07 PM

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, May 03, 2010 12:55 PM

Timboy
Richhotrain: If I would be experiencing what you describe and I have done everything to ensure that the switches are working properly, then I would turn my attention to the track and assume that the current is not flowing through it continuously. I would look for a bad mechanical connection at a track section. I would use a jumper wire with alligator clips to jump the current from a known good section to elsewhere until I located the bad spot, if I could not find it any other way. I have never been stumped yet on a problem with my own layout or the operation of anything on it, but sometimes it takes a lot of trial-and-error work and detective work by me to debug the problem. -Big, Bad Timboy

Tim,

Thanks.

I have been testing the legs of the switch itself for power.  When I throw the switch control levers to divergent and power is cut to the upper portion of the layout above the switches, there is a physical interruption of power on the leg of the switch for the straight through rails.  I cannot remember at the moment which rail loses power but it is only one of the two rails.  The other rail of that one leg still has power when I test it. 

So, any poor rail connections aside, the problem must be in the switch itself.  Both the left and right hand switch lose power in the straight through leg when thrown to divergent.

I keep asking if power is supposed to be continuous in that situation with the buttons set to Regular Operation but, so far, no one has confirmed this one way or another.

Rich

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Posted by Timboy on Monday, May 03, 2010 1:22 PM

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, May 03, 2010 2:05 PM

Timboy
Richhotrain: All the buttons on all my switches got cut off when I cut them all down, so I can not set up a test. You might try this forum: S-Trains. They are dedicated exclusively to American Flyer trains, vintage and new. However, it is my understanding that when the switch is set for "2-train" operation, the diverging route is deadened when the switch is thrown straight and the straight section is deadened when the switch is thrown to the diverging route. When the switch is set for "regular" operation, all routes are energized all of the time. I would take the switches out of the layout and test them with a continuity tester. If they work as they ought to, then I would know that it isn't my switches. I have also found that it has been all-too easy for me to nullify the "2-train" operation feature by having power leads to those sections of track that I really wanted deadened when my switch is thrown that way. -Big, Bad Timboy

Tim,

You raise some great points here.  I have actually tested the switches off the layout for continuity and the straight through leg on each switch definitely loses power even in Regular Operation.

Two comments.

First, the way my layout is set up, I would have no reason throw both switches to divergent with the engine in that position since it would derail as soon as it reached the divergent switch.

Second, I am going to add additional wires to the upper portion of the layout to prevent a reduction in power to the engine motor which seems to happen when the switches are set to straight.  My understanding is that once the additional wires are added to this position, the rails will retain power even if the switches are set to diverge.

After my grandkids come and go on Memorial Day weekend, I will fiddle with this issue a little more to find out why the switches cut off power to that upper leg when thrown to divergent in Regular Operation.

Thanks for your continued interest and support.

Rich

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Posted by Timboy on Monday, May 03, 2010 2:23 PM

 

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Posted by Timboy on Monday, May 03, 2010 2:29 PM

 

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, May 03, 2010 2:40 PM

Timboy
Richhotrain: I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. I always check to make sure that the little crimp-on tabs that attach the wires from the contacts to the rails are not only crimped on good and tight, but also do not have any corrosion. If I suspect there is corrosion between them and the rails, then I will clean off the tops of the tabs and the adjacent rail and apply a dab of solder. I am always amazed at how little corrosion it takes on a layout component on my railroad to make something not work. -Big, Bad Timboy

Tim,

At the moment, the only source of power to the layout is a wire terminal clamped onto the rails at one end of the layout.  Since I am too cheap to buy another wire terminal, my plan is to solder the additional wires to the outside of the rails.

Rich

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Posted by Sturgeon-Phish on Monday, May 03, 2010 3:12 PM

Rich

Rich,

The soldering will work but can be tricky.  I've spread the rail from the bottom with a fine blade screwdriver then insert a regular spade connector.  The fit is usually tight enough that nothing else needs to be done.  Then crimp or solder the wire leader to the spade connector.  If you are running the wires for a layout drill the table top and pass the wire through or bend the connector at a right angle and let the wires pass under the side. 

Jim

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, May 03, 2010 3:28 PM

Sturgeon-Phish

Rich

Rich,

The soldering will work but can be tricky.  I've spread the rail from the bottom with a fine blade screwdriver then insert a regular spade connector.  The fit is usually tight enough that nothing else needs to be done.  Then crimp or solder the wire leader to the spade connector.  If you are running the wires for a layout drill the table top and pass the wire through or bend the connector at a right angle and let the wires pass under the side. 

Jim

Jim,

That is a great idea about wedging a spade connector into the split rail from the bottom.  Unfortunately, I am using rubber roadbed with all of my track, so I am blocked.

I did do some test soldering wthout a problem. Why do you say it can be tricky?  In my test soldering, I stripped the insulation off of about 1/4 inch of stranded wire, then bent the exposed wire at a 90 degree angle and soldered.  It held securely.

Rich

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Posted by lionelsoni on Monday, May 03, 2010 3:53 PM

I have never had any trouble with (14 AWG) wire soldered to the inside of (O27) rails.  You may also find that your flanges clear your wire just fine; and the connection is much less visible that way.

Consider soldering only short tap wires to your rails, with the bulk of the feeder wires under the table and connected to the taps with wire nuts.  That way you can easily remove the track section if you ever need to; and the size of your feeders is not limited by what you can solder to the rails. 

Besides spade lugs, you can also stick male Faston lugs and ring lugs into the bottoms of rails.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by richhotrain on Monday, May 03, 2010 4:05 PM

lionelsoni

I have never had any trouble with (14 AWG) wire soldered to the inside of (O27) rails.  You may also find that your flanges clear your wire just fine; and the connection is much less visible that way.

Consider soldering only short tap wires to your rails, with the bulk of the feeder wires under the table and connected to the taps with wire nuts.  That way you can easily remove the track section if you ever need to; and the size of your feeders is not limited by what you can solder to the rails. 

Besides spade lugs, you can also use stick male Faston lugs and ring lugs into the bottoms of rails.

Bob,

That's a great point about the feeder wire. As my screen name suggests, I am primarily an HO scale modeler operating in DCC.  The best practice there is to run a set of bus wires under the layout and drop feeder wires to the bus wires.

Rich

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