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Which switch motor?

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  • Member since
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Which switch motor?
Posted by steamfreightboy on Thursday, March 06, 2008 4:25 PM
I have a 4x8 and want to instal swith motors. I want the motor that is Easiest to instal. Thanks ahead of time for your input.Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg]Thumbs Up [tup]
"It's your layout, only you have to like it." Lin's Junction
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Posted by larak on Thursday, March 06, 2008 7:53 PM

To paraphrase a well known truth "the small amount of time and effort that you save now will become more meaningless as time goes on."

For me they are all similar in (lack of) difficulty. All take some time and effort, even manual ground throws. 

What brand of Turnouts do you plan to use? That choice might affect your options concerning switch machines.

The mind is like a parachute. It works better when it's open.  www.stremy.net

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, March 06, 2008 8:34 PM

Ooops, you've opened the can.  Here come the worms.  Like me...

First, Larak is right - the brand of turnout should influence your decision.  If you're using Atlas turnouts and you want the quickest, easiest option, go with Atlas switch machines.  Personally, I hate the way they look.  The undertable ones are better, but more expensive, and they won't work through 2-inch foam.

If you've got Peco turnouts, then Peco motors are the easiest.  But, you can't use Atlas machines with Peco turnouts at all, or vice versa.  Peco uses a spring built in to the turnout, which is unique.  Both Atlas and Peco are "twin-coil" machines, which are pairs of solenoids that you energize briefly to throw, and then they remain in place with mechanical design.

Tortoise and Tortoise clone machines are slow-motion motors, and they remain energized at all times.  They can be used with Atlas turnouts, or, if you take the Peco springs out, with Peco turnouts.

Do you need to control anything else along with the turnout?  Tortoises come with contact closures you can use for signals, siding power, indicator lights or other effects.  Atlas makes a version of its machines like this, for extra cost.  Peco has an add-on unit to accomplish this.

So, are you more confused than before?  Well, read on.  First it will get worse, but after a while you'll see the pattern, and this will all come into focus.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Thursday, March 06, 2008 10:34 PM

Adding to Mister Beasley's list:

  • RIX twin-coil machines can be arranged to throw any switch (even my home-made ones.)  If you have to have contacts, they can be had with DPDT contacts for a little extra money and a little extra assembly.
  • If you absolutely, positively have to have 3PDT contacts, watch E-bay for the old KTM (imported by Kemtron) twin-coil machines.

There have been other variants produced over the years, including screw-drives, single solenoids and rotary relays (WWII surplus, now mostly a distant memory.)  There are also a myriad of hand-throws, ranging from prototypical interlocking levers to Joe Fugate's barrel bolt design.  For a 4 by 8, using hand-thrown switches for all but the ones at the extreme far side of the table might be a money-saving alternative.

Chuck (modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - with twin-coil and manual point actuators)

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Posted by steamfreightboy on Friday, March 07, 2008 6:38 AM

right now I have power-loc. I would like to upgrade the track also. That brings me to a new question, what track should I get with the switch motorsSign - Dots [#dots]

"It's your layout, only you have to like it." Lin's Junction
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Posted by jrbernier on Friday, March 07, 2008 8:57 AM

  If you are going to build a 'serious' layout, I suspect you are thinking about going beyond sectional trackage.  There is a lot of good flex-track and turnouts available(and lots of various prices as well).

  If you are planning on starting over on a '4 by 8', I would suggest something like Atlas Code 83 trackage with their 'Customline' turnouts.  Lay this on cork roadbed.  The trackage is very good for the price and is 'available' - Not 'out of production' at times like some other brands.

  As far as switch machines for the turnouts, I like to use the little Caboose Industries ground throws for most of the turnouts - they just 'work'.  If you have to 'reach' some far turnouts, the Tortoise motors are some of the best.  They are rock hard reliable, but they are not cheap.  I had twin-coil machines(PFM/Kemtron/NJ Int) and found that the aux contracts were not reliable with track current, and needed maintenence after some time.  The Tortoise motors have been installed for over 5 years and 'just work'.

Jim Bernier

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by CNE Runner on Saturday, March 08, 2008 9:51 AM

I recently scrapped my entire (switching) layout due to problems with Walthers/Shinohara turnouts. Trust me: after a while these turnouts will cause you contact problems. After asking around, I kept hearing one brand name being repeated as "rock solid and dependable". That brand is Peco. Peco turnouts and track ain't cheap (look up the exchange rate from US $ to Pounds); but they work wonderfully. The points are sprung and this can cause some problems with switch machines (namely Tortoise). As was mentioned before, you can simply take out or adjust the turnout spring mechanism. I have decided to try the Micro Mark line of switch machines. We haven't installed any as of yet - so my fingers are crossed. The Blue Point mechanical turnout controller works well; but the flexible control cable seems to be hard to find (this should be corrected when the product is on the market longer). Caboose Hobbies' brand of mechanical controller worked fine for me BUT is hard on any structures that happen to be in the way of "God's arm". I would install these units towards the front of the layout. By their nature, any mechanical controller will be more dependable - for a longer period of time than an electrical unit. Of course installation and maintenance will determine dependability as well.

A fellow modeler has used pneumatic turnout machines for years without any trouble. I don't know whether or not these units are still available. I would imagine the only thing that can cause trouble would be the tubing. I have no experience with this type of machine.

Good luck with your decision. Turnouts and their related machines are a major investment for your layout. You need to take your time and get all the advice you can before making that financial commitment. Let us know what you have decided.

 "Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on rail."

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, March 09, 2008 8:23 AM

Another question you need to ask yourself is why you are using remote turnout motors, and how you want to control them.  Personally, I like remote motors because, to me, the "hand of God" reaching down doesn't work.  Also, my layout is wider than my own less-than-godlike arms.

If you typically like to stay in one spot and run trains, then you will want remote turnouts.  You will probably also want electrically-powered ones, so that you can have a central control panel to serve them all.  I have control panels with a schematic track plan, with toggle switches on the panel where the turnouts are on the layout.  It's a common, straightforward system.

Those who like to walk around with the trains may prefer either "distributed" controls, like on-layout manual Caboose throws, or cable-operated systems.  Some modellers make these with automotive speedometer cable or bicycle brake cable.  Humpyard makes a nice one, I believe.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by floridaflyer on Sunday, March 09, 2008 10:36 AM
I agree with jr, Atlas code 83 flex track, Atlas customline turnouts and tortoise switch machines will give you a reliable system. Atlas is a good value and while the tortoise is a bit expensive thay are an excellent product.
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Posted by steamfreightboy on Sunday, March 30, 2008 7:53 AM
I've seen ads for the flea in mrr magazine and wonder if it would be the way to go. What do you think?Question [?]
"It's your layout, only you have to like it." Lin's Junction
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Posted by jrbernier on Sunday, March 30, 2008 10:04 AM

  I have looked into them, but I have a couple of major concerns:

  • They are mounted to the underside of the turnout, and are therefore 'buried'.  Access for any maintainance work means ripping the switch out.   On the other hand, they do look solid and draw no 'stall' current. 
  • Cost - The are sold attached to Walthers/Shinohara/Atlas/Peco turnouts and cost about $60 each!  They will install one on 'your' turnout for $50.  At this point I think you have to get them direct from Cyprus Engineering - No discount prices.

Jim Bernier

 

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by loathar on Sunday, March 30, 2008 12:10 PM

 steamfreightboy wrote:
I've seen ads for the flea in mrr magazine and wonder if it would be the way to go. What do you think?Question [?]

$$$$$$$!

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Posted by UpNorth on Sunday, March 30, 2008 5:51 PM

Better start saving up right now.  As said above  mucho $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Wonder if they sell any.

http://cypress-engineering.com/ModelRailroad.htm

Your best bet is either ground throws or Tortoise switch machine. The ground throws are a reasonnable price.

For the Tortoise you will need power,  control panel, wiring and switches or stationnary decoders for every Tortoise and switch them via your throttle.

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