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Using Atlas Snap turnout controls w/ Peco switch machines

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Using Atlas Snap turnout controls w/ Peco switch machines
Posted by Dorassoc1 on Friday, January 15, 2021 7:14 PM

Replaced Atlas remote snap switches with Peco's and Peco switch machines, but having problems wiring machines to switch machine congtroller.

Already burned out one Peco machine.  Reluctant to test further at $15 - $20 a shot.  Looking for someone on this forum to blame if I burn out another.

Any ideas?

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, January 15, 2021 7:36 PM

What kind of controller?



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Posted by rrinker on Friday, January 15, 2021 10:43 PM

 The Atlas buttons are momentary and should be fine for Peco machines. Peco usually have 4 wires, 2 that get connected together to be the common, and then a left and right. The order should be the same ont he Atlas buttons - common in the middle, one side on the left screw, one side on the right screw.

 However, the Atlas buttons are very prone to sticking, which leads to burned out switch motors. You should also run them off a capacitor discharge power supply. The Circuitron Snapper is one example. It goes between your power supply and the buttons. 



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Posted by MisterBeasley on Saturday, January 16, 2021 11:24 AM

I agree with Randy.  I still have old Atlas turnout controllers from the 50s.  They're in a box because I've burned out too many machines when the buttons stuck.

Peco machines need more of a power jolt to throw them than Atlas machines.  Yes, you really need a capacitive discharge circuit for them.  It will provide the extra power you need and will protect the machine if the button sticks.

I don't know the power requirements or ratings, but it would not surprise me if the Atlas buttons are not robust enough to handle Peco machines.

Your need a simple single pole double throw momentary contact toggle.

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Posted by nycmodel on Sunday, January 17, 2021 1:41 PM

I used simple spst pushbuttons. One for the normal route and one for the diverging route. Later on I connected in a home brew capacitor discharge system to give a more robust "snap". Probably enough to shake the spikes loose (handlaid track). Never burned out a switch machine (Kemtron and NJ International). Now a days on my present "KISS" layout I just push the Peco switch points into position. I haven't burned out a finger yet ;-}

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Posted by jjdamnit on Sunday, January 17, 2021 7:30 PM

Hello All,

I run both Atlas Remote Switch Machines (#52 & 53) and PECO PL-11 Side Mounted Turnout Motors.

Both are dual solenoid type turnout motors with three wires feeding them.

On my pike, both these types of turnout motors are activated by Atlas #56 switch control boxes and PECO Capacitor Discharge Units.

One thing to note on the PECO PL-11s is the color-coding.

Even though the wires on the PECO units are the same color as the Atlas; Black, Red, Green.

The polarity is very different.

On the Atlas units; according to the schematics on the packaging, the Red and Green wires are the actuating power- -outside poles, and Black is the "Neutral"- -center pole. 

On the PECO units, the Black and Red wires are the actuating power and the Green is the "Neutral".

Because these are both solenoid type switches only a single pulse is necessary to activate or "throw" the turnouts.

A "momentary" pushbutton or switch is required not an "On-Off-On" SPDT.

If you use a non-momentary switch and don't return the switch to the "Off" position immediately you can burn out the solenoid from the constant current to the solenoid.

Capacitive Discharge Units (CDUs) provide this momentary pulse and can only be "fired" once per switch activation.

If you don't use momentary switches only one pulse from the CDU will reach the solenoid, no matter the delay in moving the switch to the "Off" position.

Another advantage of a CDU is the increase of amperage per pulse.

With two PECO PL-11s in series, this extra "oomph" is enough to throw both turnout motors simultaneously.

Hope this helps.

Post Script: I have kept the Atlas color-coding and change the PECO coding at the end of the wiring harness from the PL-11.
If you only use a few Atlas Remote Switch Machines you can easily switch the color-coding at the Atlas switch machines to the PECO standard. 
H.T.H.- -J.J. 

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by Dorassoc1 on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 8:25 PM

Wow.  Thanks for this.  Greatly appreciated

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, January 21, 2021 9:42 AM

The electrical effect of Atlas and Peco switches is the same, apart from the wire colour convention mentioned.

The mechanical operation is different.

Peco use passing contact switch. As you move the lever it makes and breaks contact momentarily (in passing) internally. At either end of the travel no power is delivered. Momentary contact. You cannot repeat the action twuce in the same direction. You have to reline the turnout again by moving the Peco lever back and forth (up and down).

Atlas is a two stage actuation. You slide the switch across and press down to make contact. You can make both motions simultaneously but you have the option of separating the slide from the press.

So, there's nothing preventing you from presetting the Atlas switch to the desired lining of the turnout and delaying the press to change the lining for any length of time you wish. Also, you can press the Atlas switch again to fire the switch motor a second time (we occasionally have to do that if the snap relay changing frog polarity fails to complete its travel). 

Atlas have their handy flow through internal wiring system allowing you to power a series of switches from a pair of conductors. Peco have to be wired separately although if you use Peco switch motor  wiring "harnesses" for the lever end you can daisy chain the green power wire to two levers at a time. You could make your own green wire harness which I have done using a terminal strip with the common terminal created with jumpers on the one side. Handy for troubleshooting. 

Peco have the advantage of readily showing the position of the turnout: lever up or down. Peco makes a 6 position convenient cassette to pop the switch levers into and the levers come in four colours. Separate mounting plates are also available to make a bank of switch levers as long as you like  

We wire our Peco switch levers so that when the levers are all down every turnout is lined for the main line. Black indicates a crossover pair of turnouts actuated by one switch: down for both set to main, up for both set to crossover. Red is a mainline turnout to a siding. Yellow is for yard turnouts. White marks a turnout used to line the main line turnouts on the connecting track between our two continuous running loops. Down means the mainline is clear from one loop to the other and up is required to keep a train running on the continuous loop.

Atlas rely in left or right to indicate turnout lining, which is logical. You match the switch direction to the lining direction. 

We have both types of switch and one of each brand of CDU, from Tortoise (Circuitron) and Peco. I prefer the Peco CDU. Looks less radio shack home project and is slightly easier to wire.

Alyth Yard


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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, January 21, 2021 9:58 AM

 Wish I had pictures of my Radio SHack home built CDU - no PCB, no perfboard, just soldred the compoents to the transistor which was mounted in a heat sink. Connection wire on one side was literally soldered to the capacitor lead. 

 Hey, I was like 10...

 As far as hooking one up, they should all be the same - 2 wires to the power source, 2 wires to the control boxes.

 Old Atlas N scale turnouts didn;t originally use those blue buttons - they had a lever frame type of control, each one had pins and sockets on the sides so they could be ganged together. Flip the lever up or down, than ehtm a momentary additional press in that direction closed the contacts. If anything, those stuck closed more than the square blue buttons! Had 2 turnouts on our HO layout, I think they were AHM ones, not sure why we deviated from almost everything else being Atlas, or old Tyco (those too had an interesting control box - 2 buttons plus a cutaway window with an embossed piece of plastic that moves back and forth showing a little pictograph of the turnout lined straight ot for the diverging route. One button made it go one way, the other button made it go the other. If I remember correctly, the plastic insert was changeable for right and left hand turnouts). The AHM ones had a white lever frame, larger than the Atlas N scale ones, with I think a red handle. Functioned the same way.

 Those original N scale turnouts we had - might have been Minitrix instead of Atlas, the switch machines connected via plugs to the back of the levers, not screw terminals. Would match with the rest of the set since it was an Aurora Postage Stamp set which was made by Trix. We added track and two turnouts so it was more interesting than just a simple oval. Being only about 5 at the time, I burned out too many turnouts, so we put the N scale portion of the layout aside for a few years and made the HO bigger. When I was 8, we got a few more locos and cars and built a small N scale layout I was allowed to keep up all year.



Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's


Visit my web site at for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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