All About Switches--Resources

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by Bongo Boy, Dec 8, 2004.

  1. Bongo Boy

    Bongo Boy Member

    As a pre-beginner, you folks know I have a million stupid questions. Here's another one. I'd like to understand how switches are designated--I have the impression there are low-angle and high-angle switches (acute and less acute). I'd like to know if that's true, and what the typical applications are.

    I'm interested in G gauge--if that has any bearing on the discussion. Is there a place I can go to understand the whole deal with switches? Oh...control panels for them is also of interest, naturally. It seems so far like this has to be a custom-built thing. IOW, I'm not seeing ready-made gear designed to allow control over say the 2- or 3-dozen switches a fella might need for a main line and rail yard setup.

    Hep meh!
  2. Bongo Boy

    Bongo Boy Member

    This post deleted.
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    North American switches are designated by the angle of the frog, but it's shown as the units of length to move over one unit. A number 8 frog will take 8 feet to separate 1 foot. The bigger the number, the longer and gentler the switch. Our model switches are much sharper than the prototype's. A larger number frog will allow faster speeds, but models tend to have more tolerant dynamics, so we seldom go above a #8.
    Model switches also come as circular, e.g. 18" radius. Most prototype switches are straight through the frog (streetcar lines are a major exception). There are also variations in the bit of the switch from the points to the frog.
    Model standards tend to be #4 or 6 in yards, #6 or 8 on mainlines.
  4. Bongo Boy

    Bongo Boy Member

    That helps a lot, and thanks again. So, what's the deal with CONTROLLING these switches? What's available on the market that allows me to control 2 dozen turnouts without having to build a panel from scratch?
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    There are two types of switch control-- manual and remote. Remote is usually electric.
    Manual is either a hand throw at the side of the switch or a rod to the side of the benchwork.
    Electric gathers the controls in one spot. To match the controls to the switches, you need a diagram. The prototype usually numbers each switch and puts the controls in a long line uner the diagram, with each control numbered (in order). Sometimes, they put switch and signal controls on the diagram.
    There's another type of control called entry-exit (NX) where the signalman specifies the start and end points of a route and then pushes a button. This is like our "diode matrix" controls where we select a track and one pushh sets all the switches for that track.
  6. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Every layout is different and there are almost infinite configurations of switches - this makes pre-built panels impractical. Control of switches can be, as David said,
    1) Manual
    a) snap switches like Peco
    b) hooked up to a ground throw device
    c) a rod attached to the switch controlled thru the fascia

    2) Remote. Remote switches are run by switch motors, like the Tortoise brand. If you are going DCC they can also have decoders in them which allows you to access them from your hand-held throttle. They can also be hooked up to your computer and whole runs of switches can be set to create a "route".

    This can get really fancy (or complicated depending how you look at it!) when you add signals, occupancy detectors and all that groovy stuff.

    As a newbie myself I have chosen Peco switches, that I throw by hand. They snap into position so no added hardware is needed - cheap and simple, two things I like! The only drawback is that it's often hard to tell which way the turnout has been thrown without stopping the train and taking a close look!! :rolleyes:

    When I build my yard I am going to have a control panel, if it kills me!!!!

  7. Mike Desira

    Mike Desira New Member

    another newbie looking for help too

    any particular reason why the PECO snappies and not say ATLAS?:confused:
    I'm asking cos atm I'm at the design stage of my dream setup and I'm slanting towards the ATLAS trackage if only for financial reasons. :oops: I'd welcome any input on track choice, please.

    With regards to controlling switches, I'd go for remote snaps, it looks oh so cool, and I'm a control freak, if a totally uninformed one in here. Also, I definitely vote LED's over filament lamps. they led the way !!!!!!!!!!!:eek:
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Val use the term "snap". Atlas calls their sectional track "Snap Track" (and has for almost 50 years) because it's a "snap" to put together.
    Peco's turnouts have a spring at the points that makes them "snap" from side to side and stay in position, without using an extra box on the side. Atlas has the box for manual control, but it's rather large.
    With Peco, you can start with the finger throw and add electric motors when you can afford them. I don't think Atlas offers that option.
    Lots of us use hand thrown switches where we can reach and electric ones where we can't.
    (Are you still talking about G gauge? Val and I are working with HO and the selection and techniques may be quite different!)
  9. Mike Desira

    Mike Desira New Member

    I'm thinking OO/ it me or am I getting this vibe that PECO is preferred over Atlas Tracks? not from this thread, mind, but from elsewhere. Then again, it could be me............
  10. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Not having to have a switch machine is definitely a plus. A traditional minus is that Peco switches match English prototype, but their new Code 83 track is built on the American pattern.

    Atlas is kind of the "bargain-basement" brand.

    Bongo Boy: Most people do, in fact, wire their own control panels. It's not all that much work, and it will teach you a lot of basic electronics. You can also buy Atlas' modular switch controllers (there is a book on how to wire your layout with Atlas controllers, too) and use those instead if you prefer, but a self-built control panel will work the way you want it to and look better.

    Manual control of switches is also popular, if you're the kind of railroader who wants to follow your trains around the layout rather than sit in one spot and watch them go round and round.
  11. Mike Desira

    Mike Desira New Member

    Pardon my asking, but what is the book called, and where can I get one, please? It's perfect for me at this point in my empire building :thumb: cos i've got lots of ideas but i needto put them in some kind of perspective.

    Whilst on the subject, is there any canon or "rules" which whilst not obvious to green-nosed neebies like me, are vital for the trouble-free track design?:D

    To state the obvious, I cannot see a train tackling a 90' bend,:eek: so I guess right angles in tracks are a no-no.:)

    What are the rules for radii? larger is better, right?
  12. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    You can find it on Atlas' website:

    Here's the link:{C76C43F7-F0AF-4E4F-9DF3-E1C83DEVERESTC669AD}&ic=0012&eq=&Tp=

    You will still have to do quite a bit of wiring on your own (running wires from switches to control panels) but none of it is too hard if you know a little bit of basic electronics and can tell one end of a screwdriver from the other.

    Indeed, larger radii is better. In HO, 15-18" is considered the bare minimum for small equipment (40' cars and small locomotives), 22-24" the minimum for large stuff (modern locomotives, passenger equipment), and 30-36"+ for articulated locomotives and the best appearance.

    Keep in mind that that is for HO scale: halve it for N, double it for O, and I'd guess triple it for G and other large-scale stuff.

    Get a book or two of track plans or on track planning: Armstrong's "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" is a classic, as is "101 Track Plans for Model Railroads", both by Kalmbach, but there are others out there too. Get a pad of graph paper and start sketching track plans until something that meets your needs comes out the end of your pencil--or you can download Atlas' free track planning software from their website (mentioned above.)
  13. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm not familier with G gauge stuff, or what era you are modeling. I think the LGB moguls and Bachmann 10 wheelers will handle much tighter radius curves than we think. My local hobby shop has a demonstration set of ovals set up to give customers a perspective on sizes of various gauges and the Bachmann Big Hauler seems to be operating on about a 27-30 inch radius. You might ask about minimum radius for the actual equipment you will be running in the large scale forum her at The Gauge.
  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    One rule is not to have S curves in the layout unless there is a long straight between them (the length of your longest car). But apparently no straight is better than a too-short piece.
    Parallel tracks on curves should be widened out a bit. How much depends on, well, everything.
    If your train can come back on the same track but going in the opposite direction, you have a reversing loop and will need special wiring.

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