Cheap/Easy untable electric switch motors!

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by seanm, Aug 18, 2008.

  1. seanm

    seanm Member

    Two minor things I dislike about model railroading… One is the high cost of switch motors and the other is working under the layout. Under the layout work used to be fun in my 20’s, but now that I am closer to my 50’s, not so.

    I was able to make a BIG dent in both of these with an interesting method of using (SHHHHH!!! Don’t tell anyone) inexpensive Atlas HO electric twin coil switch motors to throw my N-Scale code 55 switches from under the table. I buy these from people upgrading to Torti on EBay for about $2.50 each.

    I used to do something similar by drilling a hole in the table a few ties from the throw bar and make an L out of thin music wire and put it through the throw bar and down through the table… then under the table I would go and make a bend and line everything up. Hard part was getting it all to work only being able to see one side at a time and getting the bend right above my head under the layout…. ALL BETTER!!

    Parts required:
    • 1 HO switch motor - $2.50 used on EBay
    • 2 and 2/3rds tongue depressors (large popsicle sticks) - $3 for 75 of them
    • 4 inches of music wire - $.40 for 3’ of wire
    • ¼” brass tube (bushing) - $.75 for tubing to make 30 or so
    • 1 strip Velcro (2 parts) - I dunno… cheap!
    • 1 strip of mounting tape – same here!
    • 1 small piece of tubing (I used some sprinkler tubing I had on hand) – Cost ??
    Tools: (all on hand for me)
    • Drill
    • ½” bit
    • Pin vise
    • 1 bit the size of wire
    • 1 bit size of tubing
    • Glue of some kind (ca, wood, white… doesn’t really matter)
    Start by getting the parts together.

    Break off 1/3rd of one tongue depressor and glue all three together. Two long and one short on top all even on one end.


    Drill a hole for the bushing. Bend the wire into a Zish shape


    Put one side of the Velcro on the short tongue depressor. This is the side that will be against the bottom of the layout.

    Put the bushing on one leg of the Z and insert it through the hole in the tongue depressor. At this point you have to decide if you want to orient the machine with the length of the switch or at some other angle (90 degrees is good). This one is oriented to go along the length of the switch but you could bend it at any angle

    Bend the piece of wire below the tongue depressor so if angles back along the length of the unit.


    Slip the piece of sprinkler tubing over the end of the switch motor actuator to extend it. Put some double stick foam tape on the bottom of the tongue depressor sandwich on the end away from the bushing and wire.


    Place the Atlas HO switch motor on the tape so that the tubing JUST goes over the end of the wire. It should not go very far in or it will bind. Also the length of the bent wire needs to be similar in length to the bend above the tongue depressor or you will have issues. How long? I would say 1 inch is good.


    When you throw the switch it should move the wire easily with out binding. This is not hard to accomplish but you may need to experiment with the length of the bend and the tubing to get it all to work smooth. Nice part is you can do it all at the BENCH not under the layout!


    Now you have an assembled unit!! Drill a ½ inch hole where the turn out throw-bar is and a small hole in the center of the throw-bar. I used a pin vise and it was pretty easy. Put the other side of the Velcro under the hole oriented like you want your switch motor to be oriented and attach with the wire going up through the hole into the hole in the throw-bar.


    Adjust as necessary with the Velcro until it throws nice and smooth! Trim off the wire above the turn out and you are done!!!


    Several good thing about this… CHEAP!! Easy to find parts!! This actually only takes 10 minutes to build while watching TV and can be prewired with a pigtail before ti gets to the layout. The device can be removed for maintenance by just pulling it off the Velcro!! All is all this is a Martha Stewart “Good thing!!”

    I think this would also work for those HO folks as well… but it is our little secret!
  2. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    Hey thanks, I'm going to see if this will throw the positive click Micro Engineering HO switches I have!
  3. seanm

    seanm Member

    I don;t know if it will be strong enough. You could try heavier wire.
  4. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    I really like this... nice innovation from easily locatable parts...

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