Manual turnout control

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by mhdishere, Apr 5, 2005.

  1. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    I'm looking for ideas on manual turnout control. Here are my requirements:

    1) Must be absolutely reliable

    2) Must be cheap (because I am)

    3) Must be usable from the edge of the layout. I'm clumsy and would rather not reach into the layout more often than I need to.

    4) Must be able to operate a switch to power the frog too.

    The layout will probably be on a 30" or so side shelf along one wall of a room. I'm going to TRY hand-laying my track. I've read that snap-type turnout motors can cause problems with solder joints on hand-laid track, plus the good ones are expensive (violation of requirement 2) and the cheap ones aren't reliable (requirement 1). Ground throws obviously violate #3. I also don't want the control showing too much from the top, so I want to connect to the throw-bar from below.

    Had anyone tried anything like this?
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I have seen a picture/article (MR I think) that shows how to do a "choke cable" control that also slides an electric switch to change the polarity of the (powered) frog. I'll try to find it, or you can try the index at if you don't want to wait for me...! ;)

  3. Wabash Banks

    Wabash Banks Member

    That is the way I intend to do my switches for exactly the reasons posted. I also like the thought of doing the manual switching. You use a cheap 1.50 switch attached to a metal rod. I will be using coat ahnger straightened totally out. You attach it to the throw bar and a small hole in the plastic throw piece of the switch. The switch has to apply power regardless of it's direction. I can't think of the exact term for it, but it can't be a simply on/off switch. The switch also provides a nice stop mechanism so that you don't bend the points of the turnout by pushing them too far. Since the switch clicks you can feel it slide into place. A knob on the end of the wire extending to the fascia of the layout provides the access. If you brace the rod you could also provide enough strength to do a 90 degree turn or two, as long as the direction of travel remained the same. You have less than 2.00 tied up in each mechanism and they are reliable!
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If I remember correctly, you need to have a "Z" bend in the wire to provide a spring action? Maybe the positive motion in the (electrical) switch is enough?

  5. Wabash Banks

    Wabash Banks Member

    A friend of mine has done his layout this way. The spring was the first question I had. He invited me to operate one and observe as a heavy train rolled through. I could tell exactly when the switch was properly thrown and the points didn't budge. Obviously a key component is no snags or binds onteh wire that would pull it backwards and switches that have a firm set position. If you use clips to wire the poles of the switch when it finally did get too sloppy to use (my firned has ahd his 2 years now) you could clip the poles, remove the retaining screw holding the switch to the layout and put a new one in. That brings the cost to 3.50. Still a long way from a single switching machine with the same reliability.
  6. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

  7. Wabash Banks

    Wabash Banks Member

    The version of this my friend has done does not show anything on top of the layout. The switch is located under the layout and a rod between the throwbar on the turnout and the push rod to the switch is soldered in place. What you get with some detailed work on soldering the throwbar assembly together is a pretty convincing turnout. If you are interested more in how to hook the throwbar assembly together let me know and I will elaborate more.
  8. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    Thanks everyone, and especially Trainclown for the link with the pics. One question thought for Trainclown: Do you have to choose the switch so that that its throw matches the turnout throw closely? Or is there enough flex in the brass wire going up to the turnout that it would be OK if the switch throw was a bit longer than the turnout throw? Obviously it wouldn't work if the switch throw was shorter than the turnout throw.
  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you can use some sort of lever/fulcrum set-up you would be able to use an electrical switch with a throw shorter than the turnout.

  10. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Or you can use Peco turnouts which snap into position. Then a simple throw rod running under the layout will work.

  11. jcoop1

    jcoop1 Member


    I am working on the same thing. I am using controll rods from model aircraft that work great. That plus a .37 piece from home depot and a little music wire. I will try to get a pic up later.

    Good luck.
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    While not exactly cheap, this website might give you some ideas:

    They make model interlocking levers to be used at the end of a cable-type turnout control. There are some helpful diagrams there.

  13. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

  14. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    That's a great link - and Saskatchewan no less! :)

  15. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    I have a three page PDFof a system that works from the edge of the layout.
    PM me if you would like it emailed (102k).
  16. ScottyB

    ScottyB Member

  17. Pitchwife

    Pitchwife Dreamer

    Here's another site that can also be found on my Links page under How To.

    manual turnout accuation. There are also a couple others, plus some new ones (thanks to everyone who posted a link that I didn't already have :thumb: :thumb: )

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