Peco Turnouts - controls? dpdt vs taping a bolt vs. ?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by dwight77, Nov 15, 2005.

  1. dwight77

    dwight77 Member

    Well it is decision time and I need some help and recommendations based on your experience. I am building an N Gauge layout on a board 5 1/2' x 10'. I have purchased Peco Insulfrog turnouts and Peco turnout motors (PL-10) and am getting ready to start building. I am also wiring the layout for dcc - I have a Digitrax Zepher that I will be using.
    Question is - on my control panel is it easier to use dpdt toggle switches or I have read some comments on using a bolt mounted on the control panel and then tapping it with a probe when wanting to activate the turnout. Somehow, tapping a bolt mounted on the control panel doesn't give me much in the way of a professional look in my eyes. But then I have had some people tell me that when using a toggle, you may hold it a fraction too long and burn out the turnout motor. I used to use the old Atlas turnouts and their lever controls and I never had a burn out problem.
    My other question is, using either the toggle or the probe system, it their a way to wire in lights on the control panel to indicate which way the turnout is set. Even a simple light on to indicate the direction of the turnout with the alternate light out, would I think be adequate. If it was possible to have red and green lights even better, but I am not greedy at this point.
    Thanks for any suggestions or relaying your experiences.
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I go for the probe method. I've never found any toggles that did the job. You could use the Atlas controls if you still have them.
    For indicators, you could add a switch to the turnout motor. Peco makes these. You could wire lights to the tracks beyond the frog. These would be dependent on track power.
  3. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Do you want to control the turnouts from DCC? If so, I'd seriously suggest looking at Tortoises and something like the NCE Switch-it controllers. No worries about holding stuff down for too long. You don't need a control panel with switches, but if and when you want one, you can do it with any old switch and not worry about how they're used. And still use your controller...
  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Momentary toggles do have a traditional and nice look to them, but are probably the most expensive answer. They can be put in rows (but please don't do this) or into turnout locations on a map-style track plan on your control panel. The last point in favor of toggle switches is that you can provide toggles at or near the turnout location in addition to/instead of the central control panel, which facilitates walk-around control.

    The bolt and probe method is inexpensive. It could look cheeesy, but doesn't have to. Looks depend on the appearance of the materials selected and craftsmanship of the builder, since this method is home-brewed. The bolt and probe is logically built into the track plan on the control panel. "Local" panels near turnout locations are feasible with this method, but it is more naturally suited to central control panels.

    In either case, using a capacitive discharge power supply for the switch machines will provide extra insurance against coil burnout, no matter which control system you use. It will also do a better job of actually throwing the points with a good "snap" action. Highly recommended for layouts with Atlas, Peco, or other twin-coil switch machines - not Tortoise or "slow motion" machines.

    The huge disadvantage of Atlas switches, Acme push buttons, toggles in rows, etc, is having to remember what switch controls what turnout. While you will have your layout memorized after a while, no visitor or relative will ever be to figure it out in an hour or two. That is why I argue passionately for local controls of turnouts or at the very least switches installed into a layout map.

    If you have turnout controls installed locally near the turnout, you often don't need indicator lights to tell you which way the turnout is thrown because you can see for yourself. That is one of the beauties of walk-around control - you're watching the train rather than a panel of lights. It works well even on a rectangular table-style layout - you get to watch your train from several different perspectives and view points.

    yours in switching
  5. dwight77

    dwight77 Member

    Tillsbury and Fred:
    Your comments and suggestions brings more replys and questions. Tillsbury, I do not plan on using dcc to control the switches so the tortoises are out - thank you for the suggestion though.
    Fred: on the capacitive discharge? I am not familiar with such an animal but I am guessing you run the power source to a capacitor that is designed to provide enough power to activate the switch and when either using the probe or the toggle it only allows that much power to fire and you would have to either activate the toggle again or use the probe again for another shot of juice, allowing a moment for the capacitor to recharge.
    If this is the correct assumption, Fred, I like the idea of using the toggles. I have seen them advertised for around a $1.00 - $1.25 which I don't consider exhorbitant - I will only need about 30 toggles max. I also like your idea of locating them around the walk around layout on smaller schematics nearer the actual location of the turnouts. Is it a crazy step to presume that the toggles could be wired in parallel and locate one on a small schematic near the actual location and another on a master control panel? This way if a couple of people were operating the layout, they could walk around and change turnouts as needed but if I was at the control panel and just enjoying the system, I could change turnouts from the main location.
    Thanks again for your suggestions.
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Dwight: you're correct in most of your conclusions.
    Capacitor discharge units are like photo flash units. They can be built in multiple sizes and I don't know if you can make one too big. They can also be used to run multiple switch machines like crossovers or yard ladders. There are threads on here somewhere.
    The Tortoise is not limited to DCC. It's actually a small DC motor that doesn't burn out when left on in the stall mode. It works with a regular DPDT switch that can be left in the turned position.
  7. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Dwight, you're pretty much right on target. One of the advantages of twin coil switch machines such as the Peco, Atlas, and others is that because they require a momentary switch to control them, you can have parallel controls to your heart's delight. Your idea of both a local panel and a central master panel is not crazy at all - it's the classic method for doing large layouts. But having both types of control is very effective on even a 4x6ft layout. That way you can enjoy operating your layout from the far side when you want. Whether you use push buttons or momentary toggle switches or bolt and probe - all can be successfully mixed and/or paralleled.

    You're also right on target about capacitive discharge (CD) systems. The charging current comes from your normal switch machine power supply. Fancier models, like electronic flashes, can recharge very quickly. Most CD systems provide a very short burst of higher voltage - typically 18 to 24v. This very short burst is better for the switch machine because it avoids heat build-up problems (especially troublesome with Atlas). Most CD systems have sufficiently powerful bursts to easily throw 3 or 4 switch machines simultaneously, which as David said, allows you to line up a route through cross-overs or yard ladders with just one button push. You can buy commercial CD units or build your own - is a good site for circuit designs useful in model railroading.

    The tortoise machines and similar use a low current motor that is stalled after the turnout is thrown. The low stall current prevents heat build-up. It is more difficult to parallel a Tortoise because the controlling switch is not a momentary type. But there are advantages to the slow motion of the Tortoise, especially with hand-laid track.

    hope this helps

    yours in controlling by walking around
  8. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    And just to add fun to the mix -- if you control your Tortoises with Switch-its, they have a momentary input to the circuit board, so as well as controlling them remotely or by computer or routes, you can use momentary toggles to switch them, as many as you like in parallel, along with LED indicators that show where the switch actually is (rather than where the switch should be)... So the trouble is that there's no one definitive answer, I suppose...
  9. Zman

    Zman Member

    Incidentally, Peco makes really nice momentary toggles. I believe the catalog number is PL - 26. They're much better looking than most, and you can also get a ready-made housing for them - that holds six switches.
  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The CDU is also a precaution against push buttons that break down and stay on. With a standard power supply you can get a fire when the switch machine overheats. With a CDU there is a mere trickle current through the machine, and you find that the next switch won't fire. CDUs also give a big kick which helps operate the stickier machines.

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