Recommendations on: Turnouts, switch motors, etc.

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by kchronister, Sep 12, 2005.

  1. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    As I embark on building my 4th layout, I want to do everything "just so". For the first time I'm at a point where I have the space and the funds to not scrimp (though at the same time, i certainly don't object to saving a buck, especially when spending more doesn't get me more).

    Having said that, I wonder if the group can share recommendations on the following;

    DCC-friendly switches (standard #6 and #8 level)
    DCC-friendly switches (high speed mainline - #??? 12? 20?)
    Preferred switch machines - I know tortoise is omnipresent, are they really the be-all?


  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Of all the turnouts I have seen, I like the look of the "new" DCC-friendly Walthers/Shinohara turnouts the best. Second would be MicroEngineering, but I am not entirely sure how DCC-compatible they are. The standard at our modular club is code 100 Peco (non-power routing). They have been through hell and back, so to speak. We switch them by hand, with groundthrows, and I think there are guys who have tortoises with them too.

    I don't know if anyone makes a #20, but I believe there are #10s around commercially. You will need a heck of a lot of room to use #20s on a layout...!

  3. richhotrain

    richhotrain New Member

    Although some modelers frown upon the Atlas turnouts, I have 58 #6 turnouts on my layout and they work just fine. I use Tortoises on all of these turnouts and they are superb little machines. I highly recommend them, having previously used Atlas Under Table Switch Machines which are awful. Look no further!
  4. belg

    belg Member

    guys, I'm wondering my combo will probably the atlas and tortoise units as that is what is available to me and I have quite a few already, I would like to know what is the ideal depth to use the tortoise motors, I'll be using 1/2" ply and cork roadbed. thanks Pat
  5. santafewillie

    santafewillie Member

    Like richhotrain, I have 50+ Atlas #6 turnouts and I have no problems with them. I have holes under them for eventual under the table switch machines but I currently use a combination of ground throws and fingers to operate them. DON'T use the Atlas Under the Table Switch Machines...absolutely horrible! That's my 2 cents.
  6. Conrail

    Conrail Member

    Well I wish I had known that before I bought 13 of them. :( Guess I'll just have to make em work. Can't just flush $75.00 away. Whats bad about them. I suppose I shouldn't have tried to cut corners and went with the switch tenders. I guess you can't expect a whole lot for 6 bucks each either though. Oh well.
  7. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    Kris, I would recomend looking into peco, like Andrew, our club has used them for years with a digitrax system, we use a slow motion motor with them as well as some hand thrown ones. Tortoise are impressive but like everything if you look around you can find good quality equipment at a reasonable price. Ron
  8. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member


    I use all Peco #6's & 8's, "electrofrog" turnouts and would't think of using any others, and under-the-table solenoid switch machines which are less expensive than the Tortoise, and I don't mind the "clack" they make when activated (I rather like it, it tells me the turnout has been thrown...)

    Good luck!!

  9. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    The Atlas switch machines (both under the tables and surface mount types) have 3 major problems. 1) They overheat much faster than more robust makes, and when they do the plastic housing softens, causing the machine to eventually jam. 2) They have very limited "power" on the throw. So if there is any binding in the turnout, the button is depressed for a split longer in an attempt to overcome the binding, which leads to problem #1. 3) They don't have any extra contacts for controlling frog polarity or other purposes.

    The overheating problem can usually be overcome by using a capacitor discharge system to power the Atlas machines.

    If you can't return the Atlas machines for a refund, get the CD power supply to make them last a lot longer. And don't mount them where you can't easily replace them later on. :)
  10. ak-milw

    ak-milw New Member

    I have always used Atlas turnouts and never had a problem with them, but then I don't use power routing frogs with DCC. I only have one Atlas under table machine and it works alright, worst thing is the quick click. I use caboose hand throws in my yards and was wondering if anyone has tried the new Micro - Mark switch machines yet, they are about $8 cheaper than Tortiose.

  11. Conrail

    Conrail Member

    I had just planned on using a fused 9V transformer to a fused distributon panel to the toggle switches and then to the turnouts. I thought I remembered reading that the 9V power eases the quick snapping action of the switch motor. I am not an electronics guru and I am still a noob to this department as my last layout did not have but two turnouts that I really never used because they were old and didn't function well. I apologize for hijacking the this thread. I will post any futher questions regarding my Atlas switch machines in another thread and thanks for the heads up.
  12. richhotrain

    richhotrain New Member

    On the question of the proper depth for mounting Tortoises, my layout is 1/2 inch plywood, and I use Woodland Scenics Foam Track-Bed (5mm). I cut a 1/2 inch circular hole in the plywood and mount the Tortoise on the under side of the plywood with screws (two will do just fine). I use an Xacto knive to cut an opening in the foam roadbed. I use a thicker (and stronger) piece of piano wire in place of the wire supplied with the Tortoise. This method is foolproof. Fast and easy to mount and the results are excellent.

    The problem with the Atlas Under Table Switch, in my experience, is not the electronics per se, but rather the sheer impossibility of getting them to completely throw the turnout rail. I initially bought 12 of them and spent countless hours (on my back under the layout) trying to align the machine just perfectly so that the turnout would be thrown accurately. I finally gave up on the Atlas after buying just one Tortoise and trying it out. Even if you dont alighn it perfectly, it works! Once I wire one up on the bench, it has never taken me more than 5 minutes to install one and get it in working order.

    I own a lot of Atlas equipment (all of my flex track, turnouts, rolling stock and diesel engines). Great manufacturer. But not the Under Table Switch Machine. Piece of crap. I sold them all on eBay. The electronics were in good working order, so the buyer had to be pleased at 1/2 of the original price. So was I.
  13. Conrail

    Conrail Member the one I bought these pieces of crap from!! Just kidding :D I think I may do the same and sell mine on ebay & check into these "Tortoises". They are manufactured by circuitron correct? I certainly dont want to be under my layout for hours. Im not about trying to do all that. I want something smooth and reliable....oooops here I go hijacking again. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Thanks again. :thumb:
  14. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    With the Atlas switch machines, you want every bit of "snapping" action you can get. It is the slow motion, with longer duration of current flowing that eventually causes the meltdowns. Use at least the 16V AC terminals on your power pack, or as I posted earlier, the Capacitive Discharge supply. The CD supplies put a very brief, higher voltage (24V or so in most) pulse to throw the switch machine. The short duration of the pulse is key - the machine doesn't have time to overheat. Use the higher voltages or CD supply, make sure the button is released immediatley after pushing, and the turnout is not binding, and the Atlas switch machines will last quite well. They just can't take any abuse.

    From one who has to learn everything the hard way - is that hard-headed or hard-hearted?
  15. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Thanks for all the input, folks. Haven't quite decided what to do yet, but all the advice helps.
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Just a little question: Can the Atlas machines be hooked up to work anything else? Signals, automation, uncouplers?
  17. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Yup, Peco turnouts and Tortoises are lovely... another happy camper here...
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The Atlas machines just operate the turnout. They have no terminals on them to be used for anything else. If you use Atlas momentary contact slide switches to operate your Atlas switch machines, some of those other things could be operated off of them I think, but in my opinion, the Atlas slide switches are just too bulky to be practical.
  19. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Sorry, Russ, I meant at the mechanical end!
  20. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The mechanical end just moves a pin far enough to throw the turnout, probably about 5/8 of an inch. I don't see what else you could operate with it, but maybe someone with more imagination than me would think of something.

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