Whats wrong with Atlas Turnouts¿

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Harold Cole, Nov 5, 2008.

  1. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    I've read that Atlas has a QC problem, and that the switches are easy to pick, and easy to short.
  2. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    As I said earlier in this. I have no trouble with them in operation just in power loss. I am having to solder jumper wires on all of my atlas switches and it is a real pain.
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    We have found at the modular club that Atlas turnouts have too much clearance between the rails and the guard rails. For that reason the guard rails don't function well for rerailing or protecting wheels from derailing. The fix is to use some .015" styrene and make a shim to glue to the guard rail between the guard rail and the rail. The narrows the space just enough to allow the guard rails to function as intended. It may be that the wider distance is used so the switches will work with European "pizza cutter" wheel flanges, but it is too wide to function with rp25 wheel sets.
  4. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I just finished laying the track for a very small HO layout that I've been thinking about building for some time.

    I used two Atlas turnouts and two Peco ones. Well, I laid the track this week on a nice, flat sheet of insulation and startied testing a few trains on it tonight. Right away, I noticed that some of my locos and freight cars twitched and jumped, occasionally derailing, as they went through the Atlas ones :curse::eek: while they glided through smoothly on the Peco ones. :mrgreen:

    So, I guess I'm either going to have to modify the Atlas switches, as described in this thread, or replace them with Peco ones. It sounds as if they could benefit from the strip of polystyrene, as Russ points out above. Anyway, they cost less than half of what the Peco ones cost and hopefully they will work better after I've fiddled with them for a bit.

  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Rob, I don't know what type of flex track you are using, but in the modular club we discovered that Peco turnouts use a thicker tie plate cross section than Atlas flex track. It ends up being necessary to either shim the Atlas flex track or sand off the bottom of the Peco turnout tie strip, or the trains will tend to jump a bit when going through the transition from Atlas to Peco.
  6. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, Russ. In this layout, I'm not using any flextrack but I can see how the Peco & Atlas turnouts have different heights. In one case, the trains encounter the Atlas switch first, before the Peco one. I've also noticed that it's my older Locos and coaches that have trouble with the Atlas switch, whereas most of the newer ones don't.

    Basically, I'm still testing the track and running different locos and train combinations through the layout, as I try to observe and figure out these glitches.

  7. ZeldaTheSwordsman

    ZeldaTheSwordsman Thomas Modeler

    Well, I've never used Atlas turnouts so far(All I've got is E-Z track), but I plan to. Why? They're inexpensive and my $5-a-week allowance is my sole source of income. I'm reasonably confident my locos and stock can handle them.
  8. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I believe I've just recently learned one of the tricks to improve Atlas (and other) turnouts. That is, to file down the height of the frogs.

    As I've described in another thread, I recently built a small 3x4 HO layout that uses a lot of 15" radius curves and a couple Atlas turnouts. Once the layout was set up, I immediately had trouble with some of my stock bouncing & jiggling (and often derailing) as they went through the frogs. This was often with my older freight cars and locos that have large flanged wheels.

    Well, I filed down the height of the frogs and now most (if not all) of these freight cars and locos pass through these points much better, a much smoother transition.

    Can anyone confirm if I'm actually doing the correct thing here? I think if you file too much, you can ruin the turnouts, right? I also wonder why they make these frogs so tall or high to begin with, if they cause so many problems.


  9. ZeldaTheSwordsman

    ZeldaTheSwordsman Thomas Modeler

    I think that they're cheaper to make that way.
  10. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Good point -- you're probably right! It's probably easier or cheaper, or both.
  11. toptrain1

    toptrain1 Member

    Atlas turnouts

    I've not experanced any reoccuring problums with them. I use #4 in yards and #6 and #8 on mainlines.
  12. santafewillie

    santafewillie Member

    I have used Atlas almost exclusively for over twenty years. I use both #4's and #6's, as well as a few Snap Switches. Yes I have had some issues, but I have figured out how to tweak them (or learned from fellow Gauge members). I currently have over 80. Filing the frogs (most) and adding the shims on the guard rails (only a few) resolves most problems. I have had to add a jumper wire to only one so far. The price is always been right for me...especially during the years I was putting three kids through college and grad school ('95-'06).
  13. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Well, I thought I'd figured out how to trouble-shoot Atlas turnouts, but I'm confused again. :confused:

    I've been tinkering with a small 3x4' layout -- it uses two Peco turnouts and two Atlas ones. When I first laid the Atlas ones, some of my rolling stock -- especially my older British (4-wheel/2-axel) freight cars -- would jump as they bounced through the Atlas turnouts and occasionally derail. I thought I had solved this problem by filing down the frogs. After I first did this, I did notice some improvement -- the bumping/jolting effect practically disappeared.

    Now, however, I'm getting a lot of derailments at the Atlas switches. I'm not sure if I over-filed the frogs? This small layout uses 15"R curves -- so I'm wondering if the problem occurs as the train leaves the sharp curves and then suddenly encounters the turnouts?

    I'm not one to be negative or overly-critical, but I think I'm going to replace these Atlas turnouts either with Peco turnouts or (the slightly cheaper but similar to Peco) Hornby ones.

    There is a MRR / train store (formerly called Railview Trains) near my office that used to be run by an avid Model Railroader -- sadly, this man passed away a couple years ago. He offered me many tips and advice which I still continue to follow -- but could be a little opinionated at times! :eek: A few years ago, he bluntly told me that Atlas turnouts were no good and he wouldn't even sell them in his store!

    At any rate, I'll carry on but these derailments frustrated me this evening.

  14. mjm

    mjm New Member

    Hi All:
    This is my first post, I just want to comment on Atlas turn outs, I have both Ho, and N scale trains, I have found over the years that Atlas is the best for me. I say that with tongue in cheek. This last week I have had 4 turn outs melt down, wow that sure scared me, I looked everywhere for the reason, I called Atlas and got no call back, I wentto my dealer, and here is what we came up with. when you throw the switch, don't drag the lever takeit all theway across before pushing it down to throw the trunout. If you hold it down you are sending the current to both sides of the turnout at the sametime causing it to melt down. mjm
  15. VunderBob

    VunderBob Member

    Never happened to me. I'm still scratching my head over the idea of how to melt a Caboose Industries ground throw. :mrgreen:

    If you're smoking Atlas twin coils, I'd suggest using real pushbuttons and a capacitive discharge power supply. The pulse is of a much shorter duration; the pushbuttons means you don't energize both sides at the same time, and the pushbuttons have a longer service life than the Atlas selectors. But then I'm an electrical engineer, and I like overbuilding stuff just because I can. :wink:
  16. mont2186

    mont2186 New Member

    I just got into n-scale. I,m building my first layout. I,m probably going to have to ask quite a few questions. I,m already having trouble with atlas switches. Constantly derailing.

    If you are using above layout switch motors fastened to the turnout. You may want to check to see if your engines are hitting the top of motor as it passes over them. Also. the plastic between the rails on the turnouts tend to lift the train. I had to do some filing to lower the plastic and I modified the engine heights on some to fix the problem. In all honesty, I wish I had used Peco turnouts and below layout switch motors. Would have cost a little more but things would have turned out better over all. It irritates me that with Atlas doing it as long as they have, that they haven't addressed the issues by now and that their turnouts aren't better. Oops...In my short rant I almost forgot to say welcome aboard Larry. I know you will like it here and will find everyone more then happy to help you as continue with your layout and beyond.
    What I did to make more clearance in the plastic was to use a small flat piece of metal with a sharp corner on it and very gently scraped or shaved a grove in the plastic where the wheel flanges should ride. There is metal under it so you can only go so far, but try to keep it smooth as you can. You can try a small screw driver that you would file a sharp corner(s) on to. As for the car wheels getting caught. I took a small pair of needle nose pliers and bent a very small radius or curve on the end of rail that comes in contact with outside rail, toward the outside stationary rail. ( go a little at a time so you don't break the end off the rail ) Hope that makes sense. If not let me know. The problem with these things is that the way they work. The motor is actually a small electro magnet that moves a small core forward and backward depending on what button you push. The core has a piece of shaped plastic layed over the core that rides in a groove designed to move a thin flat piece of brass I will call an arm for now side to side at one end to throw the track. The real problem: At the pivot end of the brass arm is a very tiny coil type spring that for lack of a better term flops from side to side to hold the brass arm in place after throwing the rail. It isn't strong enough to do the job and the end of the arm that is moved to hold the track in place is too flexible to do the job as well. There is also slop in the whole assembly at the moving rails that allows the rails to move around. The only thing you can do is the small radius or gentle curve I mentioned earlier. Other issues: Between the rails at the far end that moves is a flat looking piece of plastic to hold the ends down. This in some cases will eventually work its way out and the rails will flop around. I very carefully used CA glue to hold it place after it ( they ) came out. At the end of the rails where you can't see unless you flip the turnout over a is a molded pin on the end of the track that has a small black circular plastic keeper pressed on to it to keep the pin in place. These also work their way off and of course the rail lifts out of the hole or rocks side to side and either locks against the wheels or causes a derailment. I try to press these on further to take up slop at this end then use CA and a tooth pick on the top of the plastic only to hold them in place after putting them back on or pressing them down. Be careful with this, if you get glue down along the sides, the rail won't move. I don't know how many turnouts you have at this point ( I have 16 and at the moment can't afford to replace them ) but to me the best way before you get in too deep with Atlas turnouts is to go to PECO turnouts and mount motors/switches under the layout. Like I said, it will cost a little more but it may save your sanity (due to frustration) and you won't be wasting time messing with fixes that could be spent on the construction and enjoyment of your layout. Bottom line is you shouldn't have to tweak their products.

  17. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    I quit using Atlas switches on my own model railroad when I was a teenager almost forty years ago, in favor of Peco switches. Not long after wards I started had laying track and building my own switches. Now on my own railroad I only use commercial switches on hidden trackage and up on the forth and fifth levels, where hand laying track is problematic due to the proximity to the ceiling. At my local Club (Clarksville Tn- see Bill and Tom's excellent adventure over in the logging section) we have been building mainly with what is on hand. this involves a lot of Atlas turnouts, and I have learned something about minimizing the difficulties with them.

    1. use the largest # switch you can, unless you just have tiny equipment, use #6 switches exclusively on the main. in the yard, try not to but #4s directly against each other unless you use small equipment exclusively

    2. where the track enters the switch anywhere but the curved diverging track, there should be at least a half locomotive length of straight track, and preferably a whole locomotive length of straight track. This way the locomotive's momentum is aimed straight at the switch. This eats a lot of space up, especially if you have long locomotives and #6 switches; but if you want reliability, that is the price you have to pay.

    On the diverging curved track, try to match that curve exactly, or have some straight track. this will help a lot too.

    No Vertical curves (changes in the grade) within one locomotive length of the switch. You might get away with very slight grade changes, but anything drastic will cause problems for sure.

    these tips apply to any kind of switch, but the atlas switches have some slop in the flange ways, and the pressed metal points are kind of primitive. We can't blame this all on Atlas, when the NMRA standards were written the track standards were written by one committee, and the wheel standards by another. from what I under stand the committees were headed by guys who couldn't stand each other, and they did not consult each other.

    When I build a switch, I build it to the track standards, and then tweak it until it works. Commercial switch manufacturers have to make compromises with the standards, and hope they work in the field. At out club, I have used some Atlas switches, in accordance with the above guidelines without much problem.

    Bill Nelson
  18. dierk

    dierk New Member

    Insulator problems

    I'm using new atlas custom 100 #6 turnouts, and found that the insulted frog section seems to be metal coated by paint (there is a metallic copper coating that shows through where the train wheels contact the turnout), and nothing more, thus leading to hesitation when engines cross the insulated frog. I've somewhat resolved the problem with a coating of clear nail polish, but that is obviously not a long term solution. Does anyone else experience this issue? Is there a better solution?

    I also find that the insulated section does not seem to have a deep enough groove for wheels to cross without making the car jump up somewhat as it crosses. I've thought of deepening the groove with a dremel tool but am hesitant to do so because of the apparent underlying metal.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated, and I would also be interested if I am having an absolutely unique experience here.

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