CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

New PECO switches (replacing broken M.E. ones)

This was a long time coming. As I looked around my layout, I had at least half of my switch throwbars damaged and semi-repaired with styrene splints that would likely never hold up. Micro Engineering switches are expensive and beautiful, but I finally had enough of them. Previous blog posts had documented M.E.'s lack of quality and left me frustrated. I purchased PCB ties to solder up new switch throwbars but getting into some of the locations to do the repair was impossible once they were installed. And trying to remove them just destroyed them. So, in a moment of catharsis, I pulled out three of my switches and prepared to replace them.

I printed out Peco code 83 "Streamline" turnout templates online (a #6 is referred to as a "Sixth Radius" on their website) and laminated a couple to add to my collection. Then, I played around with them on site. They are much shorter lengthwise than the ME switches and are definitely not drop in replacements. But, I can make them work. I decided not to reinstall the Tortoise machines so I covered up the old holes in the roadbed. I liked playing with them when I installed them, but I missed the physical action of "throwing" something a la Caboose Industries ground throws. So, I am going in a different direction the second time around.

The beads remind me where to solder feeder wires.
Tortoise machines allowed me to easily power the frogs (well, if installing all those wires was "easy"). If I use Caboose Industries ground throws I won't have that luxury. And yes, I know about the ones with the built in slide switch contacts but they look terrible and from what I have read aren't very reliable. I am leaning towards using a slide switch mounted at the edge of the layout but that gets away from the fun of a ground throw. To determine if they would work, I ordered several sizes on Ebay. If that fails, I am going to use ground throws and power the frogs with Hex Frog Juicers. A big concern is that with Frog Juicers installed with will be nearly impossible to run straight DC trains on my layout. That is very annoying, and something that will weigh heavy on my mind as I try to make the slide switches work.

Ironically, the cost of the unit that powers 4 frogs is about the same as 4 Tortoise machines. And the cost of a Peco turnout is only a little more than a M.E. one. So, I am essentially paying double to relay this track. Ugh. But, I hope to sell the Tortoise machines in the future and recoup some of my costs.

I used code 83 for all three switches, which minimized the number of transitions I needed to make in rail size (before, I had 83 to 70 to 55). As the frogs are part of the switch and not separate like the M.E. ones, you need to leave gaps in the rails after the frogs or you will have shorts. I closed the gaps with styrene superglued in place and then carved to size. Wiring was done just like I did in the staging yard. Peco solders a wire to their frog for your convenience but it so delicate that I cut it off and solder larger gauge wires to the rail that connects to the frog. Parts of the cork and rubber roadbed were sliced away to leave troughs for the turnout control rods to slide through. Replacement ties then filled in the gaps, and everything was given a spray of Rustoleum camouflage paint. I then individually painted the ties like before. It took several evenings, but I am finally happy with how things turned out.

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