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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m just looking for how different people went & why. No wrong answers.

In example:
Did you use electronic turnout control in yards/interlockings like a CTC but manual throws on industry spurs to mimic real life?
Or
Did you add powered machines & indicator lights only to turnouts that you cannot easily see point position, and did the rest as manual?
Did you maybe use manual everywhere for cost reasons because you have 501 turnouts on your pike?
 

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Ohio Central Systems
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All my turnouts are operated remotely from a center console, mostly because I don't want to have to run around my island layout every time I want to change directions. If I had a small switching layout, I would probably just do them all manually. But since my layout is on the larger size, and my turnouts are spread around, I wanted to be able to control things centrally.

My central console is a map of the layout, with toggle switches inserted into the map.
 

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All turnouts are powered by Switch Master stall motors and have micro switches on them to power the frogs. The stall motors are controlled by Digitrax DS64's and are activated via a panel pushbutton or using the throttle. There are 3 routes thru a yard that are managed by the DS64s and activated via a push button or throttle (throttle activation is not used much). All have 2 lead red/green diodes in series with the stall motor for indicators.
 

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Some of us enjoy the 'tech' side of our hobby and are always seeking novel or nifty ways of doing things. It's a challenge to get something to work using a sophisticated system, but also to have it run reliably so that it stays fun. Some, like me, prefer a more hands-on operation where I have to 'line the route', meaning I have a designated purpose and destination, not to mention a path, for any train in motion on the layout. I'm the driver of that train, nothing automatic, and I need to be sure that the route is pre-selected, or at least that I am prepared to line turnouts as and when they must be lined in order for the train to continue unimpeded.

I need to explain more: I like to run trains, but mainly to watch them in reasonably decent scenery in a reasonably realistic manner...meaning broad curves, some weathering, a few more details here and there, but more attention to the right-of-way and the surrounding scenery. This means, in the space I have, it must be 'around the room', a folded loop where the twinned mains crosses over itself at least once, usually at a bridge or through hidden trackage. This, in turn, means deep corners and a higher reach length do the back of my yard module where the main goes past at an elevation, but closer to the back wall. I need a stool, but don't particularly enjoy dragging it around. So, I do operate my farthest turnouts remotely with bell-crank mechanisms, wood and screws, dowels, and the close end of the dowel protrudes through the fascia close to me.

I enjoy thinking about 'what I'm doing', mapping out a train's passage around the layout, moving points as I must, and then commencing to move the locomotive and trailing tonnage. All the yard moves are effected using the sharp end of a kabob skewer, again for the same reasons as before. Switching takes some thinking, and I like to run the show myself, moving points in succession and making the locomotive and cuts of cars go where I want them to go.

Where the dowels protrude, their tips are painted yellow. Right beside the hole is a small block of 1X2 acting as a shield from my belly so that I don't inadvertently press up against the dowel and change the remote points. On the proximal side of those blocks are two swaths of paint, one red, one green. Where the yellow tip lies, that's where the points line. Simple, effective, and I quite enjoyed building the various crank mechanisms.
 

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I have a mix... Mostly due to lasyness of not wanting to wire them up.

I have 6 wired with switches on a board. I almost always use the three remotely from the board because they are out of reach.

For some reason even though the other three are wired, I just find it easier to manually throw them.

I have a few set up with ground throws and two with hidden magnets. I just flick the points with my finger and they snap into position.

Ron
 

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German, Swiss, and Austrian outline. HO/HOm
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I have two that are controlled by Walthers DCC turnout servo motors, two that are controlled by twin coil machines, and a dozen or more manual turnouts.

The Walthers controlled turnouts are in hidden (though accessible) areas and they also control entry and exit signals for a station siding. The twin coil operated turnouts also control another station siding in a hidden and accessible area but do not control entry or exit signals.

The manual controls are for yard tracks and crossovers that are not used often except when entering the yard. Sometimes operated with a three foot dowel rod and sometimes personally.

The station siding turnouts on the two main lines are used more than any other.
 

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I use Hankscraft motors on all my turnouts. My scratchbuilt turnouts don't have any hinge device in the points. The point rails are simply bent to the selected route. This takes a certain amount of force, and the geared motors provide it. I've had the motors in my home stock for many years, and I was able to buy them for $4 ea. (super-cheap!) Recently, due to age & health issues, I've been relocating motors, & all other electrics to the front of the layout where I can get at them without going under the layout. Simple rod-in-a-tube mechanical linkages connect the turnouts to their motors. Given that I have a mechanical linkage right up to the fascia, why motors at all? Well I like route control and I found a simple electrical way of doing it with no digital electronics. For someone else who wanted simplicity, & didn't care about route control, the motors could be eliminated. That's what I did on my grandson's layout.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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All of my turnouts are operated by servos under the layout, wired to bicolor LEDs / switches on the fascia,and Octo III controllers. All from Tam Valley Depot. Brilliant system, but unfortunately no longer made (the owner was diagnosed with lung cancer and shut most of the business). The Walthers Turnout Control system is essentially the same thing.

Why? Because I don't like having to reach into the layout. My son and I made some control panels for central control, but I decided I like the controls closer to the turnouts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Really great responses, fellas. Some insight & some confirmation of my recent thinking as well.
Context on why I brought this up:

My previous HO layouts were all small, fitting in a bedroom area. I used Peco machines on Walthers turnouts. My former N pike was all Kato, so, kind of moot.

As my current layout build is far larger, and far higher, my initial plan was to simply use Peco machines everywhere just out of habit & familiarity.

But my thoughts turned to what GunRunnerJohn said. If I am doing yard ops, I’ll be right there. Local freight operators can follow their trains unimpeded. Refinery ops are pretty localized too. Blue Point machines are manual but have capability to change frog polarity & illuminate fascia indicators while being push/pull mechanisms.

And if my main yard used Blue Point, why not do the same for industries along the line?
But then I considered my two refineries, each 5x8ft, at 56 inches high. Hard to see everything with structures & piping in the way. I like the old solenoid machines because of the audible verification of them throwing the points. That snap. Even in an situation of accidentally throwing one, an attentive operator will hear one throw when none should have. Or 4 when only 3 should have, etc.
Then again, the same benefit could be said for my main yard.
On the Blue Point hand, indicator lights being double-checked is just a habit to grow into with the lack of snap sound verification.

Which brings me to my staging yard… which is about knee height, but 6 ft by 18 ft. The only way I’ll be able to see the entire thing from the yard position is with an occupancy panel. And I don’t want manual throws there. That will certainly be motor/solenoid machines on stationary decoders for route programming.

So it came down to, for me, a question between:
Solenoids everywhere with push buttons, indicator lights, & hearing the audible snap as confirmation… which might be more straight forward for any guest operators.
Or BluePoint push/pull fascia knobs with indicator lights displaying the route on the fascia. I suppose this too is straight forward with lights being the only indicator.

That is when CTC & realism (as mentioned in the OP) entered my mind.
Push/pull is slightly more realistic than a push button or toggle switch. In fact I could probably make miniature versions of those “ergonomic” switch stand levers as knobs that are swung up or down for point position.
Refineries & other industries would not be on CTC realistically. Push buttons, throttle or fascia based, just feel like computerized desk jobs in a CTC office somewhere.

And one last thing that I newly have to consider at every turn is height/visual aspect, as this is my first multi-deck layout. Painting peco machines to blend in with “sky” is probably a bad idea. Tortoises are huge. Blue points on the other hand might work fine as long as pivot points are masked off.

With all of these factors flowing in during one of my “day dreams” of how this is all going to operate given that I’m unlikely to use Peco machines everywhere, or how it would best operate…. I decided I better confer with what others do, and their “why for” in particular.
I must say I didn’t expect manual controls to be favored nearly as much.

In regards to Blue Point machines specifically, have any of you had experiences with them? The flex-link system appears easy to reverse engineer, with bicycle brake cabling a likely alternate. It’s not a new method, but is new to me.

P.S. If I come up with a satisfactory “ergonomic lever replica” to throw points from the fascia, I'll do an in-depth topic on it for anyone wanting to make them for their pike. (Referring to those modern prototype V shaped turnout throws)
 

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This thread couldn't have happened at a better time for me. I have been tossing and turning about what to do with all the turnouts I will have on my layout. Ideally I'd like to have them all on switches but that would cost a lot of money! I did buy some of the manual ground throws when I placed a recent order with MicroMark but I don't really want to do them for all the switches...

Has anyone ever done a DIY automated turnout motor? My mind is going over the possibilities and I like doing/building things myself. I'm sure it's not cost effective but curious if anyone has ever done it? The thought of $25+ per turnout is a bullet that is hard to swallow and I already have 8 turnouts in my plans and that's without the 2-4 yards or industries I plan on doingo_O
 

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Has anyone ever done a DIY automated turnout motor? My mind is going over the possibilities and I like doing/building things myself. I'm sure it's not cost effective but curious if anyone has ever done it? The thought of $25+ per turnout is a bullet that is hard to swallow and I already have 8 turnouts in my plans and that's without the 2-4 yards or industries I plan on doingo_O
You hit the nail on the head. Unless you have unlimited time to burn, I suspect cost effective is not going to be in the picture. :)
 

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This thread couldn't have happened at a better time for me. I have been tossing and turning about what to do with all the turnouts I will have on my layout. Ideally I'd like to have them all on switches but that would cost a lot of money! I did buy some of the manual ground throws when I placed a recent order with MicroMark but I don't really want to do them for all the switches...

Has anyone ever done a DIY automated turnout motor? My mind is going over the possibilities and I like doing/building things myself. I'm sure it's not cost effective but curious if anyone has ever done it? The thought of $25+ per turnout is a bullet that is hard to swallow and I already have 8 turnouts in my plans and that's without the 2-4 yards or industries I plan on doingo_O
Yes, I have built DIY DC motor switch machines, but only a few as sample prototypes for my former club. The machines I made were mostly wood, with cheap, 3 volt, DC motors, a long 6-32 machine screw and micro limit switches with diodes. They were cheap as far as materials, perhaps $5 ea. but took a lot of time to build. The club ended up using commercial Hankscraft motors mounted on Rix racks.

Many years later I came up with the machine in the attached files. Its basically a manual, remote, push-pull, substitute for the popular, but expensive, Tortoise motor.
It does everything a Tortoise does, except run on electricity. It also costs less , $5 rather than $18.
Its also very quick & easy to make, unlike my earlier design. Using a table saw, you should be able to cut a whole slew of the two main parts from an 8' plank of 1 x 3 in a few minutes. The other parts are simple screws, washers, music wire, and an optional micro-switch or two. Such parts, bought in bulk packs, are quite cheap.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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@traction fan builds his own manually operated remote turnout switches using piano wire and tubing. A wire inside a sheath kind of like a bicycle brake cable.
Jeff;

Actually, I use the wire-inside-a-brass-tube-linkages with electric gear motors. The reason for the motors is just my desire for route control, where one rotary switch controls all the turnouts needed to reach a selected track.
However, If one didn't care about route control, the exact same linkages would work just fine with simple manual levers or knobs, instead of the motors. In fact, this manual version is exactly what I used on my grandson's layout.

I have also invented a manual, much less expensive, substitute for the popular Tortoise switch machine. Its outlined in the two attached files, and it uses the same wire-inside-a-tube-linkage. One of these linkages is shown in photo #1.

The local control panel in photo # 2, controls all the turnouts needed to reach any given track in Cedar Falls yard, by setting a single rotary switch.

Photo #3 shows the motors that operate the turnouts & some engine house doors, through linkages. I mounted all the electrical gear up front where this old & disabled fart can get at them for maintenance.

If you wanted to skip all the complex electric stuff, a simple lever (photo #4) or knob (photo 5) will control an individual turnout just fine.

regards;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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I'm using my pile of zstuff for trains motors that I had for my now boxed up o scale stuff, for my current ho layout. But I've had a lot difficulties not so much due to the motors although they may play a role, but to the unplanning "I'm just going to make this work" me.
Anyway they come with their own push button actuator which I like well enough. However maybe one day if I run out of things to do I'll convert them to some kind of throw lever... Which appeals to me for some reason....
 

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I'm using my pile of zstuff for trains motors that I had for my now boxed up o scale stuff, for my current ho layout. But I've had a lot difficulties not so much due to the motors although they may play a role, but to the unplanning "I'm just going to make this work" me.
Anyway they come with their own push button actuator which I like well enough. However maybe one day if I run out of things to do I'll convert them to some kind of throw lever... Which appeals to me for some reason....
Maybe you could use the Caboose Industries ground throws that come with electrical contacts for your throw levers?

Traction Fan
 
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