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I was perplexed by a short in the isolated section. It was just fine before I started soldering joints. Turned out I used too much heat when I soldered pieces onto a turnout, and ended up fusing the wires that run current through the frog. So that created a short.

So I yanked out the buggered turnout and replaced it with one I had on hand for the elevated sections since I won't be ready to lay those for quite some time.

All good now. I have started laying track on the West Virginia side. Progress!
JeffHurl;

You might consider using heat sinks to protect your turnouts & ties.

Traction Fan
 

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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
JeffHurl;

You might consider using heat sinks to protect your turnouts & ties.

Traction Fan
Yeah, lesson learned.

I spent the day today working on the layout. I have laid all the ground level track on the East side. Just need to add feeders and run the bus.

I made a couple bridge piers out of spare pieces of foam. I think they came out nice! I'll post pics when I set the first bridge.
 

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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
Regarding soldering track/turnouts:

I find that Peco turnouts don't provide much length beyond the frog (perhaps all brands are made that way?). This makes for really tight space if you want to solder the flex track to the diverging rails. So, I found myself compromising, and only soldering the outside rail of the diverging track. It seems to work pretty well at preventing kinks, and keeps the heat away from the delicate strands of wire that run beneath the frog. I basically just attached the flex track to the diverging rail with rail joiners, and set the flex track in a straight line, eliminating any gap in the rails at the joint. Then soldered the outside rail. Let it cool, hit with a fine file to clean it up, then bend the curve as you lay the track. Pretty simple!
 

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Regarding soldering track/turnouts:

I find that Peco turnouts don't provide much length beyond the frog (perhaps all brands are made that way?). This makes for really tight space if you want to solder the flex track to the diverging rails. So, I found myself compromising, and only soldering the outside rail of the diverging track. It seems to work pretty well at preventing kinks, and keeps the heat away from the delicate strands of wire that run beneath the frog. I basically just attached the flex track to the diverging rail with rail joiners, and set the flex track in a straight line, eliminating any gap in the rails at the joint. Then soldered the outside rail. Let it cool, hit with a fine file to clean it up, then bend the curve as you lay the track. Pretty simple!
Jeff;

Having a bit of straight track coming off a turnout is a very good idea. It may not look like it, but Peco turnouts actually have a curve built into their diverging route. If you started a curve right out of the diverging route of a turnout , you might create a reverse curve, depending on which way the curve went. A common scenario is to curve a siding back parallel to the main line, right off the turnout. This creates a reverse curve since the turnout's built-in curve is opposite the curve to get parallel to the main. There are arrangements where the straight route can be used, or the turnout fitted into a mainline curve, that eliminate the reverse curve.

Actually, many modelers don't solder any of the six rail joiners that connect a turnout in place. They also don't glue, or nail, turnouts in place The idea is to leave the turnout removable in case of problems developing. My old club had a policy to use plastic insulated joiners on all six joints connected to a turnout. They used older Shinohara turnouts which had metal frogs, and were power routing. They soldered feeders to each stock rail, and one to the frog. The frog feeder was connected to a micro-switch that changed the frog polarity for the route selected. (this was long before "Frog Juicers" existed)
The stock rail feeders were soldered to bus wires, along with all the other track. This effectively bypassed those insulated joiners, but it served two useful purposes. By simply cutting the feed wires, they could electrically take the turnout out of the troubleshooting picture without removing it. However, if the turnout was physically damaged beyond repair, the plastic insulated joiners could easily be cut with an X-acto knife, and the turnout removed, without damage to the tracks around it.

Peco, Micro engineering, and Atlas, all have short frog rails.
What I, and many others, do to insure good track power feed through a turnout, is to solder feed wires to each running rail, and one to the metal frog,
(if the turnout has one.)
I don't know which Peco turnout you're using. Insulfrogs have plastic frogs. Electrofrogs, and Unifrogs, have metal frogs that can be, (and in my opinion should be) powered.
By the way, if you happen to be using Electrofrogs, its important to use plastic insulating rail joiners on both the short frog rails, so there wouldn't be any soldering to those rails anyway.
This isolating of the Electrofrog is to protect against unknowingly building a short circuit into the turnout area. This short has come up many times here on the forum. The symptom is a short when the points are thrown for one route, and no short when the points are thrown for the other route.

Keep up the good work;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
Makes sense. I'm using Insulfrogs. The frogs are plastic, but there are metal "wires" in there for power routing as points move. I accidentally fused the power routing wires...

The only reason I wanted to solder the joint where the flex track extends from the diverging route is because the diverging route goes into a 12" radius curve, and I needed to prevent a kink at the joint. A better solution would have been to have the diverging route go straight for a few inches before curving. But I think my "solder just the one rail" solution worked perfectly (sometimes it's OK to be lucky rather than good!)

Soldering the outside rail wasn't much of a problem because It was far enough away from the frog. but when I tried to solder the inside rail of the diverging route, I created a short in the intricate power routing lines inside the frog. Apparently, there are thin slivers of plastic in there to keep everything insulated. I either melted that thin plastic, or I let solder run down in there. Either way, the turnout is now toast.

Took me a while to figure out where the short came from, as I had tested all the wiring before soldering any joint, and all was good. So I knew the soldering caused the short... but figuring out where it was took a lot of probing with the multimeter checking continuity, and finding continuity where it shouldn't have been. It wasn't until I started testing for continuity with the points thrown in either direction I figured it out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
Here are some pics of the homemade bridge piers. The bigger bridge needs to sit a half inch lower than the Atlas girder bridges, so I used 2 pieces of foam... Sanded it down, then used clay sculpting tools to carve the stone.

My layout will have 2 of these bridge combos crossing a river with barge traffic.
Outdoor furniture Wood Bridge Rectangle Urban design

Wood Outdoor furniture Rectangle Outdoor table Table
 

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Here are some pics of the homemade bridge piers. The bigger bridge needs to sit a half inch lower than the Atlas girder bridges, so I used 2 pieces of foam... Sanded it down, then used clay sculpting tools to carve the stone.

My layout will have 2 of these bridge combos crossing a river with barge traffic.
View attachment 571047
View attachment 571046
Jeff;

Your bridge piers look good! (y) If, (and only if) you want to improve the bridge scene, here are a few suggestions.
The stones that make up your bridge piers are quite a bit too large for N-scale. Simply cutting more mortar lines in the foam, closer together, will get the stone blocks down to a more realistic size.

One thing I've had success with regarding mortar lines, is brushing some patching plaster over the finished, and painted, piers, or walls. I use a non-water-based paint, like Tamiya, which is alcohol-based. Or you could use slightly thinned acrylic house paint. Though it is water-based, once it dries overnight, its waterproof. The intent is to not have the water-based plaster remove, or mix into, any of your paint. The majority of the plaster can be brushed off, or taken off with a damp rag, leaving the plaster only in the cracks. This really makes the stonework pop out and get noticed. You can even weather the piers, including the plaster "mortar", with some dilute ink, or paint.

The large truss bridge has supporting "bridge shoes" under the ends. The Atlas bridges do not. All real bridges do have shoes, they are essential connect the bridge to the piers, and still allow for expansion & contraction of the steel. (One of the shoes has rollers that let the bridge move a tiny bit.) Bridge shoes are a nice detail that is seldom included on most model bridges. Having them on the big bridge, but not on the Atlas bridges looks a bit odd. There are commercial castings of bridge shoes available, if you want to add them to your Atlas bridges. Again, the scene looks good as is. These suggested improvements will just make it look even better.
You can see one of these bridge shoe castings under the left end of the deck girder bridge in photo #1. You will be able to see it better if you click on the photo caption "Combined outflow of Black and Green rivers." This will enlarge the photo, and turn you computer's cursor into a plus sign. If you move the cursor onto the bottom of the left end of the bridge, and click again, it will double enlarge the bridge shoe.

The second photo shows a mansion with a stone retaining wall in front of it. The wall is a group of commercial castings. I spray painted them grey, and brushed patching plaster over them. After wiping off most of the plaster, I was left with a nice mortar effect. After this photo was taken, I hand painted some of the stones different colors, added weathering, and "vines."

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Makes sense. I'm using Insulfrogs. The frogs are plastic, but there are metal "wires" in there for power routing as points move. I accidentally fused the power routing wires...

The only reason I wanted to solder the joint where the flex track extends from the diverging route is because the diverging route goes into a 12" radius curve, and I needed to prevent a kink at the joint. A better solution would have been to have the diverging route go straight for a few inches before curving. But I think my "solder just the one rail" solution worked perfectly (sometimes it's OK to be lucky rather than good!)

Soldering the outside rail wasn't much of a problem because It was far enough away from the frog. but when I tried to solder the inside rail of the diverging route, I created a short in the intricate power routing lines inside the frog. Apparently, there are thin slivers of plastic in there to keep everything insulated. I either melted that thin plastic, or I let solder run down in there. Either way, the turnout is now toast.

Took me a while to figure out where the short came from, as I had tested all the wiring before soldering any joint, and all was good. So I knew the soldering caused the short... but figuring out where it was took a lot of probing with the multimeter checking continuity, and finding continuity where it shouldn't have been. It wasn't until I started testing for continuity with the points thrown in either direction I figured it out.

Jeff;

Those tiny wires you saw inside the Peco plastic frog are jumpers between the closure rails, and the short rails coming out of the frog. These two jumpers, like the rails they connect, are of opposite polarity, so if you shorted the two jumpers to each other, that shorts the turnout.
When I scratchbuild my turnouts, I add larger versions of the same sort of jumpers in a cavity cut out of the 1/8" Luan I use for roadbed.
In the photo, this cavity has been filled in with the wood filler shown. You can see the two bare feeder wires that go to the stock rails, and the white wire that goes to the metal isolated frog of my turnouts.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
Yep, I either melted the thin bits of plastic that keeps the jumpers isolated, or some molten solder dripped down in there.

Live and learn!

I will look into the bridge feet. Thanks for the advice!
 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Wouldn't you know it....

Last night, I had a couple hours to devote to adding power feeders to the East side of the layout... Pulled the first piece of wire off the spool, and... it ended up being the last of the black wire, and didn't have another spool. I could have used a different color, but then that would have ruined my color coding scheme. So... I laid one of the bridges, and sat there and ran my locomotive back and forth over the bridge for an hour. :geek:

I have more wire on the way. I guess I'm not very good at Just-in-time fulfillment. And now I'll have to paint the bridge piers in place rather than on the bench. I guess some times you just gotta do what you gotta do...
 

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Wouldn't you know it....

Last night, I had a couple hours to devote to adding power feeders to the East side of the layout... Pulled the first piece of wire off the spool, and... it ended up being the last of the black wire, and didn't have another spool. I could have used a different color, but then that would have ruined my color coding scheme. So... I laid one of the bridges, and sat there and ran my locomotive back and forth over the bridge for an hour. :geek:

I have more wire on the way. I guess I'm not very good at Just-in-time fulfillment. And now I'll have to paint the bridge piers in place rather than on the bench. I guess some times you just gotta do what you gotta do...
Jeff;

Been there. I ran out of both black, and red, in my limited supply of very small wire. (32ga.?) I have plenty of both those colors in larger wire, but these wires were for interior lights inside an N-scale structure. They needed to be very small, flexible, and insulated. Colored black & red wouldn't hurt either, since they should match the wires already in the structure. Magic markers to the rescue ! One color of mini wire I had plenty of was green. So I just used all green wire and then painted the outside of the green wire either black or red. Problem solved.

Model Railroading requires lots of patience. Unfortunately I don't have much of that ! 😄

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Ok, perhaps I didn't short the turnout after all. I discovered another short when running a loco around the track. The short appeared when I switched a turnout to go into a siding.

A little more research, and discovered that power routing turnouts will create a short in a siding if you run power feeders on all sides of the turnouts unless you gap the 2 frog rails.

Another lesson learned. This time, I didn't have a spare turnout, and I destroyed the turnout trying to unsolder it...

It pains me to throw money away, so I'm calling the cost of 2 turnouts "tuition" in the school of model railroading...

On the bright side, I now have all the ground level track laid (except one turnout that's on order) and all the feeders connected to the bus. AND, the AR module controlling the section between 2 loops is working perfectly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #54 ·
OK, I gapped the frog rails of 2 turnouts and have not had any shorts since. Hopefully, I have solved my short issue. As usual, Murphy has made his way into my build... I need a replacement turnout for the most recent one I destroyed, and with the holidays, shipping times will be FUBAR'd.

In the mean time, I will turn my focus to building a control panel for all the toggle switches that will operate the turnouts. It's getting tiresome to have to run around the outside of the layout to manually operate the points.

Which brings up a question/concern:

I have acquired a Peco PL35 (Capacitor Discharge Unit) to use for the turnouts. I know how to wire it, but when looking at the CDU, it looks as though the leads can't be too large. I'm guessing nothing larger than 20ga wire will fit into the tiny connections.

Do any of you know what size wire will connect to the PL35? I read in another forum that 18ga is too big. I have a supply of 22ga left over from the feeders I have installed. Since this CDU will sit between my power source, and the rest of the wiring "plate of spaghetti", is it OK to use such a small gauge wire to go from power source to the CDU and from the output of the CDU to terminal strips where the rest of the wiring will be larger gauge?
 

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OK, I gapped the frog rails of 2 turnouts and have not had any shorts since. Hopefully, I have solved my short issue. As usual, Murphy has made his way into my build... I need a replacement turnout for the most recent one I destroyed, and with the holidays, shipping times will be FUBAR'd.

In the mean time, I will turn my focus to building a control panel for all the toggle switches that will operate the turnouts. It's getting tiresome to have to run around the outside of the layout to manually operate the points.

Which brings up a question/concern:

I have acquired a Peco PL35 (Capacitor Discharge Unit) to use for the turnouts. I know how to wire it, but when looking at the CDU, it looks as though the leads can't be too large. I'm guessing nothing larger than 20ga wire will fit into the tiny connections.

Do any of you know what size wire will connect to the PL35? I read in another forum that 18ga is too big. I have a supply of 22ga left over from the feeders I have installed. Since this CDU will sit between my power source, and the rest of the wiring "plate of spaghetti", is it OK to use such a small gauge wire to go from power source to the CDU and from the output of the CDU to terminal strips where the rest of the wiring will be larger gauge?

Jeff;

I'm not familiar with the connectors on a Peco PL-35. Can you solder a larger wire to the outside of the terminal than you can fit through it? If not, I would use a very short piece of small gauge wire, if you have to in order to fit in the CDU's terminals, and then connect larger wire for the rest of the wire run.
Why?
A CDU puts out a lot of current in an instantaneous burst. Heavy current requires heavy wire, to let all that power get through the wire instantly. This is particularly true if you decide to use "route control." This is a way of wiring one electrical switch to operate several turnouts at the same time. Common applications for route control are "yard ladders"(The string of turnouts at the entrance to a yard.) and "crossovers." Its easier to get to any given yard track, if one button will automatically align all the turnouts necessary to reach that particular track simultaneously.
Twin coil switch machines, like those made by Peco, make route control wiring easy. Simple diodes are all that's needed.

There would be no logical reason to throw only one of the two turnouts that comprise a crossover. Either both need to be set for the parallel main routes, or both need to be set to the diverging route, so the train can cross over to the other track. The Peco switch machines don't easily lend themselves to using one switch machine, mechanically linked to both of the crossover's turnouts, as is often done with other types of switch machine. So you're likely to have one PL-10 switch machine mounted to the bottom of each of the crossover's turnouts. Wiring them to electrically both operate at once is a more practical solution.

The coils used in Peco machines have heavier gauge wire than those used by Atlas, Kato, & Bachmann. This means the Peco coils have somewhat less resistance. Route control will electrically put two, or more, of these coils in parallel, which further lowers the overall resistance. Wiring several of these coils in parallel can drop the overall resistance to the point that the CDU sees the wiring for a route as a near short circuit, and all the coils may not fire all the way over reliably. Double wires, or a larger wire, can let enough of the CDU's energy get through to do the job.

regards;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 ·
Thanks for that!

Here is how I was planning to wire the 17 turnouts. Please let me know if there is a better way.

I was going to run the negative wire out of the CDU as a bus that works it's way past each turnout. Each PL10 will have one side of each coil connected to the bus by a 22ga feeder.

Then from the positive output of the CDU, I will run a short feed to a terminal block. From the terminal block, run a bunch of short feeders to the center post on each toggle. Then from the outside posts on each toggle, run a feeder to each respective coil on the PL10s.
 

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Thanks for that!

Here is how I was planning to wire the 17 turnouts. Please let me know if there is a better way.

I was going to run the negative wire out of the CDU as a bus that works it's way past each turnout. Each PL10 will have one side of each coil connected to the bus by a 22ga feeder.

Then from the positive output of the CDU, I will run a short feed to a terminal block. From the terminal block, run a bunch of short feeders to the center post on each toggle. Then from the outside posts on each toggle, run a feeder to each respective coil on the PL10s.

Jeff;

Your wiring plan sounds good. I would recommend the bus wires, and all the wires except those short segments going into the CDU terminals, be at least 18Ga. stranded wire. Your wiring proposal also doesn't include any route control. Do you have a yard with a string of turnouts at the entrance? If so, you might consider using one momentary toggle switch, or heavy-duty, doorbell type pushbutton for each yard track, rather than one toggle for each turnout in the yard. Route control uses a "diode matrix" to route the power from each toggle to the proper coils needed to set all the turnouts to reach a given track. As a simple example, lets say you have a three-track yard. The three turnouts are in a straight line with the diverging route of turnout 'A' connected to yard track #1. Likewise, turnout 'B' feeds yard track #2 through its diverging route, and yard track #3 from its main route.

Getting to track #1 is simple. Merely apply power to the coil that sets turnout 'A' to its diverging route. Which way turnout 'B' is set is irrelevant as far as getting to yard track 1.

Track #2 will require power applied to both the main route coil of turnout 'A' and the diverging route coil of turnout 'B'.

accessing track #3 will require power be applied to the main route coils of both turnouts 'A' and 'B'.

At some point power will end up being applied to both coils of the same PL-10 machine, because the power can back feed through the wiring to the turnouts. Enter the diode! It only allows electricity to flow through it in one direction. By adding diodes to the wires of any toggle that is connected to more than one coil, (in this case the coils of turnout 'B') the current can't back feed. This is a lot harder to understand from only a verbal description. There are likely many diagrams of a diode matrix online. Also, in the extremely simple example I just outlined, there would be no real need for route control if you were only operating a three-track yard with only two turnouts in it. When you get into 5 or 6 tracks, or more, it takes a lot of head scratching and flipping a lot of toggles in order to set up a route. Crossovers are simple. Just wire the two coils that set their respective turnouts to the crossover route in parallel, also wire the two coils for the straight route to each other. One toggle selects either the crossover route or the straight route.

regards;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter · #58 ·
No, my layout doesn't have any particular series of switches to be thrown in one fell swoop. Most of my turnouts are where the mainline diverges, or I back into a spur or small yard to drop off or pickup cars.
 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
I made a lot of "behind the scenes" progress while I wait for a replacement turnout to arrive. I have every turnout, 22ga feeders connected to a 3-way terminal block. Negative will connect to a 14ga bus, plus a positive 18ga for each route that will be wired to the toggles on the switch panel I am making.
 
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