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Discussion Starter #1
Can anyone tell me if using graphite to lube a turnout actuator is a bad idea or not ? I've got a number of older Atlas Snap Switch turnouts controlled by a solenoid actuator. The plastic pieces inside the actuator seem to always get gummed up over time to the point they no longer move. The latest lube I tried was EZ Lube which I think reacted with the plastic and became gummy. I've been experimenting with an old turnout on my work bench using graphite powder as a lubricant. I took everything apart and removed all the old lubes and cleaned thoroughly. Then added a very small amount of graphite inside the actuator and in the links to the track section that moves. So far this is looking like a good solution. Hoping I have not overlooked an obvious problem.
 

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All oils will get gunky and gel up over time.

I would try a spray contact cleaner and lubricant, like CRC or WD-40 (they make a contact cleaner; don't use the ordinary stuff) before a graphite lubricant. That's going to be a better choice for an electrical part like a solenoid. Graphite will work fine for the external parts.
 
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I don't know anything about the Atlas actuators, but here's what Dennis Zander said about his DZ-1000 switch machines when I asked about using graphite powder.

Graphite is very bad since it is conductive. A drop of light oil like used to lube engines placed

in the slot on top and manually worked back a forth a few times really helps.

Please feel free to post.
 

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Labelle has a dry white lubricating powder that
is plastic safe. It is very helpful for coupler and
axle lubrication also.

Don
 

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~Is it a must that you stay with these switches ? They have non-power-able, all-plastic frogs, and likely, brass rail, both of which cause stall outs ( 2 more considerations )..
~You'd be doing yourself a favor, cutting your losses and replacing them now with either
Atlas Customline, or Peco, switches [+track]..They, in my opinion, will bring you longer, happier running-time in the hobby with 3 possibly/probably recurring headaches avoided for good [+-]..
And the newest Atlas switch solenoid and casing are improved and less intrusive visually, along with nickle silver rail which doesn't oxidize on you like brass..
~But you may have good reason to stay with what you have, and that is all that matters.
It's what makes you happy ! I only said all this in case you happened to not be aware of it.
Cheers, M
 

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Discussion Starter #7
~Is it a must that you stay with these switches ? They have non-power-able, all-plastic frogs, and likely, brass rail, both of which cause stall outs ( 2 more considerations )..
~You'd be doing yourself a favor, cutting your losses and replacing them now with either
Atlas Customline, or Peco, switches [+track]..They, in my opinion, will bring you longer, happier running-time in the hobby with 3 possibly/probably recurring headaches avoided for good [+-]..
And the newest Atlas switch solenoid and casing are improved and less intrusive visually, along with nickle silver rail which doesn't oxidize on you like brass..
~But you may have good reason to stay with what you have, and that is all that matters.
It's what makes you happy ! I only said all this in case you happened to not be aware of it.
Cheers, M
I'm thinking the same thing. I just got one new Peco Electrofrog and am working to get it installed. The one I got has slightly different dimensions than the Atlas. I had just finished making a directional indicator for each of my 8 turnouts that used a reed switch and a magnet attached to actuator. They work really well and look great. It's going to be a challenge to get them to work with the Peco actuator.

557610
 

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None of the Peco turnouts have the same dimensions as an Atlas turnout.
 

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None of the Peco turnouts have the same dimensions as an Atlas turnout.
I'll go one step further: pretty much no two commercial turnouts, except the same part number from the same manufacturer, have the same dimensions.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Just wanted to pass along some information. There was some concern about using graphite as a lube due to it's conductive properties. So I decided to do a little experiment. I sprinkled some graphite (Pinewood Petes Graphite Lube Powder to be precise) on a piece of paper and rubbed it in so there would be a continuous layer of graphite. Resistance measurements were inconsistent at best so I tried some other materials - paper towel, sponge, etc. The most consistent results were with masking tape. With the vom probes as close together as I could get them without touching each other I measured >20k ohms. While not a dead short it's not to be ignored. As the distance between the probes increased so did the resistance - more or less lineraly. At approx 0.75" the resistance > 20M ohms. I completely disassembled one of my old Atlas turnouts and cleaned all the goopy lube and dried it. I used a tiny bit of graphite powder to lube and reassembled. For now it's working great. Only time will tell.
 
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