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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, a real newbie here who could use some help (maybe). I'm building my first layout and have gotten stuck on wiring turnouts. I have a Digitrax Zephyr Express train controller, using Atlas track and remote controlled switches.

Do I use the output power from the Zephyr? If so, I assume I can just tap into the bus line that I`ve run under the table. Correct?

If not, what am I going to need need to power the turnouts? I think I`m most confused about powering them separately if that is what it takes. Thanks in advance.
 

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If you have the Atlas snap turnouts and are planning to use the button bundled with the turnouts then you will need a separate DC power supply. You can’t use the track feeds off the Zephyr.

A better alternative than the Atlas button is the Stapleton 751D unit which includes a toggle switch and a built in Capacitive Discharge Unit. This is better than the Atlas button because if you hold down the Atlas button too long you’ll burn out the turnout motor. With the 751D there is no possible way to burn it out.

You can use the Zephyr to control your Atlas turnouts however. You’ll need to purchase some additional components such as a Digitrax DS64.
 

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I'm not exactly sure I fully understand your question. I'm guessing your remote control turnouts are using solenoid motors with momentary push buttons to change position and you're using them independently from the Zephyr throttle. I'm assuming you are NOT asking about using the Zephyr to throw the turnouts using DCC. If you are, then what I'm about to write is not going to answer your question.

Wiring track power for the turnouts is usually not any different than any other piece of track. For smaller railroads, you probably only need 1 or a handful of power drops for the entire layout, so you don't need to do anything special for the turnouts. The rail joiners will give you adequate electrical continuity if done right. It's only when you get complex track plans (such as those with reverse loops) or want fancy automated control with separate power blocks that things get complicated. You may have heard of "live frog" turnouts which do have special power wiring needs and that is why you're asking this question. Unless you know for sure, your turnouts most likely do not have live frogs and thus you don't need to worry about special turnout wiring.
 

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Wiring track power for the turnouts is usually not any different than any other piece of track. For smaller railroads, you probably only need 1 or a handful of power drops for the entire layout, so you don't need to do anything special for the turnouts. The rail joiners will give you adequate electrical continuity if done right. It's only when you get complex track plans (such as those with reverse loops) or want fancy automated control with separate power blocks that things get complicated. You may have heard of "live frog" turnouts which do have special power wiring needs and that is why you're asking this question. Unless you know for sure, your turnouts most likely do not have live frogs and thus you don't need to worry about special turnout wiring.
Except that with a DCC signal going through the track, you can't use track power to activate the solenoids.

As Deedub said, you will need a separate power supply. If you have an old DC power pack, you can use that. If not, get a 15W or so wall wart and use that to power your turnouts. One way to do that is to snip the end off the wall wart's output cord, strip the wires, and connect them to a terminal block, then connect the outputs of that terminal block to the turnouts.

I'm assuming that you're using some kind of track with integrated twin coil switch machines. Unfortunately, these aren't very good units. Use of the Stapleton device is one way to partially overcome those shortcomings. If you want to get a little fancier, you can use under the table switch motors, like those made by Tortoise, or a servo-based solution from Tam Valley Depot (my choice) or Walthers. They cost a little more, but the performance upgrade is worth it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm not exactly sure I fully understand your question. I'm guessing your remote control turnouts are using solenoid motors with momentary push buttons to change position and you're using them independently from the Zephyr throttle. I'm assuming you are NOT asking about using the Zephyr to throw the turnouts using DCC. If you are, then what I'm about to write is not going to answer your question.

Wiring track power for the turnouts is usually not any different than any other piece of track. For smaller railroads, you probably only need 1 or a handful of power drops for the entire layout, so you don't need to do anything special for the turnouts. The rail joiners will give you adequate electrical continuity if done right. It's only when you get complex track plans (such as those with reverse loops) or want fancy automated control with separate power blocks that things get complicated. You may have heard of "live frog" turnouts which do have special power wiring needs and that is why you're asking this question. Unless you know for sure, your turnouts most likely do not have live frogs and thus you don't need to worry about special turnout wiring.
Mark, Thanks for the response, but I actually WAS asking about the feasibility of using the Zephyr DCC control to throw the turnouts. I haven't had any problem integrating the turnout track power with the rest of the track plan. It's how do I power the track turning mechanism.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If you have the Atlas snap turnouts and are planning to use the button bundled with the turnouts then you will need a separate DC power supply. You can’t use the track feeds off the Zephyr.

A better alternative than the Atlas button is the Stapleton 751D unit which includes a toggle switch and a built in Capacitive Discharge Unit. This is better than the Atlas button because if you hold down the Atlas button too long you’ll burn out the turnout motor. With the 751D there is no possible way to burn it out.

You can use the Zephyr to control your Atlas turnouts however. You’ll need to purchase some additional components such as a Digitrax DS64.
Deedub, Correct, I do have the Atlas snap turnouts and was planning/hoping to use the button bundled with the turnouts. For clarity, I'm using #150-540 Atlas - Code 83 Lefthand Remote and #150-541 Atlas - Code 83 Righthand Remote.

I appreciate the alternative suggestions for the Stapleton 751D and will take a look. I have looked at the Digitrax DS64, but was frustrated by the pricetag and the fact it was limited to controlling (turning) only 4 switches. My current trackplan has 8 switches (including 2 pairs configured as crossovers).

Do you have any specific recommendations for a low-cost power source as a separate power supply for throwing the turnouts?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Except that with a DCC signal going through the track, you can't use track power to activate the solenoids.

As Deedub said, you will need a separate power supply. If you have an old DC power pack, you can use that. If not, get a 15W or so wall wart and use that to power your turnouts. One way to do that is to snip the end off the wall wart's output cord, strip the wires, and connect them to a terminal block, then connect the outputs of that terminal block to the turnouts.

I'm assuming that you're using some kind of track with integrated twin coil switch machines. Unfortunately, these aren't very good units. Use of the Stapleton device is one way to partially overcome those shortcomings. If you want to get a little fancier, you can use under the table switch motors, like those made by Tortoise, or a servo-based solution from Tam Valley Depot (my choice) or Walthers. They cost a little more, but the performance upgrade is worth it.
CTValleyRR, Thanks for the DIY suggestion of the wall warts. I have a number of these lying around from various laptop computers, cell phones, and other devices. I will root through them and see if I can find one that says its output 15W or so.
 

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I use the 751Ds in the main layout and have built a control panel. They work great. You can even use LEDs to show your route or power trackside signals.

I also have a staging yard with 2 DS64s. Awesome units because you can set up routes so one set of keystrokes on my Zephyr will switch all the turnouts that go to a certain staging track. I also built a little panel with 6 push buttons (1 for each staging track) so when I’m at the staging area I don’t need to run back to the Zephyr to control the route.

Keep in mind that for crossovers that since the two turnouts are always thrown together it really acts as one - in other words you link them together and they only take up one of the four. But you still need two DS64s anyways but you may expand your layout.

I ended up picking up a power supply from an electronics store because all my old cell phone wall warts were low amperage. I have like 20 - 751Ds so instead of multiple wall warts I went with a beefy laptop computer style power supply with like 7A of juice.
 

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Mark, Thanks for the response, but I actually WAS asking about the feasibility of using the Zephyr DCC control to throw the turnouts. I haven't had any problem integrating the turnout track power with the rest of the track plan. It's how do I power the track turning mechanism.
Easiest way it to use these... https://www.digitrax.com/products/stationary-decoders/ds64/

One of them will control/power four turnouts. You interface with the Zephyr via Digitrax' LocoNet.

When I bought them I think they came with a power supply. If not you'll needed one of these for each one... https://www.digitrax.com/products/power-supplies/ps14/

Get your LocoNet cables here... https://www.digitrax.com/products/power-supplies/ps14/
 

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I use 2 DS64's to control my stall motor turnouts. Look around for a good price on DS64's. The DS64 is a very programmable device and works with solenoids or stall motors. They can be both manually and DCC controlled and report their position to JMRI. I have routes to my yard programmed into them and on crossovers use a single button to control 2 stall motors. They have a build in CD system for controlling solenoids. And probably most important can be powered from a wall wort 12 volt supply instead of taking precious track power. The manual is daunting, as this is a typical very general and programmable stationary decoder. The worst choice is the Atlas turnout control switches, eventually they will burn out your switch machines.
 

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Blade Buddy

To clarify the suggestions of several members,
you need a wall wart that has a OUTPUT voltage of
around 12 to 15 volts. It can be either AC or DC.
The current rating (amps or watts) is not important. Most
flea markets have these on sale. This will power
the turnout controller you have.

Your DCC controller should ONLY power your track
whcih includes the RAILS on turnouts.

You may also use any used DC power pack from old
N or HO scale trains. A nearby hobby shop may know
someone who has an unneeded one.

Don
 

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More information on turnouts

Hi, a real newbie here who could use some help (maybe). I'm building my first layout and have gotten stuck on wiring turnouts. I have a Digitrax Zephyr Express train controller, using Atlas track and remote controlled switches.

Do I use the output power from the Zephyr? If so, I assume I can just tap into the bus line that I`ve run under the table. Correct?

If not, what am I going to need need to power the turnouts? I think I`m most confused about powering them separately if that is what it takes. Thanks in advance.
blade_buddy;

The other responders have answered your original question well. I'm just adding some more information on turnouts that may help you.
Turnouts, and the wiring for them, can be confusing to some new modelers. The basic operation of turnouts, the "switch machines," that move the two rails called "points", and the wiring that runs the switch machines, are all rather simple, once you know a little bit about them. So don't panic, you will soon know not only how to wire them, but also how to make them work better.

All turnouts are not created equal, and,consequently don't all work equally well. Since you mentioned both the words "Atlas", and "remote", in reference to your turnouts they are Atlas "Snap Switch" turnouts and that means they are pretty low on the quality scale. That doesn't mean you can't use them, but it might mean they may give you some problems that will require you to do some work on them to improve their performance.

This is a very common situation you are in. We probably get more questions about Atlas "Snap Switch"turnouts than we do about most other model railroad products. Atlas turnouts are easily the most commonly bought ones for first layouts. They are a little cheaper than most other brands, and they are cleverly promoted by the manufacturer in those Atlas track plans published both online, and in booklets.

Because this subject comes up so often, and I have found myself making the same explanations many times over, to many newbies, I created some files to do the explaining. They are attached below. The first few are directly related to turnouts, switch machines and how both things work. The rest are on other model railroading subjects, for your possible future reference.

Oh! One thing I didn't put in the files is the potential "crossover problem" when using two Atlas Snap Switch turnouts. They have a unique geometry; with one straight, and one curved, route. All other turnouts, including Atlas's own "Custom Line" turnouts, have two straight routes, (or, in the case of curved turnouts, two curved routes.)

When you arrange two Snap Switch turnouts into a crossover, the two curved route connect to each other and form a "reverse curve." Reverse curves are notorious for causing derailments and experienced modelers try very hard to avoid them.
In the case of your crossovers my advice would be to not use the short pieces of curved track that come with the turnouts, and to do all you can to keep the actual "crossing over" path between the two turnouts as close to a straight line as you possibly can. This may include trimming back the curved routes of both turnouts a little, and inserting a short piece of straight track instead. First try the crossovers without any alteration. If the trains can travel through the crossover, both forward, and with the locomotive pushing a string of cars backward, then you won't need to cut the turnouts at all.

Good Luck, & Have Fun;

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:

View attachment All AboutTurnouts rev 5.pdf

View attachment Improving Atlas turnouts pdf version.pdf

View attachment Introductory letter for $5 switch machine.pdf

View attachment Assembly instructions for $5 switch machine..pdf

View attachment WHERE DO I START rev 4.pdf

View attachment 1 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 2 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 3 & 4 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 5 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 6 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment MODEL RAILROADING ON A BUDGET.pdf

View attachment Model Railroad Terminology 3.pdf

View attachment A lot about couplers.pdf

View attachment Tips for handling small parts.pdf
 

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I do a fair amount of projects with wall warts, and I haven't seen many that have watts listed for the output. It's important to match volts, and to have enough amps. I don't know what type of turnout you have, but the instructions should say what voltage is needed, and whether it needs AC or DC.
 

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Blade Buddy I’m just going to throw this out there for what it’s worth. I have 100 percent atlas turnouts (17 in total) with snap switches on my layout and if you can swing it financially use the pecos or something like them. If I would have talked to Traction Fan before I had mine nailed down and ballasted I would have changed them all. Since I don’t want to undo everything to change them now I deal with them. The only thing I can say is putting the cars back on the track every 15 seconds is truly frustrating!!! Speaking from experience I would have done it differently if I had known then what I know now. Just my opinion for what it’s worth.
 

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Yes the 19v could be without load, but there are also ones that do a much better job of regulation and don't assume the load is a specific amount, hence I scrap those that don't comply.
 

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All turnouts are not created equal, and,consequently don't all work equally well. Since you mentioned both the words "Atlas", and "remote", in reference to your turnouts they are Atlas "Snap Switch" turnouts and that means they are pretty low on the quality scale. That doesn't mean you can't use them, but it might mean they may give you some problems that will require you to do some work on them to improve their performance.

This is a very common situation you are in. We probably get more questions about Atlas "Snap Switch"turnouts than we do about most other model railroad products. Atlas turnouts are easily the most commonly bought ones for first layouts. They are a little cheaper than most other brands, and they are cleverly promoted by the manufacturer in those Atlas track plans published both online, and in booklets.

Because this subject comes up so often, and I have found myself making the same explanations many times over, to many newbies, I created some files to do the explaining. They are attached below. The first few are directly related to turnouts, switch machines and how both things work. The rest are on other model railroading subjects, for your possible future reference.

Oh! One thing I didn't put in the files is the potential "crossover problem" when using two Atlas Snap Switch turnouts. They have a unique geometry; with one straight, and one curved, route. All other turnouts, including Atlas's own "Custom Line" turnouts, have two straight routes, (or, in the case of curved turnouts, two curved routes.)

When you arrange two Snap Switch turnouts into a crossover, the two curved route connect to each other and form a "reverse curve." Reverse curves are notorious for causing derailments and experienced modelers try very hard to avoid them.

In the case of your crossovers my advice would be to not use the short pieces of curved track that come with the turnouts, and to do all you can to keep the actual "crossing over" path between the two turnouts as close to a straight line as you possibly can. This may include trimming back the curved routes of both turnouts a little, and inserting a short piece of straight track instead. First try the crossovers without any alteration. If the trains can travel through the crossover, both forward, and with the locomotive pushing a string of cars backward, then you won't need to cut the turnouts at all.
I would agree that the Atlas Snap Switches are towards the lower end of the quality scale. With that said, I have no reservations saying that every bit of track on my layout is Atlas. I have probably 30 or so Snap Switch turnouts.

After track laying (and before scenery), I ran trains a lot. In many different consists, configurations, and directions trying to make sure that track work was "bullet proof" in every conceivable iteration. Initially I did have problems with derails in certain locations.

I found that at crossovers there were sometimes derails. I have 6 places on my layout where there are 2 turnouts joined together to create the crossover. Upon further examination and testing I made several adjustments. I made sure both turnouts were perfectly level from a cross-sectional aspect by shimming under the ties in the appropriate places. If I place a small level across all the rails all the rails are perfectly level. I also shimmed the guard rail with some strip styrene as sometimes the wheels would "pick" the point of the frog. My derails went away from those crossovers.

IMG_2329.jpg

Some turnouts I found sometimes I had derails with certain locomotives. Again by placing a small bubble level across the rails, adjusting the level by putting shims under the ties, and also shimming the guard rail, those derails went away.

IMG_2330.jpg

As from all the pictures I have ballasted and done some scenery. None of my turnouts give me problems. The only time I get a derail from turnouts is user error - that would be me not closing/throwing the turnout.

Atlas turnouts are about half the cost of Peco turnouts. So the jist of this post is - if you take the time to install Atlas turnouts so that the rail heads are level and shim the guard rail you'll have trouble free operation. I took that to the bank!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Wow!

Folks,
I would like to start out by thanking you for all the enthusiastic support, help, and suggestions. This is clearly a spirited, sharing, and collaborative community that I can see I will learn a lot from. That having been said, some specific responses:

deedub35, stumpy, lemonhawk: I have and did look at the DS64s. Given my decision to start with the Digitrax Zephyr, it seemed like a natural extension, and probably will be in the future. As I saw it, I'd have to get at least 2 to just START and I didn't want to invest that much in turnout control YET. For my first layout, I really wanted to focus on building up my skills in other modelling aspects. From my research, it is clear to me that there is a lot to learn. I am trying to spend a fortune (just 1/2 a fortune) getting started. I suspect that at some point I will happily migrate to those or some other type of DCC control of turnouts.

DonR: For a while I wandered around and thought the route I would go involved repurposing a wall wart. I even went through the collection I've got at home to see if I had one with an appropriate voltage. I may explore this later, but I just became increasingly nervous about the possibility I'd naively connect the wrong things together, plug it in for a trial, and burn something out. :eek:hwell:

To your other (along with others) suggestion of picking up a power supply, that's the route I'm planning to take. On another site I picked up the suggestion of an MRC Railpower 1370 and it appeared I could pick one up for about $40. Even if I'm not powering any track with it, it sounds like I wouldn't be the first to use it solely to power turnouts and other accessories. I think that's solution enough for me at this point, achievable at a price point I'm willing to absorb, and will move me beyond this issue for now, until I'm ready to explore some of the other possibilities you all have mentioned.

Traction Fan: You sir (I presume a sir) are a prolific writer and I plan to consume all of what you sent.

Again, much appreciate the comments and suggestions from all!!
 
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