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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

Being my first post here, perhaps a little context - I'm totally new to the hobby. My 4-year old absolutely loves trains (what 4-yr old doesn't?) and we've ridden some real ones, been to the Illinois Railway Museum a few miles away from us, he loves going to the "train store" to see if the trains are running, I've taken him to a couple train shows (locally-run and iHobby) and finally, after what must seem forever to his little sense of time - Santa brought him his very own HO train set (though he still loves his Thomas/Brio stuff just as much.)

Being on a budget, I tried to get him the most bang for the buck. So that meant a Lifelike train set with additional track to make a kid-interesting layout on a 4x8 kid-height bench. A couple logging operating accessories and he's in heaven. There was no way I could make that layout with higher-end parts for him without spending a bunch more (unless perhaps I laid my own track? Just seemed too big a prospect starting out.) I am spending a tiny bit more money every so often to upgrade the trucks, add Kadee couplers, weight the cars, we'll model some more scenery, add buildings - basically there's room to grow. My immediate problem is the turnout throw.

Currently he runs around and manually throws the switches to "conduct" his train. That's great for a while so he can learn how the train moves based on which way the points throw. However, I plan to make a control box with track-side right-of-way indicator lights. I'm having a heck of a time getting the switches to throw reliably electronically. They buzz - caused by them vibrating back and forth REALLY fast and often end up in the same position. That won't do. When I eventually wire lights, the indicator will change but the track won't then they'll be out of sync and confuse the little guy.

I did a bunch of research and I'm pretty handy with amateur electronics and I found this site: www.awrr.com/awrrhome.html. I prototyped the capacitive discharge supply and I'm getting a good 35V across the discharge capacitors. STILL the turnouts buzz and don't throw reliably.

Being a cheaper brand, am I just facing the limitation of cheaper solenoids/turnouts? Is there anything I can do to get a decent "snap" and a reliable throw with these Lifelike turnouts? Without spending a lot of money? We're on a budget and investing in Tortoise motors to convert all my turnouts just isn't practical (of course, if I could MAKE my own tortoise-like motor, that would be a great thing to point me to!)

Any help/discussion is appreciated!
 

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You didn't get any answers because you pretty much answered your query yourself.Life-Like turnouts and many other LL items are pretty much bottom line stuff that have serious operational limitations in many cases.Quality has a tendency to be irregular...you can get a great one then a similar lousy one.Bachmann's stuff falls in this category too.
 

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I was thinking along the same lines when I first read this too. Most are just happy if the manual switch control works on the Life-Like and Bachmann turnouts :laugh: You are the first that I've ever seen who wanted to open one up and re-do in whole thing. On that note your desire and knowledge is better then mine, so I had no useful comment to add. I was kind of hoping that this would move forward, just for the fact that it is a cool idea. Taking a entry level turnout and trying to increase the quality of it.
So don't be to mad at us in general :cool: :D
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Ah, some life! I didn't necessarily answer my own question - hence that's why I asked them. :p (and I'm not mad, just looking for discussion.) Good to see some life on this though. Remember this is the Beginner Q&A forum and I am certainly a beginner and am learning about what's good and what's not.

Your two responses verified for me that all turnouts are not created equal. I'm not daunted however - turnouts function the same at the basic level so there has to be a way to improve these.

To that end, I've ordered an auction of random parts on eBay that include an unopened Atlas Code-100 Remote turnout. I'll hook up my CD supply to that and see how it behaves for a comparison. My hypothesis is that it may be down to the quality of the solenoid. If I'm right, I'll investigate solenoids by themselves - maybe replacing that will give life to "Lifelike" turnouts.

It's like a challenge to me now but in reality what will likely happen is I'll just slowly replace all the track with Atlas (100 and 83) and bed it myself.
 

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Considering what you want to do,I'd say that Tortoise's aren't that expensive.You want reliable turnout throwing and operate pilot lamps at the same time,then the Tortoise will let you have this in a simple way.First,they throw reliably for decades and then they have two SPDT switches built-in,enabling you to operate two different features like your lamps(or LED's) and another one like powering frogs or other.

They work with only the smell of current,you can chose their speed with the voltage you supply them (6 to 12 volts).Their action is through polarity reversing,so a simple DPDT switch is all you need to drive them.Obviously there are other ways for an electronician like the schematics that come with them explain.

I suspect that your CDU is a bit too much for these LL turnouts as probably will for the Atlas too.These "Snapswitch" type turnouts generally use the AC ports that are found on your throttle to throw reliably,wich I suspect is 12 to 16VAC.I've had Atlas Snapswitches (N scale) that worked nice this way but sometimes did bounce back because throwned too hard.These turnouts aren't equipped with locking springs that keep them firmly applied to the rail,so your problem doesn't seem strange to me.Peco TO's,on the other hand,are typical examples of reliable throwing,but then,the PL10's solenoids do require the CDU to work well.
 

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beefing up wire gauge for DCC & Sound/ on existing layout

When the layout was first built. I believe DCC. was in it's infancy. The layout is on a5'x9' table. The layout is of Atlas model railroad company's design. I think John Armstrong may have originally designed it for Atlas.
well... anyway, It has a double figure eight with two passing sidings with a smallish
I8I,yard located in one of the circles of the figure "8".It's of "cookie cutter"design with several grades using
~3/8" plywood on~1/2"x5"([_) pine lumber~36" tall legs. The pine boards are placed at right
angles in the shape of an "L" for the table legs. The drop wires used(not enough added) are of 18 gauge
nickel plated silverwire.
Now, here, finally, is my question. How do I go about beefing my feeder wires that supply the
DCC signal from the main bus. I think I'm going to use 12 American wire gauge (AWG) bus wire?
I'm somewhat perplexed.The feeder wires are 18AWG.Do I add more 18 AWG to the side of the weathered
rail? Or do I cut the rails and add14AWG to the bottomof the short rail and re -solder the rail?
Thank you, to all and any who may respond to my perplexing request. Regards, tr1
 

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For a 4 year old, I would get into something more robust, like a starter set from Lionel or MTH, 027 gauge. I just don't like HO for kids as it's a little flimsy for the hard knocks a smaller child can deliver. Been there, done that. Just my opinion..
 

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dcc bus wire, guage and feeder wire question?

does anyone have an idea/opinion on my previous post up above on increasing the wire gauge (bus)? And or increasing the amount of feeder wires off a 12AWG bus? Thanks,tr1
 

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I used 14 gauge for the bus and 22 gauge for the feeders. My feeders are 6 inches max. All rails are soldered except where insulated. There is very little voltage drop anywhere on my layout.
 

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tr1: 18 AWG feeder wires, gad zukes that is enormous, how do you hide that? I use 22 gauge solid core wire and it is less than 8 inches to the bus.
 

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I used 10 gauge solid for my bus [house wiring], and 20 gauge stranded for the drops, three to 12 inches . it was what I had at the time, and there was enough of useable colors on hand ... I ran two forty foot pairs, one for 'inside' track, another for
'outside' and wired indicators lights and blocks for eight sections ... one of these days I will have to cut the track and isolate the blocks from each other .. on the 'to do' list ..:)
 

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Hello,


I did a bunch of research and I'm pretty handy with amateur electronics and I found this site: www.awrr.com/awrrhome.html. I prototyped the capacitive discharge supply and I'm getting a good 35V across the discharge capacitors. STILL the turnouts buzz and don't throw reliably.



Any help/discussion is appreciated!

35 volts is way to high, what are you feeding the capacitor discharge unit with? 12 to 16 volts is usually plenty to throw twin coil solenoids.
 

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I agree with Jerry. What you have described should be ample on a layout of your size. I used 12 AWG for the bus and 16 for the feeders, with one feeder approximately every 8 feet. All rail joints are soldered within each 8 foot-ish section.

Perhaps you should start with a deep cleaning.

Also, this should have been a separate thread. A new topic on a 3 year old thread only confuses people. Maybe contact one of the moderators and have the last group of posts (except flyernut's and bwells', because they're still on the original topic) moved to a new thread.
 

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This thread seems to have two different subjects running at
the same time, very confusing.

Mr. Vander (the original poster, I think)

Is there an update on your layout problems?

I agree with a couple of posts...35 volts will
most likely burnout the coils on any
twin coil turnout motor.

Usually when turnout points don't throw
correctly with an attached motor there
is a slight misalignment between the
motor and the turnout. Often readjusting
the motor will resolve the problem.

Don
 

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heavier bus wire,just in case, for future op sessions

Thanks jerry, I'll make a note of that. Also, In the future several engines ,possible smoke\units and sound will be employed on my layout eventually I would hope. So heavier bus wire, to be safe.
 

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Reliable and cheap and simple turnout controls

Have you considered mechanical, as opposed to electrical controls? The are way cheaper, simple and reliable enough for your 4 year old to operate, and you don't have to try an resurrect some bottom-of-the-quality-scale solenoids. If you can accept manual controls. The next question is; how important, is it , to you to control turnouts remotely from a central panel, vs. individually at each turnout site? Mechanical controls exist for both options: I just need to know which you prefer. How many turnouts do you have? Are any far away from a convenient control location: where they would have to be remotely controlled?

Just another option if you're interested,

Traction fan
 

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There have been several articles in both Model Railroader magazine and Model Railroad Hobbyist on how to do this. Throttle cables is one option that works for a lot of people.
 

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Wire gauge

Twelve gauge wire will work fine,as will fourteen gauge. Bigger wire, less resistance, less voltage drop. Keep the eighteen gauge feeders short (8" or less) also a good idea to have a set of feeders every three feet of track.
On the turnout throwing question; It's your choice, If you are intrigued by the challenge of trying to fix the life-like
duds, go for it. If you just want reliable remote operation, convert to the tortoise DC machines.


Good luck with whatever option you choose.

Traction Fan
 
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