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Discussion Starter #1
I'm trying to find information on this, but it is very confusing as a newcomer.

I am buying kato n scale track and I have a powercab. I want to add a turnout but I'm slowly realizing that the kato lever probably won't work on a dcc track. I had hoped I could use the blue lever kato provides and just buy the dc converter to power the blue box/lever thing and I'd be able to trigger the turnout. But I guess it isn't that simple?

It seems like I need to buy an NCE decoder (switch-cat) in order to trigger the kato turnout? Is there some definitive guide I could follow? Really confused right now as to what I need to do.

Thanks!
 

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We did just have this converation with someone not too long ago. It probably would have been better to find that thread and read through it.

You problem comes from the false assumption that you MUST use your Powercab to control your turnouts. There is no need to do this. While it is certainly an option, it isn't the only one, nor, would I argue is it even the best one. On my layout, the DCC system controls the trains, and the turnouts are operated with an independent, servo-based system.

Broadly speaking, there are 4 ways to control turnouts. All of these ways work with any layout, any means of train control (any brand of DCC, or even DC for the first 3), and any scale. I'll try to describe them below.

1) Local manual control. This involves reaching the turnout and moving the points by hand, either by pushing them with a finger or tool, or flipping a lever mounted to the turnout. This is the cheapest method, and the simplest, but it means having to actually reach your turnouts, which can be problematic, especially on a larger layout.

2) Remote manual control. This method uses a physical linkage and a remote lever or knob to change the points. Dowels, throttle cables, hardened steel music wire, brass rod and tubing, and styrene are all materials that can be used. This method is almost as cheap as the first, but saves you from having to reach over your layout. Normally, the control mechanism is mounted at the edge or the layout, or on the fascia.

3) Remote electronic operation. This involves mounting a motor or solenoid to the turnout, and an operating switch some distance away, usually either on the fascia or on a separate dispatcher panel. This is a more expensive option, usually running about $20 per turnout for all the parts, and the wiring can get messy, but it is probably the most common method used by hobbyists.

4) DCC operation. This is the most expensive option, and perhaps the most elegant. It involves using a motor at the turnout with a stationary DCC decoder. The DCC handset or base station is then used to issue the command to move the points. This option can be very convenient, because you can set up commands to line multiple turnouts at the same time, but the drawback is that knowing WHICH turnout to operate can be tricky, and you can't control your trains while monkeying with turnouts.

So, you're stuck on thinking that because you have a DCC system, you MUST use method 4. That's not true.

The Kato turnouts have an integrated solenoid, and the blue lever you refer to is the remote switch I mention in #3. All you need is a separate power supply (your DCC system may have an accessory power output on it) and you're good to go.
 

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Kato Unitrack turnouts

l

The Kato turnouts have an integrated solenoid, and the blue lever you refer to is the remote switch I mention in #3. All you need is a separate power supply (your DCC system may have an accessory power output on it) and you're good to go.
CTValley;

Are you sure that Kato turnouts are operated by a solenoid? I have read that they contain a tiny DC motor, which is used to move the points. If that is true, then the Kato turnout control would electrically be a DPDT switch, possibly with a center off position. A traditional control panel setup, or a stationary DCC decoder would still work, of course, but the DCC stationary decoder would need to produce a reversible DC output instead of the burst of AC, or DC, used with solenoids.
I don't use Kato unitrack turnouts, but make my own and operate them with Hankscraft DC motors, so I don't know much about the Kato system. I do remember reading, somewhere here on the forum, that the Kato turnouts were DC motor operated though. Perhaps some knowledgeable Kato turnout user will provide a more definite answer.

regards;

Traction Fan:smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Operating your turnouts

I'm trying to find information on this, but it is very confusing as a newcomer.

I am buying kato n scale track and I have a powercab. I want to add a turnout but I'm slowly realizing that the kato lever probably won't work on a dcc track. I had hoped I could use the blue lever kato provides and just buy the dc converter to power the blue box/lever thing and I'd be able to trigger the turnout. But I guess it isn't that simple?

It seems like I need to buy an NCE decoder (switch-cat) in order to trigger the kato turnout? Is there some definitive guide I could follow? Really confused right now as to what I need to do.

Thanks!
crackymule;

CTValley has given you a good rundown of the options for operating your Kato turnouts. Don't let the purely technical question that I posed to him distract you from all the good information in his answer.
Everything CTValley outlined about operating turnouts is correct; (with only the possible exception of that one technicality.)

If you decide to use your NCE Power Cab to operate your turnouts, then the "blue lever" does not need to be used at all. The stationary DCC decoder you would need to operate turnouts in this way would send its signal directly to the turnout's built-in operating motor or solenoid, not to the blue lever.

On the other hand, if you decide to use a separate, traditional, non-DCC method then the stationary DCC decoder would not be needed. As CTValley says, you could use the blue lever and a separate power supply; such as a "wall wart" transformer (like those that recharge a cell phone.) The blue lever would then control the turnout as shown in the Kato directions.

I agree with, and understand, your confusion about how things work electrically in general model railroading, and particularly in controlling turnouts. I am fortunate in this area since I've spent a good part of my life fixing electric stuff for a living. That doesn't mean that everyone has. :confused:
The files below may help you understand turnouts, and layout wiring, a little better. If you have more questions feel free to ask.

good luck;

Traction Fan:smilie_daumenpos:

View attachment All AboutTurnouts.pdf

View attachment How to build a better model railroad the first time 6.pdf

View attachment Model Railroad Terminology 2.2.pdf
 

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CTValley;

Are you sure that Kato turnouts are operated by a solenoid? I have read that they contain a tiny DC motor, which is used to move the points. If that is true, then the Kato turnout control would electrically be a DPDT switch, possibly with a center off position. A traditional control panel setup, or a stationary DCC decoder would still work, of course, but the DCC stationary decoder would need to produce a reversible DC output instead of the burst of AC, or DC, used with solenoids.
I don't use Kato unitrack turnouts, but make my own and operate them with Hankscraft DC motors, so I don't know much about the Kato system. I do remember reading, somewhere here on the forum, that the Kato turnouts were DC motor operated though. Perhaps some knowledgeable Kato turnout user will provide a more definite answer.

regards;

Traction Fan:smilie_daumenpos:

Perhaps, but that doesn't really change anything, especially if his preferred option is to wire up the actuating levers that Kato sells.
 

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It is a solenoid, but with a difference

Perhaps, but that doesn't really change anything, especially if his preferred option is to wire up the actuating levers that Kato sells.
CTValleyRR;

You're right, of course, if he used Kato's control wired per their directions everything would work normally. Apparently I was mistaken in my speculation about a DC motor being inside a Kato Unitrack turnout. I was somewhat mislead by the fact that a DPDT momentary toggle switch, wired as a reversing switch, can be substituted for the Kato control. I figured, reversing switch? Must be using a DC motor right? Well someone wrote in explaining that Kato does use a solenoid, but it is single coil and reversing the current makes it throw the points. Very clever those Japanese engineers! ;)

Regards;

Traction Fan:smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Been brushing up on my knowledge and thanks to the posts here.

I ended up buying the Kato dc converter ($5), till I realized afterward that it was converting an AC power source.

I gutted the dc converter and just soldered the wires to positive/neg, and used a 12v dc wall wart.

I like using the kato dc adapter, because it has the form factor to fit the kato control switch cleanly.

So it works! Very cool to get it working.
 

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Broadly speaking, there are 4 ways to control turnouts.

...

4) DCC operation. This is the most expensive option, and perhaps the most elegant. It involves using a motor at the turnout with a stationary DCC decoder. The DCC handset or base station is then used to issue the command to move the points. This option can be very convenient, because you can set up commands to line multiple turnouts at the same time, but the drawback is that knowing WHICH turnout to operate can be tricky, and you can't control your trains while monkeying with turnouts.
Personally I would only go with #4 if you're planning on a computer interface connected to the DCC base system to control switches like a computer-controlled CTC signalling system that can really take advantage of (and requires) this sort of electronic control.

Controlling DCC switches via the handheld throttle by punching in addresses seems like the least desirable user experience. Hands-on control via local control panels or even hand-thrown switches is much nicer from an operating perspective.

(There are reasons you might want to connect those local control panels as inputs to a more sophisticated system and control the switches via DCC decoders, but that would be more or less entirely transparent to the operator. If you can't think of any reasons though, it's probably overkill and direct wiring will work fine.)
 

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switch kats

this conversation appears to have ended a year ago, but i'll post my thought anyway.... i'm using NCE switch kats to control my Kato integrated turnouts flawlessly. All centralized in my NCE procab. I am hoping someday to make the whole operation computer controlled but lately I have turned my attention to scenery. I suspect I am ADD.
 
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