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Discussion Starter #1
Forgive me if there is an obvious answer. Honestly I'm hoping there is. Yesterday was my big guys 7th birthday. He absolutely loves the trains he got. Two pancake motor engines and one Athern, all with loco genies installed. He loves the remotes and the fact that dad can play with him at the same time. He even Ivan's to get mom involved!

They work ok for our purposes. However, we have an issue with one turnout. Nearly everytime one of them first through that turnout, there while track momentarily loses power and all the trains shutdown. When running DC only trains were didn't notice this problem. The power loss is momentary and they all come back on in a second or so.

Track is all Atlas with custom line turnouts. One power drop at the start of the rail, nothing fancy. Any ideas what might be causing this?

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My guess is that the locomotive wheels are bridging the insulated frog rails and causing a momentary short that causes the DCC controller to shutdown for a bit. I’ve not had this problem myself, but I’ve seen it come up regularly here on the forum. I can‘t recall specifics on how best to solve this, so I expect some others will jump in with direct experience. I seem to remember using nail polish to slightly increase the insulated area of the frog to prevent the short.
 

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When running DC only trains were didn't notice this problem.
The problem was always there, it's just that DC locomotives and power packs are not as sensitive to momentary short circuits as DCC systems are. It sounds like the point rails are not in gauge.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The problem was always there, it's just that DC locomotives and power packs are not as sensitive to momentary short circuits as DCC systems are. It sounds like the point rails are not in gauge.
I was kind of assuming that to be the case.

Can you explain what you by the point rails not being in Guage? Point rails are the rails that actually move on the turnout, correct?

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Discussion Starter #5
My guess is that the locomotive wheels are bridging the insulated frog rails and causing a momentary short that causes the DCC controller to shutdown for a bit. I’ve not had this problem myself, but I’ve seen it come up regularly here on the forum. I can‘t recall specifics on how best to solve this, so I expect some others will jump in with direct experience. I seem to remember using nail polish to slightly increase the insulated area of the frog to prevent the short.
Thank you, I'll look into that. I do have other turnouts I could swap in there and see if that fixes it.

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A temporary solution, that often becomes permanent, for wide wheel shorting
on frogs, is to 'paint' ONE of the frog rails where they come together with
clear nail polish. Not more than 1/8" or so, less if possible.
This prevents the wheel from electrically spanning
the frog rails and shorting. I had this situation, did the painting, and it
lasted for years.

Don
 

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Do not paint the top of rail.
 

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There are several possibilities. Yes, a metal tire might be making contact momentarily with both frog rails (those are the two inner rails that converge at the frog from the 'fat end' of the turnout). It happens at the black plastic spacer/insulator, but just beyond it where the two rails are still close together. One solution is to put a dab of clear nail polish on ONE OF those two frog rails immediately after the black insulator. You're extending it further on one of the two rails, but only by 1/8".

However, you might also be getting contact at the flanges between the closure rails. Those are the other two converging rails on the other side of the frog, the two that flare wide to make the frog guards.

By far the easiest solution is to check the gauge of the tire sets on your rolling stock, locomotives and cars. A more involved solution is to place thin styrene plastic covers on the wide guards opposite the frogs. You glue the shims onto the flange-guiding face of the guard rails, between the guards and the stock rails. This forces the entire axle closer to the stock rails, and helps to prevent the metal tires from bridging the two rails at the 'bottle necks' near the frog.
 

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Forgive me if there is an obvious answer. Honestly I'm hoping there is. Yesterday was my big guys 7th birthday. He absolutely loves the trains he got. Two pancake motor engines and one Athern, all with loco genies installed. He loves the remotes and the fact that dad can play with him at the same time. He even Ivan's to get mom involved!

They work ok for our purposes. However, we have an issue with one turnout. Nearly everytime one of them first through that turnout, there while track momentarily loses power and all the trains shutdown. When running DC only trains were didn't notice this problem. The power loss is momentary and they all come back on in a second or so.

Track is all Atlas with custom line turnouts. One power drop at the start of the rail, nothing fancy. Any ideas what might be causing this?

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vette-kid;

I think the others may be assuming that you have Atlas "Snap Switch" turnouts with a plastic frog. That's the turnout that the nail polish solution works on. However, in your thread starter, you said you were using Atlas "Custom Line" turnouts. Those have metal frogs that have the option to be powered. Please check to see if the frogs on your turnouts are metal, or plastic. I think Mark's idea of a brief short circuit is correct, since it would produce the exact scenario you have described. If you are getting a brief short, then it's likely that your turnouts have plastic frogs, and that's where the short is happening. The two short rails exiting the frog are very close together at the frog end. They are also of opposite electrical polarities from each other. If a metal wheel does contact both rails it will cause a short and adding some nail polish on one of the rails will extend the insulated area a bit. If you really have the metal frog, "Custom Line" turnouts, that would be a different matter, and nail polish won't fix it.

Yes, you're right, the point rails are the two rails that move side-to-side with the throwbar. " Point rails (or any rails) being in gauge" means that they are the correct distance from each other, as measured with An NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) standards gauge, like those in the photo. All the wheels, on all the locomotives and cars, and every inch of track on the layout, including turnouts, need to be in correct gauge to keep things running well. Out of gauge wheels or track, can cause derailments, potentially this short circuit, and other problems.
If you don't have an NMRA gauge, I strongly recommend you get one. Besides measuring the gauge of wheels and track, it also measures several critical items on turnouts. The gauge come with printed directions. The attached file, "Improving Atlas turnouts" has photos of an NMRA gauge being used to check an Atlas turnout. It also has photos of the thin styrene strips (mesenteria called them "covers" in his excellent response.) being added to the guardrails to get the space between each guard rail, and its nearby running rail, (called a "flangeway" because the wheel flanges pass through it) to meet the standards of the gauge.

All of this is more complicated to describe verbally here, than it is to actually do. Adjusting wheels, and track, and especially turnouts, to meet the specs of the gauge prevents derailments, and may also help with your short circuit. An NMRA gauge costs $12, and you can order one from www.modeltrainstuff.com or www.trainworld.com

regards;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for all the info. I'm not questioning if this turnout is a custom line or not. Most were, but this was a used lot of items and I'm not familiar enough with this stuff yet. If it helps, here is a picture of the turnout in question. I do believe the customs say custom line on the back.


I have a Guage, but not that one. I will look into it though.


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I don't know if Custom Line was ever made in brass. That looks like a #4 snap switch to me.
 

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A suggestion (not sure if it will work, but easy to try):
Install INSULATED rail joiners at the two locations shown here:
545127

You may need to also install additional power feeds (on the track beyond the insulated joints)...
 

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Thanks for all the info. I'm not questioning if this turnout is a custom line or not. Most were, but this was a used lot of items and I'm not familiar enough with this stuff yet. If it helps, here is a picture of the turnout in question. I do believe the customs say custom line on the back.


I have a Guage, but not that one. I will look into it though.


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vette-kid;

No, that is not an Atlas "custom line" turnout. It has a plastic frog, which is one definite indicator of an Atlas "snap switch" turnout. It also has one straight route, and one curved route. That configuration is unique to the snap switch. Also, as MichaelE says, It's doubtful that Atlas custom line turnouts were made with brass rails Possible though.
.
Atlas makes two completely different lines of turnouts. The snap switches are their low end turnouts, and the custom line turnouts are their better quality ones. Custom line turnouts can be recognised by their metal (not plastic) frogs, and their two straight routes, with no curved route.
Atlas labeling can be confusing too. I have seen some Atlas turnouts with the words "custom line" printed on the package, and even stamped into the bottom of the plastic tie strip, which were identical to snap switches. In fact, they actually were snap switches, plastic frog, curved route, and all, just labeled wrong.

So, now that we know which kind of turnout we're dealing with, the nail polish fix should be tried. I think it may solve your problem. Also, when you get your NMRA gauge, use the info in the "Improving Atlas turnouts" file to make your Atlas snap switch turnouts quite reliable.
I notice that there is no Atlas "switch machine" attached to the side of the turnout in your photo. Do you have it disconnected from the turnout for some reason, or did it not come with the used turnout?
The absence of a switch machine can cause stalling on the point rails, since there is nothing to hold the point rail against the main running rail. There is a current path (of sorts) through those rivets, and a metal plate, between the point rail and the closure rail that it connects to. However, that current path is quite unreliable. This is another problem addressed in the "Improving Atlas turnouts" file.

regards;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Well that explains some of it. There are several switches labeled custom line and are new in the package. I think there is probably a mix of both. I have started reading your documents, I’ll dive deeper. The only derailment issues have been from running through incorrectly positioned turnouts.

Re the machine, it’s just not hooked up yet. I plan to use mighty mite machines for the accessory contacts ability to run signal lights through the switch. This seems like the simplest solution to user friendly turnouts with indicators. With this method the signal will accurately indicate the position of the switch machine which should be a high accuracy indication of actual turnouts position. Other methods seem to leave the possibility that the switch did not throw properly, but the indication will, leading to erroneous information.


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Discussion Starter #15
Ok, I'm a little confused as to what I'm painting with the polish?

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See the red circled area in the picture below:
545137


The two rails that diverge from this point have opposite polarity. If a metal wheel makes contact with both metal rails at the same time, it will cause a short. There should be a plastic frog creating a sharp point here that insulates the two rails. But sometimes the metal wheel is wide enough or the plastic frog isn't quite large enough to prevent the wheel from making contact with both rails. So the proposal is to apply a very thin and small amount of nail polish onto the metal rails to in effect extend the electrical insulation a bit beyond where the plastic frog stops. As one of the other members said, you probably only need 1/8" or less spot of nail polish.
 

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It fixed up my Peco #8 turnout just fine. I have a TRIX Br.187 with wide wheels that bridges that gap. The nail polish fix it.
 

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The other thread for reference... Peco #8 Turnout

That trick has worked on two of my turnouts. I have more to do because it seems every locomotive picks a different turnout to short. :oops: I like the PECO turnouts an track, but I can't help but wonder if I'd have less of this problem with a different brand.
 

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The other thread for reference... Peco #8 Turnout

That trick has worked on two of my turnouts. I have more to do because it seems every locomotive picks a different turnout to short. :oops: I like the PECO turnouts and track, but I can't help but wonder if I'd have less of this problem with a different brand.
Stumpy;

The other part of the problem is that the metal wheel should not be able to get far enough over to short those two rails. The fact that it can and, as you have experienced, does, is due to one, or perhaps two, things.
First, and most likely, is that the flangeways of nearly every brand of commercial turnouts, (including Peco) are too wide. (Micro Engineering turnouts are the exception. They have very slightly too narrow flangeways) This excess width lets the entire "wheelset" (two wheels on the same axle) move sideways at random, far enough to let the frog-side wheel get across those two rails, and cause the short.
The cure for this problem is to glue plastic shims to the inside surface of the guard rail, which narrows the flangeway to meet the specs of an NMRA gauge.
While you're at it, you might want to shim the bottom of the frog's flangeways to just touch the bottom of the "flangeways" tab on the NMRA gauge. This has no effect on short circuits, but it prevents the annoying vertical "drop-and-bounce-back-up" behavior of wheels traveling through the frog.

The other possible problem is that the wheels are out of gauge, or the wheels "treads" (the part that actually rides along the top of the rail) are too wide. Both can be checked with the NMRA gauge. The wheel flanges should fit into the "wheels" notches on the side of the gauge, and ideally the entire wheel should fit into the larger notch on the gauge.
You can usually adjust the wheel gauge by twisting one wheel clockwise and the other wheel counter-clockwise, while pulling the wheels further apart, or pushing them closer together, as needed, until they match the gauge. The only practical cure for too-wide treads is to replace the wheels with better quality aftermarket wheelsets. These usually have narrower treads. (While It is possible to turn down wheel treads, but it's an awful lot of work.)

A turnout with the "DCC friendly" configuration will completely eliminate any possibility of this short, and also another one, a short between the point rail and the stock rail.
DCC friendly turnouts have metal, "isolated" frogs. This means that the frog is electrically insulated from every other rail in the turnout. They also have each point rail, and its nearby "stock" (running) rail, jumpered together, with both at the same polarity, rather than opposite polarities.
Since the entire frog is one metal piece, there are no closely positioned rails of opposite polarity in the frog, to be shorted. If you run short, switcher type, locos with very few wheels that pickup power, you may need to power the metal frog, and use a frog juicer, or micro-switch contacts, to change the polarity of the frog. If your locomotives have all-wheel pickup, that may not be necessary.
Micro Engineering, Peco Unifrog, and Atlas code 55 N-scale, turnouts come with the DCC friendly configuration from the factory. There are probably others too, and I think the Peco Electrofrog turnouts have this option, but I'm not sure.

The files below explain more about DCC friendly turnouts, how to add shims to flangeways, and turnouts in general. Note that the adding shims procedure in the "Improving Atlas turnouts" file can be used on any brand turnout, not just Atlas.

Good luck & have Fun;

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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