Turnout Control

Discussion in 'Modeling Tips' started by Iantha_Branch, Aug 24, 2023.

  1. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    With my new layout build coming up, I've got a lot to think about. One of the subjects I've been working on lately is turnout control. I'm thinking my layout will be a mix of tortoise machines (the tortoise will handle frog powering) and manual ground throws with a frog juicer.

    My main questions right now:

    Are there different options I should consider?

    In general, what turnouts should be machine controlled, and which should be manual? I'm thinking staging yards should definitely have switch machines, and industry spurs should be manual. However, I'm undecided on things like yard ladders and crossovers.

    Other factors to consider: The layout will have DCC control. I don't have any plans at this time for any sort of CTC system, so I don't need decoder controlled mechanisms, like the Smail.

  2. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

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  3. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Ethan, Don's suggestion is good for any switch that needs to be thrown manually but not easily reached. Similarly, one could use a Blue Point Manual Turnout Controller. The Blue Point has a DPDT switch built-in for frogs or signals. The Blue Point can be thrown by either a push or pull.

    For yard ladders, depending on the reach, hand throws work (think McClellan's yards), but you could consider a rotary switch with diode matrix and Tortoises or other switch motors like the MTB MP-1 (less costly than Tortoise) like McClellan's Springfield Yard. For someone working a yard, the selection of tracks with a rotary switch lessens alignment errors that cause shorts or derailments.

    Frog Juicers work with hand throws but most often require a separate bus bypassing any 'circuit breakers' like the DCC Specialties PSX series, and they are more expensive than using either the BullFrog or Blue Point.

    In general, having switch motors on mainline switches is beneficial.

    MTB MP-1:
    45021-febea2aa387b70190f904e75f832b195.jpg 45022-c00a2aa64eba91aae396ebb75e5b434e.png
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  4. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    Thanks for bringing the Bull Frog to my attention. I had glanced at that a while back, but didn't realize what purpose they might serve.

    I apparently need to keep reading, I didn't realize the Frog Juicers required a separate bus.
  5. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

    Bullfrog allows for the frog to change polarity. Some assembly required, but a screwdriver and white glue does the trick.
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  6. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    Thanks for the clarification
  7. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Attached is a drawing I did for Ethan illustrating a sample yard ladder and controlling it with an MTB MP-1 switch motor through a diode matrix and a rotary switch.

    Attached Files:

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  8. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    With the help of our resident Wiz Kid, I've learned how to put together rotary switches for yard ladders. So all of the yard ladders, both classification and staging, will be run with switch machines and rotary switches. While there's a bit of fun and authenticity to hand throws, switch machines are more efficient for a yard ladder, and easier for guests to walk in and work a yard with.

    I'm also going to put all of the crossovers on switch machines too. That way there's no worries about a train going through a crossover that's only half set and causing a short.

    As for industry leads, I need to look at the Bull Frogs before I make a decision there. Anyone else have input on ground throws?
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  9. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Frisco.org Supporter

    Mainly, my take is industry tracks with ground throws are great, with the only exception being hard-to-reach switches which could be worked using pulls on the fascia and BullFrogs, Blue Points or even home-made and over-center mechanisms (example links below).


    Local modeler, Mark Juett builds his own over-center spring push-pull mechanisms which use a lever action micro-switch as the power-routing for the frog. I will try to get some pictures of his mechanisms to share.
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  10. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    I've had a couple weeks to think about this issue, and I think I've made a decision on this topic. I'm going to go with MP-1 switch machines for EVERY turnout. Here's why:

    Initially I wanted to use a fair amount of ground throws for that authentic feel. First issue with those is I would need to come up with additional equipment for power routing frogs. Second, there's the issue of actually operating the throws. At a minimum the operator has to operate ground throws around scenery, which over time will cause damage to the scenic elements. Most of the ground throws would involve reaching past obstructions like rolling stock and buildings. I'm definitely willing to give up that little bit of authenticity to help protect the $50+ rolling stock on the layout.

    I looked at the Bull Frog throws and I see way more problems than solutions with that product. The cable system to operate the throw will develop slack quickly and cause issues. The cutout that slides along the BB to hold the throw to one position or the other will wear out and cause issues quickly. On top of that, organizing the pull rods in to some sort of diagram would also be an issue just because of their size and routing pull cables past one another. The one thing the Bull Frog has going for it is the included mechanism for power routing, but to me it's not enough to sell me.

    Going with a switch machine, in this case the MP-1, solves most of my concerns. There's no need to reach in to the layout and rough up scenery or knock of cars to throw a switch, and power routing is handled as well. Every area can be set up with a track diagram and switches to make it easy for anyone to coming in to operate to route to the correct track each time. Yes, there's some maintenance concerns with maintenance on electric switch machines, but they are a quick and easy replacement.

    Thank you to everyone that chimed in on this matter
  11. gmankc

    gmankc Member

    I used several Bullfrog throws during construction of my layout in a temperature and humidity controlled finished basement. After a year, and granted I was NOT exercising them, the steel balls became quite pitted and the throws simply would not move. I tore them out and switched to Caboose Industries ground throws (which worked fine). Never was sure if I had a bad batch, or there was something weird in the air of the basement.

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