Turnout and Controls

I like to be frugal so I build mostly the same number turnouts using Fast Tracks fixtures.  The number I use is 6.  I have one of the earlier fixtures purchased in 2001.  It does not have all the features of the latest ones but still works well.   After having built more than 35 turnouts, it seems that I am still challenged to build a turnout in less than an hour.  The instructions say that they can do the same in 45 minutes!

Shown here is a scratch built curved turnout using Fast Tracks techniques but not their fixture. I believe that the outside radius is 42″ and the inside is 39″. This depicts before the turnout control was added.  I am not sure about anyone else but I have to tweak my turnouts over and over until everything runs through them.  I hear there are people who can actually build them so well that they just plop them in place and everything works famously.  Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.  Then again, they may not be using P64 wheelsets.  Why do I use P64?  One, they look really, really great and two does the word masochist have any meaning for you?  At any rate, that is what I chose when I first got into S scale in 2000.  You would think that after 19 years in S, I would know better.  The combine you see is the first pilot model for the CNR combine.  It is 2 scale feet too long and does have P64 wheels.  The subsequent kit was corrected.  Since I don’t really need another combine, it most likely will never be completed and remain a track tester.  If it can go through the track work, anything can.

No Control Turnout

While visiting my friend Willie Waithe’s wonderful N Scale layout, Willie showed me a turnout control system using model aircraft servos.  The system is called Berrett Hill and can be readily found on the web at this address.  http://www.berretthill.com/trains/Welcome.html .  Kevin Hunter is the owner and master designer of these controls for both servo and Tortoise turnout control.  Since my Styrofoam bench top is only 1” deep, I liked the idea of the shallow depth of the servos and the dedicated programmable controls.

The servos can be used under the turnout in a support or to the side with a 3D printed well.  I opted for the well because I really don’t want things hanging down over the lower level.

Here is picture of the same turnout showing the well and the servo in place with a control wire attached to the drawbar.  Eventually scenery will cover the well and the only thing visible will be the servo arm and wire connector.  Because I wanted to retain a shallow bench work that would not protrude into the lower level, I decided I could live with this non-prototypical looking method.  At any rate, they work really well and that is what is most important here.

Same Turnout with Servo Control
That is a Frank Titman Built Hopper

The controls I chose are touch toggle held in a 3D printed mini-cup.  I chose to have two LED’s on mine to show green for mainline and red for diverging tracks.  The touch toggles use cables that connect to a Servo Control Base which in turn directs the signals to the appropriate servo.  The Servo Control Base is programmed by the user to limit the amount of travel which the servo does.  It is a fairly simple task once learned.

This picture shows the 1 the Servo and 2 the Well that the Servo will be placed into.  The Servos come with different levers and wheels one of which you can choose to best provide an arm to connect through a rod to your turnout drawbar.  The well, 2 is shown without and with the well cover in place.  The slot in the cover is for the arm from the Servo to go through.  These are both 3D printed and have variations in them.

Servo and Well

Number 3 shows the Servo Control Base.  Number 4 shows the Two Light Mini-Cup Toggle.  Number 5 is the Setup Remote and number 6 is the flat DCC cable which connects the Setup Remote to the Servo Control Base.

Servo Control Base, Mini-Cup Toggle, Programmer and DCC Cable

The Servo Control Base comes with either 4 or 8 sets of I/O connections and requires a 5 volt 2 amp power supply.  Although I managed to source the same locally, it was actually cheaper for me to buy direct.  You can buy a complete setup called a Servo Control Package for 8 turnouts at about the cost would be for a 6 pack of stall motor turnout controls.  However, when purchased separately, things are not quite as cost effective.  There are a lot of other parts that are optional that can help like extension cables for both the Servos and the Power Supply.  The extensions cables became a necessity for me and they come in different lengths.

The Servos must be programmed to only throw as far as necessary to close the points either way.  With the power off, you need to plug the DCC cable into the Servo Control Base and then turn on the power.  You then cycle through all the inputs/outputs of the Servo Control Base and at each input/output you program the throw of the arm.  You must go through all the input/outputs even if you do not have that many Servos attached to that particular base.  For example, I found that if I stopped programming at input/output 6 instead of cycling through to 8, then the programming would either not take or would be off.  Programming takes a bit of trial and error but once it is understood, it goes fairly simply.  As yet, I have only had the odd time where I had to reprogram and it is because I added more toggles to particular Servos so I could control them from more than one location.  If you do go this route, and have multiple toggles on Servos, you have to go through the program cycle using only one toggle per Servo, turn the power off, attach the other toggles and then everything should be okay.  It took a bit of learning but I did manage to have both sides of the wye at Park Head controlled on different sides of the wye.

This picture shows the underside of the wye where the Control Base is and the Multi-Input Adapters so that more than one Toggle can control one Servo.  The Multi-Input Adapters are on the left and the cables out to the Servos on the right.  All cables are numbered to correspond with where they go into the Control Base.

Servo Control Base with Multi-Input Adapters

The next two photos show a typical installation at the end of Wiarton.  The one showing the cover off also shows the .040” plastic shims I found necessary to hold the Servos in place securely.  This is not something they outline in their instructions but something I found was necessary.  The rod I started out with was 0.032” but found that 0.025” worked much better. 0.020″ is too weak for S.  I also found that the recommended 1 ¾” hole saw was too large for Styrofoam and used a rarer 1 5/8” hole saw instead.  The fit was more secure.  The ones drilled with the 1 ¾” hole were too loose and needed to be shimmed and glued in because the Styrofoam was not as stiff as plywood would be.

Servo In Well With Cover On
Servo In Well, Cover Off Showing Cam Behind Arm
Note the white plastic shims on the Servo Arms for Stability

The other thing I should mention is a mechanical cam/relay system is available that attaches to the Servo arm which is for changing the polarity of the frog. I found this to be quite frustrating to adjust and keep in place. I stopped using this method and used Frog Juicers instead for the turnouts at Park Head. I have had comments about the extravagance of using Frog Juicers from some MR visitors to the layout but since this is going to be my last layout ever, I want to make sure that everything is fool proof. Frog Juicers are so much easier and don’t need adjusting.

Scenery will cover the Servo Well Cover eventually.

Control panels were made from 0.060” sheet plastic cut into 3.5” strips.  These strips were donated by my friend, Ken Wilson.  I made up a pattern to design where the mini cup toggles were to go depending on mainline or siding use.  I used green tape for mainline, red tape for the divergence or the turnout and orange tape for sidings.  Yellow tape was used for the legs of the wye.  I labelled the tracks wherever I could.  I used my wife’s label maker.

Holes Laid Out and Cut
Template is Above
Tape for Main, Sidings and Wye in Place
Panel In Place Showing Turnouts Lined Up for Main
Mini-Cup Toggles Showing Divergence onto Wye

Please excuse the temporary scenery. It is in place just to get a feel.

Overall, I am quite pleased by the final results of the Berrett Hill turnout control system. However, I already have enough Tortoises and toggles for the lower level so I will most likely use them. It would be more time consuming in some ways but more cost effective since I already have them.

Next: The Conversion of the Walthers Sn42 Turntable to S Scale Standard Gauge


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