Monday, September 24, 2012

Electrical wars, Part 2

I didn’t mean to be obscure about the electrical changes and upgrades I was describing in my first post of this topic (here is a link to that previous post: ). But some responses I have received indicated that some confusion was created. There are two points to clarify.
     First, it did not seem to be clear where the gaps were located that I was replacing, nor (to others) where they were when I was done. It is easily shown in a simple diagram, using the conventional arrow heads and tails for feeders on the two rails, and black rectangles for gaps. I usually place my feeders at about the same location, so the arrowheads and tails are literally at the same place. Here is the original arrangement on almost all my sidings.

This does not present a problem if the siding is a few carlengths long, but when it is, say, six feet or more, it can become tedious to have to go all the way to the other end to power the intervening track.
     The change is to place gaps at the ends of sidings and feed the middle, though this does require more gaps and more feeders. As I stated in the previous post, it now looks to me like it was a false economy to have saved this minor amount of ocmplexity. Here is the new arrangement.

Operation with the new gaps and feeders is already improved.
     The other point has to do with powering frogs. There are lots of approaches to this problem, with or without DCC, and mine has always been to use hand throws for all turnouts which are reasonably accessible, and rely on point contact with stock rails to transmit power to the frog, which usually works pretty well with my power-routing turnouts. The sides of stock rails and points do need to be cleaned occasionally, and this is the one place I have found that “contact fluid” (however constituted) is helpful over the long term.
     For many years, I have operated my hand-thrown turnouts with the Caboose Hobbies manual ground throw. Powered turnouts, of course, can be arranged with auxiliary contacts on the switch machine to ensure good power transfer.
     But the familiar Caboose Hobbies ground throw is only an adequate way of handling turnouts. It does not provide much pressure against the stock rail, and of course is immensely oversize and out of scale. It is even too big for O scale, if you compare it to prototype photos of the kind of ground throw being modeled. I have experimented with a number of alternatives, and will discuss those in a future post.
Tony Thompson


  1. Hi Tony:
    I'm looking forward to your post on alternatives to the venerable ground throw for switch control.
    One of the products I miss most in the hobby are working, scale switch stands (in HO, S and O) that were once offered by a Canadian company, Alder Models. They were white metal, and beautiful. Alder offered a large scale switch stand that could be used to throw switches, too.
    I was fortunate to obtain enough of his stands for my S scale layout, and used large scale stands sold by Sunset Valley RR in Washington State for use on garden railways. I've written about this solution on my own blog. Here's a direct link:
    - Trevor

  2. Tony,
    My latest find in the HO scale ground throw is from Jeff Stone up at Bitter Creek Models (URL
    These beauties are scale size and can be made to power the frog. I love the spring overthrow that ensure positive contact of the power. I was able to pick up more than enough to work for my in-progress layout.

  3. Thanks, Trevor and Tom. I will include the Bitter Creek ground throw in my commentary. I never saw the Alder switch stand, but have a few of the Star stands, which I wish I could still get. More on that in my upcoming post on hand throws.
    Tony Thompson