Wiring Peco electrofrog turnouts

PK Apr 8, 2015

  1. PK

    PK TrainBoard Member

    I have a question regarding wiring Peco electrofrog turnouts. The modifications I've seen to make them "DCC friendly" involve isolating the frog and powering it from a separate switch. The primary reason seems to be to avoid potential shorts at the points or frog. If I want to take advantage of the manual spring and not use an external switch to throw the points, is it necessary to isolate the frog if I isolate the turnout? It seems like the only concern is shorts. Is that normal for those of you who use these, or should I be looking for a way to isolate & power the frog? Will shorts make me wish I had used insulfrogs?

  2. DougSluder

    DougSluder TrainBoard Member

    I have over 24 Peco electrofrog turnouts on my layout without any modifications and have zero problems with shorts. Some folks recommend powering the frog for more reliable current feed. As is the frog gets power from the point rails pressing against stock rails. Frog juicers could be used as the do not require a separate switch.
  3. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    The only thing that is really necessary is to gap the frog rails after the frog. Both frog rails have the same polarity as the frog no matter which way the switch is thrown. The very nature of a switch where one rail crosses another rail means that rails of different polarity will come in close proximity to each other. This occurs no matter if it is the 'electro frog' design or the 'insul frog' design.
  4. Arctic Train

    Arctic Train TrainBoard Member

    As long as you keep the points clean the factory spring provides plenty of pressure to maintain good electrical contact to power the frog. Flawless operation. Love these things. I have a ton of them and only had 1 go bad on me and that was due to installer error.

  5. wcfn100

    wcfn100 TrainBoard Member

    That might be the nature of a stock turnout, but turnouts can be modified so the different polarities don't come near each other.

  6. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

    My first layout using Peco electrofrog turnouts didn't feed the frog and I was more or less regularly cleaning the the stock and point rails because locomotives would stall on the turnout. My lesson learned was "feed the frog". My second layout I used switch machines that provide for frog feed. No regrets.
  7. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    Never had this happen to me on my layout nor that of our club either. Peco C55 Electrofrog switches are the only ones we use. On some of mine that are difficult to reach, I removed the center spring and use the old Del-Aire pneumatic switch machines.
  8. PK

    PK TrainBoard Member

    Thanks for the inputs. It sounds like I should be able to use them as-is by simply isolating both rails leaving the frog.

    Can anyone explain why making them "DCC friendly" always seems to mean cutting the rails and adding jumpers when it sounds like they work fine as long as you gap two rails. I've gotten the impression on other threads and sites that you can't use electrofrogs without modification. I can understand the potential benefit of powering the frog if you're using a switch anyway, but that seems like more of an improvement based on your replies (no need to keep point contacts clean), not a requirement.
  9. locomcf

    locomcf TrainBoard Member

    Yes, and that's how they're intended to be used and it's what I have done. But as others have commented, many people have found the following problems with them.

    (i) Maintaining good contact between the point and stock rail can be a recurrent problem, as even small bits of dust/dirt can cause power failure. This is common to both DC and DCC systems.

    (ii) Metal wheels shorting between the stock rail and open point rail can instantly shut down a DCC system. DC systems are not normally affected by very brief short-circuits.

    Simply because a "DCC friendly" turnout is one on which each point rail always carries the same polarity as its corresponding stock rail regardless of which route is selected. On turnouts that are not "DCC friendly", both point rails, the frog and the frog rails are electrically connected and always carry the same polarity. That is how Peco C55 turnouts are wired, and is what gives rise to problem (ii) above. The way to fix that is to cut gaps between the points and the frog, and then jumpering the point rails to the stock rail.

    Allan Gartner's web site explains it all:

    ... and don't overlook Allan's hints for providing feeders for Peco C55 turnouts here:

  10. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    Most problems with Peco switches occur with the Code 80 switches. These are made to European NEMA standards which are not as strict as the NMRA standards. The solution is to use only the Peco Code 55 'finescale' turnouts. I believe these are packaged in yellow boxes versus the blue for the Code 80.

    One more thing here. If you have a problem with metal wheels shorting out on point rails of opposite polarity from the stock rail then the problem is not in the switch. Properly gauged wheel sets will not touch the opposite polarity point rail unless the wheelset has derailed. Find the problem for the derailment and correct it and you solve your shorting problem. Notice I said 'properly gauged wheelsets'. Metal wheelsets are, by necessity, multi-piece assemblies in order to avoid shorting through axle which they would do if one piece. As such they can get out of gauge. Many engines come from the factory with out of gauge wheelsets.
  11. Hansel

    Hansel TrainBoard Member

    Any other ideas? I have a whole bunch of ElectroFrog switches which are already installed and from time to time, even when they look like they are physically contacting, sometimes there is no electrical connection with the rail and the and the point. Then I have to clean the point and rail with either simply vacuuming, or using a wooden toothpick to wipe clean the metal, or else as a last resort use a Microbrush with track cleaning fluid to clean the metal. I rarely if ever use an abrasive material to clean the points and rail. I thought about soldering in a spring on the rail that would only touch when the point is thrown. Any other ideas?
  12. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

    I fed the frog to eliminate that problem. The point rails do not always reliably feed the frog. I used to clean between the rails with a q-tip wetted with 90% alcohol.
  13. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

    Those cleaning methods won't always work because there may be substances or oxidation present not removable with liquid cleaners and such.

    Use a wire bristle brush in a Dremel to get down in there and clean and polish the mating surfaces.

  14. speedernut

    speedernut New Member

    I've had pretty good luck closing the point on a clean dollar bill and sliding it out.

  15. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    I use a piece of 600 grit paper folded double. Just one pass does the trick.
  16. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Going back to the original question as posed by the OP.

    Peco switches are good to go right out of the box. Many have advised dissecting them like we used to do back in biology class but I don't. Go to: http://www.barstowrick.com/category/dcc-friendly-switches/
    There you will find a reference to a link that will take you to Peco's website. They will tell you how to isolate the electrofrog to make it safe or friendly to DCC. I do this on my layout and I have absolutely no problems operating my DCC or Analog DC. I've done this for years.

    Now if you should choose not to visit BarstowRick.com then go to Peco's Website: http://www.peco-uk.com/page.asp?id=point4dcc

    It's that simple!
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
  17. sandro schaer

    sandro schaer TrainBoard Member

    i'd suggest using tam valley frog juicer or similar.
  18. NtheBasement

    NtheBasement TrainBoard Member

    I also have long since wired my Peco c55s, but before that I put a small bend in the point so it would contact even if there was dirt further up the rail. Only something as big as ballast would cause a big enough gap to kill the contact. Come to think of it, I start adding the switches soon after i started ballasting...

    The other tip - after cleaning between the point and rail, wipe the same sufaces with a conductive oil like LPS-1.

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