Converting Turnouts to Under-table Drive
When I first starting installing Marklin turnouts on my layout, the black solenoid mechanisms didn't really bother me. And given the investment I had made in these expensive little gadgets, the last thing I wanted to do is tear them apart. So, I installed them as-is.
After a few months, I've come to understand how temperamental and unattractive these units really are. So, I decided to remove the solenoid mechanisms of my turnouts, and convert them to under-table drive. This not only has the affect of making the turnouts look much more prototypically accurate, but since I'll be using larger, more robust, and more easily-accessible solenoids, it makes them more reliable.
This, of course, involves permanently and irreversibly marring these rather expensive and fragile components. As for the cost, I rationalize it this way: by modifying and tweaking these turnouts, I'm making the most of the money I've already spent. See Stop Turnout & Double-Slip Switch Derailing for more alterations to turnouts.
Although the straight turnouts discussed here are the most common Marklin solenoid-equipped track mechanisms, the same process can be applied to the others as well.
In this article:
I welcome any and all comments, additions, and corrections you wish to email me. Click on any photo to see more detail.
Now, the Woodland Scenics Ballast Cement I used is water-soluble, meaning that water can be used for removal as well as application. If you fully saturate the ballast and then wait about 10-12 hours (don't wait too long, or it will just dry again), the ballast should be soft, plyable, and easier to remove. If you're not the patient type, you can skip the moisture process as I did and just start picking away at the dry ballast.
I also removed two of the track nails holding down the track to the right of the turnout (turnouts should not be nailed down themselves; they should be allowed to "float"), and pulled the turnout out, leaving the two remaining tracks in place.
If you wish to save the solenoid mechanism for use under the table (as opposed to a third-party alternative), be very careful not to break the tiny wires that connect the three metal plates to the solenoid windings. When the solenoid has been safely removed, wrap it tightly with a piece of electrical tape, making sure to keep the three metal plates separate. Don't forget the paper insulator.
Pop out the brass nut, too.
It's important to note here that some sort of spring mechanism must be used, strong enough to hold the points in place, but soft enough to allow the points to be displaced by rolling stock coming from the inactive branch.
The 0.012" wire takes care of this nicely; anything thicker is just too rigid.
Detail associates also makes 0.010" wire, which is just a little more flexible and "springy" than the 0.012" wire; you may want to experiment with both weights to get optimal performance from your turnouts.
Avoid brass, as it's soft and may bend over time - stainless steel is very resilient.
Under the table, the wire is then bent 90o.
The length of the under-the-table arm will be dependant on the solenoid mechanism I end up using.
Some have suggested Atlas N-scale turnout mechanisms, but I'm still doing my research.
Prototypical speed would sure be nice...
I will probably be gluing a little diamond-shaped flag to the throw to match the real-life ground throws I see around where I live. On the other hand, I may end up redoing the wire as I learn more about ground throws - luckily, it's easy to remove.
Once I've finalized the ground-throw design, I will repeat the process for my other turnouts, and will re-ballast where needed.
I was lucky with the installation of this unit, because I determined that I needed only two of the points to move; the other two were soldered into position as shown in this photo.
I then removed the clear plastic levers for the soldered points, and kept only the two remaining levers (as shown in the first photo)
As an added bonus, I've found that double-slip switches modified in this way are more reliable (in addition to being more attractive) than they were before their modifications.
The photo shows the finished double-slip switch, installed and ballasted.
I've found the stock Marklin uncoupler track sections to be rather unreliable, as even the littlest amount of dirt or corrosion will prevent the solenoid mechanism from raising the gray plastic insert. Additionally, the black solenoid box on the uncoupler sticks up a little higher than on the turnouts, and since it doesn't have rounded edges, it can get stuck on some cars (most notably Marklin 8619 wood carrier). This procedure happily fixes both problems!
I used Micro-Trains (Kadee) #312 HO-scale Magne-matic non-delayed uncouplers, which is simply a package of two 1/8" x 5/16" x 2" ceramic magnets. I chose this product primarily because it's what my local hobby store had in stock, but also because the magnets are larger and more powerful than the smaller ones typically used in N and Z scales. I ended up cutting the two included magnets in half (score with a knife or Dremel and then break over a straight-edge), which not only gave me four magnets (enough for my whole layout), but made them an almost convenient size.
There are a lot of different kinds of magnets available, so before installing them on your layout, test them by setting a long piece of Marklin track on top of the magnet (centered between the rails), and then pushing two coupled Micro-trains cars back and fourth over it. I recommend Micro-Trains (Kadee)-brand magnets for the most reliable uncoupling.
The magnets were just a hair thicker than my cork roadbed, so I used a Dremel 330 router attachment and a Dremel 650 router bit to make room in the baseboard.
The photo shows the magnet installed, flush with the top of the roadbed.
You may wish to experiment with different shapes here to get the most reliable results.
Then, lift up the track slightly, and put the gray plastic insert into position, being careful not to disturb the wire (the bent portion should be roughly parallel to the track rails).
Nail or attach the track as desired at this point.
I haven't yet hooked up a solenoid mechanism to my uncouplers, but when I do, I will include pictures here of the process.
Non-Marklin TurnoutsIn addition to Marklin turnouts, two other small manufacturers have released more realistic turnouts for Z-scale. Here are some photos of turnouts from Halwa Feinmodellbau and Petau Modellbau. See the Manufacturers page for contact information.
One thing to note: Marklin turnouts match Marklin track, so if you are interested in using these other turnouts, you should consider using track by Micro-Trains or Peco.
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