How do I wire turnouts?


I am building my first layout and have started with a “safe” straightaway section. Upon coming to my first turnout, just exactly how do I go about wiring it?

I am using ATLAS flex track and PECO switches. Do I simply wire the outside rail? How do I keep trains from staling or stop running altogether? Do I need to insulate something somewhere? HELP! I am an experienced modeler, but a woefully inexperienced “wire man”.

Answers ( 2 )


    First you need a power source for your turnouts, either from the main track or a dedicated power supply. Consistency in power is essential to prevent stalls or odd behaviour that will drive you nuts.

    You may want to isolate each turnout to prevent short circuits. This involves creating gaps in the rails leading to and from the turnout. Insulating rail joiners or plastic rail joiners can be used to break the current in these sections.

    For manual turnouts, simple wiring involves connecting the frog (common crossing point) to the appropriate polarity of the track the turnout is aligned with.

    Electric turnouts require a bit more patience – power must be connected to the frog and the points. Also, the switch motor should be wired to control the movement of the points. Polarity must be considered to ensure that the wheels of passing trains do not short the turnout.

    You might want to add capacitors across the power feeds. This helps maintain a steady power supply.

    Check for any shorts, misalignments, or electrical issues before any scenery work. Then check again. And again. Keep checking. Then check some more.

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