Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tuesday Tortoise Tips

Since I decided to redo my East End Staging and Old Saybrook track arrangement (with a little, um, "encouragement" from Randy & Tom), I discovered that I'd need to add 8 more turnouts. And since all of those turnouts would be on the mainline, I decided they needed to be powered.

Ever since reviewing Circuitron's Tortoise switch machines versus Micro-Mark's SwitchMaster machine, I decided to give the Torti a try. Bottom Line: over half of my machines are still SwitchMasters and they work well, but I've discovered that I like the Torti just as well - especially since I've gotten used to putting them together and installing them.

Here are a few quick tips to help you build/install these slow-motion machines. . .


Each machine has 8 (?!) contacts: 2 for power and 3 each for two internal SPDT switches. I decided to do all the wiring at the bench. And the first thing I do is cut all the bits of wire I need. The 2 power wires (which are the outermost contacts) get 20 ga solid wire, about 8" long (I'll cut to length when I install). The remaining 6 wires are 22ga stranded and are 6" long so they can reach a terminal strip installed on the underside of the layout. For now, though, they're just bundled together until I need them.

Next - one of the most important tips of all - use some solder flux on the metal contacts. SUPER helpful for getting a quick and solid solder joint.

Just a touch of solder does the trick. I cleaned off the flux with denatured alcohol and a brush. Looks purdy, eh?

I swear, the first machine took me over an hour to do. The last few took me less than 10 minutes each - from removing it from the box, through testing and cleaning.
The holes under the turnout's throwbar are drilled using a 5/16" bit - which matches the diameter of the lug on this styrene drilling template. The masking tape is to mark how far I can go when reaming out holes that were too small (so I don't end up drilling too far and up and through the turnout!)

Here's drilling template in place. The lug fits snugly in the hole under the throwbar, keeping it in place without you having to hold it. Then it's just a matter of drilling the 3/32" pilot holes for four 1/2" #4 mounting screws.

Since the template (and thus the machine) has to be in-line with the turnout, I will often drill two small (1/16") holes along the tangent rail from above and then use those to draw a line on the underside of the layout, as above. This makes it easier to line up the template - and your machine will be in line too.
Like most things in this hobby, I've discovered once you do it a time or two, it becomes MUCH much easier. Like with prepping the machines, my first install took almost an hour - now I can install one in about 20 minutes. Still not as fast as the MicroMark machine, but not nearly as bad as I'd always feared.

In fact, installing the machines turned out to be the least of my work in reworking Saybrook and staging. Next I have to modify my control board to add the toggles that'll power all these new machines and turnouts! <facepalm>

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