How to Wire a Model Railroad Turnout

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National Model Railroad Association Master Model Railroader Gerry Leone shows how he wires a model railroad turnout in this video. Turnouts can be a frustration on a model railroad layout. Cars can derail from mechanical problems and engines can stall from electrical problems. In this video, Leone shows how to help solve these stalling issues. Model railroad turnouts often come with live frogs or dead frogs, frogs being the portion in the center of a turnout where the two tracks diverge.

A live turnout is electrically charged so the engine can pass through easily while a dead frog made of plastic or metal is not charged and an engine could stall out. A continuity tester can be used to check a live frog, emitting a sound when it detects a complete circuit. There should be continuity between any rail on the model railroad turnout and the frog.

Tortoise machines, which Leone recommends to power a model railroad turnout, have internal contacts that allow a plus or minus charge, powering the frog depending on which way the turnout is thrown. Leone follows the wiring diagram of the tortoise machine to wire the frog. First he places two feeder wires on top of the layout which will come from the bus wire underneath. The outside rails or stock rails on a model railroad turnout should always be the same polarity. He drills holes through the roadbed and subroadbed and runs wires down on both sides of the turnout.

After running the wire through, the next step is to solder them to the track. Leone does this by stripping the top of the wire and adding solder to the wire and the track to connect them. Next he drills a hole for the feeder wire which will connect to the frog. This wire must be green because it’s a variable wire able to change polarity. To wire the tortoise, he uses a wire stripper to expose the bus wire and attaches the stock wires. To learn more tips on wiring your layout visit the Model Railroad Academy website.

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