peco insulfrog rewire? : LUSENET : Wiring for DCC : One Thread

I heard that Peco insulfrogs occasionally make dcc think there is a short in the system, when going slowly over the turnouts in certain engines such as the Spectrum 2-8-0. It has something to do with the way they pick up power on the tender (I think). We have quite a few insulfrogs, and 2-8-0's neither of which we are ready to give up. Short of ignoring all yard speed regulations, is there a way to modify what we have to overcome this problem. Thanks for all your useful information. I love your site. Jen

-- Jennifer Bolyard (, March 10, 2002



I'm glad the site has helpped you.

Given every Bachmann Spectrum of any locomotive type I have is trouble in one way or another, I suspect the wheels of the 2-8-0's are shorting at the frog. But Spectrums do look good, so we both choose to put up with them. So now what?

If you are going to keep them, the Pecos, and not violate speed restrictions (good for you), then I'm afraid you only choice is to gap in the frog back a bit on the closure rails towards the points. Even on the insulfrog, the closure rails at the frog are close together and I can see that ANY wheel, Bachmann or otherwise, that doesn't go through the frog perfectly, for whatever reason (there are many of them), will cause a short. This now isolated section of frog rail will probably need power routing.

You might try cutting the frog as close to the frog as you think will solve the problem and then see if you locomotives will run fine with adding power routing.

Yes, I realize how much work this is. Sorry, I only have one other idea which isn't much less work. Put a light bulb in series with the sub feeder that the turnout is in. Use a bulb for every sub block.

Note: Most of the time, I don't care if people use bulbs, circuit breakers, or nothing at all. This is the one time where bulbs are the only possible answer. Obviously, nothing at all, which you have now, doesn't work. Circuit breakers will trip out every time when a loco crosses a turnout. That certainly wont do, either! Bulbs don't work with all boosters so try one out first if you are thinking about going this route.

Sorry, I don't have an easier to implement answer for you.

-- Allan Gartner (, March 13, 2002.

Jennifer, just a short note to let you know that I also have 16 Peco switches on my layout and also DCC. I have never had any problems what-so-ever with shorts. My only problem has been lack of contact after throwing the switch. This due to ever present dust. I currently have 4 Spectrum 2-8-0's and 2 Spectrum 4-8-2's as well as varios diesels and other steam. All with no problems. May I suggest you check and see if the contacts make proper connections? As I said, this is the only problem I've ever had, making it appear like a short. Good luck


-- Dave Poor (, March 13, 2002.


Good point!


Make sure your frog is perfectly flat. I hadn't had the frog lifting problem in so long, I forgot about it. Occassionally, you will find a frog that lifts the wheels up. Unless you got a bad batch, I wouldn't expect you to see this problem on every turnout.

Definitely make sure that whatever wheels do the electrical pick up have good contact with the pickups that touch the wheels. Put a drop of Conducta-lube on the pickups. On some locos, this stuff seems to work miracles.

Try these ideas first before the things I suggested yesterday. These are easier to implement if they work for you.

-- Allan Gartner (, March 13, 2002.


I have the same problem with my Peco switches. It's in the directions that come with the switch itself. They state that "sometimes incorrectly shaped metal wheels can cause a short- circuit when crossing an insulfrog due to the wide tread of the wheel touching both frog rails at the same time. This occurs when a back feed takes place in a continuous loop. To overcome it, insert an insulating rail joiner next to the frog rail forming the loop (inside rail that makes the inside V of the turnout)." It's listed under the 'Wiring for a standard 12v DC system' section of the instruction sheet. I followed their recommendation and have solved the shorting problem. In other words, pretty much the same Allen was saying, only no cutting of the track required, just the insulating track joiner.

-- Tim (, March 25, 2002.

Thanks for al the helpful answers. We are just starting to wire up our new layout, and I didn't want the same problems we had with our old layout. The old one was a 8x10 with a 12 foot extension and was in the living room! I finally got all the trains to our 11x25 basement, and I want to do everything "right" this time. We bought the big book of dcc, and that has helped along with this site. Thanks again for all the info. Jen

-- Jennifer Bolyard (, March 25, 2002.

I found an even simpler way to solve the same problem on my layout, I painted a small section of two rails near the frog with a matt black enamel paint .. so far this has worked fine and not shown any sign of wearing (I also have tried using an insulated rail joiner and this also works but I had a couple of points where I didn't want to do this - so I can run the layout on DC if I want to).

-- Peter B (, April 23, 2002.

I have used peco insul frogs for 12 years.........5 years dcc......i have had no shorting at the frogs using kato and atlas diesels.Its my understanding steamers are tempermental based on wheel cofig.......i see an electrical problem only if your non dcc because if you feed power to point end of switch and the tabs on the point rails are dirty etc power can be iffy to the other legs of switch........however with dcc you have feeders to all legs of switch therefore no electrical pickup problems.If wheelsets conform to nmra.......which means they are all the same size and a diesel passes through the switch ok technically speaking the steamer should to .......however wheelsets on steamers can duck waddle and this waddle through a frog can be a problem.........especially as mentioned before if the frog is not flat......atlas switches have or had a problem with humped switches and have played havoc with steamers and i believe 6 wheel diesels.Back to the peco insul frog.......the best tip i have found and plan to do it with new switches is to run feeders from the stock to point rails for extra insurance for reliable power to the point rails.Keep in mind peco are not nmra ..........the european tollerances are probably different to nmra.........if you find wheelsets picking at peco frogs especially cars on curved switches line the outside guardrail with a slither of electrical tape same size as guard rail......this will cut down enough of the freeplay in wheel sets so that they do not move over enough to click on frog points......this will eliminate wear on plastic frog and difuse maybe derailments

-- steve turner (, May 04, 2002.

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