Using DCC with Live Frog turnouts: 1:20.3, outdoors : LUSENET : Wiring for DCC : One Thread

I've just purchased a number of the new Outback turnouts, handlaid on wood ties which have live frogs. I'm using the Lenz 10 Amp DCC system to operate an outdoor 1:20.3 layout. I'd like to use hand type throws rather than the LGB type switch motors which eliminates the obvious built to route power as the switch is thrown assuming I totally isolate the frog. The manufacturer suggested thatI cut the rail in front of the frog toward the points only, but it would appear that in doing so, I would still have a problem. I could use some advice here from those of you who have been here, done that. Thanks in advance, Don Yelverton

-- Don Yelverton (, July 09, 2003



I'm not familar with this new turnout. I am also not clear as to whether you intend to power route the frog. I think you are saying you intend to use it dead so you don't have to power route. Correct me if I am wrong.

If you intend to have a dead frog, then you are essentially building an Atlas HO style turnout. Look at my web page

I do a dead frog in the garden. I have #6 turnouts. The dead frog is about 3.5" long (I'm guessing. I'm too lazy to go measure one!) In any event, a dead frog about that long does occassionally stall a very slow moving Mogul. (While the Mogul is long enough that this theoretically would not be a problem, this assumes perfect contact on clean track by the wheels not on the frog.) It only happens when very slow, like during a switching move. I live with it. It isn't enough of a problem for me to warrant the effort to power route in the garden.

If you go for a dead frog, definitely make it as short as you can. If you think the stalls might bother you, you might want to bury a wire so that you can power route if you change your mind.

BTW: I live in the Dallas Texas area. We have found that DCC steam locos won't run when it's above 95. In a few cases, they won't even start up! They are in thermal overload even before power is applied! The throttles also flaked out twice during a recent show. It will soon be 100 or more. None of us do much running anyway this time of year. I do track maintenace on weekend mornings during July and August. So as long as we don't have any shows, it isn't a big problem. I just thought those considering DCC in the garden should know. I have four manufacturers of decoders in the garden. All have exhibited the problem.

I run all steam. Some diesel people put computer fans in them. That might buy them a few degrees, but it isn't air conditioning and hot ambient air is hot ambient air. I do now mount the decoders in the cab to get a little air. It doesn't help when it is just plain hot out. But when its say 90, it will make the difference if a loco will run the whole show or shut down in the middle of it.

So if you live in a very hot area, buy yourself a live steamer for the months of July and August! :)

-- Allan Gartner (, July 09, 2003.


Having lived in Charlotte like yourself and knowing your climate, there should only be a few days a year that might be too hot.

I definitely suggest trying the dead frog. It's simply easier in the garden! If it doesn't work out, then you go through the extra effort of wiring it.

When going the dead frog route, make the dead area as small as possible. That means four cuts - one to each rail leaving the frog. Yes, the advice to ensure that nothing moves while you are cutting is good. There are a number of creative way to ensure no movement of the rail when you cut. Of course, you start by using a method that won't cause the rail to kick when cut. I don't know your particular turnout, so you pick the best cutting method.

Then make sure the rail can't move. You can mount the switch as suggested and then make the cut. You could also buy some Micro Engineering ties and spikes, spike the rail solidly (perhaps 2 spikes to each side of the rail JUST TO BE ABSOLUTELY SURE there won't be any movement), cut the rail, and then, if you want, remove the ME tie and install your turnout.

You will need to determine if the guard rail around the frog is electrically attached. Get someone to ohm that out for you if you don't have a meter. Obviously, if it is attached to the frog, that will set how short you can make the dead area.

The guard rails adjacent to the outside stock rails are not an issue.

You appear to be getting advice not to cut the rails after the frog. Perhaps you have extremely short rails after your frog and cutting clear of the frog would not make an inch of difference. If that is the case, you will still need insulated joiners. Because no matter what, to have a dead frog, you need to be insulated from all four rails.

If you are not using code 332 rail, the LGB insulated joiners are are very loose on 250. They can be used, but the track needs to be well anchored as the loose LGB joiners won't do you any good. As I have developed track problems from the Texas heat and strange, morphing clay dirt we have, I have had to go with insulating clamp joiners. You may want to use those as they will fit tightly and will help ensure rail alignment.

When you cut the rails on the frog, be sure to use either insulating clamps to keep them apart, find a way to get LGB joiners in there to hold them apart, or epoxy some plastic in between the rails. Outdoor rail expansion is real. If you don't do something, they will touch. Do not use CA type glues. Expansion will put stress on the joint. Outdoor modelers have found that even on their plastic buildings, eventually the heat stress, breaks the CA joint. So use epoxy or Liguid Nails Subfloor Adhesive. The LN seems to work quite well outdoors. (See the pictures my stone bridges. That is what is holding the stones to the cement underneath)

Lastly, if you have to power route, I do not suggest the LGB mechanisms. Several reasons. One, we have found the LGB switch machines and such work quite well on LGB turnouts. But they have JUST enough throw for LGB turnouts. I tried them on my code 250's and there was just barely NOT enough. Second, while they can be used outdoors, they are not waterproof. Worse, they are not dirt proof. So they perodically fail and cost about 2/3 of new for LGB to repair. I was warned about this and it indeed happens. Many people pay the repair bill, but I quickly got tired of the cost. Third, the LGB mechanisms have just enough strength when the switches are perfectly clean. A little dirt and corrosion can keep the points from moving or moving far enough. Use them indoors, use them on outdoor track that is not ground mounted. I finally switched to air powered turnouts.

Groundthrows are cool, but be sure you are not as clumbsy as I. I was afraid I would trip over them. I discussed this was a sales person at a convention and this indeed happens. I have a walkthrough layout and this would be a huge problem for me. If you don't have a walkthrough, or many that don't get walked near, then its a more viable approach. I hope that you can use them. They would definitely look neat.

-- Allan Gartner (, July 10, 2003.


I thought of something else for you:

Instead of buying Micro Engineering ties to temporarily anchor your track, you can just cut strips of wood on a table or radial arm saw. Watch those fingers!

What I forgot: If you use temporary ties, put them on BOTH sides of the area you intend to cut. Yes, that is a lot of nails. In HO, we use 4 nails per rail cut. One on each side of each rail.

If you have track gauges that fit tightly onto your track, you can use them. I just happen to have such gauges for my G. They are machined from aluminum and made just for my particular brand of rail. Kadee makes a G gauge, but like most HO gauges, it just checks the gauge. It isn't intended to withstand the kick of a cutting tool. Maybe you can clamp one down tight enough to do the job.

-- Allan Gartner (, July 10, 2003.

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