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Thread: Trouble with Peco Electrofrog

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    Default Trouble with Peco Electrofrog

    I need some advice from our electronics gurus. I have several Peco Electrofrogs on my layout and have wired them all the same, but am having trouble with one. Some locos will cross it without a problem, but especially BLI sound units (PAs, F3s) will either stall momentarily, or the sound will stop and then do its start-up routine. Even my reliable Kato E8 will slow a little. This seems to happen only on this one turnout.

    I got out a voltmeter and made some measurements, which I am puzzled about. I am running Digitrax DCC (old Chief system) and use Tortoise switch machines to control the turnouts. I remove the spring in the Pecos and use an extra heavy control wire in the Tortoises to make sure there is good contact between the stock rail and the switch rails. I donít modify any of the wires on the back of the Peco. On this particular turnout, I have wired the frog to the switched contacts on the Tortoise so it should be powered. I have cut insulated gaps in all rails at the ends of both the straight and diverging routes, but not at the points end of the turnout. The Tortoise is controlled by a DS64.

    When the turnout is set in the straight route position (closed) and I measure AC voltage, I get 11.7 V across all rails: the entrance rails to the turnout and exit rails, the switch rail-straight stock rail pair, the straight closure rail-stock rail pair, and the frog to stock rail pair. However, when I set the turnout to the diverging route position (thrown), things get strange. I get 11.7 V at both ends of the turnout, however, when I measure the voltage between the switch rail and the diverging stock rail, the diverging closure rail and the stock rail, or the frog and the diverging stock rail, the voltage seems to jump around. It usually starts at about 6 V and then slowly climbs to about 9.5 V, sometimes to 12.5 V, sometimes it stays at about 6 V. I have checked for loose connections and donít see any obvious ones, although havenít actually taken the wiring connector off the Tortoise to check for a fractured solder joint, but that is my next step (itís harder to reach, so I havenít gotten to that yet). Is that the likely culprit or am I missing something else? If so, I can understand why that would affect the frog voltage, but why would it affect the voltage to the other rails?

    Thanks,

    Dan

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    It sounds like you're relying on the point rails to bring power to the frog? Is that right?

    If so, this could be the problem. Over time, dirt, paint, and oxidation can degrade the electrical contact between those moving parts. Cleaning might help temporarily, but long-term, soldering a switched lead to the frog is the best solution (luckily, the tortoise can help with this.)

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    Oh wait, maybe you already had that. If it's just the switch rails that are dropping off (not the closure or the frog,) you probably need to solder a little jumper wire between the closure rail and its switch rail. I've had to do this on a few switches.

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    There are two contact connections in the Peco, the points and the hinges. Both have to work to get a circuit to the frog. Sounds like one or the other has dirt or something on the diverging rail. But the Tortoise aux switch should take care of it, which implies that the either the connections to the tortoise or the frog are faulty, or the internal wiper in the tortoise isn't touching the contact pad (least likely).

    T
    he biggest suspect (the way I solder) would be the solder connection at the frog. You could unsolder it from the tortoise and check the resistance between the tortoise-end of the wire and the frog.

    One way to investigate the point contacts is to dab some dielectric grease (from auto parts store, used for headlight bulb replacement) between the point and the rail, and back at the hinge. You could also try bending the tortoise's throw wire a little to get it to shove harder on the diverging side.

    You could also proceed by replacing the wires to the tortoise, and using the other pole's contacts when you do it.

    Not sure why you needed to remove the spring.


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    Thanks for the suggestions. Just to clarify: the frog is wired to the switch contact on the Tortoise, which switches rail polarity depending on which way it’s thrown. In any case, when I measure voltage directly at either the frog or the switch rail (pressing it against the rail) I still get this weird drop - and then, only in one direction (diverging route). When the turnout is closed for the straight route, voltages are fine. If the solder at the frog was faulty, wouldn’t it be so in both directions?

    My additional puzzlement is, if there is a loose wire, why does the voltage always start low and then build gradually up. I would think it would go up and down randomly? It always starts at around 5-7 V and then slowly climbs. Is this something strange due to the way the square wave DCC signal is being perceived by the voltmeter?

    Regarding the spring (which is made to hold the points against the stock rails), sometimes but not always, if you leave the spring in place it can slow the motion of the points just enough to cause a brief short. Since the Tortoise (especially with a slightly stronger wire) holds the points tightly, there is no need for the spring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by danb View Post
    If the solder at the frog was faulty, wouldn’t it be so in both directions?
    The diverging is a different rail and different pivot than the through.
    When the turnout is switched to straight you could be getting 100% contact via the point rail, making the tortoise switch superfluous.

    I can't say why you see a drop. I've seen similar weird things with my electronic multimeter that don't show up on my analogue. The electronic has logic built in to automatically determine the voltage range and it could be getting fooled somehow by an intermittent signal, but that's just guesswork on my part. If you still have a DC controller you could hook it up and check the DC volts, maybe that would give clearer readings.

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