Soldering
Turnouts
Track
Parts
Locomotives
Q&A Forum
Turnout Control
Sound
Booster Network
Decoder Installations
Block Detection
Wire Resistance
Site Map / Index
DCC for Beginners
DCC in the Garden
HO RR Photos
Home
Manufacturers
DCC Topics
Garden Rwy Photos

Peco Turnouts


Peco Unifrog - New & DCC Friendly Right Out of the Package!

The Unifrog has a "U" in its part number.

As of today (October 14, 2018) is not fully available in code 83. In code 83, it is available as a crossover and a double-slip. It is available as a standard turnout in N-scale. This description is based on my examination of an N-scale turnout.

N-Scale Peco Unifrog
Note the wire in the bottom of the photo beneath the frog. This is the wire for powering the frog.

What is the Unifrog?

The Unifrog has a small, electrically isolated frog that can be power routed. The frog is about the size of the Peco Insulfrog. This means that you possibly could avoid power routing the turnout and use it like an Insulfrog. Or you can power route it like the Peco Electrofrog. The Unifrog appears to be a mix of the best between the Insulfrog and Electrofrog. One could expect that Peco may intend to discontinue the Insulfrog and Electrofrog and only offer the Unifrog.

Modelers who didn't want to power route their turnouts gambled by installing Insulfrogs and hoped everything would work. Now that gamble isn't such a big risk. All you have to do is drop the supplied frog wire through a hole in your benchwork and roll your dice. If you find your locomotives don't like the isolated frog, you can easily hook up the frog wire and now use your turnout with a power routed frog.

Before I go further, if you currently have Electrofrogs or are wondering if you should wait until Peco expands their Unifrog product line, relax. I'm about to build a new layout with Pecos myself. The Unifrog has a few nice features over the Electrofrog, but it doesn't render them an obsolete choice. Go ahead and use any Electrofrogs you have on hand. Feel free to buy more if you need to while you wait for Unifrogs. I describe how to wire Electrofrogs below.

With the Electrofrog, you needed to use two insulated joiners on the frog rails to prevent downstream DCC tracks from shorting out. The Unifrog is like the Insulfrog. The frog rails are not tied to the frog and don't change polarity with the frog. So no insulated joiners are needed with the Unifrog.

With the Electrofrog, you had the option of power routing the the closure rails and frog with the flipping of the point rails. You don't have that option with the Unifrog. Don't worry, if you are new to DCC, this was an option you don't need. So there is nothing to snip as was the case with the Electrofrog.

As a bonus to not having the power routing rails option, Peco has already attached the closure rails to the stock rails. These are four solder connections you don't have to make!

The only solder connections you need to make to the turnout itself is to the stock rails. Peco has already connected a wire to the frog for you.

The blue frog rail is tied directly to the blue stock rail. You will note a jumper around the frog for the rails I show in red. This connects the red frog, closure, and stock rail together. This is an electrically acceptable thing to do.

If there is anything with the Unifrog that MIGHT cause some concern, it is how close the two closure rails come to each other near the frog. The N-scalers in our club tell me that they have had turnouts like this before and never had a problem. I'll give Peco the benefit of the doubt and won't worry either. If you do have shorts at the frog, some fingernail polish on the inside edge of the rail at this point should solve the problem.

You have the option of power routing your frog or leaving it disconnected. Small wheel base locomotives or those that only have a few wheels picking up power, may have problem with this. If you are a gambler, leave it disconnected and see if you have problems. Even if you elect to leave it disconnected for now, I suggest you attach a wire about 6" to 12" inches (150-30mm) long now and drop this through a hole in your benchwork. Should you find that you need to power route your frog later, you will have something to attach to. Otherwise, you will find yourself under your layout trying to solder to a very short wire above your head. You will hate yourself later if you don't attach a wire to it now!

As a bonus to N-scale modelers, Ken Klipple, who provided the turnout for my examination, made some mechanical measurements on the turnout. Since I have no experience in knowing how close they need to be perfect to be good, I simply provide them for you to make your own judgement. Click here for the zip file containing the xlsx and ods files.

 

How to Wire This Turnout:

This section assumes you have read "How to Wire Turnouts" in the section on turnouts.

1. Run a wire from each stock rail to the corresponding bus wire as shown in color above.

2. Optionally, you may want to jumper the hinge point between the closure rails and point rails. If you do this, a very small wire, like a #28 or #30 AWG wire is suggested. Be careful and don't interfere with the flipping of the points. As I said, this is an optional step. In N-scale, attached this wire would be difficult and probably should only be attempted by modelers who consider themselves to be expert solderers.

3. If you want to power route your frog, attach the frog wire (shown in green) to the output of a Frog Juicer, a Tortoise, a manual switch, or any other device you have for controlling your frog polarity. See the section on "How to Wire Turnouts" for ideas on doing this.

Note: You do not need to use insulated joiners anywhere on this turnout.

SUGGESTION #2-12a:  Peco "Insulfrog" Turnout Is DCC Friendly As Is.

Code 75, 83, 100

The Insulfrog is DCC ready as is.  The insulated part of the frog is much smaller than the frog on an Atlas turnout.  So you have a better chance of an 0-4-0 making it across this frog without a problem and without power routing the frog.  Note though that all four wheels of the 0-4-0 must pick up track power which is commonly the case.

You cannot power route the frog of this switch.  If you wanted to power route the frog of a switch, you would not purchase this switch.

Note also that the metal guard rail portions of the frog are not powered at all and therefore would not cause a short should a train derail on the frog.

Option 1:  Peco provides a place for you to install these jumpers.  Installing them would better able enable a short to allow your booster to shut itself down.  They would also help prevent the jumpers Peco provided on the back across the frog from becoming hot spots and melting the frog.

Option 2:  Place these across the hinge of the points.  These would help prevent the points from having poor electrical contact years down the road.

How to Wire This Turnout:

This section assumes you have read "How to Wire Turnouts" in the section on turnouts.

1. Run a wire from each point rail to the corresponding bus wire as shown in color above.

2. Run a wire from each stock rail to the corresponding bus wire as shown in color above.

Note: You do not need to use insulated joiners anywhere on this turnout.

SUGGESTION:  Solving Shorts in a Peco "Insulfrog" Turnout

The following was contributed by Dale Gloer, dale.gloer@telus.net

Peco Insulfrog - Short Issues

File the top of the rail heads in the area so they slope towards the plastic insulating piece between them.

I have indicated the trouble area with an arrow. As you can see (although the very point of the frog is hard to make out) the point of the frog is plastic and the plastic extends as an insulator between the 2 frog rails. On this particular switch the spacing between the rails is fairly wide and it is unlikely this switch would cause problems. But on some the rails are closer together so that the insulating piece is also narrow and it is possible for a wheel tread to bridge the two rails. It is very easy to determine if the problem is caused by a wheel tread bridging the two rails. Just cover the rails in that narrow area with a piece of scotch tape. For a permanent fix I use a file and bevel the 2 rail heads so that the rail heads slope down toward the plastic insulator. It doesn't take much to fix the problem. I know others who paint the rails with clear lacquer, even leaving a piece of scotch tape on the rails is a fairly durable solution. I ran that way quite a while before I tried filing the rail heads, in fact I've got one now with tape on it.

SUGGESTION #2-12b:  Peco "Electrofrog" Turnout Is DCC Friendly In Just a Few Snips.

The Peco "Electrofrog" has an "E" in it's part number.

Peco electrofrogs come in several variants depending on the scale of the turnout and the angle of the turnout. I'd have to buy one of every turnout to be sure I have everything right. If you find that I have categorized your favorite turnout incorrectly, please do two things:
1. Use the diagram I have shown that most closely resembles your turnout.
2. Write me so that I can correct this page.

Code 75, 83, 100:

The Peco turnout is a clever design.  It can be a typical power routed turnout or a DCC friendly one.  It is proof positive that manufacturers can make turnouts that suit all modelers' needs without it costing more to make them.

Let this be a public thank you on behalf of all model railroaders for a company responding to the needs of those who buy your product - by choice and because modelers like it, not because it is the least evil on the market.

This is a great improvement. The problem with the frog shorting is completely eliminated with no serious cutting effort on the part of the modeler required. Not only does not modeler not need to saw on the turnout, potentially risking damage, but also the jumpers around the frog do not need to be cut.

The only jumpers that need to be cut are those shown. Be careful not to cut those across the frog!

You have less problem of a dead frog with this arrangement. Furthermore, the desire to use a light bulb is drastically reduced.

So that you don't have to solder to the frog, powering the frog is now provided by some wires.

Congratulations Peco!

How do you know you have this type of turnout? It sounds like the wires coming out the side would be a fast and obvious indication. Furthermore, you should notice breaks in the turnout, indicated at the "CUT JUMPERS" point not present in the turnout I show above. And of course, the turnout I show above does not have the jumpers to be cut!

How to Wire This Turnout:

This section assumes you have read "How to Wire Turnouts" in the section on turnouts.

1. Remove jumpers from back of frog as shown.

2. Add jumper between stock rails and closure rails as shown. Or, for less solder joints to your track, drop feeders from each closure rail to your buses as shown in color above.

3. Connect the frog to your power routing switch or switch machine.

4. Connect your power routing switch or switch machine to your bus as shown in the above drawing. If the locomotive shorts when it goes across the frog, swap the wires that connect your power routing switch or switch machine to your bus.

5. Install insulated joiners as shown.

6. Run a wire from each point rail to the corresponding bus wire as shown in color above.

7. Run a wire from each stock rail to the corresponding bus wire as shown in color above.

Electrofrog - Top View
Note the insulating gaps in the closure rails in the right half of the picture.

Photos by Dale Gloer

Electrofrog - Underneath View Unmodified

Electrofrog - Underneath View
Notice bonds between stock and closure rails in right side of view.
Also, the jumpers have been cut. Also note the wire leaving the frog and dropping towards the bottom of the picture. Solder a wire to this to power route your frog.

SUGGESTION #2-12c: Code 55 and Older Turnouts

Code 55, (75, 100 older):

This applies to the current code 55 turnouts and may apply to some of the older code 75 and 100 turnouts.

The code 55 turnouts, SL-E391F and SL-E395F shown at right, come in two variations that have no impact on how you use the turnout. These variations are in how the frog jumpers are placed on the back of the turnout.

The significant difference between these turnouts and other Peco turnouts is that Peco has not pre-cut the rails leading to the frog. Hence the jumpers between the frog and closure rails are not present. In order to isolate the frog from the closure rails, you will need to cut the rails as shown in the drawing above.

Thanks to Kay Sievert for providing this photo.

Peco code55 Electrofrog bottom

SL-E391F (#4 N) left and SL-E395F (#6 N) right.

Option:  I also suggest that you solder jumpers (called bonds) from each closure rail to the corresponding point rail to ensure life-long good electrical contact and avoid a potential hot spot. Better yet, drop feeders from the point rails to the bus. Bonds sometimes make the turnout too stiff for some switchmachines.

You will need to use insulated joiners on the ends of the frog rails and will need to power route the frog as shown.

If you stop here, you will have a potential short situation at the frog should a train derail.  I suggest that you spend another 30 seconds and cut the frog as shown.  This will electrically insulate the guard rails from the frog.

After you isolate the frog, you will need to power the closure rails. On some Peco turnouts, Peco has left a gap in the plastic ties to allow you to easily add jumpers shown in the drawing as "ADD JUMPERS." Such gaps can be seen in the photo of the code 75, 83, and 100 turnouts. As you can see in the photo of the code 55 turnouts, they have not provided anywhere for you to do this. You can either install the jumpers by cutting the plastic with a sharp knife, or you can add feeders that connect between your closure rails and your bus under the layout. This actually results in two less solder joints on your turnout. You will, of course, still need two feeders from your stock rails.

With this type of turnout, I suggest you use the light bulb to reduce the likelihood of your system's shut down due to a derailment on the frog.  Also, the light bulb protects against a short due to someone coming into the switch when the points are not thrown in their direction.  If you do not cut the frog as shown, then I definitely recommend you use the light bulb.  Without the bulb, a derailment on the frog will definitely cause a short.   See the track wiring section for more information on using light bulbs.

How to Wire This Turnout:

This section assumes you have read "How to Wire Turnouts" in the section on turnouts.

1. Remove jumpers from back of frog as shown.

2. Add jumper between stock rails and closure rails as shown. Or, for less solder joints to your track, drop feeders from each closure rail to your buses as shown in color above.

3. Connect the frog to your power routing switch or switch machine.

4. Connect your power routing switch or switch machine to your bus as shown in the above drawing. If the locomotive shorts when it goes across the frog, swap the wires that connect your power routing switch or switch machine to your bus.

5. Install insulated joiners as shown.

6. Run a wire from each point rail to the corresponding bus wire as shown in color above.

7. Run a wire from each stock rail to the corresponding bus wire as shown in color above.

SUGGESTION #2-12d:  Connecting Feeders to a Peco Electrofrog Turnout:

by Charles Steadman

Charles wrote this regarding the code 55 Peco for N-scale. It should work on other sizes of Peco turnouts as well.
BEFORE
AFTER
peco frog front before peco after front frog
peco back before peco after back

They have a neat little wire that runs from one frog rail around the far side to the opposite closure rail, then to the next closure rail, and back to the other side of the frog. This seems a bit pointless initially, as the frog rails themselves are electrically connected internally (even though they appear to have a very thin insulating plastic piece at the frog point).

But it makes it spectacularly easy to convert, without any need to solder wire to any rail. A picture is in order. Or rather, two. The first (attached) picture shows both sides of the turnout "out of the box". The second picture shows how I butchered it. By cutting the tiny loop between the closure rails, and then cutting both connecting wires halfway along their length (using wire cutters or a dremel), you end up with four "feeders" pointing down. Two of these feeders come from the frog rails, which can be soldered together and connected to the output of the tortoise (or DPDT or whatever you want to use), and the other pair (one from each of the closure rails) can be run down again to the tortoise or switch, and on to the main bus to feed power to the closure rails and the frog. The stock rails of course pick up their power from somewhere else, or the next bit of track along the line somewhere.

Having bent down these closure rail feeders (see 'after' picture), you can now whizz a dremel straight through the pair of frog guard rails (the continuation of the closure rails) in order to insulate them. The feeders are right at the end of the new (shorter) closure rails, and the frog guards are now safe. There's enough plastic support around that going all the way through the rails (you have to, as the picture shows) doesn't significantly affect the support of the rails. Total preparation time -- a few seconds per turnout.

The point rails are extremely thin and flexible, and the force of the throw actually bends them against the stock rails for almost an inch of their total two inch length. They also have reasonably substantial hinges to the closure rails. So for now, I haven't dropped feeders from the point rails for fear of melting something nearby. With code 55 rail, as you probably know, it's actually code 80 rail half-buried in the plastic (only 0.055 being visible above the sleepers), so once you start heating up one of the rails to solder something to it, you can melt a good number of sleepers quick quickly.

I also have a wye and curved turnouts in this style. Unfortunately, Peco haven't done the same with these -- the 'joining' wire runs straight from the frog rails to the closure rails (up near the frog point), and so you can't get the three required power feeders for free. You can get the one from the frog, and then you have to solder feeders to the closure rails for power. More melted plastic. Not the end of the world though, and you still get the ability to slice through the closure rails to insulate the frog easily.

Wiring Double-slip Electrofrog Turnouts for DCC:

The following was contributed by Dale Gloer, dale.gloer@telus.net

It has essentialy 2 frogs and 4 set of hinged point rails. The point rails are attached in pairs to two throw bars. That is, one throw bar moves 4 points. It requires 2 switch machines. Each frog is wired to the machine that moves the throw bar opposite it. (It is really 2 turnouts overlaid on each other, if you treat it as two turnouts, everything makes sense.)

I have 2 Peco code 75 electrofrog double slips. They come with frog power wires attached and require some method of routing frog power, I use a set of contacts on the Tortoise switch machines to do this. Just follow the instruction sheet. The only thing that I did as a mod was to add bond wires across the point hinges. Four of the bonds were easy to install, the other 4 requred a little creativity.

Except for adding bonds, which you would do to improve reliability whether DCC or not, Dale is basically saying that you don't need to do anything special to use the Peco Electrofrog Double-slip with DCC. Just follow the instructions that come with the turnout. - Allan

Wiring Peco Electrofrog Crossings

This section has been moved to the crossings topic in the Track 2 web page.


 
PECO
 

Copyright by Allan Gartner 1996 - 2018 © All rights reserved. You may print this for your own, personal, non-commercial use. Non-commercial, non-personal reproduction may be requested by visiting www.WiringForDCC.com/writeme.htm . All users, commercial and non-commercial, may link only to this site at www.WiringForDCC.com.

Thanks to all who contribute to this site and the Q&A forum!