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LGB Turnout Tips

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I have experienced some considerable difficulties with LGB 1600 and 1200 turnouts which I believe are generic to their design. This page describes what I have done to fix these difficulties.


Contents


Pivot Screws on 1600 Series Turnouts

I found that the pivot screws under the point rails on 1600 series turnouts to be loose on almost every turnout that I had. Of course, I discovered this after the screws fell out and I had to pull the turnouts to recover and reinstall the screws.

There is an easy fix. Before you install a turnout, Loctite the screw in place. There are many flavors of Loctite. Only type 222 is especially rated for set screws and it is the ONLY kind that should be used. All of the other types emphasize the "tite" part and if you use them, you'll never get the screw back out if you should ever need to.

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Derailments on 1600 Series Turnouts

photo of frog and guard rail I found that derailments were common with these turnouts when pushing a cut facing point through the curved path of the turnout. The problem is that the curved point rail is gauged way too wide. When a car is pushed, its wheels tend to move to the outside rail (the point rail in this case). When the other wheel, the one on the stock rail, gets to the guard rail, it hits the guard rail. This is supposed to kick the wheel back in place and sometimes it does. However after the soft plastic guard rail gets whacked by a couple of hundred wheel flanges, it gets all dinged up as shown in the photo. The wheel then hangs up on the shredded plastic and cannot slide on the guard rail. Instead, it pops over the guard rail and a derailment occurs.

Several attempts at refacing the guard rail proved fruitless. The only course of action was to fix the problem at its source. The turnouts need regauging so that the wheel on the stock rail actually slips inside the guard rail without actually touching it.

Since moving the point rail looked like it would be very difficult, I instead elected to widen the inside edge of the rail to narrow the gauge. I did this by soldering a 1/32" thick piece of 1/8" to 3/32" wide brass strip stock to the inside of the point rail. This turned out to be actually pretty easy. My Track Soldering Tips Page has instructions you can use to solder the strips. You only need to solder the strips in a couple of spots each. If you look near the frog in the photo above you'll see the added strip. It is trimmed and bent so that if fits right into the frog assembly.

photo of gap in point railThe strip extends down the length of the point rail to the gap between the fixed and moving parts of the point rail. From there another piece extends down to the point.

photo of pointThe point end is trimmed and filed to allow unimpeded wheel passage. I've cut mine about 1/2" short of the existing point and I run a wheelset through the point by hand while twisting and pressing every which way to make sure that the wheel will pass without even feeling the new piece of brass. If the wheel catches anything at all, the point has to be worked over with a grinding tool or file until the wheel can slide through the point like it was a piece of straight (or curved) rail. The gap in the point rail needs to be checked the same way.

Since I've installed this modification on almost every one of my turnouts, derailments are rare.

Even without this modification, almost every LGB turnout needs point work. The point should be worked over with a small file or motor tool grinding wheel so that a wheelset can be pushed through the point without even feeling it.

If you have metal wheels and you hear clicks when your cars are going through turnouts, the turnouts need work. Any wheel noise should be subdued. If not, it indicates that a flange is striking something or a wheel is lifting off the rail and dropping back down. Plastic wheels tend to deaden noise and you may not hear problems as well. Listen very carefully as you drag AND push a train through each and every turnout in both directions and with the turnout set each way. Any unusual click should be investigated and eliminated. There will be soft clicks as the wheels go through the frog even on a perfect turnout, problems are indicated by louder clicks or clicks caused by wheels at the points or the point rail gap. Listen carefully and you'll soon be able to tell the difference.


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LGB 1200 Series Turnouts

I have had less difficulty with LGB 1200 series (tight radius) turnouts, but I still had derailment problems on some turnouts. In this case, the gauge on the curved section is too tight on some but not all units. I believe that this is due to the way that the point rail was bent during manufacture.

The impact of the problem is different, but the result is the same, derailments. When the gauge is too tight, a wheel tends to slip across the frog within the gap then hits the point of the frog straight on and pops over the frog. It appeared that just grinding on the frog would probably make the problem worse, so the solution had to be at the other wheel.

photo of 1200 turnoutThe gap between the guard rail and the stock rail is too large which allows the wheel at the frog to drift into the frog. I glue a 20 to 30 mil styrene or brass strip inside the guard rail to tighten up the spacing. This pulls the wheel on the stock rail over tighter against the stock rail and tends to allow the other wheel to barely slip past the frog. This solution has been effective as long as the added strip stays attached to the guard rail. As discussed below in The Impact of Adhesives on Tie Strips, few adhesives stick well to LGB tie strips.

This modification is not necessary on every turnout, and on some you may have to tweak the strip thickness. If you use too thick a strip, an underguage wheelset will bind between the guard rails on the stock rail and the frog which will cause derailments just as bad as having too thin a strip.

I have had some difficulties LGB 1200 turnouts and the San-Val Little Wheelie Worker track cleaner attachment. The disks will hang up on the end of the point rails when moving trailing point. The solution is to break the corner at the end of the point rail with a fine file to allow the disks to slip over the end of the point rail.


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Power Connectivity Issues

The point rails of both the LGB 1200 and 1600 series turnouts are electrically connected to their associated stock rail by three methods providing triple redundancy. However, when the turnouts are used outside, this is still not good enough to provide 100% reliability. The point rails rest against a stock rail (sometimes), they ride on a metal slider strip (unless the strip gets cruddy which it does) and they pivot on a screw that has a contact wiper under its head. I still have troubles with a point rail going dead sometimes. The easiest and quickest remedy is to grab the point rail and move it back and forth while somewhat forcefully pressing it down onto the contact strip near the point to scrape off the crud that collects on the contact strip. This works in the short term, but it does wear the contract strip faster and it will eventually wear out. On one turnout, I've had so much trouble that I've soldered a small flexible wire jumper between the point rail and its stock rail. If a black wire is used, it can be hidden well enough so that it won't be seen unless someone looks for it.

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Turnout Motor Leaks

photo of LGB turnout motor sealed with hot glueLGB turnout motors have no brushes and only two moving parts so they are usually pretty reliable. However, when they fill with water, they get pretty cruddy inside. The cover is designed to exclude water from entry from above and most of the time that works. However, sometimes a motor will leak through the screw holes for the wire terminals. This leakage can be prevented simply by leaving a bead of hot glue on top of the motor. If access is needed to the screws, the hot glue plug can be simply peeled off.

If your motors are installed in areas where water rises above the openings in the side of the housings and floods the interior, you might want to consider drilling a drain hole in the bottom of the housing. This will let water in sooner, but it will let it out much quicker as well.


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Turnout Motor Stalls

Sometimes a turnout motor will stall before it completes its transition. If a motor stalls, it'll usually complain by buzzing. If the motor buzzes while it moves, its on the edge of a stall. It should snap to its new position very abruptly. There are several common causes of motor stalling.

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Turnout Motor Maintenance

Every year or so, you'll probably have to pop the cover on most of your motors and clean them out. Even one piece of sand in the throwbar channel can bind up a motor. The maintenance procedure is easy, just follow the steps below

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Turnout Motor Controls

schematic diagram of turnout control switchesIf you want to wire your own turnout controls, use one of these diagrams, either configuration will work. The top one uses a slightly more expensive switch, the bottom one uses multiple diodes. I prefer the bottom one which is also the guts of the LGB switch box. Many switches can use the same pair of diodes. In both cases the switches need to be momentary center-off. You'll find them designated:

DPDT (on)-off-(on)
SPDT (on)-off-(on)

Note the ( ) in the designation. This means that that position is momentary. The switch is spring loaded and will return to the center position when the handle is released.


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Impact of Adhesives on the Tie Strips

While trying to reface and shim the guard rails, I discovered that almost nothing will stick to the tie strips used on both LGB and Aristo turnouts and track.

Solvent type cements, CA (super glue), epoxy and the stuff that comes with plastic building kits don't work at all. Regular contact cement works marginally well. GOOP brand silicone adhesives work a little better than contact cement, but still produce only a marginal bond.

Bob Poli writes: "I have also found that closing the space between the guard rail and active rail helps to keep the flange out of the frog. The only success I've had with bonding is to first drill small holes in the plastic rail then bond either brass or styrene strips, I prefer brass, to the side of the plastic rail. I use 5 minute epoxy. The real bond is created by the mechanical bond of the epoxy flowing through the holes and out the other side of the rail. It's best to coat the surface of the plastic rail first and make sure the epoxy goes through the holes. Then apply the brass strip which is preformed to the curve. Try and get some epoxy to encapsulate the brass as much as possible also rough up the brass with some emery paper to help the epoxy to stick. This should last indefinitely and it does help keep flanges between the rails."

photo of brass strip on guard railTodd Brody found that he could reface a damaged plastic guard rail by bending a 1/64" thick by 3/32" wide brass strip around it as shown in the photo. He found specific instances where this improved tracking. I've tried it also and it hasn't worked so well for me. This does get rid of the glue problem however, and the piece is removable and replaceable. Note that brass strip is usually die cut such that the edges on one side are rounded and the edges on the other side are sharper. The rounded edge should be the one facing the wheels.

If you've found another method that works, I'd like to hear about it.



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© 1997-2002 George Schreyer
Created Before Oct 5, 1997
Last Updated January 25, 2002
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