Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tracking turnout issues

Like many modelers, I opted to use Micro-Engineering turnouts on this layout due to the appearance and the fact that they have a a built in spring mechanism to hold the points in position without the need for any under table mechanical or electrical devices.
While all turnouts need some tweaking prior to installation, I've noticed some disappointing - infuriating actually - issues with the latest batch of Micro Engineering turnouts I obtained.

Actually, it started with some of the first dozen or so - cars and engines derailed regularly at the frog on several of them. At first I suspected the frogs were too high (a common problem with ME from a few years ago). But that wasn't the case here. Closer examination revealed a piece of plastic sticking up above the rail head surface - essentially the plastic filling the insulating gap where the frog connects to the closure rails was sticking up - quite a bit (close to .040-050" by my best estimate. I was able to trim it away on top easily enough, but this same plastic had filled the inside of the rail web - not as easy to remove.

Second issue - the latest batch of turnouts I bought earlier this year  have some sort of systemic issues with the throw mechanism since all (okay, 17 out of 20) of the springs don't snap back to one side when they're thrown. In other words, they only stay thrown right or left. It's like the spring has too much tension in one direction and not enough in the opposite direction.

Third issue - much less common - but on several of the turnouts it takes little - very little - force for the rail to spring free of the ties. In one case I'd used a rail cutters to shorten the straight side of the turnout only for the entire rail to come off in my hands.

I'm frankly at a loss for what to do - I have a fair number of these installed (the entire mainline "loop" - and I've gotten savvy enough to know I need to check for these issues and avoid installing any turnouts that exihibit these problems. But I do need turnouts for the peninsulas and don't really want to have to buy 60 turnouts to get 20 that work correctly. And I certainly don't want to have to rebuild the things.

What I'm leaning towards is to leave the ones that are down and working in place - knowing full well that I might have to replace them "someday."

I might just handlay the turnouts for the peninsulas - but that obviously is going to take more time and I really wanted to get all the track in place by the end of the summer. Perhaps "temporary" track (Peco, Atlas, etc...) on the Richford peninsula - enough to finalize the track arrangement? I don't know.



Jack Shall said...

There is a thread currently running on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum on these issues with ME turnouts. However a few comments indicate problems also with other brands. For the price of today's turnouts, one would think that the things would work properly and be in gauge!


DandHColonieMain said...

I had similar problems with ME turnouts within the last year that I documented on my blog. It was so frustrating that I replaced one with a Peco, and am still thinking I should replace now before I start ballasting. Three more had throwbar issues that I only fixed partially. It really is upsetting.

Todd Hermann said...

Sorry to hear about the turnout troubles, Marty. I have one final batch of ME turnouts still to be purchased for my east-end staging, so your report of their latest QC troubles gives me pause...

Like many (everyone?), I have a love/hate relationship with ME turnouts. They can be maddeningly fussy and fragile, but they look good and are usually easy to get, so I keep coming back for more. I've come to terms with the fact that someday some of them will fail and need to be replaced. Not a great feeling - especially once ballast and scenery is in place, but so it goes. At the risk of jinxing myself, so far I haven't had to do any replacements, but my railroad definitely has a couple hold-your-breath-when-you-use-them, "problem child" turnouts. I just tell myself that they accurately recreate the real-life deferred maintenance issues of my prototype!

If Peco gets serious about doing a range of Code 70 turnouts in their US Line, I'd likely switch to using them immediately. Not sure where Peco stands with the Code 70 HO offerings, though. Good luck! -Todd

Matthieu Lachance said...

Frustrating to hear that Marty! I just recently acquired some ME code 70 turnouts thinking they would be as reliable as good old Peco code 83. I'll certainly take a serious look at them before laying down any track. Thanks for sharing.

CVSNE said...

I was holding out hope that Peco would get their Code 70 line out in time for me to use on this layout - but it really looks like it's going to be a considerable amount of time (years??!) until that happens and I simply didn't want to wait.
My understanding is ME is good about replacing bad turnouts -

I guess it's good news (??) that the issue is immediate - the throw bars either work, or they don't.
But prudence dictates carefully checking each one immediately upon removing it from the package.