Instalation Of A Tortoise Switch Machine

Slow motion switch machines.

This  is what most of us model railroaders have been  looking for, for a long, long time.

Downside:     In most cases the older  switch machines  slammed the points into the non-moveable rails damaging the points.   Slam, bam, bang, thunk as metal slams into metal.    Never mind some of the weird linkages required to make them workable.     Worst part they didn’t always work, as  in intermittently.  Needless to say:   Happy campers….we weren’t.   Not good!

Upside:   They are better performers then anything presented to date.  How be-it Installing them can be  perceived as difficult at first glance.

With all that said allow me introduce  you to what I think is the finest switch machine out there.    The Tortoise Slow Motion Switch Machine.

Here’s a  How To – Installation of  a  Slow Motion,  Tortoise Switch Machine.

How to install a tortoise slow motion switch machine.

Quick how to, on how i install tortoise switch machines on my ho CSX modular layout.

To install these under the layout requires a certain amount of planning.      Your bench work needs to be installed in such a way that your switch ladders are clear of any obtrusion’s such as a cross member.

After this video click  on the next one to see  how to hard wire or power-up these machines.    To get you started:  They require a constant on.

Gerald wants you to watch his video and see the things on his layout and in a real hurry.     So, get your speedy reading goggles on, so you can   watch it fast.

Follow up on tortoise switch machines and layout update

Published on Apr 25, 2012

How i wire power to my tortoise switch machines, then a quick layout update. Also a rant on train shows…Thanks for watching, Gerald Carroll.

That ended on a weird note.   Hobbies are what hobbies are.   Be a collector!

Gosh, If only we could get the word out to slow down the movement of the camera while filming.  Maybe some slow motion video cameras?   Do you think!   Give your automatic feature a chance to focus.     I hate getting motion sickness, from watching someone’s home made video.

Getting back to the installation.    If you think I’m going to stand on my head to install these under the train table…well….I might.   Yes, It’s a little tough to install them first time out.    You’ll catch on and be amazed at how quickly these go in and  what ways and means you can concoct or come up with… to install them.    Imagination Engineering.

The Tortoise switch machines are without a doubt the most realistic operating switch machines I’ve seen to this date.   No more slam bam and loud unrealistic thunk as the points smash into the non-moveable  rails.    Instead, a nice smooth transition that matches anything you can find on the 1X1 foot scale.     Pretty slick operation.

A reflection on my past:    At a hobby shop I worked for in Kettering, Ohio. The first time we got these in, I was impressed.      Right there in front of me was what I’d been looking for most of my model railroading experience.     A switch machine that acted and behaved like the real deal.   And (the best part) it isn’t visible on the top side of the table.    Now we are talking.

Nice, real nice.


How To – Videos

How To Videos is something we built around.   Here we set out to provide you with some of the best HowTo Video’s available.      I think you will be happy with what you find.

Just to wet your appetite.     Not a How To particularly but a glance down the track at the model railroad you could eventually own and operate.

Large Private Model Railroad RR HO H.O. Scale Gauge Train Layout of Pete Walton’s awesome trains

Pete Walton shares his awesome H.O. Scale / Gauge Model Railroad train layout he calls “The Great Midwestern Railroad”.     Thanks for watching, Lou C. and Pete W..

Nice helicopter ride around the layout.      I thought you’d like that.

You can play with the table top model railroads to your heart’s content and delight.  They will teach you much about Toy Train layouts and/or Model Railroading.    I’d like to think that eventually you will graduate to bigger and better things.    My favorite and something I’d highly recommend you look at is the example given above.    The around the room layouts.       You can do so much more with these.

Many of us have space constraints and I’m one of them.     So we get creative and build in the space we have.     Not a problem.     It’s all about enjoying the layout  and developing it to it’s fullest potential.

You will find here:     Some of the finest modelers, in model railroading featured right here on    Take the time to look around and at the various How To Posts.

Enjoy, have fun and let’s get your railroad empire built.

Just so we understand each other.    I won’t as in will not… design, engineer  or build your layout.     That would be your job, I said with a reassuring smile.     With the help you can find here anything is possible.

Stay tuned to and do your How To research, right here or over there or around the next bend in the track.    Just do me one favor and enjoy the heck out of this hobby.

Time to get it done.


Track – Kato Unitrack & DCC

Kato Unitrack is User Friendly, Plug & Play and DCC Safe.

Yep, I said that.   You’ve probably read where I’ve said that on other postings here on   That is if you’ve been following along with  the discussion on  DCC Friendly Switches.

I decided it was time to dedicate a post to Kato Unitrack and it’s obvious advantages.     Allow Mike Fifer and I to share the good news with you.

Should you like what you see Mike, has a How To Channel that you can subscribe to.   There you will find many of the same videos as found here and more.     So feel free to drop in on him.

Mike Fifers, video with regard to wiring in DCC to Kato Unitrack, will illustrate how simple it is.    When it comes to building a model railroad  it’s the easiest, best in quality and  out performs other sectional track systems.    More benefits then you could possibly ask for.

Wiring for DCC with N Scale Kato Unitrack

Wiring for DCC with N Scale Kato Unitrack. I do not do any thing special or make ANY modifications to run DCC on Unitrack.
Please send us your topics for video ideas. Please limit them to one question per email. Send them to:      Thank-you for tuning in here and lending us your eyes and ears.    The best Mike Fifer.

What do you think?

A testimonial:    I want you to know,  I’ve never seen a track system work as well as the Kato’s Unitrack.    Where I can run trains  virtually trouble free. I’ve never been this happy with any other sectional track system including the performance of  the switches.     Amazing.

One of the benefits I appreciate  is there isn’t an ugly switch machine sitting next to the switches.     They are automated with the solenoid built into the road bed.    The other feature I like is the hot frog that is wired to a built in, sliding mechanical electrical switch that reverses the polarity dependent on how the points are aligned.     Just awesome.

Engineered to perfection.



Track – Flex Track

The most frequently asked question is which brand, style or type of flex track is the best one for my layout?   And/or which flex track is right for me?

When I worked in a LHS I would usually answer with this question:    What is it you are looking for?   Price, quality, convenience and flexibility?   What kind of equipment do you plan on running on the track?   Older equipment with deep flanged wheels or the newer equipment with realistic flanges?     It all depends on the criteria you set for yourself.   Once you’ve established some parameters you can then set out to select the right flex track for you.   Let’s see if we can help you make the right choice.

Here in this post, I will provide you with reviews of a number of different brands, the benefits of each and the quality based on realism.

The problem here is knowing which brand to buy.    They are all great products and will do the job nicely.

Today we have an unprecedented variety of flex track and knowing which one is best for you, can get lost in the shuffle.

Most of us look at the market and choose the cheapest.    After all $5.00 or better a stick of flex track starts to get expensive if you happen to need 20 pieces or better.

Remember when some LHS’s sold flex track at cost.   In hopes of encouraging you to build larger layouts and then stock your layout with an assortment of locomotives, motors, passenger trains, MOW equipment and freight cars galore.      Those days are gone.

I was a cheap freak as a youngster and still am.   I understood the value of a dollar and it wasn’t  much back then.    I had to earn every dollar I spent on my layout and it didn’t come easy.     When it came to buying flex track it was always the cheapest stick.   Uhh…err…that didn’t always work out  as the quality would suffer and it’s longevity on my layout was always in question.    Buying a cheap stick today …well…. that has pretty much flown out the window.    Kiss that reason for buying a particular brand…….good bye.

So, where do we start this discussion.     How about what brand to buy?   Should we buy Atlas, Mini-Trix, Model Power, Micro Engineering and/or Peco flex track?      Just to name a few.   If I left any out it may or may not of been intentional or I was having a senior moment.   So, back to the question.   What brand should you buy?   I think by now you already know my answer.      That’s right!    It will be up to you to choose what’s best for you.

In the meantime, I will share with you a few tips and hopefully provide enough information so you will be well armed to buy the brand that best suits you.

You’ve heard this before:    You can always sit down and make a list of things you are looking for from your flex track.      IE.,    Smooth operations, minimal derailments,  longevity as in it stays put once you put it down.    Or (here it comes) as some toy train enthusiast seem to enjoy… the kid in them. To get  something you can blow up, crash and burn.     I said shaking my head in disgust and sighing out-loud.

Benefits or Values to look for!

  • The more expensive it is the better the quality.
  • The more expensive it is the less flex track you are going to be able to afford to buy.    What?   What?   What did I say?   I think we already covered that point.   Yep, I did.
  • The more flexible it is the easier it might seem to be to work with but you might find that the stiffer flex track will stay put once it’s bent to the radius of curve you need.
  • One side of the track may have a sliding rail.  That certainly has benefits when it comes to installing it.   Works well when offsetting the joints.
  • Properly gauged flex track is important but will it stay in gauge once you start bending it to make curves?    The quick answer is yes and no!   It’s all dependent on how stiff or flexible it is and yes the brand name you buy.
  • Properly sized rails, ties and plastic spike heads may be of importance.
  • How new is your train equipment?    Older pieces of equipment have wheel sets that have been commonly referred to as pizza cutters.   Oversized or deep dish flanges and will need a taller  rail to run on.     Otherwise it goes bouncing down the track in a most disgusting fashion.   Although, I’ve never been able to cut pizza with the name dis-crept wheel sets.
What do I look for?

My favorite heckler is back and as always he’s,  nosy and noisy  as …well.  I think you know what I mean.    Good to have you with us for this presentation.    As he waves back displaying a big wide smile.   “Nice to be recognized”, he responds.

Here are the things I look for.    Keep in mind this is for N scale but the crossover factor to HO or any-other scale would be the same.

  • Price I need something affordable.     That just about leaves out most of them.   Sigh!
  • Realism, I prefer to put in track that is realistic in appearance but will sacrifice some of that for train performance.
  • I prefer a sliding rail.    As already mentioned in other posts, flex track with a sliding rail allows me to join them up by offsetting the joints.

My Thoughts:    From the, “For what it’s worth department”.

I’ve looked at Atlas Code 55 for N scale and am impressed.    Pricey but would be worth buying one stick at a time until I have what I need.

To date on my N Scale mainline… I prefer and use Kato #6 switches and Atlas Code 80 flex track.    This way I can still run my older pizza cutter deep flange wheel sets without watching the train equipment bounce down the rails.     I built this layout prior to the availability of the finer code 55 products and other refinements that have come along since then.

On my N scale layout, I  prefer the Atlas Code 80 because of it’s stencil strength.    A larger rail and ties makes for a much more rigid track installation and the track will, with the assistance of some gap filling cyanoacrylate,   stay in place.

N scale track if not properly installed will snake all over the place with the fluctuation of the temperatures in the train room.  HO is a different animal  with exceptional survival skills.

You don’t have to believe me, just try it out for yourself before you go about  installing it on your layout.     Some brands are more sensitive to heat and cold, expansion and contraction…..worse  or better then others.

From Mike Fifer, a review of several brands of flex track.    Featuring his thoughts on the subject.

Lets take a look at N Scale Code 55 Track

We will compare three brands of N Scale code 55 Model Railroad track. Micro-Engineering , Peco , and Atlas.    Thanks for watching Mike Fifer.


**The weakest link on any model railroad is the rail joiners.    Do keep that in mind as you watch this next video.**


Charlie Comstock,  presents some ideas and procedures that seem to be ever popular in today’s model railroading world.    It’s old school and the idea has been around longer then I have.  As have the problems with installing flex track.     The procedure you are about to see is sometimes referred to as the lazy mans way of connecting or joining track.

Let’s see how should I say this,  I don’t recommend this particular way and means of joining track.   That sounded critical.   Allow me to explain.    He doesn’t offset the joint which can cause him unwanted mainenance problems down the road.    The other thing is he removes the ties under the rail so he can install the rail joiners.   Then he solders the feeder wires under and to the rail joiners.  I hear the yeah but committee out there saying.   But Rick we do this all the time.   Agreed, and yes I see it all the time.   You are correct!   All kinds of home, club and group layouts install their track the same way.  Yes, but…Charlie does it so well.

It’s up to you but soldering  the feeder wires to the back side of the rail joiners can cause problems as the track ages.   Then the question of:   What happens if you have to un-solder or re-solder those joints?   The wires underneath will break loose.   Your just asking for more frustrations and trouble then it’s worth.

One point Charlie makes and I agree whole-heartedly with.    On a curve, the ties need to be properly aligned in order to maintain the proper gauge of the track.   I’ve had track narrow and go out of gauge and alignment.   Ties bunching up because I choose to put the sliding rail on the inside of the curve.      Causing unwanted derailments as the wheels climb up and out of the rails.    It’s ok, each to his own.   Take a look and judge for yourself.


From MRH and Charlie Comstock, some ideas on how to install HO, ME’s flex track.

ME flex track laying tips | getting good trackwork | Model Railroad Hobbyist | MRH – MRH columnist Charlie Comstock provides a number of great tips for laying MicroEngineering flex track. Part of the September 2014 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine.   We at MRH want to thank you for visiting with us.

I talk more about this and give you some alternative How To’s in other posts here on   See:    Structurally Sound Rail Joints.


You should now have plenty of information to work with.   I wish you the best with the choices you make.

Keep the cards and letters coming and let us know how your layout is progressing.

Oh, by the way  the video where aunt Bertha falls down on the floor at the last train show and her dress is up and over her head.    That wasn’t pretty.      I really enjoyed the  post card, the one with the picture of aunt Linda coming out of the outhouse.   However, the realistic smells you sent with the card….stunk.    Was that some sort of message? Was that a hint?


This post is a work in progress so keep coming back to see what’s new.