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Peco Electrofrog Points

Barry from Lancashire in the UK asks:

“I’m about to buy my first track sections and am leaning towards Peco because they do electrofrog points which I will need for DCC. I’m trying to get my head around the technical stuff but am finding it all a bit confusing. If I went with Hornby instead, do they also have a type of electrofrog points? I had a look around and got confused because they have different names I think?. I just want to compare apples with apples, buy the best, and stick with one brand, so thought I would ask.”

7 Responses to Peco Electrofrog Points

  • Nicholas Westwoodsays:

    First, Hornby do not supply electrofrog points.
    Secondly, Electrofrog points are not a must for DCC operation, but they do lessen the chance of smaller locos such as Class 08 diesels or tiny terriers stalling due to their limited number of wheel pick ups. They also provide better operation for sound equipped locos compared to insulfrog points as these can interrupt the sound chip; again mostly applicable to smaller locos with fewer wheel pick ups.
    I prefer electrofrog personally, and once you get acquainted with how to operate them it is quite straightforward.

  • Herveysays:

    First you do not need Peco “Electrofrog” turnouts for DCC. Truth be told the “Insulfrog” turnouts are easier to install for DCC. The reason to use Electrofrog is appearance (metal frog) and more closer resemblance the real thing. With Electrofrog the frog has to be isolated from all rails and then the appropriate polarity current is applied based on whether the turn out is thrown or closed. Sounds intimidating but it isn’t that difficult. You are better to look up how to make the turnout DCC friendly on line and then you will see what you want to do.
    The insulfrog turn out is easier to make DCC friendly. All you have to do is use insulated joiners on the two tracks leaving the frog. Their polarity and current is supplied to those tracks by the point rail that contacts a stock rail. The disadvantage is the frog itself is insulated hence it supplies no power to the locomotive. This is usually not a problem unless you have dirty track or very short wheel base locos. Dirty track can be addressed easily.
    I have 477 turnouts on my layout and all but 3 are electrofrog. The 3 insulfrog were of a size that is not available in electrofrog. I just took time before starting construction to make all my turnouts DCC friendly. Using an assembly line process it went fairly quickly.
    I have no experience with Hornby (not common in Canada) so I can’t help you there. I am very happy with my Peco’s.

  • Nigelsays:

    As the previous respondents have observed, Hornby does not do live frog (the generic term for ‘electrofrog’ which is a Peco brand name) points – theirs are all dead frog – and live frog points are in no way a must for DCC, dead frog points are fine. The only problem you’re likely to face is if you have a short wheelbase locomotive but, these days, the very short wheelbase locomotives from Hornby such as Stephenson’s Rocket and the Ruston shunter have additional pickups on the tender & semipermanently coupled truck respectively to avoid problems with dead frogs. If a locomotive gets stuck on a dead frog point under DC control, it’ll also get stuck under DCC and vice versa.

    If you’ve got troublesome short wheelbase locomotives, you can get round problems on dead frog points using ‘stay alive’ capacitors if the decoder supports them. These act like mini rechargeable batteries and keep the motor running for maybe half a second (the bigger the capacitor, the longer the motor can run) which doesn’t sound like much but is plenty to get over a dead spot on a point. The capacitors are sometimes supplied with the decoders depending on which make/model you get.

    If you want to go down the live frog route, you then need a means of switching the polarity of the frog. There are several ways of doing this:

    1. Rely on the point blades (which is how the self isolating feature of dead frog points works). Not very reliable and should really be avoided for trouble free running.

    2. Wire in a SPDT switch in addition to the one that changes the points and change the polarity mechanically. This can also work with ‘wire in tube’ point changing if the wire is attached to the switch lever and the switch therefore mechanically changes the points and electrically changes the frog polarity.

    3. Use the inbuilt switch on Seep point motors (supplied under the Gaugemaster brand). I have had mixed success with this option on 009 and finally gave up. It’s probably more reliable in 00 scale due to the longer throw of the points, though, so don’t discount it as an option.

    4. Use a clip on switch. Some manufacturers such as Peco sell separate switches which clip onto the point motor to change the polarity.

    5. Use a frog ‘juicer’. These are electronic circuits that automatically change the polarity of the frog when they detect that it’s incorrectly set. They’re usually electronic but Gaugemaster does a low cost one with a mechanical relay.

    6. Wire a 12V latching relay in parallel with the point motor. Latching relays are available from eBay for just over £2 each and the 12V ones can cope with a peak voltage of 24V which more than covers the burst of energy from the CDU. Essentially, you’re using the CDU to fire two solenoids simultaneously – one is the point motor and the other is inside the relay to switch it over. You need a latching relay to ensure that it stays put when the power is cut (as normal relays will just return to their original state).

    Of course, there is a caveat with some of these in that they rely on electrically operated points – only 1, 2 & 5 can cope with manual points.

    Peco are also starting to roll out Unifrog points. I have no experience of these but my understanding is that they can be configured as either live or dead frog which may make upgrade a lot easier in the future.

    Good luck!

  • Barrysays:

    A lot of helpful advice to digest. My gratitude to Nigel, Hervey, and Nicholas for their in-depth wisdom.

  • Rudysays:

    Just wondering…Would removing the traction tire rim, solve the stalling problem on short wheel base locos ? I’ve also noticed that turning the engine around 180 degrees… it won’t stall, even with the traction tire rim, on.

  • Peter Jonessays:

    Stick with Peco, much better product, a much more solid feel to the point blades.

  • Peter John Davissays:

    Hi If you are finding it difficult getting your head around peco electro frog points they usually come with a diagram on how to install them. I had the same trouble as you, but after reading the directions and looking at the drawings i soon found out how to wire them up. now i have numerous point all working as they should John

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