Re: tortoise switch machines vs peco point motors

Bill Wilken


I know the procedure you've outlined works, but when you're working alone, having to crawl underneath benchwork that is only 48" high, and have to deal with occasional bounds of positional vertigo, installing switch machines is not exactly one of the most enjoyable parts of model railroading.  Thankfully, I'm just about done with turnouts and can turn my attention to what I really like -- scratch building structures.


On 01/08/2014 11:23 AM, Vollrath, Don wrote:



I don’t remember the wire gauge for the standard tortoise, but you can measure it with a micrometer and then purchase larger gauge ‘piano’ wire at the hardware store. Carefully use a pin vise to re-drill the hole in the Tortoise mechanism and/or throwbar to fit larger diameter wire if necessary.


To mount the tortoise 1) Tape a right angled wire at the correct location to the supplied paper template; 2) make sure the hole in the roadbed is aligned with the throwbar access space with plenty of room for movement; 3) Draw a pencil line under the roadbed in line with the turnout at a right angle with the throwbar; 4) Use masking tape or a block to temporarily fix the throwbar to mid throw position; 5) Add temporary tape tabs to the template and from underneath poke the wire from the template up through the throwbar and adjust position so that the wire is vertical and the template is aligned per the track center line from step 3 and tape it in that position; 6) Use a nail to mark the mounting screw locations from the template. Pre-drill and start screw holes; 7) Release the throwbar, replace template with the tortoise and add screws. Use a 9V battery and clip leads to verify operation, then secure all screws and cut off excess actuating wire.


I goes much faster if you have an attentive helper that understands the needs of the process step 5. An angled extension to your power screwdriver/drill is also handy for working in tight quarters.




From: WiringForDCC@... [mailto:WiringForDCC@...] On Behalf Of Bill Wiken
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 9:37 AM
To: WiringForDCC@...
Subject: Re: [WiringForDCC] tortoise switch machines vs peco point motors



I agree with your assessment of Tortoise reliability.  Getting them properly aligned under a thick roadbed, however, is another matter, although I will admit that I have not tried the thicker wire that you suggest.  What would help enormously is an off-the-shelf mounting bracket that would make it easy to adjust the position of the motor without having to move all four mounting screws.  I've also noticed that the performance of the units varies at least a bit with the design of the turnout.  While I like the appearance of my #10 Shinohara units, getting them to work smoothly with Tortoise motors often takes a bit more work than, say, my Atlas #8's.


On 01/07/2014 12:26 PM, Vollrath, Don wrote:


The Peco point motor is a snap-action  twin coil machine that requires a momentary (pulse) of high current to flip the turnout points. It can be wired for AC or DC activation and is similar to the Atlas twin-coil unit. The electric control mechanism and switch must be able to supply relatively high current (an amp or so) and must be momentary or the coil will burn out. Most folks would use a CD (capacitive discharge) type control unit… either home-made or commercially available.  The Peco motor is not very friendly with thick sub-roadbeds as the mounting alignment of the actuating rod is fairly critical for reliable operation. See and


The tortoise machine is a slow motion motor requiring DC current of only 8-10 milliamps of current for operation. One simply changes the polarity of DC motor power with a simple low cost electric switch and wait for a few seconds for the turnout position to change. It is a fairly bulky unit to fit under the layout roadbed but alignment is not overly critical. A simple elongated hole under the throwbar is all you need. However, you may need to remove the throwbar spring on Peco turnouts to work with Tortoise motors, even after replacing the actuating wire with a stronger larger diameter wire from the hardware store. Tortoise machines are very reliable. And as you point out below, it already contains an internal DPDT switch to use for frog power or other signaling.


Either type can be activated with a DCC accessory decoder… but it takes a different style decoder/controller to work with the two different point motor types. The Team Digital SMD82 is capable of individually controlling either type of up to 8 turnouts.

IMHO You get what you pay for.




From: WiringForDCC@... [mailto:WiringForDCC@...] On Behalf Of bubzrulz@...
Sent: Tuesday, January 07, 2014 2:07 AM
To: WiringForDCC@...
Subject: [WiringForDCC] tortoise switch machines vs peco point motors


 hi i wantaed to know the pros and cons of tortoise switch machines vs peco point motors ( besides price and i know that that you have to buy a separate acc switch for peco motor) 

cheers  Oscar


Join to automatically receive all group messages.