Stop Turnout Stalling
Many Marklin Z-scale turnouts appear to suffer from the same problem: a tendency to stall small or slow-moving locomotives as they pass through them.
There are a variety of causes, all of which I'll try to address on this page.
After affecting repairs, I feel this problem is 100% solvable, although your mileage may vary.
In this article:
Feel free to write me if you have any additions or corrections to this page.
In my experience, dirt on the turnouts is the most common cause of stalling.
Even if you're diligent about cleaning track, you're probably missing some key areas: most notably, the tops of the points and the frog contacts, shown in pink in this photo.
For the frog contacts, I use a small, triangular piece of dense (non-corrugated) cardboard to gently wipe the grime off.
They're small, so this goes quickly.
For the fragile points, the Roco 10002 track polisher or Trax Stix can be used (both of which are discussed here), although the cardboard mentioned above also works.
Also, don't forget to keep those locomotive wheels clean!
Fixing the Wiring
If you find that a particular turnout is routinely stalling your locomotives, it might not be transmitting electricity as it was designed.
Power is transmitted from one end of a turnout to the other through a series of thin contacts that connect the various components under the ties.
Sometimes, these contacts break or become detached in one or more places.
To determine the integrity of a turnout's internal wiring, use a multimeter with a continuity tester to make sure all of the spots in this photo have continuity.
For example, all of the rails and contacts in blue should be electrically connected; likewise, all red rails and contacts should conduct.
There are three ways that the physical design of the turnout can cause stalling:
- Marklin turnouts have a few "trouble spots" which can catch on the low belly pans of our little locomotives.
Fortunately, these are easy to fix and are discussed at Stop Turnout & Double-Slip Switch Derailing.
- The second physical cause of stalling is an unevenly-laid turnout.
Turnouts should be allowed to "float," in that they should not by nailed down (there's a reason Marklin didn't include nail holes).
More information can be found at Laying and Ballasting Z-scale Track.
- Finally, turnouts have a lot of different components, and these are rarely perfectly flush with one-another.
This can cause smaller engines (such as 0-6-0 steamers and diesel switchers) to rock as they move through the turnout, momentarily loosing contact with a powered section of track.
This can be solved by using an electronic track cleaner, such as the Relco, which ionizes the air gaps between the rails and locomotive wheels and helps keep those engines moving.
Alternative Z Turnouts
Several other manufacturers have stepped in and provided replacements for Marklin turnouts.
To date, all of these come from small manufacturers, and I haven't seen any of these up close (except for the Wright Turnouts), but they all show promise.
For more information on any of these manufacturers, see the Manufacturers page.
A few notes:
Wright Turnouts are a very promising new entry to this small market.
Unlike the others, below, Wright turnouts have a footprint identical to Marklin turnouts, making them simple drop-in replacements.
They also have a live-frog design which eliminates the stalling described above.
This photo shows a stunning (and working) 3-point Wright turnout (before ballasting); here's a photo of a drop-in replacement for a standard Marklin RH turnout.
See their First Look page for reviews by yours truly and several others!
- Halwa Feinmodellbau is producing straight and curved turnouts.
From the photos, you can see that they're more realistically proportioned than their Marklin counterparts, and the tie spacing more closely matches track from Micro-Trains or Peco.
- Likewise, Petau Modellbau has released a prototypical straight turnout.
The wood look to the ties is really nice...
- Peco supposedly also now makes Z turnouts, although I have yet to see a photo, and there's no mention of them on their website.
- As of the late 2000s, Micro-Trains makes turnouts for their nifty plastic-balasted Micro-Track.
Although not compatible with Marklin track (or even Micro-Trains own #599 flex track), it's your only choice if you're building a Micro-Track layout.
The turnouts from Wright, Halwa, and Petau all have live, single-piece frogs, which are more prototypical and should eliminate the stalling problem (like this Wright turnout).
However, wiring of these turnouts is often more complicated than Marklin's integrated power-routing design.
See Ztrains.com for more information on wiring non-standard turnouts.
Note that Tortoise switch machines have the necessary wiring built-in to accommodate live-frog turnouts.
- So far, none of the turnouts pictured here have built-in turnout machines, which means that an under-table mechanism must be installed.
Halwa reportedly makes a turnout motor to go with their turnouts.
- With the exception of the Wright turnouts, one of the biggest drawbacks to the non-Marklin turnouts listed here is that they don't match Marklin track (either in the spacing or the look of the ties).
However, they do appear to more closely match Micro-Trains or Peco track, which is just as well, as these track types have a more prototypical appearance than Marklin track.
If you have any photos or personal experience with any non-Marklin turnouts, please feel free to write me with any details.
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