Electrofrog or Insulfrog?

                                    What are the frog numbers?

                                    Do I want code 55 or 80?

                                                                        Where can I find more info?

                                                                        Help!...I model in HO.

If any of this sounds familiar, welcome to the wonderful world of PECO! It's great stuff (I use PECO track and Electrofrog turnouts on both of my layouts), but meaningful information can be scarce (unless, of course, you've bought one of their catalogues).

PECO produces a line of N-scale track and turnouts (also HO and other scales) in codes 80 and 55, based on British practice. The design is curved frogs with a constant radius through the curved leg of the turnout. Other then track gage, they do not match NMRA Standards; this is NOT to say that they're incompatible with commercially available N-scale locomotives and rolling stock -- they're fully compatible! You will have to decide if this is important to you -- for me, North American standard compliance was less important than the broad range of turnouts and the appearance of the track (and the overall quality of both). Guard rails are plastic. Switch points appear to be formed sheet metal, which give them an unusual appearance. Space between open switch-point and stock rail is wider than necessary. Switch-points have a spring lock with snap action; the spring can be removed if a switch machine is used. Overall, the appearance may not be as prototypical as others...but I like 'em anyway.

The sole purpose of this page is to provide the answers to the above and other questions regarding PECO "N". I've tried to include everything I could think of in five minutes of deep deliberation, but if you know of something I've left out or gotten wrong, or if you've a question or two, please send me an EMAIL and let me know.

Insulfrog or Electrofrog?

Quoting from PECO's catalogue:

"The PECO Streamline Insulfrog electrical system is extremely simple, making if particularly suitable for the beginner or less experienced modeller. That said however, Insulfrogs are popular among experienced enthusiasts. Wiring instructions are almost unnecessary and, provided locomotives are fitted with correct current collectors, perfect operation will be achieved.

"Insulfrog (Insulated Frog) turnouts incorporate the minimum dead section due to the tapered frog rail design. Each PECO Insulfrog turnout is 'switched' so that only the track for which the blades are set is electrically alive (except OO slips & G-45 turnouts...obscure stuff).

"Electrofrog (Live Frog) The PECO Streamline Electrofrog system provides maximum continuous electrical pick-up assuring perfect smooth running even at very slow speeds -- provided of course, that current collectors and wheels are always kept clean. A layout using Electrofrog turnouts is slightly more conplicated to wire and therefore often suits the more experienced modeller. However, once the basic principle is learnt -- ie, 'current must always be fed to the toe end of each live frog turnout', the rest is not very difficult."

In my experience, Insulfrogs do require less complicated wiring, but can allow some slow-moving locos (usually small steamers) to stall on the frogs. If you prefer the appearance of Code 55 track, also keep in mind that most Code 55 turnouts aren't available in Insulfrog (slips and the long crossing are available both ways); most Code 80 turnouts ARE available in Insul' as well as Electro' (the crossings are available only Insul', as are the Setrack turnouts sometimes used with Code 80 Streamline). Since both Insuls and unmodified Electros route power thru the point (movable) rails, they require a good, solid mechanical contact with the stock (stationary) rails; stall motors such as Tortoise or Switchmaster provide the necessary "push;" twin-coils may or may not.

On the other hand, Electrofrogs are the most reliable electrically, but do require more wiring and more insulated rail joiners. You may want to route power of the proper polarity to the frog (I do -- just don't trust point rail contact); one can route via contacts on the switch motor, an external toggle switch, or something more elaborate. Further, if you're enjoying the many virtues of DCC, you may want to consider making your Electrofrog turnouts more "DCC friendly"; there are several good writeups of this procedure, one of the best being on Allan Gartner's Wiring For DCC web site. Stall-motors or twin-coils can be used with equal effectiveness on routed-frog Electros.

What Are the Frog Numbers?

The Code 80 turnouts vary -- mediums are #4, large and wye are #7, and curved are #6.
Amazingly, the Code 55 turnouts are ALL #6 frogs!
Yes, #6...no matter what the diverging curve radius, the frog is still #6. Baffled? Confused? Puzzled? You're in good company. However, shown in the chart below is everything you could possible want to know about PECO turnouts (except where to find the best prices).
Code 55          
  Electrofrog Insulfrog Curve
T/O or Xing Part # Part # Frog # Frog Angle Radius
Small Radius SL-E391F/92F na #6 10 deg 12"
Medium Radius SL-E395F/96F na #6 10 deg 18"
Large Radius SL-E388F/89F na #6 10 deg 36"
Curved SL-E386F/87F na #6 10 deg 18"/36"
Wye SL-E397F na #6 10 deg 24"
Single Slip SL-E380F SL-380F
Double Slip SL-E390F SL-390F
Long Crossing SL-E394F SL-394F
Double Crossover SL-E383F na #6 10 deg 18"
(Scissors Xing)          
Code 80          
  Electrofrog Insulfrog Curve
T/O or Xing Part # Part # Frog # Frog Angle Radius
Small Radius na ST-5/6* #2.4 22.5 deg 9"
Medium Radius SL-E395/96 SL-395/96 #4 14 deg 18"
Large Radius SL-E388/89 SL-388/89 #7 8 deg 36"
Curved SL-E386/87 SL-386/87 #6 10 deg 18"/36"
Wye SL-E397 SL-397 #7 8 deg 30"
Long Crossing na SL-394
Shortr Crossing na ST-7*
        * Setrack components  

Do I Want Code 55 or 80?

Personal taste here, but there are some basic facts to consider:
  • Code 55 looks more prototypical
  • Some wheels flanges may roll on the ties on Code 55 (fix: replace w/ low-profile wheels)
  • Code 55 offers a greater selection of turnouts than Code 80
  • Code 80 offers Insulfrog turnouts; Code 55 does not
Both 55 and 80 are very high quality track, so that's not an issue. PECO's 55 is an innovative design that embeds part of the track into the tie, so you get .055" rail height without sacrificing rail rigidity. (Just for the record, I use Code 55 on both layouts.) In Code 80 Insulfrog turnouts, some wheel treads may cause an electrical short on the insulated frog unless the heel rails of the frog are isolated with insulated rail joiners.

Several readers have told me that Code 55 and Code 80 are interchangeable, and will connect using standard rail joiners. I've never tried mixing the two families, but have no reason to doubt those who have written to me. Doing so gives you much greater flexibility, so let me know about your experiences.

Where Can I Find More Info?

Try re-reading this page. If that doesn't do it, try PECO's Web Site at www.peco-uk.com.

Help!...I Model in HO.

OK, OK...I promised I'd try to help, so here goes.
In HO scale, as in N-scale, PECO produces two basic lines of track and turnouts: Setrack and Streamline. Most modellers use the Streamline (except possibly in special situations). Here's a brief summary of the offerings in both families:


Small radius Y -- 24" radius, 24° angle, #2.25 frog
Large radius Y -- 72" radius, 12° angle, #4.5 frog
Small radius turnout -- 24" radius, 12° angle, #4.5 frog
Medium radius turnout -- 36" radius, 12° angle, #4.5 frog
Medium radius 3-way -- 24/36" radius, 12° angle, #4.5 frog
Large radius turnout -- 60" radius, 12° angle, #4.5 frog
Curved double radius t/o -- 60/30" radius, #4.5 frog
Double slip -- #4.5 frog (matches long crossing)
Long crossing -- 12° angle
Short crossing -- 24° angle


#2 radius turnouts -- 17.25" radius, 22.5° angle, actually a #2.5 frog
Medium radius Y -- 33.84" radius, 11.25° angle, a #2.5 on each leg (called a #5)
Curved double-radius -- #5 frog

I Hope You Found This Useful

Updated 1-2-12