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:
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).
Do I Want Code 55 or 80?Personal taste here, but there are some basic facts to consider:
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: