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Discussion Starter #1
I was reading through at least one thread that seriously bashed the Aristocraft switches and also went and looked through the links for the "fixes" to bring them up to par.

I am a bit dismayed to see that there are a number of complaints, apparently justifiable, about the Aristocraft turnout quality. Are they really that bad?


I am planning on running the code 332 Stainless track because everything I have read so far indicates that it is the best for the outdoor environment, especially for reliable powered rail and general survival. The closest dealer sells the Aristocraft track and he spoke highly of it.


So far I have only found one other vendor with code 332 SS track which is H&R / TDV, but they sell only one size switch. I noticed that their track is a bit more expensive but they supply nicer rail joiners which probably accounts for most of the price difference.


After playing with the layout software it seems like the #6 Aristocraft switch fits perfectly with sectional track to minimize having to custom cut the track. The sectional track is important to me for now, because I want to be able to try several things out before I commit to a "final" design.


Any recommendations?

Tom
 

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I use Aristo switches, both the "Wide Radius" and the "Number 6." I've never used the little switch.

The main complaint with the Wide Radius switch is the plastic frog, that often stands proud of the rail. If your loco seems to "climb over" the frog instead of rolling smoothy, first check the wheel gauge. Let's see, I think it's 1.56 inches between the back sides of the wheels (somebody correct me, please). If the wheels are set to narrow, it will be pretty rough. There's an easy fix for the over high frog. Turn the switch over and loosen the tiny phillip screws that hold the rail to the plastic base. Then shove a couple small washers, like #4 flat washers under the rail and snug the screws back up. The plastic is rather floppy and the rail quite stiff, so this will lower the frog just enough. Of course, you can always take a sander and grind the top of the frog down to the rails, but then you'll need to deepen the grooves where the flange goes. Even easier: Aristo now has a better frog that's easy to put in.

I had one that tended to derail the pony wheels. When I looked close, I found a burr on the "point" that would catch the wheel flange and lift the wheel up. A moment with a small file remedied that without taking the switch back up.

If you're using track power, it's possible to burn up the little wires under the switch. Supposing you have your big 10 amp pack on one side of the switch, and you accidentally short the track on the other side. Those little wires will smoke pretty readily. An easy fix here is to jumper from the outside rail to the stub rail... Hmm, let me draw you a picture:



There are also some little wires underneath connecting the points. If after jumpering here, the points don't have power, it's easy to get to the wiring underneath. There's a plastic cover with a few screws.

I never had any trouble with my #6 switches. The main complaints involve the micro switch that changes polarity of the metal frog. You'll want to protect it from water, and be sure it doesn't get ballast or something stuck so the little button won't push. If you're running fairly large locos with pickup wheels that bridge the frog, you can just remove the micro switch if it causes trouble and leave the frog dead. I've also heard that in some conditions, one of the rails can short to the frog causing a short when the switch is in one position. You may have to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. Now that I run battery, I don't care what happens to the wiring ;)

I bought a bundle of 10 old switches that had some years on them from another forum member. For the price he was asking, I figured I got my money worth if 1 worked, and a bargain if 2 worked. None of the 10 took more than a couple minutes fiddeling to make work nicely, so I continue to thank GN Rocky for selling me those switches. On these old, dirty switches, the most common problem I found was rust or dirt between the "throw bar" and points. All they took was a little brushing, a drop of oil, or maybe snugging up a loose screw.

You can tweak the spacing of the "guard rail," but I've never found it to be any trouble as it is. The purpose of this rail is to pull the wheelset away from the point of the frog so the flange doesn't hit it. I think if I had tight curves coming up on the switch, it might have bothered me more.
 

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Tom if your considering the NO# 6 switches the only problem there is, the micro switch which does not like a lot of dampness. I have had my in place out doors for three years but before I installed them I silicone the under side electrical components. I do the same for the wide radius switches also. Aristo also came out with replacement frogs for these switches to improve operation. Much better as I have been replacing mine. The other problem was the guard rails where spaced out to far resulting in wheel flanges stricking the frog point. Many of us have shimed the guard rail to correct. I have all SS track and has proven it reliability to prove smooth running with out the hasell of continuoslay cleaning as brass track may require. Later RJD
 

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lgb switches are pretty darn good. They make a mid size switch (1600 series) that matches their 8 foot curve. I have two powered on my layout, and have never done a single bit of maintenance to them in over a year. I have one unpowered, same thing. In a yard there are 5 of the 200 series switches, all manually powered. They are close to painless as well. I have one Aristo SS Wide radius switch, and it is simply not as well made as the LGB switch. For example, on the LGB switch the point rai fits snugly into the straight rail, with a smooth transition. On the Aristo switches it's clunky and rough and took a good bit of fling to get right. Then there's the frog. I put the replacement frogs in and they work really well. I'm glad to see LGB retunring to the marketplace

I also had some of the problems Tom descrbes with the Aristo switch--lose screws and shorting. The wide raius switch can be made to work well but out of the box it's less than perfect. If it has the newer frog you're more than halfway there.
 

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I also tighten all screws before installing and apply a dab of silicone to them to keep them in place. Just proper prceedues when installing track. Later RJD
 

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Aristo supposedly has a replacement frog for the #10 switches. Look in their on-line store. I think they go for $1 each.
And yes, their quality is bad. I use the #4 for reasons of space and economy. I've fiddled with all of them, and put scratch-designed switch motors in all of them because the Aristo motor really doesn't like to be outside.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Does anyone recommend another source for a switch that is essentially the same as the Aristo #6? The Llagas Creek switches look interesting but they are code 250 instead of the 332 and either Aluminum or Nickle Silver.

Does anyone have a link for more information on the EZ Air system? I looked at Greg's web site and that is a good start. Who supplies the parts? So far All I have found is Port Lines Hobby.


Tom
 

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Here's an Aristo #6 switch, which looks like the rest of my #6 switches when they are pulled up for repairs.



The electrics shown are not the jumpers for the "frog rails" as Tom Ruby has shown. Those have corroded away also, but that's the easy part.

The picture above is to illustrate the power system to deliver power to the frog.


Locations 1 and 2 get the power from the stock rails. It is delivered to the microswitch to the right of the 4. The microswitch is tripped by a round brass stud that is just above the 4, and as the point rails move, the stud presses on the microswitch. Then the output of the microswitch exits and goes to the frog, off to the left past the 6.

In this illustration, the power wire from the lower rail has dissolved/corroded away from 2 to 3. The microswitch plunger has corroded into the tripped position, recessed permanently. The output of the microswitch is a wire to the polyswitch at 6, but the wire is completely gone from 5 to 6.... the connections of the polyswitch are likewise corroded/rusted.


You can see rust and corrosion/oxidation (blue) in several other places. (Blue is from the copper in the wire, rust is non-stainless steel components that should be SS).

Needless to say, the frog is not powered on this switch.


I use air powered switch machines, with a true waterproof microswitch in a protected housing, and it powers the frog. I also make heavy gauge jumpers for the "frog rails" and tie them to the rail clamps that are used on all rails of the switch.

I've had people tell me to put glue or silicon on this stuff, but you would have not only to coat the connections, but encase the wires (impossible) and replace the microswitch with a waterproof one. That would still leave a touchy enagagement to trigger the microswitch which is not adjustable.

Don't even get me started about the frog design, and wheels dropping into the frog and premature wear.

I have nothing but Aristo #6 and Aristo WR in stainless. I would like to find an alternative in 332, but may go code 250. Will stick to SS.


Regards, Greg


p.s. California and Oregon Coast , Stretch, and their web site address is all on my web site, check the "Air Operated Switches" page again.
 

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I think one thing Greg is that you mentioned at one time you left your power on all the time which you said resulted in also some of your rail joiners disintegrating. You also run a higher voltage to your track than I do. Also you do not believe in using the silicone to prevent failure. I have wetter conditions here than you do and I have not had the problems you have notice with yours after I had completely coated my switches. The test will be how long they last. So far over 3 years. Later RJD
 

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alot depends on where you like and what the mosture and soil is like ....... I have had aristo swithes in place for years and not had them look like that .... I have had the micro switch get sticky and poped a fuse but I have not seen the "wires" with that kind of damage
 

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Yep, I guess I have a lot of moisture for So. Cal!

The power is not left on all the time any moire, but this switch has only been down a few years. I think that siliconing like RJ does is something everyone should do. The remaining problem is the microswitch jamming in the actuated position, and you cannot waterproof it, nor adjust the actuation.

I'll probably silicon everything from now on, but I remove all the wiring anyway, since I use and external switch and external jumpers, which can also be inspected without pulling the switch out of the ground.

Regards, Greg
 

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Discussion Starter #13
One thing about using silicone ... make sure it doen't have acetic acid in it.

When I do electrical connections I use the liquid tape that you can get at Home Depot and Loews. If you use the wrong silicone it really does a number on bare copper which includes wicking up inside the insulation.

Due to my other hobby, ham radio, I have a lot of connections that need to survive outdoors and I have found that that stuff works really well.

Tom
 

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Good info Tom. I have some of that stuff too. The acetic acid is the vinegar smell right? Can you tell if a silicon has it by ingredients on the side of the tube, or do you have to do more research to asscertain this?

Regards, Greg
 

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Well for Greg's info the silicone I use is for Aquariums so I guess if fish can survive in it my track should. No mention of ingredients listed. Made by Dap. Guess you'd have to go on line and look it up. Later RJD
 

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Hmm. Sounds like Tom would know what he's talking about. Lots more than that brat from Chicago
 

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I did find a reference that said the GE Silicon II did not have acetic acid. Many of the non-acetic acid-curing silicones are made for the electronics industry and are very expensive.

Thanks for the tip Tom B.

Regards, Greg
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Usually if it smells sour it has the acid. A lot of the stuff I have seen says that it releases ammonia which also corrodes copper and brass. So if it says acetic anything or if one of the warnings is that it releases ammonia, don't use it on anything with copper or brass.



I don't know about the stuff rated for aquariums. It may have the same problems as the above products but maybe fine after it cures.


I looked through a couple of the RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) product brochures. At least one of the datasheets, which described produts that are recommended for electrical applications, had the following disclaimer: "These sealants are not for use in delicate electrical and electronic applications in which corrosion of copper, brass and other sensitive metals is undersirable."


Note that this is not the same as Silicone Grease that is designed for electrical connections and is great stuff for waterproofing connections and keeping water from wicking into connections.



My rule is that if it does not say explicitly that it is for electrical connections I don't use it. This is especially true if dealing with things that are going to cost money to repair and or replace if there is a bad reaction.


The last can of the liquid electrical tape I bouth was around $5 so it isn't like buying gold or anything like that. It comes with an applicator brush so it is actually pretty easy to use. Be careful, once dried it doesn't come out of clothes easily and if applied too liberaly it will drip. It can be removed from non porous serfaces fairly easily.


There are actually two varieties, one is a brown material that is rated for high voltage applications and the other is more of a liquid tape. Both work fine, it works best if you apply several light coats to build up the material. Both Home Depot and Loews sell this stuff in the electrical aisle.



Tom
 
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