Commercial offers

As all this seemed promising, I began to look for and compare some “turnkey” solutions. I studied Peco’s Smartswitch (or rather ANE Model’s), Tam Valley Depot’s Quad-Pic, and finally ESU’s Switchpilot.

Of course, the comparison is only virtual, prices will depend on the pound or the dollar’s price, and the shipping costs can be very large.

Here's what you need for four turnouts:

Smartswitch Quad-Pic Switchpilot
Brand Peco / ANE Tam Valley Depot ESU
Product Smartswitch Quad-Pic Switchpilot
Number of servos 4 4 to 6 4
Programming of positions and speed By specific board, which can be re-used for other Smartswitches By pushbuttons, hand or auto (by rising current sensing when the point blade closes) By CV (POM, programming track or Lokpro­grammer) or embedded buttons
Turnout local control (without DCC) Yes, by switches (supplied) Yes, by configurable inputs Yes, by pushbuttons
Power 9 to 24 V DC or DCC 8 to 24 V DC 18 V AC or 24 V DC max. or DCC
Frog feeding Smartfrog, one board per turnout Outputs for relay or Frog Juicer, one for two turnouts Switchpilot Extension, one for four turnouts
Decoder price $39.95 2 27 € 3
Frog feeding price $31.95 × 2 2, 4 27 € 3
Servo price5 $4.75 × 4 2 13,50 € × 4 3
Total price in $ $149.95 1 $122.85
Total price in € 6 109,36 € 89,55 € 108 €

Notes

  1. Set A004 including the decoder, programming board, servo control board, four frog feeders, mounting hardware, manual control switches and connexion cables.
  2. Manufacturer's Price (TAM).
  3. Price at Modellbahnshop-Lippe (Germany).
  4. The TAM (Frog Juicer) solution is electronic, by short-circuit sensing, and can also be used in a reversing loop.
  5. Attention: the servos offered by TAM (and also by ANE Model) are TowerPro SG90 which I do not think much good, and which can be obtained for much cheaper elsewhere. The ESU servos are expensive, but probably much more reliable, Deutsche Qualität… The best is to buy servos of reasonable quality and a moderate price in a RC models shop. See next page.
  6. Based on dollar’s price as of May 19, 2014: $1.3719 for 1 €.

In my opinion

It goes without saying that my opinion is purely personal, and I have not been able to physically test all these products.

To me, the Peco / ANE Model solution seems unnecessarily sophisticated, but it has the advantage of being all-inclusive. TAM’s solution appears to be the most interesting for its relation between possibilities and prices, but the US origin implies possibly important shipping costs, especially if the customs applies the VAT, which is always possible.

The three solutions can be used more or less easily on an analogue, non DCC layout.

I personally opted for ESU, European brand easily available and ultimately the cheapest solution if we exclude the servos. Moreover, I did not use the Switchpilot Extension for the frog feeding, at least at the first time, but simple switches operated by the servos, because I like the simple solutions… which make my life more complicated. I will explain all of this in more detail.