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:
|Brand||Peco / ANE||Tam Valley Depot||ESU|
|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 €|
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.