Turnout motors, what a pain!

Oh yes, the turnout motors, what a pain! Some, with electromagnets (or solenoids), are very greedy and very noisy (Peco), others, with slow motor, are noisy and unreliable (Fulgurex), others are very large and expensive (Tortoise). Moreover, they all have the disadvantage of making the position adjustment impractical and only mechanical (bending a metal rod).

So, are we condemned to suffer this? Well no! Here is THE solution: the RC servo motor. Small, relatively cheap, almost silent, it has everything to please, except its control which is a little complicated. But there are now accessory decoders not too expensive able to control it. And the displacement and speed settings are extremely simple and versatile.

So, I’d like to tell you about the transformation I made on my layout controlled by a PLC and which previously used Fulgurex motors (see the previous episode).

Paco’s website

There is a very interesting site (among others), which made me want to embark on the adventure of the servos; I named Paco’s website, by Paco Cañada, which is dedicated to the DCC and to various means of manufacturing hand controls, decoders, etc. Based on PIC microcontrollers, programmable components whose program is provided by the website, and therefore usable as is without any special knowledge. That’s not all! Circuit board designs are also provided.

The disadvantage of this site is that its basic language is Spanish, although most (though not all) texts are translated into English. Sometimes also in French, but then, it is a disaster, with many errors and sometimes mistranslations that make comprehension difficult (example: dirección translated by… direction, whereas you must understand address!). This is confusing in the case of a servo, which has an address via its decoder, but also a direction of rotation!

First attempts

I first made a servo accessory decoder, according to the Paco website, which did not work properly: it controlled the servo with the built-in push-button, but was unable to communicate with my Lenz command station.

I then made, according to the Paco website, an interface for controlling DCC turnouts with switches or push-buttons, not by tapping addresses on the hand-held control, making it possible to achieve a TCO (optical control desk) in DCC. This board uses the Lenz Xpressnet bus, formerly known as Xbus, hence the name of this board: Xbus TCO. It worked very well, and immediately.