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My stupid mistake...

2952 Views 15 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  wiggy25
Last year I decided to build my modest layout. 1.6 x 3 metres, 9 points only:

With everything within reach I foolishly decided I didn't need any point motors... Trouble is that I now wish I could really press a button to operate a point and wish I'd motorised the layout. I should have know! I've kind of decided it's too much trouble to dig it all up.

Are there any options open to me apart from (a) building a new layout or (
dismissing it as a non-starter?


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Point motors can be fitted retrospectively providing your baseboard surface is not too thick. Peco solenoids or the slow acting point motors can be obtained with long pins that will go through a thin (1/2 inch) board. Fitting them to the underside of the board is not so easy but possible. You will need to drill a space for the pin to go through and slide. It doesn't need to be a large hole more of a thin long slot. You could achieve this by drilling several small holes in a line and then joining them up. With a thin baseboard this will not be too difficult. Of course you will need to drill through very carefully so that you don't go through the point as well.
Hope this helps.
Nice scenic treatment, can quite see why you don't want to dig it up. Are the points Peco or similar, with just a tie bar moving side to side, because if so there is an unobtrusive way of motorising. What this involves is a slow motion point motor (Fulgurex, Lemaco or Conrad) under the board, driving a piece of wire formed into a crank above and below the board. The only modifications topside are to remove the over centre spring mechanism from the point, and to drill a small diameter vertical hole to the underside of the baseboard, somewhere near the tiebar. The drive crank shaft comes up through this hole. I would recommend that you make a trial run on a point of the same type mounted on a board off layout, to get the feel for the technique, before having to do the job in situ.

BIG question to ask yourself: how long before the 'itch' to build a new layout hits you? If you can feel that coming, it is a whole lot easier to motorise points at the bare boards stage with free access both sides, and the ability to position the board freely with no concern for damage.
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wire in tube systems might be your answer. they can be very thin and concealed fairly easily and the motors can be hidden about a foot away from the track at any angle.

Thanks for the replies.

The track is about 1 1/2 inches above the baseboard - it's all raised on extruded polystyrene so that I can have dips in the landscape too...

All points are Peco.

So I guess I'm after something that involves a small hole adjacent to the point.

Wire-in-tube and slow point motos both sound interesting. Would anyone have closeup pics of what this looks like on a real layout - or a link to a web site?

(As an aside: out of all places in the history of the railways, York doesn't seem to have a model railway club so there is limited scope for sharing ideas in this part of the world!)

Many thanks again,

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Hi Walter,

You better check this site. Says it all. Its called Mercontrol.

Check out the applications. From the picture you have posted you have alot off space beneath the layout . You can easily mount them. Studying the pictures, with a little bit of innovation, you can even make them yourself.

i have found many sites but they all seem a little overkill to me compared with what is really needed. my recommendation would be to get a small length of wire in tube and have a play (its cheap enough!)

There is a manufacturer that advertises in the back of all the mags that does it but i am at work and dont have a mag with me.

Hi - Hornby are supposed to be producing a new surface mounted point motor R8243 RRP £5.00 due out soon. Given the similarity between Peco & Hornby points it might be OK, certainly easiest to set up! Given my recent experience of retrofitting point motors under an N gauge layout with 16 points, even using protective pieces of tin slipped between points & baseboard, still damaged 3 points! The trackwork had been so firmly laid down it wouldn't have survived removal attempts.

I use all Peco set track and points. Due to my having several Hornby point motors and housing. It required to alter the slider arm hole to fit Pecos larger point slider connection pin - enlarging the hole of the Hornby slider arm by 1mm, made a perfect fit.
Hi Walter,

Peco may have just released the answer to your problem - the PL11 point motor. This point motor can be retro fitted and is a surface mounted unit. There was a picture in Octobers RM apparently. If you care to look over on RMWeb (here: and scroll down the page you'll see the picture.

Thanks for pointing out that both Hornby and Peco have released surface mounted motors.

May look at a combination of solutions - I have points that are too close together for a surface mounted motor to fit.

Just been thinking about this and am quite tempted by the wire-in-tube method.

Does anyone have any experience with this on their own layout?

In particular, I was wondering about:

- How would I best get the wire from the point to the underneath of the baseboard? The track sits on 1" of extruded polystyrene and 1/2 of MDF, so there is a bit of a height difference between track and underneath of board. How to do get the wire-in-tube through this? At which angles can you bend this stuff?

- Or would I be better of concealing the wire in tube on the top of the board and hiding point motors in the scenery???

- If using the slippery sid or other plastic tube stuff - how to you best secure the tube to the baseboard? Hot glue gun? Staples?

Many thanks,

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both Peco and Hornby point motors can be fitted on the surface using an adapter plate, its then just a case of putting a small building over the motor to hide it. The Peco catalogue shows how it works and their type comes with a extension bar to allow the motor to be fitted a at 3 different lengths from the point.
I have on my layout a combination of slow acting motors wire in tube and last of all a system that I perfected using braided fishing line(zero stretch) and a return spring.
I used very small diameter brass tube pushed through the baseboards at about a 45 degree angle then bent towards the point tie bar this I use to direct the braided line, then using small pulleys to redirect the line I feed this back to a lever fame (The lever frame came from a company called Gem but they went out of production years ago I think, so you might have to make your own.Just remember if using a lever to have a selection of holes drilled in the lever so you can adjust the length of pull on the braid to match the switch rails distance of travel. The other side of the point again I fed a brass tube to the point but this fed a short length of braided line to a return spring under the base board.
Some of my points that have this system have been going strong for over 15 years and some cover over 20 feet and have yet to fail. And if they ever did fail then to change a small spring or the braid would be very simple any way..
When painted the small diameter tube above the layout looks like point rodding as well.
The only thing that I had to stop and consider was what to use for changing polarity.
Pulling a lever to pull the points does give one the feeling of reality,and that is why I have a selection of them.
I just needed to paint the brass levers to colour code them to my track diagram.
Wire in tube is reliable but you must be very carfull of the angles for it to work reliably.
But wire in tube does have the advantage of only needing a simple nob to push/pull the wire without the need of a lever system.
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The GEM lever frame is still available - see ebaykal's reference to the GEM model railway website in post #6 above.
Model Signal Engineering do a 'deluxe' signal lever more prototypical in appearance but at greater cost therefore. (See

The new Peco PL11 motor looks very slim (less than the track width of 16.5mm) and should fit between two tracks that are far enough apart for trains not to bump each other.

John Webb
Does it have to be electrically operated, or can it be a series of levers that you push and pull to set the point?

You could try Modratec.

They do an interlocked lever frame, but they also do a whole range of W.I.T (wire in tube) stuff, this is all mechanical linkages to operate the point though, but should work quite well.
Seems a real shame to damage that fantastic looking layout!

They are based in Australia, check out the web site has loads of useful info with prices to the UK

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