Platelayer Railways

Help for model railway enthusiasts


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Fitting Hornby point clips.

Try to get the point clip to lay along the lowest part of the rail, as shown below

Point wiring diagrams

©Hornby Hobbies Ltd

©Hornby Hobbies Ltd

Exploded view of wiring connections
©Hornby Hobbies Ltd
Hornby point motor instructions are displayed with the kind permission of Hornby Hobbies Ltd

Peco surface mounted point motors (PL-11) use the Green wire as the common connection, while Hornby use the Black wire for the common.

Peco PL-11 point motors can be used to operate Hornby points but Hornby R8243 surface mount point motors won't fit Peco points because the hole in the R8243 operating arm is too small. It could be enlarged with a drill but may leave it rather weak.

 Points wiring

When using terminal blocks (AKA choc blocks) try to avoid inserting more than two wires into any one connector.  This makes for a more reliable, neater installation and makes it easier to locate faults.  Also try to avoid using terminal blocks which are too big or too small for the size of wire you are using.

CDU.  What is it? 

A CDU or Capacitor Discharge unit is an electrical device which helps to ensure that a solenoid point motor operates reliably.  It contains 1 or more capacitors and a few other components.  The capacitor is an electrical storage device which is charged relatively slowly (maybe 1 to 2 seconds) with a low current and then discharged quickly (a few milliseconds) into the point motor.  This gives a good "kick" to the point motor to ensure positive operation.  The CDU also prevents point motors from overheating and burning out because once the CDU has discharged the current flowing through the point motor is reduced to a very low level.  If a point operating switch becomes faulty or there is a wiring fault without a CDU in circuit, the full current that is normally drawn by the point motor can continue to flow and overheating and burning out of the point motor will happen very quickly.

Most layouts will only need one CDU but it is possible to use more than one where there are complex point switching arrangements.

If you are using a CDU, I don't recommend the use of Hornby R044 passing contact switches.  Due to their construction they tend to discharge the CDU before the lever has reached the contact to operate the point in the required direction.  Far better to use the Peco passing contact switches (PL-26 series) which have a clever mechanism which avoids this problem, or use miniature (on)-off-(on) toggle switches which are also very much cheaper.

If you MUST use Hornby switches, pause the movement of the lever half way across to allow the CDU to recharge.

 Basic point wiring diagram with Hornby R044 passing contact switch

Points accessory switches

Peco PL-13 accessory switches fit directly onto Hornby point motors without modification and can be used for frog switching (on live frog points such as Peco electrofrogs), points operated signalling, to provide feedback for automatic control or just to indicate on a control panel that the point has switched.  They even fit (with point motor) into the R8015 Hornby Point motor housing!


Wire for use on layouts

For layouts upto abot 6ft x 4 ft a good source of wire for model railways is multicore alarm cable.  It comes in 4,6,8 and 12 core and is multicoloured to make wiring easier.  It is multi stranded and just the right size for points and lighting.  Easily obtained from Maplin and even high street hardware shops.  For larger layouts I'd recommend 16/0.2 or 24/0.2mm wiring for operating solenoid points (Peco, Hornby or Seep) because of the high current, about 3 Amps,  that these motors (solenoids) use.  Using larger sized wiring reduces the power loss that occurs in small gauge wire.


Wilkinsons hardware stores are the cheapest I have found for connection block strips (AKA Terminal blocks, Choc Blocks)  and they have 3 sizes

Those at the top of the picture are from Wilko's.  The bottom two are a pluggable set from Rapid Electronics, very useful for across baseboard joints where they will be disconnected on a regular basis, such as a portable layout.


Loco Service sheets

Service sheets for Hornby models from 1955 - 2000 can be found at this site

More recent and current  Hornby service sheets and loco maintenance sheets are available from the Hornby site

Bachmann and associated companies service sheets are here

Various service sheets available here


This article is aimed at track work, but also
applies to other soldering tasks

Soldering isn't hard to do, it just requires a little practice to get the knack.

Before soldering,  make sure that the materials to be joined are clean.  Use emery paper, Scotchbite pad, file ETC to get a shiny clean surface.  Electrical solder terminals have generally been pre-tinned to make them easier to solder. eg point motors, electronic components.

Copper, brass and nickel silver are all easily soldered.  Steel can be soldered but is tricky without a special flux; for this I use Bakers fluid.  Aluminium is impossible to solder with normal soldering techniques but there are special solders and fluxes available for it . Hornby fishplates are stainless steel, I think,  and it is virtually impossible to solder them without a special flux.   I think Peco fishplates are nickel silver, they solder easily and will fit Hornby track.  If you use Peco fishplates make sure you buy the correct size for Hornby track, which is code 100

Work in an area where there is nothing of importance that will get damaged by molten solder or a hot soldering iron ,  EG living room carpet, curtains, dining table.  If you have to work where there are valuable furnishings or floor coverings, cover them with thick cardboard or plywood etc.  Molten solder dropped on carpet will cause damage.

Do not touch the hot parts of the soldering iron.  It hurts.

The solder should be thought of as "glue" to hold a joint together and not relied upon to form the joint.  So for instance to solder two wires together, twist them together first (wherever possible) to make the joint before soldering them.  If you need to insulate soldered joints it's much better to use heat-shrink sleeving than insulating tape.  After a length of time insulating tape often becomes "gooey" and can come loose.   Remember to slip the heat-shrink over one wire before making the joint.  It's really annoying to have to disconnect a joint and remake it when you forget!

It's best to use a soldering iron of high enough power for the job.  An iron of about 18 to 30 watts with a medium tip will be needed to solder track.  If you try to use an iron that is too small it will take a long time to heat the rails and the sleepers will melt before the solder.  The solder should be multicore type.  IE it has multiple cores of flux inside it so that a separate flux is not generally needed.  A lower wattage iron will be better for electronic circuit board work, maybe 15 - 18 Watts with a fine tip.  A better but more expensive option is a temperature controlled soldering iron.

                      PLUMBERS SOLDER IS NOT SUITABLE and avoid lead free solder if you can

If the iron is new it will need "tinning" before use.  Plug the iron in and as it heats up keep touching the solder (multicore is best) to the iron until the solder coats the tip of the iron.  It may need wiping on a piece of old cloth to help the solder to spread over the tip.  The iron is now tinned.

Heat the joint while touching it with the solder until the solder flows into the joint.  A little solder applied to the soldering iron will help the heat transfer.

Practice soldering scrap pieces of wire together first to get the hang of it, then practice on some scrap track.

Some people like to drill a small hole in the track and insert the wire before soldering, some use solid wire taken from mains cable bent into an "L" shape laid on the side of the rails, others like to solder to the track joiners (fishplates).  Hornby fishplates will not solder without a special flux, as they are (I think) made of stainless steel.

Bare the ends of the wire, twist the strands together (if using stranded wire) and apply solder to the iron tip and the wire to "tin" it before soldering it to the track.  Apply solder to the track and wire as you heat it with the iron until the solder flows into the joint.  Remember the wire will conduct heat away from the joint so use pliers to hold it, to prevent burnt fingers.  Pre tinning the track with a little solder helps

Keep the joint still until the solder sets.  Have a pair of pliers to hand and use them as a heat sink by gripping the track where it has been soldered IMMEDIATLY AFTER soldering to the track to stop the sleepers melting.  If the joint moves while the solder is setting you will have what is called a dry joint (or frozen joint in the U.S.) and it will need heating again.

After a while, the tip of the iron will become coated with flux residue which can be wiped off on a damp sponge or cloth while the iron is hot.

Remember practice makes perfect.

Making temporary power connectors

If you don't want to solder directly to your rails and you find the Hornby power connectors too big and ugly, you can make a reasonably small power connector from a track joiner (fishplate). Take two Peco fishplates and solder your wires onto one end of each.  Insert into the track where the normal Hornby power connector fits.  You may be able to shorten the fishplates to make them less obvious. Don't use Hornby fishplates as they are made of stainless steel and are too difficult to solder.

The wires can be hidden when (if) you ballast the track but but these connections are only really meant
for temporary connections.


  The Hornby Turntable

Hornby's turntable (R070) is fairly simple to wire up and use on an analogue (dc) layout.  There is an excellent diagram available from the New Railway Modellers which gives details

Hornby DCC Turntable

The Hornby turntable can have a decoder fitted into the motor housing to convert it to DCC control.  It will need soldering.  Disconnect the capacitors (orange blobs) and retain for future use.  Connect orange and grey of the decoder to the motor terminals and black and red to the supply wires.

If the turntable is to be used on a DCC layout then you will have to deal with the problem of the turntable bridge causing a short circuit as soon as it moves.  This can occur on most track arrangements but not all.

One way I have found to deal with the short circuit problem is to insulate the inlet power track (the one with the contacts) by placing a piece of insulating tape over the contacts before fitting the track piece and then providing a power feed to all the other tracks whilst observing polarity of opposite tracks. In fact only the inlet OR outlet tracks of opposite tracks NEED a power feed but it's best to feed both.
No insulating fishplates or isolating tracks are needed and you don't need to remove any contacts off the bridge or use expensive auto reverse modules as some people suggest.

The bridge then picks up it's power from whichever track it is lined up with and when it moves out of alignment there is no power on the bridge and so no short circuit.

One other method of preventing short circuits may be to wire a car brake light or indicator (turn signal) bulb into one of the main feed wires from the controller.  I have not tried this myself and some trial and error may be needed to find the best wattage bulb to use.  It may not even work at all, but it was a method I used successfully on an old analogue controller I built some years ago.

 Squeaky Wheels?

If the wheels are squeaky on your locos and tenders which have pickups, try rubbing a soft pencil (2B or softer) on the backs of the wheels.  Coaches and wagons can sometimes be helped by rubbing a pencil on the pinpoints of the axles, or inserting the point of the pencil into the axle box and giving it a twirl.   The graphite in the "lead" of pencils is a good lubricant and an excellent conductor of electricity.


To stop the cap from getting stuck to the bottle, put a smear of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the neck of the bottle and on the screw threads.
You can buy an accelerant for superglue that makes it set quickly even on difficult materials.  If you are lucky, you may be able to scrounge some from a double glazing fitter!

Files / Needle Files / Swiss Files

Files of all kinds are a precision cutting tool and will quickly become blunt if they are allowed to rub against each other in a toolbox, for instance.  To prevent this, push needle files / Swiss files into a drinking straw before putting them away.  Full size files can be wrapped in newspaper or a cardboard sheath can be made.


Reverse loops

Reverse loops (or turning loops or return loops) are sometimes created accidentally on model railways and sometimes deliberately.  In the full size world they are sometimes used to turn a loco or train round and modellers may want to copy this facility.
The problem is that a short circuit will be created because the two opposite polarity rails end up being joined together.
There are a few ways to overcome this problem, ranging from simple switches to fully automatic electronic auto reverse units.
Below are some examples of reverse loops, so you know what to avoid.

Any section controlled by an auto reverse module (ARM) or reversing switch must be at least as long as the longest train if the wagons/coaches have metal wheels.

This plan shows a double reverse loop!

A single reverse loop


A more complex plan, but it's still a reverse loop and in this configuration
it may be referred to as a "wye"

Removing the marked track section or using insulated fishplates and a
reversing switch or auto reverse module will eliminate the reverse loop problem

Reverse loop control using a Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) switch

If you want to use a switch to allow a reverse loop to be used on your layout,
then you will need to use insulating fishplates or isolating tracks where the
track breaks are shown and double pole, double throw (DPDT) switches
to create a switchable isolated section as shown below

Note how the switch is wired with two wires connected to opposite "corners" of the switch.  These must be insulated wires, they do not make a connection where they cross over.

The method of using a reverse loop is as follows:
1 Drive the train into the isolated section (assume forwards on the controller)
2 Stop the train
3 Operate the reversing switch
4 Throw the point the opposite way
5 Change the controllers power switch to reverse
6 Drive the loco out of the reversing section

For DCC users there are automatic reverse loop controllers available.  These require no intervention by the user other than changing the point.  There is no need to stop the train.  The auto reverser takes care of switching the polarity.  In use, you will probably not notice any slowing or jerkiness of the train.
Beware though that some DCC controllers (eg ESU Ecos and Bachmann Dynamis) have extremely fast safety cut outs that are not compatible with most auto reversers.  The PSX-AR auto reverser is said to work with these two controllers (and all other controllers).  It is a solid state unit that does not rely on relays for switching and is therefore extremely quick in operation.

Reverse loop control using a Hornby lever switch and isolating tracks.
In my opinion, a very expensive way of doing it.

This method will only work with insulated frog points

Wiring for a "Wye" or turning triangle

This circuit is for dead frog (Insulfrog) points only

The track at "C" is designed as a dead end.  If it is not a dead end and connects back to the main track, another pair of insulated rail joiners (IRJs) must me used.  In this case, the length from "A" to the IRJs beyond "C" must be at least as long as the train including wagons/coaches.  The same applies for the distance from "B" to the IRJs beyond "C".

It is possible to use a Peco PL-15 twin microswitch attached to the point above "C" instead of the DPDT (Double Pole Double Throw) switch.

Automatic reverse units (AKA Auto Reverse Modules - ARM) are available for DCC operated layouts and would be wired in the same as the DPDT switch.  Unfortunately these do not work on dc controlled layouts.

This circuit is for LIVE frog (Electrofrog) points

Updated 10/05/2018