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EZ track layout issues

Started by porkenheimer, October 09, 2009, 12:39:17 PM

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Is there  a reason that when i use a 90 degree crossing that only part of the figure 8 gets power?  Also I ran a large oval and used two turnouts to connect each side with a large diagonal lane running through the middle (basically a big "S" with an oval around it)and this layout will not work either.  Is there something I am missing?  Is it the track?  I run DCC with the digital commander set.  This is really frustrating.  I have spent lots of money trying to get the layout I want and now it is limited to nothing but circles and circles inside of circles.  Please help before I burn it all!  I guess my real question I using the wrong track?  I have bought a lot of EZ track and would like to use it, but if it is more headache than its worth what is recommended?



without a layout diagram, it's hard to tell.  Based on your description, it sounds like you've attempted to put a reverse loop in your track, causing a short.  It that the "S" inside of your oval?

How does the figure 8 fit in?  Do you use track feeders to distribute the power more evenly?

I have a mixture of various brands of track, which all work well, including the EZ track.  Really want to help, if possible.  Hate to see someone give up on their layout dream...




I am very new to this.  I have tried the "S" which does not work, so I experimented by trying the figure 8 and it had issues too.  What is a track feeder?  Can you explain this to me in detail?  I have a lot of track and only one power source (the DCC controller that comes with the digital commander).  I can make very large layouts on 2-4x8 sheets of plywood as long as they are ovals they seem to work fine.  I can do an inner oval and an outer oval connected by turnouts etc. and that works.  It's just when I connect the centers that it seems to crap out.



A track feeder is the wires that connect your track to the controller.
A diagonal connection across a loop creates a reverse connection and a short circuit without rail gaps,additional wiring and an electric switch.This applies whatever make of track you use and whether DC or DCC control.
The figure 8 should work if you  use two feeds--one to each of the curved end sections.
Before you throw anything away or spend more cash you need to get one of the available books on BASIC track wiring and read it - and read it. You can ask questions here about anything in the book that you don't understand.

Eric UK

Joe Satnik

Dear PH,

Atlas book # 12 "The Complete Atlas Wiring Book" works well for what Erik suggested.   

I started typing the following before the other 3 replied, so some info repeated:

Combining an oval with a figure 8 creates multiple turn-around loops which, on a 2 rail system, create shorts. 

Strategically placed rail gap pairs and polarity changing switches (Atlas #210 Twin, e.g.) are needed to fix that. 

The 90 degree crossing should carry track current straight across the diamond, but should have no connection to the other route at right angles to it. 

Make sure the ends of the rails are fully and properly seated in the next track section's rail connector.  It's easy to have one or both sides of a rail bottom resting on top of a rail connector.  Run your finger in both directions along the tops of the rails.  When you hit a snag, look for a bad connection beneath it.

Hope this helps.


Joe Satnik     
If your loco is too heavy to lift, you'd better be able to ride in, on or behind it.

Jim Banner

My mental picture of your S layout is like the one at A in the diagram below.

The layout at A is an oval with a single diagonal crossover.  But it is also two return loops, one of which is shown in red.  What is a return loop?  A return loop is a track arrangement which allows a train to change direction while running on the layout.  Consider a train starting off at the right hand end of drawing A, and heading counterclockwise (heading upward in the diagram.)  When it starts out, its right hand wheels are on the outside rail of the oval.  As the train follows around the loop in red and gets back to its starting point, it is heading the other way.  It is now going clockwise around the oval (heading downward at the right side of the drawing.)  And its right hand wheels are now on the inside rail of the oval.  Oops!  That means that the outside rail is connected to the inside rail.  And that is a short circuit, one which will shut your layout down.  This is a property of the track layout - the short circuit is still there even if the train is not on the tracks.

So what can we do about it?  If we gap both rails at the two points marked with a short green line, we will no longer have a short.  As others have pointed out, you can use Atlas insulating rail joiners to do this.

But now another problem comes up.  The diagonal track is no longer connected to a source of power so when the train comes along, it stops dead after the locomotive crosses the first set of gaps it comes to.  So we have to install a feed to that diagonal.  But which way do we connect it?  Connect it one way and the train will short as it crosses the first pair of gaps that it comes to.  Connect it the other way, the train will sail over the first pair of gaps but it will short as it crosses the second pair of gaps.  So how and we fix that?

One way to fix that problem would be to wait until the train crosses the first set of gaps, then unplug the feeder from the diagonal track, turn the plug over, and plug it back in.  Now the train is all set to cross the second set of gaps when it reaches them.  Only problem is, the train will stop while we are turning the plug over.  To fix that, we could install a toggle switch that powers the diagonal track one way when the handle is up and the other way when the handle is down.  Now we don't have to fumble around with plugging and unplugging, and the switch snaps from one connection to the other so fast that the train never stops.  But we still have a couple of problems.  One is to remember which way to throw the toggle switch when the train is approaching the loop and the other is to remember to throw it when the train is in the loop.  Fortunately, there is a solution to that problem as well.  It works only because you are using DCC and locomotives with decoders in them.  It does NOT work with dc locomotives.  That solution is known as an Auto Reverser (or by several other names.)  An auto reverser is easy to install.  It has 4 wires.  Two of the wires connect to your command station.  You can either splice them into the existing track wires or, because you use E-Z track, you can add a plug and plug them into the other side of any convenient road crossing/connector piece of track.  The other two wires go to feed the diagonal track.  Again, because you use E-Z Track, you can make the connection to the diagonal track using a road crossing/connector piece.  You must put the power into the input wires and take the diagonal track power from the output wires, but the two input wires are interchangeable with one another and the two output wires are interchangeable with one another.  Now the Auto Reverser will take care of making the right connections as your train moves into and out of the loop.

There is one problem we cannot solve with layout A.  And that problem is that a train can change directions around the oval by moving forward across the diagonal track in one direction, but to return the train to its original direction requires backing up across the diagonal track.  Not very elegant and likely to cause derailments.

Track plan B solves the backing up problem by adding a second diagonal.  Now you can reverse directions either way by choosing the correct diagonal track.  The second diagonal track in plan B adds a couple of new ways of shorting the track, but the solution is very similar to what was needed in plan A.  This time we need four pairs of gaps (insulated rail joiners) again shown in green.  That whole center section, consisting of both diagonals and the cross, will still need a toggle switch or better an Auto Reverser.  And it will need two feeds from the output of the Auto Reverser - one to each diagonal track.  As pointed out elsewhere in this thread, the cross only connects straight across both ways but does not connect tracks at a right angle.

An alternative to plan B is plan C.  The center track in plan C allows you to reverse in both directions, just like the two diagonals in plan B.  But it also gives you a passing siding which can be used with either side of the oval for having meets between two trains.  This makes it possible for you, or for you and a friend, to each run a train but in opposite directions around the oval.

I have not shown how many or what types of sectional track sections you would need.  That depends on how you set the layout up.  With two sheets of plywood available to you, I am sure you could come up with much nicer looking layouts than the ones shown, but still incorporating the ideas of two diagonals or a center passing track.

Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.


thanks for all the help guys!  i am no longer beating my head against the wall.  Question:  Can i patch into the wires coming from my controller to the track and run them to two terminal re-railers?  That would then power both sides of the track would it not?



looks like a reverse loop. Conflicting polarity.
Look at Jim Banners diagrams.
The short green lines, put plastic insulated connectors instead of the metal
ones where the green lines are.

To power the now isolated of the track you need a power switch like this,
two sets of these perhaps to simplify things a bit

you will also need wire cutter/stripper/crimper tool, some electrical wire
and some of these [warning  $$$ really expensive]
you'll figure out what to do with these.

run two wires from power pack to the switch.

From the switch run a two pairs of wires to the track, one pair for the outer, one pair for the inner.
Play with the switch, it controls the polarity of the track, until the train runs the way you want it to.