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Tortoise all the way. Non derail is not even required but can still be utilized. If you set the spring tension light, the engines and cars will trail right through the switch. The only downside is super light cars, will go up and over the switch points. 

They are a little more work in the building phase because you have to plan for them while laying track. Clearance underneath, drilling the hole for the throw bar spring but if you make a simple jig as their instructions suggest..... they go quick. If clearance underneath is an issue, they have the remote location access. you can buy. We have also used a couple of those.

2 great things about them. They are completely hidden AND slow smooth QUIET operation. 

All of mine but one are the Atlas switch machines. I have never used a Tortoise, but have grown fond of the one DZ-1000 I have. I got the DZ-1000 because the Atlas machine would not fit in this particular place. The DZ-1000's are snap acting like the Atlas machines are, but are not twin coil. They have a nicer manual switch button, switch position lights, manual override and are much smaller than the Atlas machines. I have also heard the Tortoise machines are very nice, just have never used one.

I started out planning to use the 6924 boards, but after running the layout without them for a while I decided I probably didn't really need them. Fortunately I only bought a few, which I may still use sometime in the future for signaling or something like that.

I have used Tortoise machines and never had a failure - some have been in place for over 16 years.

No non-derail board is needed because as mentioned above. the spring tension allows wheels to push throw bar out of the way.  The only cars I have seen give a problem is the very light MPC era cars

Another wonderful feature they have is 2 sets of SPST relays for controlling signals, etc.

They look intimidating to install but once you do several, it becomes old hat.

Best of luck,


I am building a new layout and went with the Atlas track.  I have to say that I am not a fan of the Atlas switch machines.  I had to replace several of them as they worked very sluggishly and did not throw the switch points all the way.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have stuck with the Ross/Gargraves and the DZ-1000 switch machines.  Just MHO

I have all Atlas track and switches.  I have replaced all of the switch machines with dz1000.  Have been very pleases.  I have them wired with the push button switches (has red/green led indication which is nice), and also to mth aiu's.  I have been quite pleased.  I have not wired the derailing boards, and not sure I need them.  The action of the machines is great and fits easily in the footprint of the old machine.

In my opinion the first decision that one should make is; do you want the switch machines to be visible (above the layout at the turnout), or hidden (under the layout). If hidden and mounted under the layout, THAT decision could very well determine which switch machines are best.

As an alternate, those turnouts that are close to an operator, the manual Caboose Industries throws could be used. Our layout has all Caboose Industries manual throws, except those turnouts that are "out of reach", and those have machines mounted underneath. 

Last edited by Hot Water

Hot Water said it best.

I too moved over to the DZ1000. Added benefit - if you want non-derail it is as simple as isolated a section of a ground rail and adding an extra wire. If you have problems with dead spots on the turnout then a DZ1008 and a couple of more wires.

Though I helped install Tortoise machines in a club layout (they went from Atlas O to Tortoise) before I moved to a new city I have never used a Tortoise machine. Does anyone know if the machine can be wired in conjunction with other equipment to address dead spots, activate directional lights etc?



Jack . . . Many thanks. You are absolutely correct. I should have made that decision right away. In any case, I have decided to hide the switch machines under the layout. I bought one dozen Tortoises today for $170 shipped. The DZ1000 machines appeared to be anywhere from $20-$25.

I want the track on this iteration of the Munoz Lines to be as prototypical in appearance as three rail can be. I also dread the mechanism in those Atlas machines. Working with that little spring and getting the right tension is like being a substitute teacher for a middle school class on a Friday afternoon. 

As always, I can count on the forum to come to the rescue.


Just remember to drill the large hole for the throw bar spring wire BEFORE you permanently mount the switches  Did that the hard way a couple times. Drilling a large hole from underneath with the switch installed was not so much fun.

The 1st time you mount the Tortoise under the layout, only use 2 of the 4 mounting holes for alignment purposes. Just incase you're off a bit, you can use the other 2 holes to correct it. Once you have made the jig and mounted a couple of them.... they are so easy to do and will last forever.

Last edited by Laidoffsick

The Tortoise has two spdt contacts on each machine. I use them especially for double crossovers  for two frog polarity correction.  Each of the four Tortoises can correct two frogs.

I pre-solder each machine and connect to a terminal strip for easy service or change out. Never had to but I could.

I use a 9 wire thermostat cable.



Tortoise & Lionel lift 003


Images (2)
  • Tortoise & Lionel lift 003
  • IMG_7724

Another option would be DZ 1000's or DZ 2500 switch machines. Peter Condro, who posted above,  did all his Atlas switches with DZ (??1000??) motors.  We had talked about the thermostat cable, mentioned above with the Atlas 6924 relay boards. (8) conductor.  

Automatic non-derail feature with Tortoise requires positioning the non-derail input section(s), a bit further away from the switch, since the tortoise switch is slow moving, prototypical, not a snap action switch.  Or you have to adjust track speed to accommodate the slow moving switch.

The tortoise switch is also designed for a dead stall.  Once the switch moves the switch motor stalls, until required to move again.  Apparently the motors are design for this feature. Snap switches have to disconnect after the move or the motor fries. 

Another advantage to the tortoise switch motor is that it mounts under the table, is not visible.  The DZ switch motors and  Atlas switch motors are top side mount, (Atlas does have an under the table motor).   

Motors are DC, you  would have to install a DC power supply or use diodes.   Atlas has a wiring diagram using Tortoise switch machines.   


Last edited by Mike CT
Model Structures posted:


Does anyone know if the machine can be wired in conjunction with other equipment to address dead spots, activate directional lights etc?



I didn't see where you got an answer here? I have not used a Tortoise either, but I believe they have 2 sets of C-Form contacts (relays - NO-NC-C) built in that you can use for whatever you want. More info here on their website

Oops, just saw that Tom Tee had mentioned the extra relays above, missed that the first time through.

Last edited by rtr12

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