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        Switch Shorting Mystery

        First I wired only the main line on both sides of this switch, which is a Gargraves 72” radius.  At this point, the siding had no power.  Please see photos.  Things were fine.  Engine crossed through on the curved main  line path in both directions with no problem.   Further, I had not and still have not wired the switch machine.

        The main line track is Gargraves.  The siding track immediately to the left of the switch begins with a section of Gargraves track and then changes to Lionel Super – O.

        After confirming that the main line worked well, I wired the siding into the same block as the main.  The wiring is through a Lionel Super – O power track segment, part no. 43, in the Super – O sections of track.  With only power (+) to the center rail, the siding was dead.  It required the connection of a ground (U) to an outside rail in order for the siding to have power.

        Now, with the main line and siding both powered in the same block, the engine would short and sometimes spark at point “X” and at the word “sparks” on the right margin of the first photo when it passed through on the curved main line.  Also, when the engine ran from the siding onto the switch, it shorted.  Cars pushed through the switch by hand on the main line also caused a short.

        Moreover, the engine and/or cars would short on the main line track sections to the right of the switch.  There are five pieces of Gargraves track in the block to the right of the switch. The shorts may be occurring only in the two sections closest to the switch.  I say “may … only” because  power in the three sections most distant from the switch seem to have diminished power.  Before I wired the siding, I’d run several trains without problems over the whole mainline, including the two sections where shorts now occur and over the three sections that appear to have diminished power.

        Carbon deposits have appeared on the top and side of  the rail below “X” in the first photo as well as all along the top of rail “Y.”

        I noted then that, when the switch is lined to straight for the siding, car wheel flanges can touch the powered rail at the gap “Z”  in the second photo.  However, the flanges don’t touch when the switch is lined to curve.

        Any idea what’s going on here and how to fix it?

I’d appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks, Ed

EdGargraves switch 01Gargraves switch 02


Images (2)
  • Gargraves switch 01
  • Gargraves switch 02
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"They used to but no longer do (Gargraves turnouts with continuity on all three ends).  That was done so you can have an isolated section or siding without having to cut the connections between the third rails"

Glad you figured it out. I am surprised the transformer did not trip and shut down.

You should still consider the ground on the opposite rail (alternate ground connections along the track). This way both sides of the track are hardwired to ground and you don't need to depend on the truck wheels to make a good electrical connection.

Last edited by Joe Fauty

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