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So to day I purchased my first tortoise switch machine. I'm going to need a total of ten but thought I would start out purchasing one and see how easy or difficult they are to install. So the first thing I noticed is how small the openings are for the electrical connections.  My question is what gauge wire do I need to fit in these holes and should it be stranded or solid or does it make no difference? I also noticed they make something called an edge connector for these switches that would eliminate the need for soldering the wires. Has any body used these connectors?


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Hey Dale. Here is one I had lying around for the last 20 years in my scrap box. I soldered "telephone wire" to the connector. I think the wire GA is either 22, 24 or 26. Just not sure. I am embarrassed with my soldering skills from years ago. 

You only need two connections to operate the motor. All the other ones are for controlling track power, signals, etc. It is all explained in the directions. Use the template provided to cut a hole for the drawbar wire. For me, I bought a heavier gauge wire to throw the points than the one supplied with the Tortoise. That works well for the smaller gauges but for O Gauge, I like the heaver wire. I purchased the wire at a local hobby shop that has RC airplanes. You may be able to see the wire on the pics.

Regardless, you made the right choice. Figure out how to make them work. It is not too hard. I really wish I would have made the decision to use Tortoise motors to control my ROSS turnouts instead of the DZ2500. Using the DZ product was a bad choice for me but now with 30 switches, it is too late to change.

Hope that helps.




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I have used them for years on my layouts . the instruction method of installing them is difficult. for under table mounting  I drill two side by side holes 3/8" and connect them to make a slot from side to side so the wire has more room to travel making use of the full throw of the machine. then I use lower temp craft store hot glue to glue the machine up underneath. next I use a little heavier brass wire 3/32" from K&S ( most hobby shops have it) I put a 90 degree bend in it at the top and drop it thru the throw bar on the switch. next under the table center the switch machine and wind a loose loop of the other end of the wire around the screw on the switch machine. this avoids having to put the wire into the switch from underneath.  you can use small wire gauge for the two outer terminals that run the motor as there is almost no draw from them , the other contacts you will need larger wire depending on what you use them for, these contact are not rated for heavy current as they are just traces on a PC board but can be used to operate a relay if you need higher current. I solder lengths of wire on all the terminals on the bench and connect the other end to a terminal strip.  and yes they are easy enough to take off being hot glued in place. very reliable machines some of mine were bought when they were $6.95 each at the hobby shop and I have never had a failure.  hope this helps Rick


Agree with above comments.  They work well and visually are much better than solenoid switch machines.   Also you can wire red and green LEDs in series with the motor for dwarf signals or control panel lights to indicate switch position.   See my article in O Gauge Railroading Dec 2018 Run 302 on Dwarf Signals for wiring instructions.


If you solder directly to the machines, a 20 Gauge wire fits nicely. Use a low-watt pencil iron to solder them. However, if you're lazy like me and don't mind spending a few bucks, there is an edge card connector with screw terminals available from Litchfield Station.

Tortoise Connector.

And just in case you want to activate a crossing gate or semaphore in s l o w  m o t i o n , here's a nifty little add-on.

Gate/Semaphore actuator kit.

They also sell side mounting/remote mounting kits for the machines in case you have an errant 2x4 right where you need the machine.

Lastly, here's how the pins connect in case you want to trigger signals, etc.



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Last edited by AGHRMatt

Dale what turnouts are you using. We have 30+ Ross and these work really well.

When we were installing the Tortoises with Ross, I wrote up a summary of how to install these including the Tortoise, Ross indicator light, etc. 

if you will send me an e-mail, I will be glad to send you a copy. It may take me several days to respond as I just had a knee replacement Friday and my wife is teaching on-line. It is hard to coordinate what we are doing.


You made a good choice in choosing Tortoise switch machines. I have used them on my layout with Ross switches since 1987. They are bullet proof. To install is relatively easy. First, position the throw bar so that the movable points are in the middle position. Then, put a small nail through one of the holes in the throw bar. Then, remove the nail and mark the tiny spot where it was and then move the switch to the side. Drill a 1/2 inch hole at this site using the small pinhole at the center. Then, put a flash light over the hole and get underneath the layout. Use the template provided in the Tortoise instruction sheet and position the throw bar hole over the black circle on the template. The flashlight will help you do this. Then, install the switch machine with four 1/2 inch #4 wood screws.  Before you screw the switch machine down solder 22 gauge wires to the two outside terminals on the tortoise and place the throw wire in the switch machine secured with the small screw included.  Move the switch to its normal position so that the hole in the throw bar is centered over the i/2 inch hole in the plywood. Carefully slide the Tortoise in place such that the wire passes through the hole in the throw bar. Then, Secure the switch machine with the wood screws at each corner. To control your switch machines use double pole double throw mini toggle switches. Wire in bicolor LEDs as shown on the instruction sheet. Then you will know in which direction the switch is thrown. Have fun, and if you need help reach me at

All tortoise machines on Ross switches for me.   I didn't care for soldering all those wires on each machine so I went looking for some way I could adapt an inexpensive quick connect screw type connector. After some digging I found these on eBay and they work very well. I had to tweak (bend) the pins a little to get better alignment for soldering.





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