What Problems Do Gargrave Switches Pose?

This question is aimed at those who have 1st hand knowledge of the problems with Gargrave switches.  I've never used them but thinking about them for my upcoming winter rebuild.  Please don't tell me that you use another brand and their virtues.  I'm only interested in the problems with GG.  Thanks guys & gals.

Wild Mary (AKA Nick) Retired & "Riding The Wild Mary"



Forum Member Since 24 Sept. 2004


Original Post

Like any switch installation the base they are mounted on is the solution to many problems.  Level and straight is the answer.  The only problem I have had is with my post-war cars with an electrical pick up shoe.  Early on I tore several of them off before I fabricated a small plastic ramp to help lift the shoe before it hit a high spot.  Other than that problem I have had no problems.  O let me modify that with the fact that my per-war engine has larger flanges and does bump when navigating the switch.  All my switches are O-42.



Thanks Bud and I appreciate the heads-up on the slider shoe ramp as I will be running some PW on the layout.  I don't have any pre-war locos so that shouldn't be a problem....at least not yet.

Wild Mary (AKA Nick) Retired & "Riding The Wild Mary"



Forum Member Since 24 Sept. 2004


If you have any postwar cars or locomotives with electrocouplers (GG1's, 2333/43/53 F-3's, etc.) you may find that the couplers open when crossing a Gargraves switch.  The slide shoe makes contact with the stamped metal center rail wedge on the switch and opens the couplers.  I strongly suggest buying or borrowing one switch, connect some flex track to it, power the track and run your postwar stuff through it to see how it works for you.

Gargraves switches have been made for a long time. The newer (last decade or so) ones have worked well for me--with the already-mentioned caveat about slide shoes.


If you are trying to save some money by buying used, then I would recommend you run far away from the older version with the blackened short points--an example in this auction listing:



Of the newer-production switches, I have heard concerns about the durability of those with cast metal points. This is because the cast points are held in by little plastic tabs molded into the tie, like this:



Whereas the stamped metal points are held from underneath by a brass pin, like this:



Have not had any failures in either system myself, but perhaps something to consider if your turnouts will see heavy use and lots of operating hours.

I appreciate the excellent feeback from everyone.  I'm really thinking about GG 100" radius switches w/tinplate rails.    Since I already have 10 new Tortoise switch machines I can use manual switches.  Cost is always a factor especially being retired. 


Bob that's a good idea about buying 2 and set up a test.  If I decide to go w/GG (very likely) that's exactly what I'll do.


Thanks again.

Wild Mary (AKA Nick) Retired & "Riding The Wild Mary"



Forum Member Since 24 Sept. 2004


I haven't had any issues with the O-100's. I have one O-42 GG switch and I had one issue with it. The guard rail on the divergent track was too far away from the rail and isn't really placed well to make it effective. I had issues with wheels riding up and derailing on the frog until I fabricated and installed and new guard rail. I bought it several years ago, so GG's may have improved them since I bought mine.

Michael DeSandro

Troy, AL

I would buy current production GG switches. They are well made and the tracks are properly aligned. Some of the older production (10 or more years old) has issues with the way the various track pieces line up, which is poorly at best. They will work, but require a lot of tweaking. Not worth the hassle, IMHO. If you go manual, Caboose ground throws are great! If you go powered, DZ makes a nice, low profile switch machine. However, some people have reported issues with having them throw properly consistantly. NJs, while excellent and reliable, are also big and bulky. I'd look at an under-table mounting with a Rix-Rac.




I had them about twenty years ago and they were good but not built all that well. I think the new ones are most likely much better. My only objection now is the plastic ties. That's why I use Ross. I think you will do fine with the new Gargraves. Don

He guys I really appreciate everyone's input.  Based on your info I'm almost certain that I'll be using the GG 100" rad. manual switches and mounting my switch machines down under.  Thanks again..

Wild Mary (AKA Nick) Retired & "Riding The Wild Mary"



Forum Member Since 24 Sept. 2004


Hi Wild Mary


I have a layout that uses Gargraves 0-100 turnouts . They are a combination of older types, ie some short blackened point version and the remained the next generation stamped sheet metal points. I agree with other posters that the stamped sheet metal point versions require some tweaking to get them to work right, sort of like what you had to do with Atlas HO turnouts to fine tune them. I have some that i have adjusted for flawless operation that will allow operation without derailments without any switch machine attached. For Some turnouts, some engines sort of clunk through them. I think the area in the guard rail or frog may be two deep and needs some shimming. I have had a few where the guard rails have come loose. Some ACC will usually attach these again and solve the problem. I have not experienced the shoe problem with postwar equipment. I did recently have one turnout that worked fine for all my locos until i bought a Williams by Bachman scale GG1. The pilot truck wheels were not happy with the point spacing and i replaced the turnout with another GG 0-100 of the stamped sheet metal points that seems to work ok with this loco. Interestingly, The same engine from a previous run seemed to work fine on that turnout and it looked to me like WBB has put some more play in the pilot truck by allowing side to side play of wheels on the axle. I have not used the new version with the cast points.


I am building a second layout in a second home and this time i have bought the Ross equivalent turnout . These are very smooth in operation  and I am inclined to think that the optimum cost/ performance solution might be to use the Ross version on mainline turnouts and Gargraves in yards and off the main.


I have been able to use the older Gargraves turnouts satisfactorily with some tweaking and proper installation. I would think that the cast point versions should work equally as good or better perhaps.

LIRR Steamer

Originally Posted by J Daddy:
The plastic frogs are the GG's biggest down fall. Car wheels fall in them like a gigantic pothole. Weaver cars with plastic trucks tend to short out as they pass through. I am slowly upgrading everything to Ross switches.

Are the GG switches that you're changing out the new ones?

Wild Mary (AKA Nick) Retired & "Riding The Wild Mary"



Forum Member Since 24 Sept. 2004


I use the new type GG switches on the main line. In the yards I use the older type that I purchased used in 1982.  The older switches have too short of guardrails. I added a .188" by .030" plastic to the guardrails and it stopped most of the derailments with the older type of GG switch. The 3rd picture shows the added guardrails painted black.




Keith Johnson


Photos (3)
The old ones are worse and cause a lot of unwanted shorts. For conventional runners with out electronics , no big deal. But for the high dollar command engines its not worth the heart failure.
The newer switches are improved however still have issues with a sloppy frog alignment and corrosion issues with the plating process

TCA Number 16-71884

I was looking close at a new switch last night. The root cause of the pothole is the closure rails around the frog.They are bent into position poorly instead of cut and mitre like the Ross switches. I try to limit my use of gargraves in high traffic areas.

TCA Number 16-71884

I have Gargraves 042 switches and have been using them with MTH engines and have some really big problems. The, MTH PS-2, 4-8-4 Reading Lines T-1 steam loco derails at almost every Gargraves 042 switch I have, I have shimmed the switches underneath to get proper level. There is just something about the MTH RDG T-1 and Gargraves switches that don't work for me.

Williams engines have no problems with Gargraves switches, even three Williams SD-45's lashed up together will go through the Gargraves switches.

Like others mention about the Gargraves switches, be sure you have power going out of all center rails; coming and going back out, as sometimes the power stops at the center rail that is cut for the frog area. Gargraves sells power clips that you insert under the track, sometimes a small flat-tip screwdriver is needed to open the track just a little to insert the power clip. Use two power clips on either side of the switch amd at the curved side to prevent this from cutting off the center rail power.


Lee F.

Philadelphia & Reading Railway, one of the first railroads in the USA, first to have a double track system in the USA.

I have never had problems with any manufacturer's (Lionel, MTH, Williams, Weaver, Kline, RMT, Atlas & Industrial Rail) cars both freight and passenger, with Gargraves switches (I am also referring to the older slide shoe type, not prewar, of which I beveled the shoes to slide up & over).  I also run locomotives made by Lionel (back as far as prewar), MTH, Williams, Kline, Industrial Rail (Trollies) and RMT(modified on older models with jumpers to another RMT because of the short distance between pic-ups).


I am not going to cover the power issues as most folks have done well with that.


Several of the what I call the 2nd generation switches (with the stamped points) have had to be tweaked for several locomotives, but 2 out of 24 switches that gave me further issues were replaced with Ross.  Then I relegated the 2 older ones to areas not used much and in close reach (those were guide rail issues only on the 042).  I have both of the stamped & cast points production models and both 100 & 042 switches.  I run my trains in both directions through straight & curved.  All that said, making sure a locomotive length straight section of track before the switch is advisable but not always necessary.  I'm happy with their product.

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