Peco’s New Unifrog Turnouts

In this week’s post I’m going to share with you one of the new products made by Peco, not only because I think the new product is worth a mention but also because there’s been lots of debate as to whether this new product is an improvement on the existing range as Peco will be replacing the others with this one.

Over the years Peco have made very reliable track work and I know it’s used all over the world. For example I know a museum layout in California which uses hand laid track on the public side and Peco in the hidden yards, simply because it works so well.  On our modular club layout, ‘Solent Summit’, Peco is our standard.

Peco have offered turnouts or points in two varieties in most scales for a long time,   Electrofrog and Insulfrogs; I’ve written posts before which help explain what the difference is.  The first was on how I improve my Electrofrog points for DCC operation which you can find here.  And the other was how I improve Kato points and that can be found here.  But the basic difference is Insulfrogs have a plastic frog which is the area where the rails cross, and also provide power routing. The post about the Kato points explains what power routing is.  Electofrogs have an all metal frog which improves power pickup but needs to be isolated from the other rails to prevent shorting.  This is normally done with plastic rail joiners or cutting the track with a disc cutter.

This means that Peco has two versions of every point, which makes production twice as expensive, and takes up twice as much room in the shops.  However there’s a big divide between modelers with both types being prefered for different reasons. The primary issue, I believe, stems from the age of the design which was originally built around DC operation.  DC operators like them as they are, DCC operators want them to change.  However DCC is fastly becoming more common and as I mentioned above I feel it necessary to always improve the turnouts for DCC operations.

So to resolve this Peco have combined the two types and now produce the Unifrog turnout.

The Unifrog has a metal frog, as the with the Electrofrog, but it is isolated at both ends by plastic strips.  The wire wrapped around the point is the optional frog feed, I didn’t unwrap it as this turnout is new and only borrowed for the post.

Up close you can see the isolators.  The wire, when unwrapped, is connected to the V section of the frog as well as the two check rails; this prevents any shorting from wide tread wheels which may touch both.

On the reverse side you can see Peco have also bridged the stock rails with the blades.  This is the main improvement I made to my Electrofrog points.  There is also a bridging wire connecting the blades with the outgoing rails next to the frog.  This means that power runs through the turnout in both directions without passing through the blade/stock rail joint irrelevant to the which way it’s set.  Perfect for DCC.

So what advantages does this give me?

  • This turnout is ready to use for DCC or DC right out of the packet.
  • I no longer need to use plastic isolating rail joiners on the two rails next to the frog.
  • There is no danger of relying on power being transfer through the blade where they touch the stock rail.
  • Compared to Insulfrog there is a large metal frog so no dead power section which affect small locos. (providing the frog has been separately powered)

What disadvantages does this give me?

  • The turnout does not provide power routing compared to an Insulfrog point for DC operation.
  • The frog will always be dead unless powered separately.

But, and this is the clever part, in order to make this work in just the same way as an Insulfrog turnout all you need to do is remove the bridges circled in red below.  This can be done with a screwdriver by braking the solder joint or cutting with snips.

Although this is not a modification I need to make, being all DCC, I think it’s a lot easier than the soldering modification to add them in. Yes, anybody wanting power routing now has an extra job to do, but it really is 30 seconds as opposed to the work required before.  This means, in my opinion, despite the compromise for the DC operators wanting power routing, the new points are a good replacement for both.

The dead frog disadvantage, also in my opinion, isn’t really a problem.  This is because for DCC operation it’s recommended to power the frog from a switch or electric frog juicer anyway.  And DC operators now have the option to power the frog which you didn’t with the Insulfrog which has to be an improvement.

Personally I thing this move by Peco is a good one and I’ll be using their new Unifrog turnouts on all my upcoming projects.