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Model Railway Electrics - Switches

Point Motor Placement - Where and how to place your point motors. Point Motor Fitting - How to fit a point motor under your layout

Point motor switches


I know what you're thinking switches are easy, but point motor switches are not like normal switches. A point motor requires only a short burst of electricity. Hornby use what is called a passing contact switch. This means it only supplies a short burst of electricity to make the points change. The problem with Hornby switches is their cost (5 RRP). This means they cost more than the point motor (3.85 RRP) and together with the cost of Hornby standard points (6.50 RRP) the cost of each motorised set of points is a whopping 15.35 RRP. That's 30+ for a set of change over points and 60+ for the return.

I strongly recommend that you use toggle switches (on-(off)-on) or two push switches which are available form any good electronics firm or New Modellers Shop. These switches return to the centre when pressed so that you only supply that short burst of power, that the point motors need. Point motors can burn out if you don't use a short burst of power. A Capacitor Discharge Unit will help protect your point motors.

I would also recommend toggle switches for the signals (on-on) as well as any lights or isolating sections you have (on-off) as Hornby alternatives are also 5. A standard toggle switch should be about 20p.

Hornby Two Way Lever Switch R046    Hornby On-Off Level Switch R047    Hornby Pass Contact Switch (For Point Motors) R044

           on-on R046        on-off R047         Point Motor Switch R044 

There are advantages of using Hornby's system. All three types of switch, interlock to make an attractive and functional switch board and because they are large, you get the feel you are in control of a real railway. Unlike the toggle switch, the Hornby switch shows the position of the points either open or closed. The toggle switch returns to the centre when it is pressed and thus does not show the position of the points. If you haven't got a good memory then you will have to use the Hornby point switch. The Hornby switches are also spring loaded in one direction. If cost is not a problem I would go for the Hornby switches (point switches especially due to showing the points position) especially if the layout is to be used by children.


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Wiring Multiple Point Motors 


Point motors need to be wired independently to its switch. It is only the centre wire (in my case black) of both the point motor and switch which are wired to the low voltage power output and can share a wire with other points. See the circuit diagrams below. On the left you can see three point motors connected to three toggle switches. On the right you can see three point motors connected to six push button switches (one for open, one for close on each point).

Multiple point motors controlled by toggle switches Multiple point motors controlled by push button switches


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SPDT (on-on toggle switch) And Push To Make Point Switching (Idea from Mr Bulmer)

This method of switching point gets around the problem of not knowing the position of the points. By using an on-on switch to change the direction of the point motor, and a "push to make switch" to activate the movement. (See circuit diagram below)

SPDT on-on toggle switch and push to make switch


The on-on switch directs the power to either side of the point motor. If this was connected to the power supply the point motor would burn out as it would get a constant flow of power. By putting a "push to make switch" between the on-on switch and the power transformer, you can trigger a short burst of power to change the point.


So to change the point you position the on-on switch, and then push the "push to make switch" to trigger the burst. The position of the on-on switch illustrates the position of the point. It would be a good idea if you position them on a control board with a diagram of the layout so you know what the switch position means.


Problems: The position of the on-on switch, does not tell you if the point has actually changed. The only way to show the position of the points remotely, is to fix a switch to the point which changes a light on the control board. If you do this you might as well use the toggle switches (on-(off)-on) or two push switches.

Warning point motors can burn out if you don't use a short burst of power. A Capacitor Discharge Unit will help protect your point motors


Advantages: Less wiring than using lights to illustrate the position of the points and its cheaper.


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SPDT Switching (suggested by LisaP4)

Instead of using a push to make switch, this method uses two diodes and a capacitor to fire a short bursts of power to throw the point switch. (see circuit diagram below)


SPDT point switches


When the switch is thrown, the current flows through the point motor until the capacitor is fully charged and then it stops. When you then through the switch in the opposite direction the capacitor discharges through the other side of the point motor making it move in the opposite direction from before until the capacitor is fully discharged. Both times the switch is thrown the point motor only gets a very small burst of power.


Problems: Only the added time in wiring which makes this more complex. I have only run this on a test rig using 12v DC and it works but with little power. I think you need the 16-24v which was suggested.

Advantages: Only need one switch. Basically it works like Hornby and Peco point switches except it requires DC to work. You should not require a Capacitor Discharge Unit as the capacitor does this job.


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Mimic Board Another method of changing the points is using a mimic board. This article was written by Mr Breakwell


"If your after cheep way of wiring point motors, terminate the two wires from your motor directly on your control panel with self taping screws. Terminate the power wire (from the controller) the same way in the upper centre of the panel. You will need to extend the power wire with a trailing wire. This should be a strong flexible multi core wire (the type used in cars) Fix one end with a spade fitting to fit under the screw to contact the power wire and the other end can be cut off clean leaving the wire insulated."

"To operate the point touch the trailing wire on self taping screw you'll find you have to hold the trailing wire vertical because of the insulation (do not keep it in contact, just one touch should do) I have made a diagram to assist my explanation."

Multi point to mimic board

Click here to enlarge image

"There are two problems.

1.    You may have to reverse the wires from the points to activate them on the correct track.
2.    You can't identify from the control panel, which track was selected last ? This can be solved using a Peco Accessory Switch (PL-13) which is mounted on the point to change an led on the control panel to indicate the position of the point (green for straight and red for bend). This could also change a signal at the same time.

3.    Warning point motors can burn out if you don't use a short burst of power. A Capacitor Discharge Unit will help protect your point motors


Advantages: Very Cheap!!


 it works for me hope it works for you.... Mr Breakwell"



Electronic component retailers are an endless source of cheap electronic components that will allow you to do almost anything to you layout. You can find a selection of the components I have used at this site new modellers shop

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Model Railway Electrics - Power Clip - This page includes how to fit a hornby power clip, and where to put your power clip or power track. Model Railway Electronics - Train Controllers (AC,DC,DCC,PWD) What's the difference Model Railway Electrics - DC Controller - This page describes what dc control is. Its advantages and dis-advantages. R965 and C990 Model Railway Electrics - DCC Control - Digital Command Control (DCC) Model Railway Electrics - Infra-Red Control - (IRC) Infrared Model Railway Electrics - Point Motors Model Railway Electrics - Switches -  switches include  SPDT, DPDT, on-on, on-off, on-off-on, (on)off(on), Toggle switches, slide switches, and push to make switche. Switches can be used to operate model railway signals, model railway point motors, model railway turntable, Model railway Lights, isolating sections, etc Model Railway Electronics - Lights - This page include LED's L.E.D.'s,  filiment lamps and Bi pin lamp. This page discusses their power consumption heat and suitability for common uses. Model Railway Electrics - Arm Signal - How to Automate an Arm Signal R171 & R172 Model Railway Electris - Light Signals - Signal wire diagrams, How do real light signals work? Hornby, Gaugemaster, Build your own Signal - R406 Model Railway Electrics - Build Your Own Railway Signal, This page discusses how you can build your own cheap model railway signal Model Railway Electrics - How to build a working railway crossing Model Railway Electrics - How to build your own street lights Model Railway Electrics - Hornby turntable - Circuit diagram, Wiring diagram, video Model Railway Electrics - Isolating Circuit - What are isolating sections for, Circuit diagram, Build your own isolating section, How to wire isolating sections. Model Railway Electrics - Control Box - How to build a model railway control box to control your signals, points and other model railway electronics.


New Modellers Shop - A Model Railway Shop - Stocking model railway wagons, coaches, carriages, electric diesel and steam locomotives, power and control equiptment, point motors, train packs, scenery, signals switches, and much much more. Supplying model products along with reviews and advice. Railway Pictures - Railway photograph gallery covering all areas of railway traction, buildings, and trackwork. Extensive photo library, which is being added to weekly. Upload and share your own images to the site using its inbuilt upload features.

Hornby Model Shop

R8312 - E-Link Computer Controlled Model Railway

Hornby E-Link
Computer Control


Hornby Model Railway Train Sets - Hornby Mixed Freight Train Set - R1126

Hornby DCC Mixed Freight Train Set


Hornby Trakmat

Hornby Model Railway Extension Track Pack A - R8221

Hornby Extension Track Pack A


Hornby Model Railway Extension Track Pack B - R8222

Hornby Extension Track Pack B


Hornby Model Railway Extension Track Pack C - R8223

Hornby Extension Track Pack C


Hornby Model Railway Extension Track Pack D - R8224

Hornby Extension Track Pack D


Hornby Model Railway Extension Track Pack E - R8225

Hornby Extension Track Pack E


Hornby Model Railway Extension Track Pack F - R8226

Hornby Extension Track Pack F


Hornby Trakmat

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