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HO scale number 6 turnouts

By Cody Grivno | November 13, 2022

Learn more about offerings from six manufacturers

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Group photo of HO scale No. 6 turnouts

HO scale number 6 turnouts

Group photo of HO scale No. 6 turnouts
HO scale No. 6 turnouts from Atlas, Bachmann, Kato, Micro Engineering, Peco, and Walthers. Cody Grivno photo

HO scale number 6 turnouts. Running trains in a circle or oval may hold your attention for a little bit, but eventually you’ll want your trains to go somewhere beyond that basic loop. That’s where turnouts enter the scene. Turnouts let you split one line into two, design yards, model passing sidings, add industrial spurs, and more. In this story, we’ll focus on HO scale No. 6 turnouts from six manufacturers.

Though you may hear the terms switch and turnout used interchangeably by model railroaders, on the prototype switch refers to the moving parts of a turnouts (the points). A turnout is the entire track piece (headblocks, points, guardrails, and other parts).

When you’re in the hobby shop looking for HO scale turnouts, you’ll see them referred to by number. The three most common numbers you’ll see are 4, 6, and 8. Number 4 turnouts are sharp, suited for small layouts and short-wheelbase cars and locomotives.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are No. 8 turnouts. These turnouts are broad and require more space, but six-axle diesel locomotives, large steam locomotives, passenger equipment, and 60-foot and larger freight cars will be able to pass through them comfortably.

In the middle of the road are number 6 turnouts. Though not as broad as a No. 8, most locomotives and freight cars can navigate a No. 6. There are several HO scale No 6 turnouts on our Milwaukee, Racine & Troy staff layout.

In this gallery of HO scale number 6 turnouts, we’ll look at offerings from six manufacturers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will give you a glimpse at the common turnouts on the market today. And to keep those turnouts operating reliably, read Paul Dolkos’ article “Tune up your layout, part two: Troubleshooting track and turnouts” in the June 2007 issue of Model Railroader [https://www.trains.com/mrr/magazine/archive-access/model-railroader-june-2007/].

Group photo of HO scale No. 6 turnouts
Turnouts from Atlas, Bachmann, Kato, Micro Engineering, Peco, and Walthers are featured in this gallery of HO scale No. 6 turnouts. Cody Grivno photos
Group photo of HO scale No. 6 turnouts
Photo of HO scale turnout on white background

Atlas Model Railroad Co. offers its Customline turnouts in left- (No. 563) and right-hand (No. 564) versions. The turnouts have code 83 nickel silver rail; hinged point rails; and brown plastic ties with spike, tie plate, and woodgrain detail. Three of the ties have holes for adding track nails. The guardrails are also molded in brown plastic. Four metal rail joiners are included with the turnout, which measures 12”.

Atlas designed its Customline turnouts so both routes are powered regardless of how the points are set. To prevent a short circuit, the metal frog is insulated. Though not an issue for most locomotives, the insulated frog may be problematic for short-wheelbase units or engines with single-truck pickup.

There are a few options for powering the frog. One is to use an Atlas Snap Relay (No. 200). When the relay is connected to a switch machine, the frog will receive power with the polarity matched to how the points are set.

Another option is to use a Frog Juicer from Tam Valley Depot. A tab with a small hole cast as part of the frog provides a convenient attachment point for the feeder wire.

The Atlas Customline turnouts are designed for use with the company’s Nos. 584 and 585 (remote), Nos. 586 and 587 (manual), No. 65 (under table), and No. 66 (deluxe under table) switch machines. The turnouts are also compatible with other commercial switch motors and machines.




Photo of HO scale turnout on white background
Photo of HO scale turnout with filler piece, controller, and wires

Bachmann’s E-Z Track System turnouts (Nos. 44559 [shown] and 44560) is referred to as all-in-one track because the track and roadbed are a single unit. On our sample, the track is attached to the roadbed with five small Phillips-head screws. Since the connectors on the end of the roadbed are unique to the E-Z Track System, the Bachmann track can’t be mixed with other brands of all-in-one track.

The roadbed is molded in gray, and the ties are black with spike and woodgrain detail. The rail is code 100 nickel silver; the point rails are hinged. The turnout measures 15-15/32”.

Bachmann turnouts can be operated manually using the switch located in the roadbed by the hinges in the point rails. To operate the turnouts remotely, follow the instructions printed on the back of the card. The three-wire green cable is attached to the turnout. The plug end goes into the supplied turnout controller. The two-wire red cable is for the power connection. The plug end goes to the turnout controller; the spade connectors go to the 16V AC or DC terminals on a power pack.

The metal frog can be powered. However, Bachmann recommends this for analog operation only as short circuits may damage Digital Command Control-equipped locomotives. A one-wire power connection required to power the frog, as shown on the back of the package.

Photo of HO scale turnout with filler piece, controller, and wires
Photo of HO scale turnout with molded roadbed and accessories

Kato produces No. 6 turnouts in powered (Nos. 2-860 [shown] and 2-861) and manual (Nos. 2-862 and 2-863) versions. Our sample included the turnout, a roadbed filler piece, a turnout cord, factory-installed Unijoiners (rail joiners), and four pieces of turnout accessory track. The turnout and accessory track pieces have drill starter points on the bottom that must be opened if you plan on securing the track with nails.

The roadbed and ties are molded as a single unit. The ties are painted a dark brown color and have spike and woodgrain detail. The plastic guardrails are picked in black paint; the frog is a separate piece cast in black plastic. The rail is code 83 nickel silver, and the point rails are hinged. The turnout measures 9-3/4”.

Kato Unitrack turnouts can be operated manually or with the twin-coil switch machine concealed under the roadbed. The manual control is located along the edge of the roadbed along the diverging route. Directly across from the manual control is the connection for the turnout cord. The gray plug fits into the opening. The clear plug on the other end attaches to the Turnout Control Switch (No. 24-840, sold separately).

From the factory the turnout is set to power routing, meaning the track power is dependent on how the points are lined. The turnout can be converted to non-power routing (both routes have a constant power supply) by changing the position of jumper plugs, as covered in the instructions. The jumper plugs are located under the roadbed filler next to the plug for the turnout cord.

Photo of HO scale turnout with molded roadbed and accessories
Photo of HO scale left-hand turnout on white background

Micro Engineering offers its No. 6 turnouts with code 70 and code 83 rail in left- and right-hand versions; the sample shown, which measures 10.857”, has the latter. Features include nickel silver rail; hinged point rails; brown plastic ties with molded spike, tie plate, and woodgrain detail; blind nail mounting holes; and metal guardrails.

The turnouts also include a bag of modeler-installed parts. The switch stand body and targets are white metal castings. The remaining parts are plastic: eight guard rail clamps (halves); two each code 83/70 insulated rail joiners and frog bolt plates; and one each headblock tie extension set, switch rod cover plate, and wheelset gauge.

Micro Engineering turnouts have a small spring attached to the switch rod to hold the points in place. If you plan on using a ground throw or switch motor to control the turnout, the spring must be removed.

Because the Micro Engineering turnouts have an all-metal frog, they’re called power-routing turnouts. Special wiring is required on power-routing turnouts to avoid short circuits. That’s covered in chapters six and seven of Basic Trackwork for Model Railroader’s: Second Edition by Jeff Wilson.

Photo of HO scale left-hand turnout on white background
Photo of HO scale No. 6 left-hand turnout on white background.

Peco’s Streamline 83 line follows the lines of full-size North American track. The company recently released code 83 No. 6 left- (No. SL-U8362) and right-hand (No. SL-U8361) turnouts in the Unifrog configuration. Versions with code 70 rail are also available.

Features on the turnouts include nickel silver rail; solid point rails; dark brown plastic ties with molded spike, tie plates, and woodgrain detail; blind holes for track nails; and metal guardrails. The sample shown measures 9-3/16”.

An over-center spring attached to the throw bar holds the points in place. The spring is easy to remove if you want to control the turnout with a ground throw or switch machine.

The turnouts are wired in what Peco calls the Unifrog configuration. What does this mean? Except for the tip of the frog and the wing rails, which are insulated, the turnouts are completely live. The manufacturer notes that Unifrog turnouts act similar to the company’s Insulfrog turnouts. The key difference is that both routes are live on the Unifrog.

Wiring instructions for direct current and Digital Command Control, as well as tips on making the insulated portions of the frog live, are printed on the back of the package. Factory-installed wiring is attached to the tip of the frog and the wing rails from below.

 

Photo of HO scale No. 6 left-hand turnout on white background.
Photo of HO scale turnout on white background

One of the industry’s oldest manufacturers, Wm. K. Walthers Inc., unveiled its WalthersTrack line three years ago. The company offers No. 6 turnouts with code 83 rail in left- and right-hand versions (Nos. 948-83017 and 948-83018, respectively). The turnouts are also available with code 100 rail as Nos. 948-10017 and 948-10018.

Features on the WalthersTrack turnouts include nickel silver rail; metal guard rails; solid point rails; dark brown plastic thin-profile ties with spike, tie plate, and woodgrain detail; molded drill starter points on the underside of the ties (in the center and along the base of the rails). The turnout shown measures 11-19/64”.

The WalthersTrack turnouts have snap action switch points, similar to the Micro Engineering and Peco turnouts. If you plan on controlling the turnouts with a ground throw or switch machine, the retainer plate and spring must be removed.

The frog on the turnouts is insulated. A built-in jumper is attached. This makes it easy to add a feeder wire if you want to power the frog. Factory-installed current jumpers entering and leaving the frogs are also included. A double-sided sheet inside the blister pack contains installation and wiring instructions.

Photo of HO scale turnout on white background
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