S-Helper Service #3 Turnout Notes


S-Helper Service did five runs of their #3 turnout, namely in December 2000, November 2003, February 2005, April 2007, and January 2008. With each run, they improved the operation and reliability of the turnout. The part numbers were #00298 (right-hand) and #00299 (left-hand). Customers have expressed an interest in identifying the five versions, so Don Thompson provided the information and photos included in this page.

December 2000

(photo © Don Thompson)

These have a gray plastic back plate. Open frog with guard rails (no closed-frog "flipper"). "Short" frog rail ends. A single spike per tie per side.

Problems: Lionel A.F. engines whose wheels were gauged too tight could not run across the turnout. The phosphor bronze contacts under the points, over time, stopped conducting electricity, leading to dead sidings. The too-few-spikes would lead derailed engines to knocking pieces of rail loose.

These significant problems led SHS to recall these turnouts.

November 2003

(photo © Don Thompson)

The boxes were labeled with part #00298A and #00299A. These have a black, metal back plate (to prevent the coil from melting the turnout's plastic if hooked up incorrectly; a safety issue if used with unprotected transformers and/or placed directly on carpets or rugs). Closed-frog with "flipper", no guard rail (to fix the Lionel AF problems). "Short" frog rail ends. Double spikes per tie per side (to fix the rails coming loose). Torsion spring to detent points. Successful power-routing using the coils and micro switches was a major delay in getting these to market.

Problems: customers could still hook up the cables out-of-phase causing electrical problems. Slide switches were being used by customers to power sidings, but the switches weren't designed for such frequent use and started to fail. When these turnouts were used in manual mode, the point rail did not detent properly against the stock rail.

February 2005

(photo © Don Thompson)

The boxes were labeled with part #00298B and #00299B, but only if hand-written when shipped from S-Helper Service; the "B" was not printed by the factory. This version had all of the features of version 2, plus a torsion spring to detent points (to ensure good physical contact when the turnout was used manually), a keyed extension connector (to fix the electrical phase, incorrect-hook-up problem), and slide switch contacts improvements (to be able to handle their repetitive use).

Problems: some engines that had a gliding "shoe" to pickup power, such as some AF diesels and the, then new, SHS 2-8-0, had shoes just long enough to cause a momentary short across the frog.

April 2007

(photo © Don Thompson)

The boxes were labeled with part #00298C and #00299C, but only if hand-written when shipped from S-Helper Service; the "C" was not printed by the factory. This version has all of the features of version 3, plus the "long" frog rail ends (to fix the problem with electrical pickup gliding "shoes" from causing momentary shorts across the frog).

Problems: sometimes the points did not have enough momentum to complete the throw.

January 2008

The boxes were labeled with part #00298D and #00299D from the factory. Also, a small rectangular "D" is imprinted on the underside of the turnout (a first). This version has all of the features of version 4, plus the linkage improvements (to fix the incomplete-throw issue). Some of these version D turnouts arrived with the coil wired in reverse, causing the red LED to light up when the turnout was set in the straight position. However, those were all fixed at S-Helper Service before shipping to customers and dealers. Don believes this final version was the smoothest-operating turnout he had seen.

The CKN9940 part number by Digi-Key has been recommended as a replacement part for the switch found in this turnout.

Insulating Rail Joiner

Don states:
"Remember, you can use the switch as the start of the insulated section by moving the slide switch by the frog. If you do not want the other section of rail adjacent to the insulated rail to also be shorted, add a jumper to the same rail on the other side of the switch. To add the insulator to our sectional track, you need to remove the metal rail joiner. Once removed, the metal rail joiner will be distorted and cannot be reused. To remove the metal rail joiner, I use a small flat blade screwdriver under the joiner where the tab goes down and into the roadbed. I carefully work the screwdriver so the tab slowly comes up from the roadbed. Once enough is up so I can get a small pair of needle nose pliers tips to go under the tab and grab, I twist the rest of the tab up through the hole. Once the tab is away and out for the roadbed, you can then pull the rail joiner from the base of the rail. To insert the insulated rail joiner I use the small screwdriver like a little crowbar and raise the rail ever so slightly and then slide the rail-joiner on to the base of the rail."

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