2018-05.4: Roger Chrysler’s Lake Erie & Northern

27 May 2018

Average: 4.7 (15 votes)
Roger Chrysler’s Lake Erie & Northern layout

Roger Chrysler is recreating a forty-mile stretch of the Lake Erie and Northern Railway - an inter-urban that hauled freight and passengers under trolley wire in south-western Ontario.  His journey into the world of electric railroading began, innocently enough, with an NMRA contest.

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He has really brought this layout to life. Great work. I am curious as to how he operates the layout. I saw the Digitrax throttle. Since he powers the locomotives through the cantenary wire, does the DCC signal use the same wire? I think that the wiring of this layout would make an interesting program also.

Yes, the overhead wire and the track carry the DCC signal as well as the current. All the rail is common polarity, the overhead wire is the opposite polarity. This means it acts like a three rail layout, with the third rail being the overhead wire. This also means, no problems with shorts, you don't need frog juicers, there are no polarity problems (if I had a reverse loop). In this case its point to point, no need to turn double ended cars and freight motors, only a passing track to get around your train. Latest addition is the Digitrax LNWI so now we can run the layout with smartphones. The challenge in switching with a trolley pole is smooth wirework with no snags so you can backploe through turnouts and not have to reverse the pole direction too often. I could have cheated and used pantographs, but that would not be true to the prototype.


Roger Chrysler

Roger, I see you use what I call the bell-crank method of turnout control.  What type of device activates these - a stall motor or a servo?

You have a very nice railroad - your comments about prototype fidelity align well with my goals.  Though I have at least one place that I may cheat the side of track something is on (in my case, a ball field).

Matt Goodman


I use automotive choke cables for the most part to control my switches. Its a very old, inexpensive system, using pen springs for tension moving against an R/C aluminum collar to limit the action of the choke cable. When they are set up right, the choke cable knob is hard in to the fascia and the switch is set for the main route. Pull out, the collar contacts the end of the choke cable and gives you full stop that way. The pen springs provide a cushion. If someone leans on a knob inadvertently, it sets the switch to the main, avoiding derailments. These cables can be very long and looped around to reach out of the way turnouts.

I have added a couple of slow motion switches in places where you might want to use a throttle to activate them. Some of these are in my B&H yard, where you can switch from the layout side, or go into the other room to read car numbers to see what cars you're picking up. These are PFM Fulgarex switches thrown with a relay from an NCE Switch 8. I've also got about 4 ground throws where I've changed trackwork and haven't yet replaced the choke cable control.

I had to look PFM Fulgarex up, and found this:


Thanks for the information on your choke cable solution. I'm dragging my feet on a solution for turnout control - though a choke cable (or push-pull rod) is one of the options I'm considering for use on the the old main through Circleville (used as an industrial track since 1911). 

tpmarshall's picture

Hi Matt:

You probably already know this, but for those who don't - the modern version of the choke cable approach to throwing switches is basically the manual switch machines manufactured by various companies, including the Bullfrog from Fast Tracks and the Blue Point from New Rail Models (now owned by Proto Power West). I use Bullfrogs on my layout (Port Rowan in 1:64). Instead of a choke cable, these use cable-in-sleeve control lines manufactured for the R/C aircraft hobby by Sullivan Products.

I highly recommend manual turnout control using control lines. I have found them to be less expensive than switch motors. They're very reliable, and they provide direct feedback to the operator who is throwing the switch - much closer to the experience of a 1:1 brakeman. Obviously if your prototype has switches controlled remotely (eg: from a CTC board, or a tower), then a switch motor would be more appropriate for those. But for switches thrown using a switch stand, I find manual switch machines provide the best representation of the work involved, without requiring an out-of-scale ground throw on the head blocks and without requiring operators to reach into the layout to bend the iron.


- Trevor

Hi Trevor, thanks for the feedback!

I'm a big fan of the Bullfrogs; I experimented with both those and Bluepoints when I built my shelf layout. That project's primary purpose was as a canvas for learning to build turnouts, experiment with manual turnout controls and some sundry other things - things that I could apply to the "big" layout that wasn't yet under construction. I found I liked the "feel" and shorter throw of the Bluepoints but preferred the lower profile, cleverness and apparent robustness of the Bullfrogs.  Like you, I think these devices make a lot of practical (and economic) sense where manual throws are preferred.  I'll also encourage folks to give these a try.

Roger's actuation caught my eye due to the bellcrank approach - which I usually associate with switch motors.  Given my deep roadbed (2" spline), bellcranks seem like a more appropriate solution. I'll have to put on the experimentation hat again to try some of the ideas - such as Roger's - that turn the swing of a Bullfrog actuating wire into bellcrank rotation!

Matt Goodman