I have no idea what I’m doing.
I have been scouting around the internet for months, looking for a definitive and understandable guide to wiring a simple layout. Conclusion: either I am a complete idiot or there isn’t a single set of rules.
My biggest question was this:
Do I need to modify my electrofrog turnouts to become “DCC-friendly” as some sites suggest? Will my locomotives cause a short in the turnouts and shut down the system if I don’t?
I still don’t know for certain.
Those who modify electrofrog turnouts (by cutting gaps in the rails and adding jumpers from the stock rails to the point rails) never seem to have suffered the fate they are so laboriously protecting themselves from. Those who don’t modify their turnouts don’t seem to be suffering either, except in rare instances and due to specific issues.
In recent years Peco has updated its electrofrog turnouts to feature gaps and jumper-sites already prepared, but my turnouts are older and not quite as fancy (and that’s likely why they were discounted). I read a claim in the official DCC wiki that Peco will completely discontinue electrofrog and insulfrog turnouts in favor of a “unifrog.” I can only find unifrog turnouts in a single larger scale (HOn3), though, and I’ve found nothing else regarding the discontinuation of electrofrog and insulfrog turnouts in other scales.
Anyhow, there is one very important rule to follow when using electrofrog turnouts with DCC, on which all sites agree:
When connecting the frog-end of the rails with fishplates, the inner rails need to be gapped or (better yet) connected using an insulated rail joiner. This is to prevent a short when a train runs past the “fouling point” (i.e. when a train approaches the frog-end of a turnout that is not switched in its direction). Here you can see the metal fishplates on the stock rails and the plastic insulated joiners leading into the frog:
I haven’t laid much track yet, but I’ve gotten past the initial intimidation, and I will keep at it when I am able this week.