Improving Kato UniTrack HO Points for DCC Operation

Kato UniTrack is a very good product and allows reliable trackwork to be assembled quickly without the need to cut and solder track.  Most Kato turnouts, including N scale, have the ability to be switched between power routing and non-power routing, but the No.4 HO turnout, as pictured below, doesn’t. So in this week’s post I’ll show you how I modify Kato UniTrack No.4 turnouts for use with DCC.

But what does power routing mean?  Below is an extract from showing how the turnout isolates different routes depending on how it’s set.

For DC operation, power routing is very useful as power is delivered only where you want the train to run.  The other route is isolated so any trains on that line won’t move.  However for DCC all the tracks want to be powered so the turnout ideally wants to be non-power routing.  As I said earlier most Kato turnouts can be switched between power routing and non-power routing but the HO No.4 can’t.

In the No.4 box you get the actual turnout and associated track parts.

The actual turnout has an all metal frog shown in green, electrically linked blades shown in yellow and switched rails shown in blue.  The stock rails are marked red and black; these have the incoming power.

Between the frog and the switched rails is a plastic insulator.  It’s these two rails which ideally need to be electrically connected permanently for DCC operation.  However the frog changes polarity depending on how the turnout is set so you simply can’t solder the switched rails to the frog.

On the underside of the turnout are five screws holding on the base plate.

Under the base plate you can see the electronic switch and the solenoid which changes the turnout.  In the image below the turnout is set for the straight route. The ‘T’ section in the center of the switch is connected directly to the frog and bridges power from the right side to the left.  This connects the frog and the relevant exit rail or switched rail back to the black stock rail.

In the image below the turnout is set to the diverging route and the ‘T’ section connects the switched rail and frog back to the red stock rail.

To make the turnout non-power routing is a fairly simple fix.  I use two short sections of wire, as shown below.

These two wires are soldered to the copper plates as shown below.  The upper wire links the red stock rail to the diverging switched rail.  The lower wire links the black stock rail to the straight switched rail.

And that’s it.  This modification also makes the turnout even more reliable as the power is transferred through the new wires rather than the contacts in the ‘T’ sections.

With the base plate replaced the turnout is ready for use on a DCC layout.  It can still be used on a DC layout, the turnout simply won’t act as a power router. Also, if you’re not into soldering, this modification can be done away from your layout at a model club or possibly a local hobby store as the Kato turnouts will remain self-contained.