Modeling Notes: The Story of the SHS #3 Turnout

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.

1. December 2000

version 1 example

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.

2. November 2003

"short" frog, used on versions 1, 2, 3

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.

3. February 2005

non-keyed plug (version 1, 2); keyed-plug (version 3, 4, 5)

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.

4. April 2007

"long" frog, used on versions 4, 5

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.

5. 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.

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