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  • Are you working on a #6 Kato N Scale turnout option?
    We realize that there are lot's of modelers in our hobby that use #6 turnouts for good reasons. It's been somewhat of an obsession to address this turnout with a good solution. The reason we did the N4R and N4L first is that Kato's #4 turnout has a more user-friendly approach to attaching our board, namely hex nuts and washers. Second, the #4 turnout has a frog that can be isolated to prevent shorting. Kato's #6 turnout, though highly popular, has a frog that cannot be isolated and must switch polarity with the point rails. As a result, a train entering the frog side of the turnout will cause a short if the alignment of the point rails is not consistent with the direction. Our solution will include an approach to fix this problem in the #6 turnout. We hope to have an engineering sample of a Kato N Scale accessory decoder in the first quarter of 2023.
  • How do the N4 decoders cope with being fed DC power?
    N4R and N4L decoders are perfectly comfortable with DC rail inputs. In fact, DC input is part of our QA test fixture.
  • Are there provisions for connecting the decoder to no a separate bus for DCC?
    We did not seek to power our decoders externally since self containment, including DCC from rail contacts inside the turnout roadbed, is part of the value we bring. The problem with shorting for misaligned travel through a turnout (with the opposite alignment) is eliminated by isolating the frog in the #4 (N-scale) turnout we are designed for and accomplished through our circuit design. If you need a separate bus to power the decoder and remove the short circuit (in progress) from a #6 (N scale) turnout, then you already have those #6 turnouts powered separately. You do not need to have a separate bus for a #4 Kato turnout equipped with our N4R or N4L accessory decoders! They will not short due to misalignment or bring DCC control to an unrecoverable halt. This is convenient, simple and trouble-free.
  • Are there provisions for local facia controls?
    N4R and N4L do not have a local switch operational capability for alternative control near the area of the turnout. Our HO product (H6) has the capability to wire 2 local switches and will be announced shortly.
  • What tools do I need to perform N4 installation?
    We recommend the following tools for installation of the N4 decoders: Screwdriver, Philips #0 for external cover and internal board screws Nutdriver, 4mm for removal of M2 size board attach hex nuts Flush-cutting pliers to trim the actuator portion no longer needed and the part of the cover that interferes with N4 address setting pins Multimeter, digital or analog with an OHMS measurement capability to test the coil wires are properly connected Low wattage soldering iron (65watts or less), typically a pencil type and certainly not one with a large tip, to unsolder the coil and thermal switch wires, then resolder the coil wires Tweezers for electronic assembly or long-nose pliers for removing and reapplying M2 lock washers and holding coil wires while soldering
  • Is it hard to solder the coil wires?
    The (enameled) coil wire in Kato turnouts is a type commonly used for windings in motors and electromagnetic actuators. This is because the insulation is a very thin enamel that allows space for more turns than other types of insulation and more turns means more magnetic energy in a given volume. When the coil is desoldered during installation, you will find the ends of the coil wires are silvery. This means they are ready for soldering during turnout reassembly with the N4 decoder board. Use a low wattage iron of 65 watts or less during the assembly step where the solder pads (with pre-applied solder blobs) on the N4 board are heated until the solder melts, then insert the silvery end of each wire into the solder blob intended for it per installation instructions.
  • What position does the turnout straight wire spring need to be in?
    The copper-toned, straight wire spring is prone to jumping out of the center position of the plastic throw (tie) bar (connected to and responsible for moving the point rails) it fits through until the cover is closed. It works well in all three positions in the slots on the throw bar but is intended to fit in the center. As you become more familiar with the Kato N Scale #4 turnouts, you will notice you can check the position of the straight wire spring without opening the turnout. Conveniently and intentionally, this is afforded by looking through the rectangle of the bottom cover.
  • How do I change the accessory decoder address?
    Start by turning over the modified Kato #4 turnout to expose the underside. There is a cavity with pins protruding into it. Use the shorting link provided with N4 to connect the pins by slipping it over the ends and sliding it along the length of the pins until the shorting link is firmly attached. Flip the turnout back so the rails are on top. Now connect the turnout to you command station through a Kato terminal track. Turn on the command station and follow the manufacturer's instructions (for the command station) to send an accessory decoder command. Be sure to use the accessory address you intend to program the N4 accessory decoder to. Note that with the shorting link in place, the N4 accessory decoder will respond to all accessory addresses. Once the shorting link is removed, the N4 will only respond to the last accessory address it received. With the link removed, continue to send accessory commands with the same address you programmed into N4. Make the commands alternate between the "TURN" position and "STRAIGHT" position of the turnout rails and observe that the rails move completely from one side to the other and with a decisive clicking sound. Your N4-equipped turnout is now ready to respond to the programmed address any time you command it.
  • Are there Configuration Variables (CV's) and do I need to change any of them?
    N4 decoders with their purpose-built designs are for known environments inside the roadbeds of Kato #4, N scale turnouts. As a result, there is little customization required for their feature set. However, 2 configuration variables (CV's) are available to 1) change the strength (length) of the coil pulse and 2) reverse the response of turnout position commands in the event the user miswires (reverses) the coil wires. For situation #2, the command reversal compensates for the flipped coil wires which by themselves would produce the opposite response to DCC commands.
  • Can I use the left board (N4L) in a right turnout?
    N4 decoders are very specific in their design and application. Just as Kato #4 turnouts have mirror roadbed shapes, internal boards and parts that require it, N4 decoders are designed to be mirror images of each other as well for their left and right-hand applications. Installation of either decoder is the same except for their mirror image differences to match the respective turnouts in which they fit.
  • What if the decoder does not respond?
    Make sure your command station is powered on, connected to the turnout through a terminal track and in a mode to produce accessory decoder commands. Be sure to issue alternating commands when testing. Do this because if the first command matches the present turnout position, you may not hear any sound coming from the turnout. However, the next command to the N4 decoder, if alternating, should product full movement of the actuator with sound to match as well as a visual position change.
  • Is service mode supported?
    Service mode in DCC systems is a method of discovering information about a mobile or accessory decoder and programming it in a track setup where no other decoders are connected to the command station. It is very useful with mobile decoders installed inside locomotives and therefore inconvenient to access other than electrically. In either a mobile or accessory decoder, configuration variable settings are available to adapt the decoder to its working environment in a locomotive or alongside a turnout. N4 does not require any programming changes since it is designed specifically to work inside Kato #4 N scale turnouts. As a result, it does not include service mode though it does contain 2 settings (Configuration Variables) that can be changed. For this to work, your command station must support "Programming on the Main Track" which does not require you to remove locomotives with decoders or other accessory decoders from the layout or track segment. See FAQ on CV's for more information.
  • How is power routing handled?
    Refer to the GIF below as we explain how power routing works in the N4-equipped turnout. Many hobbyists choose maintaining steady power to the frog rails (not frog) with their DCC-enabled model railroad. This is what we do in the N4 accessory decoder. With N4 we made a conscious decision to insulate the frog (not frog rails) in common with Kato's HO #6 turnout where the HO model does not provide a choice. Our reason is that a power switched frog requires pre-alignment with trains running through the turnout from the frog end, otherwise a short-circuit will occur.
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