There are a number of ways to wire your Tortoise switch machines. For many years I simply soldered the wires to the metal pads on the circuit board as shown above. However this approach can have its downside as the metal pads can come loose under stress from the wires and heat from the soldering iron, and replacing a Tortoise can be a real headache.
Another approach is to use these card edge connectors that slip onto the circuit boards. The great thing about these is it makes it so easy to swap out a defective Tortoise–just pop off the connector, replace the Tortoise, and snap the connector back on. Of course the downside to these connectors is the added cost and tedium of soldering wires to the metal contacts, and the ones with screw terminals like those below are even more expensive.
First, since I use 20 ga wire for my Tortoise connections, I got out a 1/16″ drill bit. I used it to increase the size of the holes pre-drilled in the circuit board. Next I cut a bunch of black, white, red, green, and yellow 20 ga wires and added a male crimp on connector like those shown above to one end of the red and green wires and a male bullet connector like the one below to the yellow wires. These wires will be used to connect one of the SPDT switches to track power and turnout frogs.
I then soldered the red, green, and yellow wires metal pads numbered 2, 3, and 4, in that order. That leaves the yellow wire to feed the frog and matched the yellow wires I had already soldered to the underside of each turnout. I also added a white and black wire to the metal tabs labelled 1 and 8–these will be attached to the wires that power the Tortoise coming either from a control panel or an accessory decoder. The white and black wires will be connected to their feeds with standard wire nuts. At this point all of this soldering was done on my workbench instead of under the layout and was easier than attaching wires to those little clip on connectors.
OK, with all the wires attached I started installing the Tortoise switch machines. Using a template I pre-drilled the mounting holes and popped them in place. The hardest part was feeding those actuator wires up through the holes in the turnout throwrods–I still haven’t found an easy way to do that.
The final step is making the connections. The red and green wires
need to be connected to the track power bus so I installed a T-tap suitcase connector on each bus wire and inserted the male crimp-on connector into it as shown above. If I need to swap out a Tortoise it is an easy matter to just pull the connectors apart which also makes it easy to correct the polarity at the frog. I connected the yellow wire on the Tortoise to the yellow wire from the frog by sliding the male bullet connector into a female one that I had added to the yellow frog wires. Again, these can be quickly separated if the Tortoise needs to be swapped out. Finally I made the wire nut connections with the white and black wires.
The end result is that all the wires are installed on the Tortoise before getting under the layout, and they can each be quickly separated if the Tortoise needs to be replaced or to correct polarity to the switch machine or the frog. Yes, this will likely mean that in order to get the polarity correct some red and green wires will end up attached to green and red wires but I can live with that. The crimp on connectors I used are dirt cheap when bought in lots of 100 and are easy to install. If you are concerned that over time corrosion may become a factor you can apply a little No-Ox-Id, a petrolatum based conductive grease with oxidation inhibitors and metal wetting agents designed for this type of use.