KB386: DS64 - Kato Unitrack N-Scale Automatic Crossing Gate & Three Color Signals

This article was last updated on Sept. 13, 2011, 7:21 p.m. | Print Article | Leave Feedback

Q:  Is it possible to use Digitrax equipment to wire the Kato N-Scale Automatic Track Crossing? If so, how do I do it?

A:  The answer is a probable "No", but there may be a workaround.
The Kato, USA website notes: Some Unitrack components such as the Automatic Crossing Gate and 3-Color Signal were designed with DC operation only. So, the official position is that that these devices don't work in the DCC environment. However, we are not above speculating on how to do this, nor are others. An online web search turned up this bit of message traffic by a modeler in the United Kingdom:
The crossing uses a single solenoid to operate the gates - this makes it a quite noisy unit but a double spring mechanism makes the gates move slowly and very convincingly. The sensing is done by proximity switches built into two short lengths of track and the main crossing section. A 'microcontroller' box controls the action of the crossing with quite sophisticated rules which re-open the gates when a train reverses or stops (probably combining the prox switches with power sensing). In practice, I think that the only bit that can be used with DCC is the crossing track section and everything else will have to be dumped. In addition the crossing section will need modifying significantly as it seems to have DC direction sensing. The solenoid and lights could easily be controlled with a stationery decoder (after chopping up the innards of the crossing section) but there are a number of DCC compatible electronic controllers which I think might be better suited. Anyone out there tried any of these controllers and can recommend one?
We have not had an opportunity to look at the crossing gate, but have good experience with the block signal.

This signal is built into a segment of track that has a small micro switch in the track bed. When a train passes over this micro switch, the wheels of the train activate a timing mechanism for the signal. After the last car has passed, the signal holds red ("Stop") for a few seconds, then changes to yellow ("Approach") and then reverts to green ("Clear"). I

f the track polarity is such for an opposite train movement, then the signal reverts to red and stays red until the track polarity changes again. Since DCC uses AC power rather than DC, the signal cannot work properly. So it is, presumably, with the crossing gate. As mentioned by the UK modeler, that leaves you only with the innards of the Kato crossing gate and the potential for problems. Using the gate in a DCC environment will require the operation of the gate mechanism, and it will require train detection so that the gates work when a train is approaching. This can be done with DS64 and BD4.

As the train approaches the gates, the BD4 will send a message to the DS64, which will operate the solenoid mechanism. As the train leaves the area, the gates will have to be released by another detection command to operate the solenoid again. It should be noted that there are other ways to approach this situation. Several firms, including Tomar Industries; Oregon Rail Supply, NJ International and others
manufacture crossing gates and signals, with other firms manufacturing the drivers necessary to operate the crossing lights. All can be controlled with the DS64 and BD4.

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