KB604: Turnouts, Switches, Points & Frogs

This article was last updated on Aug. 7, 2011, 2:02 p.m. | Print Article | Leave Feedback

Trains run on two rail track.  When a train needs to change to a different or diverging track a track feature called a turnout, switch, track switch, points, frog or other name comes in to play.  The function of this track feature is to move the rails so that the train can change tracks.  When the turnout is "closed" the train will go straight through and when it is "thrown" it will go on the diverging track.


Railroad employees in North America call this track feature a switch. They call the moving parts of the switch the points.  They call the place where the rails from the moving points of the switch cross the frog

Model railroaders in America call the entire assembly a turnout, to avoid confusion with an electrical switch, which is commonly found on model railroads.  Digitrax uses the term turnout in documentation to distinguish between the track feature and the different electrical and software switches used by LocoNet.

the rest of the world calls the whole assembly simply points.

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