DCCConcepts Cobalt-SS Surface Mounted Point Motor Review
DCCConcepts Cobalt-SS Surface Mounted Point Motor Review
For many of us, the prospect of having to dive underneath a baseboard to maintain or fit equipment such as a point motor is not very inviting. The boards in question might be heavy or cumbersome. Equally, bedecked all over in brightly coloured wires heading in all directions, they can also be a veritable nightmare. as a moment of inattention can easily lead to even more remedial work being required. How much simpler life would be if all this stuff was above deck!
A number of manufacturers offer such solutions and now DCCConcepts have joined them by bringing to market a small surface mounted point motor, the Cobalt-SS. Available for around £50, the kit includes two point motors, a control board, extension leads and also a fair number of screws and other fittings. Free samples of their Westinghouse EP point motor models in scales O, OO and N also form part of the package.
The motors can be can controlled via either DC or DCC and work across scales Z, N, OO, HO and O. But, just how straightforward are they to install? An OO scale layout, employing DCC, with just a single Peco point was constructed to find just that out.
The first surprise was finding out that the hole in the centre of the tiebar was not being employed. A vital component of any underboard point motor installation; its redundant as far as the Cobalt-SS is concerned. Instead, a small hole is required to be made at one end of the tiebar, about 0.3 mm/ 1/64th inch in size.
DCCConcepts assure you that, if you are fitting a Peco point, this is a very simple procedure to implement. Simply cut off the vertical pin that sits at the chosen end of the tiebar and a ready-made hole will magically appear. Feeling slightly dubious, a sharp blade was duly applied, and, just as claimed, there was the hole of exactly the required size. Off to a good start then!
The other usual preparation work for a DCC controlled point was then conducted. Both Peco and DCCConcepts provide full details of these in the documentation that accompanies their products and they are straightforward, even for someone as ham fisted as myself, to carry out.
The point, along with a single line of track was then fitted to the board and wired up. This provided an opportunity to play trains which could not be ignored. But, once having fully confirmed that the track was in full working order, it became time to get down to the actual business of fitting the point motor etc.
The basic concept of the Cobalt-SS point motor operation is that the motor, attached to the tiebar by a tiny wire, is controlled, via a plug n play lead, by a control board that is capable of managing two, or more point motors.
The kit contains tiebar connection wire bars in each of the four sizes that are supported by the product, namely Z, N, OO/HO and O. They come in separate packets that are colour coded. Unfortunately, no explanation of the code is though provided. So, it was simply down to eyeball selection that colour code ‘Orange’ was selected.
Fitting the selected bar was a fairly painless experience although, being so thin, it was rather fragile. In fact, a piece, forming part of the U loop that needs to be attached to the motor, broke off as I attempted to widen the ‘U’ such that it would fit. Not a problem though because a number of bars in each of the scales are provided by DCCConcepts, just in case!
Bar fitted, the point motor then had to positioned so that it aligned up, horizontally and vertically, with the tie bar. On a flat surface this did not present a challenge but screwing the motor into position most definitely was, well at least for me.
Now I would be the first to admit that my sausage shaped fingers are not the most adept at handling eeny meenie tiny screws. But then how many of us can say the same? For sure, the screws supplied will do the job. But, despite drilling pilot holes, my fumbling fingers just couldn’t introduce even one tiny, but very stubborn, screw into its hole, let alone all four!
A hunt inside the toolbox soon found substitute screws that would behave though and so, point motor attached to tiebar and secured to the baseboard, Step 2, connecting point motor to control board, loomed upon the horizon.
The point motors come ready fitted with a lead that plugs straight into the control board; extension leads also being provided if a longer distance between motor and board is required. As this was only a test layout, I opted to just connect the two via just the one lead, with the control board also sited atop the baseboard A task that took up all of a second.
Whilst the point motors themselves could be easily concealed within a small building or even an enthusiastic bush, the control board is a mite more obvious. For this reason, it can also be installed beneath the baseboard, providing of course that the requisite holes are drilled to accommodate the leads that are attached to the point motor(s). That said, a large building, barn?, could be used to conceal the board. However, that would lead to quite some farming community upon a layout that’s populated with many points!
Five wires then needed to be attached to the control board via screw in fittings, no soldering required! Two, were the power leads, one was for the frog (The board automatically changing polarity as required) and two more to power up the frog. And that was job done.
Well not quite because the kit supports four different scales. A fact that in turn means that that the ‘throw’ of the tiebar has to be adjusted to the scale that is in use. Fortunately, this was a very straightforward procedure; a turn of a screw increasing, or decreasing the tiebar’s throw. Meaning that alll that was left now to do was more of that darn playing trains!
To date, I have only fitted point motors below stairs. Accordingly, it not possible to rate DCCConcepts offering against any other manufacturers. However, the task of installing a surface hugging motor compared to its bat like rival was much more straightforward to conduct. Both the control board and the point motor working very well. Equally, the noise level, whilst audible, was background rather than front of stage.
Key question then, am I converted to surface point motors or do I still prefer the subterranean species? A case of horse for courses I guess. There will be situations where a point motors situated underneath a board will make perfect sense, just as fitting one above will. Nevertheless, whenever it is a straight choice, I think I will go with a motor that is easier to access and fit; namely one that is above board, just like a Cobalt-SS!