They're remarkable. Rokuhan's Z Scale roadbed track switches are little marvels of engineering. Consider: there's a switch machine built in. Totally internal, completely hidden. How did they do it?
Having just received several switches, I naturally took one of them apart to unearth its mysteries. It's a fascinating device. The machine's single coil moves past a pair of rare earth magnets, which are oriented with opposing poles facing the coil. Then, a pair of tiny steel pins in the slider on either side of the coil hold the switch in position.
The single coil is attracted to one of the two magnets according to the polarity of power applied to it. Thus, the machine has only two wires. At the end of the two wires is a connector that plugs into a Rokuhan throttle, or an add-on switch control module. It's literally plug-and-play.
If you're handy with wiring, it's easy to operate them with DIY controls. You'll need a power source (a wall wart would work) rated for around 6 volts DC, and a DPDT center-off momentary-contact toggle switch. Wire the toggle switch as if it was a direction control for track power. Note that you absolutely must use a momentary-contact switch; delivering constant current to the machine will quickly burn it out.
Note that these switches deliver power only to the route with which they're aligned, unlike Micro-Trains switches which are "power everywhere". This can greatly simplify track wiring, and also prevent trains from running against the switch. It does mean paying more attention to where tracks receive their power from the throttle, but it's not difficult to figure out; just remember one simple rule: always power the track connected to the point end (single leg) of the switch.
Note, too, that the switch can be operated manually. The electrical control circuit for the switch machine is completely separate from the circuit delivering power to the track, so the switch doesn't even need to be connected to a controller to function manually.
I've read that Rokuhan is considering redesigning the switch to be power-everywhere in response to customer requests. IMO, this would be a shame; directional power is far more versatile than power-everywhere, and here's why: if you want a power-everywhere option and have a directional power type switch, just add track power feeders to all of the tracks. However, if you want directional power from a power-everywhere switch, you can't get it without cracking the switch open and modifying it, or adding insulating rail joiners to the tracks and also adding track power relay circuits in parallel to the switch machine. What a mess!
As is the case for Micro-Trains switches, the track for the straight route must be notched in order to connect track to both legs of the switch. The instructions included in the package are all in Japanese, but the large, clear drawings speak for themselves. I'm not aware of any track being sold that is already notched; no matter, it's a quick, simple, painless process.
At the bottom of the package, under the Rokuhan logo, is the description, "Z Scale Precise Railroad System." This isn't an overstatement; the product quality is extraordinary, the tooling exceptionally clean and accurate. Track sections go together easily and with a healthy, reassuring snap; they fit so tightly, in fact, that the joint is nearly invisible.
I'd recommend the Rokuhan track product line without hesitation to anyone who wants a truly bullet-proof layout—indeed, I'd recommend it over any other brand of track. I'm using it myself for a layout project that you can read about.
♦ For more detailed information on controlling Rokuhan switches, see this clinic.
♦ For more information on how to use a "power routing" switch, see this clinic.
♦ For loads of additional information on the Rokuhan line of track products, see this FAQ.
This post was originally published on 18 February 2011. I've "bumped" it because there may be some misinformation about how to power Rokuhan switches floating round the Internet that could lead to damage.