Digital Operation of Maerklin M-Track Turnouts

Digital Operation of Maerklin M-Track Turnouts

By Roger Heid

Technical Advisor: Preben Karlsmark


This is not an easy article to write, simply because the subject matter is controversial. There is way too much information out there. Much of it is inconclusive, biased and conflicting. Everybody involved seems to have their own opinion. I am personally not afflicted by this challenge, but I took it upon myself to try to shed some light on this for the benefit of those who are affected.

*    *    *    *

During the recent past, the question if the old Maerklin M Track turnouts can be used in a digital environment has popped up a number of times. Attempts to find out by doing some research always seem to wind up in a ‘Definite Maybe’, so to speak. It depends on who asks and who is answering.

If you are a beginner and have no electrical/electronic background, I recommend you operate your turnouts in the old-fashioned analog way. It worked then; it works now. Once you gain more knowledge and experience, you can still upgrade if you so desire. That goes for any type of Maerklin turnouts.

There are three versions of M track turnouts that I am aware of. First: The center rail is a solid piece of metal, higher in profile than the outer tracks. Those we cannot speak for, but we see no reason why it could not be done. Second: Early version with studded center rail. Very long freight and passenger cars will hang up on the position indicator box and de-rail. Third: Later version. The switch position indicator box is smaller and a little further away from the track. Electrically, there is no noteworthy difference between the second and third version.


Third Version

Some of the solutions I heard of are suggestions and hearsay. I cannot confirm them, therefore I will not elaborate.

Alas! There is a proven and confirmed way to do it. Preben Karlsmark is actually doing it. His digital track layout is made up solely of M track, including several M track turnouts. Take note that C and M tracks can be combined by using the converter track sections.


Maerklin  24951  Converter Track

Preben is using a Maerklin CS 2 (60215) to control the layout. The M-track turnouts are controlled by ESU SwitchPilot decoders, which can be powered by either the power coming from the CS 2 or by a separate power supply, which can be maximum 18 Volt AC or 24 Volt smooth DC. He uses a separate supply to power the decoders to prevent dim outs during switch operation. These power packs or adaptors can be had from a variety of sources.


Maerklin 60215 Central Station  2


Left: ESU  51802 SwitchPilot                   Right:  ESU  51801 Switch Pilot Plug-in Extension

He is using the same separate power supply to power the lights in the turnouts. One wire links to the yellow wire of the turnout, the other wire connects to the metal body (road bed) of the turnout, which is the same polarity as the tracks themselves. This way the ground or return is the same for both, the SwitchPilot and the light, which is very important. Do not use yet another separate power supply for the lights only. This is not necessary, plus it could cause electrical polarity conflicts. Just don’t do it.

There is no reason that the MS 2 (60653) could not be used for this set up. But the use of a separate power supply for the decoder is mandatory as the MS 2’s output is limited.


 Maerklin  60653  Mobile Station 2

I cannot speak for the use of the Maerklin decoders k83 and m83 for this particular purpose. It is said that it is possible, but I have no specific confirmation for this. I do know that the Maerklin decoders are not as flexible as the ESU SwitchPilot, especially in terms of power requirements. I also know that the ESU SwitchPilot is compatible with Maerklin decoders.


Maerklin m83  Decoder

If you have any questions, please post them in the Forum under the appropriate topic. We shall seek the answers.

7 Responses to Digital Operation of Maerklin M-Track Turnouts

  1. Jorge Sabater says:

    I have a very simple question: why do you like to use M-track, including M-turnouts, when C track is light-years superior? A year ago I replaced for a friend of mine all M-turnouts with wide radius C-turnouts. I also did away with extra-sharp M-track curves by using C-track curves, The result is amazing and derailmaents are history.

    • admin says:

      There are quite a few modelers who have accumulated a lot of M-track in the past. Now they are resuming the old hobby and they wonder if M-track can be used for a digital layout.

    • Gil says:

      I do not agree that C track is so much superior. M track is cheap, sturdy and has served me well for many years. With proper maintenance there is no reason to embark on a costly venture and replace it. C track configurations do not match the M track and so there is no guarantee track can be replaced in existing layouts.
      As for turnouts: I build my own DCC accessory decoders and they all have a voltage doubler and charge pump (i.e. a large capacitor charged slowly but discharged fast, via a diode) as their output stage. Turnout control is very simple with those decoders as long as they are configured with common (+) like most DCC decoders (this is the blue DCC wire, or yellow Marklin wire). I feed the solenoids from the charge pump instead of the blue wire, and the decoder outputs complete the circuit connection to ground. Has worked very reliably for over 15 years.

  2. Fred Preller says:

    I am one of those guys Roger refers to (probably THE guy). Rather than spend about $2,000 for the C-Track needed to build my current layout design, I figured I would the M-Track I had — IF IT WOULD WORK. And it does! Roger and others helped me develop an awareness of some of the issues involved in using M-Track for a digital layout, and I am happy to say the trains are running fine. Turnout control will be manual for the foreseeable future, pending the outcome of some experiments with analog control. My report on the layout progress to date should appear soon on this blog.

  3. Tasos says:

    How can I use Esu switch pilot servo 51822 in combine with Marklin central station 1?(60212)
    Do I need anything else? Would you mind showing me a kind of plan?

  4. Ernest Robl says:

    These are the types of question that are better suited to the Reynauld’s Forum — see the link at the top of all Blog pages. You are more likely to get a response from people who have used various products — or at least something similar. And, the Forum is better suited to an ongoing discussion.

    – Ernest

  5. Roberto says:

    Dear Sir,
    I have a 7186 tourntable. I like drive my locos whit Marklin central station2 and the 7186 with other blue transformer.The problem is that the ground is trow the rails. Marklin said that is not posibil mix grounds from differens transformers, and the digital must be used only for the MS2. Have you any solution for the common ground?

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