The Aristo #6 turnout in brass has been out on the market since last fall, with the stainless steel version just recently made available. Several of our club members have installed them on their layouts with success. We have come a long way from the old four foot diameter turnouts that were originally introduced by both LGB and Aristo when they first went into large scale production production. With 1/29 models getting larger due to the demand for prototypical main line steam and diesel, the old turnouts have become unacceptable to most modelers. Aristo's first major step was to the wide radius turnout which has recently has been released by LGB. This wide-radius turnout will handle all rolling stock that is out on the market today, and is comparable to those used by real railroads for sidings and cross over tracks in yards and terminals. If properly installed with a piece of straight track before and after the turnout, an a half section of straight track between turnouts, the crossing from one main line to another can be accomplished without the risk of derailment.
The #6 turnout is not technically a turnout, but is rather a "divergent switch". It does not curve away from the main line like other turnouts, but actually goes in a straight line. The #6 turnout diverges at 9.5 degrees to a straight path. If you want to make a two-way crossing with four of these babies, you will need a 19 degree crossover to connect them. To make a siding, there will be some track cutting or a section of curve track to get from the divergent track back parallel to the main line. Aristo is planning on releasing a "siding set" which includes a six inch piece of straight track and a special curve section to accomplish this task. The release date is supposed to be this year, but no word has come out from them at this time.
This turnout itself is 900 mm long or 35 7/16 inches. In other words, it is a long piece of track that may not be suited to every railroad. Once again we don't have a turnout that can be dropped in to replace a section of existing track. I found this out when I installed the wide-radius turnouts in my layout. They are 18 inches long, which required the removal of one 12 inch straight and one six inch straight that I had placed in my track plan for that particular contigency. So remember these measurements when you are planning your layout or want to cut one of these turnouts into your existing track plan.
The #6 turnout includes an electrically conductive metal frog that is isolated from all its adjacent rails with small gaps, and receives its track power of proper polarity through a micro switch located on the underside of the turnout. It is switched by one of the point rails when the points are thrown. This powered frog in an Aristo turnout is a new concept, and should be quite beneficial to thost that may be running some shorter locomotives over their layout. One disadvantage is that you must remember to throw the turnout to the proper direction, or the locomotive will short out when running through, even though the springs in the throw will allow the wheels to pass like it does in other Aristo turnouts.
There is some recommended prep that must be done before these turnouts are installed on your outdoor layout. All screws need to be checked for tightness, a coating of non conductive grease must be placed on the micro-switch, and all electrical connections should be insulated with rubber cement or silicone. Check the throw of the points to make sure they seat properly on the rail when the turnout is thrown. In some cases, a slight dressing with a file may eliminate future derailments. One of the most important criteria for this or any turnout, is that it be mounted in a level position across the rails. This one check could eliminate many headaches while running your trains.
Some of the earlier problems encountered with this new turnout concerned micro-switch failiure. Aristo will make repairs at no cost to you, but I understand that it was only the initial run that had problems. One thing is for certain, your wheels must be "in gauge" to properly negotiate the points and frog of this piece of trackwork. I also hear that is does not like LGB deep flanges, which would also probably also include any MTH offerings. The flangeway depth can be increased with a Dremel tool, so this problem is really not catastrophic. I have not heard anyone make comments about USA sliders snagging on the points or flangeway like they do in other Aristo turnouts.
I personally do not care for the Aristo throw and its linkage. It is set up to prevent derailments if a train goes through the turnout when it is set against the direction of travel. All Aristo turnouts use this system, and it is prone to problems in the outdoor environment with grit and debris getting into the points, along with rust destroying the springs. I have changed all my turnouts to manual throws which lock the points in the direction set. This has eliminated derailments due to a loco picking the points, or from points that only partially throw. Of course, you completely eliminate the non-derailing function, but I always check my turnouts before proceeding like the prototype does. If you want remote control for your turnouts, I would then recommend one of the air systems that is available on the market at present.
Well, there it is. A turnout that looks prototypically correct, that will handle long locomotives and cars. Changing tracks without derailment should be no problem with these turnouts in place. The only negative factor is the space required for installation. At almost a yard in length, they will require a lot of space.