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Been modelling for over 60 years, but this is my first electrofrog turnout.


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I have always used insulfrog turnouts on home layouts, because of the electrical simplicity and ease of installing, though I have been involved in laying (but not wiring up) electrofrogs on club layouts in the past.  I have never really had any trouble with insulfrogs so long as the track is level and smoothly laid, but do avoid long dead frogs such as on large radius and curved turnouts.  But I've ordered a Hornby Peckett and decided that it needs a loco spur to stand on, possibly even a loco shed, and bought a small radius lh Streamline electrofrog for it to run smoothly over. 

 

This is on an analogue DC layout, by the way.

 

Now, please bear with me and my almost total lack of anything but the simplest level of understanding of model railway circuitry.  The Peco instructions show how to install the turnout, which feed to the outer rails and isolation gaps to the inner rails at the vee end.  I have installed the turnout wired like that, but there is a massive dead frog, long enough to completely isolate a Bachmann pannier never mind a W4 Peckett.  No power is available between the gap separating the two 'inside' rails accessed by the switching rails, the 'blades' and the frog part, the rails leading to the vee which form the frog by being bent out to become the inside check rails, if that makes sense.  There are 2 gaps in each of these inside rails, and the power is lost from the 'inside' ones,  The dead section becomes live if I insert a screwdriver into the gap.  Power is picked up again when the loco is pushed to the rail join, which is of course an isolating gap on these inner rails.  

 

Surely, this is not right?  The sections are joined beneath the turnout by short wires which you are supposed to cut if you want to have a switchable frog option for extra reliability especially on DCC layouts, but this seems to require point motors and I don't really want these; I'm happy on this relatively small layout to switch turnouts by hand.  The outer rails are live, in fact I don't see how they can't be, proven by the fact that current to the loco is restored with the screwdriver blade across the gap.  I am tempted to solder across the inner gaps that are causing the trouble, effectively hard wiring them, but would appreciate some advice or comment first!

 

I have wired the power supply to the inside rails beyond the isolating gaps, and all is working properly in this respect,  If the worst comes to it, I'll replace it with an insulfrog, and hope that the Peckett can manage; I certainly want to avoid fiddling with it's pickups if I can as they are said to be somewhat delicate.

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I have installed many Peco Electrofrog points but I never had this problem.  Sounds like a duff point.

Have you cut the wires?   If not it still sounds like the wires underneath are not making contact.

I have used sub miniature micro switches operated by the point tie bar to switch the frog polarity on DC to assist the point blade contact not instead of it.

If you use DC the electrofrog should be fine out of the box.  Point blade contact works fine up to about 1 amp,  They do not like 4 amps or so of DCC being shorted out, the contacts arc and burn so DCC types often use frog switching, but it is far from universal.

Snipping the wires stops stock with incorrect back to backs or wide tyres shorting momentarily and tripping the overload on DCC, Mine do it on DC but just shower sparks which looks impressive when the loft lights are out.

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This is what I thought, but thank you for confirming it, David.  Typical of my luck to get a duff turnout.  I haven’t cut the wires, and the turnout is as from the packet.  As far as I can tell they look as if they are making contact but clearly aren’t.  The workaround is presumably to connect across the gaps, which have been provided to allow a switchable frog and which I don’t really need anyway.

 

At least I now know what is wrong and have a plan of action; I know from the screwdriver tip experiment that this will work, despite my brain insisting that it won’t and will short out!  Good tip about stock with wider tyres, something I wouldn’t have thought of, and there are a couple of oldies on the layout that I will have to keep an eye on, but touch wood (he says touching his forehead) we’ll be OK. 
 

Thanks again for ploughing through my rather convoluted description of what was wrong.  To be fair to Peco, I have never had a problem with new stuff of theirs before, so needed a bit of re-assurance!

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It's very unusual for a turnout to be duff out of the packet.

 

You could try cleaning between the blade and the stock rail to ensure they are clean and making electrical contact (a fibre glass pen is ideal).

 

 

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I have just received a back order of Peco Electrofrog turnouts so assume they are from the latest stock.
On removing the wire links I found they came clean away as soon as I gripped them with long nose pliers, previously they have needed a good wiggle to release them even leaving small bits of spot weld behind.

Maybe they are now not as well fixed as they had been.

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10 hours ago, Harlequin said:

It's very unusual for a turnout to be duff out of the packet.

 

You could try cleaning between the blade and the stock rail to ensure they are clean and making electrical contact (a fibre glass pen is ideal).

 

 

As the test loco happily runs on to the blade and over the gap on to the first part of the stock rail, to lose power on the second gap part of the stock rail. I think the problem is with the 'cuttable' wires rather than a poor contact by the blades on to the through rails.  The blades (switch rails?) make good firm contact with the through rails.

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9 hours ago, Free At Last said:

I have just received a back order of Peco Electrofrog turnouts so assume they are from the latest stock.
On removing the wire links I found they came clean away as soon as I gripped them with long nose pliers, previously they have needed a good wiggle to release them even leaving small bits of spot weld behind.

Maybe they are now not as well fixed as they had been.

This is possible, of course it assumes that the turnout is from the current production batch, and I don't know how long it may have been in the shop!  I will be soldering over the gap later and will report back when I have test run it.

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4 minutes ago, The Johnster said:

As the test loco happily runs on to the blade and over the gap on to the first part of the stock rail, to lose power on the second gap part of the stock rail. I think the problem is with the 'cuttable' wires rather than a poor contact by the blades on to the through rails.  The blades (switch rails?) make good firm contact with the through rails.

Ah yes. That makes sense. Duh!

 

I hope you can get it to work without too much trouble.

 

I think I'd better go and inspect some turnouts I bought recently!

 

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Stick with it Mr Johnster. I shall have all this to look forward to when I get my layout started - definitely going for electrofrogs.

 

Good luck,

 

Philip

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Had the same problem with a couple of electrofrogs, where working fine when laid but after ballasting  found two were dead. I soldered across the gap and they both work fine now.

 

 

Bill.

Edited by Bill37
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1 hour ago, The Johnster said:

Patience, Padawan, all will be revealed later, for better or worse!  I have a feeling this is going to be my first and last electrofrog, though...

 

Sorry to hear that. I hope you take a break & re-consider.

 

I wired them as per Peco's "for DCC" instructions (snipping the wires & powering the frogs via a switch) & they worked flawlessly. No cleaning of stock to switch rail necessary...ever. The only weak spot would then be the pivot point, which I oiled before painting, so it appeared to stop this part getting blocked with dirt. This was on a DC layout too: the "for DCC" is misleading.

As DavidCBroad explained, a problem can exist on both DC & DCC but the 2 react differently.

Once you get your head around it, the extra hassle of from switching does not take very long & I am in the camp who find it less hassle than repeatedly cleaning the stock rails & blades.

Isolating & re-feeding after points may seem like a hassle, but shorts are more common & harder to troubleshoot with larger sections.

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Gentlemen, I can report that as of about 22.00 local time last night,, we have success!  I have soldered across the gap above the cuttable wires and the turnout is working flawlessly, despite everything my brain knows about model railway wiring telling me that I needed a motor with a reversing polarity switch to make it work.  The test pannier crawls across at snail-chasing speed, 4mm snail chasing not real ones, and all that remains is the ballasting, painting, and general making good.  Preparations should be complete for the arrival of Forest No.1 next week, and I have a working loco spur.  Next job, when I've finished typing and had my cup of tea, is to wire up the dead section to park her.

 

Thank you all for your encouragement, advice, and suggestions.  You have saved the day!

 

I will drop a smidge of oil on the pivot piece before painting it as per Pete's advice.  I have never had any problems with stock to switch rail contact on my insulfrogs that cannot be resolved in seconds with a fibre pen, but I considered that expecting the tiny Peckett to cope as well as my 6-coupled locos is asking too much of it; nevertheless it will have insulfrogs to deal with at the fiddle yard throat.  I am less concerned with stalls here, as the move is at that point out of sight from the scenic part of the layout, but stalls and fails 'on stage' are not tolerated.

Edited by The Johnster
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17 hours ago, Philou said:

Stick with it Mr Johnster. I shall have all this to look forward to when I get my layout started - definitely going for electrofrogs.

 

Good luck,

 

Philip

If I were starting a new layout now, I'd be using code 70 chaired rail and turnouts, and these are something called 'unifrog'.  I haven't investigated what this is yet, but is apparently some sort of self-switching self isolating thing that can be wired like an insulfrog but has a live frog.  Indeed, as I prefer the appearance of the chaired track, I may yet relay Cwmdimbath with this, but it's all working the way I want it to now and I am loth to interfere with it.

 

The original philosophy behind Cwmdimbath was KISS, keep it simple, stupid.  Thus i used insulfrogs to switch the current where I wanted it to go, and until yestereday there was only one switched isolating section.  The fiddle yard roads have unwired 'auto stops'.  An increased amount of wiring has appeared in connection with working and lit Dapol signals and the layout lights, and I have the rat's nest I was trying to avoid, but the KISS philosophy has paid off; the layout is electrically stable and reliable.  I hand operate my points, an acceptable method on a small BLT.  Involvement with club layouts in the past has convinced me that the more wiring you have, and the more complex it is, the more likely some poor sod is to spend a show underneath the boards with solder dripping in his eye, irrespective of how thoroughly it was all tested before the show...

 

Replacing the dozen insulfrogs on the layout would pretty much double the amount of wiring and solder joints, thus effectively halving the reliability.  I'll stick with my insulfrogs for now, thanks; they work.

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le and reliable.  I hand operate my points, an acceptable method on a small BLT.  Involvement with club layouts in the past has convinced me that the more wiring you have, and the more complex it is, the more likely some poor sod is to spend a show underneath the boards with solder dripping in his eye, irrespective of how thoroughly it was all tested before the show...

We have a very electrically complex layout , using MERG Cbus , etc , one disconnected wire in 6 exhibitions , 

 

its not the complexity that causes unreliability , it’s the poor standard of typical electrical installs  that causes the issues 

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48 minutes ago, Junctionmad said:

 

its not the complexity that causes unreliability , it’s the poor standard of typical electrical installs  that causes the issues 

 

From my own experience with several home, club & exhibition layouts, I share that view entirely.

The more complex layouts seem to have everything working too.

 

The ones with minimal working often seem to have sidings which do not get used because they don't work due to a dead point & "you can manage without them"..or they have a short caused by a seemingly random point 3/4 of the way around the layout. I would not tolerate a dead siding or 'strange' issue. I would fix it....but I have found that this is not always possible to fix all the points on a layout which has been poorly wired.

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2 hours ago, Pete the Elaner said:

 

From my own experience with several home, club & exhibition layouts, I share that view entirely.

The more complex layouts seem to have everything working too.

 

The ones with minimal working often seem to have sidings which do not get used because they don't work due to a dead point & "you can manage without them"..or they have a short caused by a seemingly random point 3/4 of the way around the layout. I would not tolerate a dead siding or 'strange' issue. I would fix it....but I have found that this is not always possible to fix all the points on a layout which has been poorly wired.

KISS, sounds like the best solution, but is it? It perhaps works OK, if you have a simple layout, but if you need a certain point thrown a certain way, before part of the layout works, then a problem needs to be addressed.

 

A late club member built a layout, which he took to our exhibition and he had a ball running it for the weekend. So much so, he decided to extend it by one module (which crucially wouldn't fit at home, so unable to test it).

At our next exhibition he brings it along and it nearly all works, except where he has split a crossover and is now 2 crossovers 1 module apart, if you see what I mean. Because he has merely duplicated the wiring and wired the 4 point motors together, you cannot drive along one track and then change the 2nd crossover, because you've just cut yourself off!

 

He spent half Friday night, trying to fix it, running all day Saturday, trying to fix it Saturday night, running all day Sunday, dismantling and taking it home again. Worked Monday and got friends around Monday to help him put it up again.

Later in the week, he passed, so the worries with the layout killed him. He lived alone, so no one knew how many hours he spent on it, after bringing it home.

 

It had been suggested to him, that he needed to split up the controls, for the 2 crossovers, but he wasn't in a listening mood! It was a relatively unimportant part of the layout too.

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KISS suits me because of my affinity with the last S.  I have experience of club layouts which never worked electrically, and part of the reason was that we had two layout wirers available at separate times, who kept on undoing each other's work or replicating it; each had their own colour coding system for wiring and would spend a lot of time in pubs complaining about each other's methods.  My sympathies were with the guy who had to spend shows under the layout on his back with a soldering iron trying, and usually failing, to get it to work.

 

None of which helped with my already wobbly level of confidence when it comes to wiring.  Cwmdimbath is built on very simple electrical principles; there is a single point of supply between the station throat and the fy throat.  Insulfrog turnouts mean that the power goes where the turnouts send it and other roads are isolated.  There are 2 kickbacks, the 'stub' road which is used as a mileage siding and the colliery road, which is a loop and can be fed from the rear 3 fy roads.  These are dealt with by bridging wires soldered to the side switched by the turnouts.  I have put 3 isolating gaps in, one along the platform with a simple on-off switch controlling it, which, with the insulfrogs, works in conjunction with the second on the run around loop, effectively from the same switch.  The 3rd is on the colliery road half way along the looped part.  A fourth was added yesterday evening on the new colliery loco spur which is the location of the electrofrog turnout that we are drifting OT from.  It is controlled by another on-off switch, actually car dashboard switches from Halfords after Antics and the electronics guy upstairs in the market both insisted that I needed double pole centre off mircoswitch self perpetuating single action double throw you get the idea...

 

I can recall exhibitions being huge fun but very stressful, and often excuses for very heavy drinking sessions.  They are not good for me and I don't do them any more.

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2 hours ago, The Johnster said:

 

I can recall exhibitions being huge fun but very stressful, and often excuses for very heavy drinking sessions.  They are not good for me and I don't do them any more.

When I designed the big O gauge now at 20 baseboards  , it was always intended to be an exhibition layout. 
 

I was determined to ensure that past mistakes weren’t repeated and that the goal of a complex but reliable layout could be conceived. This extended to running reliability etc. 
 

Yes this needs a bigger budget and a careful and controlled process with one person in charge of that process , even if many people contribute to the work 

 

The result is a layout that can be erected and basically operational  within 1 hour. And to date the record for dismantling and  truck on the road ( we use a full size commercial truck ) is 40 mins. 
 

At a recent 3 day show.  Beside track cleaning it ran faultlessly for the period 

 

result no stress , huge fun. 
 

it can be done, electricity isn’t voodoo 

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Point taken, but I am working in DC and a large DC layout with electrofrogs must be wired to a very high standard for reliability (if anyone makes large layouts with DC any more).  DCC simplifies matters considerably.  It is not just a matter of reliability and a high standard of work, but ease of fault finding if things do go wrong,  Electric circuitry connected by soldered joints is vulnerable to handling mistakes when the layout is being transported, or the van being driven over potholes, or extremes of temperature or humidity.  At one show I attended many years ago, all sorts of modelling was featured and the layout took several significant blows from R/C racing cars that had got out of control of their owners at high speed and crashed into the legs, derailing stock, damaging couplings, finding dry joints, and generally causing problems.  This stopped after one of our operators accidentally trod on a Mclaren with extreme prejudice...  

 

Layouts are not porcelain, but generally need handling with due respect to give of their best.  Another problem with the club I was with was a reluctance to keep a layout in operation between shows, as the space was usually needed for work on the next layout, but I felt that we needed to practice operating and that as well as being able to put on a better show for the punters use of the layout between shows would identify the most likely trouble spots, and give us a better chance of eliminating them!  But the general culture of the club was building layouts, not running them, not the only reason we parted company but one of them.  

 

DCC has not only reduced the sheer amount of wiring needed, it has increased the physical resilience of layouts as well.  The down side is that the complication and problems are moved onto the locos and away from beneath the baseboard, and of course the cost.  Without playing the OAP on a limited and fixed income violin excessively, I have 13 locos, which will be 14 next week and 15 at the end of the year (I keep saying I have enough locos but I'm not convincing anyone any more; another 2 are on the cards for next year).  Converting to DCC is something I would certainly consider very seriously indeed were I able to pay for it; the idea of a constant 12vdc of current supplied to locos is attractive for someone who sets a good deal of store in reliable and controllable slow running.  But it is well beyond my means and likely to remain so.        

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16 hours ago, The Johnster said:

Point taken, but I am working in DC and a large DC layout with electrofrogs must be wired to a very high standard for reliability (if anyone makes large layouts with DC any more).  DCC simplifies matters considerably.  It is not just a matter of reliability and a high standard of work, but ease of fault finding if things do go wrong,  Electric circuitry connected by soldered joints is vulnerable to handling mistakes when the layout is being transported, or the van being driven over potholes, or extremes of temperature or humidity.  At one show I attended many years ago, all sorts of modelling was featured and the layout took several significant blows from R/C racing cars that had got out of control of their owners at high speed and crashed into the legs, derailing stock, damaging couplings, finding dry joints, and generally causing problems.  This stopped after one of our operators accidentally trod on a Mclaren with extreme prejudice...  

 

Layouts are not porcelain, but generally need handling with due respect to give of their best.  Another problem with the club I was with was a reluctance to keep a layout in operation between shows, as the space was usually needed for work on the next layout, but I felt that we needed to practice operating and that as well as being able to put on a better show for the punters use of the layout between shows would identify the most likely trouble spots, and give us a better chance of eliminating them!  But the general culture of the club was building layouts, not running them, not the only reason we parted company but one of them.  

 

DCC has not only reduced the sheer amount of wiring needed, it has increased the physical resilience of layouts as well.  The down side is that the complication and problems are moved onto the locos and away from beneath the baseboard, and of course the cost.  Without playing the OAP on a limited and fixed income violin excessively, I have 13 locos, which will be 14 next week and 15 at the end of the year (I keep saying I have enough locos but I'm not convincing anyone any more; another 2 are on the cards for next year).  Converting to DCC is something I would certainly consider very seriously indeed were I able to pay for it; the idea of a constant 12vdc of current supplied to locos is attractive for someone who sets a good deal of store in reliable and controllable slow running.  But it is well beyond my means and likely to remain so.        

At £20 a decoder for a basic but high quality brand from Zimo and controller solutions from £150 up , why not buy 1 loco next year and convert the remainder 

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Because I'd rather spend the cash on locos, kits, and stock.  Cost, and the loco stud will increase in size by at least another 3 over the next year or so, is 16x£20 for chips, £320, + £150 for basic controller.  I would be happy if somebody came up with a stayalive solution for DC, and have pre-ordered Hornby's upcoming HM6000 NFC Bluetooth smartphone system, but I am happy with my running as things are.  Care taken in track laying has paid off, I do not get stalls on my insulfrogs, and my ancient but bombproof reliable Gaugemaster controls the trains exceptionally well.  The best part of £500 for DCC is not only more than I can reasonably afford, since it would have to be done in a single hit, but is something I think I'd like if I had lottery money to spend, not a thing I desperately want or need.

 

I am, tbh, not all that impressed with the whistles and bells, sound chips are good for diesels but steam ones sound a bit like bursts of white noise to me, and firemen talking to drivers, shovels scraping on the cab floors, and so forth I find a bit gimmicky.  My imagination can do all that much better, though the Squeeze worries about me when I make chuff chuff and Ivor the Engine pssshtecoff noises.  I have a set of coaches lit and magnetically switched with power on board the coaches, and firebox flicker can be done in DC.  I have yet to see steam and smoke effects that convince me in in 4mm.

 

I have for many years been of the view that DCC is 'the future', but I am reconsidering this.  The matter is academic at my age, as I am nearing the end of my service life and will no doubt be withdrawn from service before any of this comes to pass, but I reckon that the future is locos with on board rechargeable power supplies controlled by NFC by smartphone; track will be dead.

Edited by The Johnster
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@The Johnster Is the radio spares guy still going upstairs in the market? They used to be regulars in Bud's. There was a tall dark chap (possibly Dave) and a shorter chap who took the stall over eventually. I can't think it would be him though - they'd both be 90+ now! I used to get all my unshielded transformers from them - brzzzt! Flash! :wackoclear:

 

Cheers,

 

Philip

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The short guy is still running it, getting on a bit but more like in his 80’s than his 90’s I’d say, helped by a middle aged woman who is I guess his daughter or daughter in law.  He ‘s a cheery sort of cove, pleasure to stop and chat when it’s quiet midweek, but I think they’ve given up on Mondays snd Tuesdays recently.  He knows his stuff, too, even the recent, more ‘electronic’ whizzbangs.   I got my switchable power supply from him for the Dapol signals, explaining exactly what I needed it for and that I wanted to experiment with the lamp brightness, and he understood exactly what was needed and explained to me how to wire the switches for what I needed. 
 

I’ll remember you to him next time I’m in the market; possibly Wednesday.  When he goes, I imagine the stall will as well, and with the demise of Maplins there’ll be nowhere in Cardiff, or Wales AFAIK, to buy this sort of stuff or get this sort of advice.  The stuff will be root outable on line no doubt, but not the advice...
 

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On 13/09/2020 at 04:13, The Johnster said:

KISS suits me because of my affinity with the last S.  I have experience of club layouts which never worked electrically, and part of the reason was that we had two layout wirers available at separate times, who kept on undoing each other's work or replicating it; each had their own colour coding system for wiring and would spend a lot of time in pubs complaining about each other's methods.  My sympathies were with the guy who had to spend shows under the layout on his back with a soldering iron trying, and usually failing, to get it to work.

 

None of which helped with my already wobbly level of confidence when it comes to wiring.  Cwmdimbath is built on very simple electrical principles; there is a single point of supply between the station throat and the fy throat.  Insulfrog turnouts mean that the power goes where the turnouts send it and other roads are isolated.  There are 2 kickbacks, the 'stub' road which is used as a mileage siding and the colliery road, which is a loop and can be fed from the rear 3 fy roads.  These are dealt with by bridging wires soldered to the side switched by the turnouts.  I have put 3 isolating gaps in, one along the platform with a simple on-off switch controlling it, which, with the insulfrogs, works in conjunction with the second on the run around loop, effectively from the same switch.  The 3rd is on the colliery road half way along the looped part.  A fourth was added yesterday evening on the new colliery loco spur which is the location of the electrofrog turnout that we are drifting OT from.  It is controlled by another on-off switch, actually car dashboard switches from Halfords after Antics and the electronics guy upstairs in the market both insisted that I needed double pole centre off mircoswitch self perpetuating single action double throw you get the idea...

 

I can recall exhibitions being huge fun but very stressful, and often excuses for very heavy drinking sessions.  They are not good for me and I don't do them any more.

As I said before, for a simple layout KISS works, it doesn't on more complex layouts.

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