Handlaying a turnout the old fashioned way

pastoolio Feb 16, 2009

  1. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    With the pc board centered and lined up with the ties, we can take out the spike on the closure rail opposite the side of the lined up throwbar/ties. We'll take and move this rail in enough to clear the wheels so they don't touch it when rolling next to it. This is very important. If the wheel can touch, it will cause a short, so make sure it's not going to touch. Take and put in another temp spike to hold this rail in place.

    [​IMG]


    With everything lined up, we'll take and solder the rail to the pc board.
    I take and put a dab of solder on the pc board right next to the rail, but far enough that I still see some pc board foil between it and the rail. I then put a small dab of solder on the web of the rail. Once both areas have solder, I then pull the small dab of solder on the pc board over to the rail until the whole area is connected. We don't want to spend alot of time in there with the iron, just enough to get solder on the 2 areas.

    [​IMG]


    I do it this way for one big reason. If you put down too much solder too close to the rail, then it will run under the rail and come out on the back side of the rail. Then the rail won't close up nice and snug with the stock rail. If this happens, then it's time for a new throwbar and sometimes a whole new closure rail. Then you'll have to unspike it and replace it, and it's just best to avoid this hassle all together.

    With the one side soldered, now we can jump to the other side. Pull the temp spikes out and slide the soldered rail over into position against the stock rail. Now we'll slide the other closure rail into postion, again checking that the wheels don't make contact with the rail, and then we can put in a temp spike to hold it in place for soldering.

    [​IMG]

    Do the same thing as before for this side.

    Once you have it soldered, take out the temp spike and the wedges and there you go, the throwbar is now soldered in!

    [​IMG]

    continued in next post....


    -Mike
     
  2. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    Now that the throwbar is soldered in, take your finger and slide the closure rails back and fourth. This whole thing should slide very smoothly with no hang ups at all. The points should go all the way over to each recessed area smoothly. If you have any tight areas, then check the throwbar for any burrs or check the rails as they could hang up on the ties somewhere.

    [​IMG]

    Now we can slide the headblock ties under the rails. Leave a slight gap between the headblocks and the throwbar. Line up the headblocks with the rest of the ties on the one side.

    [​IMG]


    Alot of the time the headblocks add some pressure to the points/throwbar, and it won't slide as smooth as it did without the headblocks in. If this happens, then pull the headblocks out and file them down a little so they are not as thick.

    [​IMG]

    This will take care of that tightness with the points/throwbar, and everything should be smooth once again.

    We're almost done! Just a few more things to do! =)

    -Mike
     
  3. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    You could file the gap in the PC throw bar before soldering so you don't heat up both sides at the same time. Also you could use a NMRA gauge to set the point gap instead of a wheel.

    I can probably whip up a PC tie turnout in about 25 min. with or without a jig. Once you build a few it gets easier.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 7, 2009
  4. bigford

    bigford TrainBoard Member

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    WOW!!! that is nice work
    mike
    i might have missed it, but what is at the other end of the rails
    soldered to the throw bar to hold them in place?? just spikes?
     
  5. Babbo_Enzo

    Babbo_Enzo TrainBoard Member

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    I must say: a very fascinating and interesting thread. I've follow from the beginning as I use the FT jig to make my turnouts, and want order the slip jig.
    One of the "impossible" details in N scale is the lacks of tie plates.
    Nobody in the group have news about this ? Brass Etching parts or similar?
    Cheers
    Enzo Fortuna
    The Valley before Silicon
    Enzo Fortuna Site - Welcome!
     
  6. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    Chris, I don't gap the throwbar. I wire things different. I've also never had a problem with one side coming loose while I'm soldering the other side. I think the hole slows down some of the possible heat transfer through the throwbar.
    You are correct about the NMRA gauge, but I'd rather use something that will actually be on the rails and rolling through the turnout. It's a standard gauge, but not all trucks/wheels/cars/locos are set exactly at the "standard".


    Bigford, thanks for the kind words :)
    Yes, at the other end is the spikes that are around the frog area. I'll be taking a picture of the whole thing here pretty soon, and commenting on a few more parts of the turnout.

    Enzo, I have not seen tie plates made for N scale. But there could be, I am not sure. They would be really small if so! :)

    -Mike
     
  7. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    You can get N scale tie plates here:
    http://www.proto87.com/accurate-track.html

    Mike, How do you wire your turnouts? and if both point rails are the same polarity won't you get a short when the backside of a metal wheel hits them?

    Do you gap the frog (or any rails)? I use a .009" wide cut off blade that dentists use. It is the same width as a Zona saw blade.

    About the gauge. If you are going ahead and laying your own turnouts might as well use the same gauge to set all your wheelsets ; )
     
  8. Mark Watson

    Mark Watson TrainBoard Member

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    This thread has definitely inspired me to hand lay some turnouts next time I build a layout big enough to incorporate these features. Your pictures and descriptions are superb! Have you ever thought about writing a book on this? I'd buy it. :)
     
  9. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    Chris, I'll be showing how I wire them soon. The only rails that get gaps are the ends of the frog point rails.
    As to the wheels of a car or loco touching the backside of the point/closure rails, I solder the rails far enough in that this won't happen.

    I hear ya on the gauging of everything, but you and I probably do this more than the typical person. ;)

    -Mike
     
  10. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    Mark, thanks for the kind words, but no way, I'm no where close to good enough to do a book!

    I'm just showing how I do my own turnouts. This thread should be taken as a "suggestion" of how to do them, not an exact word for word. What works for me might not work for someone else, or they might find better ways to do different parts. :)

    -Mike
     
  11. Babbo_Enzo

    Babbo_Enzo TrainBoard Member

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    Criss, thanks to point there! I well know Andy Reichert's site but I never noted the tie plates.
    Well, not noted they do also in N scale!
    "Maybe" I will do a try .
    Cheers
    Enzo
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2009
  12. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

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    A cool trick when soldering the points is to put a long wooden switch tie between the point and the stock rail. The wood creates a block so that you can solder without worrying about the solder making it under the rail and getting in the way. Since you can get the solder nice and hot, you create a very strong point. You also get the proper angle, since the long tie holds the rail in position back toward the point and keeps everything in line. As a side benefit, the tie thickness (we use S scale 2x4s) just happens to be the NMRA gauge point width! :tb-biggrin:
     
  13. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    Man, am I slackin'! Again, sorry for the delay, I had to find time to do the work, take pics, and then write it up.

    Anyhow, we'll finish this up tonight. With the throwbar in and moving back and fourth smoothly, we'll need to isolate the closure rail points from the stock rails. I wire my turnouts different than what is considered "normal". I tried the normal way and had problems with the rails not staying smooth and in line when I cut gaps at the frog. So I came up with a different way. It's a little harder and needs to be more precise, but you don't have gaps in the closure rails at the frog. Here's what I do.

    Since the top of the throwbar conducts current across it, it can not touch the point rails and stock rails at the same time, or you get a short. So we need to cut a gap in the throwbar to stop the current from connecting them. Since both closure rail points are connected electricly, we'll need to cut a gap between them and the stock rails.
    Taking a sharp Xacto blade, I apply light pressure and do a few passes with the blade at an angle across the throwbar until I cut through the foil. This cut needs to be as close as possible to the closure rail point. Be sure to put the supports under the throwbar.

    [​IMG]

    Again, apply light pressure. If you push too hard, you can snap the throwbar in half. Then you'll have to unsolder it and do a new one. Not good. It might take quite a few passes, but eventually it will get a groove cut in it.

    Here is a close up of the cut.

    Before the cut:

    [​IMG]

    after the cut (yeah, it's really hard to see, but that is what we are going for)

    [​IMG]

    I then take my test meter which has a conductivity setting and test that the cut is good.

    [​IMG]


    You could also use track power to test with. If it shorts, then the cut is not all the way through.

    Once one side is done, do the same thing with the other side. Test it to make sure it's gapped correctly.

    Next up is the rest of the spiking and the guard rails.

    -Mike
     
  14. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    With the gaps cut in the throwbar, we'll finish up spiking the stock rails and the we'll also put the headblocks in.

    At this point, I like to put in my Tortoise switch machine. This will make it easier to get the headblocks just right.

    [​IMG]


    I continue to spike both sides of the stock rails down till the closure rails prevent me from putting a spike on the inside. At that point, I spike just the outside of the stock rails all the way to the throwbar.

    At the throwbar, we'll put the headblocks back in and spike them in. Leave a slight gap between them and the throwbar. We don't want the throwbar making contact with the headblocks and possibly binding up or causing resistance on it when moving back and fourth.

    We can also spike in the last couple of ties on the other side of the throwbar.

    [​IMG]


    And here is a far away shot showing where I spike to with the closure rails. Note there is no gap in them.

    [​IMG]


    With the closure rails spiked down only so far from the frog, this leaves quite a bit of rail with no spikes. I have found over the years that the rails don't ever move much, and stay in gauge with no problems. This also puts less stress on the solder joints at the throwbar. With all the turnouts I've done and over the time they have been operating, I've only had one closure rail pop loose, and this was due to not enough solder holding it in place on the throwbar. It was an easy fix, and was back to operating in no time.

    Next up is the guard rails.

    -Mike
     
  15. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    Now we'll install the guard rails. I do this last since I like to run cuts of cars and locos through the turnout to check them and this is easier to do when the throwbar is done.

    Grab some rail and put it in place on the ties. Keep one end even with the wing rails and mark where to cut the other end. I come down about a tie length or so from where the closure rails meet at.

    [​IMG]

    We'll make the guard rails just like we did the wing rails. Come in the width of a tie on each end and mark where to bend. Put a slight bend in them with the pliers and file the ends (like we did with the wing rails). Now take and put one in place against the stock rail spikes and hold it with one finger while running a truck through the frog point or using the NMRA gauge.

    I prefer to use a truck. I put sideways pressure on the truck so the wheel butts up against the guard rail I'm holding and roll it through to see if the other wheel clears the frog point. If it hits it, then we'll need to move the guard rail over more. This is usually the case for me.

    [​IMG]

    Since the guard rail is butted up against the stock rail's spikes, we'll need to file a little of the guard rail's web down so it can go closer to the stock rail. File enough down till the wheels roll through the frog without hitting the frog point. Then we can spike it in place.

    Since we can only get spikes on one side of the guard rails, I put a little bit of glue on the guard rail to hold it in place. This helps out when cleaning the track, since I've had guard rails move on me while doing this. Just a few dabs along with the spikes will hold them in good.
    Here is the completed guard rails.

    [​IMG]

    and here is the full thing up to this point.

    [​IMG]


    Now we'll drop some feeders and cut off those excess ties.

    -Mike
     
  16. pastoolio

    pastoolio TrainBoard Member

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    Now we'll cut off the ties that are sticking out. This process doesn't have to be exact, unless you want it to be. I've done so many now that I just eyeball it. You can take your paper template and follow that until you get to know where to put the cuts in at.

    I take and use a cut off disk in the motor tool to get most of the cuts, and then go back and use the Xacto blade to finish them up and pop the cut ends from the glue. After painting and ballasting, any imperfections with the tie ends pretty much disappear.

    [​IMG]

    With the turnout now looking more like a turnout, we'll finish wiring up the closure rails and frog.

    We'll need to cut 2 gaps in the frog point rails, or you can not put a rail joiner on them, that's up to you. I just skip the rail joiner. To keep the rails from touching, I put a small piece of thick paper between them and glue it it place. Those small subscription flyers that fall out of magazines are perfect for this. The paper/superglue combination prevents any current from getting through and making a short. With the rails isolated, I drop a feeder down anywhere in the spiked area, but don't get too close to the frog point, as we don't want the solder to heat up and move on us.

    With the closure rails, I put a feeder in the spiked area. It doesn't matter which rail you put one on, since the throwbar keeps the current going between them.

    [​IMG]


    I then connect these 2 wires together and run them to one of the SPST's on the tortoise switch machine. If you are using another form of switch machine, just make sure that the frog/closure rails are wired for the correct polarity when thrown to each route.

    Here is the completed #10 turnout ready for paint and ballast.

    [​IMG]



    Now that we've done a straight one, we'll get on the curved one asap. Most of what I have done so far will apply to the curved one, but there are a few things that are different, so I will explain them as I go.

    If you guys have any questions or concerns, or have an easier way of doing things, by all means, post away, I like having discussions on these sort of things. :)

    -Mike
     
  17. Mark Watson

    Mark Watson TrainBoard Member

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    Oh, I cant wait to see what this piece of art looks like ballasted, painted, and weathered!!

    Wait, you're going to show the making of a curved turnout too!? I can't choose which I want to see first!!

    I think I also have to give you the vote for most detailed photographic how-to on the boards!
     
  18. DSP&P fan

    DSP&P fan TrainBoard Member

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    Mike, nice work! I always enjoy reading how someone else builds theirs.

    You mentioned a few pages back that you didn't think you'd do this, but now really enjoy it. I think the sediment is that you find that the more of your layout you build...as opposed to Irv Athearn or such, the more satisfaction you get out of it. We are model railroaders...not layout assemblers. And your turnout looks nicer than any Atlas turnout I've ever seen :)

    It is worth mentioning that Homesoate didn't reach model railroaders until well after prefab track had dominated the market. Malcolm Furlow's San Juan Central is the first place I can recall reading about Homesoate...and he introduced it as a novel material. I've never used it (note: I'm not very old either). I've tried a number of approaches, almost always with Kappler's Pine ties...

    -ties direct on particle board: better pre-drill them holes!
    -ties direct on plywood: same problem!
    -ties direct on pine: ok
    -ties on cork on wood: great
    -ties on cork on foam: good
    -ties direct on foam: difficult and requires far more spikes

    I think the key is to have a roadbed firm enough to support it while spiking, yet soft enough to accept the spikes. The surface under the roadbed isn't as important. I've always found that the ties are adequate for holding the spikes. My hand laying as been HOn3, HO, and On3...the vast majority being On3...so it isn't necessarily apples to apples with N-scale needs...but I thought I'd share.

    Great work!
    Michael (regular visitor in the ng forum)
     
  19. jagged ben

    jagged ben TrainBoard Member

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    Mike, I'm surprised that you don't get shorts across the throwbar from one stock rail to the other. I thought that commercial power-routing turnouts of this type always used a plastic throwbar. (Or one goes the other route of putting gaps between the frog and the point, and a gap in the throwbar.)

    What am I missing?
     
  20. CSXDixieLine

    CSXDixieLine Passed Away January 27, 2013 In Memoriam

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    The two gaps cut through the copper in the throw bar and the rails behind the frog prevent any shorts. The polarity of the closure rails and frog match the polarity of the rail that the points are thrown against. Jamie
     

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