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Fast Tracks Turnouts - Any Negatives?

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  • Member since
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  • From: Portland, Oregon
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Fast Tracks Turnouts - Any Negatives?
Posted by Attuvian on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 11:06 AM

Last night at our club I was talking about turnouts with one of our more accomplished members.  He was totally sold on building one's own using the Fast Tracks jigs and MR rail.  Secondarily, he indicated that he generally glues down his rail but I've heard others like to solder it to PC board ties.

Except for the intial costs, what are the downsides to using this approach versus buying turnouts off the shelf?  My fellow club member was too enthusiastic to mention any.  BTW, eyes are still serviceable, hands are still steady and I have quality soldering equipment that I use with some proficiency.  I'll be building a layout with about 40 turnouts, #5s in the yards, #6s off the mains.

Geeked

John

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  • From: Huron, SD
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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 11:50 AM

Biggest disadvantage is time.  I have several friends using FT, and they say with practice they get down to about an hour a turnout.

I buy Walthers, Pico, or MicroEngineering Code 83 turnouts.  Tuneup takes about 10 minutes tops, and on my last layout in a year of op sessions I had zero track problems.

It's a matter of which is your scarcer resource; money or time.

 

Disclaimer:  This post may contain humor, sarcasm, and/or flatulence.

Michael Mornard

Bringing the North Woods to South Dakota!

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Posted by HO-Velo on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 11:59 AM

Hi John,  I really like my 30 Fast Tracks turnouts , mostly #6s, with a few curved, X-overs, & customs, super smooth and enjoy the looks of the single piece point rails.  They are a combination of soldered PC and glued wood ties.  Can't comment on making them as I ordered from a builder back in 2012.  Only drawbacks I have encountered are the stiffness of the one piece point rails and no spike detail.  Both drawbacks have remedies, but can be time consuming.

Have a good one & regards, Peter   

  • Member since
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  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
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Posted by selector on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 5:08 PM

This is just me, but I did purchase the jig for HO #8 turnouts and also a jig for #6 double-slips.  I purchased some solder, PCB ties already cut from a plate, but still needing to be cut to length to fit in the jigs, and I purchased the frog point and points rail tools for both turnouts.  It was enough to choke a retired horse on a military income, but I was feeling full of myself and confident I could build the turnouts.  My first effort, once I received it all, was less than stirling, shall we agree, but then I got better....and faster.

I still have all the turnouts.  They are my best, even better than Peco or W/S.  Even the early ones are better.  But mostly, learning how to build those turnouts taught me that I could make pretty much anything else I needed. I have done just this over two successive layouts, now.  I have built a long #10 curved turnout that now has 'experience' on three layouts. I have also built three different unique geometry wye turnouts, two along a curve which really tests the skill if you want to run long passenger cars through them.  Happily, with some minor fiddling, the last two, out on my main, have let all my locomotives and cars of every description slam through them, points first or trailing, cars towed or shoved, at scale speeds up to 90 mph.  I spent some time holding my breath, lemme tell ya, but was so gratified when the entire consist roared through in both directions.

If you'd like to say you've built 'bout the finest turnouts available, except maybe the Central Valley and Proto varieties, or hybrids of any of the three (which a surpising number of us actually do eventually), and prove their worth to you time and time again, start somewhere building your own.  Fast Tracks has all the resources, many videos, and other paraphernalia to help you to achieve that reasonably ambitious goal.  Then, from there, you'll realize you can craft even unique-geometry customized examples to fill gaps that the commercial ones can't do so well.

Edit (added later) - PS, almost forgot to comment on the gluing comment.  The Fast Tracks do have glueable and flexible tie components that you can even cut up to use on your customized turnouts, but you must...MUST...solder a bare minimum of PCB ties under the rails if you want the appliance to work reliably.  Remember, you are going to gap near the frog in four places, and you want reliable and durable maintenance of gauge along both axes.  PCB ties afford you this double feature, both extremely important.  However, the copper cladding of the ties also allows easy feeding of any part of the turnout, not just at the various rail ends. So, don't forget to make those all-important grooves between the rails that sever the cladding into two parts...or you'll get shorts.

I raise this because it may come across from previous comments that merely gluing the rails to ties will suffice.  It might indeed, but not if reliable connectivity is a goal, and not if reliable gauge is a goal...my opinion, perhaps others will beg to differ.

  • Member since
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  • From: Bradford, Ontario
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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 8:16 PM

The senior track layer at our club has built quite a number of Fast Tracks turnouts and he says they work quite well. However, he has had a couple of problems with the tips of the point rails coming loose. I'm not sure if the solder joint broke or the copper came off the board, but obviously good soldering skills and equipment are mandatory.

Dave

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  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
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Posted by selector on Thursday, July 12, 2018 8:43 AM

Perhaps that could be termed a 'negative', Dave.  It's unfortunately true, even in my case, that sometimes you get a bit slow at withdrawing the hot tip and the result is you lift the copper cladding off the substrate.  When that happens, the tie is compromised for conductivity and strength, and you'd best remove the entire tie, cut a new one, and replace it.  However, with practice and a good clean tip (every hobbyist has one.....right? Whistling ), this problem should happen seldom.   And, if you do get it right (it's hardest near the frog point), you have a very robust appliance that you can harvest and use multiple times on multiple layouts.  That's been my experience, anyway.

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Posted by tstage on Thursday, July 12, 2018 10:02 AM

While I have not built my own FT turnouts using their jigs and fixtures, I have purchased some finished FT turnouts off eBay from those who've had experience fabricating them.  I LOVE FT turns: They look great, operate great, are quiet, and have a wire soldered to the frog so they can be powered.  I salvaged most of the FT turnouts from my last layout and plan to use them on my next iteration.

Tom

http://www.newyorkcentralmodeling.com

Time...It marches on...without ever turning around to see if anyone is even keeping in step.

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Posted by dknelson on Thursday, July 12, 2018 10:49 AM

Some modelers prefer the somewhat similar templates from Oak Hill.   

http://www.ohrtracksupply.com/

Oak Hill is also getting into custom work for complex trackage situations.  I saw the owner, Jeff Otto, give a demonstration using what was to me a new and interesting tool: a hot air pencil.  remarkable!

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, July 12, 2018 11:44 AM

 The hot air pencil is commonly used with working with surface mount electronic components - you apply a solder paste to the circuit board, set the part in place, and head the spot with the hot air pencil, the solder melts, the flux activated, and it sucks the part into place. 

 I'm not sure the benefit in soldered track work, at least rails to PCB ties. The slight sticky nature of the solder paste isn't really a benefit as it is not precise enough to eliminate the need for holding the rail in place either with a jig or lots of track gauges while soldering.

 I cna see it being useful for repair - say a point breaks loose from the throwbar. A hot air pencil is precise enough to reattach the broken point without causing the rest of the turnout to fall apart. Might be useful on soldered parts on brass locos as well, but just like a regular soldering iron, holding it too long in one spot will transfer heat to the surrounding area.

                                 --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Thursday, July 12, 2018 10:04 PM

Voice to the chorus...Definitely Fast Tracks. These were just coming out as I was finishing the bulk of my trackwork or I would have gone this route. Great reliability.

Drawback is time to build.

 

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by Attuvian on Friday, July 13, 2018 12:03 AM

Okay, guys.  I have heard enough.  And I have enough - time that is, being recently retired.  What I may not have enough, especially since I've just been talked into DCC, is the bucks.  But perhaps for as many as 40 it would still be a substantial savings.  And perhaps I can find some of the jigs and whatnot used but serviceable.

Thanks for all your replies.  This forum (and others) are a tremendous benefit.  Can't imagine what it would be like MRRing on one's own.

John

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Friday, July 13, 2018 3:11 PM

John,

None of this is cheap!!! CoolCoolCoolCool

Buying 40 turnouts @ $15 = $600.00  - @ 20 = $800 I'm pretty sure you can do Fast Tracks much more cheaply than that. You could also make some extra turnouts and sell some to defray the cost of the gear if you needed the cash - you might also consider buying the FT jigs jointly and share the cost and use among several local modelers...

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by hon30critter on Friday, July 13, 2018 10:25 PM

I just did the math for 40 Fast Tracks turnouts. If you are doing only Code 83 #6 turnouts it works out to about $18.00 per turnout. That includes all the materials, templates and filing jigs. (However I was a little confused by the different tie offerings so my numbers may be wrong). That sounds pretty reasonable IMHO if all you need are #6 turnouts and you want to spend the time building them. Buying additional templates for different sized turnouts will obviously increase your costs.

Dave

da1
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  • From: Alberta, Canada
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Posted by da1 on Saturday, July 14, 2018 12:23 AM

Hello John.  Let me add a couple lessons learned.

#1.  When curving the rails to fit into the jig the rails need to fit without force.  To be clear, form the curved rail and lay it beside the jig.  If it doesn't fall into the slot don't force it.  Rework the curve so that it lays naturally into the jig.  This will ensure the track stays in guage after it is removed from the jig.

Next #2.  I've had a few ponts-to-throwrod solder joints fail.  Now when I repair those, and if I were to build new, I drill a tiny hole in the inside foot of the point rail (opposite the filed side) and insert a piece of brass wire through the hole into another hole in the throwrod and solder this assembly together.  The added mechanical support seems to save the solder joint at this location from failing.

Finally #3.  I used N scale Caboose Industries ground throws for all my HO scale code 70 turnouts.  If you carefully set the points gap when soldering both sets of points to the throwrod the N scale ground throw provides addequate movement to maintain NMRA clearance at the open point.  I like the N scale throws as they are smaller and less obtrusive.

I too love my FT turnouts, they are uber-smooth and reliable.  I have zero derailments at turnouts.  None, zip, zilch.

Last bit of experience.  Be prepared to toss your first, and maybe your second turnout as practice pieces.

Dwayne A

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