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Anyone Build Their Own Track and Turnouts?

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  • Member since
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Anyone Build Their Own Track and Turnouts?
Posted by Erie1951 on Wednesday, December 05, 2018 6:15 AM

My previous layout was in Sn3 with hand-laid track and custom-made turnouts. The new HO layout will be built with hand-laid track, but I'll build my own turnouts using a Proto87 Stores jig system. Does anyone else hand-lay their own track? What have been your experiences with making turnouts? Thanks!

Russ

Modeling the early '50s Erie in Paterson, NJ.  Here's the link to my railroad postcard collection: https://railroadpostcards.blogspot.com/

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Posted by doctorwayne on Wednesday, December 05, 2018 11:30 AM

If you're going to use the Proto87 jigs, I assume that you're also building your hand-laid track to the same standards, and using rolling stock and locomotives compatible with the Proto87 standards.

If I were to have a smaller layout, Proto87 would definitely be an option, but, as I understand it, there are few options for steam locomotives meeting those standards.
Another choice, if you don't wish to be limited by the constraints of Proto87, would be the Fast Track jigs.

I've built handlaid turnouts before, but only for special situations where there was no commercial alternative.  I am not, however, a fan of handlaid track, unless it's of a calibre similar to Proto87's visual standards, where there are tieplates and spikes represented on every tie.  The old saw about the free-flowing curves available only with handlaid track was put to rest with the introduction of flextrack on plastic ties.
For most of my layout, I used Atlas flextrack and mostly Atlas turnouts.  When I added a partial second level, I opted for Central Valley tie strips, the new version of "handlaid" track.  With it, you get all of the details, like woodgrain on the ties, scale-size tieplates and spike heads, and your choice for the rail height you wish to use.  Again, I used mostly commercially-available turnouts (Atlas, Peco, Micro Engineering, and Shinohara), but I did include a couple of the Central Valley turnout kits, too.
As for my experience building turnouts, I found it very satisfying to be able to build things that weren't otherwise available (one was a #12 curved turnout, with a geared motor drive), but I would rather use commercially-available stuff if possible, and devote more of my time to building rolling stock, locomotives, and structures. 
Nobody pays much visual attention to turnouts or track unless it works poorly or looks really bad....exceptionally well-done track and turnouts, of course, are noticeable and worthy of comment.

My opinions aside, if handlaying track is a satisfying task for you, by all means follow that route:  the hobby is meant to be enjoyable, and each of us, hopefully, finds our own version of that.

Wayne

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, December 05, 2018 11:44 AM

The Proto:87 website is difficult to navigate.  For me.  But.

I don't think Proto:87 is actually a scale reduction of the prototype.  I BELIEVE it is NMRA compatible, at least for some of the versions.

 

Oh, yes.  I have built some trackwork and switches, quite a long time ago.  I didn't use any special jigs.  I think I followed an article in Model Railroader, back in the mid-sixties, or so.  

I'm not sure how I'd approach handlaying today; but I'll have to resolve that, as doing it is in my future.

 

Ed

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Posted by sschnabl on Wednesday, December 05, 2018 12:12 PM

My previous layout was all Peco c55 in N scale.  I am in the process of tearing down that layout (track is off, now dismantling the benchwork).  My new layout will be ME flex with Fast Tracks turnouts (c55).  So far I've built about 60 turnouts, and in the tests I've run, my rolling stock just glides through them.  It took me about 2-1/2 hours to build each one, but I enjoyed doing it.  I'll be using all my Peco track in the staging yards. 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Wednesday, December 05, 2018 1:54 PM

I never got that bug.

You might check out http://www.ohrtracksupply.com/

Their business model may have changed as their website is different than a year ago.  At one time they were renting their more complex templates.  I think they still sell templates, they also manufacture custom turnouts and crossings.

 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by JAMES MARLETT on Thursday, December 06, 2018 8:14 AM
I hand lay in HOn3. Granted, this is not Proto 87, but in my opinion, building turnouts isn't that hard and I did it before there were jigs. Today's jigs would make it easy as far as I can tell. (I bought a Fast Tracks jig for some planned expansion, but haven't used it yet.)
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Posted by selector on Thursday, December 06, 2018 10:17 AM

I never got the bug to lay my own tracks because developing a layout is a means to an end for me...it's not really the 'fun' part.  I want to play with my trains, but in a setting that looks passably realistic and natural.  This would include natural-looking tracks with curves and dips and rises.

However, I did get the bug to try my hand at making my own turnouts, and being the green fella I was in the hobby generally, I looked to Fast Tracks.  I did make some purchases and built several Code 100 #8 turnouts and a couple of #6 double-slip turnouts.  I still have them, but will only use the double slips in my current construction.

What I learned from it all is that a person can easily construct any type of turnout, particularly ones with unique geometry that solves a unique track plan's problems.  I have done this five times now.  One is a long, broad radius, curved turnout, built with Code 100 rail stock and PCB ties, which I have in place on my current construction.  This is its third 'life'.

As most of us know by the time we're 14 or so, there is immense satisfaction in conceptualizing, developing, and in constructing items we need, and reaping the rewards with many years of successful use.  I figured I didn't need to invent my own new wheel with tracks because flex track is a marvelous stand-in.  But turnouts are another matter, and I very strongly encourage all people to try their hands at the various techniques.  They are rather straightforward once you have built a couple, and you'll have the skills, knowledge, and some leftover rail stock and PCB ties to reach to whenever you realize that you could construct your own and close an otherwise great track plan's loop for free running.

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Posted by 7j43k on Thursday, December 06, 2018 11:31 AM

Another benefit of hand building track switches is that you can close up some enormous ugly clearances:

the gap between the points and the stock rail

the gap between the frog and the wing rails

the gap between the guard rails and the stock rails

the flangeway at the frog, to minimize bumping of cars as they go over

 

Ed

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Posted by SouthPenn on Thursday, December 06, 2018 12:56 PM

I have some hand laid track on my layout. The first section I did was a 20' section of double track mainline, code 83. I wasn't planning on doing any more hand laid track anywhere on my layout. Until a six year old young man was visiting my layout. He pointed to the hand laid section of track and ask 'are those real wood'.

Now I have a few more sections of hand laid track on my layout. And I have come to the conclusion that painted plastic ties look like painted plastic ties, no matter what you do to them.

If you are going to hand lay tour track, I highly recomend Fast Tracks 'Tie Rack' tie installer jig and Proto 87 spikes.

South Penn
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Posted by dehusman on Thursday, December 06, 2018 9:38 PM

I learned to hand lay turnouts about 1977.  I have laid them in a dozen different ways in HO, HOn3, and N, codes from 100 to 55.  On my current layout I have about 95 #4, #5, #6 switches handlaid in codes 55 and 70.  Track has been under construction for about 3 years.

I have handlaid them in place freehand, built them in place on paper jigs, made points and frogs on the bench and laid "kits", I've used PC ties,  I've used hinged points and solid points, hinge throwbars and solid throwbars.  I've use Caboose throws, Tortise machines and  several variations of handmade linkages .

About the only way I haven't built switches is a commerical jig.

All the various methods work.

Currently, I layout out the track on the roadbed (Homasote), paste down a paper template, cut a slot for the throw mechanism, glue ties to the template, apply ballast, lay the switches and voila! I have a switch. 

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by oldline1 on Saturday, December 08, 2018 2:04 PM

I have never used any fixtures to build turnouts. I have handlaid a few layouts in HO, HOn3 and S scale. Generally I use 2 or more codes of rail to get an even better look.

Turnouts aren't all that difficult and I always checked them with the NMRA standards  gauge and they always worked fine. For the track I've used 3-point track gauges for the proper rail size or Ribbonrail gauges or a combination of them both.

I've never dabbled in Proto 87 and probably won't. Handlaid track and turnouts look far superior to me than any commercial track and allow many areas to be built as desired and not set to the limitations of commercial turnouts.

oldline1

 

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Posted by gregc on Sunday, December 09, 2018 5:55 AM

Erie1951
Does anyone else hand-lay their own track? What have been your experiences with making turnouts?

i hand laid the turnouts on my small layout.   Read that it was simple enough and of course saves $$.  In particular, wanted live frogs because I have short wheelbase locos. 

But after joining a club, i saw that many club members use hand laid turnouts using kits, FastTracks or w/o jigs, again for live frogs and in many cases custom need for curved turnouts.

i'm not sure what the trend is.   I've been reading several threads where modelers are having problems using commercial turnouts because dimensions aren't accurate and they are trying to fit them into tight spaces.    I think there is some confusion about standards and what a turnout frog # implies.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by dehusman on Sunday, December 09, 2018 8:00 AM

Gregc :  I fond a 1922 RDG MofW rule book that had switch diagrams down to a #3 turnout.  I photoreduced them to HO scale and use them as templates for tie placements and switch building.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by Erie1951 on Thursday, December 13, 2018 12:03 PM

Thanks for your replies, Guys. I'm late getting back into the discussion because I've been locked out for almost two weeks myself. Grumpy Being a senior citizen type, I occasionally suffer from attacks of the stupids and forgot that Proto87 really is Proto87! Sigh I ain't changing out all of the wheels on my rolling stock to conform with P87 and then there's the problem with loco wheels, too. What I'll do is get the Fast Tracks #6 turnout jig, but use rail details from the Proto87 Stores like the code 83 tie plates and bolted rail joints. Because the layout will be seen up close and at an angle slightly higher than straight-on, I want to model the track as well. Again, thanks for your comments and suggestions! Thumbs Up

Russ

Modeling the early '50s Erie in Paterson, NJ.  Here's the link to my railroad postcard collection: https://railroadpostcards.blogspot.com/

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Thursday, December 13, 2018 2:22 PM

I have done some in the past, but I prefer to use commercial turnouts and flex track.  But I also have some rail and ties for places where it's easier than flex - like a crossover where I need to fill a small gap, it's easier with rail and ties.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by Marc_Magnus on Friday, December 14, 2018 8:33 AM

Erie1951

My previous layout was in Sn3 with hand-laid track and custom-made turnouts. The new HO layout will be built with hand-laid track, but I'll build my own turnouts using a Proto87 Stores jig system. Does anyone else hand-lay their own track? What have been your experiences with making turnouts? Thanks!

 

 

Hello,

It's just my opinion and the feeling about the construction of more than 150 turnouts.

I don't ask to speak about money because, feel is a personnal choice and question, so no debate to say it's expensive or not, but for me the values is well worth the money for it.

These turnouts need wheelset in gauge, but this is a basic rule anyway.

 

I use Fastrack jig since around 2008 for my N scale layout in code 55.

I just say, one thing, this is one of the best investment I have done for my train like the use of resistance soldering.

Fastrack Jig allow you to produce extremly accurate turnouts in NMRA standards and open you a road with nearly perfect bullet proof turnouts.

The geometry Fastrack use in N scale seems to be similar of the Peco code 55.

Seems the HO line follow the same way.

I also mix some piece of track from Peco code 55 like double slip with the fastrack turnouts, really no problems.

Fastrack turnouts in any scale are DCC friendly.

They are so precise, when a car roll through them, even in the frog area , he don't move or he is not shake off anyway.

 

And if you ask to go to Fastrack, buy a crossover jig; why?, because you are able to build turnouts or crossover with only one jig, including a crossing; they exist with #6 and #8 frog; anyway Fastrack offer jig for numerous # turnouts, straight or curved,  double slip, crossing, crossover, three way turnouts...special custom order, endless!

Buy also the frog points tool, but a number #12, this allow you to build frog from number #4 to #12 with one tool.

Buy also the point forming tool, so easy to use.

They also sold a special jig to build and solder frog, if you are ready to build a lot of them, this is a good investment.

You can buy the laser cut ties assembly, but they are quiet expensive in quantities, so I have build some jig to prepare set of ties to be used under the turnouts like the people which fully handlaid turnouts and track.

I buy full lenght of piece of ME track in code 55,these are 3' length, in quantities they are cheaper in final than the precut pieces Fastrack also offer and you have also in final less raw materials when using full lenght of rail.

Tools are a Xuron rail cutter, a set of good files, a good plier, a vise, a jeweler saw and a good solder iron with flux and fine solder.

Course, you need some training to build a right one, but everybody can produce excellent turnout with Fastrack jig with a little practice.

Fastrack offer a full line of video about "How to do" which explain easily how to build a turnout with the jig.  www.handlaidtrack.com

And, like me, after a while, you may be able to handlaid some turnouts in place for very specific locations, just because you already have learn a lot when building "semi handlaid" Fastrack turnout.

Just my opinion.

 

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Posted by Lazers on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 5:11 PM

Hi, I too intend to build my own Turnouts.

Has anyone ever written an article for MRR covering this subject?

Is Flat-bottomed Rail, soldered to Copper-clad Ties still the traditional method? or

Individual Tie-plates and Spikes, offset as per prototype, now more prefferable?

I would like to read-up about H/L Track and it's Design Geometry. My Yard Ladder is made-up of 4 Curved T/O's, each coming off the last Outer Radius. If I build 4 identical T/O's of say 22" Inner & 30" Outer Rad, the geometry is dodging from Inner to Outer Radius as they attempt to parallel the previous T/O to the inside.

Any help appreciated, Paul

"It's the South Shore Line, Jim - but not as we know it".

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Posted by gregc on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 5:19 PM

Lazers
Has anyone ever written an article for MRR covering this subject?

Tony Koester wrote an article in Trackside and Lineside Detail and a video

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by BigDaddy on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 5:31 PM

gregc
Tony Koester wrote an article in Trackside and Lineside Detail and a video

$83 for the book?  Someone call 911. 

Ok I see you I buy it used for $4 but the chutzpah of these jokers asking huge dollar amounts frosts me. 

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

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Posted by gregc on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 6:25 PM

BigDaddy
$83 for the book?  Someone call 911.

have you seen Guide to Freight Yards?  used?

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 6:47 PM

BigDaddy

 

 
gregc
Tony Koester wrote an article in Trackside and Lineside Detail and a video

 

$83 for the book?  Someone call 911. 

Ok I see you I buy it used for $4 but the chutzpah of these jokers asking huge dollar amounts frosts me. 

 

 

Perhaps it's a first edition signed by the author.  And A. C., himself.  Which would ASSUREDLY be worth some extra bucks.

Me, I went low ball, and got a like-new copy for about $12, or so.

 

Ed

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Posted by Lazers on Friday, December 21, 2018 5:38 PM

Here in Rip-Off Britain, a new copy would cost me £171.34 x 1.27 = $217.6 (Amazon UK)

I can buy a 'Like-new' copy from the States for $65.0 including Shipping = £51.35

Kalmbach "Basic Trackwork for MRR's" by Jeff Wilson, has a chapter about H/L Track - so I will stick with that.

I'm sorry to go off-topic with your original post Erie 1951, but Jeff's book may be of use? Paul

"It's the South Shore Line, Jim - but not as we know it".

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