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Replacing Micro Eng. turnout throw rod

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  • Member since
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  • From: Loudonville, NY
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Replacing Micro Eng. turnout throw rod
Posted by Benjamin Maggi on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 10:21 AM

I originally used only Micro Engineering switches (codes 83 and 70) on my layout. Several were defective right out of the package but ME replaced them. After installation, I had three throw-rods break right at the point where the Tortoise switch machine activation wire pokes through. The plastic is just too flimsy.

I ordered some replacement PCB turnout switch ties from Fast Tracks. (https://www.handlaidtrack.com/ch-ho-s) They are 1/16" thick and two different widths (don't know if that was intentional or not). I plan to predrill a hole in the middle for the switch machine and then solder the point rails in place. The turnouts are already installed so it won't be easy, but I think I can handle it.

I know I need to gap the tie in the middle to prevent a short. With M.E. switches, do I need to gap anywhere else on the tie? 

Also, anyone have any advice or tips for this? Thanks.

Modeling the D&H in 1984: http://dandhcoloniemain.blogspot.com/

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  • From: Pacific Northwest
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Posted by SPSOT fan on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 11:09 PM

I'm not an expert on this sort of thing, but if my answer is incorrect, this bump to the top should get other's attention and give you some more responses.

From what I understand your plastic "tie" connecting the two point rails broke and you need to replace it. You intend to use a tie from fast tracks. A look at the link you posted shows the tie is copper plated. Copper conducts electricity, so that means a gap may be nessesary...

Insulating the tie depends on how you provide power to your points. If it is solely by them touching the stock rail, you should be fine. If you have each point wired to their respective stock rail, that will cause a short.

Also, if the tie touched both stock rails, which it will likely do, a short will occur.

So you may need to sand off the copper to prevent shorts. The link says that the copper layer is thin, so this should work.

Perhaps it may be easier to use something different. Maybe a peice of scale lumber...

Perhaps other forum members will have a better idea...

Regards, Isaac

I model my railroad and you model yours! I model my way and you model yours!

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, July 25, 2019 7:28 AM

Your's isn't the first complaint I've heard of ME turnouts.  But the PCB tie to replace the broken throw rod sounds like a good solid solution to me.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by selector on Thursday, July 25, 2019 10:53 AM

PCB ties are the answer.  Cut one to length, use a small drill bit to gently drill out your pin hole where you need it (NOT where you will have to file the insulating gap in the copper cladding!!!), and then use a triangular needle file to file a gap through the cladding between the two points rails.  Only deep enough that a continuity test shows the groove deep enough to have severed the cladding cleanly into two 'halves'.  If you file too deeply, you weaken the tie.

It's a good idea to gently file the top and bottom edges all around the cladding surfaces because the cutting can leave rough edges that don't play well once you begin to move the throwbar under the turnout.

Position the throwbar so that it sits up tight against the stock rails, and so that the points rails are properly spaced (you need them to clear flanges when 'open', and to lie flush to their stock rails' inner flange faces when 'closed'.)  I slide thin pieces of plastic packaging, the clear stuff, under the throwbar to help keep it in place while I do the soldering.  I often leave them in place if they help to keep the throwbar from opening on it own due to friction.  This is for manually operated turnouts not connected to a mechanical linkage of some kind and that don't have over-center springs.

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Posted by gregc on Friday, July 26, 2019 7:23 PM

i've used PC ties for tie bars but have had chronic solder breaks with some.   wonder if it's just a poor solder joint or excessive stress because I use a solid rail from the points to the frog wings.

but at the club, they solder a small brass wing under the point and screw it into a fiberglass tie (PC tie stripped of copper) with an oversize hole in the wing so that it easily pivots.

they also use separate rails for the points and frog and use a rail joiner as a pivot which reduces any stress.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by mlehman on Saturday, July 27, 2019 1:58 AM

Subbing in a PC tie as a substitute throw bar/bridle is the solution I used. You'll need something to insulate the bottom of the rails above from the throw bar. I usually CA a small piece of styrene on top of the throw bar under the rails to do this if needed.

While some think the ME's are "fragile" IMO they are simply scale and need to be treated like the model they are. Basically, do not treat them like a Shinohara and you'll be ok.  That was my mistake on the one I damaged (in HOn3), but I've since handled a bunch more without incident. Treat 'em gently and they be good.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by gregc on Saturday, July 27, 2019 7:50 AM

mlehman
You'll need something to insulate the bottom of the rails above from the throw bar. I usually CA a small piece of styrene on top of the throw bar under the rails to do this if needed.

doesn't that defeat the purpose of using a PC tie and being able to simply solder the rail to the tie

if you don't want to solder, why not cut a piece of styrene as a replacement throw- bar?

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by mlehman on Saturday, July 27, 2019 8:27 PM

Just to clarify, the insulation is bonded to the botom of the rail, not to the throwbar. It was worded too ambiguously there.

This kind on depends on how the throwbar lays in terms of vertical alignment. I've only done one, because I've only broken one, but this is the solution I use on my very few hand-laid turnouts also, as needed.

But I definitely solder, as I doubt that gluing the points to it is unlikely to be successful other than briefly.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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Posted by selector on Sunday, July 28, 2019 3:19 PM

gregc

...  wonder if it's just a poor solder joint or excessive stress because I use a solid rail from the points to the frog wings.

...

 

I use the Fast Tracks method with both #6 and # 8 turnouts, with the points rails being slightly longer in the latter case.  However, both turnouts have solid rails and PCB ties with the copper cladding broken by a needle file. I rarely get a parting of the points and throwbar, also made with PCB. It has happened maybe once over the years, but otherwise my solders hold well.

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Posted by Benjamin Maggi on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:40 AM

Thank you for all of your input. It sounds like it shouldn't be too difficult, and I only need to break the foil once between the point rails somewhere.

Modeling the D&H in 1984: http://dandhcoloniemain.blogspot.com/

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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, July 29, 2019 8:25 AM

It's easy to put a gap in the copper foil.  Simply use your X-Acto (or a utility knife) to score a couple of roughly parallel lines in the foil - 3 or 4 passes should do it - then use the tip of the blade to flick-out the material.

Wayne

jpg
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Posted by jpg on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 1:50 AM

If you haven't, I think you should watch the fast tracks videos where they solder the points to the throwbar. It's in two different videos, first is video #6, starting at the 7:22 mark. Then watch most of video #9. They both have useful tips that help you to avoid doing the wrong thing. Obviously you aren't using their jig, but the tips will help.

If you're worried about getting an extra-strong solder joint you can use an organic acid base flux for this job. There's no electricity going to flow through your throwbar (you're specifically cutting gaps to avoid that) so the usual prohibitions against using acid flux for electronics don't apply and you'll get a better joint. Be sure to clean it well afterwards to avoid discoloration.

If you're paranoid about using acid flux, at least use an RA flux and clean the tie so it's pinkish and the bottom of the rail is shiny. Just handling the tie to cut it off the sprue is enough to get it oxidized a bit.

Make sure you get some flux underneath the point rail, but not underneath the stock rail, and on the bottom of the point rail. 

You can also use a silver-bearing solder for extra strength if you have a powerful enough soldering iron. 

It's sometimes tricky to get the solder joints done exactly right so the throwbar throws perfectly perpendicular to the rails. The first joint you do tends to pull the throwbar off perpendicular and you can end up with the throwbar making a curve/radius type motion as it throws. To try to prevent that, I tape everything down to the workbench (turnout and throwbar) using masking tape before soldering outside the jig for the second joint. Since you're not using a jig, I'd do it for both joints. If you're off a little it probably won't matter. 

I'd drill the hole for the tortoise wire last, not first as another poster implied, after the throwbar is soldered and the position of the throw fixed.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, August 01, 2019 8:12 AM

mlehman

While some think the ME's are "fragile" IMO they are simply scale and need to be treated like the model they are. Basically, do not treat them like a Shinohara and you'll be ok.  

If ME is fragile, that may be contributing to the many complaints I have been reading.  I was considering ME for a future layout but the feedback on ME vs. Peco made the choice to go with Peco clear, based on the numbers anyway.

I don't know enough about ME to know if they are simply fragile or there are other issues.  But when it came time to spend money on turnouts, I read lots of commonts on both ME and Peco and had to make a choice.  Of course with narrow gauge, choices are more limited but for standard gauge ...

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by mlehman on Sunday, August 04, 2019 12:29 AM

I don't consider ME fragile. Some do because they're not willing to bother learning to handle a product properly. They're plenty durable is correctly installed. You just can't treat them like Shinohara, which was pretty robust track even as it gave up some proto-fidelity in the design.

With narrowgauge, although Shinohara is gone, we have both ME and Peco in HOn3. Peco is kind of dear and ME is patterned after typical Colorado practices, so I haven't tried Peco yet. Somewhere past 150 turnouts, there's been little need or opportunity to explore current offerings, but I'd probably consider Peco if my trackwork consumption increased again.

Mike Lehman

Urbana, IL

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