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Turnout Jigs and a New Again Model Railroader

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Turnout Jigs and a New Again Model Railroader
Posted by Dan T on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 11:42 PM

Hello all,

I've had a few folks helping me with some layout advice in the "Layouts" forum and am asking for some help here. I've made a return to model railroading after a twenty year hiatus.  Please feel free to add your suggestions there.

As a new again MR'er I was hoping for some input on building my own turnouts.  Why dip my toe in the water when I can plunge right in, right?  Big Smile

I've done a lot of reading elsewhere and found a few old posts here about the Fast Tracks jigs and accessories.  It seems they have a good reputation and that the jigs work extremely well.  I suppose my question for all of you is...

Can a new MR'er pull off the turnout construction with patience and time or would my time better be served doing all of the other things and buying the turnouts?  My soldering skills probably aren't all that great...but like anything if you are motivated to learn and practice you will get better with time.

Anyway, I would appreciate any insights you all may have  in this matter.

Thanks in advance,

Dan

 

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Posted by cuyama on Thursday, June 17, 2010 12:01 AM

You will receive many recommendations to use the FastTracks jigs.

Unfortunately, few of these will be from people who have actually used them to build turnouts in N scale, but the jigs are certainly the "flavor of the month" right now. And there's nothing wrong with that if you wish to invest the time in learning and practicing -- and the cash up front for the jig(s) -- note that you need more than one if you plan to use different turnout sizes.

But many fine N scale layouts (large and small) have also been built with off-the-shelf components and for a first foray into model railroading, that will certainly be a shorter MTTF (Mean Time to Fun).

Byron

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Posted by jwhitten on Thursday, June 17, 2010 1:53 AM

 

cuyama

You will receive many recommendations to use the FastTracks jigs.

... and for a first foray into model railroading, that will certainly be a shorter MTTF (Mean Time to Fun).

Byron

 

And just FYI, Byron *definitely* knows what he's talking about.

Modeling the South Pennsylvania Railroad ("The Hilltop Route") in the late 50's
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Posted by Sir Madog on Thursday, June 17, 2010 2:39 AM

 Although those FastTrack jigs work nicely, they only pay off, if you have a lot of turnouts of the same size to build. At $200 +, they are certainly not a bargain. Furthermore, the finished turnouts lack some detail, like tie plates or spikes.

It finally depends on your liking - if you want to build your turnouts yourself, they are a good way of doing it. Figure on 1 1/2 to 2 hours of time for each turnout you build - quite a lot of time for a little saving.

There are a few experts in here, who build their turnouts without those jigs - just with the help of a NMRA gauge (which you need to have in any case) and maybe a home made jig for the frog. I find this work very tedious and not worth for the little number of turnouts I need.

If you want to get your trains up and running quickly, buy ready made turnouts. Atlas code 55 is a good choice - the track looks really nice.  Dave Vollmer has achieved marvelous results, using that track in his latest addition to his famous layout.

Cheers!

Ulrich

People in Hamburg don´t tan, they rust!

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Posted by jwhitten on Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:15 AM

 If you're looking for some interesting alternatives, check out Proto87Stores.com. They've got several good ways to go for building track and turnouts.

They sell (re-sell?) Central Valley Turnout strips and I think also their tie strips, which are easy to use and don't require soldering if you don't want to. You can just glue the rails to the ties. However, many people think that the best method is to use a few PC ties (PC Board cut into strips the size of ties) and solder a few key locations to hold the gauge and then everything after that is simply cosmetic. There is a good discussion that starts here: CVT Turnouts the Joe Fugate Way, but aside from some useful lead-in info, the real meat of it is here: CV Turnouts - take 2.

Central Valley Mainline Tie Strip Closeup 

Image: Central Valley Mainline Tie Strip Close up

Central Valley Turnout Kit Closeup Detail

Image: Central Valley Turnout Kit Closeup Detail

 

Illustration of Joe Fugate's Method of Construction

Image: Illustration of Joe Fugate's Method of Construction

 

I am also intrigued by several other options they have at the Proto87Stores site, such as their "Switchworks" track and turnout building fixtures (jigs), which seem like a reasonable alternative to the fast tracks jigs. Note, I have some Fast Tracks jigs, but I have not yet acquired any of the Switchworks fixtures. I'm hoping to get some of the Switchworks stuff later this summer so I can sit down and compare the two methods. But I can say from reading (and re-reading and re-reading! :-) the info about Switchworks it certainly looks very interesting. And I like the fact that it has provisions for adding tie plates and additional details during construction for better-looking results. It also seems better thought-out, IMO, and there is a whole system available for building pretty much any kind of track you might need. There are a lot of photos on their site that you can examine to see for yourself.

Complete Switchworks Pro Fixtures Set 

Image:  Switchworks Pro Fixture Tools

Close-up of Switchworks Pro usage 

Image: Close-up of Switchworks Pro usage

 

Proto87Stores also has kits available for more traditional hand-laying styles, such as their "Ultimate HO Turnouts and Crossovers" kits, which include all the parts you need to assemble a "museum standard" turnout (their words).

Proto87Stores "Ultimate" Turnout Kits

Image: Proto87Stores "Ultimate" Turnout Kits

 

 Hope this helps!

 

John

 

Modeling the South Pennsylvania Railroad ("The Hilltop Route") in the late 50's
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Posted by jwhitten on Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:27 AM

 

Where are you guys getting 'N' scale from? I don't see that in the OP's post???

Modeling the South Pennsylvania Railroad ("The Hilltop Route") in the late 50's
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Posted by Sir Madog on Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:31 AM

 DanT has another thread running, which is about a N scale door layout.

Cheers!

Ulrich

People in Hamburg don´t tan, they rust!

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Posted by locoi1sa on Thursday, June 17, 2010 5:56 AM

 Dan.

 I say build your own. You will have to learn to solder sooner or later why not sooner building turnouts at the workbench? I build mine in HO at the bench sitting comfortably in a chair with no jig. Some sharp files, a small vice, a soldering iron and a few other tools. I have several track gauges some are 3 point but I use my home made gauges more than those and do the final checking with the NMRA gauge. The Fast tracks jigs are nice to have but not very necessary.  They limit the size of the turnout and usually the rail size also. My HO layout has 3 different rail sizes and unlimited frog sizes. I would have to shell out a ton of cash just for jigs. For the price of one jig I could buy a sound equipped loco and use it more.

     Pete

 I pray every day I break even, Cause I can really use the money!

 I started with nothing and still have most of it left!

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Posted by WaxonWaxov on Thursday, June 17, 2010 7:34 AM

Pete,

I admire the skills you obviously have.  As a person who would like to be able to make turnouts the way you do, would it be a good idea to get a Fasttracks jig (even though the prices are criminal) for the size turnout one would be using the most of (like yard leads) in order to learn enough to attempt making other sizes 'free-hand'?

thanks

 

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Posted by hminky on Thursday, June 17, 2010 7:43 AM

 Buy the Fast Tracks jig it simplifies making turnouts. I have done both and it is easier. If you need special switches make a paper template. Why do you need more than one turnout size? Just plan the layout that just uses one size.

Yeah I have made them using a paper template and the jig:

http://www.pacificcoastairlinerr.com/retrack/

 

The jig wins hands down.

Harold

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Posted by cuyama on Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:05 AM

Just to save OP Dan some time, the Central Valley system is a fine product, but sadly not available in N scale.

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Posted by Blue Flamer on Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:26 AM

 If you want to get into hand laying your own turnouts, just go to the Fast Tracks website and print out your own templates for the size of the turnout that you need. They are free. It is a little more time consuming than using a jig, but if you want to see how it is done, find "thebige61" on Youtube. He has done a series of short video's showing how he hand lays N Scale turnouts step by step. It may be worth a visit just to see what you are getting into. By the way, you can also use the templates on your track plan to make sure that everything fits the way that it should. I imagine that it would be very frustrating to build a few hand made turnouts and then find that they don't fit your track plan. Banged Head

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Good luck.

Blue Flamer. 

"There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness"." Dave Barry, Syndicated Columnist. "There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes." Doctor Who.
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Posted by hminky on Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:45 AM

 The problems with templates is you will get sloppy and make a bad turnout:

 

HO code 55 from a FastTracks Template, the one with the "red" arrows looks good and "almost" matches the template, and it's replacement.

Have done N scale in 55 with templates before Atlas had 55, buy a jig.

Harold

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Posted by Dan T on Thursday, June 17, 2010 12:04 PM

 Wow...a LOT of responses in such a sort time. I'll do some checking of all of the information here.

I apologize for not giving the scale in this post.  TheN-Scale on my door layout is actually a druther. :)

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