Trains.com

Hand made points/switches

5674 views
28 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Hand made points/switches
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 4:53 PM

About ten or so years ago I decided I could make my own switches or points from the excellent articles in GR.  Because I'm cheap I made a bunch of them.  This is an update on what went well and what I had to change.  First some pictures:

Big switch:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small switch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the issues: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My spikes worked out and some ties shrunk.  I used cedar fence boards, again because I'm cheap.  That was not the right solution.  As you can see the tie on the left is no longer in contact with the rail and the spike in the center has pulled out.  This becomes a major pain each year resetting spikes.  My brother-in-law was a logger all his life so I went to him a few years ago and asked what I could do.  He told me my problem was the wood I was using and that I should try cyprus.  I had to go to a specialty store to find it (can you believe Home Depot doesn't stock it).  He was right.  I made my next two switches out of cyprus.  It doesn't shrink and it holds the spikes tight.  It's also as good or better weathering on the ground plus bugs don't eat it.  They have been on the mainline now for five years and are the only ones I don't have to repair each year.  I have some 19 switches so this will not be a quick fix but at least I know what works.

Rex in Pinetop

  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 916 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 9:20 PM
Interesting post, Rex. Material selection has been something I have been experimenting with. Some of my father-in-law's buildings, made from that famous wood called "scrap," have lasted, and others are showing the wear (delaminating, rotting, whatever). Our own efforts, often craft sticks on core material, seem to wear depending on location based upon sun exposure or drainage. Being cheap myself, finding affordable, available material has always been a challenge.
  • Member since
    November 2011
  • 2,071 posts
Posted by Postwar Paul on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 10:14 PM

I like handlaying track. My first experience was in HO, with code 83, and dual gauge code 70 track. I've never actualy done any switches, however. When one ( un named) brand of G gauge track came apart due to Southern California sunshine, I was left with some brass code 332 rails in great shape, and no ties. So handlaying was required.

In my case, my G gauge handlaying has evolved over time:

originally, I wanted the scale look. At first , I used scale sized ties made of Redwood with small tacks as spikes, and polyurethane coating. What I learned from this experience is that Redwood is a very soft wood, and does not hold up over time. Then came various experiments with treated lumber.

Success came with oversized 1x1 poplar( hard wood), in 4 inch length for narrow gauge. Treated with a deck stain/ polyurethane coating. I used wood screws for spikes.

I like rugged! But that's just me.

The most recent experiment is 1x1 garden stakes cut to 4 inch length. Very rugged, we'll see how it holds up!

Thank You forsuggesting another wood to try!

Paul

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 11:50 PM

Some good scale spikes are available.  I think I got mine from Sunset.  I use a modified pair of needle nose pliers to "push" them into place.  I don't think I could do that with hardwood which cracks for me after a winter under snow anyway.  Treating it sounds like you've found the solution.

R ex

 

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 11:59 PM

The whole reason for making my points was to save some bucks.  Large turnouts cost $200+ each and I made them for about $15 each discounting the fact that I was able to use a lot of scrap rail I had on hand.  Most of my cost was for the air powered operators which I would have had to add to the commercial points anyway.  I don't remember what I paid for cyprus but I'm sure it was more than cedar fence boards.

Rex

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 8:33 PM

Some more on track problems - I've been remodeling my 810 degree helix and I may have discovered a problem you may be able to help me with - The track in my 2 1/4 turn 17 foot diameter helix is a little over 100 feet in length and raises the trains up a total of 39 inches in my new design.  That makes the inner rail 2 and 1/4 ft shorter than the outer rail.  All of my locos have solid axels so they must slip that 2.25 ft which I think is what is causing my gear failure problems.  Is there a way of splitting the drive axel or somehow creating the equivalent of a differential?

Rex

  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 916 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, December 15, 2022 1:22 AM

Rex,

 

Wow.  That is a mechanical engineering problem if ever I've heard of one.  I am not going to hazard a guess on a D.I.Y. solution.  I might suggest, however, you look across the pond to the British large-scale scene. They have some boutique manufacturers of live steam and battery powered  locomotives that come in a variety of combinations with insulated and / or non-insulated wheels.  The latter may be solid starting point for your "endeavours."

 

Eric

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Thursday, December 15, 2022 9:53 AM

Rex,

 your track work in these pictures looks absolutely beautiful! Well laid.

With the old postwar Lionel, the wheels on the cars spin independently on the axels, but the locomotives do not, their wheels are fixed tightly on the axels. So, I don't know how to do this with an engine. Some diesels had steering trucks, to position the wheels square to the rail.

There have been places on prototype railroads where they use a flange oiler on extremely tight curves. Don't know if that would be practical due to loss of adhesion. But that's all I can think of at the moment.

Hope you find a solution!

Paul

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Thursday, December 15, 2022 7:08 PM

Rex, I've had a few gear failures over the years. I did some rough calculations, and it looks like your helix may be pulling around 3%, give or take. This can be significant load/ torque on gears. Suggestion would be shorter/ lighter trains, and/ or adding a helper engine. I have learned the hard way not to max out locomotive pulling capabilities.

Same issue the real trains have!

Paul

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Saturday, December 17, 2022 2:19 PM

Paul,

I designed the helix to climb a half inch per two foot section or about 2.7%.  The additional climb is included in the straight ramps going into and coming out of the helix.  There are 30 15 degree sections 24 of which are 9' radius and 6 are 10' radius.  At this point I could decrease the curved grade but clearances are a limiting factor.  My tallest caboose is 9". Another 1.5" is tressel framing so that only leaves a couple inches for ground heaves and other tolerances.  I'll get the footings pretty close but nothing is ever perfect on dirt which keeps changing over the years.

I do try to keep the number of cars down to around three.  I haven't tried a helper engine so will give that a go this year.

Thanks,

Rex

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Saturday, December 17, 2022 2:23 PM

Eric,

I'm thinking that replacing gears is cheaper than buying new locos but maybe the guys across the pond have already solved this differential problem long ago.

Rex

  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 916 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Saturday, December 17, 2022 3:59 PM

Rex,

Sorry, I should have been more clear.  That is what I meant, that they have solved the differential problem.  The also have a company, Slaters, that does nothing but wheel sets.  These could be solid starts for DIY differential.

 

Eric

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Saturday, December 17, 2022 7:44 PM

Rex,

  it sounds like you're on top of it! You're doing a fantastic job! Also, 3 cars should not be over- pulling, which was my concern. Let us know how you make out.

 Paul

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Thursday, January 26, 2023 3:00 PM

Guys,

I made a mistake in the way i've been calculating grade.  Grade is rise over run.  What I did was assume that since I was going up a half inch for every two feet and that since all the foundations were level that my grade was 1/2 / 24 = 2.08%.  What I actually have is 2 ft on the inner and 2 1/2 ft on the outer side of the helix.  Grade actually goes from 2.08% to 1.66% depending on where the track is placed on the platform.  It's too late to make changes to the 55 tressel platforms.  Loading is always going to be on the outer rail which means slip is most likely on the inner rail.  Ideas??

Rex

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Thursday, January 26, 2023 7:07 PM

Hi Rex,

I'm sorry, I'm not totally clear on what you are describing. I will say that in measuring grades, take the overall length, and the overall rise, instead of two foot segments, which may skew the readings. A three foot rise in one hundred foot run is 3%.  This makes it easier to visualize. Hope this helps.

Paul

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Friday, January 27, 2023 11:54 AM

I was describing the error I made in calculating the grade of my helix.  The inside circumference is shorter than the outside circumference hence the difference in "grade" throughout the 810 degrees.  The inside length is 117' while the ouside length is 131'.  The rise is 39" for both.

Rex

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Friday, January 27, 2023 6:11 PM

Ok. I would just use the outer dimension. I'm getting 2.48%.  Pretty good, Rex. That's not too steep. 
Paul

  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 916 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Monday, January 30, 2023 1:26 AM

Rex in Pinetop

Loading is always going to be on the outer rail which means slip is most likely on the inner rail.  Ideas??

Rex

 

 

I will admit that this problem is beyond me by a few yards, but, if you always run trains in the same direction, could you not add an extra "traction tire" or two to the side that makes contact on the inner rail?

 

Eric

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 10:58 AM

Paul,

The outside is 131 feet or 3144 inches.  The total rise is 39 inches.  Dividing 39 by 3144 is 0.0124045.  Multiplying by 100 to get percent you have 1.24%.  I can't run on the outside because the engine front running light runs into the tressel but I can run closer than center.  

Eric,

I have reversing loops on the top run at the mine and on the bottom in the town so the helix is used to go both up and down.  Going up is a left turn and coming  down is a right turn.  Per your suggestion, I'm going to look into what the European guys are using.

Rex

 

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 12:28 PM

Rex,

 don't know what happened, but I'm getting 1572 for 131 x12. Please recheck your calculations. A rough estimate what numbers you should be getting is the over 3 foot rise in around 100 foot run. I get 2.48% outside rail, 2.77% inside rail. All trains will traverse the entire length of the outside rail. Of course, as the run gets longer, the grade decreases. But you are around 2.5%, approximately.

Paul

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 5:10 PM

You're right.  I dumb fingered it.

Rex

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Tuesday, January 31, 2023 6:40 PM

It happens.. calculating grades can get tricky sometimes. 
Rex, out of curiosity: you mentioned something about gear failures. What kind of engine and cars are you running on this helix? Maybe we can figure out a workaround....steam engine, diesel, what exactly?

Paul

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 12:52 PM

I have a Thomas the Train and all the rest are steam.  Most are from Bachmann and one from POLA.  I have a 3-truck Shay which hasn't lost a transmission yet.  It did lose the 3 cyclinder "driver".  The first engine with the most gear losses is the 2-8-0 Consolidation.  I went to a metal gear but then it just stripped out the other nylon ones.  The next is the 2-6-0 POLA.  Those red gears get replaced at least twice a year.  My newest loco is another 2-8-0.  It hasn't lost a transmission yet but it's only been running half a season.  I expect to replace gears on it this year.

Rex

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 2:38 PM

Rex, I don't run as much as you do, but I've had many gear failures over the years.  The way I think about it:

1. Steam engines with only one driven gear are more for looks. I try to cut way back on train lengths and loads.

2. Steam engines with 2 axles driven usually fare better, but don't overdo it...

3. diesels, shays and such with two swiveling trucks, and all axles driven usually hold up the best. Your best bet....

4. different cars have greatly different resistance. I usually hand pull a train after I make it up to check that it is not too heavy, or too much drag. If it is, I back off a couple of cars.

Also, maybe roller bearing wheel sets? These are very free rolling, and the wheels spin independently, giving you the " differential " effect. They really make a train easy to roll!

These are what comes to mind at the moment, if I think of anything else,I'll let you know.

Paul

  • Member since
    February 2013
  • 916 posts
Posted by PVT Kanaka on Thursday, February 2, 2023 12:27 AM

Rex,

With the gear wear, is it possible it is an environmental issue?   For instance, is it possible the gears get brittle faster in your dry environment?   Or can fine grit get into the gear boxes?  

 

Eric

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 11:01 AM

Eric,

AZ is a bit dryer than your location.  I'm in the high country part of AZ and not the desert.  The gear boxes are sealed and when I replace gears I don't find much dirt and grim.  Something is binding them up causing stripping.

Rex

  • Member since
    February 2007
  • From: Arizona (high country 7k ft) USA
  • 676 posts
Posted by Rex in Pinetop on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 11:05 AM

Paul,

I like your idea on hand pulling a new consist to get feel for the load.  I do have some long passenger cars that are heavier than the short log cars.  It could be that I'm trying to pull too much even with only three cars.  I'll hand pull this year to check it out.

Thanks,

Rex

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 244 posts
Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 5:20 PM

Hi Rex, 

  after having a few gear failures, I tried to figure out why this is happening. Some trains are surprisingly heavy when you try to hand pull the train! Just trying to see what the engine has to pull, and if it's not too much. I guess it's always in the back of my mind. 
Good luck, and hope you can find something that works for your operation.

Paul

  • Member since
    August 2005
  • From: North Coastal San Diego
  • 947 posts
Posted by Greg Elmassian on Friday, April 21, 2023 9:39 PM

not much more needs to be said, it's a 3% plus grade AND on a curve which multiplies the effect by a lot...

It should eat loco gears.

Visit my site: http://www.elmassian.com - lots of tips on locos, rolling stock and more.

 Click here for Greg's web site

 

Search the Community

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Get the Garden Railways newsletter delivered to your inbox twice a month

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Garden Railways magazine. Please view our privacy policy