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Should I build my own turnouts.

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Should I build my own turnouts.
Posted by BC Don on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 3:56 PM

   As I progress along my pathway to getting something together I'm still very much in the planning arena and with summer coming up may be here for awhile.  But, my question for today is whether I should build my own turnouts or by commercial ones.  The reason I ask, I think, is primarily flexibility.  If I am building my own, I can create them in various fashions - such as having a turnout which combines an 18" radius inside and "turns out" to a 24" radius - not sure I can purchase that.  I'm thinking HO.

   So:

  1. How hard is it to create your own turnouts?
  2. Are there potential reliability issues?
  3. Is there a cost savings?
  4. Do you need to purchase a jig?
  5. And I guess if someone could point me to something on-line about "how" to do this that'd help.

   Thanks.

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Posted by locoi1sa on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 4:37 PM

BC Don
How hard is it to create your own turnouts?

 

 Not hard at all.

BC Don
Are there potential reliability issues?

 

 You mean better than massed produced ones? Yes.

BC Don
Is there a cost savings?

 

 $30 for a Peco. $10 for a proto 87 kit. Savings $20 each.

BC Don
Do you need to purchase a jig?

 

No. People have been building turnouts long before the jigs came out.

BC Don
And I guess if someone could point me to something on-line about "how" to do this that'd help.

 

Click  on the links below.

http://www.proto87.com/

http://www.cvmw.com/cvtswitch/index.htm

http://www.westportterminal.de/howtoscrturnouts.html#top

http://www.gatewaynmra.org/handlaid.htm

http://www.handlaidtrack.com/

 http://www.xclent.freeuk.com/jhwmodels/track/turnout1.htm

    There are more if you need them.

 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 pastorbob on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 5:00 PM

I suggest you get bare bones materials and build a couple before investing much in the support gear.  I built 6 many years ago to earn my MMR from the NMRA.  They were judged and passed with many good comments.  They are all still on the layout.  However, I have never built another because I didn't enjoy it, and this is a hobby to enjoy, not do things you don't want to do.  You may take to building your own like the proverbial duck going to water, or you may hate it.  I suggest trying to see, and if you don't enjoy, then don't build any more.

Bob

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 5:41 PM

I hand-lay all of my specialwork, which allows me to design my track plan without concerning myself with the geometry (and limitations) of 'store-boughten' turnouts and such.  It also allows me to stretch the model railroading budget by quite a lot.  After the first few experiments on pine boards, my work got good enough that I have never had a problem that could be traced to faulty construction.

About three years ago, I outlined my method of assembling a turnout in place on the layout.  Just enter, "definitely not patented" (including quotation marks) in Search Community.  It'll pop right up.

Happy tracklaying.

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964 - with flex track and hand-laid specialwork)

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Posted by dante on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 6:29 PM

If you decide not to build your own, Walthers/Shinohara has a variety of curved turnouts including one that is 24/18.  It is labeled 24/20 but is actually 24/18.

Dante

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Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 6:03 AM

I have never built my own handlaid turnout, but the concept constantly intrigues me.  My main concerns are time and quality.  How long would it take me to construct one?  Would I be capable of building a good quality turnout, at least without a lot of practice, and that gets back to the issue of time.

I am quite satisfied with commercially available straight turnouts, so whenever I think of undertaking a project to build my own handlaid turnout, it would be to construct a curved turnout.  In my experience, it is very difficult to find a curved turnout with the right combination of inside and outside track radius.

Rich

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Posted by fwright on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 10:54 AM

richhotrain

I have never built my own handlaid turnout, but the concept constantly intrigues me.  My main concerns are time and quality.  How long would it take me to construct one?  Would I be capable of building a good quality turnout, at least without a lot of practice, and that gets back to the issue of time.

I am quite satisfied with commercially available straight turnouts, so whenever I think of undertaking a project to build my own handlaid turnout, it would be to construct a curved turnout.  In my experience, it is very difficult to find a curved turnout with the right combination of inside and outside track radius.

Rich

It's not difficult or rocket science - but building your own turnouts is not for everybody either.

I took up handlaid track in 1976 because I couldn't afford to buy commercial track on my first military assignment.  I had Jack Work's April 1963 article in Model Railroader as my guide, but no previous metal working experience.  I knew how to use a soldering iron, and that was about it.  My first turnout didn't have the prettiest soldered frog - but it worked, and worked well.  I never had a derailment from it.

It did take me a few tries to get the points soldered to the PC board throwbar.  And fitting the guardrails at the correct distance took some head scratching because the code 70 rail would not correctly space simply butting the rail base like code 100 rail would.

Patience, and limited soldering skills - and anybody can lay their own turnouts.  Curved turnouts are no more difficult to lay than straight if you lay them in place on the layout.  But not all can enjoy it.

Fred W

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Posted by loathar on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 10:54 AM

The CVMW turnout kits are curvable to what radius you need and don't require any special tools. They look and work great too.

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Posted by wabash2800 on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 11:19 AM

I found a guy on ebay that hand builds Fast Tracks turnouts in code 100, 83, 70 and 55 mostly for the retail price that Walthers charges for RTR turnouts. The Fast Tracks are really smooth and the wheels roll through the frogs and points without even a click.

I had started buidling my own and even tried the CV kits but I have a big layout and want to spend my time and resources somewhere else but still have very nice, reliable turnouts. He paints the turnouts and includes a soldered on hot wire to the frog. That way I wire my turnouts with a live frog and even my smallest locos don't hesitiate like they would on dead, plastic frogs and they are DCC friendly.

Of course, my turnouts are not custom built for locations, but I have been able to get by in some locations with unsoldering some components on the turnouts, cutting and realigning things for custom locations while still being careful to keep things in gauge. It works well for me. He might do custom for an extra charge, but I haven't checked with him on that. I would guess he does crossings too.

The Fast Track system is nice but you don't need the jigs etc but it takes more time or you can build your own jigs.  The downside of the Fast Tracks jigs are that they are expensive and you need different ones for different turnouts and rail sizes. If you are not buidling a big layout it might not be worth it. Some things you can do to beat this is to share jigs with friends or for example, buy a crossover jig to build a crossover (not crossing) and just one turnout.

 

 

 

 

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Posted by selector on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 11:40 AM

I am not skilled with my hands, but I wanted to at least try my hand at the various things a model railroad builder can do.  I have erected a layout, even spline roadbed, wired it, soldered it, and yes...made some turnouts using the Fast Tracks system.  I paid.  It was a stretch in many ways.  But I also learned, and got pretty good and fast after a while.  What was even better was, with the materials I had on hand, I found I knew how to built any turnout for any configuration, and did so in two instances on the layout...customized to fit.  It was in doing these two turnouts that I established, for me, the value of the jigs.  I have rendered them both useless because my next turnouts will be with Code 83 and 70 rails, but I can perhaps sell them to someones still using Code 100 rails.

All you need is the right rail stock, some ties, some solder, and iron, and a couple of files.  The first file is the large metal mill file and the second is a small triangular cross-sectioned needle file. A belt sander or a grinding stone would be handy for taking metal off the base of the stock rails where the points nestle against them, but not essential.

-Crandell

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Posted by -E-C-Mills on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 2:49 PM

I also needed some specific curved turnouts.  I just got done building some Central Valley kits.  They are not the easiest thing to make but if your good enough with your hands, doable.  For me, I think they have given me the confidence that I can now build any turnout.  However, the CV kits are not quite totally curvable if you follow the recommended procedure.  The frog and the point areas are actually not curved.

 One advantage of the CV kits is the amount of detail on the ties, extra details, and with a detailed switch stand and movable target.  (all for 5 or 10 dollars).  The disadvantage I think is in the throw bar area between the rails which is kind of raised and bulky.  The kits take extra wiring vs a commercial turnout you just throw in there.

What I'm pretty confident I could probably do now is to use CV parts, removing all the tabs on the tie block and make it totally curved with my own frog and guard rails.

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Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 3:02 PM

fwright

richhotrain

I have never built my own handlaid turnout, but the concept constantly intrigues me.  My main concerns are time and quality.  How long would it take me to construct one?  Would I be capable of building a good quality turnout, at least without a lot of practice, and that gets back to the issue of time.

I am quite satisfied with commercially available straight turnouts, so whenever I think of undertaking a project to build my own handlaid turnout, it would be to construct a curved turnout.  In my experience, it is very difficult to find a curved turnout with the right combination of inside and outside track radius.

Rich

It's not difficult or rocket science - but building your own turnouts is not for everybody either.

I took up handlaid track in 1976 because I couldn't afford to buy commercial track on my first military assignment.  I had Jack Work's April 1963 article in Model Railroader as my guide, but no previous metal working experience.  I knew how to use a soldering iron, and that was about it.  My first turnout didn't have the prettiest soldered frog - but it worked, and worked well.  I never had a derailment from it.

It did take me a few tries to get the points soldered to the PC board throwbar.  And fitting the guardrails at the correct distance took some head scratching because the code 70 rail would not correctly space simply butting the rail base like code 100 rail would.

Patience, and limited soldering skills - and anybody can lay their own turnouts.  Curved turnouts are no more difficult to lay than straight if you lay them in place on the layout.  But not all can enjoy it.

Fred W

Fred,

I didn't mean to suggest that handlaid curved turnouts were more difficult to construct than straight turnouts.  What I meant to say was that I would be more inclined to attempt a handlaid turnout if it were curved because the right combination on inside and outside radius tracks of a curved turnout are hard to find with commercially available turnouts.

Rich

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Posted by locoi1sa on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 4:51 PM

 There are no curved turnouts. Look at a prototype turnout on a curve and you will see many straight sections in between curved rail. Especially at the point rails and frogs. I love the CV kits with the hinged cast points. There is no need to file away any rail base from the stock rails. There are templates on most turnout building sites. Look carefully at the stock rail that diverges. Notice the kink at the points and the straight section as long as the points. Then the rail will curve until the frog. Then straight again as long as the frog or maybe a little shorter. Then it curves again. What I am trying to say is if you want a constant radius you will not get it if you want to build it correctly and reliably. If you do not have the little tangents then look for derailments and unreliable running. If you can, find the book by Paul Mallery titled Trackwork Handbook for model railroaders. Third edition has a perfect picture on the cover. A N&W Mallet with several turnouts pictured. You can easily see the straight sections of rail in between curved rail. Even though they are not curved on both lines the bends and straights will be the same as a curved.

  I modify the CV kits with a home made throw bar.

      Pete

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

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Posted by fwright on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 5:59 PM

locoi1sa

 There are no curved turnouts. Look at a prototype turnout on a curve and you will see many straight sections in between curved rail. Especially at the point rails and frogs.

While unusual in 20th Century practice in North America, curved turnouts are commonly used in the UK and elsewhere.  The use and stocking of pre-built frogs and points is what got rid of curved turnouts in North America.  In UK and elsewhere, there are standard curved turnouts - which requires a more extensive stock list - because of the smoother ride the curved turnouts provide.

I love the CV kits with the hinged cast points. There is no need to file away any rail base from the stock rails. There are templates on most turnout building sites. Look carefully at the stock rail that diverges. Notice the kink at the points and the straight section as long as the points. Then the rail will curve until the frog. Then straight again as long as the frog or maybe a little shorter. Then it curves again. What I am trying to say is if you want a constant radius you will not get it if you want to build it correctly and reliably. If you do not have the little tangents then look for derailments and unreliable running. I modify the CV kits with a home made throw bar.

      Pete

Again, only true if you insist on using prefab components, such as cast straight frogs, in building your turnouts.  A true curved turnout with curved frogs and asymmetric points can easily be built, and it will surpass the curved "straight" turnout in smooth and reliable performance, just like the prototype.  And you have more control of the radius at any given part of the turnout by using true curved turnouts.

It is easier to lay out a true curved turnout directly on the roadbed or paper - there are very few templates which are not adaptations of straight turnouts.  To lay out a true curved turnout, either use plastic or wood splines and pencil, or use bent flex track and tracing.  Either method will define a curved frog and appropriate size points and their locations.  The frog and points are then filed to match.  Another method for cutting a curved frog is a bare hacksaw blade (no handle attached).  The blade will curve nicely, if desired, to cut a curved flangeway.

Whether the stock rails are notched for the points or not is really a personal preference - both methods work well.  In my experience, non-notched stock rails require more machining of the points but look a little better. 

I build curved turnouts because they flow so much better in my small layouts.

Fred W

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Posted by wabash2800 on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 8:00 PM

 

I received a querry about the dealer that sells Fast Tracks turnouts on ebay but it wasn't one that I could reply to. Rather than I list his name here, go to eBay and do a search under the model railroad section under HO and Fast Tracks and you'll find him.
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Posted by R. T. POTEET on Thursday, May 6, 2010 10:42 AM

In the early '70s I cut my teeth on scratchbuilding switches during construction of some special trackwork on a club layout of which I was a member. I never transferred this to either of my two--HO-Scale--home layouts. That horse changed color, however, when I converted to N-Scale and began using Rail Craft Code 55 track--the only Code 55 available in those distant days of yesteryear; the only switches available at that time were #6s--even today Micro Engineering, Rail Craft's successor, still only offers #6s--and, since there were numerous instances  where I wanted switches of either smaller or larger dimensions, scratchbuilding became a necessity.

Scratchbuilding switches, in and of itself, is not particularly difficult . . . . . it does, however, take intense concentration which tends to become a mite exhausting in relatively short order; I try to limit myself to no more than two switches--construction-assembly-installation--at a sitting. My task was made easier by the fact that early-on I designed a jig to assist me in frog assembly. In addition I have several templates which I use to do all the necessary bending/curving of the rail within the switch itself. When you boil it down to the grit I really only eyeball installation and my switches, in no way, mirror the specifications of the NMRA's Recommended Practice.

Do I like scratchbuilding (N-Scale) switches? Not really. Do I dislike scratchbuilding (N-Scale) switches? Not really. In view of my advancing age and diminishing dexterity I suppose that were reasonably priced ready-to-install switches available for Micro Engineering Code 55 track I would most probably go that route but doing-it-yourself saves an immense amount of money--that may not be a consideration for you but, believe me, it is for me--and it does, in the long run, give a considerable measure of self-satisfaction.

The hobby press has published numerous articles over the years on scratchbuilding switches--whether there have been any online tutorials on procedures or not I can't say. You might consider doing a Search of "scratchbuilding switches" to see what you might come up with.

From the far, far reaches of the wild, wild west I am: rtpoteet

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Posted by -E-C-Mills on Thursday, May 6, 2010 11:34 AM

 Hey, how did you modify your throwbars?

 E

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Posted by selector on Thursday, May 6, 2010 11:58 AM

-E-C-Mills

 Hey, how did you modify your throwbars?

 E

E, to whom is this directed?  Hey is kinda generic...Smile

-Crandell

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Posted by -E-C-Mills on Thursday, May 6, 2010 6:21 PM

locoi1sa

  I modify the CV kits with a home made throw bar.

      Pete

 

 

Sorry messed up the quote.  So Pete, how did you mod the CV throw bar?

E

 

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Posted by locoi1sa on Saturday, May 8, 2010 10:01 AM

  E

 I use a PC board tie soldered to the white brass CV points. I cut my own tie from a PC board from Radio Shack. When I soldered the points to the tie I also make the flangeway closer than the NMRA spec. From the stock rail to the back of the point is the same dimension as the frog guard rail to stock rail. There have been no problems so far with wheels picking the open points.

        Pete

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

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Posted by cuyama on Saturday, May 8, 2010 10:41 AM

You will receive a number of suggestions to hand lay your turnouts, including some from people who have never built a single turnout. It's a little bit trendy now to recommend hand laying, but of course it's been around since the very beginning of the hobby (out of necessity then, of course).

It's true that, when properly built, handlaid turnouts can look better and operate more smoothly. The key is "when properly built". It's also useful to note that many fine layouts have been built entirely with off-the-shelf commercial turnouts. Especially in HO, there are commercial offerings in a wide variety of configurations, including Walthers' extensive set of curved turnouts.

(Parenthetically, if the layout plan for your first model railroad requires many odd custom turnout configurations, that may be extra challenge that slows your start. You can probably achieve the same end with less complex means.)

If you are completely new to the hobby, you might be well-advised to begin with some quality commercial turnouts in a section of the layout. After you have gained some experience with laying track and running trains, you can take the next step. If you are still interested in hand laying, build a couple of turnouts yourself (you don't need a jig) and then make your own informed choice for the rest of your layout.

Byron

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Posted by -E-C-Mills on Saturday, May 8, 2010 2:12 PM

 Ahh, ok, mixing the traditional scratch method with the kit.  I left my points unglued so far so I may go back and do something like this later.  Thanks,

E

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Posted by wedudler on Saturday, May 8, 2010 3:18 PM

 I like scratch building my own turnouts. This way I get every turnout to fit my space, curved turnouts.

But with my new yard at Westport, I bought a lot of new code 83 Peco turnouts and saved a lot of time.

I'm still building turnouts, even for friends like this one, radius for main 2922 mm:

 

Wolfgang

Pueblo & Salt Lake RR

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