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Installing Tortoise switches - looking for placement tips

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  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Vermont
  • 77 posts
Installing Tortoise switches - looking for placement tips
Posted by Ablebakercharlie on Thursday, October 14, 2021 3:32 PM

Here is the back story -  I have installed 2 blue point switches so far on my layout and working on the third right now and I am continuously having an issue with getting the proper placement of the switch under the layout.

 I am using the template they provide for drilling the holes but the problem I have is getting the switch properly perpendicular to the turnout above so when the switch is thrown it moves the turnout points properly.   Under the bench there are no reference points to use to align the switch.  In other words I can't just have the switch perpendicular to the edge of the layout as the track above is not perpendiucular.  So I always wind up redrilling holes underneath the bench for the mounting screws and fiddling around trying to get the right placement.   

(As an aside - when I saw the picture that Kevin posted recently on how neat his switch installation was with no obvious re-drilled pilot holes it made me think that there must be a better way than what I am doing!)

I feel I am missing a step to do this correctly.  I have 12 Tortoises ahead of me to install so I thought I would poll the forum for switch mounting tips.

Advice would be much appreicated!

charles

 

  • Member since
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Posted by CharlieM on Thursday, October 14, 2021 4:33 PM

Let me describe how I mount Tortoises. First, position the turnout on the layout and mark the center hole of the moveable throw bar. Do this while the throwbar is in the middle of its travel. You can hold the bar in its mid position by sticking two push pins btween the points and the stock rails. Mark the center hole with a small (#60) drill in a pin vise.

Remove the turnout and drill a 3/8" or 1/2" hole through the road bed and table top where you marked with the smaller drill.

Assemble the Tortoise leaving the actuation wire long and center the Tortoise travel. Cover the mounting surface of the Tortoise with thin double sided tape such as carpet tape. Remove the protective film on the tape. This will temporarily secure the Tortoise during installation.

Place the turnout on the layout and position the actuation bar at its midpoint. Lock it in position with pushpins as before and be sure the center hole is aligned with the hole in the layput table. Dont't forget to attach and drop a short wire from the frog at this stage if you ever intend to power the frog. Its a lot easier now even if you don't hook it up for now.

From below the tabe you can look up through the drilled hole and see the actator bar and several ties. A light above the table may help. This will allow you to accurately align the Tortoise as you push it up toward the table. Be sure the actuating wire engages the center of the turnout bar. Push up until the double sided tape holds the Tortoise in place.

The Tortoise can be secured with #4x3/8 Philips head sheetmetal screws. Using steel screws and a magnitized Phillips screwdriver allows you to insert the screws without drilling.

Remove the pushpins and check for proper turnout operation. Clip the Tortoise actuation wire from above with a hardwire cutter.

  • Member since
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Posted by gregc on Thursday, October 14, 2021 5:20 PM

it's easier to pre-mount the tortise to thin square sheet of plywood which can hold the screws while positioning the machine under the layout with one hand and screwing in the screws with the other

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

  • Member since
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  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, October 14, 2021 5:36 PM

Ablebakercharlie
When I saw the picture that Kevin posted recently on how neat his switch installation was with no obvious re-drilled pilot holes it made me think that there must be a better way than what I am doing.

Embarrassed

My method is a bit over-the-top.

I always had access to a machine shop, so I made my own drilling jig for Tortoise switch machines 25+ years ago. It is made from 3/8" steel bar stock and a 7/16 alignment dowel. It is ugly, but effective.

The four Tortoise mounting guide holes are perfectly perpendicular and are precise enough to work through 1/2" Homasote and 3/4" plywood. I drill the wire hole in the correct location, then press the drilling jig in from the top. Then I drill the four mounting holes. I leave a drill bit in the first hole I drill so the jig cannot move.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, October 14, 2021 6:18 PM

SeeYou190
I made my own drilling jig for Tortoise switch machines 25+ years ago.

I made mine in 1995. Great minds think alike Whistling

 Tortoise_temp by Edmund, on Flickr

Mine has replaceable, cone pointed set screws so they make a dimple in the underside of the roadbed. Works for me Smile

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 14, 2021 6:39 PM

Charles, I recently ran up against the same problem -- some of my tracks are not parallel to the edge of the layout. With my head under the layout I could see to mark the hole locations but then I wasn't able to see the angle of the track up top in relation to the layout's edge. I'm not smart enough to solve the problem the way NASA would, with a protractor and ruler, but once I got the armature up through the hole I rotated the Tortoise to about what I figured the angle was. I found that the apparatus is pretty forgiving, really. As long as your wire is basically perpendicular to the track, like within a few degrees maybe, it will still throw beautifully. At least mine do.

That doesn't really solve the problem of how to hold the durn thing while also marking hole locations or starting drill holes, but the guys have already given several good ideas for that, and I actually had thought I might do what Greg suggested -- mount the Tortoise first to a broader but very thin piece of basswood or some such, and then you don't have to work with your tools or knuckles so close to the edge of the machine. I haven't tried that yet, but I think an intermediate base like that would also make it easier to judge the angle if you made sure you mounted the Tortoise on it square.

Good luck. I'd like to hear how you work this out.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 14, 2021 6:44 PM

And I just thought of another thing. Depending on how thick your subbed is, one could use a very narrow drill bit to create a series of hole along both sides of the turnout, which from underneath (and lit from above) would create a sort of constellation showing exactly the location and angle of the rails. Then you could just mark a line athwart the constellation perpendicular to where the rails would be. I have a subbed of sanded 1/2'' ply. I imagine I'd break a few drill bits trying this.

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 290 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 14, 2021 6:47 PM

Ablebakercharlie
(As an aside - when I saw the picture that Kevin posted recently on how neat his switch installation was with no obvious re-drilled pilot holes it made me think that there must be a better way than what I am doing!)

Kevin's stuff is always so clean, well-planned and efficient that I vacillate between inspiration at the possibilities ahead of me and abject forlorn depression because I'll never be a modeler of that caliber.

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
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  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, October 14, 2021 11:34 PM

gmpullman
Mine has replaceable, cone pointed set screws so they make a dimple in the underside of the roadbed. Works for me

I had to enlarge your picture to see what you meant, NICE!

I do not know the exact year I made mine, but I was still in N scale. That is why the alignment pin is only 7/16". I need to put a sleeve on it so I can drill a 9/16" hole more suitable for HO scale throwbars.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

  • Member since
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  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, October 14, 2021 11:56 PM

crossthedog
I'll never be a modeler of that caliber.

Thanks, but I feel the same way when I see pictures by Peter, Ed, Garry, Wayne, and many others.

I am only good at four or five things. I muddle through the rest of it.

I have learned SO MUCH in this forum, and I still ask a lot of questions. There are some really talented and generous people here. I am very surprised that a hack like me that models no prototype was welcomed by this group, but I am very thankful.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, October 15, 2021 9:10 AM

I do something similar to what CharlieM does, but also with some differences in approach.

My subroadbed is 1/2" cabinet grade plywood. I use 5mm cork sheet for the roadbed.

I complete my track work, including turnouts, first leaving the turnouts unsecured. Then, I install the Tortoises as follows, prepping the surface of the layout first:

1. Using an Xacto knife, I cut through the cork on either side of the ties adjacent to the throwbar on the turnout.

2. I lift out the turnout and remove the cut square of cork roadbed, roughly a 1/2"x1/2" inch square.

3. Using a 5/8" spade-shaped wood drill bit, I drill through the exposed wood subroadbed.

4. I replace the turnout and nail it through the cork roadbed into the wood subroadbed.

Now, I am ready to actually install the Tortoise as follows:

1. I manually center the point rails of the turnout and wedge small strips of styrene between the point rail and the stock rail on each side of the turnout.

2. I place a strip of masking tape over the entire throwbar assembly to further secure the centering of the point rails.

3. Under the layout, I can visually align the the front edge of the Tortoise perfectly parallel to the turnout ties.

4. Holding the Tortoise up against the underside of the plywood subroadbed, I use a pencil to mark the two indentations in the front of the Tortoise where the screws will be used to secure the Tortoise.

5. I remove the Tortoise and install two wood screws into the plywood using the pencil marks as my guide.

6. Without first tightening down those two wood screws, I slipped the Tortoise into place and then tighten down the two screws.

7. Screwing down those two front wood screws is sufficient to hold the Tortoise tightly in place.

8. Then, I install the wire into the Tortoise and up through the hole in the center of the throwbar.

9. Back on top of the layout, I use wire cutters to clip off the excess wire that protrudes through the throwbar.

This entire process takes about 5 minutes once you master the technique.

I assure you that this process is full proof. I have never had a misalignment once I adopted this procedure. 

Rich

Alton Junction

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Posted by hardcoalcase on Friday, October 15, 2021 9:44 AM

CharlieM
   The Tortoise can be secured with #4x3/8 Philips head sheetmetal screws. Using steel screws and a magnitized Phillips screwdriver allows you to insert the screws without drilling.   

I drive the screws with a variable speed, battery-powered drill and a 6" long phillips bit.  I also found that having an additional extension for the bit can be needed when installing the Tortoise in tight situations.

Jim

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Posted by Wazzzy on Friday, October 15, 2021 3:03 PM

Getting the tortise mounted so the "throw" is perpendicular (parallel with the throw bar) is tricky. I have a simple solution.

I use a flat plate jig with a round bar through the hole in the sub-roadbed. Similar design to others pictured within this topic. The round bar protruding from the underside of the sub-roadbed has a slot carved into it parallel to the "throw" of the tortoise. When the jig is placed under the sub-roadbed and the round bar protrudes above the roadbed, align the slot with the throwbar's direction of travel. Holding the jig steady, secure the jig to the bottom of the sub-roadbed and drill the 4 pilot holes. Remove jig, install tortoise. 

Mindful hints to my process:

1. do not drill hole in switch throw bar until later in the process. This will allow for any adjustments.

2. temporaryily install switch & locate tortoise wire hole and drill thru to bottom of sub-roadbed.

3. install tortoise with the modified alignment jig. 

4. place switch into place and verify the hole in the throwbar location. drill hole in throwbar.

5. install switch.

  • Member since
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, October 15, 2021 3:57 PM

Wazzzy
The round bar protruding from the underside of the sub-roadbed has a slot carved into it parallel to the "throw" of the tortoise.

Nice tip.

I am going to add this feature to my tool before I use it again.

Big Smile

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 290 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Friday, October 15, 2021 4:00 PM

Wazzzy
I use a flat plate jig with a round bar through the hole in the sub-roadbed. Similar design to others pictured within this topic. The round bar protruding from the underside of the sub-roadbed has a slot carved into it parallel to the "throw" of the tortoise.

Brilliant. I'd like one, please. Trade you for my wife's oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies.

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Vermont
  • 77 posts
Posted by Ablebakercharlie on Saturday, October 16, 2021 9:47 AM

Thanks everyone for the great advice and tips on how to proceed!

I'm really glad I posted the question as now I think I am armed with enough knowledge to have fun installing the switches instead of dreading it!

You guys are the best!

charles

 

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