Fast Tracks™ Turnouts


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We use Fast Tracks Code 83 # 6 turnouts on the Nottawasaga Model Railway’s club layout. We wanted to start with hand operated throwing of the turnouts, perhaps converting to electrical operation later, but didn’t want to use any kind of track side control mechanism, such as a ground throw. On our exhibition layout we use Peco turnouts and the members like the operation of these as they are easy to throw, lock into place and have no out-of-scale track side throwing arms.

The Peco turnout has a small spring inside that snaps and holds the point rails in place and is a very secure method for turnout control. We wanted to imitate this spring mechanism for our new layout.

The following is a pictorial of what John Houghton developed to meet this need.

Click on any image to enlarge it

Fast Tracks 1 A soldering jig was made to hold 2 PCB (printed circuit board) ties with space for a throw bar between them. Short off-cut PCB tie pieces are soldered across the underside of the ties, directly below the rails above so they are all but invisible in the final installation.

Fast Tracks 2a
These two photographs show the underside and the top of the soldered cross ties before the rails have been installed. These cross ties will be soldered in lieu of the long switch-stand cross ties that come with the tie strips.

Fast Tracks 2b A .030” hole is drilled through one of the cross ties at the mid point of the length of the PCB cross tie. The top side of the PCB ties are filed with two electrical isolating slots.

Fast Tracks 3

The PCB cross ties are soldered to the rails where the long switch-stand cross ties would normally be positioned.

The hole in the cross tie is positioned so that it is centred between the stock rails.

Fast Tracks 4A PCB throw bar is then drilled with a .030“ hole in the centre and two insulator slots are filed into the top layer of copper. The throw bar is placed between the previously soldered cross ties so that the holes line up beside each other. The point rails are gapped equally to allow for wheel flange clearance and the point rails are soldered to the throw bar using lead free solder.

A common point of failure on hand-made turnouts is the solder joint that connects the throw bar and the moving point rails. John uses silver-based solder, which is stronger than lead-based, for these two connections. He uses lead-based solder on all other joints.

Fast Tracks 5a

A.020” bronze wire is bent to shape. The angle sides are approximately 1/4” long. The relative size is shown against the cross tie assembly.

Fast Tracks 5b

Fast Tracks 6The Bronze spring is inserted, from the bottom of the turnout, into the two holes in the PCB ties. The throw is checked to test the snap and lock action of the point rails against the stock rails. The spring tends to walk its way out of the holes during operation so a piece of material needs to be placed across the bottom side of the offset PCB pieces to prevent the spring from working its way completely out of the turnout.

Fast Tracks 7

One method John used was a piece of .188”X.080” Styrene plastic, glued to the bottom of the offset PCB pieces, but he found a more secure method is to solder a piece of scrap PCB to the off-cut PCB pieces.

Fast Tracks 8

The Bronze spring wire ends are snipped off to about rail height so as not to catch on the underside of engines, rolling stock and coupler trip pins.

John soldered a piece of copper wire to the end of the throw bar, on the side of the turnout that was most easily reached. This wire was given a right angle bend upwards and acts as a finger point to throw the turnout.

The throw bar is longer than the cross ties and a future option will be to install operating switch stands that attach to the throw bar with a linkage to operate the switch stand prototypically. The switch stand cross ties will be built up to simulate realistic ties.