The first item of business is to set up our template. Where did I get the template?
I made it. And how did I get the dimensions correct? I cheated. I found a high quality commercial turnout of the number I wanted to use (#5). I laid a piece of paper over the turnout, and using the edge of a soft pencil I did a rubbing. Then I scanned the rubbing so I could print it out anytime I needed it. I also used the computer to create a mirror image for left and right turnouts.
A critical element for smooth operation is the path through the frog. If the closure rails do not line up perfectly with departure rails, and if the path is not perfectly straight, your rolling stock will clatter and wobble through the turnout, and perhaps regularly derail. In order to ensure that straight path, I do a small modification to the template. Using a Sharpie and a straight edge (I like steel straight edges) I draw fresh guidelines through the frog. This is particularly helpful for the departure side of the frog. Because of the curved closure rail, making sure the path through the frog is straight can be tricky.
Then I tape the template to a piece of soft wood. In this case cedar because I had it. But any soft wood, like pine, will work fine. You need to be able to drive small brads into it with the pliers.
|Fast Tracks had downloadable templates on their website. HO, HOn2, HOn3, HOn30, S, Sn2, Sn3, O, On2, On3, On30, N, Nn3, Z, Dual Gauge and Other. Whew! (the Dual Gauge has HO/HOn3, N/Nn3 and S/Sn3 while the ‘Other’ is empty). The note on the HOn30 template states “This template has been designed to aid in the placement for ties for your Fast Tracks built trackwork. The location of the rails is purely for aesthetic purposes and is not intended to imply the correct or accurate placement of rail“. Ok. Looks pretty good to me though. I suspect that it is probably quite as good as Reg’s use of a pencil to make a rubbing from a turnout. Possibly not. What do I know! 🙂|
|BUILDING THE FROG|
Recently, I changed the method by which I build frogs. Going back way to many years to count I used the fairly standard method of building the frog point from two separate pieces of rail filed (or ground) to point, and forming the wing rails by bending the closure rails. This method has been around for a long, long time and is still used by most handlayers.
However, a couple of years ago I encountered a method that, while adding a bit of “fuss” factor, results in very smooth frogs every single time. This method starts by forming the closure rails and the departure rails from single pieces of rail. It guarantees a straight and continuous path through the frog. The turnouts I have built using this method are so smooth my equipment rolls through them like they aren’t even there. I have some turnouts built using the previous method that are that smooth too, but I also have some that my steam locos waddle through like a duck!
Note that I hold the rails in place with small brads. They do the job and are much less expensive than spikes.
I start with the straight closure/departure rail. I tend to cut these rails plenty long with several inches extending past the frog and the points. Once cut, the next step is to cut a notch in the top of the straight closure rail at an angle and down to the web of the rail. What is going to happen is that a corresponding notch will be cut in the bottom of the curved closure/departure rail so that the two rails stack like Lincoln Logs. So the angle of the notch needs to correspond with the path of the curved rail. Note in the photo above I am using the curved rail as a guide to mark the top of the straight rail. By scrubbing the Sharpie along the curved rail you leave an unmarked area on the straight rail under the curved rail. The unmarked area is where you will cut the notch.
|I use the cutoff disk in the Dremel to cut this notch. You could use a small file. If you have, and use, the Dremel, work VERY SLOWLY. It is extremely easy to cut through the web of the rail. You really don’t want to do that and have to start over.|
|The next step is to cut the corresponding notch in the curved rail. That notch will be up from the bottom of the rail and will be just deep enough that the tops of the two rails match up. Then tack the top rail in line with line you drew on the template.|
Here is another look at it.
A note here about how I work my closure rails/points. I have tried several methods of hinging the points. Everything from loose fitting rail joiners to fancy hinge pins. The most satisfactory method I have found is to have continuous points/closure rails and use the natural flex of the rails to “bend the iron”. This method is easy to construct, electrically reliable, and operates as smooth as glass.
If you have a grinding method for sharpening the points, leave them long at this point. If you will be using a file to sharpen the points, you will want to cut them to length now, pull the closure rails from the template, and sharpen the points. Replace everything as it was once you have the points shaped. In order to get the points sharpened properly (see subsequent photos) you will need to clamp them in a vise. You can’t do that after the tie bar is in place.