I was in the middle of cleaning up my basement and came across my pile of used flextrack and rail. I had both the Micro-Trains and Peco styles which had been used on the coffee table and some other projects. Most of it had seen better days and wasn't suitable for use again, so I decided to build it into turnouts rather than throw it away.
The first request for these was for four #4 turnouts(try saying that fast 3 times), two left hands and two right hands using the Micro-Trains rail. I started by copying some turnout templates and glueing them down on a 1x4 using rubber cement. I cut the ties from clover house pc tie strips using a pair of side cutters. The ties closest to the track were cut to 6'6" and get longer as we get closer to the frog. You can read the lengths on the template. I then glued them down to the template with rubber cement. The styrene spacers in between the ties were made by gluing some .010x.100 strip styrene to equal length pieces of .040x.060. This gave me a spacing of .050 and the difference in width allows me to look at a glance to see that all the spacers are in the proper orientation. The two long ties are placed on both sides of the throwbar(absent in this photo) and aren't in the position marked on the template. The template shows the throwbar location too far away from the frog. I used a french curve to find a more suitable location of the throwbar and points. You can see that line and the new throwbar(switch rod for you purists) location in this view. If your planning on duplicating these, the tie lengths and quantities are noted on the template.
The first rail to go on is the straight stock rail. I cut it to length and then filed the notch in the rail to receive the point rails. I marked this location by placing the stock rail over the ties and marked it just to the left of the throwbar tie farthest from the frog. I ground away the base of the rail using a cutoff disc in a dremel and filed the rest with needle files. You have to file away the base of the stock rail from the point notch to about 3/4" out to keep this from hitting the point rail. I taper this out to keep it from being too noticeable. Solder the rail in place using rosin flux and 60/40 solder. I placed a drop of flux on each tie at the rails crossing point, set the rail across the ties and applied the iron to the rail tie intersection. The solder is fed in from the opposite side of the rail and it will flow under the rail as it is drawn toward the heat. Here's a look at the stock rail in place. Use a scale rule or some straight edge to make sure this rail goes on straight.
The next task is to fashion the frog assembly. I started by adding one leg of the frog at a time and started with the one closest to the stock rail. The tip gets filed to match the frog angle before it's laid in place or you can file both frog rails to 1/2 of the frog angle and join them together at the point of the frog. I've made them both ways and they seem to work equally well, I just think it's easier to get a nice sharp frog point by using the first method. To finish the frog, simply add the other frog rail in and solder in place. Once the frog is finished you can add the curved point rail and the guards for the straight route. The curved point rail is made by curving the rail to the shape of the template, forming up the guard on the frog end, then marking and cutting the curved point rail to length by laying in place and marking it. Then file the point end by removing the base of the rail on the back side nearest the straight stock rail and then fliling the taper on the head of the opposing side of the rail. All this is easier done than said and has been printed in lots of turnout articles. The guard end is formed up by cutting notches in the base of the rail at every point you wish to bend the rail. These notches should be cut in what becomes the crotch of this bend. This allows the rail to bend without deforming or curving. You end up with a nice tight bend just where you want it. The matching guard was bent up this way and both were then soldered in place. With the MT rail, placing the rails side by side gives you a flangeway that exceeds .030", so you'll have to file away enough of the rail base on the guards and guard ends of the point rails to close the gap to .025".
At this point in the game, you have half a turnout. To get the other half built, we'll start with the curved stock rail. I bent this to the shape of the turnout, marked the location of the points, and then removed the inside base of the rail from the point location toward the frog for a distance of one inch. Then I filed the point notch. This rail is then soldered on using a MT 920 gauge. This insures that the curved stock rail and the curved point rail are 'in gauge' with each other and both have the same curvature. The straight point rail is next. Cut the notches in the base of the rail to form the guard end of this rail, bend it to match the frog angle and mark the location of the points. You'll need to remove the base from the back side of this rail from the point location toward the frog for a distance of one inch. File a slight taper on the front of this rail, and solder it in place. Fashion the guard for the diverging route in the same manner as the guard for the straight route and solder it in place. Your turnout should look something like this.
The throwbar is added now, and I usually use standard width pc tie stock for this. Slide this in place under the rails and set a piece of .030" square styrene between the straight point rail and the curved stock rail. It should be placed over the tie immediately to the left of the throwbar. Using a no 11 xacto blade, mark the postition of the back of the straight point rail on the throwbar by scribing a line into the throwbar. Do the same for the curved throwbar. File off the copper cladding beyond these lines. Solder both point rails to the throwbar and then drill a no 62 hole in the end of the throwbar for the throw mechanism to hook into.
Once you've soldered it all up, gap the cladding on the pc ties using a small needle file. This is done to keep the turnout from shorting between rails. Check your turnout with an ohm meter to make sure you don't have any shorts. Once you've gapped it, you can clean it off with isopropyl alcohol and a toothbrush. This'll remove any leftover flux and also wash away any copper filings that might cause an electrical short. Here's how mine looked after this bath. Above the turnout is the Peco flextrack and below is the Micro Trains version. The PC ties were slightly wider than the MT ties, but overall, the effect is a close match. The Peco flextrack is much easier to match, using all pc ties, but both brands work well for Nn3. Before you paint the turnout and install it on the layout, be sure to test it out. I pinned it to some foam and connected flextrack to the turnout in all three directions and ran all of my locos through it. It ran well and didn't require any adjustments, so It's ready to paint.
I shoot them with a coat of flat black and then airbrush the sides of the rails with roof brown and rust. The ties get sprayed with a slightly lighter brown and the whole thing gets sealed with dullcoat. Building turnouts is harder to describe than to do, and this is far from a thorough turnout building article, but since so much has been written about this subject, I kept it to a brief overview. Check out Jim Kueneman's article in the September 1998 issue of Model Railroader for a complete step by step.
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