Friday, September 12, 2014

Handlaying Track or What Confidence Can Get You

When I started building this layout, I had no experience with track beyond buying commercial components and plopping them down.

I was a pretty heavy user of the Atlas #8, primarily in code 83 and before I began building, I had spend some coin at various train shows and stocked up on track. I was able to build up a stock of #8s and #6s at less than $10 a turnout, so I was doing pretty well.

Once I started building, I got the to point where I exhausted my stock and got some sticker shock at purchasing more turnouts. You can read my old post here that covers all that and my initial impressions of using the Fast Tracks jigs to build single turnouts, crossovers and ladders.

At this point, I've expanded my stable of fast tracks jigs to include #6 and #10 turnouts, to match the #8 I started with, and I've built every configuration of #8 (including a scissors crossover) and also #6 (no crossovers, as I don't have a need).

Expanding the staging yard and making four of the tracks through meant that I needed to build a closing ladder. I did some measuring and realized that if I used standard (straight) turnouts, I would have much shorter tracks than I would like and I would probably have an S curve or two as well. I wasn't enthusiastic about either option so I thought I might go the curved turnout route.

I had a curved #7.5 from Walthers/Shinohara on hand already, so I used that to test fit and see if it would work. It looked doable, so I looked to see where I could pick up 2 more.. Reality smacked me in the face, as Walthers was out of stock, with no estimated date for stock and when I found them at a couple of online hobby shops, pricing was near $50 each. Ouch! With the train budget being tight after a splurge at the National Train Show in July plus the show in Virginia Beach coming up, I thought that maybe I could give it a try and build a couple from the templates that you can download from Fast Tracks. It would only cost me some time as I had everything else I would need and I had a Saturday free, so I gave it a shot.

Without the experience of building all the turnouts from the jigs, I never would have had the confidence to attempt this build.

Templates down and starting to place PCB ties
 I ended up using two #10s on the outside, main line curve (which becomes staging track 7) one a 36/30 radius pair and the other a 30/27 radius pair. Inside off the 36/30, I used a #8, 30/24 radius. In retrospect, I might have been better off making the 36/30 another 30/27, but I'll know for next time.

When you build from 3' rail sections, smooth transitions are also automagic!
Contemplating my next move
I started with the furthest inside stock rail as my datum point. I tried to hold as close to the templates as possible, but a couple of spots missed, so I had to use the NMRA gauge to keep everything correct.

Leading turnout just about complete, 2nd set of points in
Throw bar in place
Completed assembly after I cleaned the flux off.
I'm working now on getting ties glued down and I hope to get this assembly spiked down in the next few days.

A very rewarding project and one that I'm maybe just a bit too proud of, or maybe not. :)

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