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Up Staging Yard changes – Part II …

Hi all,

Following on from the previous post on this topic, I have started on the task of rebuilding the Sydney end of the Up staging yards.

The picture above shows five existing turnouts have been removed and the first of two new 3-way turnouts installed.

The 3-way turnouts were built on the workbench.  They followed the same principles as a normal turnout, but were a little tricky due to the three vee crossings.  The two 1:6 vee crossings were made from the same etched components as I have used for the turnouts at Kankool, but the third one had to be scratchbuilt, as the crossing angle was around 1 in 4.

I drew up a new drawing which was an amalgamation of two 1:6 turnouts (left hand and right hand).  Once tidied up, I had a template for the 3-way turnout.  This was taped down to a piece of glass and PCB strip glued down.  During the first build, I came up with a specific order of construction, hence the numbered circles in the image below.  The image shows some of the main components in place including the two etched 1:6 vee crossings.


At around this stage of construction, I started building the third vee crossing.  This crossing is also slightly curved so I printed out a section of the drawing at twice HO scale to assist in laying out the rail to the curves.  I had to come up with a method of fabricating the vee crossing as a sub-assembly that could be fitted into the turnout.


Using brass strip spaced to fit in between the PCB strips, these were taped down over the drawing.

The first task was to file up the two halves of the vee and fix in place.


Then the wing rails were bent and shaped and checked against the template.  Long pieces of rail were used to make it easier to lay against the template.


The completed crossing was then trimmed to size and fitted into the turnout using multiple gauges.


The picture below show the completed 3-way turnout, less point blades.




The final result!

There is a bit of tidy up work to do yet as well as re-mounting and re-wiring the point motors, but at least the trackwork is done.

Now to do the same at the other end!


Kankool trackwork – Part II …

Hi all,

I have made more progress on the Kankool turnouts.  I have now fitted tiebars.

I have always wanted to have tiebars that look as realistic as possible, within the bounds of practicality for HO scale and reliable operation.

Ever since I saw a post on Rene Gourley’s Pembroke blog, I have wanted to achieve a similar result.  Here is another link to a photo of his tiebars in situ.

Some time ago, Rene kindly sent me one of his 3D printed tiebars.  I had planned to look at his design and see if it could be adapted to my new track standards.

I put the whole thing on the back burner for a while, but resurrected it nearly 12 months ago when it was getting to the point that I was going to need something to be able to complete the turnouts.

I put the idea to a mate who is a bit of an expert on 3D design.  He thought the idea had merit, so I left it with him to come up with a design.

Over the last few months however, I began to have reservations about the 3D print idea.  Because the plastic tiebars would have to be glued to the points, I was worried about the mechanical strength of such a bond.  Also, as the 3D printing thing is still relatively new, the materials are untested over time.  Will they deteriorate over the next twenty years?

When Andrew and I built the P87 turnouts for Bowen Creek, we used thin pieces of printed circuit board that would allow for a soldered joint to the points.  So began the manufacture of a prototype.



My design uses brass strip soldered together in a similar design to Rene’s.  It still allows the tiebar to slide underneath the second sleeper back from the toe.  It also has a drive tube underneath into which the wire-in-tube turnout activator will fit.

I had to have a method of holding the tiebar underneath the turnout whilst soldering to the points.  So, using a piece of old melamine shelving, I marked out and routed a recess for the tiebar to sit in.

tiebar in place in recess


The turnout was then located over the tiebar and clamped in position.


Soldering the points to the tiebars requires a great deal of care.  It is very easy to solder the points to the stockrails!  To reduce the risk of this, and also to reinforce the soldered joint, small pieces of brass strip are soldered to the tiebars then to the points.  The point is clamped against the stockrail then the brass strip carefully soldered in place.


Once the first point is soldered in place, the turnout is repositioned so the other point can be fixed in position.  Again, the point is clamped to the stockrail, and ensuring the opposite point is the correct distance from the stockrail to allow for wheel clearance, the second point is soldered in place.

The finished tiebar!  It is then tested for binding and to ensure both points sit snugly against each stockrail.  The turnout can then be removed from the melamine base.  The plan is to temporarily clamp the turnout in position on the roadbed and connect the actuator and test the operation using the wire-in-tube.  Once it is proven to work effectively, the turnout will be painted and prepared for final installation on the roadbed.

A similar recess for the tiebar was routed out in the cork roadbed at each location.



Up Staging Yard changes …

Hi all,

Every so often, I open up my listing of trains I am modelling and add more information to the spread sheet where I calculate model train lengths and tonnage.

The longest trains that will run on the layout are the Up block wheat and coal, and all of these have four locos up front, with generally two of these being the bank engines.

I was always hoping to be able to run prototypical length trains, but found I had an issue with the road lengths in the Up Staging.

The original design of the Up Staging had the following standing room lengths (in mm) for trains:

5400; 4340; 4200; 3570; 3500; 3500; 2790; 2790.

Currently my four longest trains (to prototypical length & tonnage) are:

Up Wheat, Quad locos + 26 x WTY + brakevan = 5280mm

Up Wheat, Quad locos + 26 x WTY + brakevan = 5260mm

Up Coal, Quad locos + 21 x CHS + brakevan x 2 = 4910mm

Up Coal, Quad locos + 21 x CHS + brakevan = 4800mm

As can be seen, there was no way I was going to be able to fit these trains into the four longest roads.

In hindsight, I should have made the Up yards much longer than the Down yards, but instead made them roughly equal lengths.

So to accommodate the long trains, I have decided to rebuild the Up yards using 3-way turnouts in certain locations to lengthen the roads.  I will only have to build three new 3-way turnouts.

The revised Up Staging now gives me the following standing room lengths in mm:

5495; 5080; 5060; 4765; 4310; 4070; 4030; 4020.

On one of the wheat trains, I may have to drop up to two wagons, and on one of the coal trains, one wagon.  This will still give me near prototypical length trains.


staging yard changes

The drawing above shows the differences between the old and new yard design.  The majority of roads are now significantly longer than in the old design.


New vee crossings & more turnout progress …

Hi all,

Following on from this post back in August 2015 where I outlined the move from Proto-87 standards to NMRA Fine:HO, the new Code 70 vee crossings arrived back in November courtesy of Keiran Ryan.

The picture below show the two new vee crossing etches, 1 in 6 on the left, 1 in 8 on the right.

new vee crossings


The picture below shows a completed crossing prior to being removed from the fret.

completed crossing


After I then assembled a few of the crossings, I proceeded to remove the P87 ones from the two turnout assemblies for Kankool and retrofit the new ones.  The 1 in 8 is on the left, the 1 in 6 on the right.

1 in 8 crossing1 in 6 crossing









Below is a shot of the completed turnout complex at the Werris Ck end of Kankool.  All that is left to do here is to fit the throwbars and paint.

Kankool turnouts


Before I could start laying the foam roadbed, I had to make cut-outs in the spline at the throwbar locations for each turnout at Kankool.  I used a multi-tool with a small saw blade held vertically.

throwbar hole

throwbar hole

throwbar hole



Kankool trackwork Part I …

Hi all,

Things have been pretty quiet since the last post, but there are always things happening behind the scenes and sometimes aren’t worth posting about.

I have been itching to get back into trackwork and have started building the first set of turnouts at the Werris Creek end of Kankool.

The Kankool (1941) signal diagram is shown below.  Click to open a larger version.


The first set of turnouts to be started are numbers 7 and 9 as shown above.  No.7 is the Up Main to Loop and No.9 is a catchpoint in the Main facing Down trains.  As can be seen above, there is a short runaway siding that extends from the loop through another turnout that is also designated No.7.  These two are worked from the same lever.  The runaway acts as a catchpoint for the loop facing Down trains as it is thrown for the runaway when lever 7 is normal in the frame (ie set for the Main).

In looking at photos I have that show snippets of this arrangement of turnouts at Kankool and a similar arrangement at Ardglen, I was intrigued to find that No.9 catchpoint is not a normal single blade type, but virtually a full turnout without the vee crossing.

catchpoint detail ardglen

The photo above shows a similar catchpoint at Ardglen.  Note the short run-off rail and the timber block where the inner rail ends at the stockrail.  The run-off rail extends under the point rodding.  There also appears to be some sort of ‘checkrail’ as well.

I decided to build the arrangement on the workbench, so out came the Greg Edwards Trackwork Handbook, and some photocopies of the 1:6 and 1:8 plain turnouts and 1:6 symmetrical turnout (wye) were made.  I had previously used some templates to get a rough idea on how the two would marry together.

My main workbench was found to be not perfectly flat, so I dragged out an old table I had and checked it – perfect!  I knew I had a sheet of glass somewhere that I could use to stick the paper templates to.  I started to lay out the templates, but soon found they had not copied accurately enough.  For some reason, and I’m guessing it was the photocopier, there was a slight kink in both templates.  Now, this error wasn’t helping me line up centrelines etc.

I decided to send an email to Greg Edwards explaining my problem and if he would be prepared to send me his CAD files of the turnouts.  Well Greg replied very promptly with attachments of the turnout drawings I required.  Greg’s only proviso in giving me the drawings was that I did not distribute them and that they were for my personal use only.  Thanks Greg!

I then proceeded to manipulate the drawings in TurboCAD to combine a 1:8 plain, 1:6 symmetrical and 1:6 plain together to produce a new template.  See below.

Kankool Turnouts Werris Ck end

The above result was a much more accurate template I could use.  As mentioned above, No.9 catchpoint arrangement can now be seen.  The road off the runaway at the top of the drawing will be extended more when in situ.

The template was printed out over three sheets of A4 size paper, cut and joined, then taped down to the glass.

Once the template was in place, PCB sleepers had to be glued down.  I started marking out where to place PCB in strategic locations but then changed tack to make every sleeper PCB.  This may seem like overkill, but it makes it easier than trying to position timber ones in place later.  Anyway, I thought I’d give it a go.

PCB sleepers in place

Clover House PCB strips were used.  Turnouts timbers are generally 10” x 6”, whilst general track sleepers are 9” x 4.5”.  Clover House #1266 scale out to approx. 10” x 5” and #1267 to approx. 11” x 5”.  They are a tad wider than they should be, and it’s difficult to see the difference, but the turnout timbers need to look ‘beefy’ compared to general sleepers.

Clover House PC Board ties

Once all the PCB’s were glued down, I started to think about laying the first piece of rail.  During these thoughts, I decided to have a go at laying the rails on etched tieplates for that extra bit of detail.  The tieplates were something I got etched as a detail item under the IR Models brand many years ago.  I’m not sure even if I ever ended up officially having them for sale.

etched tieplates

As can be seen from the image above, the tieplates came with a convenient centreline to assist in placement on the sleepers.  Firstly. the backs of the tieplates were pre-tinned with solder.  I then started by placing the etch in position over the drawn railhead on the template and with minimal solder, fixed them to the PCB.  This was repeated for the length of the straight stockrail.  In places where the curved stockrail converges on the straight stockrail, ‘half’ tieplates were used.  See below.

tieplates fixed in place

The straight stockrail was then soldered in place to the tieplates, again with minimal solder from the ‘rear’ of the rail (ie, the non viewing side).  Once this was complete, a 1:8 vee crossing was assembled and soldered in position, gauged from the stockrail.

fixing vee crossing in place

vee crossing support plates

The close-up shot of the crossing shows the support ‘plates’ the crossing is attached to.  These were made from strips of 0.1mm thick brass.  On the prototype, these ‘plates’ perform the same job as the tieplates under the rail.  The vee crossing was spiked in place to these.  On the model, they served the purpose of lifting the crossing up by 0.1mm which is the thickness of the tieplates.

The rest of the turnout complex was completed using the same techniques I used when building the storage yard turnouts.  Prior to fixing the tieplates in place for a second rail, individual plates were removed from the fret and placed at strategic locations, and with rail held temporarily in place with gauges, these initial plates were soldered in position.  The rail was then removed and the alignment of the plates checked against the template.  They were generally pretty spot on, so the remainder of the plates for a particular section were then fixed in place using the template as the guide, and the process of fixing the rail to these was again repeated using gauges.

The following images show some shots taken during the construction process.  Another vee crossing was also assembled, this time a 1:6 for the runaway turnout.

gauging the second stockrail

1:8 crossing in place with both straight stockrails

more progress

stage 1 complete

The final shot above shows the arrangement at the stage where all rails are in place.  I’m pretty happy with how it has all progressed.  Whether I continue with installing tieplates on future turnouts remains to be seen, as looking at a lot of photos, a lot of this detail is covered by ballast, and it is very time consuming.  I might wait until the Kankool turnouts and track are painted, weathered and ballasted before I make that decision.  After all, it will be a while before I need to worry about the Ardglen turnouts.

The next job is to fit the rail brace chairs, point blades and checkrails.  I also plan to fit the tiebars and associated apparatus, ready for the ‘wire-in-tube’ connection from the lever frame, all whilst it is on the workbench.


Last stage of turnout construction …

Hi all,

I have started adding the checkrails to the UP storage yard turnouts.

First a bit of theory behind the need for a checkrail.

On a prototype turnout, the tip of the vee crossing is quite vulnerable to damage if a wheelset’s flange was to strike it.  This action would most certainly cause a derailment.  The checkrail is there to help guide the wheelset through the crossing so as the flange does not come into contact with the tip of the crossing vee.  The checkrail is gauged off the vee crossing and not from the stockrail.  This measurement is called the Check Gauge.  See my About Proto-87 page.

(The image below is sourced from Greg Edwards’ Trackwork Manual and has been used with permission.)


As I am modelling mainline trackwork, I will be using the fifteen foot checkrails.

First a length of code 70 rail is cut to length.  It is then held on it’s side in a piece of timber to allow for the removal of the base of the rail on one side.  Refer to the sectioned drawing above showing the base removed from the checkrail.  The base is then carefully filed away, nearly to the web.

filing away the rail base on one side

Once complete, a slight taper is filed at each end on the same side as the removed base material.  This taper can be seen in the drawing above.

filing slight taper at each end

As can also be seen in the drawing above, the checkrail is bent either side of halfway.  The centre of the checkrail is marked, along with marks 2’6” either side.  At these points, a slight bend is created.

The checkrail is then placed in its location and gauged from the vee crossing with a check gauge.  The centre line of the checkrail is opposite the practical point of the vee crossing.

gauging the checkrail


It’s a bit difficult to see in the image above, but it shows the check gauge sitting against the vee and the other end locating the checkrail.  The checkrail is now soldered in position.

Now, a wheelset is test run through the crossing, and with slight pressure against the checkrail towards the vee, the flange should not catch on the tip of the vee.

test running a wheelset through the crossing

The wheelset should run smoothly through the crossing.

I have completed half of the UP yard turnouts, so another eight to go, then I’ll continue on with fitting of the point blades, motors and checkrails in the DOWN yard.

Cheers for now.

Final stages of turnout construction …

Hi all,

Since the last post on the completion of tracklaying in the storage yards, I have been gapping all the PCB sleepers and checking for shorts across the rails.  This is quite a tedious process, but a necessity, as obviously there cannot be ANY short circuits present.

I have also commenced installation of the point blades and Cobalt motors.

Some years ago when I first started looking at handbuilt turnouts, I bought some tools from Fast Tracks, namely for filing up vee crossings (frogs) and point blades.  Now, like Andrew said in a post on Bowen Creek blog back in June 2010, I am buggered if I could accurately file up correct looking point blades with their tool.  For starters, their tool does not create the correct profile of a point blade.  It is the easy way out of making a blade without having to know how the real one looks and works.  They might be OK for RP25 profile wheels but not for P87 wheels and near prototype modelling.  Plus there was the added task of filing away the base of the stock rail with a very un-prototypical notch to accommodate these blades.  Anyway, I totally agree with Andrew’s comment in his post.

So, as Andrew also mentions, I sourced some correctly CNC machined 3-way planed code 70 point blades from Proto87 Stores in the US.  See here for a brief description of them on the Stores site.  Go about halfway down the page and look for the PROTOTYPE POINTS heading.

These blades, along with the etched frogs, have been one of the best investments I have made in building the layout so far.  I could not begin to describe the amount of time saved in not filing up frogs and point blades.

Anyway, back to the task at hand.

The blades come from the Stores as a matched pair and, as explained above, have been accurately CNC machined with the correct 3-way planing that is present on the prototype.

CNC machined point blades

In the picture above, shown is the blades as they come (top), a single piece of rail with the machining.  This piece of rail is then cut in half with a cut-off wheel, and with some cleaning up of swarf and sharp edges left from the machining process, the result is a matched pair of point blades (bottom).  The view shown above of the blades shows the side that sits against the stock rail.  After some more careful cleaning with needle files, the nose is rounded slightly.  Note the planing on this face of the blade.  The bit along the topmost edge is done as part of the CNC process, and I have just filed a bit more off the nose.  The tip of the blade needs to be quite thin to enable it to fit snugly against the stock rail.

nose of blade

At this stage, the blades are nearly ready for fitting, but require a slight bend to make the inside running edge straight.  At the 7 foot mark, I carefully bend the blade towards the side of the red arrows so this edge of the railhead is straight.  Refer to the drawing below.  (Drawing used with permission from Greg Edwards’ Trackwork Manual).

switch blade details

Once this is checked against a straight edge, the next step is  to test fit the blades in position.  The turnouts have been constructed as per NSW practice ie with 16’6” switches (blades).  The blade is cut roughly to length, leaving a bit to trim to the exact length.

blade alignment with stock rail

The picture above shows the blade in position against the straight stock rail with a steel rule to check for straightness.  The toe must be located slightly short of the kink in the stock rail so when the blade is against the rail, the steel rule should show a continuous edge.  The blade length is then trimmed to suit.  The example above is pretty close to a perfect fitment of a point blade.

To relieve stress at the hinge joint (heel), I have decided to connect the blades to the closure rails using the Stores’ rail end aligners.  These are etched in stainless steel, and I have also used them to join rail sections on the curves in the Down storage yard.  In the past, I have just soldered the heel end of the blade to the PCB sleeper, but I think in the long term, a join like this is prone to failure.  The blades are now soldered in position at the heel ensuring the toes are sitting slightly away from the stock rail.

heel joint

Before fitment of the throwbar, a hole or slot needs to be drilled in the baseboard to allow for the turnout actuator wire.

baseboard hole for turnout actuator wire

The next step is to attach the blades to the throwbar.  As these turnouts in the storage yards are not meant to look pretty or be prototypically correct in detail, the throwbar is made from thin PCB strip.  The strip is cut to length at around 23mm.  This is placed in position under the blades, centrally between the stock rails.  The throwbar needs to be ‘chocked’ against the underside of the stock rail, so when the blades are attached, there is no vertical movement in either direction.  The ‘chocking’ is achieved by packing strip styrene underneath.  The blade is now soldered to the throwbar with a small piece of brass strip to act as a brace.  You should not just rely on the solder joint from the base of the blade to the throwbar, as there is very little of the rail base remaining to provide a robust joint.  (We made this mistake when building the turnouts for Bowen Creek).  The other blade is now soldered to the throwbar as well, with the opposite one hard against its stock rail.

attaching throwbar to blades

The picture above shows the throwbar PCB in position, the styrene ‘chock’, the brace near the toe and a toothpick in place to set the throw clearance at the toe.  This clearance is 4.5 inches on the prototype, and with P87 wheels, this can be achieved in scale.  Note in the picture above, the blade is sitting slightly proud of the throwbar and adjacent sleepers.  It will be lightly pressed down during the soldering process.

Now that both blades are fixed to the throwbar, check its movement under the stock rails.  There should be no binding.  You could probably use some form of lubricant here.  I have used a silicon based spray that will hopefully prevent any future binding.

Next comes fitment of the point motor.  A hole needs to be drilled in the centre of the throwbar to take the actuator wire.  At this stage, the throwbar can also be gapped.

When I did my first turnout and mounted the Cobalt motor, I found that unless I was spot on with centring the motor under the turnout, I did not have any play in the motor mounting to allow for fine adjustment of the turnout throw.  Note the red arrow showing virtually no adjustment in the screw mounting. (Note: I am not talking about adjusting the throw using the fulcrum on the motor; I am talking about centring the motor under the turnout to allow for equal throw in both directions.)

original Cobalt motor mounting

So, I decided to mount the motor on a small piece of MDF into which I made three slots to allow for greater adjustment of the motor mount.

MDF with slotted holes for adjustment

revised Cobalt motor mount

This was a great improvement.  Note the actuator wire and fulcrum is on the rear side of the motor in this shot.

OK, we’re nearly done.  Just a final few shots showing the completed turnout, set for both roads.  At this stage I now run a bogie with P87 wheels through each road and check for smoothness.  If there is a slight bump at the nose, use a small needle file to remove a small amount from the top of the nose.  The tip of the nose should actually be slightly lower than the stock rail.

completed turnout

completed turnout

completed turnout

I have so far completed three turnouts with twenty nine to go!! (that’s not including the ‘scenicked’ ones).  I have still to install the checkrails.

Cheers for now.

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