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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



Regrettable change …

Hi all,

Sorry for the delay in blog updates recently but I have been busy both on the layout and around the house.  There will be a few updates in quick succession.

After much thought and discussion with Andrew over the last nine months or so, we have decided to abandon Proto-87 wheel and track standards and to adopt the NMRA Fine:HO track and wheel standards.

Ever since we built Bowen Creek, we thought that diesel locomotive conversion was going to be straightforward – just a matter of swapping out the wheelsets.  However, during the few outings of the layout, we soon realised that some form of suspension was required to keep the wheels on the rails.  Since the P87 flange depth is only around 0.3mm, the slightest bump in the track or lack of lateral movement in the axles would cause the wheels to ride up over the railhead, most frequently on curves.  These issues, we found, relate mainly to three axle (Co-Co) bogies, and the centre axle in particular.

So, most of you may not be aware, but over the last three years or so, we had been developing a suspension system for retrofitting to RTR locomotives to enable the use of P87 wheelsets.

With greatly appreciated assistance from Andrew Lee of AndIan Models, we had designed an etched suspension ‘kit’ that would have replaced the pickup plates on the locos and incorporated sprung axle boxes.

Our initial testing, on the Trainorama 47 class bogies, proved the concept worked, but over time we realised that there were major reliability issues.  On the test track, the loco would run OK in one direction, but not the other, and derailing on curves was still an issue.

We both realised that whilst Proto-87 certainly looked nice, to get the suspension to work reliably on the locomotives was going to mean far too much work, and neither of us were prepared to further invest that amount of time and finances.  We both have layouts to build and quite substantial locomotive fleets to convert!!

Also, with the release of the new Auscision 45 class, it was noticed when I pulled a bogie apart, that the design of the pickup system is totally different to that of a Trainorama locomotive, which made the conversion to P87 almost impossible in my opinion.

So with heavy hearts, we are heading down the RP25/88 wheel route.  These wheelsets comply with the NMRA Fine:HO standards, and by keeping a track gauge of 16.5mm, we can achieve a flangeway of 1mm.  There is a requirement to open out the back-to-back of existing wheelsets to a minimum of 14.8mm.  Generally this is only about an increase of 0.2 to 0.3mm from factory wheelsets.  RP25/110 wheels will also still run through these frogs with a back-to-back adjustment.

Using the information in the NMRA standards S-3.1 and S-4.1, I have come up with a single page datasheet with all the relevant measurements shown.  Click on the image to open a larger PDF.

NMRA Fine:HO Standard


I have commissioned Keiran Ryan to design and manufacture some new etched vee crossings to suit code 70 rail with a 1mm flangeway in both 1:6 and 1:8 sizes.

I have recently received the first test etches of these and they are very nice.

With some minor corrections to be done, it is hoped I will have the production versions in a month or so which will allow me to continue on with the much delayed task of turnout building, along with changing out the thirty two vee crossings in the staging yards.

The images below show the two test etches for 1:6 and 1:8 vee crossings, the 1:8 crossing assembled and removed from its fret, and the 1:6 crossing installed in a section of track to test wheel operation.






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.


Bits ‘n’ pieces …

Hi all,

Since my last post, I have been mucking around with a number of different projects.

I completed fitting the checkrails to the remaining eight turnouts in the UP yard, as well as completing installation of point blades, Cobalt motors and checkrails to the first eight turnouts in the DOWN yard.

I did make a start on the remaining eight turnouts in the DOWN yard, but because I cannot get to the underneath of this section of benchwork at the moment due to a couple of Bowen Creek modules being stored there, I decided to leave this job for a while. (C’mon Andrew..hurry up and finish your layout room….umm, house!!) Winking smile

I have also been mocking up some of the future upper deck supports to get some ideas on how it will all work.  More on this in a future post.

For me to continue on the benchwork and spline construction from the teardrop at the helix end, I needed to finish off some work in the toilet area so I wouldn’t have to work in and around benchwork.  I needed to finish off installing the cavity sliding door, install some new lining on two walls and the ceiling and paint the whole thing, including the two brick walls.

This room will also become the spray painting area, so a small spray booth will be mounted on the wall above the tub.

toilet/spray area

So, the next job will be to continue on with the main benchwork from the helix area around in front of the toilet and back to the DOWN storage yard.  I will then install the spline and PECO flextrack from the base of the helix to the DOWN yard.  As this will be hidden, once it’s in, I can then continue on with the mainline spline above, all the way to the start of Ardglen.

next stage

The above layout snapshot shows the next planned stages of construction.  Access to the toilet/spray booth will be via duck-under, but this was inevitable.  Since it won’t be utilised all that frequently, I don’t see it as an issue.

Below is a view of the area prior to erection of the new benchwork.

view of next stage of benchwork construction

The main supports will be I-beams fabricated from 5×1 and 3×1 DAR pine.  The resultant beam will be 6.5 x 2.75 inches.  Supports along the walls will be L-girders made from 3×1 and 2×1.  Joists will be attached to the top of the beams as previously described.  The whole structure will be supported on legs similar to what I did here.

To finish off this post, here are a couple of pictures showing the installation of electrical gaps in the storage yard trackwork.  These are required to isolate each vee crossing, and to create detection sections in the storage roads.

Using a Dremel tool to cut the gaps

I used my Dremel tool with a thin cut-off disc and carefully cut both rails either side of the vee crossing.  I had to be careful not to create too much heat that would de-solder the crossing.

Once the gaps were cut, I then glued small pieces of styrene in the gap.  Plenty of glue was used to secure the styrene in place.

styrene glued in the gaps

Once the glue was dry, using a new, sharp scalpel blade, the styrene was trimmed back to the rail profile.  My test bogie was then run over each gap to check for smooth running.


Tracklaying 101 …

Hi all,

I have been pretty busy since the last post, getting quite a bit of track down.  Already the centre road and the next one closest to the wall are complete between turnouts at each end.  I am referring to the UP yard at the moment.


I thought I would share some tips on how I have been laying the track.  This won’t be a comprehensive tutorial, as there have been numerous articles published in various publications over the years about handlaying track.  It’s just the methods I am using.


As mentioned previously, the PCB sleepers go down first.  At the left hand end of the UP yard, when viewed from the room, I have built five turnouts.  These are complete except for the point blades and checkrails.  As mentioned previously, I am using laminated etched vee crossings from Proto87 Stores in the USA.  They have made building these turnouts a breeze, as there is no bending of rail, or filing of the vee.  I won’t go into how they are assembled, rather here is a link to the Proto87 Stores’ tutorial.


Refer to the turnout drawing below.

turnout components

The first part of the turnout that goes down is the straight stock rail.  Then the crossing vee is located and gauged off the straight stock rail.  Then the straight closure rail is fixed from the crossing to the heel.  The heel is where the point blades are hinged.

locating the crossing vee  gauging the straight closure rail

The curved stock rail is next, firstly being fixed down near the toe (or start of the turnout).  This rail is then slightly bent to clear the outside of the heel.  This short section of rail must be straight where the point blade lies against it.  It is then fixed again at the heel.  Using gauges, the curved stock rail is then gauged off the other side of the crossing vee and soldered in position opposite the crossing only.  Again, the short section of rail opposite the crossing must be straight.  The rail then forms a natural curve from the heel to the crossing.  This is then fixed down.  Next comes the curved closure rail which is gauged off the curved stock rail.

gauging the curved stock rail gauging the curved closure rail

The turnout is basically complete at this point, apart from the point blades and check rails which will be added later.  It’s just then a matter of gauging the rest of the tangent track off the stock rails and crossing vee.


The centre road was laid all the way to the other end of the UP yard, where I have laid two and a half turnouts at this stage.  Each of the remaining roads towards the wall will be laid, then I will start on the ones towards the outer edge of the benchwork.  After the UP yard is complete, the process is repeated for the DOWN yard around the corner.

LH end of UP yard RH end of UP yard

After this centre road was down, I made some jigs to set the distance of the next road from this centre road.  These were made from some square brass channel that was a neat fit over the head of the code 70 rail and some larger C channel as the spacers.

road spacing jig jigs in position

Once the first rail of the next road is down, the second rail can be gauged from it using the normal gauges.  I can lay rail this way reasonably quickly.

gauging the second rail

The black triangular gauges you can see were obtained from DD Wheelwrights in the Netherlands.  The orange roller gauges are from Railway Engineering in the US.

I hope this has been of some assistance to those who wish to handlay their track.  The principles are the same whether you are modelling P87 or other standards.


Cheers for now.

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