To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Working on the 2 End Loop Modules - Part 5

"Why O' Why?" am I going through this writing of turnout making? There are the older Atlas turnouts made 20+ years ago. These turnouts are easy to install. They have a 24" radius curve. BTW-It's easier to spiral inward than outward on curves especially involving turnouts.

My goal is to encourage those of you who don't desire to use Atlas turnouts or can't get them. One con about using the Atlas turnouts is the mechanism sticks out the side of them. The "real" prototype mechanisms like Caboose Industries ground turnouts look better and work just as well as the Atlas with the exception of the frog wiring for 2-rail. However, with trolleys and all wheels grounded there are no problems.

The annual Hoosier Traction Meet was held on the 1st weekend of this month, September. The annual Indianapolis O Scale Meet is usually on the 3rd weekend of September. This year, 2016, the Indie Meet is also the National O Scale Meet. If you have problems obtaining tools and parts these are the Meets to attend. There is also the annual March O Scale Meet held usually the weekend of St Patrick's Day, March 17, at a hotel about 2-3 miles from where I live.

These are some items required if you intend to lay your own track and turnouts.

Rail Bender
Before laying any rail, a rail curve maker commonly called a rail bender is needed. Unfortunately I'm unaware of any source of an O scale rail bender. If you do not have one you'll have to look for one to purchase or borrow from a friend.

Placing a curve in rail to be used in curves is helpful. The bender has 2 holes to mount it with screws on something solid. I used the side of a module on which to mount my bender. Allow sufficient room to move the rail back and forth!
The bolt sticking out of the side is to be able to move the center wheel in and out to vary the amount of bend in the rail. The back of the plate has nuts or something to  hold the wheels in place. The bender has to be installed with washers between the bottom of the plate and the top of the material on which the plate is mounted.

The 3 wheels on the bender have groves milled into them to hold the base of the rail, the center web of the rail, and the rail head. The bender seem to hold almost any size rail from code 100 to 148 without any problem. Although it looks like the wheels can be changed. All of my work has been with code 100 to 148.

Try to get the bend as close to the actual radius required. It's easy to change the radius as the rail is spiked into place. But, once a piece of rail which is not the correct radius has been spiked in place; it might move out of location just a little bit.

In the photos notice the short length of rail (about 1" or so) from the center wheel to the outside wheel. This 1" of rail does not get bent as needed. There's a slight kink in the bent rail where the center wheel was located. The kink is hard to see. I started marking the amount of rail to be cut off while the rail was in the bender.

The red arrow is the mark mentioned above. The rail in the blue ellipse is the amount to cut off after the bending is completed.

This is a photo showing the kink in the rail from the rail bender. The last portion of the rail has not been cut off. My finger is only holding the rail down, next to the spiked down rail of the curve. My finger is not making the kink. The red arrow points to where the kink is and the rail to be cut off.

Spikes are required to attach the rail to the ties. I use a flat blade pliers to install the spikes. Special pliers are available but I don't like them. I have found the rail can be spiked on every other rail. Sometimes additional spikes are required at special places.

Over the years my collection of track spikes has increase. This is what was found in my stock -
  • Micro Spikes by Micro Engineering size 0.015" diameter x 5/32" length Too small for O scale. Small head makes then applicable where 4 spikes are definitely required for cosmetic reasons. They would have to be glued in place.
  • "HO" Gauge Spikes by All-Nation Hobby Shop size 0.028" diameter x 1/4" length Unfortunately All-Nation is no longer in business. While the diameter of these spikes are great, the length is a little too short for O scale. Nice to fill-in on stable track where more spikes are required to hold the rail.
  • "O" Gauge Spikes by All-Nation Hobby Shop size 0.028" diameter x 7/16 length 7/16" is just short of 1/2". Same info about All-Nation. The diameter of these spikes is great. The length if the spike may be too long for most applications. The length of the head of the spike may be longer than the base of the rail. When used the spike may force the rail out of alignment! They've been used when rail has to be forced into position and held in place. It's best to drill a pilot hole for these.
  • Old Pullman Spikes by Old Pullman size 0.035" diameter x 5/16" length Unfortunately Old Pullman is no longer in business. These spikes do show up for sale at O scale meets. These are perfect spikes to use. Most of the time they can be just pushed into the tie to hold the rail. The spike must be pushed in correctly of else the tie may split. Sometimes a pilot hole has to be drilled.
  • Code 70 Spikes by Unknown Manufacturer size 0.025" diameter x 11/32" length I have absolutely no idea where these spikes were obtained. They are great but easy to bend when being pushed into the tie and roadbed. They have a great application in making open roadbed track. This will be explained when this comes up. 
Whenever spikes are being used a battery operated Demel Tool is kept handy with a # 74 drill (0.0225" diameter) in the chuck to make a pilot hole if required.

Perhaps now is the time to mention the new cordless drill available from Dremel. It's their model 8050 Micro/Model:8050  This is a light weight drill for as you may guess, light weight applications like drilling small holes. What's great about this drill is the lack of a cord. At the end of your work session place the drill back into it's holder/battery recharger.

Rail Laying
To start laying rail, for the traffic facing turnout a small section of flextrack was installed where the cork roadbed was started. This straight flextrack acted as a "gauge" of where the rail was to be laid for the start of the turnout.

NOTE - Each end module has 2 turnouts. If you'll recall it's been more than 10 years since I've scratch built a turnout. The building of the 1st turnout on the module was not as satisfactory as I had wanted. The 2nd turnout on this module turned out better. Therefore only the building of the 2nd turnout on the module will be shown.

In building a turnout install each piece of rail as recommended in the many YouTube videos on turnout building. After the straight stock rail was installed, the curved stock rail was installed. The curved stock rail was longer than required. This will be explained later. Work was stopped on this turnout.

Attention is now given to the trailing turnout and the crossing next to it. Install pieces of flextrack on both sides of this turnout to act as "gauges" for the location of the turnout rails. 
The flextrack is on the right of the turnout. Rail joiners are installed at the end of the rail to hold the stock rails of the turnout in place. You may notice the small brads (nails with small heads) holding the flextrack. Holes have to be drilled in the plastic ties for the brads.

Install the straight stock rail. Then install the curved stock rail using a 36" long piece of rail (with the ends cut off from the bending process). This rail when installed will be part of the curved crossing rail. Continue to spike this piece of rail in place using your trammel as a guide. Add another piece of curved rail to this one and spike it in place. This interior curved rail is spiked to the location where the curve reverses.
Green Arrow = Hole for the 14" curve through which the rail is viewed.
Blue Ellipse = Spike pliers I don't like; they lock the spike in to hold it.
Red Ellipse = the pliers I like to drive spikes.
Dark Blue Ellipse = Code 70 and Old Pullman spikes.
Pink Ellipse = NMRA track gauges always ready to be used.
Dark Lime Ellipse = Center of trammel held at correct height as rail head.
Important Note: The curved rail goes all the way through the curved crossing as 1 piece of rail!

The point of where the curve reverses is determined by drawing a line between the 2 centers of the curves. The line drawn between the 2 center points may be on an angle but don't worry.
The pencil line can be seen on both sides of the cork roadbed. Also note the slight "S" shape of the roadbed.

The next piece of rail to install is the curved piece which will be part of the frog. The next Post will start off with installation.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Working on the 2 End Loop Modules - Part 4

Once all the cork work is completed for a module, photocopies of the turnouts to be installed or scratch-built were glued over the cork.
An actual premade turnout was placed on my printer/photocopier. An original photocopy was made. On the original photocopy the location of ties was marked and darkened. Other notable landmarks were added. Notice the arrows where the center point of the track is located. Then copies of the original photocopy were made to glue to the roadbed.

The photocopy is glued onto the cork using the center point locations on the center line of the cork. A piece of plain white paper was glued where the crossing will be installed. This was done to mark the center locations of the crossing plus the location of any rail. The green ellipse is the location of the ground throw for the turnout. Read the engineering and operation material at the bottom of this Post.

The premade #3 frog turnout was not used on the layout. Instead it is used as a sample of the parts to be made. Masurements can be obtained from the premade turnout.

Now actual wooden ties can be glued in place. To match the plastic ties found on Micro Engineering's code 125 flextrack,  7" x 9" x 9'0"  prototype O scale wooden ties available from Right-O-Way (R-O-W) were used. The center point of a bunch of wooden ties was marked in pencil. Then using wood glue the ties are attached to the cork road bed. A heavy weight was placed on the ties until they dried.

The weight weighs about 1 lb. It's a cut-off from a piece of round steel. My son had painted it black. The steel rule helps to spread out the weight. Almost anything cam be used for a weight. As you may have guessed, not too many ties were glued down at a time.

An irregular pattern to how the ties were laid can be seen. Ties may have been laid by different crews at different times. Who knows?

Once all the required ties are glued in place, the location of the rails are penciled in. The location of the rail is just to get an idea as to where the rail will be when finished. BTW - When the ties are glued in no specified pattern is followed. Although some attention is paid to the center line on the ties and the cork roadbed, some ties may be crooked or toward one side or the other. Remember, the C&U is a late 1940's to early 1950's heavily used streetcar line. They didn't have the track building, replacement, or reconditioning equipment available today.

The ties glued in place include those for the 2 #3 turnouts. R-O-W 7" x 9" x 16'6" switch ties were used. Shorter ties were cut from 16'6" ties. For a #3 turnout this bill of ties was used:
# of Ties      Length in Feet Prototype Measurement
     3                         9'0" (normal length ties)
     2                         9'6"
     2                       10'0"
     1                       10'6"
     1                       11'0"
     1                       11'6"
     1                       12'0"
     1                       13'0"
     1                       13'6"
     1                       14'0"
     1                       15'0"
     1                       15'6"  
     3                       16'6"

The 2 long ties which will hold the ground throw were glued in place 1st. The 2 pieces of wood at the top and bottom are to space the ties. It's important for the rodding from the switch points to the ground throw mechanism be able to move and not rub on the switch ties. The top and bottom pieces of wood will be removed once the glue on the long switch ties dries.

There were some ties which were longer than the ties available from R-O-W. For these basswood 5/32" x 3/16" was used. This happen mainly in the area of the crossing of the west bound mainline.

There's one extremely important item regarding turnouts and track crossings and their frogs. The standard rule of thumb is to have a tie or ties immediately under the point of the frog. This part of the frog takes a terrible beating by the wheels passing over them. The wheels fall into the gap of the frog. Some railways have placed material into the space between the rail and the wings (flange way) to support the flange of the wheel. This aleviates some of the problem. 

This photo has several items to point out.
Red Circle = a short section of premade flextrack to be used to gauge the rails.
Gold Circle = a 3 point track gauge for code 125 rail made by Precision Scale.
Green Circle = NMRA O scale track gauge.
Blue Circle = an old 3 point track gauge made by Walthers about 50+ years ago.
Yellow Boxes = potential locations of turnout points and crossing points.
Dark Lime Box = extremely long ties for ground throw explained below.
Pink Box = a plier used to install spikes. I didn't like it.

The 3-point track gauge for code 125 rail made by Precision Scale Company is hard to find. You would do best by looking this gauge up on the PSC web site for the stock number. Then order 2-3 of them. PSC turn around time is about 2 weeks. My recommendation to order 2 or 3 of them is to cover any which may be lost or misplaced. You'll find you need 2 any way to keep the rail in place and gauge as the rail is spiked down.

The older 3-point track gauge distributed by Walthers was for code 172 rail which had a wider rail head. The code 125 rail slides from side to side in the gauge.

The NMRA gauges are the final inspection tool required to check your work. 

The yellow boxes are the extra ties which were placed where the points of the turnout frog and crossing points may be located.

Before going further some engineering and operation of the return loop is required. The C&U is a heavily used streetcar line. The passenger traffic from the east terminal to the Zoo and back is heavy during the later spring, summer, and early fall. During this time of the year many runs are turned back after the Zoo passengers depart the car and enter the Zoo. Other times of the year cars run from the west border of Chicago, the eastern terminal, to Utopia, the western terminal. During the warmer months of the year only 1 in 3 or 4 cars operate from Chicago to Utopia. The balance of the cars run only to the Zoo and back.

This means during the summer months, the Zoo loop has to be operated by a switchman located at the loop. The 2 turnouts are hand thrown. Caboose Industries ground throws were used. The switchman has to not only control the 2 turnouts, he must keep track of cars coming east from Utopia, and perhaps have "orders" telephoned to him.

For convience both trunout ground throws are located on the same side of the 2-track ROW. One of the turnouts will have longer than normal ties for the ground throw to be installed on. The C&U will construct a wooden walkway for the switchman to walk between the 2 ground throws. To keep the switchman out of the weather (sun shade on a hot day) a wooden shack to include a stool, small stove, and telephone will be constructed when the module is finished.

One other item about the end loop modules - the modules could have been constructed with passing sidings. Passing sidings were not included for 2 reasons. The inclusion of a passing siding would have increased the size of the module. Since I've not constructed any modules before, I think it would have increased the size. The other reason is, it's been about 43-44 years since I've constructed any street track and 12-13 years since constructing any open track. I did not want to make the scratch built track any more conplex than necessary.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Soldering and Working on the 2 End Loop Modules - Part 3

Eventually soldering will be required for the trackwork and electrical parts of the new layout. This Post is about the main tool used in soldering plus some general thoughts about "how" soldering or for that matter how many glues work.

When work was started on the 2 end loops I had 2 60-watt soldering irons. One of the 60-watt irons was purchased from Radio Shack eons ago. The solid copper tip had been lost. The 2 screws could no longer be tightened enough to hold the tip in place.

A second 60-watt iron was purchased. But it was nothing like the older 60-watt iron. It was too light. It was easy to "burn" the solder on the tip if left plugged in to long. I wasn't pleased.

Soldering works when there is enough "heat" to melt the solder to the parts being joined together. There's enough written material plus, I'm sure, YouTube videos explaining how to solder.

One comment about soldering guns. The tip is heated with electric current passing through the metal tip. If all the connections are not 100% correct, less than full current will pass through the tip causing it to heat up less.

Forty-eight years ago I purchased a 240-watt American Beauty soldering iron. Several brass models were assembled by me using this iron. I still have this soldering iron. The company American Beauty makes soldering irons plus other soldering products which are correctly named. They are "beauties"! My 240-watt iron is used from time to time. However, it's for heavy duty soldering.

For the soldering needed for making the track work for my modules, a 60-watt iron is sufficient. An American Beauty 60-Watt, 1/4" Heavy-Duty Soldering Iron Model 3125-60 was purchased for under $100.00 including shipping. It works great on all types of track I've worked on thus far.

Just in case you may be wondering, over the past 50+ years of model making I have used the following to solder -
10-watt irons,
15-watt irons,
60-watt irons,
100-watt soldering guns,
240-watt irons,
propane torchs,
jewel's oxy/acetylene torch,
resistance soldering, and
there's probably some I've missed.

Plus, I've used solders with different % compositions of metal.

The 60-watt soldering iron I've recommend; should be left plugged in only as long as you are actually soldering. If this turns out to be a long time keep checking the tip to see if the solder is starting to oxidize due to the heat. Oxidized solder will have a white chalky look. At this time the tip is too hot and the iron must be unplugged.

If plugging and unplugging the soldering iron is a problem for you, get an on-off electric foot pedel to place in the electric line. All the ones I've owned require the operator to keep their foot on the pedel to keep the electricity on. American Beauty sells one plus they are available through

OR, as long as you're looking at the American Beauty web site, look at their Model V36GL3 60-watt Industrial Grade Soldering Station. If you're planning on using soldering for work requiring a long time period to finish, a soldering station is what you need.

The other part of the Post is in regards to cleaning up the soldering once completed. Use files, wet/dry abrasive  papers, wire wheels, etc. In cleaning up the joint, DO NOT REMOVE ALL OF THE SOLDER!. Some solder must remain on or in the joint.

It's the solder keeping the 2 or more pieces of metal together. If you solder a piece with a post which goes into the metal, drill the hole for the post slightly larger than the diameter of the post. The same holds true for almost all glues no matter what they are. The plastic solvents used to build models are not the same as a glue.

If possible "tin" the pieces of metal to be soldered prior to soldering them together. Again, there's enough written material plus, I'm sure, YouTube videos explaining how to solder. Either read or view the material.