Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ground throws, test ops

Progress this weekend was limited to installing ground throws for the track that's already laid.  I spent the rest of the available model railroading time actually operating what there is of the layout so far.  And I enjoyed it.  Goal partly achieved!

In spite of the fact that I'm using Lance Mindheim's book "How To Build A Switching Layout" as a loose guide for this layout, I couldn't quite bring myself to rely on friction to hold the turnout in one position or the other as he recommends.  I like the positive action of the ground throws.

I used the caboose 222S ground throws intended for Atlas code 55 N scale switches.  They go in pretty easily - a little trench in the foam to clear the pins, and fasten them down with white glue and a couple spikes.  I realized after the glue had dried that it would have been smart to paint the blue foam in the trench black before hand.  Perhaps when I paint the track I'll be able to get enough in there to hide the blueness.

Caboose 222S ground throw installed (note trench in foam for pins).

Caboose 222S ground throw
Two things strike me about the second photo above, which I don't find very noticeable just standing in front of the layout (see the operation photo below).  First, that ground throw is huge and ugly!  Second, the proportions are vastly different from my O scale layout.  Below is a photo from my post on O scale ground throws.  When you stand back at a normal viewing difference though, the other aspect of the vast difference between my N scale and O scale layouts becomes apparent - the N scale is spacious with prototypically sized turnouts, the O scale is crowded with obviously tight turnouts (#5).

O scale Atlas O code 148 #5 turnout with caboose 208S cut into head blocks
I had a couple enjoyable test runs this weekend.  With half the track missing operation is obviously limited, but if I treat the last foot or so of the track around the end as if it was Maple Leaf / Trans Plastics with a total of 6 spots, I can get the beginnings of an idea of what full operation will be like.

NECR GP38 3844 Shoving to Maple Leaf / Trans Plastics
There are two ways I'm thinking of operating the layout and I tried them both.  One possibility is treating this as a separate switching RR that interchanges with NECR, using the front track in the above photo as an interchange track.  The other way is more like reality, and probably what I'll go with.  The front track is the spur off the NECR at Barretts.  NECR Train 606 (the Palmer local / Barretts switcher) starts the session by running in on that spur, and ends it by running back out on that spur.  The above photo shows the 3844 shoving 4 cars for Maple Leaf and 2 for Trans Plastics out of the runaround over to the other side of the layout, after having pulled back 6 cars from Maple Leaf.


Rhett said...

Lance's recommendation is based on using Micro Engineering turnouts. Those turnouts have a center-over spring, which causes the points to positively snap to one side or the other. Relying on friction with un-modified Atlas turnouts simply will not work because there's not enough friction in the un-modified Atlas mechanism. Some folks have taken to gluing a "friction tie" beneath the throw bar. I actually went so far as to cobble together a center-over spring (

At the end of the day, for N scale, the best-looking turnouts are those made from FastTracks jigs, followed by the Micro Engineering and Atlas 55 products. If you want to get rid of the ugly ground throw, swapping to ME turnouts is your best bet.

Ken Rice said...

Thanks for the comment Rhett!

Lance actually does suggest adding a friction strip for non sprung throw bars, he's not just basing that on ME style turnouts. With the Atlas turnouts I have friction alone seemed to work pretty well on 3 out of 4, even without adding a friction enhancer under the throw bar. I still feel better with the ground throws though. Easier to make guest operators feel comfortable with too.

I did consider fast tracks turnouts, I bought the jigs and built one. I realized though that given my track record of glacial progress hand laid turnouts and the more fiddly ME code 40 track might mean the layout never got to the point of being operable. Going to the trouble of making fast tracks turnouts but sticking with the oversize code 55 didn't appeal to me.

ME turnouts are nice. But I think an Atlas #10 looks better than an ME #6 (the only size they make) from a normal viewing distance.