Apr 022013

I’ve been having trouble making the points of my turnouts fit snugly. Wheels tend to pick the points and cars derail. It’s especially hard with the Proto:87 wheels since they have such a narrower and shallower flange. I’m using the points from Proto87 Stores, but am not having much luck getting them to work.

I took some pictures to study the profile of prototype points. It’s surprising how blunt the ends really are.

I’ve decided to try filing my own points. I followed some advice from a thread on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum. I’m basically filing along three planes and adding a brass bar to the front for support. The result is a better fitting point. The first pair is kind of ugly, but I’ll probably be able to make more refined points as I practice.



I’ve spent the past couple of days experimenting with different turnouts. The victims (shown below) were a Central Valley Ties #9 Turnout with a Details west Frog and Guardrail & a Peco #6 with Proto87 Stores Frog.

Central Valley Ties #9 Turnout Kit

I’ve tried the Proto87 Stores Superfine and Easy turnouts, which are essentially Central Valley Ties with Proto87 Stores Frogs and Point Rails. I ordered a CVT kit because I wanted to see how well the Central Valley points and throw-bars actually worked. I also ordered a Details West Frog kit because they look so damn awesome!

The CVT throw-bar and switch-stand were pretty easy to assemble and worked (for about 30 seconds) just long enough for me to take a couple of photos. After that things started falling apart. I used Tenax to glue the plastic parts together, but that really doesn’t work well. However, Tenax does an excellent job of sticking the tie strip to the coated cardboard backing that comes in the kit. I glued the rails to the ties with CA, but that doesn’t work very well, they come loose very easily and I’ve had to re-glue several times. I also decide to insert some PCB ties to hold the track together, as well as a PCB throw bar to replace the kit throw-bar. I like the look of the points, but the hinge is awkward and it’s hard to get the points to close against the stock rail without bending the points into awkward looking angles, and even then it still doesn’t work that great.

The Details West Manganese Frog and Guardrail Kit looks awesome. The bolt head detail on the frog is just spectacular. It’s a natural fit with the CVT ties and sticks easily with CA. One of the guard rails came with a gouge in it. The frogs are also an easy component replacement for other RTR turnouts

This combo is a natural fit. You get Central Valley Ties ease of assembly and detailed ties and points with Details west superbly detailed frog and guardrails.

Peco #6 Insulfrog with Proto87 Stores Frog

I ordered a Proto87 Stores #6 frog kit a while back to see how easy it was to convert an RTR turnout to Proto:87. The basic process is to cut out the old frog and replace it with the Proto:87 frog and move the guard rails closer to the stock rails. I have several Peco #6 switches floating around and this one is kind of the guinea pig. It was an Insulfrog and I thought it might be a pain to convert. But it turned out to be fairly easy.

I laid the replacement frog as a template over the Peco frog and drew lines on with a marker to determine where I would cut the old frog. I used a Dremel to cut the rails. Since part of the Peco frog assembly is plastic I figured the entire turnout was one solid mold, it isn’t, the plastic portions of the frog are a separate piece. They are glued very tightly, but with a moderate amount of scraping with a blade, they eventually separate fairly cleanly.

I glued the new frog to the turnout base using CA. The Proto87 frog was a little higher than the Peco track so I had to file a taper at each end to make for a smoother transition.

I used pliers to rock the guardrails loose. I filed the inside of the guardrails to remove the rail base. I scraped a couple of the bolt details from the turnout tie base to make room for the closer guard rails. I rest the guard rails using my new Proto:87 Check Rail Gauge and Flangeway Gauge.

It’s a great combo, you get the great looking Proto87 Stores frog and keep Peco’s great tie plate & spike head detail as well as the signature sprung throw-bar.


February has been a hard month and my second turnout project has been stalled by parts delays, illness, a death, and a vacation. Patrick and I layed out the ties earlier this month and were waiting for a new frog from Andy at Proto:87 Stores. I had Andy build a new frog because I screwed up the last one. I glued in most of the tie plates before I left for vacation. While I was on vacation some new track gauges arrived from DDWheelwrights and Railway Engineering. Having a set of track gauges provided me the motivation to finish the tie paltes and

Essons Learned

  1. Gluing tie plates is a pain in the ass. I tried using a syringe to squirt CA glue onto the ties, but the syringe got blocked up rather quickly and became unusable after a day. I tried using a toothpick to dab a small amount on the ties, but the dabs were frequently too big and would spread to the jig. Too little glue and the tie plates fall off. I found myself constantly being set back by tie plates that came loose. I don’t know if this is a process I’m willing to continue with this method of turnout building.
  2. The Proto:87 Stores throwbar is very difficult to install correctly. I ordered extra, because I had trouble before and I had to use the extras. I finally got it to work long enough to take a couple of photos, then it fell apart. In the end, I soldered a PCB tie to the points.
  3. I needed to file the inside tips of the points so the wheels won’t trip on them.


Jan 202013

I’ve finished assembling my first Proto:87 turnout using the Switch-Works Turnout Building fixture. It took about a month and I made many mistakes along the way. So I wanted to share what I learned.

  • Fix the ties down to the plastic backing strip using barge cement. I first tried to just Press-N-Seal plastic wrap, but they don’t hold the ties firmly in position and you end up with a lot of play in the ties.
  • Paint your ties before installing the tie plates. This allowed me to get the ends and and sides pretty thoroughly, which would be more difficult to do after the rails and ties were installed.
  • Do not pre-weather the tie plates. It makes it impossible to tell which side is the top side, because you can’t see the raised detail.
  • Make a pointy tool out of an old piece of rail to place the tie plates. Steel tools don’t work well with all the magnets around the workpiece.
  • Super glue the tie plates. I started by affixing each tie plate with a dab of 15 minute epoxy to each tie. Epoxy doesn’t set up quick enough to prevent the tie plates from sliding out of position.
  • An 80W soldering iron doesn’t do a good job soldering frogs together. I’ve made three frogs and all needed some after work, because they weren’t completely soldered. I think I’ll order my frogs pre-soldered from Andy from now on.
  • Install both stock rails before installing the frog. I installed just the curved one (as the instructions indicate) and therefore only had one reference for installing the frog. I ended up having to pull the frog off and push it backward because it didn’t line up well with the straight stock rail after I installed that. Since this is basically a jig and the position of the curved and stock rails are set, it makes best sense to use both as a reference when installing the frog.
  • Get some gauges. I only have the Proto:87 stores flat gauge. I ordered some Rollee Holders from Railway Engineering, and I am also considering getting some gauges from DD Wheelwrights.
  • Buy some nut bolt washer (NBW) casting for the frog. The frog details from Proto:87 Stores are a little too uniform and low relief for my tastes. I bought some plastic NBW from Tichy #8144.
  • Don’t bother using PCB ties. I thought that maybe the turnout would need the extra rigidity some select PCB ties would add, but I don’t think they made much of a difference, my future turnouts will use just wood ties.
  • Don’t install the bolt head detail to the points prior to installation. It makes it impossible to find the hole drilled for the point bar.
  • I have no idea how to Proto:87 make the throw-bars work. I couldn’t get them to work with the Superfine turnout I built either. I opted to solder the points to a throw-bar, but it cannot be soldered directly, as it will not allow the points to fully set in place. Instead soldered point bars to the points, held the points in place, then soldered the point bars to a to a PC board. I’m still trying to find a long term solution, maybe I can get the next set to work as designed.
  • Add jewelry. I already mentioned the NBW castings, but I also ordered joint bars / fishplates from Details West in plastic and pewter (Don’t try to solder the pewter ones, they melt immediately into sticky goo). I also ordered adjustable and rigid rail braces from Details West, I’m not sure I like how they look though. Proto:87 makes rail braces, and they look really good, just not so much how my prototype looks.

Making so many mistakes is discouraging. But overall, it’s been a very rewarding experience. I’m still determined to get it right. I’ve already started on my second turnout.


Jan 022013

I am building a #10 turnout with Proto:87 Stores Switch-Works assembly fixture. I thought I’d be clever and use Press-N-Seal to hold down my ties instead of cementing them to a plastic strip (see my previous Blog entry – Switch-Works Arrives). Bad idea! After installing about a hundred tie plates, I determined that the Press-N-Seal doesn’t hold the ties in position, which is imperative since the tie plates serve as a guide to lay the rail in correct gauge. With the ties flopping around, I couldn’t ensure my tie plates were lining up correctly from tie to tie. So I stripped the ties and started over.

Take 2

For this try I used Barge Cement to glue the ties to the supplied plastic base. I also decided to paint the ties before installing tie plates and pre-weather the tie plates. I painted the ties with Rust-O-Leum Camouflage Brown, then dry brushed them with Railroad Tie Brown and a little Depot Buff. I soaked the already cut tie plates in Micro Engineering weathering solution and painted the solution on to the rails. I’ll do more painting once everything is assembled, but I thought it’d be a good idea to get rid of the bare wood and bright silver before I assembled the turnout.

Dec 202012

My Switch-Works assembly fixture arrived recently and I finally got a chance to get started building some #10 turnouts.

After assembling the base, I put some Press-n-Seal plastic wrap on the base to hold the ties. Then I emptied a bag of precut ties and fitted them into the tie fixture. Put the tie plate aligning fixture on and held it in place with magnets. Everything is easy so far. We’ll see if it stays easy when I start gluing in the hundreds of tie plates :)




I’ve been mercilessly abusing this Proto:87 Superfine #8 turnout. I’m trying to get as much experience as I can with this one turnout before I start building the Ultimate turnouts I recently ordered. I wasn’t happy with the throw-bars because they kept dropping out, so I tried a hybrid version with the leading throw-bar soldered to the points. I’m considering using carbon fiber strips for the throw bars.

I’ve also done a little track weathering experimentation. I really like the Polly Scale “Dirt” paint for the rails, but think I also need to pre-weather the track with Blacken-It or ME Rail Weathering before painting so I don’t end up with bright silver shiny rail heads.


Proto:87 #8 Turnout

Proto:87 #8 - Used and abused.


I’m not giving up yet! I resurrected the Proto:87 Stores #8 Superfine turnout that I screwed up last week (see: Proto:87 Turnout Fail). The major problem was making the closure rails too short. This caused the hinges to not work properly.

  • proto87-8-1
  • proto87-8-10
  • proto87-8-2
  • proto87-8-3
  • proto87-8-4
  • proto87-8-5
  • proto87-8-6
  • proto87-8-7
  • proto87-8-8
  • proto87-8-9

I tried my hand at building a #8 turnout from Proto:87 Stores. The results were less than spectacular. I ran into several problems. I used the instructions from Proto:87 Stores, a #8 Superfine kit, Barge cement, MEK, & some CA.

  1. I had trouble “printing” solder paste on to the frog assembly. I had several attempts where too much solder was applied and several attempts where not enough solder was applied. I finally settled on a lightly “printed” solder solution & I ended up soldering the frog twice.
  2. I tried to use the solder paste to solder on the frog bolts, but that didn’t work. So I tried with gap filling CA. That also didn’t work. I finally used liquid CA and that did work.
  3. I had trouble figuring out exactly where the frog was supposed to go. I eventually got it with the help of my proto:87 gauge.
  4. I had trouble with the curved closure rail. The end closest to the frog doesn’t rest on a tie and it dipped down a bit, causing a vertical alignment problem with the frog. I eventually filed this down, but it doesn’t look very good. I also had a horizontal alignment problem as the barge cement couldn;t firmly hold the rail in proper alignment with the frog; the cast on tie plates also had too much play at this spot to provide any help.
  5. I messed up and used one of the guard rails for the strait wing rail, which caused me to use regular un-filed rail as one of the guard rails.
  6. The guard rail that I didn’t mess up wouldn’t push up close enough to the stock rail to provide a tight enough flange way.
  7. I messed up point hinges. The kit supplies two sets of hinges; one set for #5/#6 turnouts and one set for #7,#8,#9 turnouts. I used the wrong set. and I couldn’t figure out why I had slop in the hinge, so I soldered the hinges to the stock rails and closure rails, it helped a little bit. I was able to fit the correct hinges in place atop the incorrect ones.
  8. I couldn’t get the throwbars to work. The wouldn’t snap over and wouldn’t hold the points tight against the stock rails. I tried adding an over-center spring, but that didn’t work because the points are not connected the leading throw bar. So I tried soldering pins of the leading throw bar to the points, but that didn’t work (I think they are stainless steel). I tried adding a shims to the throw bar but that didn’t work. I tried gluing some shims to the throw bars, but accidentally glued the throwbars down to the base. UGHH!!!! I was able to pry them back up, but I have not been able to make them work.
Proto:87 #8 Turnout

Proto:87 #8 Turnout


A lot of fiddling to get it on the tracks and going. First try it wouldn’t run, I figured out the decoder had come unseated. Second try the loco kept derailing until I figured out I hadn’t reinstalled the worm gear housings correctly. Third and fourth try still had decoder issues. Fifth time was a charm. I ran a Proto:87 train consist of an SD40-2, an Atlas PressureAide Hopper, and an Atlas Corn Syrup tank car. The train was run on standard Peco flex track around a 24″ radius curve. Hey, it actually works!

Proto:87 Test Train

Proto:87 Test Train

© 2012 Greg Amer
Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha