Proto:87 Posse Builds Turnouts

Last night was a hideous night for driving to Langley. The roads were deep and shining with rain, and in traffic my windshield wipers could barely keep up. As with most North Vancouverites, I rarely go across the Second Narrows, much less the Port Mann Bridge, and so, of course we missed our turn and overshot. Fortunately, Julian had his phone with him and was able to redirect me back to the true path.

Jim Peters was our gracious host for the evening. And thrust drinks into our hands as soon as we were in the door; that helped to cool our nerves after the drive.

Jim has started benchwork for his model of a chunk of Prince Rupert yard. The yard throat will be to scale, although he’s elided a few tracks. He will also replace the western-most turnouts with a sector plate to save a little more room. In an unusual solution to prototype modeling in a small space, the mainline will curve across two of the yard tracks so it can avoid disappearing out the window, and follow the walls around to a small staging yard behind his drafting table.

Jim’s not quite committed to Proto:87 yet as he’s unsure if he can build track that will work. At the last meeting we realized that most of the Posse are in the same boat and have never built a turnout before. So we brought along Brian Pate, who has built more track than anyone I know. With Brian, we had a little hand-laying mini-clinic right in Jim’s train room.

Brian provided some short instruction and then a couple of us sallied forth with soldering irons blazing. Key takeaways for me were that Brian only uses PC board ties through his turnouts, rather than mixing PC board and wood as many people do. He tins all his ties as well as the underside of his rail.

He builds all his turnouts on full-size templates off the layout; the template is affixed to his favorite piece of plywood with Lepage spray on adhesive, and the ties are glued down with Lepage Hobby Cement. These both dissolve with lacquer thinner when he’s finished the soldering and ready to move the track to the layout. Between turnouts, Brian uses flex track.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t room for everyone to sling their solder, and so, most watched and listened. I built a curved number 7 because Chris declared he couldn’t understand how to make curved turnouts work. Brian already had a turnout under construction.

We take different approaches to building turnouts. Brian uses the method that I was originally taught many years ago: lay the two stock rails, and then joggle the frog around until it is in perfect gauge relative to the stock rails.

Brian’s is the easier way to build track, but it typically results in the point of the frog falling wherever it wants to, rather than on a specific tie as per the prototype. Since people started nit-picking my track, I’ve been gauging the frog to one stock rail, then laying the other stock rail to the frog.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring anything to pin my rail down with as I was soldering it, and so, the gauge on the diverging route got kind of wonky. In particular the flangeway was much too wide, and we got a good demonstration of why that is no good when I ran a truck through. The main route was perfect, however, and a truck ran through nicely without a guard rail.

I think everyone finished the night with a little more knowledge and inspiration to try out handlaying themselves. Next meetup is tentatively schedule for Julian’s place. I’m hoping for every extra month I can get as my basement is nowhere near ready to host the posse!

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