Test fitting turnouts to what will be the west end of Santiago Yard.  Turnout nearest you is the main track turnout fitted with a spring frog, to be installed when this yard is laid in place for good.  All are CN No. 7 built using the aluminum template that I’d described earlier.  They still need throw rods.  See below….

Slowly, I’ve been building up a stock of CN No. 7 turnouts for the layout.  Santiago Yard needs seven–one left and right with spring frogs for the main track turnouts to the yard, and two each left and right for the turnouts to No. 1/2/3 Siding.  The seventh is off the main track between the turnouts to the yard, and is the switch to downtown Lindsay east of the river.  This turnout is shown in my photos from 1983 below.  All other tracks in Santiago Yard were removed in the fall of 1964.–

Looking east and west at the switch to downtown Lindsay, 1983.  The flat vacant area to the south where Santiago’s yard tracks were until 1964 was still visible.   


Spring frog follows CN practice for 100-pound rail, modelled here in Code 70 rail in HO scale. I’ve developed a method for making these work, which I’ll explain later.

I’m experimenting with thin throw rods, following CN practice.  These are close to scale width, using Fast Tracks’ Z scale PC board ties.  I read an article on Trevor Marshall’s blog showing how he built these, expanded on in the October Railroad Model Craftsman.  My technique is almost identical to Trevor’s.


Shown here in a Code 55 CN no. 7 turnout, two Fast Tracks Z scale PC board ties are used for the throw rods.  The throw rod in between the headblock ties is reinforced by a piece of Code 100 rail filed down; with the amount of work required to make this, I’ll follow Trevor’s lead and just use a piece of 1/8″ wide stock in future.  A hole is drilled in that reinforcing piece for the vertical switch rod from the switch machine or hand throw.

I’m still building turnouts.  I’ve a stock of no. 7 and no. 6 frogs, etc. that I’d prepared almost two decades ago that are now being built into turnouts.  Ill probably stop when I’ve built them all up so that I’ve a stock of turnouts ready to install.

It’s amazing what I can get done if I stay off the internet!


Switches for Santiago Yard


                              Looking east along the site of Santiago Yard, 1983.

Having built the roadbed and benchwork for Santiago, it’s time to build some turnouts.   


CN no. 7 turnout diagram0001

                                                        CN number 7 turnout plan

When building this new version of the Midland Railway, I decided to use NMRA no. 6 turnouts for yards, and CN no. 7 turnouts wherever  passenger equipment and/or large steam locomotives such as Mikadoes would traverse the diverging route.  The odd industrial spur might use a number 5, but I’m limiting my use of those to where short cars and small steam loco’s might use them.   A CN no. 7 turnout built in HO scale is not much longer than an NMRA no. 6, yet allows almost any model rail equipment to run through it.

Fast Tracks makes some nice assembly fixtures for NMRA number 5/6/7 turnouts, but not for a CN no. 7.  The NMRA number 7 is a longer turnout than the CN version when built in HO scale.  As I’ll be using a lot of the CN no. 7’s, I needed some device to help me build these in a consistent fashion and faster than laying them out using offsets and a scale ruler–every time.  Here’s the diagram, taken from the CN turnout plan—

CN no. 7 turnout offset diagram

I converted the offsets from feet and inches on the CN plan to HO scale decimal measurements, and drew up a rough dimensioned drawing for a closure rail jig that fits between the gauge sides of the curved and straight closure rails.  The left edge is where the tips of the switch points are located–


I was given some 2′ square 1/16″ thick aluminum signs a few years ago.  I’d tried cutting a piece to make this closure rail jig using sheet metal shears, but found that I produced a piece of crumpled, distorted sheet metal which would not make a good closure rail form without lots of work flattening it.  A little online research told me that when cutting sheet metal with shears, the smaller piece being cut takes the stress from the process, distorting it.  Ah-ha!  But if you use a jig saw and a metal cutting blade…

With a metal cutting blade in my old Sears Canada saber saw, I cut out an oversized blank.  This process did not result in distortion, but a lot of swarf was produced by the blade.  No big deal.  This blank was then filed and sanded to produce a truly straight edge on one side.  This edge became the edge that the gauge side of the straight closure rail is placed against.

I marked out the dimensions from my rough drawing on the aluminum sheet, using the straight edge for reference.   I cut small slivers of aluminum off the sheet until I was near to the markings, leaving the part slightly oversize.   This prevented distortion of the jig, as the cut-off slivers took the stress.  I finished my cutting and shaping of this jig using a mill bastard file.  Here’s the finished jig for setting and soldering to ties (or spiking them to wood ties) curved and straight closure rails for a CN no. 7 turnout in HO scale–


I white-glue a CN no. 7 turnout diagram to a scrap sheet of glass, then white-glue Fast Tracks’ PC board ties to the diagram.  Here’s an example, with rails ready to be soldered to the ties–



I lay the frog in place first, measuring distance from frog to points and soldering the frog in place.  I clean the tie tops off using a sanding stick, sand the base of the rails by drawing them over 400-grit sandpaper, and spread some rosin paste flux on the tie tops before soldering the rails to ties using regular 60/40 electrical solder.



This is followed by soldering the straight closure rail in place.  I then bend the curved closure rail to almost conform to the jig, and solder it in place against the jig, as seen in the bottom turnout here–


The rest of the turnout is gauged off the soldered curved and straight closure rails, as well as those of the frog assembly.  I use a three-point gauge to hold the rails as I solder them, checking my work afterwards using an NMRA Mark IV Standards gauge.  I then run a set of trucks fitted with narrow-tread Code 88 wheels through it, looking for gauge issues, binding, or metal chips in the running surfaces of the turnout.

I soak the finished turnout in hot water to soften the white glue holding ties and diagram to the glass sheet.  A scraper is used to gently separate the ties from the paper diagram, then the diagram from the glass sheet.  Glue another diagram on the sheet, and the process begins again.

So far, so good.  This use of a home-built jig-works well if you can’t buy a commercial turnout assembly fixture.  1/16″ thick aluminum sheet gives me a jig that will allow me to use Code 40 to 83 rail to build a turnout, using just this one jig.  Left or right-handed versions of the CN no. 7 turnout are easy to build–just flip the jig over for right- or left-hand versions.

If Fast Tracks or Oak Hill makes a turnout assembly fixture for what you want.  Buy it and use it.  Don’t make your own closure rail jig.  But if you want to model New York Central, Illinois Central, or even British Railways’ flat-bottom rail post-WWII turnout and have scale drawings for it, my method may work well for you.




Progress report on Santiago Yard



Almost ready to lay track!  The string line is used to check uniformity of main track level along the thirteen feet of roadbed. There will be a main track on the left and three yard tracks to the right of it.

With roadbed and sub-roadbed glued together, I set about to build the frame to support it.  While L-girder benchwork is easy to build and forgiving of poor carpentry skills such as mine, I decided to use open-grid benchwork, as it’s much thinner than L-girder.  For the multi-level layout that I plan to build to get what I want for mainline run, this is a concern.

I cut a few lengths of 3 inch wide strips of 3/4″ thick plywood from a 4′ x 8′ sheet.  Two strips were cut to 5′-6″ long.  These were each butt-joined to an eight-foot long strip, with a foot-long 3″ wide splice plate glued to one side of the joint and then clamped together to make two 13′-6″ long side members.  Several strips of 3″ wide, 3/4″ plywood were cut to 10 1/2″ long for joists to run between the side members.  I drilled three 1/2″ holes through their sides to accommodate DCC bus line and Digitrax LocoNet lines.

I screwed a couple of joists to the side members, connecting them and making a basic benchwork frame 12″ wide.


Roadbed temporarily screwed to a joist.  These screws will later be withdrawn and the holes plugged. The level is used to check roadbed cross-level as I build the benchwork.

The roadbed assembly was screwed to the joists and checked for cross level.  Satisfied that the roadbed was level, I added joists between the side members, checking that the roadbed remained level. I did not want to use risers as this would introduce complexity, height, and weight to the roadbed/benchwork assembly.


An example of roadbed and benchwork construction for Santiago Yard.  The skilled carpenter will likely find my work a little rough, but fascia, scenery, and track should make this all look a lot better by the time that I’m done. 

Using this type of benchwork construction, I’ve built a rigid layout benchwork/roadbed combination that is less than four inches high.


The screws in the roadbed were removed.  Screws through the joists into the roadbed replaced these and can be withdrawn easily if needed.  I hate removing screws from the roadbed when they are under ballast or ties.


Soon I’ll build the turnouts to lead Santiago’s three yard tracks off from the main line.  Still to be drawn on the roadbed are accurate track centre lines for placing the ties.

More to come….



Roadbed for Santiago Yard


New sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard and some other stuff in the back of my car on arrival home from the building centre.

Having found the original sub-roadbed to be a bit warped, I drove over to the local Home Building Centre.  For the price of a 4′ x 8′ sheet of good-one-side 3/4″ thick fir plywood and a cutting fee of a dollar per cut, I get the needed sub roadbed cut to my desired width.

The staff pulled a sheet of plywood off the top of a pile of sheets, and took it over to a Skilsaw mounted on vertical rails, with its blade pointed horizontally at a wall.  With the saw set for a seven inch wide cut, one person slid the plywood past the saw, which cut the plywood at an accurate width.  Two passes, and I had sixteen feet of sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard.  While they were cutting this plywood, I had the staff also cut four more strips of plywood three inches wide.  I will use this in place of dimensional lumber in layout benchwork in future.  Dropped the back seat in my Hyundai Elantra, and slid the cut plywood in.  I’d never fit 4′ x 8′ sheets in this car, so cutting the plywood at the building centre made both my sub-roadbed and allowed me to fit the wood in my car.


7″ wide sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard on the right, four three-inch wide strips of plywood on the left, and the remainder of the sheet standing vertically almost for later use–the west end of Lindsay yard, perhaps?

I stacked everything on my deck, and cut one piece of Santiago’s sub-roadbed to 5′-6″ long.  Joined to the 8′ long piece, I’ll have a 13′-6″ long piece of subroadbed.  The distance point to point of the east to west switches of Santiago is 12′-6″, so this will give six inches of single track beyond the points to join the sub-roadbed to adjoining pieces of sub-roadbed as I incorporate this into a layout.


Sub-roadbed for east end Santiago Yard cut to suit CN No. 7 turnout angle on Santiago Yard lead.

I traced out the roadbed’s edge on the sub-roadbed, and cut the angle of the lead’s roadbed using my Swedish cross-cut handsaw.  I can always use exercise, and this saw makes short work of cutting lumber.  The sub-roadbed is purposely wide on the turnout side to accommodate headblock ties.  The east main track switch will eventually receive Rapido Trains’ Rail Crew switch machine, which has a neat feature that moves the target on the switchstand as the machine moves the points.  Which means that the roadbed has to be overwide here, too.


Apologies offered for the ugliness of this affair set up in the basement for test-fitting of sub-roadbed and roadbed.    But I can visualise how this all will go together.

I dry-assembled the sub-roadbed and roadbed temporarily in the basement on supports from an old layout to check out my work.  Clamps hold it all together for now.  Success!

Now to glue it all together and draw track centre and tie-end lines for handlaying track on it.


Test-fitting the joint between sub-roadbed pieces for Santiago.  


Another view of the whole thing.  Track centrelines are accurate on half the roadbed, but have to be re-drawn on the other half before ties are laid down.  Careful work is called for when laying out the centrelines.