Wolfgang Dudler

Oct 12 , 2011


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Scratch build your own turnouts

My firsts scratch built turnouts were built for my module "Naumburg" in 1987. Those turnout kits had 7° and 1700mm radius with spikes and tie plates. I've built later for my German style layouts quite a few more, even double slip ones.

Later I decided to solder my turnouts to PC board ties. This way the turnouts will keep longer and are more easy to adjust. Now I've soldered a few hundreds for my layouts I estimate.

I've built quite a few crossings too. Here is the curved crossing for Diamond Valley.

There’re a lot of different turnouts commercially available. But if you want special turnouts or you’re into narrow gauge there’re only a few manufacturers like Railway Engineering,    Cream City Turnouts.

Or you can scratch build your own turnouts. That’s a lot cheaper and fun! Joe Fugate shows the use of Central Valley ties as jig to make a turnout. But sometimes you need a special turnout.

You start every turnout with a drawing. For special turnouts you have to make your own drawing. Most standard turnouts have drawings in the internet, like Fast Tracks . I very strongly recommend to view the FastTracked Turnout Video.

For this example I wanted a H0n3 code 55 curved turnout. From the layout plan I needed an inner radius – my minimum radius – of 500 mm. The red lines are the center lines. These are the lines you really need. All other lines are only for faster working.

For standard turnouts I use the templates from Fast Track.

... and the finished turnout, ready to install ...


At first you have to get some ties. You can buy them e.g. at Fast Tracks - or make them like me.

Cutting the PC board into stripes. And it's a good idea to use a vacuum or do it outdoors.
You have to remove some flash.

I printed the template and glued PC board ties to the template ( on a flat surface like a glass pane ). I’ve glued about every sixth tie, a few more at the throw bar and at the frog. The other ties, wooden ties will be later inserted.

PC board ties are glued.
I've used more ties at the points and at the frog. You see my "tie spacing template" too.

You need the NMRA gauge and some tools like files and soldering iron. I use intensive a bench circular saw from Böhler I’ve bought many years ago. With this tool I make the frogs and points.

Let’s start with soldering. Usually I start with the outer (usual straight) stock rail. With the grinding disk I remove the base of the rail for the point section. Then I solder the rail at a few ties.

I've filed the base smooth.
I soldered only a few ties. Looking over the rail.
You see the soldered ties.

With this rail I have a base and I use the NMRA gauge to check from this base. The next rail is the frog rail. I’ve sanded the frog angle and the rail base where the other frog rail connects.

Sanding one frog rail.
I soldered the first frog rail at one temporary point.
Checking the gauge.
And soldering the frog.
Now I solder the other ties of the frog rail.
Testing the second frog rail .
Again at first soldering at one point, next to the frog.
Soldering the frog points.
And the whole second frog rail.
These are the wing rails. I made the cut with the rail nipper and filed it.
Only one point is soldered.
Checking the gauge.
The wing rail finished.
I added two more PC board ties .
This is my way to make a "hinged point rail", it's faked.
I cut only the top and the base of the rail.
The turnout so far.
The second - inner - stock rail. Look at the removed base for the points.
Cutting the gap at the frog.
Gaps at the PC board ties.

And the video shows more details, like connecting the throw bar and points.

Now the guard rails and finished:


And all together in a video:

This HowTo works for a dual gauge #8 turnout, too. Start with a straight rail and work from frog to point, always with this first rail as reference. And even a crossing is no problem, it takes only some time.

dual # 8 3541-50