Maximizing Turnout Performance

Presented by Rob Spangler
 Mechanical
 Electrical
Brands I have used:
 Atlas
 Shinohara/Walthers
 Micro Engineering
 Central Valley (kits)
 BK Enterprises and Railway Engineering
types that are ready to lay on userinstalled ties
Turnouts are not “plug and play.”
 Except for handlaid and Central Valley
kits, no commercial products completely
comply with NMRA standards.
 Manufacturing variances and lack of
NMRA conformance necessitate user
intervention to ensure optimum
 NMRA standards gauge
 Flat mill file
 Small jeweler’s files
 Needle nose pliers
 Dremel tool with cut-off disks
 Soldering iron, flux and solder
 Pin vise and small drills
Use an NMRA standards gauge to check
the entire turnout. Know how to properly
use the gauge (instructions can be found
at the NMRA web site at
 Atlas: Wide
at points (especially code 100
turnouts), wide flangeways.
 Shinohara/Walthers: Incorrect check
gauge through frog, wide flangeways,
Walthers 83 wide at ends of all routes.
 Micro Engineering: Incorrect check
 Not
all can be readily corrected. The
following can…
 Atlas points: Carefully bend the stock rail
on the diverging route toward the
opposite rail at the points. You may need
to drill a few holes for spikes to maintain
 Shinohara/Walthers
and Micro
Engineering check gauge: File the back
side of the frog’s wing rails until the
flangeway gauge fits properly. Full
correction may not be possible due to the
way the turnout is manufactured.
 Shinohara/Walthers wide gauge
elsewhere: Remove plastic ties at the
ends of the turnout, and re-spike on wood
Does everything line up? Do all parts of
the turnout align properly so wheels can
smoothly travel through the entire
turnout? Are there any spots where
mechanical interferences can occur?
 Atlas: Frog
casting misaligned, sharp
notches at points, heel of point rail doesn’t
line up with closure rail, casting flash
around frog, tie strip crooked, points bend
away from stock rails.
 Shinohara/Walthers: vertical misalignment
at frog, casting flash around frog, tie strip
crooked, blunt points, copper contact strip
crooked at points.
 Micro Engineering: Frog casting
misaligned, blunt points.
 Peco: See if the clinic provides any hints…
 Atlas
• Use a mill file to file the entire top of the turnout
flat, paying close attention to the frog. Keep
going until all vertical misalignment is
• Eliminate all casting flash on running surfaces
around the frog.
• Use a jeweler’s file to smooth the sharp edge of
the notch at the points and any rough transitions
between the points and closure rails.
 Atlas
• Sight down the rails to see if the turnout is
straight. Most are not, due to tie strip casting
problems between the frog and the heel of the
points. Use the Dremel tool and cutoff disk to cut
alternating portions of the webbing under the
ties, to essentially turn the problem area into
flextrack (avoid cutting below the heel of the
points due to the mechanical and electrical
connection there). Carefully straighten the rails.
 Atlas
• Bend the points as necessary to sit flush against
the stock rails. Be careful not to damage the
mechanical connection to the throwbar.
 Shinohara/Walthers
• Use the mill file to file the top of the frog area
flat. The frog point is often high, as are the ends
of the wing rails.
• Use a jeweler’s file to sharpen the tops of the
points. Also round off the vertical end of each
point rail to eliminate the right angle.
• Remove casting flash and correct crooked tie
strips as per Atlas.
• Cut the copper strip under the points out if it
starts to interfere with smooth point operation.
 Micro
• Use the mill file to eliminate vertical
misalignment at the frog.
• Use jeweler’s files to correct the check gauge.
• File the point rails as per Shinohara/Walthers.
Check all wheelsets for correct gauge.
 Ensure all trucks can move properly, both
vertically and horizontally.
 Get rid of plastic wheels! Plastic wheels are
subject to wobbling due to casting and assembly
irregularities, and are prone to build up of crud on
the treads. High quality metal wheels reduce
 Watch coupler trip pin height.
 Ensure all rail joints are smooth and secure. I
solder all joints at turnouts.
 Electrical
discontinuity can affect all
 “DCC friendly” turnouts seem to have
fewer problems with discontinuity than
 On any turnout with a dead frog, power
routing from switch machine contacts or a
“Frog Juicer” can reduce stalling at the
frog. Such a device can also route power
around bad point contacts.
 Atlas
• Connection at heel of points fails. This can
usually be solved by ensuring a feeder is routing
power into each closure rail from both directions,
without a stock rail – closure rail connection in
between. In rare cases it may be necessary to
run a feeder to the closure rail.
 Shinohara/Walthers
• Jumper failure (DCC friendly turnouts) – solder a
feeder to any dead closure or point rail.
• Dirty points (non- DCC friendly turnouts) – ensure
the point/stock rail interface is clean and that points
are maintaining good mechanical contact with the
stock rails. A Frog Juicer or other contact device can
route power if desired.
• Shorting (non-DCC friendly turnouts) – ensure there
are no feeders on any rail leading out of a frog. Feed
stock rails only. Check electrical gaps. Watch
spacing at points with longer wheelbase steamers.
 Micro
• Dead rail heading out of the frog – ME does not
provide factory jumpers on its current DCC
friendly turnouts. The user needs to ensure
electricity flows to these rails.
• Jumper failure – fix as per Shinohara/Walthers.
 Take
your time to install all trackwork
carefully, especially turnouts. Realize that
you cannot depend on track components
to perform perfectly without tune-up.
 Trackwork will not perform well unless it
is built on a good foundation. Quality
roadbed construction is critical for
building quality track.

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