No. 140: New Turnouts for a New Layout

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I spent all last week in Mezraya, Djerba Island, Tunisia, leading U.S. participation in a small international airshow.  Djerba is a sleepy report island in southwest Tunisia near the border with Libya.  It was a great experience and as always the Tunisian people were friendly, happy and grateful.  It was a long week—many 12+-hour work days.

The photo above shows a few of the jets we brought down.  In the foreground is Air Force KC-135, at center is an Air Force C-130J, and farthest away—with the number 426—is a new Navy P-8.  The team and I flew down on the C-130.

Below.  Here is a photo of me with one of the Tunisian C-130 crews before the air show started. I’ve been working with these guys for a long time and they’re my friends.  The Tunisians consider themselves “European Muslim” and they don’t get into all the jihad crap.  They love America.  Their military is full of well-trained, well-educated women too, like Capt Lajnef at center.  They all speak Arabic, English and French.  My French—all 25 words of it—got a serious workout.

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I won’t bore you with all the stories from the airshow but it was a great event and we met a lot of great people from 28 countries.  Our hotel on the beach was nice too…


…and no visit to Tunisia would be complete without a visit to a nearby grocery store to stock up on red wine and olive oil.

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I brought a model along but had little time and no energy to assemble it.  However, over the last two months I’ve accomplished a lot of new work on track for the next layout.  Here are some photos of the work.

On my late Ackley, Iowa layout I built turnouts using Central Valley tie strip and Proto87 Stores parts. I used Printed-Circuit-Board (PCB) ties for throwbars.  If the turnouts had any weakness it was the throwbars, as it took a whole lot of work to repair or replace a PCB throwbar.

Turnouts for the new layout—whatever that layout will be—are already being built.  Until I decide what to build I’m building a large variety of switches using mostly items I have on hand, knowing I will be able to use some or all of them.


This time, I’m building turnouts using three different methods:

  • Scratchbuilt using CV ties and P87 Stores parts
  • Kitbashed using a Micro Engineering turnout with replacement frogs and P87 Stores parts
  • Kitbashed using Shinohara turnout as a starting point, and replacing almost everything

I’ll start the picture show with the Shinohara turnouts.  You know Shinohara turnouts aren’t DCC-friendly and the details are not up to today’s standards, but they’re cheap and plentiful and are the only way to get a wye unless you want to use a Fast Tracks or other system.

Below is a totally rebuilt Shinohara Code 70 #4 left.  From left to right, I added a few Central Valley ties, then replaced the Shinohara throwbar with a Micro Engineering Code 70 #6 throwbar set trimmed to fit.  I attached the throwbar to the closure rails with Code 70 rail joiners to provide a tight fit and better electrical connectivity.  The white metal detail parts are from Details West.  The joint bars are from Details West and Grandt Line.

The frog is a replacement part from Proto87 Stores.  It was easy to cut and dig the original frog out, but I had to be really careful when it came to trimming the rails to fit the new frog.  I added a few more detail parts from Proto87 Stores and also a few more Central Valley ties on the diverging rails.  The work took about 2-1/2 hours.


Here’s a much more complex rebuild.  This is a Shinohara Code 70 #4 Wye.  About all I kept was the rail.  I have replaced most of the ties, and the frog and throwbar are all completely new.


Below.  Here’s a closeup of the throwbar.  I replaced the ties in front and behind with Central Valley ties.  To do this, I first installed an underlayer or .005 styrene and then slid each tie in position one by one.  The throwbar is a PCB tie from Fast Tracks, soldered to the point rails that were originally installed on the turnout.  The header ties are Micro Engineering wood ties.  The detail parts are from Details West.  The tie plates are from Proto87 Stores and are applied to wood ties that have no detail.


This one isn’t finished yet of course.  I just recieved the replacement #4 frog from Andy Reichert at Proto87 Stores a few weeks ago and haven’t had time to install it yet.

Someday soon I will rebuild this Shinohara Code 70 #8.  I originally installed this turnout on a small layout I built in my first house in Charleston, South Carolina way back in the early 1990s.  I don’t know if I’ll ever use this turnout, and it’ll take a whole lot of work to complete, but it’ll be nice to have in case I ever need it. 


I’m also building turnouts using Central Valley (CV) tie strips.  This is an easier process but usually requires that I file my own point rails, which is time consuming.

The turnout below is a Code 55 #5.  Not commercially available of course–hence the challenge.  The tie strip is a Central Valley product, and the rails are all cut, filed and fit by yours truly.  The frog is from Proto87 Stores.  Like the Shinohara turnout above, I used rail joiners to join the point rails to the closure rails.  To provide a level track surface using the rail joiners I use a miniature round file and file a divot in the ties underneath the joiner.  The ties are each end are Central Valley.


Another Code 55, #5 is below–this one a left hand.  I have added some details to the throwbar.  From Zero to Finished and Totally Detailed, the build for these turnouts takes about 2-1/2 hours.

Below.  Here’s what the workbench looks like when I start.  Gotta have the Lego horse–that’s a top priority.


Here is the Code 55 throwbar and point-set after construction.  It probably takes 10-15 minutes to file the points to shape.  Then I use masking tape to secure the point rails in place on top of the PCB tie—ensuring the rails are completely 90-degrees vertical (that’s VERY important!)—and then I solder them in place.  The line cut between the rails is done with a motor tool with a cutting disk to isolate the rails.


Here’s another Code 55 turnout.  This one has a few more details installed.


This photo shows one of the Code 55 turnouts with Proto87 Stores joint bars installed.  The joint bars disappear when the turnout is painted, but magically reappear in closeup photos.


The hardest part of building these turnouts is getting the frog in the right position, and it’s not all that hard, really.  I lay both outside rails and then position the frog so that it is in alignment with both outside rails.  The Central Valley tie strip is built to make this process easy.


Below.  Here is a Code 70, #6 turnout built from Central Valley tie strip and mostly Proto87 Stores parts.  The frog is a re-used part from the Ackley layout.


The easiest turnouts to rebuild are Micro Engineering switches. On Micro Engineering turnouts I replace the frog with Proto87 Stores frogs and add some detail parts, and that’s it.

Below.  The turnout on top is a Micro Engineering Code 70 #6 right out of the package.  It’s a great product.  Below it is a rebuilt Micro Engineering turnout with a Proto87 Stores “Manganese Frog” and some additional detail parts added.  No header ties are installed yet.


The advantage to using Micro Engineering turnouts as a starting point is the detail level is good, and the throw bar is durable.  Digging the ME frog out is easy.  Here, below, is  Code 70 #6 right with a replacement “Manganese” frog from Proto87 Stores.  The new frog was glued into place with Gorilla Glue.


Although I didn’t get any modeling done on my latest work trip, I was a little productive online after hours.  I agreed to write three articles for a friend’s blog, agreed to provide material for a manufacturer who wants to release a new model, and planned four more blog posts.  I’m also still helping just a little bit with St. Louis RPM, and am finishing six freight car models for another friend.  All that in addition to the three of four builds of my own on the workbench.  The rest of March is going to be quite busy!


Be sure to stay away from that darn Corona Virus!  – John G


5 thoughts on “No. 140: New Turnouts for a New Layout

  1. John:
    Do you use Proto87 frogs because you use code 88 wheels, and which level of Proto87 frog do you buy? “Leave as kit” or? Many thanks and may you and yours be safe from corona virus.
    Chuck Wille


  2. Great post! Thanks John. I’ve been wondering how to upgrade my shinohara turnouts for my new layout, and how to come up with some code 55 turnouts with comparable detail.


    • Hi Marty, I prefer using Tortoise or Switchmaster motors. Installing them means a lot more work up front, but during operation that keeps hands out of the layout. In my opinion the less hands in the layout, the better. There is already enough reaching-in for uncoupling. I also like a small fascia-mounted switch to throw the turnout and nothing else. I guess that’s the minimalist in me. A nice clean fascia I think focuses the operator on the layout, not on maps and things all over the fascia. John G


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