Layout Construction · Proto48 · Research · Trackwork

How’d That Turnout?

Overview of the frieght house siding at St. George. Turnouts are nearly complete. Siding is code 83 and drops a little below the main tracks to the right. Sad looking freight house mockup helps set the scene. Detail work on the outside braced CN boxcar is languishing as effort is focused on trackwork.

Rail is going down slowly but surely in St. George starting with the freight house siding and the two turnouts that feed it. I’ve been researching trackwork both in photographs of the period (circa 1953) and in situ on the ex B&M mogul branches here in New Hampshire. My turnouts are a close approximation of those I’ve seen in photos of Peterborough, NH. Although much primitive trackwork exists, turnouts on the Hillsboro branch have been modernized over the last 60-70 years and haven’t been as helpful as I had hoped. I’m still looking for one out Bennington way that is more primitive. A hike is planned out of S. Bennington to the Elmwood Jct. site and beyond to end of track with the hope of bagging an older turnout. My Springer Spaniel Rosie will help suss that out, I’m sure. She has the nose for it.

A photo on page 64 of Model Railroad Planning 2000 is the best photo I have for a turnout of the period. It shows few tie plates, few rail braces, less of everything compared to a modern turnout. I also like the funky guard rails the B&M had at that time — at least out there. I’ve seen them in other photos. The D&NE turnouts are derived from this style.

St. George freight house switch nearly complete. Need rail braces outside the guard rails. They’re on order.

All the turnouts on the D&NE are being built in code 100 (75#) rail. This turnout, the frieght house switch, is nominally #6 but is actually an equilateral of sorts. Both legs are in easements facing opposite directions. The frog needed to be built on the workbench. It has Tichy NBW details.

Tie plates are from Right-O-Way and Grandt Line along with homemade ones in 0.020″ styrene. Rail braces, gauge plates and code 100 insulated joint bars are from Right-O-Way. Code 83 joint bars came from Foothill Model Works.

Beautiful guard rail castings are available too but I like to make my own in the style of the old B&M ones I mentioned. They are made from code 83 rail so that track cleaning won’t scuff off the weathering.

The points are tied together with circuit board ties and pins. I drill a pair of #68 holes in the circuit board ties exactly 0.562″ apart (or as close as I can get!) and then drop the pin through the saddle that is cast on the point. These are soldered to the circuit board cladding from the backside. As my points are wired hot, the copper cladding is cleaned off of the center of the ties, both sides.

The beautiful gauge plate is a brass casting from Right-O-Way. It’s insulated with a styrene spacer. Strictly speaking, in non-signaled territory like this with no track circuits, there is really no need for an insulated gauge plate but why not! As you can see, the slide plates are styrene with Right-O-Way rail braces.

The freight house siding is spiked with tiny stainless steel spikes from Proto:87 Stores. I’m using them primarily on foreground code 83 rail. You need a high power Optivisor for this work! For the code 100 rail, I’m using the small spikes from Fast Tracks. The goal is four spikes per tie but I fudge on background track and track that is behind a structure or buried in grass. The public delivery track was laid in code 100 rail with spikes every fourth tie as it is in the background and will be buried in dirt.

And no tie plates. The prototype didn’t have them, except at turnouts. This saves a lot of fuss.

[One thing I’ve noticed about proto-48 is that it seems a little easier to get the trackwork just right! Why is that? The flanges are so small yet the trucks track beautifully. What does the prototype know that we don’t?]


The point end of the freight house turnout.
A #6 turnout under construction.
The points for the #6 turnout on track 2 under construction. The stock rails are soldered to #6 brass flat head screws to firm them up as they are adjacent to the French River bridge.
Overview of the turnout ladder. Yeah… I’m a messy worker!

I can’t wait to paint and weather this trackwork! Some of the rail was sprayed with ruddy brown primer years ago. I’ll be sure to spray all of the rail ahead of time from now on. The plan is to touch up the rails and details with acrylic paint in rust and umber colors then apply Pan Pastels in various rusty, cruddy shades — all with a brush. Oily black highlights around the point workings along with oil drippings down the center of the track will help complete the picture. The ballast is a little plain and needs cinders and other variations mixed in. All good fun!


4 thoughts on “How’d That Turnout?

  1. “What does the prototype know that we don’t?”
    You mean, apart from over 200 years of running flanged wheels on iron/steel rails?

    If we don’t know it, it’s not because the prototype has hidden the secrets away. Although not always the easiest thing to find, the information is publicly available.

    And that, I think, is the strangest thing in our hobby: we claim to model Railways, yet the very thing which sets this form of transport apart from all others – the track and the flanged wheels – is usually the least well-modelled aspect. Good to see someone else pushing the envelope!

    And if you haven’t visited it, have a look at Mike Cougill’s site:
    Check out the blog, and buy his book on track! (No commercial ties – pardon the pun – but he is a friend.)



    1. Thanks, Simon. Yes, I do have Mike’s book and refer to it often. My trackage is more primitive than his – lighter rail, fewer appliances – as it represents an older branchline. But what I was getting at was the fine scale P48 wheel standards. They do track well!


      1. They track well because they have been refined over the decades – and still are being refined – as part of a system. Each dimension works with the others, and changing things without this consideration destroys the harmony. The simplest solution is to avoid incremental changes, and the easiest way to do that, is to scale from the prototype.

        Being fundamentally lazy, I like doing things the easy way – even if most people view it as hard!

        My comments may not come across properly, but they are intended to be supportive.


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