Right-O-Way: How to Build a ROW Turnout

Right-O-Way makes highly detailed track and turnout castings for the 2 rail O scale community.  They are considered by many to be the best you can buy.  There are a handful of articles in existence explaining how to build a turnout from their parts.  Here at STS I have built quite a number of them.  Like anything worthwhile there is a learning curve.  The intention here is to shorten that curve as much as possible.  I have experienced obstacles needing work around's that in the end delivered a turnout not only highly photogenic but stone reliable.  This particular example I call a simple, plain-Jane, run of the mill, super detailed turnout.  In other words: this does not use all possible parts available such as tie plates, gauge plates, braces, etc.  It does use ROW points, frog, guard rails, throw bar, and rail joiners.
The approach for this article is an attempt at making 40+ steps quick and easy - high-lighting the most vital.  However, it is impossible for me to keep things simple.  The example is a #6 LH standard turnout.  It is just half of a rather tricky crossover that also involves a menacing curved #8 RH turnout that only follows some of the rules.  My logic is not to scare you off.  Its to show what can be done in a simpler form, but also to explain unusual configurations you might see on a track plan.  The #6 will be detailed in the first two sections:  'Part 1' and 'Comments for Part 1'.  The #8 is 'Part 2' and 'Comments for Part 2'.  At the very end is the 'Addendum' that explains things like tools needed, financial trade offs and anything I can think of that might help.  So simply begin scrolling down
REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT NOTE:  This article will involve the use of tools that can hurt you.  For example a Cut-Off tool spins at a very high rpm.  AND, the rotation is such that, for a right-hander, the lower portion of the disk - the actually cutting edge - is throwing its debris right at your eye! (There is no reversing switch). You could be in ER before you make your second cut. No one wants that to happen!  This also goes for drill presses, grinders, sanders, cutters, even soldering tools. Please go buy at least 5 goggles (about $3-4 each) and put one near every power tool you have. Your eyeglasses will not work.  Please use them! 

The link to ROW itself:  http://www.right-o-way.us./  

Part 1:

Start with two pieces of 3 x 36 balsa laid out on wax paper.  (The balsa platform, in this case, is 1/8″ thick because we are in a yard using code 125 rail.  The #8 coming up later is on 3/16″ balsa using code 148.  That will be discussed at length in Part 2.  The rationale for these thicknesses is matching up to cork roadbed on adjacent track).





Lay a bead of white or yellow glue along the edge






Push em together.  




Another layer of wax paper and some cleverly placed weights





What you need to cut ties:  Tie template, cutter, ties (not shown).  Yep we need to talk about that tie template.  Look to the ‘Addendum section at the end of Part 2 for an explanation.



Look close.  You can see the ties in between the spacers.  Arrows point to headblocks, and frog location.  

A little masking tape and your tie strip is ready for the next step.  A note about the tape itself:  I think the photo shows 1″ or 1 1/2″;  2″ is a lot better.  Easier to handle and won’t twist so much.  





Back to the balsa platform.  Draw lines to indicate rails (remember that’s a ‘gauge’ so the lines indicate inside edge).  Outside lines are the ends of the ties.

*** REALLY important step:  notice the card board and how the glue is troweled on.  A thin coat is just as good as a thick one BUT…. it lets you remove ties in the wrong place!  This will be a biggie later on.


OK, now rustle up some nerve, take a deep breath and lay those ties down.  No way in the world will you hit that outside tie edge right on and that’s actually a good thing.  Your template had an edge that caused the tape to go on in a straight line.  Just placing the ties on the glue will cause you to do some shifting. The result will be very realistic.  Now secure the whole thing in place.

Sand that baby!

Cut the balsa to the size you need. Now place the frog.  Here is where we really leave the rest of the handlaying world.  Right-O-Way is very prototypical.  Each turnout has a size number.  In this case 6.  Depending on what standard you are building there will be different dimensions that impact final appearance and performance.  In this case we are using AREA.  For this particular turnout we need a 48′-6″ lead. That is the distance from the toe of the point to the 1/2 point (sharp point) of the frog.  So, get your scale ruler, measure out the necessary dimension and place the frog along the edge of the line you drew earlier.  When you are satisfied you have it right, spike it down.  During the remainder of construction, that frog should never move!





Now we get down to laying track, that is building this turnout.  First order of business after placing the frog is to set the tangent stock rail.  The red arrow indicates where the rail gauge is NOT sitting on the frog guard rail but is tucked up tight against the 1/2 point of the frog itself.  VITAL.  What we are going to do is create a virtually zero play channel for the wheels to pass through using the frog, the stock rails and the guard rails.   

A quick note:  place your alignment tool – a straight edge – on both sides of the rail.  If the rail has been bent (even just slightly) it will not willingly follow the straight edge.                                                                     Now we are getting ready to set the diverging route rail.  Use your gauge to properly space the rails down below the headblocks.  (Headblocks are the big long ties the switch stand will sit on).  I have added special, nearly invisible tiny little arrows (sorry about that – will get fixed soon!)  so you can see where to do the spiking.  Notice lots of spikes.  When we pull the diverging rail away from the frog we need it to stay put down by the points.    As you can see in this next photo, we have pulled the diverging rail away from the frog to where it, well, diverges.  Yeah.  Lots to talk about here.  The diverging route is always curved, of course, correct?  Nope.  Through the frog, a distance of roughly 12′ the rail is dead straight.  I thought about fixing the gauge problem in the photo but decided it would be better to show what goes wrong and what it looks like.  The rail is trying to bow towards the frog.  The outer channels of the track gauges fit on the rail but the inners do not, as does the gauge itself.  You will have to push that area of the rail into alignment and put a spike on it so all the gauge channels fit in place – One spike only, a guard rail will be coming soon and that spike will be in the way.     





Here is your friendly neighborhood NMRA track gauge.  THE most important tool on your work bench.  To lay out ROW turnouts (or any other for that matter) correctly understanding the green and blue arrows is important.  Notice the shoulder on the green guy and the point the blue one is aimed at.  Notice too there is a shoulder associated. These two shoulders are your inner and outer boundaries when hand laying track.  Except, when gauging the frog.  Right now you use the inner not the outer and I mean right on!  This little move right here will force the tangent rail to be able to be dead straight and at the same time allow accurately gauged wheel sets to pass through smoothly.  If you fail to take this step correctly you could very well wind up pushing and shoving both the stock rails and the frog all over kingdom come and never get a clean movement.  Believe me, this took many many mistakes to figure out.

Below left are the guard rails installed.  Back to the above left photo, the middle tiny invisible arrows point to where the shoulder should be sitting on the stock rail so the guard rail can fit next to it perfectly.

If everything you have done up til now has been right on, the truck (that is, an ‘in gauge wheel set’ truck) will not only roll through smoothly, it will do so every time!  

Nothing tricky here.  Just add the rails beyond the frog. 

NOW we start getting a little tricky.   (Below) This is your basic everyday ‘points’ kit.  All you need, so to speak.  Take a look below.  You are going to have to notch the inner ends of the points to fit around and over the rail joiner,  each indicated by a red arrow.  Also, you will need that same moto tool to separate the joiners from their nickel silver sprue.  (Btw, the in the ROW inventory these code 125, 10′ points are the only ones that require separate rail joiners.  All the other points come with a joiner built in which means no notching.  Yes it would have made more sense but I didn’t think of that when I selected this particular example.  I guess you really can’t think of everything).   Check out the flanges that attach to the throw bar.  They are called ‘side jaw clips’.  In future photos and articles I will explain how the more ordinary points attach.  In this case, the sjc’s allow the throw bar to fit between the ties so another rail could fit in between the existing rails as in a slip switch or street trackage.

In order to measure the length of the closure rails, (which because of our 5′ standard gauge) we cannot use dimensions from drawings.  But we do know those rails fit precisely between the frog and the points.  At this moment we have the frog fixed, so lets set the points.  See the red arrow below.  Normally the tippy toe of the point sits on the rear edge of the second headblock.  Not in this case.  The reason is the other arrow.  Pay close attention to the green arrow.  You won’t believe how unhappy you will be if this winds up in the wrong place.  To fit the TB into that sjc, you need at least the width of the TB between the sjc and the front of the second headblock.  So what we are saying is:  The TB flange on the point (in this case an sjc) determines the location of the end of the point (red arrow).  That of course determines the location of the front (or heel) of the point and along with the frog decides how long the closure rail will be minus a smithering of space for insulation up at the frog end.  Whew.
  OK, moving right along, the red arrows show beginning and end of the diverging route closure rail.  Once in place glue the plastic rail joiners to the frog and rail.  Now you are safe from any shorting caused by a moving rail.





As mentioned earlier, these ROW parts are intended for prototype applications.  In the AREA world a #6 turnout has a 10 or 11′ point.  So, sjc’s are common on this size switch.  Not until you reach a #7 do the points go to 16′ 6″.  Other ROW points come with rail joiners cast in as mentioned.  Not in this case so we have to attach them ourselves.   The two photos here show how we do it.  Note: the red arrow pointing to a cut off straight pin.  We push our nsRJ onto the closure rail.  Then with a soldering gun or iron, melt a very small amount of solder into that little space (green arrow) between the rail and the RJ.  VERY little.  You don’t want any to run into the point side of the RJ.  This is necessary for all ROW switch points.  Otherwise they will slowly work their way towards the rear headblock.  Maybe become hard to operate, maybe not.  This way we are sure.

While you have the point removed slip the RJ onto the point.  Head for your drill press.  A normal straight pin calc’s out at about a #72.  So a #64 – 66 (68 maybe) works good.  Drill a hole side ways through the RJ and the point.  Do your best to center it.  Cut the pin to about 1/4″ and slip it in.  Later we will cut it shorter.  In all the yaketty yak up til now there is one point you probably drove right past.  Notice there is no notch in the stock rail to seat the toe of the point.  If you look at real RR plans you may notice a comment about a 1/4″ recess where the tip of the point rests.  Lets see: .25 divided by 48 is…..  52 ten thousands of an inch.  Show of hands who can see that?  Yeah, me neither.  What you do is this, remember the shoulder on the NMRA track gauge?  This time make sure when the first point goes in place, the spacing includes that shoulder.  Works every time.

Now its time to build our throw bar.  Photo on the right shows 3 3/4′ between what is called the clevis.  Those sjc’s on the TB will slip into the clevis.  Then another pair of straight pins will hold the points to the TB and allow them to pivot.  (I can’t tell you how many times I have delivered turnouts to a customer and watched him play with the switch machine like it was Christmas – I actually do it myself.  Much more interesting than a soldered pc strip).  The left photo show how to actually do the insulation.  That paper is cut from an ordinary envelope.  Place a little dab of medium CA on each side of the male fixture.  Then wrap the paper as shown.  Once secure, another dab on the outside of the paper.  Then push the parts together.  NOTE:  before doing any of this, make sure the two parts fit together in the first place. 


Test it.  Make sure there is no flow whatsoever.  If assembling highly detailed perfectly operating switch points and associated parts is your idea of drama, you have come to the right place.  Check out the photo below left and all the colorful arrows.  Since the pins are still #72’s use a 64 to 69 drill bit (66) to drill the three holes.  Only solder the pin for the switch machine.  We never will solder the clevis pins but we will cut all of them off.  Comment:  Use a drill press.  You can get by with a pin vise but three turnouts will drive you crazy.  Pay close – up close and personal – attention.  The bits tend to dance around as you are lowering the chuck and either break, or worse, wind up in the wrong place, like too close to the edge OR your eye.  USE GOGGLES!  They are $3 a piece.  I am not kidding. 







The machine itself is an HO Caboose Industries 202S sprung ground throw product.  Cut off the nub, flush.  Drill a hole (66 again) where the nub was.  There are two holes in the pic because I missed with the first one.  (I hope you see you can make some mistakes and survive).







The blue arrows (below left) show the flanges on the sjc’s of the points fitted into the clevis on the TB.  Photo at rights show everything put together but nothing cut off yet.  Yellow arrows show where your hole in switch machine fits onto your pin coming up from TB.  (Like a Swiss watch, I love it!).  When you take this apart getting ready for the final assembly, trim the paper around the yoke of the TB.








And now the biggie:  actually inserting those short diabolical little cut off clevis pins into the holes you will swear are smaller. The tweezer being held by the alligator clip is holding the pin.  Right now you can barely see it, but there is a full size pin in the hole.  This is a genuine cool-as-all-get-out trick I came up with.  Ahem.  Use the full pin to work and wiggle your way down to the balsa – gently.  Then just as gently, slowly, carefully pull the pin out and place the clevis guy into the same hole.  If you don’t disturb anything on your way out, the pin will go in cleanly.  Promise.  Use pointed Tweezers.  Those pins are less than 1/4″ and hard enough to see, let alone hold onto and manipulate.


Guess what?  You have a switch!  A beautifully detailed Right-O-Way turnout guaranteed to work and look great.


To go see the parts used in this article and many, many more click here:  http://www.right-o-way.us./

Comments for Part 1:

End zone shot:  


Still to do:  (We are still under construction – these are internal development notes.   2)  Spacing of points to locate switch machine.  3)  Round off point end tips.   5)  Real turnouts do not have the graceful diverging rail we all would like.      

 This is how you pull up a tie that didn’t work out.  (Its the reason for spreading the glue thin rather than several thick beads).  Get the lower edge of the needle nose down onto the base, and get as much of the plier around the tie – more than I show here.  Now squeeze pretty good.  If the pliers ride up, push down on them with your other hand.  Squeeze some more and twist.  Hopefully the tie will pop up with little damage to the base.  The tie is history.

On the menu at left, next selection down is Part 2.  Here we are going to build the other half of the crossover.  The one we just did is the easy one.  This one will be a curved RH#7 (or 8) that is physically higher than the LH#6 we are mating to.  Only insane people do this sort of thing.

Pete Mottershead
Specialty Track Services.
919 880 3115