The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 168


© February 22, 2010   

 ©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.


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A "No Weld" Groovy Track Switch


Written by Darrin Warren

My name is Darrin Warren and the old man’s name is William Warren. We are the creators of the Dewey Nutwood and Tyrrell Railroad - Youtube click to see videos of our railroad. One year after we entered the 7 ˝ gauge hobby which included a year of manually moving the equipment out of the garage and onto the rails it was time for a switch to allow us to drive the train into and out of the garage. The old man and I discussed a number of ideas and after much debate we went with his design for the ties and my idea for the points and frog. His idea was to make a groovy switch the same way as all the groovy track was made. My idea for points was to mimic what I had seen at the Mill Creek Central in Coshocton Ohio, which is a simple spring loaded lift and throw system. The frog is pre-casted aluminum purchased from Cannonball that will be recessed into the ties.
The first step was to draw the pattern on cardboard. Since all my curves are built on a 21’ radius I placed cardboard under an existing curve and traced the rails. Then with a straight edge I added the lines for the straight rails. The frog was placed on the pattern in the proper location and traced. Some details were placed on the pattern to indicate the position of the points (some trial and error). Rails were then pre bent until they matched the pattern.

Next the ties were cut to approximate length and placed on the pattern. They were spaced 4” on center, numbered and the rail location marked on each tie. The marks on each side of the tie can then be connected to create the angle needed for the dado cut. Once the angle is drawn it’s rather simple to use the table saw miter gauge to push the ties through at the exact angle. I thought this would be the hard part but the old man proved to me how easy it would be.

The next step involved pressing the ties onto the rails. The easiest way I found was to move the switch to sawhorses and pull the ties up using clamps. We V cut the groove with a Dremel to assure they go on easy and straight (you only need to V the very top of the groove). Some of the grooves near the points will be very close together; this causes a problem as the small piece of wood that separates the rails breaks off when the first rail is pressed in. Try and put both rails in at the same time. If it still breaks just add a spacer between the rails. You will also need to dado the ties for the frog (below). In this area the frog itself will be used to hold the rail in place. We had to add some bolts in the rail to pinch the frog. We also drilled the frog and screwed it to the ties.

The frog will have to be slightly modified. The Cannonball frog is made for profile rail. We had to trim the edges so that it matched up with the flatbar steel. A hacksaw and a little filing will do the trick. The old man said to me “Take off a little at a time because it’s difficult to add it back on”. As the old man tells me it’s about patience.

The next step is the points. I used ˝ X ˝ angle to make the points. There are articles on making points so defer to them. The points pivot on the frog side and slide on the point side. The points ride on top of the ties. I fixed the points to 1 ˝ X 1 ˝ angle that was screwed to the ties (below). This may be a good place to put a screw threw the rail and to the ties to keep the weight of the locomotive from pushing the ties off the rail. So far I have not had the problem; I think the key may be how solid your base is under the tie.
You will also need to add some guiderails. I used the same ˝ x ˝ angle for this as I used for the points. We found it necessary to raise the guiderails up higher than the rail to eliminate all derailments (below right, click to enlarge). I cut slits about every 8 inches in one side of the angle to make bending the angle easier. I drilled and screwed the angle to the ties.
We now had our first spur that allowed the locomotive and cars to roll easily in and out of the garage (right). No more broken backs. We have built four additional switches making small improvements on each one. If you have questions or if I left out any important steps feel free to contact me at

Click to enlarge and see the guard rails.

Written by Darrin Warren

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