The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 197


© January 26, 2013   

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 This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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Make a Groovy Center Wiggle Switch

Written by Laurence Johnson

I took a new approach while building this switch — I laid it out on the ground (the crossties that is) for the first step. While looking at the photo on the right you are seeing many things: the far end of the crossties are aligned to a 28’-6” radius track; the close end of the crossties are aligned for a 20’ radius track section; there are two switch mechanisms as shown by the two sets of projecting crossties; all of the crossties point toward the center of the greater radius; both centers are on the measuring tape where it is currently laying; and the far end to the crossties appear to be equally spaced. Click to enlarge images.

The photo on the right, taken earlier than above, shows that I used 2 x 6 cedar ripped in half; also seen is the spacing gage I used the outer end of the crossties which are on four inch centers.

I cut my cross ties to length by pairs and triplets which is faster and easier.

This was an easy process because all of the grass was either dormant or dead due the drought here in the Midwest.

I laid the crossties in reverse order so that we are looking at the bottom side of the ties.

Click to enlarge images.

The next step was to cut, drill and fasten 1 x 1-1/2 rectangular tub steel.

After cutting the crossties to width and length I marked each with a pencil showing the inside of the 3/8” groovy rail. These marks also guided my in placing the steel tubing under the outside rails.

Above are the 1/8” plates that will be welded to bottom of the rails and then screwed to the crossties.

The tubing was cut into two lengths for each side. The first set I overlapped the pieces and then “got real smart” on the second set by angle cutting the ends and welding them to end to end. Later I went back to the first set and welded a pie sliced piece of 16 gauge steel to join the ends of the tubs together. I carefully laid the tubes on the crossties and marked the center of each hole. I first drilled the clearance hole through both sides of the steel tube using my drill press and then chucked up a twist drill bit giving me a clearance hole large enough to accommodate the Phillips screw driving tip for my battery power drill. After fastening the rectangle tube to the crossties together I flipped the switch section over onto its bottom and aligned it in position so I could again measure from the nail in the ground and mark the inside location for both outside rails. The whole 12’ long switch assembly was then picked up from the yard and set on saw horses for the rest of the switch construction. The photo above right shows the location the 1/8” plates that will be welded to bottom of the rails and then screwed to the crossties.

The red marks show where I hit the bar once about every 4 or 5” to get the desired radius.

I curved the steel rail by cold forming on a simple anvil, two pound hammer and a 1” thick plate setting on the anvil face. This was a very easy process, easier than I had expected, and if I over formed the radii I could return to the anvil and pound it back into the smoother longer radius using only one or two blows. One word of caution here: wear hearing protection when forging your rail to the proper shape.

Pictured on the right is the first rail welded to the plates which were then screwed to the crossties thus position the rail to its proper location. I followed the same process of locating, welding and fastening the other outside rail which is at the 20’ radius. Why such a small radius? Small yard space and my locomotives are made to run on these radii.

Click to enlarge images.

After the two outside rails were fasten in place carefully measured and I marked each crosstie for the inside rails which will form the frog and moveable point rails. I used 7-5/8” rail to rail gauge distance for these small radii. These inside rails were welded together using 1/8” and 3/8” thick strap steel. From the frog to the pivot plate (red arrow) I placed the 1/8” connectors to set on the crossties but the rest of the way the 3/8” connectors were setting over the gap between the crossties.

Click to enlarge images.

I used 1/8 x 2 steel plates fastened to the crossties for the basic mounting. 3/8-16 NC x 1” long bolts were used in this assembly. The triangular plate is the connected to the frog rail ends. You can see a bolt is welded to the side of the rail extending down to the 3/8 x 1 connecting bar. This movement is in and out parallel to the crossties but leading to the right I used 1/2” square tube steel.

This tube leads to the rail points another triangle plate and switch stand. Again I used a 3/8 x 1 bar leading to the nearest point rail. These rail points are not secured at the ends which allows the movement to the loose point to tightly lever up to the far outside rail while leaving a good 3/4” gap for the wheel flange to find its way.

Click to enlarge images.

I used a double spring to allow for a 90 degree movement of the switch stand target while only moving the points 3/4”. Look closely, I also put in grease zerts which allows me to lubricate between plates and on the center piece between springs. On all of my other switches I have oil can lubed the movement locations but am experimenting with using grease this time. The whole center rail section rotates about a center pin — points move right and the frog end moves left. I am copying a European switch I saw on the internet.

The completed switch was placed on top of the existing rail; this allowed me to correctly mark and cut the aluminum T-rail which was then removed. I also removed all of the ballast down to the base soil. I estimate I shoveled out about 3/4 ton of gravel for the 12’ switch section which is almost half of a cubic yard in volume.

The 2 x 4s were used on each end to make the joint between the groovy rail and the T-rail.

I also followed the same paint scheme used with the European switch stand. This might take a bit to get use too, white arrows and Xs on a red background is different. I did paint the rod between the links plates black and white and that is to keep people and me from walking on it. The prototype switch did not have frog guard rails so I went with that and the first run by with my electric switcher I was on the ground. I made a guard on the 30’ radius side and it works. I don’t have enough track leading from the switch to know if I’ll need a frog guard on the 20’ radius.

After a few trips through the switch set first in bypass onward to the oval on the other side and turning onto the siding on the inner side and derailing most of the time I added frog guards to the two outside rails. Guess what? That fixed the problem and further testing with varying hookups of engine, engineer's car, freight cars going in both directions and total reversal of directions with any of my locos there has not been any derailments.

Click to enlarge images.

Twenty years ago I a few pieces of rolling stock; today I’ve outgrown the first train shed and this switch will lead to a siding into Train Shed 2. But there is another story to write and tell about the transfer track section between this new siding and feeding into Train Shed 2 tracks.


Written by Laurence Johnson


Laurence Johnson is the author of the new book "Build a 7-1/2" Gauge Railroad in your Backyard". It also gives dimensions for 7-1/4" track. This new book by Laurence Johnson includes chapters on the following important topics:

  • Aluminum Rail

  • Groovy Track

  • Ballast

  • Rail and Tie Spacing

  • Bending Rail

  • Building Switches

  • All About Frogs

  • Constructing a Diamond

  • Calculating Curves

  • Calculating Grade

  • Super Elevation

  • Figuring Costs

  • Drainage

  • Grade Crossings

  • Bridges

  • Trestles

  • Weed Barriers

  • Right-Of-Way Maintenance and much much more.



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