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Turnout Construction
Part 2 of 2

By Carl Baskin (
Illinois Live Steamers
7.5” Track Committee Chairmen

(reprinted by permission from the ILS web site)

Continued from part 1

Closure Rails: Drilling jigs were made to located the (3) holes on the closure rail ends (see photos 23 and 24). Left-hand and right-hand drilling jigs locate the holes for the switch point connection and the holes for the heel block. All clearance holes are drilled for #10 bolt hardware. The jigs are clamped in place while the holes are drilled. The straight closure rail is then taken to the saw where ¼” is removed from the FROG end.  Both straight and curved closure rails are punched with slotted holes for attaching the closure rails to the frog. The slotted punch holes are sized for #8 bolts. The curved closure rail is then curved slightly (to approximate the 72 foot radius for #8 frog).

Photo 23    Photo 24

Point Attachment: With the closure rail and switch point rail on a flat surface, the point is clamped to the closure rail so the closure rail bolt hole location can be transferred to the switch point (see photo 25). A #10 bolt clearance hole is drilled thru on a drill press. The hole is de-burred after drilling. The point is attached to the closure rail using a #10 round head bolt and secured with a nylok nut. The nut is left slightly loose to allow for point movement.

Photo 25

Heel Blocks: The switch point is set against its mating stock rail so there is a 1/8” gap between the end of the point and the stock rail notch edge. The heel block is placed between the closure rail and stock rail. A #10 bolt is inserted in one hole to maintain alignment while the other hole is drilled through the stock rail. The assembly is clamped for drilling (see photo 26). The alignment bolt is then moved to the first hole so the second hole can be drilled.

Photo 26

Assembly Begins: Photo 27 shows all the components in their relative position before the final assembly process begins. The curved stock rail, closure rail and frog extension rail have all been pre-curved to approximate the radius of the turnout curve (about 72 foot radius). Readers will also note that several rail ends are a little longer. This is done so that all turnout rail ends are staggered (not parallel). This creates a stronger track joint and minimizes rail kinks when the turnout is located in a curve. At this point, all the rails are fastened together. #8 bolt hardware and nylok nuts secure the closure rails and frog extension rails to the frog casting. #10 bolts and nylok nuts secure the heel blocks in between the closure rails and the stock rails. All of the rail pieces have now been connected.

Photo 27

Rail Gauging: Special gauge locations are measured from the tip of the point and marked on the straight stock rail. Three (3) special gauges (blue) are set in-place that “fix” the distance between the stock rail, the curved closure rail and the straight closure rail. This establishes the gauge of the straight route at 7-9/16” and the radius of the turnout curve. Other gauges are set in-place; 7-9/16” gauges (white) are used at the ends the turnout. 7-5/8” gauges (orange) are used at the points and thru the curved portion of the turnout. Photo 28 shows the turnout (still not fastened to the ties) with all the gauges in place.

Photo 28

Rail Fastening: A zig-zag pattern is used to screw the rails to the ties. After the straight stock rail has been screwed down, the ties are drilled and screws inserted from the switch point up the curved closure rail to the frog. Holes are then drilled and screws inserted down the straight
closure rail to the switch point and then the same process up the curved stock rail. Photo 29 shows the turnout now with all the rails fastened and the point throw bar installed. The nylok nuts that hold the point throw bar in place are left loose to allow for point movement. 

Photo 29

Guardrails: The center of the guardrail is located opposite the frog point. Guardrail mounting holes are marked and drilled to correspond with the ties. Another gauge is used to simulate the wheel back-to-back distance. With one of the simulated “wheel flanges” in the center of the frog flangeway, the back of the other “wheel flange” is used to locate the guardrail position. Pilot holes are drilled in the ties and screws inserted to hold the guardrail (see photos 30 & 31). Since there is no space for a screw between the guardrail and the rail foot, the outside rail foot is drilled
with a pilot hole for the rail screw. The rail foot hole is then enlarged for the #10 tie screw.

Photo 30

 Photo 31

Point Slide Shims: A similar treatment is given to the stock rails where the switch points are located. Once again, a pilot hold is drilled through the rail foot and into the tie. The rail foot hole is enlarged to allow the installation of a #10 track screw. Before the rail is screwed down, a stainless steel slide shim is installed under the rail foot for the points to slide on. Rail screws are inserted and tightened. The other end of the slide shim is attached with a nail or track screw as well. Head block spacer bars are installed to maintain the distance between the head blocks AND keep ballast out from under the point throw bar (see photos 32 and 33). The turnout is now assembled.

Photo 32   Photo 33

Switch Throw: Photo 35 shows the point throw mechanism arrangement. Once again, “exotic” materials are used (nylon, aluminum, stainless steel and a bronze bushing), to make a mechanism that doesn’t need lubrication. With the exception of the mounting screws, there are no ferrous metal parts used in the entire assembly that will rust or require lubrication. A hitch pin is used to connect the throw rod to the throw bar. Spring tension is set to insure point closure when a train “trails” the turnout with the points thrown against the running route. This is adjusted again when the turnout is installed and ballast work completed. 

Photo 35

Turnout Complete: Photo 36 shows a railhead view of the completed turnout. At 14.5 feet in length, two persons will be needed to carry the turnout outside to stack and wait to be “planted” in the railroad.

Photo 36

By Carl Baskin (

(reprinted by permission from the ILS web site)


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