M&K Junction Railroad

M&K Junction Railroad
Another train of eastbound coal crosses the Cheat River

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Curved Turnout

April's project was a curved turnout for the downhill (eastbound) track on the Cheat River grade. This switch is not shown on the track plan as it is an afterthought conceived as the layout was building. It will lead a track into the area next to the water heater where there will be either a coal prep plant or the Alpha Portland Cement factory. Neither facility actually exists (or existed) on the Cheat River grade; although the cement plant is across the river (approximately opposite the Tray Run Viaduct) on the former M&K subdivision of the B&O.

Was a curved switch necessary in this location? No. But the diverging route of a conventional straight-legged turnout would not have fit smoothly into the 68.5" radius curve of the main track here. I decided on a curved turnout because later on I would need some elsewhere; so it seemed like an opportunity to give it a try.

Construction of the turnout started with a template that I drew in TurboCad. It took some doing to figure out how to draw this in TurboCad. The template shows the gauge lines and the centerlines of the two routes. I constructed and printed turnouts with curved legs ranging from 68.5"/153" to 68.5"/168.5". The latter switch seemed to fit the geometry of the space best and the larger radius was a gentle curve. Surprisingly the frog angle measured out to about a #6.

The template printed out on my Epson 13"x19" printer if I glued two sheets of ledger size paper end-to-end to make an 11"x33" sheet and using custom size on the printer. Staples would have printed it out for $2.98.

Here's the beginning of the turnout with the stock rails in place. (I should have cut, soldered and spiked the frog first, but I got ahead of myself).

Now the frog is in place.

Closure rails, wing rails and guard rails have been added and a truck runs smoothly.

Close-up of the points.

Close-up of the frog, guard rails, wing rails (yeah, yeah the wing rails are different length - doesn't bother me, does it bother you?). After soldering the guard rails in place and filling the gap with solder, I found that I had a Dremel cutter that cut a flangeway to the perfect width and depth; although it threw chips of solder all over the place.

Straps soldered in place, ready to go to the layout.

Here's the initial fitting on the ties and roadbed. I glued the ties on before spiking.

Here's the throwbar and the head blocks. The throwbar was made out of perforated printed circuit board material (perfboard); I know that I had solid PCB material somewhere, in fact, I had found it just a few weeks before; but for the life of me I don't know what I did with the bag of it. The perfboard will need reinforcement. I also made another mistake here, do you notice it? In my haste (enthusiasm?) I forgot to pre-drill a hole through the roadbed for a switch machine. I'll have to use a Caboose Industries manual machine in this location.

Ties finished, ready for spikes.

The critical center section of the turnout spiked down. Note the marks where the gaps will be cut around the frog.

Here are two of the gaps cut and then filled with styrene ACC'd in place and filed to the rail profile. I fill all of my gaps that are for electrical isolation only. In this case I wanted there to be little chance that the gap would shift over time thereby mis-aligning the rails at this critical point.

Finished. All that remains is to solder on power feeders, paint the ties and weather the rail.

Monday, April 19, 2010


One of the things that I did during my "armchair" modelling phase was collect equipment and other items to eventually build my railroad. Some of the things that I collected were graphics of vintage advertising signs. Most model railroads are devoid of the posters and signs which were quite common in the years before Lady Bird Johnson's campaign to "beautify America" by eliminating outdoor advertising. Ads were plastered and painted on nearly every available surface.

The images that I collected come from various places around the Internet. I have pictures of vintage tin signs, the reproductions that are commonly sold at flea markets, etc. Online vendors also have ads cut out of magazines for sale and, of necessity, they post pictures of them. There are also websites devoted to vintage ads. Oil company memorabilia, maps and ads can also be readily found; all of these contain company logos. Car companies, some of them long gone like Studebaker and Nash, cosmetics (think about the once common Burma Shave roadside ads), food products (e.g. Heinz) and, for those of you old enough to remember, the once-ubiquitous cigarette and beer ads.

These resources are not difficult to find online, just do some creative searching using Google, etc. They are free for the taking (use "Save Picture As" in your browser). Using readily available photo-editing software the images can be manipulated into any type or size of advertising poster or billboard that you may want (for a free image editing program as powerful as Photoshop search online for the freeware program GIMP).

I have found some sites that are real gems which for the moment I'm keeping to myself. However here are some examples of goodies that you can find (click on any picture to get your own copy):

Here is an example of a once-common Smokey the Bear poster.

This was the symbol of the Phone Company before the breakup of Ma Bell.

Are you old enough to remember these once-famous trademarks? Radio Corporation of America (RCA) with it's mascot dog "Nipper" was once a producer of phonographs, radios and televisions. Nipper was hearing "His Master's Voice" emerging from the early phonograph.

Here is an example of a magazine ad which could be turned into a nice billboard by using image editing software.

Schlitz "The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous" was one of the first nationally-distributed beers. Another Schlitz tag line was "When You're Out of Schlitz, You're Out of Beer".

I won't post any cigarette ads for fear that the anti-smoking Nazis will come after me :-).