Points First?

In Model Railway Journal 234, Howard Bolton has a super article about building complex trackwork.  It would have been great to understand more about what he does, but even in this relatively short article, I picked up a nugget, which I’m going to capture here so I remember it the next time I go to build track.

Where I fit the points to my track last, Howard builds his points as assemblies with their adjacent stock rail.  That means that when he goes to lay the stock rail, he can ensure the gauge through the point doesn’t get tight.  I’ve had to address such tightening on two turnouts so far.  It would be much better if the stock rails had just been in the right place to begin with.

Speaking of points, I attended a clinic on handlaying turnouts at the train show last weekend.  Mike Chandler has presented the same slides – yes actual slides – several times over the past forty years, but this was my first opportunity to see them.  He has a bullet-proof assembly for his points.

At the toe of the points, Mike uses 1/16 inch Arborite for a throwbar.  He solders brass tabs to the bottoms of the points and screws through the tabs into holes tapped into the throwbar.  At the heel end, he solders a tab to the stock rail, and spikes the heel of the point through this tab to form the hinge.  The heel of the point then rubs against the tab every time the point is thrown, ensuring positive electrical contact.


3 thoughts on “Points First?

  1. You beat me to it! That was a brilliant article/issue of MRJ. Independent of the article, one thing you can do to ensure correct location of the stock rails is to mill (file) a little spacer block that has a rebate either side to hold gauge to gauge + 6″. In my case I use 1/16″ X 1/2″ brass bar. When milled the bar looks T shaped in cross section, with the bottom of the T going down between the rail heads and keeping the gauge and the top shelf resting on the rail heads. I make this little shelf identical to the nominal railhead width. It is a bit of a heat sink when soldering but nothing that is troublesome and in your case there is no solder to bother with. I use the same sort of tools to help keep turnouts tangent and set out manganese frog inserts. It is really just a gauge without an outside fence although one could add that as well.


    1. Cheers Andrew, I think you’re talking about a gauge to set the stock rails at the heel end of the points, correct? I find in Proto:87 that I really need to get the gauge right for the full length of the point. Cheers, Rene’

      1. No, I’m talking about a gauge that sets the entire point lead – bend to heel. Here are some of the simple gauges from 1/16″ brass. Middle one is for a 16’6″ left-hander sort of similar to what is in use on Pembroke (are they 13′?).


        They are milled but could be fabricated by filing from two pieces of brass barstock and sweating together. The top piece could be finished to shape after soldering. If one wanted to get fancy they could add rail holders and milling out material to make soldering a touch faster, or even curve the diverging side for switches with this feature.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s