Large Scale Central

Turn out rehab

So I have a couple weeks and then host out clubs meeting. So working to get the layout functional. I have had a problem area since day one. Its a switch combo with two opposite facing left hand #4 turnouts. A first solution to this problem was to buy two hand laid #4s from Bob. That worked okay but I have always had issues with the spikes lifting and the whole thing becoming loosy goosy. So this year I ripped both turnouts up and I am making all new turnouts using the parts.

This is a giant experiment. This is located on my bench section of the layout. All the track in that section is laid on a subgrade of 3/4 PVC lumber on the bench structure. So for this rehab I am using 3/4 pvc as a base, ripped ties from PVC. The spikes i have a long. They go all the way through the ties and stick out the bottom. So I figured why not build the entire thing right on the subgrade. So the track, ties, and road bed are all attached.

When done the plan is to cut out all the old subgrade and and in this new modular unit. Stay tuned. Could be a success or an epic fail.

I’ve found that with hand laid turnouts there’s two options for making it more rigid.

  1. Make the ties and the sub roadbed one piece. I think this is the normal route. Glue/attach ties to something and make it all rigid. Normal 2 spikes per tie.

  2. Keep ties and sub road separate and spike 4 spikes for every rail interface. This keeps the ties more rigid than with just 2 spikes. I’ve noticed this works good except for the few ties around the points that don’t have space for spikes ( because the rail interference).

I’ve always done option 2, but want to try option 1 for the next set of turnouts.

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The only way I have found that really works well for me is to use long spikes and crimp them over on the bottom side of the tie so they can’t pull, just like some of the pro builders do.

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Let’s see what happens with this. One thing I have considered but did not do this time was to glue the pvc ties to the pvc roadbed using pvc cement. That maybe a later iteration. If I still have issues with the spikes lifting I will consider pulling them individually and then coating with CA and resinking them.

I really do need to come up with a hand laid track solution that works form me. I have a project deep in my bucket that is a Fn2 expansion on 32 mm track that will double as an O gauge dog bone. I have enough code 250 aluminum rail already. And the wife has agreed to lease the RR some real-estate. I want a simple dog bone that with do dual purpose as a 2ft gauge mining spur and also serve as a o Guage runaround to run some of my late buddies, Steve Featherkile’s, o Guage stuff I have.

CA doesn’t last long term very well. It expands and cracks over time and becomes brittle.

Are you using 1/2" spikes? And what thickness ties (1/4’?).

I would definitely use PVC glue on the ties. i have four turnouts outside constructed this way and have had no issues with spikes pulling out.

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Craig, Wasn’t ignoring your question, been busy with RR open house the last several days.

Here is what I did years ago when I thought it was necessary to waste modeling time hand laying rails, granted they look good but what a maintenance nightmare.

I used 3/4 inch brass brads through a hole drilled in the rail on Redwood ties and clinched them over on the bottom.
You can kinda see the heads in the first picture and the clench over in the second.

This switch was in use for almost 15 years.

Well too late for that for this project. But for sure next go around. I can see taking my 3/4 PVC base and then gluing the pvc ties to it and then laying the track. All in all so far I really like this idea especially for my bench area. From now on when I need to make repairs to the bench I will take up the commercial tracks and hand lay like this. Time consuming but I think in the long run its gonna work better.

But this turnout combo is almost done. Gonna paint it all with a red oxide primer.

I will hopefully show it installed next weekend.

No worries Rick. Hope the open house was successful!

Got it all painted and it is ready to be installed this weekend. So far I am pleased with it. If it holds up over time I will really be pleased with it, but that remains to be seen. I will say that I believe the PVC seems to “grip” the spikes better than wood. Once set they are actually difficult to remove. So hopefully with time the PVC will continue to grip.

Did you spike directly into the PVC without drilling holes?

I like the texture you added to the ties. Razor saw dragged across?


Yes I spiked directly to the PVC without drilling holes. As for the texture. . .thank you, didn’t I do an amazing job? :rofl: No I just used the textured side of the PVC board. If you look close especially between the two turnouts some of the ties are far less textured and look almost smooth. Turns out that not all PVC lumber has as much texture or depth of texture as others. These ties were cut from two different scraps. And they definitely do not look the same.

I clicked on the thread thinking I was gonna see some hookers? But now that I’m here I thought I would add some back in the day in the hood pics.

( A coarse tooth razor saw works well ).

Not a Turn Out Rehab ( But it’s my Pretty Woman) !

I reused (1/2 Azek deck trim board) scrap from one of my viaduct builds then hand spiked the 250 aluminum rail to it so I could display another build. Yes I spiked directly into the material.


That’s interesting as the board I bought a while back is smooth on both sides and has no texture at all.

I’m tempted to cut PVC ties and try it out. I also have a short wood trestle still to build. Maybe build that out of it as well.

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I am still skeptical of this material. While it is rapidly becoming one if my favorite things to work with i am still holding my breath.

For a trestle I am not sure. I was just pondering making a new truss bridge. But one thing about the pvc once cut up like this is that it is pretty flimsy and not rigid. But with that said all glued up into something like a trestle the rigidity might come. One thing I am considering trying with some scraps from the ties is to do a test making some cribbing. But that would be pretty stout. Maybe instead I will make a small trestle and see what it does.

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Good to know. Maybe just stick to ties after all.

Well its in.

I can say two lessons learned so far. #1 is to glue the ties down to the base board as Lou suggests. I had a little fussing getting it match up to existing track and I was pulling not just the rails up but the tie off the base board. Nothing that wasn’t easily pushed back into place but I fear its just a foretelling of future separation issues. My guess is I will to revisit this again. But it will work through next weekend for sure when I need it to work for the club.

#2. The pvc lumber warps. This shouldn’t have been a surprise but it was. I had the switch assembly sitting out for a few days and it did bend and twist a little. Again nothing that wasn’t easily fixable when it got screwed down to the bench work it easily flexed right back into shape. BUT!!! As I was hoping to use this for buildings especially when I do the building flat that will be the Hecla Mine which is a big flat piece I will need to make some kind of frame out of metal to attach it to or possible just secure it in several place straight to the side of the house or something. Which is likely what I’ll do since I need to attach anyway. I have battens on the house as decorative pieces which I could screw into and not compromise the integrity of the house siding.

what thickness was your base that warped?