Intermediate to Advanced
As Jack mentioned in his 'Electric Control of Turnouts', "Many model railroaders do not use electric controlled turnouts anymore, as they prefer the hands on approach." All of my mainline turnouts are thrown electrically, but most of my yard turnouts have ground throws on them. In fact, in my newest addition, I have removed the electric machines and have been installing Caboose Industries #202S ground throws. The 202S has a spring built in to help keep the moving points tight against the stock rail when the turnout is thrown.
For this project, the turnout is installed in the track, but loose enough to be raised for installation of the link and not yet ballasted.
To replace the electric switch machine with a ground throw, you need to remove the surface mounted switch machine. Assuming an Atlas turnout, this will require a small bladed screwdriver and a couple of minutes to undo the screws. Then unsnap the machine and disengage it from the turnout throwbar. At this point you will need some of the items shown here: a 'Snap' saw, diagonal cutters, needlenose pliers, small file, hammer, #55 drill (.052) mounted in a Pin Vise if possible, .040 sheet styrene, hobby knife, .025 to .035 piano wire, 2 wire brads with half-round heads, and the CI 202S. A small nail set would also be good, but is not required and carpenters glue.
The styrene makes a base platform for the ground throw to sit on. My railroad requires a concrete base for all new ground throws and it will be painted a concrete color when the project is done. I simply placed the 202S on a piece of styrene and drew a rectangle around it and made allowances for the wire link (see the tools photo). File the base edges smooth and lay it aside. In the event that the platform isn't high enough, cut another one and glue them together with a liquid plastic cement. With the old switch machine removed, you'll need to cut the throwbar off flush so that none of it sticks out beyond the ties. Hold the points against the side where the cut is to be made and saw off the throwbar with the hobby saw.
The 202S has one throw arm longer than the other. This side also has a small tab or nipple under the longer throw arm that could be used to fasten onto the throwbar of the turnout. I use the long arm toward the turnout, but cut off the small nipple, as I prefer to use the piano wire link rather than hook to the large throwbar. This serves the purpose of looking more prototypical and the piano wire can add extra spring if needed. There is also a small hole in the throw arm that will be used for the wire link.
To measure for the wire link, place the mounting platform and 202S in roughly the position that it will need to be. Mine measure just over 3/4 inch from the rail to the 202S base. You have a choice of where to fasten the new throw link. Some turnouts come with a hole in the middle of the throwbar that can be used for this. It is also possible to use the rivet hole if there is one for this purpose. If necessary, you may drill a hole in the throwbar with the drill. The link wire will need to be bent upward 90 degrees at each end to fit the 202S arm and the throwbar. Allow for this. Set the 202S to draw the turnout points toward itself and press the points of the turnout against the rail closest to the 202S. Then measure for the link. Do NOT fasten the 202S in place yet. Form the link to fit and install it in the throwbar of the turnout. (see photo)
If the wire link is larger than .025, you will need to open up the hole on the 202S throw arm with the drill bit. Slip the wire link into the throw arm and hold everything in place with one hand as you test throw the turnout. Now is the time to adjust the position of the ground throw before you drill the mounting holes in the base platform and table material. The ground throw must hold the points tight against each side when thrown. If it does not, you will have derailments as the cars and loco's wheels 'pick the points.' One of the advantages of the wire link is that it offers the ability to form the wire to adjust the tension. Drill one hole, insert the brad and test throw again. Then drill the other hole. Tap the brads loosely into place with the hammer (or hammer and nail set). Put a thin bead of glue around the mounting platform and drive the brads in snug without pushing the 202S to low. Check that the glue is all around the mount without coming over the top, test throw the turnout again and then go away and let the glue dry. When the glue has dried and the ground throw works properly, you may trim off any excess wire sticking above the throw arm of the 202S and the turnout throwbar. It is very important that the wire on the throwbar does not stick up above the railhead or interfere with the passage of wheels and couplers.
Run trains through the turnout in all directions as your final test and with the ground throw working, your installation is now complete and you are ready to paint the mounting base concrete and put a little rust on the ground throw. The final photo shows two ground throws in place. (Any train coming through here will derail as all of the turnouts are set to the middle for this shot.) You are now ready for ballast and grass and weeds and...
This is just one more option that may help you enjoy running your railroad in a 'hands on' mode. Happy Railroading!
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Page last updated January 9, 2015