Good track and reliable turnouts are essential to an enjoyable operating experience. There are many brands of track and turnouts on the market today. In most cases, plain flex-track from any manufacture will look and perform well if properly laid, although some brands of turnouts are better looking and more reliable than others.
Most brands of track offer only a few basic turnout sizes, so if you want anything else, you are out of luck. Furthermore, availability of some brands is somewhat sporadic. At the time of writing, Walthers range of turnouts has been unavailable for some time and the re-release has been postponed indefinitely. Worse yet, many important components are no longer even listed, suggesting that the product range will be severely curtailed.
My turnouts are built using precision aluminum jigs from a company called “Fast Tracks”. These jigs facilitate the production of great-looking turnouts that perform reliably, and have received rave reviews from thousands of happy customers. As good as these jigs are, not everyone wants to build their own turnouts. Now anyone can enjoy the benefits of this revolutionary track-building procedure without having to build it oneself.
I am not in a position to keep a large stock of these expensive items on hand, so they will in most cases be built to order. I started with #8 double and single slips, and #7 straight turnouts, since these are not available for HO-scale in ready-to-lay format anywhere else. Since then I have been gradually expanding the range, adding at least one new size each month. I will continue to add new sizes as I receive requests for different turnouts. For the time being, I am only offering HO-gauge turnouts, although this may change in the future so feel free to ask me if you are in the market for something else. At the time of writing, the jigs available from fast-tracks include straight, curved, and wye turnouts in may different sizes;
If you would like turnouts in sizes not yet listed for sale in my store, please contact me with a list of your requirements and I will be happy to give you a price. The jigs are available in 4 different rail-sizes. Code-100 is very much oversized for most applications and therefore not recommended. Most HO-scale modelers use code-83, so I will assume this is what you want unless you tell me something different. For that extra fine-scale look, consider using code-70 for branch-lines, yards and sidings, and even code-55 for industrial spurs. Code 70 and 83 turnouts can be built using the same jig, although code 100 and 55 each require separate jigs.
High-quality hand-crafted items are never cheap because of the time involved. I cannot compete price-wise with mass-produced factory-built turnouts, although with commercial turnout prices on the increase, the difference is actually not all that great. When you consider that these turnouts are more reliable and better looking than most, the extra few dollars per turnout is in my opinion well worth it. Additionally, each turnout is fully tested both electrically and mechanically before packing up for sale (a claim that the big name track producers cannot make).
I am offering turnouts in three different forms – complete, intermediate and skeleton.
The intermediate format is a good choice whenever you expect to have to trim turnouts in order to fit them closer together in tight situations, as it is much easier to trim them before attaching the wood ties. With this option, you get a basic skeleton turnout (see below), a “quick-stick” wood tie strip, and a small tube of the same glue that I use to attach the wood ties for complete turnouts.
Not only does a basic skeleton allow me to provide these same turnouts at rock bottom price without compromising on quality, but gives the customer the opportunity to finish them himself for that sense of accomplishment and pride of ownership that only comes by creating something with one’s own hands. In their skeleton form, all the critical work has already been done by me to the same exacting standards as the complete turnouts, but the customer still gets to add his own wood ties, either purchased by the bag, or individually cut from sheet basswood. Templates of all fast-tracks turnouts are available from their web-site as free downloads. These can be printed out as many times as desired, then glued to your roadbed and used to accurately lay out wood ties to ensure that the skeleton turnouts fit perfectly. Skeleton turnouts are also a way to save money in hidden areas such as staging yards, since the wood ties are only cosmetic and the turnout will still function properly without them. If you want to purchase your own “quick-stick” tie webs directly from fast-tracks, you can still save a few dollars per turnout by ordering enough to qualify for their bulk discounts and free shipping (or you can get them from me by ordering the “intermediate” option).
Before closing, I feel that a word of caution is in order for anyone used to mass-produced ready-to-lay turnouts with plastic ties. Hand-built soldered turnouts with glued-on wood ties do require more care in handling. Whereas a commercial plastic turnout will (to some extent) quite happily twist and regain its shape without trouble, these turnouts will break if abused. They also require a stiffer control mechanism as the switch-points need more force to move properly. For example, the flimsy music wire supplied with tortoise and smail switch machines will not work. You will need to substitute a much heavier control wire. “Fast-tracks” recommend (and sell) 0.037 wire. I use an even heavier gauge (0.047) wire whenever it is necessary to pass through foam subroadbed. Also, please note that fast-tracks turnouts (particularly the slip switches) often come out of the jig with a slight upward bow at the ends. This is not a defect and is easy to take care of during track-laying just by applying a small amount of weight to the two ends while the glue sets.
In common with most other brands, these slips and turnouts come with longer lead-ins than are really necessary. If you need to fit several components close together to create complex junctions, some trimming may be necessary and the tie arrangement may need modifying – just as with any brand of turnout. If you don’t feel up to the challenge, I will be happy to give you a price to supply them with the necessary modifications already made. Just send me a message describing the desired arrangement.
There is a certain economy of effort in producing a batch of several identical items, and I’m happy to pass the savings onto my customers. Buy 12 turnouts the same and get an extra one free. To qualify, all turnouts must be the same angle, radius, rail-size and configuration, and be ordered at the same time, although standard turnouts can be any combination of left and right hand.