Author Topic: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide  (Read 4112 times)

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Ed Kapuscinski

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Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« on: June 05, 2016, 11:43:03 AM »
+3
I'm about to install the last three turnouts on the Windsor St layout, and I want to make sure I check all of the boxes about stuff I should do pre-installation.

I know we've talked about it before, but I wanted to create a thread where we pull together all of the info. I then want to turn around and write an article for my site with the info, so it has a good place to live in perpetuity. Of course, proper credit will be given to all who contribute.

So, what are the Atlas Code 55 turnout best practices one should follow?


Here's a diagram that we can use to keep our vocabulary consistent.



I'll start with this. I know it's a good idea to solder a jumper wire connecting the closure rails with their counterparts outside the frog.

wcfn100

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2016, 11:52:21 AM »
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Parts of a turnout. :P

Jason

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2016, 01:50:02 PM »
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1. Check the gauge through the entire turnout with the points thrown in both directions.  Several of my Atlas #5's are narrow between the closure rail and stock rail, usually in the curved section (as opposed to the straight section).  If you have narrow gauge here, there isn't much you can do other than try to file the stock rail a bit to get the gauge correct.  Bending the point/closure rail never works well.

2.  Hold the turnout up to eye level and sight down the straight leg.  Chances are your "straight" turnout will be a curved one, until you get it installed on the layout and straightened out.  Not much to do about this on the bench, but knowing ahead of time that you'll need to deal with this during installation is useful.

BTW - Atlas Code 55 turnouts already have an electrical connection between the closure and associated stock rails.  You don't need a jumper wire - at least, I've never needed one on any of the 97 turnouts on my layout that has been operating for the last six years.  I HAVE had a point rail come loose (the Atlas point rails are hinged, and are kept on by a small washer that goes over a pin that sticks through the back side of the turnout).   This design is pretty lame, IMHO, along with the stamped point rails.  Nevertheless, I can't really complain much about the overall reliability of the Atlas turnouts installed on my layout (one failure out of 97 switches in six years isn't terrible), but the truth is that if I had it all to do over again, I'd build my own using Fast Tracks jigs.  I have a few hand-built turnouts that I made during the great Atlas track drought, and they work so much better than the Atlas factory turnouts it isn't funny.  But the time invested tradeoff would have been very significant, so in the end I'm not terribly disappointed with the Atlas solution.

John C.

Mark W

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2016, 02:02:23 PM »
+1
I just get rid of those point and closure rails all together. 

Replace them with solid rails using PCB Ties and you'll have the perfect turnout. 

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2016, 02:36:18 PM »
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@Mark W
I'd be really interested to see a further explanation of how you've arrived at that seemingly elegant solution.
I guess a chronology of the steps necessary to achieve the finished turnout, or is it just as simple as it appears?

Well done.
Bryan

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Mark W

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2016, 02:51:20 PM »
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It's really is just as simple as it appears.  A point form tool from FastTracks significantly helps though.

Pry out the existing points.  Slide the closure rails forward and out (or just rip them out).  Cut away 3 plastic ties to replace with PCB Ties, fit the new rails and solder everything back together.
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SD452XR

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2016, 03:27:40 PM »
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I did this with a couple of mine. Still stuck with a crappy frog. In the end I ripped all mine out and replaced with switches made with fast tracks jigs.

jdcolombo

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2016, 03:49:50 PM »
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I just get rid of those point and closure rails all together. 

Replace them with solid rails using PCB Ties and you'll have the perfect turnout. 


Elegant solution.  I'm assuming that's a #10 turnout in the photo.  Have you done this with a #7 and/or #5?

John C.

mmagliaro

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2016, 08:10:04 PM »
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Elegant solution.  I'm assuming that's a #10 turnout in the photo.  Have you done this with a #7 and/or #5?

John C.

This.

I love the idea of solid rails with no hinge, but on a #7 or #5, I would expect that over time, the flexing of those soldered joints
on the moving rails is going to cause the solder joints to break.  On a long #10, it might work, but I would have big worries
on shorter turnouts.   Have you got any feeling for the longevity on shorter turnouts?  (i.e. maybe just operate
one back and forth and see how many times you can throw it before a solder joint breaks).

One thing you can do is drill a tiny #78 hole (about) right through the lower "heel" of the rail into the PC board tie, and insert a short length of brass or phosphor bronze wire through it, and *then* solder.  Having a mechanical
fastening in the joint makes all the difference because it keeps the solder from flexing and breaking.  I did that on a soldered
throwbar that kept breaking off from the point rails after a number of operations.  After inserting the wire, it never broke again.

... and now, back to Ed's original topic, which was to compile things that should be done to Atlas 55 turnouts before installing them.

Ed, I don't know how amenable folks will be to what I do to my turnouts, but ....

1. I've had so many of those contact bars under the turnout be bad right out of the package that I will never trust them, or the frog contact strip either.   So I Dremel out a little groove in the ties underneath and bypass all those bars with wire. 
2. I also drill directly into the frog from underneath and solder a wire right to it, rather than depend on that contact strip. 
3. Ditto for soldering wires around the point rail hinges (solder from underneath to the stationary rail and moving rail).
(if you don't go with the solid-rail replacement suggested by Mark W.)

Gauge:
4. I know, I know... people are probably tired of hearing this from me because they seem to get their turnouts
to work just fine out of the package, but nearly every darn Atlas  #7 and #5 I've ever bought, from multiple sources over multiple
years, has point rails that are far too narrow.  So patience and a lot of swipes of a file are needed to file away the insides
of the rail to open up the gauge a little.  It is bad enough that properly-gauged steam engines climb right up out of the
rails.  I don't think I have ever had the problem with a 4-axle diesel, but then, the wheels are smaller in diameter
and the wheelbase of the trucks is so short that they are much more forgiving of tight rails than, say, a 4-8-4.

What does this mean for you, Ed?  Well, if you're only going to run 4-axle diesels, you can probably leave the gauge
alone.  But don't say I didn't warn you.  I can file the rails once the turnout is installed, but it's no fun.
My oft-seen photo on the subject (you would file some off the inside of the far-left stationary rail to fix this):



« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 04:33:46 PM by mmagliaro »

Mark W

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2016, 12:53:58 AM »
0
Have you got any feeling for the longevity on shorter turnouts?  (i.e. maybe just operate
one back and forth and see how many times you can throw it before a solder joint breaks).

I've done the solid rail on every handlaid turnout I've built as well, including a hand full of #4s.  As long as you have a solid solder joint, they'll last.  A cold joint will eventually break even on a #10, and even so, it's a 30 second repair job to re-solder.

For extra piece of mind, you can always notch the rail foot to relieve a little of the tension. 

I've also seen folks cut the rail, and cut a rail joiner in half, solder 1/2 of the half joiner onto the closure rail and slide the point rail in place.  It's a little extra work, and will need a feeder or jumper to reliably power the points.  In my experience, not worth that extra effort vs just leaving the rail solid from point to frog. 
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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2016, 02:15:33 AM »
0

For extra piece of mind, you can always notch the rail foot to relieve a little of the tension. 


That!
IMO notching the rail foot or even filing it down for 1/16" or 1/8"  will increase the rail's flexibility and reduce the stress on the solder joint.
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Ron McF

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2016, 04:28:53 AM »
+1
You don't need a jumper wire - at least, I've never needed one

Then you've been lucky, John. 

I've had to remove, repair and then reinstall three Atlas C55 turnouts because the inbuilt connection between the closure and stock rails failed.  These days I simply connect them together when I add droppers to the turnout, like this:



Full explanation is here:
http://gulflines.blogspot.com.au/p/wiring-atlas-c55-turnouts.html

Regards,
Ron
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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2016, 12:05:35 PM »
+2
This is looking like it may have the makings of a Best of TRW thread.
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Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2016, 12:18:09 PM »
+1
This is looking like it may have the makings of a Best of TRW thread.

That was my hope!

Ron McF

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Re: Definitive Atlas Code 55 Turnout Guide
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2016, 10:07:00 PM »
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I just get rid of those point and closure rails all together. 

Replace them with solid rails using PCB Ties and you'll have the perfect turnout. 

I really like this idea. It not only solves the electrical issue, but greatly improves the look of the turnout. I was thinking of simply replacing the hinged point rails, but this is probably easier, and more reliable.

Mark - Is that Atlas C55 rail that you've used?

Regards,
Ron
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 10:10:12 PM by Ron McF »
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