Step by Step: Hand Laid Turnouts

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There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing track for your model railroad. Code 55 or 40 is appropriate for N scale mainline but unfortunately turnouts aren’t widely distributed for either. In this case, factory made track is not always available making hand laid turnouts the only solution for building this particular scale. Hand laid turnouts may sound complex and time consuming but with a few tips and tricks it’s achievable. In this video, Model Railroad Academy modeler Tony Koester delivers a step-by-step tutorial on how to hand lay turnouts like a pro.

Hand Laid Turnouts

Hand laid turnouts allow your track plan to be more free-flowing. Tony suggests several techniques to help you hand lay your own turnouts. He begins by building on a homasote fiber board, which receives and holds spikes well. For the railroad ties, Tony recommends basswood because of its fine grain. Basswood is sold in any hobby shop. To save time, track layers usually mass produce turnout ties in batches. White or yellow glue works well for gluing down ties but avoid excessive glue as it could interfere with tie staining. Tony also suggests sanding to ensure that there are no gaps between the rails and ties. Using fine sandpaper will help avoid sanding lines across the grain. After staining the track and bonding the ballast, you will be ready to fit the rail to build the turnout.

Tony provides a comprehensive list of tools you’ll need to fit the rail to the turnout. Many of the tools discussed will be familiar items that you likely have in your toolbox already. One tool you may not have is a piece of hacksaw blade you’ll need to file the grooves in the frog. Tony walks you through how to properly use every tool to fit the rail. Once finished, remember to check your work to ensure everything is secure and working as intended.

There’s always something new to learn about model railroading. Tony’s tips and tricks for building hand laid turnouts will save you time and materials on your next made from scratch track.

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