Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Piece of HO Scale Hardware has arrived.

The first piece of hardware for the South Station project has arrived. What is it you ask ?

It is this:

#8 Fast Tracks Turnout Jig

The South Station Yard Tracks are very complex. You have 10 approach tracks that need to be able to get to 28 station platforms. In order to do this, you need an incredible amount of switches, crossovers, etc. to get train A to platform B. For South Station,  there are 5 14 degree crossovers, 34 #8 Double-Slip switches, 22 #8 Turnouts, and numerous Turnout Switches that will need be custom-made in order to fit in the yard. See for yourself in this image:

Complex dontcha think ?

I could have gone with commercially-made switches (shinohara, etc) which would have made building this project incredibly expensive. Think of it, If I purchased 34 #8 Double-slip switches from Walthers @ $85.00 per switch, that would cost me $2890.00 just for the slip switches! We won't even get into the costs of the other switches; I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation one night and the amount was staggering. Mind you, this cost is for switches alone. (Need we add-in other stuff like tortoise switch machines, DCC controls , etc. ? )

So, in my usual wreckless manner of thinking, I decided that in order to keep costs down, I would use the Fast Tracks Switch jigs.  I would buy the jigs and build them myself. Simple Right ?

Well, sort of.

John, Have I ever build a hand-laid switch before ? Well, not really. I have hand-spiked track before which was not too difficult to do once you got the hang of it. How hard could it be to advance to making hand-laid switches ?

You can stop laughing now.

If there is one thing I am pretty good at is learning something completely new. Even though my real job is computer network engineering, I managed to teach myself how to design structures, ships, etc using 3D CAD software just because I found it interesting. I have learned if something really interests me, I tend to pick it up pretty quick.

The folks at Fast Tracks took most of the hard work out of making hand-laid switches but creating jigs that you lay the rail and ties into. Then you solder the parts toegther to complete the switch. The end result is a nice-looking piece of track that you built at a very low cost. So, instead of paying $85.00 for the Double-slip switch, The cost is reduced down to about $15.00 plus your sweat equity. The incentive of reducing the cost of making all 34 switches from $2890.00 down to $510.00 is a huge incentive for me to learn how to build switches using the Fast Tracks Jigs.

O.K. John, then why did you buy the #8 Turnout before you buy the #8 Double Slip?

Well, building a #8 Turnout is considerably easier than building a #8 Double Slip switch. I need to learn technique on how these things go together and, most importantly, if I have the skill required to build these switches. Might as well start out easy, gain experience, then tackle the more difficult switches. By the time I build the stock switches, turnouts,etc, I should have enough experince in making hand-laid turnouts to be able to build a genuine custom-made switch.

Well soon find out.

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