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Salfords Light Railway

How to build a pair of points (turnout)

Note: I will specifically NOT use the correct railway terms for the items in the kit. Firstly I am not 100% sure of some of the more exotic names myself, secondly it is easier to show you rather than tell you.

Total time to construct a pair of points (turnout) - approx. 2-3 hours.

1 Ignoring the sleeper (tie) on the right, this is what you get in a "rail-only" point kit from Miniature Railway Supply Company.

The check rails are missing from this shot, but they are shown in step 8.

Firstly you need to identify which parts are which. It is easy to confuse the fixed part of the blade (E and F) with C and D. However, Jeff Price will tell you the dimension from the tip of the blade to the crossing in the frog K (which varies depending on the radius). This way it will become clear which is which. The tie-bar J will have the odd parts, fixings etc. tied to it. Lay the parts out on the floor to see how they all go together.

Remove the bolts from the blades so that G can slot in to E and H in to F but do not do the bolts up at this stage.

For convenience sake, all photos and descriptions are taken from this side. Left is the end with the single track, right is the end where the 2 tracks diverge. Just to be awkward, photo 9 is taken from the other side.

2 Starting on the left (i.e. the single-track end), fix a single sleeper in place clear of the fishplate holes (obviously using a track gauge).

Put the smaller of the 2 types of plates found in the odds-n-ends bundle on the 2nd sleeper from the left. Alignment of this sleeper is important and the plates must be put on the correct way round - see picture to left.

Align the tip of the point blade 188mm from the end of the stock rail. The metal plate needs to go under the rail and support the tip of the blade. See detail photo to left. The rail fixing screw will only just hold the edge of the rail 

3 Now space out the sleepers along the point. The next important dimension is the location of the cast crossing - each end (A and B) must rest on a sleeper.

Due to the angles and size of my sleepers, I had to double-up on one sleeper at the wide end of the frog casting - not shown here, but visible in picture 9. It was simply not possible to get enough rail fixing screws in place otherwise.

  • Having seen a pre-built pair of points, Jeff Price advocates the use of wider sleepers under the front and back of the frog.
  • I had some pre-soaked sleepers ready to use. These were cut over length and will be trimmed before the point gets put in place on the railway. I am using 2 extra-long sleepers (marked X) where the tie bar is to hold the point lever I will use. This is my choice and not essential.

4 Now you know where sleepers 3 and 4 will be (from the left), you can drill the rail for the side mounting brackets.

5 Fix the larger mounting plates underneath the rail, and screw these in place.

Do this on one side only - recommend the straight route.

Note: Fix the brackets on both rails, but only screw them down on to the sleepers on the straight-rail side.

6 Now screw the straight stock rail B in place on all remaining sleepers.

7 Keeping the tip of the blade G 188mm from the end of the stock rail, fix rail E parallel with stock rail B

Then, fix the frog K in place and finally rail D.

8 Now set stock rail A to gauge using the other side of the frog K and screw it down to all remaining sleepers.

You can now set rails F and C to gauge from the curved stock rail A.

Adjusting the blades is one of the more time consuming tasks. Firstly, check where the small brackets Z need to be in order to line up with the other blade and tighten the bolts (they have a small amount of movement in them and they should be exactly opposite each other).

Insert the bolts and put the nuts on finger-tight. Now hold one blade hard up against the stock rail and tighten each of the bolts so that it does not rattle - it is not necessary to do them up too tight. Now see if the blade will move clear of the stock rail. If not, slacken off the outer bolts a little. Repeat this process until the blade will move freely to and fro and at the maximum travel of the blade the bolts are not too loose. Repeat again for the other blade.

Fitting the tie bar in place is fairly straightforward, just don't do the bolts up too tight. The blades should move hard up against the stock rail on each side. If they don't check the bolts on the fishplates aren't too tight. Prod each one in turn - it should rattle just a little showing that there is a little slack in the joint.

9 Remove the screws from the check rails and also the rail fixing screws on the 2 sleepers adjacent to the frog.

Place the check rail on the OUTSIDE of the rail and drill through the holes.

Now place the check rail on the INSIDE with the collars on the bolts, and the web of the rail on the INSIDE.

Do up the bolts. Note the rear check rail has already been done and I am drilling through the holes for the nearer check rail.

Replace the rail fixing screws. It doesn't matter if you have to screw down the check rail rather than the running rail - they are bolted together anyway.

This view also shows the "extra" sleeper used to hold the rails firmly next to the frog.

10 Now all that you need to do is trim off the excess sleeper and fit in place on the railway.

Here's a set of 3 points (turnouts) that will form my triangle ready to be installed (obviously the tracks to join them up are not present).

[ author: - last updated 15th Feb 2003 ] [ HOME ]