American Flyer turnout "Surgery"

A friend sent me this PDF detailing to an extent how to reduce AF parallel track centers to 2.5" . (I think it's OK to reprint it here.)

Some surgery on the switch is required for some of the applications. Others require only a little creative "rail re-orientation".

I don't use original Flyer tubular track but for those who do this PDF will allow you to lay your yard tracks much closer to one another and get more trains on the layout in the same square footage.

Mark

 

 

 

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Mark, a very nice writeup and pictures, thanks for posting this.

I also modified some turnouts by reversing the rails as shown here to get some yard tracks on 2.5" centers. Between every pair of close tracks I left a larger gap so I could put the remote uncouplers on all the sidings. Just a caution, using a 2'5" center to center spacing on mainline tracks with 20" radius curves will limit what engines and cars can be run without hitting each other on the curves.

Tom

Hi Tom, Yes I thought the close spacing would hinder large steamers and the like from running on parallel tracks. Too bad I sold off all my AF turnouts long ago. I'd like to try this myself.

I was wondering if this modification would help longer rolling stock i.e. passenger cars, auto carriers to negotiate AF turnouts without hitting the raised tower that contains the lights?

This picture  seems to show that with the curved tracks sort of "straightened out" that longer cars might not hit the towers. Even if an r20 curve was attached to the divergent rails it looks like the new geometry of the turnout would help in this regard. Have you observed this with your modifications? 

Mark

 

 

 

 

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Mark, the modified turnout will definitely allow longer cars to operate without hitting the lantern housing. Connecting a curve track will create a double S curve. It should not cause a problem for original Gilbert equipment but the newer AM passenger cars may not like it.

Tom

Mark,

I wish that this had been posted a few years back! Looks like another project on my list, this one may have to move towards the front. I could sure use more yard tracks.

Would it be possible for you to mark on these pictures where the rails were cut, that would help this old guy.

Ray

Rayin"S" posted:

 

Would it be possible for you to mark on these pictures where the rails were cut, that would help this old guy.

Ray

Hi Ray. I'm not the author of the article and haven't done this surgery but I'll try to help out. I enlarged the pictures in the PDF (just keep hitting the "+" circle) until the image was very large:

You can now see the "ghost image" of where the divergent rails were originally routed. It looks like the longer curved rail was cut where shown above and then both of the resulting short curved sections were reversed 180 degrees. It also looks like the rail clips were remounted to the base in the new locations. As the article says the author re-soldered the rails to their original wires under the switch.

Tom (post above) has done this surgery so maybe he can share some insights or corrections to my thoughts on where the rails are to be cut?

Mark

 

 

 

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Mark's cut mark on the divergent rail is in the correct place. Rather than fool with mounting short pieces of rail on the turnout I just cut a piece of curve track to the correct length to go from the frog to meet up with the parallel straight track as one piece. I also did his switch 14A configuration with the straight rails. I did not cut the plastic base and glue them together, too much work at the time.

At one of the DuPage shows in the early 90's I came across a guy selling American Flyer compatible Right of Way Industries #4 and #6 turnouts. They were built with wood ties and GarGraves rail and have the closed frog with the movable point like the current FasTrack turnouts. I bought a stack of #4's and used them rather than cut up any more Gilbert turnouts.

Tom

Well I completed surgery on my two manual turnouts and the patients have survived.

I now have parallel tracks with 2.25" centers. That beats the articles 2.5" centers. I did what Tom suggested and cut a piece of curve track to extend beyond the switch base to the point where a 10" straight  track would be parallel to the track on the straight side of the switch.

The turnout's curved rail is cut 6.25" from the entry end of the turnout. The "donor" curve is also cut 6.25" from one end when measured around the outer rail or the larger radius rail. I  used a flexible steel ruler to mark the rails where to cut them. The short curved rail is discarded but when you remove it notice that the end nearest to the frog is ground down slightly on one edge. Duplicate this on the donor curve inner rail so it will fit just as the discarded rail did.

I retained two of the metal track ties under the overhanging end of the donor curve.

The retaining clips for the rails can be reused on the new donor curve but you will have to cut or drill some slots on either side of the rails in their new locations, insert the clips and crimp them to the rails. Re-solder any joints you had to disturb during surgery.

I tried to run a long freight car through the divergent route and was delighted to find that my O27 Auto Carrier could negotiate the curve without hitting the switch lantern housing. So this fix will allow longer cars to run freely through the divergent passing siding route.

In my case after the track surgery I cut off all of the base that wasn't needed for our layouts switch locations. The existing hole in the pivot rail that attaches the arm that moves the rail side to side will accept the throw rods on our Tortoise switch machines. The modified Gilbert turnouts will be wired identically to the Gargraves turnouts they are replacing.

If you try this surgery for passing sidings and use my measurements you will need to cut a straight piece of track to 4 and 5/8" to use as a filler piece on the straight route when adding 10" straight tracks to both routes.

I'll post some pictures of the job later this weekend and maybe that will help out if my post has been confusing in any way.

My turnout looks a lot like the upper one (#17) in this photo from the original post:

Mark

 

 

 

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Mark, it sounds like a complete success! I would assume the original metal slug with the triangular tip that holds the points in position will have to be removed to use a Tortoise machine. They would not be necessary any longer. Look forward to pictures of the installed turnouts with the freight cars on the mainline and passing siding.

Tom

AmFlyer posted:

Mark, it sounds like a complete success! I would assume the original metal slug with the triangular tip that holds the points in position will have to be removed to use a Tortoise machine. They would not be necessary any longer. Look forward to pictures of the installed turnouts with the freight cars on the mainline and passing siding.

Correct. The tortoise throw rod will now enter the pivoting points through the hole that originally accepted the screw that held the triangular tip. When we try the first substitution of these for a Gargraves turnout the worst that will happen is we might have to lengthen or shorten the existing track to accommodate the new turnout. At least all the track to be modified will be straight track. I'll post some pictures in a short while.

Mark

 

 

 

I said I'd supply some photos so here goes.....

     If you are contemplating a layout using Gilbert tubular track and turnouts  or just Gilbert turnouts with another brand of track this modification will allow closer track spacing. That is a big plus when you are constructing a freight yard. More track means more trains on the table to run!
    
    Take a pair of Gilbert turnouts and decide how you want them to operate. If you are using the factory installed connections and operation that's OK as these modifications will allow you to maintain the one or two train operation Gilbert provided. If you are planning to use Tortoise switch machines you can use a pair of manual turnouts as the factory installed "guts" will be removed. The throw rod on the tortoise switch machine will operate the moving points to allow the switch to change to the curve route.
     
      I used two manual turnouts since I don't need the lantern tower or any electrical connections for replacement of the poorly operating Gargraves turnouts on my club's modular layout.
     This picture shows a left and right manual turnout completely modified with divergent curved rails cut from a donor Gilbert curve. 
 
Modified Gilbert turnouts 002
 
This picture shows a powered turnout. Cut and remove both the short curved rail and the newly cut short section of the long curved rail. Leave the 6.25" portion shown in red:
 
 
To remove the rails you will need to remove the rail clips that attach the rails to the base. Save them as they will be reused. You may have to de-solder some wires from the underside of the clips. Take note of what wire goes where as they will need to be re-soldered to the tabs when the new rails are installed.
The new rails are cut from a donor curve section:
What we are doing is reversing the divergent curved route to not curve to the right anymore but rather make a gentle "S" curve so that we can attach parallel tracks closer together.
The pair of rails on the divergent route will now measure 12.5 inches end to end. Remember to grind down the end of the inner curved rail to match the one discarded.
The new location of the rails is shown below. You can see that the inner curved rail now just clears the point of the angle molded on the switch base. The "old" clip slots are visible.
     Drill new slots for the rail clips where ever you can find a space to do so and reattach them. You may have to grind off some plastic under the base if it's in your way. Re-solder any wires where they need to go. Slide two metal ties to the free end of the rails and secure them to the rails.
 
     Now your turnout's divergent rails are ready to accept straight sections.
 
     One more thing you will need to do is cut a "filler" straight section from a donor straight track to a length of 4 and 5/8 inches. 
     The next picture shows the left and right modified turnouts with the "filler" track installed in the straight section of the switch. You will need it no matter how many straight sections you add to both routes:
 
Here's another view showing how long the curved rails overhang the end of the switch base:
 
 
Finally here's the turnouts with some straight sections installed along with the filler. Note I have cut away most of the base along with the lantern towers. They now resemble Gargraves turnouts and could be given a ballasted effect with some "Stone Effect" paint if desired. I closed up the newly cut edge of the base with a length of 5/16" wide black styrene attached with hot glue.

 
 
        The center-to-center spacing is now 2.25 inches. 
 
 
 
 
     This project takes a little time but after the learning curve of the first one it's not too bad.
     Give it a try if you want to create a multi-track yard with close track spacing or even if you just want your passing sidings to not take up so much layout space.
 
Mark

 

 

 

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Mark! Do you realize how many projects you are adding to my list? Just a little kidding  but this one has got to move to the top of the list, it will almost double storage. Thank you for all the info on these mods.

Ray

Mark, I have acquired several of the Flyer turnouts and have begun to modify them using the ideas you have planted in my empty head. I have found a way to use the original Gilbert switch motors under the switches. I will explain this procedure and illustrate with pics. I would also like to take some pics before I do the mods on the layout to show the difference these switches make in the track-work.  Thank you again for this thread that you have posted.

Flyer for ever!

Ray

The reverse loop circuit boards I used are PSX-AR-AC. The main advantages are they work for any track configuration and they do not rely on turnout position. The disadvantage is they are expensive. The solution Ray posted is a fine alternative and much cheaper. It might be a bit more complex for the wye.

Tom

AmFlyer posted:

The reverse loop circuit boards I used are PSX-AR-AC. The main advantages are they work for any track configuration and they do not rely on turnout position. The disadvantage is they are expensive. The solution Ray posted is a fine alternative and much cheaper. It might be a bit more complex for the wye.

I think you meant this post to go in this thread.

Mark

Rayin"S" posted:

 I have found a way to use the original Gilbert switch motors under the switches. I will explain this procedure and illustrate with pics. I would also like to take some pics before I do the mods on the layout to show the difference these switches make in the track-work.  

Ray

That sounds neat Ray!

Funny you should mention this project just now. I have our club's layout in my garage and am slowly replacing all the old Gargraves turnouts with the revised Gilbert turnouts. Since we already have Tortoise switch machines on the layout I am using them again.  The less I tear up the less I have to fix. Some of the layouts turnouts have the Tortoise throw rod between the rails and others it is to one side or another. The location of the Tortoise machines under the table was determined by what was in the way below the switch such as bracing or relays for other things. So I have to learn as I go modifying the Gilbert parts to fit the problem at hand. I have 4 turnouts completed...10 more to go. At least I can reconnect the wiring as it was originally designed by our club's sparky tech guru. Most of the turnouts I'm cutting up are the manual variety. Our club was very eager to respond to my call for donated turnouts...I received over 30!

The good news is the moving points on the AF turnouts are very stout and not flimsy like the Gargraves points. So far I've tested them with only an SHS switcher. ( But then again those little gems will run on a gravel driveway without any track! ) .

Tomorrow I'll use it to pull a long passenger car and then I'll try an SD70ACe. If all those can operate smoothly over the switch I'll be home free.

Good luck on your project and by all means post pics that show your work along the way!

Mark

Hi

This is great but I am dumb guy  and need to see everything visually. Any chance someone can post a video of this process?  Unfortunately my simple mind functions better when I can see how its done. i know a lot of you tube videos have helped me with auto repairs.  Thanks

dandeo50 posted:

Hi

 Any chance someone can post a video of this process?  Unfortunately my simple mind functions better when I can see how its done. 

While it's not a video, in the 12th post in this thread (above) dated 4/8/17 I have posted pictures of each of the major steps involved. The accompanying text further explains the process. The entire process can take upwards of one hour per turnout so a video would become a "short film". 

Mark

Hi guys, 

I will try to post some pics and explain my process for using the original motors in the Gilbert turnouts. 

The light shutter is removed and the coil is removed and installed on the bottom side of its base. 

I marked the position of the of the plunger lock on the plunger plate, before taking it off to bend the plunger plate, so I could reinstall in the original position.

When the turnout is reassembled it operates as the original turnout did, but now the motor is under the turnout and out of sight. Of course you need now to cut a hole in the layout to clear for the motor.

Ray

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Ray that is super clever! If our club layout didn't already have Tortoise switch machines installed your method would be an inexpensive alternative. On my modifications I used the original metal shaft that moves the points but removed the contact piece at the end. The other end was cut and rounded off and a hole was drilled in the shaft to accommodate the Tortoise switch rod.

Some of the Tortoise motors were centered under the switch and on those the rod directly enters the points through the screw hole near the end. On those that had the Tortoise machine offset to one side or another to clear under-table issues the metal shaft can be used and exit either side of the turnout depending on which side the Tortoise machine is located. When I install the shaft I make sure that the hex head screw that attaches the tiny plate to the shaft is oriented upwards should it ever have to be moved or replaced.

Mark

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Mark, I had a Tortoise here and did try it but, having the contact piece on the throw, the Tortoise would not operate the switch points, to much drag. I wanted to leave the contact piece on the plunger bar, I believe I can use that piece to operate the lights along side the track to indicate the routing of the turnout. I also found on some of the turnouts when remounting the motor I will have to use a nut on the mounting screws, some of the original tapped holes were pretty worn but I can camouflage the nuts with body filler and paint.

Ray

Brendan, thanks for the info, I did not know about the contacts but at the same time I considered that I will be doing 20 or so turnouts and by using the original motors I can save a couple hundred dollars by investing a little time.

Ray

Ray, I have 3 sections of our club's modular layout set up in my garage for installing the modified turnouts. The extensions on the ends are there in place of corner sections that could not be attached due to space limitations.

Here's some videos of the modified turnouts in action. Most are operated by offset Tortoise switch machines so you can see the modified metal arm that connects the points to the Tortoise. So far my 6 wheel trucked Lionel and AM Heavyweight passenger cars handle the turnouts forwards and backwards although the speed is fairly slow. High speed backups would probably be not so good. The videos are a mix of test runs and operation so there isn't much consistency. 

The fact that a Lehigh Valley SW1 is pulling an MKT baggage car is in itself a rarity!

This video of the train on the bridge is just a bonus!

Finally here's some gratuitous pics of our triple-long, double-wide bridge made of 6 modified Marx bridges just for fun...

AF modified turnouts 010AF modified turnouts 011AF modified turnouts 012

Mark

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Mark, Thanks for the videos, I would not say that your traversing those turnouts is slow, moderate speed yes. Hey those Marx bridges are cool, I have two on my home layout but only with single tracks.

I did do some trial runs through my first set of modified turnouts using a number of locomotives, from a Flyonel GP to a Flyonel Challenger, and rolling stock from a few freight cars to an AM streamliner coach. All went through without a hitch at a number of different speeds.

Again, Thank you

Ray

That's good news Ray. It's funny how it only took 30 years or so for Gargraves to "reinvent" their S gauge turnout so that it is a near copy of the Gilbert turnouts from the late 40's and on.

Here's the current Gargraves version:

It looks like this version could get the Gilbert surgery also to make for 2.5 inch centers on sidings by cutting the curved rail where shown and then doing the rest of the reverse rail prodedure:

I really like your solution of mounting the original Gilbert solenoids under the turnout and am going to try a pair myself just to see how they work.

Good luck on your project!

Mark

 

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Mark, I did make a fixture for bending the actuator arm, I can post a picture if you want with dimensions. I made it out of hard maple because I am also a woodworker.

Ray

Ray please do that. I tried your conversion and it works fine. Bending the arm was trial and error so I'm sure your jig will help. I also do woodworking. I managed to keep the 4 colored mounting posts on my conversion and I'll post a picture tomorrow. I found out that I had mounted the coil reversed from it's original orientation and when I powered the green terminal the points threw to the curve route. So instead of resoldering wires or turning the coil around I just changed the colors on the terminals from the factory positions. I won't use this turnout as my layout uses all AF Fastrack w/o turnouts but it was enlightening to do! Those who want to keep the original Gilbert "look" and operation (no Tortoise machines) and maximize track placement on their layout should give your conversion a try.

Mark

Mark,

Sorry that it has been a while before I got back to this. The first thing I did with the Jig was to cut three pieces of the hard maple, two pieecs the same length and the third piece 1/4" shorter. I laminated the two of the longer pieces and when cured I milled the step to the size shown, 1/8" high x 3/16" wide. At this time I drilled the hole in the laminated pieces for clearance of the plunger. I than put a piece of .030" styrene against the step on the laminated piece and fastened the third piece to it with double sided tape. I then drilled thru the clearance hole in the laminates, as a guide, and thru the short piece. I then drilled two holes thru all of the pieces for some 3/8" capscrews, drill these just large enough for the bolts to fit thru them, than on the back side of the laminated piece I opened the two holes just large enough to accept T-nuts. I needed to put wax on the capscrews to make it easier to turn them in, after doing a few of the actuators the screws tuned rather freely but were not at all sloppy.

I should mention that after doing each bend I did follow it up by finishing the bend on my arbor press to make it tight as possible..

Ray

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Mark, I thought I might bring this thread back to life for a bit. Now that I have begun to revamp my layout with these improved turnouts I found that my Gilbert uncouplers no longer fit, this being a problem because my desire is to operate as well as run trains. I disassembled several of the remote units and found that by cutting the top layer of the uncoupler and  carefully bending the sheet metal parts and that by cutting more holes in the layout these will also work with the closer track centers.

Ray

Rayin"S" posted:

My Gilbert uncouplers no longer fit. I disassembled several of the remote units and found that by cutting the top layer of the uncoupler and  carefully bending the sheet metal parts and that by cutting more holes in the layout these will also work with the closer track centers.

Ray

Ray I gotta hand it to you...you know how to fix a problem! Great news that you have been able to modify your yard so more trains can join in the fun!

I tried your "Coil mounted under the turnout" mod just to see if I could do it. It worked! I made up a 5' long "show and tell" assembly of Gilbert track and 2 modified turnouts to create a typical yard siding situation. I showed it at a recent club picnic to my train club's members and they had a little fun running a AF Docksider back and forth through the turnouts. One thing I learned...don't "push it" for closer and closer track centers. I managed to achieve a 2" track center (main to siding) only to find out that it was too close. A stationary car on the siding could be sideswiped by a train travelling on the main. So my thoughts are 2.5" centers are about the closest to safely strive for.

When you get your new yard finished please send along some pictures/videos so we can see the trains/turnouts in action!

Mark

Mark, I am in total agreement with you on not getting to close with the track centers, especially on the mainline. I have some big steam power and using the Gilbert track with the rubber roadbed 2.5" is as close as is possible in the yards. On the main with the tight radius of the Gilbert track I keep somewhere over 3 1/4 centers, but even that is much tighter than the 5 1/4 required with the stock turnouts. I will get some pictures and hopefully some videos if and when I can at least get ruining again.

Ray

Hi Mark,

I wanted to resurrect this thread to find if I might get permission to post the PDF from David on another web sight.  This information is to good to keep to ourselves. I would post it in total along with the information on my modifications to the Gilbert throws. I will not do this without permission from you and or your friend.

Thanks

Ray 

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