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After reading many helpful recommendations here on OGR (a big thank you), combined with some experimentation and testing, I've made many modifications to stock FasTrack Switches to improve their operational reliability.   In addition to a number of other steps that are irrelevant to this question, I've opted to file the switch points on some of my turnouts so that their leading edge has a much finer point than the stock version.

These points are not attracted to a very strong magnet.  They do have a plated finish that is now absent from the length of the surface which meets the outside rail, due to the filing.  It's been about 4 months since I filed away the plating, and some of the cast metal on some of these points, and so far, there are no signs of oxidation on the bare metal.

The Questions:

1) What is the metallurgical composition for the cast part of FasTrack Switch points (excluding the plating), or more specifically which metal elements are used in making the castings of these points?

2) Do the filed points surfaces need a protective coating (and if so recommendations) to prevent/inhibit the formation of surface oxidation?



The main reason for these questions is, I'm in the process of writing a (hopefully) comprehensive help article detailing how a combination of tweaks to FasTrack Switches, which for me have eliminated points picking and derailments that can sometimes be caused by these switches.  Since points filing is one the key alterations, in combination with points bending, straightening, travel extents improvements, and others, I don't want to potentially recommend anything in this possible help guide article that could potentially cause problems later.  I'd prefer not to go into the other details of how to improve the operational reliability of FasTrack switches here in this Post.  Some may say this has all been covered before, but after reading extensively on this subject, I believe there is more that can be done that hasn't been previously mentioned here in the forum, and the information that has been presented here before on tuning these switches is spread across multiple topics.  I'm hoping to put them all together, with some potentially new information.

I respectfully ask that everyone please limit your replies in this topic to discussing answers to the 2 questions asked above.  If you have unrelated questions or comments, you're welcome to send me a Private Message or an email (address in my profile).



Thank you, Steve H

Last edited by SteveH
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Steve, quick side question:

Do you know the general build dates of your switches?     I have about 50 FT switches purchased between 2005 and 2009.  With the exception of two that had bad micro switches, these have been the smoothest and most reliable switches I've ever had.    I've never had a loco or car pick a switch.   Lionel MTH, Atlas, etc.....

I'm just curious of what you see is something in later runs.   All my points sit tight against the rail.   I run them all on aux power at about 14volts, so they snap into position smartly.



I do like the idea of what you're doing, though.  It would be good info for those having issues that you describe.

According to a couple of sources including wikipedia (yeah I know...) the two types of brass I mentioned (Beta and Alpha-beta) have lower concentrations of copper with higher concentrations of zinc, are often use in casting, and are brighter (more silver colored) than the yellow brass I typically think of when someone says "Brass".

So maybe one of these two types of brass or similar.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass

Last edited by SteveH

Doing some more non-Wikipedia reading, it looks like these could be what is commonly referred to as White Brass.  Looking at the picture and description in this Link to Belmont Metals, and comparing that to this picture I took,  these points being white brass seems plausible.

On the left is where I filed away the 2 layers of plating (zinc over copper) and into the bare cast metal.  On the right is still fully plated.

1 point



Does anyone here have inside knowledge with what type of metal the FasTrack points are cast?

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  • 1 point
  • 1 point

@Dave Olson Would you be able to shed some light on this subject?

I'm wondering if you might be able to share (without necessarily disclosing any proprietary information) which elements make up the cast metal part of FasTrack switch points, not including the plating.


If part of the plating is removed, would surface oxidation on the exposed base metal be likely in the long term?

Thank you,

SteveH

Last edited by SteveH

I have no exact knowledge about the answers to the questions you posed, but I will try my best.

1. I have no idea, but you could probably test it.  The traditional non-scientific test for determining metallic composition is to touch the piece to a grinding wheel in a relatively dark area and observe the sparks.  This is an acquired skill among experienced machinists.  You can learn a bit on YouTube if you are interested (How to Identify Metals Using Spark Testing - YouTube, ex.).  My grandfather was a tool and die maker and had uncanny proficiency with this technique.  Everything got touched on the grinder before it was machined.  Brass does not to my knowledge come in numbered alloy grades like steel does.  Certain other alloys of copper do not spark at all and are used for tools in explosive environments.

2. All copper is reactive with the environment over time.  The Statue of Liberty was bright metal in 1886 and took years in a salty environment to achieve its current patina.  I have a cornet with pinhole leaks where saliva has (over decades) eaten through the metal.  Copper plumbing pipes suffer from this same problem and and have their own alloy for this reason.  Maynard Ferguson's trumpet is uncoated brass and exhibits a patina.  Virtually all other brass instruments are plated on the outside.  Lacquer is most common because it is cheap and durable.  Silver plate is also common on brass instruments but tends to wear through, especially when thin.  Source for tools and chemicals commonly used for brass instruments:  https://www.ferreestoolsinc.com/

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