In the past I posted my attempt to modify original Gilbert turnouts so that the diverging track curvature was greatly reduced. That method worked out OK.

I decided to put my "scrubs" back on, sharpen up the scalpels (bandsaw and dremel) and have a go at modifying original SHS (now MTH) turnouts to achieve a similar result.

The only reason I tried this is because a fellow S gauge friend came across 4 derelict SHS turnouts that had seen better days and we wanted to see if this modification could be done.

What I started with was a pair (L and R) of SHS turnouts that have the customary r20 diverging track like this:


If you have ever tried to make a passing siding with SHS turnouts you know that you may need a "filler" to connect back up to the opposing turnout. I wanted to avoid that issue so I paid specific attention to the length of the newly created diverging leg of the turnout. I chose to use r24 SHS curves for the donor tracks:



The general idea is to

A. cut off the diverging track on the turnout,

B. cut the donor track to a length that allows standard sections of straight track to complete the run to the other turnout and

C. secure the cut donor track to the turnout.

First cut the diverging leg of track off the switch. Using a dremel cut the outer rail where shown in the following photo. Pull off (out) both short sections of rail and then cut the roadbed where shown. (The outer rail cut needs to be a 90 degree cut as measured across the roadbed.) 

DSCN1504 A

Next you need to cut the donor track to a length that makes the outer rail 9" long. (Your results may vary depending on how you cut the turnout). Always err on the long side of can always cut or file a bit more but you can't put it "back on".  You'll also have to cut some of the roadbed along the inside of the curve to allow straight track sections to join the straight portion of the turnout.

What you'll end up with is something like this:


Note that the outer cut rail on the donor curve is secured to the outer cut rail on the turnout with a rail joiner.

Where the roadbeds of the two tracks join is a real problem. You'll need to study long and hard at the two tracks penciling in a guide line as to where to make the cuts.

The underside of the newly joined tracks needs to be secured back together. You could use many types of glue, epoxy, contact cement , etc. I chose to use clear caulk as an adhesive with bits of cut roadbed as "bridges" across the joined areas:



There's not a lot more to tell you about this modification. Just remember to take lots of time studying any proposed cuts before you make the cut. As to wiring the newly joined donor rails that's a topic for another time. This post is to show that it can be done. I think the roadbed cuts could be dressed up a bit better with some scenic elements such as ballast and glue but for now I have a working model of surgically altered SHS turnouts:


Note that all the straight 10" sections of track remain uncut. The center to center spacing of the straight and divergent tracks is now right at 2 5/8". That's just about what was achieved in the original Gilbert Turnout surgery and is a vast improvement over original SHS/MTH track centers:


So while I know not many people will attempt this modification (Heck I wouldn't have if it weren't for these junker turnouts!) at least now MTH will see that it could be done in a revised turnout release perhaps 200 years in the future! 






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Original Post

Nice work and it gives me some ideas about modifying an Atlas O switch although it seems to me that it would be almost as easy just to build the whole assembly from raw parts.

Later Gator,



Here comes a Yankee with a blackened soul,
Heading to Gatow with a load of coal.
......Anonymous U. S. pilot during the Berlin Airlift

Thanks Dave and Jesse. This turnout surgery would allow many car storage tracks in a small area of a layout. The manufacturers probably won't spend the $$ needed to mold a new turnout roadbed designed like these.

Lionel/American Flyer S scale Fastrack switches are essentially identical to the SHS/MTH turnouts so they too could be modified like this.


HI Mark,


Very nice work.  Please let me know if you have a line any more donor switches - I have the top on the new layout's benchwork and am starting to finalize the track plan.  A passing siding that took up less room would be a big help.




Mark, that is very nice work you did. The finished turnout looks factory supplied. As far as turnouts to cut up I have never seen the manual SHS turnouts you pictured. They must not be as common as the powered versions which themselves were not that common. PortLines has some used SHS turnouts for $45. The new MTH turnouts are $65.

The problem with even the latest release of the SHS turnouts is the wiring and brass slides under the turnout are not robust and in my personal experience have a 90% chance of failing in routine use. These parts were clearly not made to pass 8A to 10A or for continuous switching use. I would cut up the SHS turnout as you did  Mark and then solder on new wires and use a relay or contacts on a Tortoise machine to power the frog and frog rails. This is the same as one would wire one of the custom made numbered turnouts. I have never taken apart a new MTH turnout to see how robust the electrical parts are. What I do know is the rail MTH uses is not the same alloy and quality that SHS sourced even though they look almost the same. When we stripped the rail out of the MTH flex track to use as stock to make the custom turnouts the difference between the MTH and SHS rail was obvious.


Tom your layout is stunning! We put some similar LEDs on the club layout. When I ordered them from an ebay seller (China) I assumed (incorrectly) that the top bulb was green and the bottom bulb was red. WRONG!. Both bulbs changed from green to red. So we doubled up the units with two bulbs facing one way and two bulbs facing the other. All the bulbs light up at the same time either green or red.

So what we have (not prototypical) is from either view the turnout shows 2 bulbs lit...2 green for the straight or 2 red for the divergent. Doesn't matter...everybody likes the tiny lights!

I need to read these ebay listings closer before I hit the Buy-it-Now button!


There are a few places I wish I had bi directional position lights like you now have even though they are not prototypical. One of these days (years?) I need to put the wood veneer I had cut on the exposed wood surfaces of the layout.

It really is a shame neither SHS nor MTH made turnouts with the wider radius diverging track. At least we have the Lionel 27"R turnouts and the pre-made #5's from Fox Valley.


Hi,  I originally modified some American Flyer switches for my yard but got stuck thinking about wiring switch machines etc... then I found a few used S Helper switches and went to work.  Cut the first one too short in the trial and error effort but the second round came out a little better.  I have reinforced all the new joints with screwed/glued plates underneath.  They fit now, just have to double-check the wiring.

If anyone would like the modified AF switches, they can be had for the cost of shipping from 14818.






Photos (4)


I did the mods as shown by banjoflyer,  I cut the rails with a thin cutoff wheel mounted on my Shopsmith, I found on my bandsaw that the rails just killed the blade. The plastic though I did cut on the bandsaw. I then attached Styrene where the cuts were made with hot glue and painted  it.

Sad to say but I believe that Mark "banjoflyer" is no longer on the forum, our loss. I was fortunate to meet with him at S Fest in St. Louis, a super nice man and quite talented. The other fellas in his club gave him great accolades.


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