Working my way up to installing Switch Machines

Before I’d actually started to build the layout, I was doing lots of little things to build skills. One of them was to build a test piece of roadbed that I could install a Bullfrog Switch Machine from Fast Tracks into to start to get a feel for doing so, as I’ve got 13 turnouts to install them on on the layout, and outside the one tester I did, I’ve installed exactly zero turnout machines, be they Bullfrogs or Tortoises or any other brand. On every previous bit of working layout I’ve built, my switches have had nothing and were flipped by hand, or Caboose Industries ground throws. Below layout, remotely operated switches is new ground for me, and I’ve been slowly building up to my first attempt to install a switch machine on the layout.

I have two switches where scenery has made it past them at a base level, but they are both in a corner of the layout and in a tight spot to work with curved fascia. This feels to me like setting myself up to fail by starting in a hard spot to work in. Frankly, I had been hoping that working with a friend who has done them before to help me see the quirks of installation would have been in the cards for this summers build day get together. I’ve had 3 group work days on the layout now in just under 2 years, but Covid-19 is now in the way of having friends over 😦 .

I’m pleased at how much I’ve been able to do myself, but things like the benchwork was a multi person job, some of the complicated trackwork was, and so was at least the first phases of wiring so I could mostly observe and learn from others so I could do it myself and have a reference of others work. I was and kinda still am hoping for the same with the switch machines. I also, quite frankly love inviting 3-4 friends over to “work” on the layout and have a meal together. Yes our sessions when I’ve had friends over have all been super productive, but I’d be OK if they weren’t too, as the social side of the hobby is also important to me. I look forward to the near future where the things left to do are structures and scenery and the layout is in a state to operate, as then I can invite my friends over without the overt use of them as extra labour for a beer and some BBQ!!

Of late, I’ve been looking at how to make all the connections between the Bullfrog and the RC aircraft control rods that move the switch machine from the fascia pull lever. I picked up some mini clevises last weekend, and I think I like them better than the Z rods that Fast Tracks provides. I have extra Z rods, and a couple were badly misshaped, so I cut one off with the Dremel to get to a straight 2-56 threaded rod, and made the connection between the clevis and rod so that I can play around with the machine and how to make the connections.

Two Fast Tracks Bullfrog switch machines, on the left with a clevis attached to the throw, on the right with the Z-bend connector from Fast Tracks.

I can see that I am just going to have to work myself up to doing it on my own sooner or later, but I think I am going to at least give myself the best chance of success by doing the first install on a piece of track where the switch throw is perpendicular to the fascia, and then move onto the harder ones, so with that I think my first weekend task is some more basic ground cover to get a spot ready to install a switch at.

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