Installing the first Bullfrog Switch Machine

So, in my last post, I wrote about working up to attempting to install a Fast Tracks Bullfrog Switch Machine. on Saturday over the weekend, I took the plunge and after ballasting the track around the first one I wanted to install, I installed one.

Here we go, the first switch I am going to install a Bullfrog in after ballasting on Saturday morning.

Slow and steady was the plan here. Once I got the throw wire threaded through the throw rod on the switch, I marked where I wanted to drill a hole in the fascia for the control lever, and drilled the hole. I think now that I know where from the bottom of the fascia the hole goes, I will be able to drill them from the outside, this first one I drilled from the inside. Using an 11/64 drill, which I think was a size small, I created a nice tight hole that holds the outer red tube for the RC aircraft control rod in place nice and tight without any clamp or glue. Once the outer rod was in, I inserted the yellow inner rod through, and screwed the threaded metal rod into the clevis on the Bullfrog. Here I found another advantage of the clevis over the z-rod Fast Tracks provides, its easy to unthread the control rod from the clevis, and it gives a built in adjuster to move the end of the control rod away from the fascia (this becomes important in a bit).

My first installation of a Bullfrog. Getting a mark for drilling the control rod, getting the control rod in, the Bullfrog mounted and everything fastened in place.

With everything in place, I very gently started testing the switch and if the throw worked. It did, but it was very tight, and in addition to the side to side motion, I was seeing vertical motion, which is bad as the narrow n-scale tie used as the throwbar holding the rails together was flexing and risking breaking. We’d broken one elsewhere on the layout installing track and drilling them, so I know they are fragile if they bend up and down. I also discovered that the way I had put things together, the knob on the end of the rod to throw the switch was right on the fascia and impossible to grab. loosing the control rod in the clevis moved the grab off the benchwork. Problem solved with minimal fuss.

For now I am going to use the knobs sold by Fast Tracks, but I want something more substantial for the future I think.

I was not entirely happy with how it was working at first. It was very tight to pull, and it was visibly putting pressure on the tie bar connecting the rails. After chatting with a friend by text, I disassembled the Bullfrog from below and did some sanding on the moving part around the holes for the ball bearing. This let it move with a lot less tension, while still achieving the lock of the rails the ball bearing is there to provide. The cleanup and adjustment to the Bullfrogs is I think worthy of its own post in the next few days when I work on another and remember to take some pictures of the cleanup.

Video of testing the throw before cutting off the wire and putting on a proper pull handle.

Of course, no successful project goes unpunished, so in ballasting the next switch where I am going to install a Bullfrog, after ballasting the glue was as is often the case, holding the rails in place, in the process of gently prying the rail to break the glue bond, I broke a rail off the throwbar. I am not a great or confident solderer, but instead of burying my head and moping, I got at it and with a little flux in place, got the rail and tiebar wedged back together, and re-soldered the rail. It appears from the track gauge that I got it back in exactly the right place, and equipment seems to still go through properly, so it appears that was also a fail/succeed moment.

It’s hard to see, but on the far point rail, the silver of the fresh solder can just be seen!

So, all in all, I’m quite pleased with my Saturday progress on this one, as I now have one switch machine installed, only twelve more to go!

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