I mended something!

No burying the lede here, I am going full on Jeremy Clarkson excited about this one. I fixed one of my switches last night!

So, how did we get to me needing to fix a switch you might ask? Our tale begins with me picking up a couple of new Tangent Scale Models Pullman Standard 40′ 9′ door boxcars for the layout yesterday. A bit ago after a chat with my friend Trevor about my rolling stock needs, he pointed out that while CN and CP cars would dominate, Toronto was a “centre” of the railroad world, and cars from pretty much any railroad would be found here, so I can justify box cars from pretty much anyone. So, these cars fit my era, and provided railroads I don’t have cars from to add to my roster. The Tangent cars are nicely detailed, and are really not that expensive by today’s standards. The $65 Canadian price compares nicely to a $60 US resin kit, and I can spend the kit budget on things that are not available as RTR, which most of the Canadian cars I need are not.

New Southern Railway and Chicago & North Western Boxcars waiting on entering service in the CPR Staging Yard.

So, you might be asking yourself, how does a pair of new box cars lead to fixing a switch, and the answer my friends, is user error. After replacing the wheel sets in the cars with Code 88 Semi-Scale Wheels (all the cars on my layout have the same Code 88 wheels beneath them), and clipping off the coupler trip pins, I was rolling the cars through the switch on the peninsula to check that they were tracking, and if the truck screws were too tight, or for any other obvious adjustments needed. In doing so, I somehow, and I honestly don’t know if it was with one of the cars, or with an overly vigorous pull on the Bullfrog Turnout Machine throw, snapped off one of the rails.

Getting set to re-solder the rail. The top rail in the photograph has come off the throw bar. It required some patience to get everything back to a point where it could be re-soldered.

So, this should be a simple fix right? It should be, if I could successfully do one solder joint. As anyone whose seen my adventures in simple wiring for locomotives, that is no sure thing. To do it, I would need to hold the parts of the switch together in the correct place with the right track spacing to do the job. Fortunately, this is detailed work, but not nearly as precision as soldering on a locomotive. Once I figured out how to brace the throw bar in place with a bit of 0.040″ styrene, and slipping some bits of paper into places I didn’t want to accidentally get solder, I applied some flux paste to the solder pad where the rail had been attached, got a little bit of solder onto the tip of my iron, and then held the rail in place. With the rail in place, I held the iron down and let the flux and solder do their thing. It appears, a day on and plenty of testing, that I have a strong solder joint. As you can see from the pictures, the throw bar that connects the moving rails is a bit mangled. This was the first switch I installed a Bullfrog on, and I had some issues and for a while had a lot of vertical movement happening. I finally resolved that by widening out the hole just a bit, but not before the copper bar was weakened. Sometime I will have to brave a full replacement, but that day is not today!

Pictures of the repaired switch in both positions.
It works! Video of my repaired switch. The not quite as perfect as it could be solder joint will vanish with some paint touch-ups.

So, this is all in all, a good thing. I have hand laid switches, but I did not build them myself, my friend Dan built them as he’s both good at it, and volunteered to. But, I do need to be able to maintain them. I can’t be stopping all operations every time I break a switch or one needs adjusting to beg Dan to come over whenever we are comfortable to have people come over again! Another step in the adventure of learning the skills and doing the things I need to build my layout.

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