Wednesday, December 6, 2017

More PRR steam for Spruce St

Considering that Pennsy built 425 K4s class 4-6-2 Pacifics, they sure are hard to find in HO scale. There have been a lot of offerings of K4s class by various manufacturers over the years and in a wide range of quality, but regardless they seem to sell out quickly and people hang on to them. Probably because PRR is a very popular subject for model railroaders. For some unknown reason, you can actually find the PRR K5 class Pacific in HO scale, of which only two prototypes were ever made.

You can search Ebay for a K4s right now and the most common result will be the Bachmann versions produced in the past decade or so. Bachmann products are ok, (I have a couple Bachmann locomotives) and I will admit their quality has improved in recent years, but I still can't shake the feeling that Bachmann's lower price also equals lower quality and detail. One Bachmann version that stands out is PRR K4s #1361, which is the road number of one of two surviving K4s and for many years the real one sat on static display on a pad at Horseshoe Curve but now it sits in pieces at Steamtown in Altoona, awaiting restoration. For some reason Bachmann likes to produce model versions of surviving steam locomotives, and I assume from a marketing perspective there is some validity to doing that. Looking closely at photos of the Bachmann version of 1361 and comparing that to offerings from MTH and Broadway Limited, you can easily see the Bachmann version is lacking in detail. I could probably work around that and custom detail one, but I still believe that you get what you pay for not only on the outside but the inside as well. Maybe somebody can enlighten me and convince me that picking up two Bachmann K4s's for the price of one MTH or Broadway Limited version would be worth it.

So moving on to Broadway Limited and their K4 offering. They have produced many runs of the K4s over the years, and right now they are making the streamlined versions of the K4s. While the streamlined K4s is a great looking locomotive, PRR only did that to a few individual locomotives and by the mid 1940's most if not all of them were returned to their original non-streamlined configuration. Back in the early 2000's, Broadway Limited produced a lot of locomotives (not just the K4s) equipped with QSI Quantum DCC sound decoders. These were the first sound equipped models from Broadway Limited as far as I can tell and were the predecessors to the Paragon equipped versions that they produce today. Indeed, my T1 is a QSI Quantum equipped locomotive. QSI Quantum products have been received over the years with mixed reviews, and there has not been much effort by QSI to update/upgrade their product over the past decade, so many folks are replacing the QSI decoder with more modern decoders. That being said, QSI equipped Broadway Limited K4s locomotives still fetch a good price on Ebay. I can only assume that the popularity and demand of the K4s drives the cost higher for used or old-new stock.

On to the pictures. I picked this one up for $299 (Buy It Now) on Ebay. It is a circa-2005 Broadway Limited K4s and has the QSI Quantum sound decoder in it. Most of these are going for well over $300 so I was happy to find one for that price. I am also happy with the quality and level of detail on this model. It represents the pre-WWII version with the slatted pilot and the headlight mounted to the boiler front. After WWII, PRR started replacing the slatted pilots with a cast pilot with a hinged front coupler that could be dropped down inside the pilot, and they also moved the headlight to the top of the boiler just in front of the stack. This modification wasn't done overnight though, and many K4s went to the scrapyard in the late 1950's still wearing the pre-WWII slatted pilot.

This particular model, road number 623, was in real life assigned to the Atlantic Division of PRR and most likely was never seen in Columbus Ohio. I can always renumber it. This is my first K4s and unfortunately (or fortunately?) I need to pick up quite a few more of these to populate the Spruce St roundhouse since it was the workhorse of the PRR passenger fleet. All of the sudden the Bachmann version becomes a little more appealing...

Moving on to my next acquisition. The B6 class 0-6-0 switcher was the most popular switcher locomotive on PRR (called "shifters" by PRR...). The C1 class 0-8-0 existed but they were not as popular with switcher crews on the PRR, and if they needed a heavier locomotive than the 0-6-0 they usually went with the H8, H9, or H10 class 2-8-0 Consolidation classes. There were 372 B6 class 0-6-0 switchers produced as opposed to only 90 C1 class 0-8-0's. Of the B6 class, 238 of them were B6sb versions with the Belpaire firebox and other modifications and this is the version represented by the model. I have photographic evidence that the B6sb was used at Spruce St to switch the Columbus Union Station, so I was delighted to discover that somebody actually makes them in HO scale albeit only in brass.

Unfortunately, the only HO scale B6sb models offered have been in brass only and most of those are from the 1980's or even earlier. Fortunately, they are of good quality and can still be found occasionally for decent prices. I got this particular one below for $200. It is a circa 1989 Sunset Models (made in South Korea by Samhongsa) version and appears to have had little if any run time. It is a well detailed model and I am quite happy to have found it for a decent price.

The downside is that it is DC only, and in fact it runs terrible. I haven't dissected it yet but I assume it has a 1980's style open frame motor with open worm gearing, which was a notorious combination for poor running performance. I suspect that I will have to do a full re-powering and re-gearing of this model before installing DCC or dead rail and before I even consider painting it.

Curiously though, for a 1989 version, it has holes drilled on the bottom of the tender presumably for mounting a downward-firing speaker. I have no idea though how long this model was produced, so it could actually be quite newer than 1989.

The beauty of knowing exactly when and what I want to model is that it narrows down my purchases to models that fit the location and time period based on research, so I don't go off buying SD70M's because they look cool when in fact I'm modeling 1947 PRR in Columbus Ohio.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Spruce St Track Plan v1.0

This has been a long time coming and is the result of hundreds of hours of research, trial and error, blood, sweat, and tears, but I finally have a workable track plan (at least I think I do) for the Spruce St engine and passenger car facility.

AnyRail 6 plan

3-D view of the same plan

This plan fits well within my available space and can be a fully operational layout as is, although the Spruce St engine and passenger car facility is just the first phase of the Columbus Union Station project. With the exception of the roundhouse area, reaching distances are well accessible assuming the plan is not up against a wall on one side.

The prototype Spruce St roundhouse had 31 stalls. My version has 30 because the Walthers roundhouse kits are 3 stalls each and the Walthers 110' turntable apparently works best with a 10 degree spread for each track. Am I really going to build a 30 stall roundhouse?  Probably not. That would be 10 Walthers roundhouse kits stitched together and would be a massive project. At around $45-$50 each, that would be almost $500 worth of roundhouse. To fully model the roundhouse would also present some reachability issues to the turntable. I will most likely end up having to take some artistic discretion and model a smaller roundhouse or cut some of it away ala Rick De Candido's Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse layout.

A unique aspect to this portion of the plan is the fact that the minimum curvature is 60" radius. That's right, there is not a single curve here less than 60" in radius. This will be a huge payoff operating 85' passenger cars and larger locomotives. After many hours of research on track laying both prototype and model, I have designed all turnouts to use a uniform 60" radius diverging route with a 10 degree minimum angle. What this does is create turnouts that will visually and operationally flow much better than a commercial turnout or even Fast Tracks templated turnouts. This will especially become apparent with pinwheel turnouts (each turnout placed on the curved side of the previous turnout), crossovers, and with turnouts placed at the end of a curve. A commercial #6 turnout has a closure radius of about 37" to 43" depending on manufacturer. Because of the included straight segments of the points and frog, a pinwheel ladder built with #6 turnouts will produce an irregular lead of approximately 60" radius. Cars flowing through this configuration will not appear as if they are in a natural curve and S curves with commercial #6 turnouts could cause problems with 85' passenger cars. Using the uniform 60" radius in all turnouts should in theory alleviate this problem.

The 60" radius curves give the trackwork a much better appearance

The reality of this will require all the turnouts to be handlaid in place without a template and could very well end up being a bridge too far for me. In the Army we used to spend hundreds of hours planning an operation but there is a saying that "no plan survives first contact with the enemy", which turns out in practice to be quite true. We will see.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

More research; more acquisitions

The summer overtime season is winding down and now I have a little more time to put into model railroading.

Recently I acquired two books that I probably should have bought long before now. Both are published by the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society. The first one, Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Car Painting and Lettering, was published way back in 1988. The second one, The Pennsylvania Railroad in Columbus, Ohio by Rick Tipton, is much more recent and was published in 2011.

The Tipton book was worth the cost just for the half dozen separate fold out maps that come with it. One of those maps is the Spruce St Enginehouse facility, circa 1950. I have not yet seen this map anywhere on the internet, apparently it is a digital recreation of an original PRR document at the PRRT&HS archives in Lewistown, PA and was done just for this book.

This map will be indispensable for layout planning because it shows all of the trackside details one would see at a typical steam locomotive and coach yard facility. Taking note of the roundhouse, you can see there are 32 stalls and a total of 38 tracks in a complete circle around the turntable. Interestingly, if you divide 360 degrees by 38, you get 9.47. That number is coincidentally the same as the diverging radius of a #6 turnout. That will come in real handy when using my track planning software, AnyRail 6.

Speaking of turntables, my latest model railroad acquisition is the Walthers 110' motorized turntable.

I figure the turntable is going to be "ground zero" for the Spruce St project, so best to get it now when it is still being manufactured and is available for under retail pricing. MB Klein had it for $249 which is $100 under Walthers MSRP. I think for this project the 110' turntable is a much better fit than either the 90' or 130' offerings by Walthers.

Last but not least, I also picked up three more Branchline heavyweight sleeper kits that I got for roughly $13 each.

All three of these are heavyweight Pullman 12 section, 1 drawing room sleepers and are painted in Pullman pool colors (Pullman Green with black roof).

Earlier this summer fellow blogger/model railroader Rick DeCandido, who operates the Fillmore Avenue Roundhouse, posted about "Excess and the Railroad Modeler". The theme of the post is that most model railroaders have items in their collection that have nothing to do with their layout (or in my case, my theoretical layout...). I am no exception to that concept, and I own a lot of locomotives and rolling stock that will never roll on Spruce St.

To dovetail that concept into my latest research into the PRR Spruce St Terminal and Columbus Union Terminal, I have much to my dismay also discovered that many of the PRR items I originally thought I WOULD be able to use on the layout are indeed either completely incorrect models (most of my Walthers PRR passenger fleet) or not from the era (1946-1947) that I want to model, although for time frame some of my good equipment just needs to have the era appropriate paint scheme. One example would be the three Pullman sleepers above. I have come to discover that Pullman Standard, with Pennsylvania Railroad as one of its biggest customers, actually painted the vast majority of the PRR purchased Pullman equipment in PRR colors (various shades of Tuscan Red). Therefore, the three Pullman Green cars above were more than likely never used by PRR. A disclaimer here is that I acquired the three sleepers above BEFORE I bought the two books mentioned earlier in the post. I was also saddened when I discovered my Walthers PRR passenger car fleet is mostly incorrect as many Walthers models are based on prototypes from other railroads such as UP, AT&SF, etc., and most of that equipment was never used by PRR because PRR had a lot of proprietary equipment made by their own car shops in Altoona or made by other manufacturers (Budd, ACF, PS) to PRR specifications. Indeed, I am discovering that PRR is not as easy a railroad to model as one may think.

Now it's back to the drawing board to finalize my track plan for the Spruce St project, armed with my new maps and research.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Summer Update; Swimming Pool; Underlying Preparation Issues

I just realized I haven't posted in nearly three months. Summer is very busy for me with overtime, projects, etc. Not much time for hobbies. Hopefully I won't need to work this hard much longer.

Every time I say to myself, "Self, you really need to build a model railroad", I end up looking at the eyesore that is my corner of the basement where my electrical panel is located. I have finally realized I can't do anything else until this gets taken care of. Room preparation needs to be a priority over everything else.

Electric Panel

and the corner directly underneath it. In 1965 it was ok to sink your electrical panel ground into your basement floor.
The ugly corner underneath the panel at one point in time had some water seepage from a clogged downspout drain outside this corner of the house. The downspout was fixed over a year ago and no new water has come in but the corner needs cleaned up. 

As I look at this electric panel I also realize that the electrical system in my house, and especially the basement, is severely lacking the ability to handle not only a model railroad but also all of my workshop tools such as table saw, band saw, etc. As an example, the entire 13' x 46' half of the basement where the train room is located only has ONE permanent wall outlet.

A few months ago I did add a couple new 20 amp outlets on the ceiling to power my workshop tools. I used the last empty circuit on the panel which fortunately was a 20A breaker. I really didn't want to run my 15A table saw on a 15A circuit.

Swimming Pool

About six weeks ago my wife and I decided to purchase an above ground swimming pool. I wanted a hot tub and the wife wanted a pool, so a pool it is...

No, we did not get the red one... ours is sand color
The pool is supposed to be installed sometime in the next week from now. It took me more than a month just to get all the permits inspected. It's a nice pool, 9'x17' with a salt water filtration/chlorination system. No nasty chlorine additive, just salt. There is a special device attached to the filter that naturally chlorinates the water from the added salt.

Anyway, enough about the pool. As I have said several times throughout the history of this blog I have ulterior motives for model railroading with just about everything I do around this house. The pool will be no exception.

To put a pool in at your house, most municipalities require several inspections and permits to be pulled. One of the codes requires a swimming pool to have two separate dedicated permanent electrical circuits, one for the filters/pumps and another to power any lighting and accessories.

Remember the old electrical panel? It's history.

Take a look at my new electrical panel. The corner is also cleaned up and painted. Eventually all of that ugly Key Lime green paint from 1965 will be painted over.

The electrician told me that somebody (not me...) had put some new circuits on the old panel at some point and instead of putting them on new breakers like you are supposed to do, since there was no room to add any more breakers they just added them to existing circuits by doubling up new circuits on existing breakers. One breaker actually had three separate circuits attached to it. Not only is that quite a fire hazard but it also uses much more electricity than is needed. The new panel has one breaker per circuit and room for 8 more circuits to be added.

Next step will be to add two 15A circuits for the train room by adding a surface run in conduit mounted to the wall. I will also re-run part of the existing 15A circuit feeding the rest of the basement. These two new circuits will be just for the train room half of the basement, and will power overhead lighting in addition to wall outlets on three of the four walls, with half the lighting and half the outlets divided among the two circuits. The 20A circuit I added previously will be re-run to a different section of the basement as I move my power tools and work area out of the train room.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Timelines; More PRR acquisitions for the layout

Using a timeline is something I learned a long time ago in the military as a tool for operational planning and execution. The most common military use is in a Synchronization Matrix, in which the progression of time is laid out along the top horizontally with the beginning of an operation on the left, and then the different actors (to include the enemy) and friendly organizational entities are laid out vertically. The commander then can see visually what is or should be going on at specific times throughout the operation and what each actor needs to do to counteract what the enemy is doing.

A more toned down civilian version of this might be for example when planning a vacation trip where you figure out what time to leave based on what time you want to arrive, taking into account stops along the way, traffic, road construction, etc.

Once again, model railroading is no exception to this concept. We know some modelers may choose an era spanning several years, while other modelers on the opposite end of the spectrum choose to model a specific year, or a specific month of a specific year, or even an exact date.

In the March 2017 issue of Model Railroader magazine, Tony Koester writes about this very topic in his monthly Trains of Thought column, which is usually found on the last page just inside the back cover of magazine.

When I read his article, I remembered how I wrote many synchronization matrices and timelines in the military and it dawned on me that this would be the perfect tool for planning the Spruce Street project. I also figured it would be a great way to keep focus on certain things such as purchasing locomotives and rolling stock for the layout. If I am planning on 1947 as my year to model, then it would make no sense for me to blow money on a GP30 locomotive.

Here is my initial work-in-progress timeline for the Spruce Street project.

You can put anything you want along the left side of the matrix. In my matrix I of course put my T1 locomotive in the top position and then you can see I timelined it out horizontally. It was built and delivered to PRR in 1945 and was retired and scrapped in 1953. There are also events listed along the left side, such as the Pullman anti-trust lawsuit going into effect in December 1945. That topic could be another blog post in itself.

One event I recently discovered was starting on 15 July 1945, the Office of Defense Transportation took control of over 800 sleeper cars from the railroads in order to move thousands of troops from the east coast to the west coast. Germany surrendered in May 1945 but in July 1945 the US was planning a necessary invasion of Japan to put a final end to the war. Of course the atomic bombs changed that but still the invasion plan was going to require massive troop movements from the European Theater to the Pacific Theater, so the War Department took control of a large fleet of sleeper cars for that purpose. PRR took their own initiative and temporarily suspended sleeper service on all trains traveling 450 miles or less. The Panhandle Route through Columbus was affected by this since most trains through Columbus originated in Pittsburgh or St. Louis. Assuming I wanted to be historically accurate in my modeling of an era, this event would be very important to consider.

There were other more local events to consider for the Spruce St project. It was around 1950 that PRR decided they would consolidate operations in Columbus to save money and demolish the Spruce St roundhouse and move the locomotive servicing operation over to the east side of town to the 20th Street Yards. The Spruce Street roundhouse was dismantled starting in 1952 and was completely torn down within a year.

The flip side of this is that as a model railroader you can always decide to hang the labels "proto-freelance" or "freelance" on your project, which essentially gives you full artistic license to create your own alternate plane of existence and do whatever you want, either completely ignoring history or incorporating certain pieces of history as you see fit. While I am by no means a "rivet counter", I do like sticking to history as much as possible, so using a timeline fits right in to my modeling mindset.

More acquisitions for the Spruce Street project

Right now I am leaning towards 1947 as my year to model, for more reasons than what I list here at the moment. In the timeline above, which by the way is nowhere near complete, you can see a line for Alco PA1 5756 / PB1 5756B, which were on roster with PRR in 1947. Here they are by MTH in HO scale:

MTH PRR PA/PB-1 #5756/5756B. Noticeable is the rear end  of the A unit which sits a little low compared to the B unit.

I picked the set up direct from Walthers when I noticed they were in their Warehouse Sale page. This is a DC set (DCC-Ready) that retails for $349 normally, but Walthers was running it for $218. The caveat to this is that PRR ran the PA1's in an A-B-A configuration, so to be more prototypical I need to get another A unit and number it 5757. 

This is my first locomotive set from MTH. I have to say I am quite impressed so far, although I have yet to run them. Both units are powered, and except for the A unit having a cab they are both nearly identical under the hood. They have an 8-pin NMRA DCC plug and there is also a recess and holes in the frame for a downward firing rectangular speaker. One thing I have noticed on the down side though is that the rear end of the A unit sits a little low and is quite noticeable when coupled to the B unit. I figure it will require some shimming of the rear truck to level it with the B unit, but I haven't really examined it closely yet.

Under the hood - large can motor with dual brass flywheels and a circuit board with an 8-pin NMRA plug.

The A unit with cab section, lighted number boards, working mars light, and speaker cutout and bottom venting holes.

Same shot of the B unit front end.

I have read some mixed reviews about the MTH Digital Command System, which is MTH's proprietary DCC system that is supposed to be compatible with NMRA DCC systems. With that in mind and not having any experience with MTH to concur or refute, I figured it best to get the DC/DCC Ready set and add my own sound. 

I also picked up a couple Branchline heavyweight sleeper car kits from Ebay. I've been keeping my eye on them after reading some favorable reviews and a couple popped up for around $20 unassembled. I have no other Branchline cars, so I figured I would try a couple to see what they are about. Apparently these are no longer made, so I'm trying to get some before their price goes up.

The kits appear to be high quality and highly detailed. All parts to include interior, wheels, and couplers are included.

8-1-2 sleeper in Pullman Pool paint scheme

Finally, I bought a couple books recently to aid in my research efforts. 

I am hesitant to admit that both these books have great pictures in them, but they also both have a lot of great information that is quite relevant to the Spruce Street project. The Stegmaier book has a lot of consist info and is split in half with the first half being New York-Chicago trains and the second half being New York-St Louis trains. There is also a small section on non-mainline trains which includes some more Columbus area trains.

Next step is assembly of the two Branchline kits and adding DCC to the Alco PA/PB units. At some point too I will actually try to start building a model railroad...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Not So Wordless Wednesday - First Pennsy Power Acquisition

What a better way to start my collection of Pennsy power for the Spruce St Terminal project than with a PRR T-1?

Broadway Limited Imports PRR T-1 #5528
Unfortunately for the T-1's, they entered service with PRR at the same time the railroad started acquiring their fleet of EMD E-7 diesels. This meant that the T-1's were never used on the premier trains like the Broadway Limited because those trains were the first to run with the new diesel power. Pennsy management knew by 1946 that diesels were the inevitable future for the railroad, and true enough in half a dozen years the T-1's would be benched awaiting the scrap torch.

Fortunately for me, modeling the Spruce St Terminal in Columbus Ohio is a great opportunity to show off the T-1. Most T-1's were used on the Panhandle line through Columbus where they were better suited for the flatter terrain of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

One of the great things about being subscribed to the Model Railroader All-Time Digital Archive is being able to search every issue of MR magazine for product reviews of potential buys on Ebay or at shows.

Apparently Broadway Limited Imports has had three runs of the T-1, with the most recent being a Paragon 2 version released just in the past few years. In 2007 BLI came out with a T-1 in their "Blue Line" which were DC only (albeit DCC ready with a DCC plug) but interestingly the Blue Line models had a unique system for DC sound. This required the user to purchase a DC sound unit from BLI which was around $30 but would allow any Blue Line locomotive to run in DC mode with sound. They came with an 8-pin NMRA plug that you could plug a non-sound decoder into but would allow fully functional and programmable sound through the decoder.

The other version of the T-1 was first produced in 2004 and was a dual-mode DC/DCC model that came with a QSI Quantum DCC sound decoder. This is the version I was hunting for on Ebay thanks to a favorable Product Review article I found in the May 2004 MR. The Paragon 2 versions are still fetching close to their original MSRP of $499 on Ebay, but the 2004 QSI models are mostly in the $200-$300 range depending on condition. Blue Line T-1's can be had for under $200 but they are harder to find and are DC only anyway. I was all set to buy one of the QSI T-1's for $289 when this one popped up as a new listing in "mint" condition for $229. I couldn't click on "Buy It Now" fast enough.

So far from just opening the box I am highly impressed with the model. Builder plates are readable (with magnification or at least cheaters on...). It is heavy, the locomotive itself weighs in right at 2 lbs. The picture doesn't do it justice, it is over 16" long with tender, being a scale 122' long over the couplers. It is non-articulated as it was in real life, so to allow operation on tighter radius curves it has no flanges on the center two driver wheel sets. It does, however, come with a spare set of driver wheel sets with flanges if the user has broad enough curves and wants the flanged drivers.

Time to crank it up to see how it runs and sounds!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fast Tracks Turnout Part II

This morning I attached the guardrails to the #8 turnout. I waited to do this because I wanted to get a new soldering iron and some thinner solder as I mentioned in the previous post.

I picked up this Radio Shack Pro Series 25w soldering iron, spare tip, and 1.5oz of .022 diameter 64/34/2 (64% lead, 34% tin, 2% silver) solder for $40 at Radio Shack. Apparently they are going out of business (I thought they announced this a year or two ago???) and everything in the store was 30% off. I imagine however that they probably raised prices 30% before announcing the 30% off clearance price...

Anyway, the new soldering iron and thinner solder works much better than my old Weller economy model with .040 solder. This soldering iron is rated at 1000 degrees heat at 25w while my Weller was only rated at 750 degrees at 40w. The increased heat allowed the solder to melt and wick much easier than before and the smaller solder meant that I had much better control over the melting solder feed. That and hopefully as my soldering skills improve I will not get the big blobs of solder on the ties.

One thing I noticed about the Fast Tracks jig is that on my particular jig - see pic below - and they are produced with CNC milling equipment so I can't imagine mine is different than any other jig you would get from Fast Tracks, but the little channel used for measuring and cutting guard rails seems about 1/8" too short. I did the diverging route guardrail first (on the left) so I didn't really notice it but when I did the normal route (on the right), it became apparent when I centered the guardrail on the two ties and the one end was noticeably too short to match up with the frog wing rail across from it.

Pay no attention to the blobs of solder...
I attached the guardrails outside the jig because I just butted the guardrails up against the stock rail. You will also notice that I didn't bend the ends of the guardrails (or the wing rails) and instead just filed a bevel on the ends of the straight guardrail. I think this looks more realistic and it still functions just fine.

NMRA says the target for HO scale standard flangeways is .048, with only .002 over tolerance allowed but a generous .013 under tolerance is allowed. Using my nearly 40 year old veneer caliper to measure the flangeways on this turnout, I also discovered that the distance between the frog point and the wing rails was about .055, which is .007 over tolerance and not acceptable. Test fitting revealed that when two pieces of Micro Engineering code 83 rail are butted against each other at the base, the flangeway between the two rails is about .045, which is .003 under tolerance which in my mind is perfect for code 110 wheels and probably for code 88 wheels as well. Basically, the base of the frog point rails need to butt up against the wing rails just like I did with the guard rails, and in the photo above you can see there is a gap.

One thing worth mentioning is that NMRA tolerance for Proto:87 flangeways is between .021 and .023. This is less than half the standard tolerance and would require the bases of the rails to be filed away to allow the rails to get even closer together. For comparison, the thickness of the standard NMRA gauge is .020!

Fine scale tolerance (meant for code 88 wheels) is .040 but I'm betting standard NMRA tolerance would work just fine for code 88 wheels.

Guard rails butted against stock rails

The real test was running the code 110 wheelset and the code 64 wheelset over the turnout. No difference in performance with the code 110 wheels - they roll through the frog just fine - but an unexpected surprise was when the code 64 wheels also ran through much better than without guard rails. Just pushing the code 64 wheels and letting them roll free did still give a few derailments, but if I rolled them through with some slight pressure to simulate the weight of a freight car on the truck, it allowed the guard rails to do their job and the truck rolled through much better than before.

The big takeaway here is I need to really pay attention to the bend at the wingrails and the alignment of the frog point to make sure the tolerance doesn't exceed the target. I think even using the Fast Tracks jig it is quite possible to force the rails into the guides and yet have them be out of tolerance. A few thousandths of an inch is all it takes.

I have also ordered a Stock Aid filing tool from Fast Tracks. While it was possible to file the recess at the points without one, it was not easy and the end result was probably not as accurate as using the Stock Aid tool would have been.

I'm glad I made this first turnout having no expectation of ever using it on the layout, although I am sure it would work. I think my next effort will be to build one outside of the jig, just using the printed diagram as a guide. I think that would allow me to tighten up my tolerances to be more to my liking, although I'm sure it will be more difficult to hold everything in place and gauge it as I build it. I will probably still build the frog in the jig and I will definitely still use the filing tools.