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Discussion Starter #1
My HO Northern Pacific layout is based on a 1953 date for the N.P. The layout was started in 1988. It is not complete and likely never will be. The layout is a three times around and crosses over its' self twice. There is a main yard and two staging areas, one below the main yard and one recently added sort of off layout.

I live in what is considered to be Northern Minnesota; but, is actually closer to the center of the state. Winters generally start in late November and run until the end of April. My house was built sometime around the turn of the last century, so is old and the basement can get down to the low 50s when it is cold outside. I run a dehumidifier when humidity in the basement can get close to 50%.

The layout's structure is as follows: under road bed is 1/2 inch CDX plywood. All mainline track is laid atop Midwest Cork Roadbed. The main yard and 1st staging yard under it is laid on Homasote. The homasote does expand and contract with either humidity or temperature, unsure which. All track is Atlas Code 100. Laying the track was a process of using Atlas track nails to secure the track to the road bed. Much of the track has been ballasted and 3/4ths of the mountain scenery is complete.

The problems:

From the get go, the Atlas #5 and #6 turnouts have given me problems. The problem is the very loose Point Rail attachment to the closure rails. Yes, I did spray the track with Roof Brown Floquil Paint. However, I worked the point rails vigorously to get continuity through the points after painting. This problem developed 5 to 10 years after the layout had been in use. I also made sure that the back of the tip of the point rails were bare metal as well as where the points meet the stock rails. I feel that it is the looseness of the rivets used to pivot the point rails that is my problem. Over the 33 years this layout has been in existence, oxidation of the moving parts of the points have simply stopped allowing electrical continuity!

Another more recent problem has developed and that is there gets to be a break down of the condition of the rail joints. All rail joints use rail joiners and have been soldered! One day the complete layouts operates as expected, the next day a train will stop at a place where there is a rail joint that has failed.
Among other things such as design issues, these problems are causing me to consider tearing this layout down and starting over, even though I love the Northern Pacific and all the fun this layout has been for me to build and run. To me, the hobby is all about building a model railroad. Knowing what I know now, I know I can do a better job if I was to start over.

Although Atlas has been and continues to be a staple of the hobby, I don't see them doing anything to make there products any better than they where in the 1950s.
You may see this post in other model railroading forums.
 

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If your code 100 track is the old kind with black ties (not sure there is a new kind), you've chosen the worst track to begin with.. The frogs are plastic and so can not be powered = potential stall outs on switches and crossings..Not sure if, but if the rails are brass they oxidize and form small greenish insulation to the loco pickup wheels..Scale-wise the ties are too wide and close together..Code 100, if blown up to the 1: 1 scale measure out to be about 14" tall (not including the ties). Real US main line rail is about 9" tall, rendering 100 to being 5" (+-) out of scale.. if IF, you could or would, R&Ring the track from 100 to code 83 would not only be visually better, but most importantly Atlas Custom Line 83 has metal frogs which can be powered to prevent stall outs. There is a black film on these frogs causing people to think they're plastic. This film (why ?) rubs right off exposing the metal.. Powering them is a little tricky though; a toggle switch and wiring is involved with this modification..
I'm not looking to make you feel bad..I'm only giving you my honest take on Atlas code 100...If you changed to Atlas or Peco c83 track you'd be doing allot better, hobby satisfaction-wise. Honestly, if you don't, you might find yourself chasing your problems forever..
Your friend, Mark
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Telltale My track is the black tie type; but it is nickle silver. How thick the ties are doesn't matter as the ballast comes up to the level of the tops of the ties. All my switches are Nickle Silver and have Nickle silver Frogs that I've powered, and they are all Custom Line switches, I never stated anything about stalling on non-powered frogs. At the time that I laid track on my Layout, Code 83 was just coming out on the market and quite a bit more expensive. The talk at the time was if you painted the rails they looked to be a much smaller in code. I find this to be the case for me. You sort of miss-understood my problems!
 

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Sorry for the misunderstanding (or prejudging). You didn't state the rail was nickel silver and frogs were metal and powered as well. Well I meant well and glad to hear it's not the rail causing the probs..
I'll just take one more stab: If the points are hinged on and powered by those donut-like rivets, has the paint migrated into them, possibly causing the intermittence ? No need reply...just another possibility you've likely examined anyway...M
 

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Over the years the minute stress from expansion and contraction from temperature and humidity changes can cause cold connections on soldered rail joints. After cleaning all of your rail you might want to re-flow all of those rail joiners.

I hope this is flex track or it could take some time to complete this task.

You might consider replacing your turnouts with Peco, but the geometry is different with these turnouts and they are not a drop-in replacement for Atlas. If you don't mind the work involved, you will end up with a reliable turnout that will last many years.
 

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"My Atlas turnouts have the old rivet-pivot points. I have soldered jumpers across the gaps eliminating the stalling. The jumper is very fine stranded wire, stripped of insulation and twisted as into a little rope. It is very fine work. Prepping the areas of the rail to be soldered by cleaning with a .22 Cal rifle bore brush, applying a tiny bit of flux cream with a toothpick, then tinning that spot makes attaching the wire easier. But worth the trouble, the problem is gone. "
From Ted Lewis on ModelRailroadForums.com

I'm not recommending this as I have no experience with it! But it seems to have fixed his... :)
 

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Another unrelated thought is more feeds to your flex sections...not to rely on joiners.
 

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You might consider painting any and all exposed surfaces including the homasote, yes that means painting the underside!. Might prevent the wood or homasote from expanding and breaking your rail joints. Another thing to consider is soldering 2 section together (like you already have) and running a feeder from your bus to that section then used non soldered joiners to the next ~6' section. This would allow the track to expand and contract (more due to the base not the track) at the unsoldered joint but having the feeders on every soldered section will maintain electrical continuity. I think there are several ways to fix the custom line turnouts, probably take a little internet searching. I think it's all fixable. If you like what you have, fixing it seems better than tearing things up and ending up possible with something you don't like!
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Because the layout was designed for DC Operations, the track plan is divided into 11 BLOCKS. It has been converted to DCC, simply by using the blocks, as designed. This has worked great for me for more than 20 years, as I bought my first DCC system in the late 1990s. Since my layout was built, the technology for building a layout has changed significantly and gotten far more fool proof! I did not post this thread to ask for suggestions on how to fix my layout, as I have pretty much heard them all many times before!. Rather, I posted it to describe the fact that a layout can and will break down over time. My impatus was to inform. Obviously, few layouts last for 33 years. As well as breakdowns in the operability of a layout over time, the owner may get board with a layout that old. There are many aspects of modeling the Northern Pacific that I am still very interested in. But, continuing on with this old layout might not be one of them. For one thing, it was built with no intentions of making it easy to get rid of when I die or become incapacitated! Were I to build another layout, I would build a modular one, helping my wife and sons to get rid of my affliction! I am not saying I'm going to do anything, only that I am considering my options.

Administrator or Moderator, please lock this thread, as it seems to be headed off towards the toolies
 

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Anything will deteriorate with age. Maintenance is a must or it will cease to function eventually.

When I built a full size Boeing 727 simulator years ago, it needed almost as much cockpit maintenance as the real thing to keep it operational. Maybe more.

My layout was not built for easy removal either. It is essentially part of the room and will have to be cut out if it is removed after I pass on. I'm rather hoping it becomes a selling point for my survivors.
 

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Well, yes, everything deteriorates with age. Unfortunately, the layout builder is often the part that is hit the hardest!

The quality of the original build and the materials used are big factors in the amount of deterioration that occurs.

I understand that you posted this to inform, but what good is informing if it doesn't also cover fixes and helpful tips to overcome the issues? Without these, the purpose becomes less informative and more discouraging.
 

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The big railroads have to replace track and switches over time, too.
Rail wears out - have to be replaced. Sometimes on curves they'll "relay" a stretch of rail from one side to the other.

Switches wear down - replacing one is a fairly big job.

Even joints wear out over time - this was the cause of a wreck on Metro-North in Bridgeport several years' back (I knew the exact spot when the story broke, because that particular set of joints had been going bad for some time).

Probably no different with model RR track.
You could replace the whole layout, but perhaps it might be time (at least in certain portions) to just replace the track...
 

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I don't know where people get the idea that Atlas frogs can't be powered. They most assuredly can! I have a couple of older Atlas turnouts with riveted point rails and the frogs are metal on both of them. The frogs on the newer turnouts are black in color, but they are metal. The metal that Atlas uses for their frogs does not take solder very well, though. What I do is drill and tap the hole for a 2-56 screw, screw it in from the bottom, and solder a wire to the screw. Works very well.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Well, yes, everything deteriorates with age. Unfortunately, the layout builder is often the part that is hit the hardest!

The quality of the original build and the materials used are big factors in the amount of deterioration that occurs.

I understand that you posted this to inform, but what good is informing if it doesn't also cover fixes and helpful tips to overcome the issues? Without these, the purpose becomes less informative and more discouraging.
Of course I have made repairs, too many to remember and I also recommend others be prepared for the fact that their layouts will take maintenance. The repairs and maintenance I've done is pretty much the things that have been suggested here in this thread.
 

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If you still like your layout after all these years, if you still get that strong urge at times to get out and to run trains again, then I think you should struggle a bit, but in a concentrated way, to get it back up to par. It can be done.

If it were me, I'd make it a week-long project (you have the time now), and work on a plan. Pick the three worst things about your playing experience the past month. Those are your immediate priorities.

First, I would resolder most of the joints. Heat them, use a dental pick tool to slide the joiners back and forth, and let the solder cool again. When they have cooled enough, run your finger or a lone truck, by itself, no car above it, along the joint to see if the rail heights match. Often solder is liquid in time and will let rails under tension slip a bit, just a mm or so, over a few years. In fact, as one person has already pointed out, EVERYTHING changes over time.

Don't be too strict over that 50% humidity. Believe it or not, homasote is no worse than milled lumber in terms of how it reacts to changes in ambient humidity. So, forget about fretting over the homasote; your benchwork imposes the changes it undergoes as much as the homasote. Your humidity should not fall below about 40% (buckling of the rails at joints or between them), and not rise above about 66-70% tops. This means that your dehumidifier probably doesn't need to work quite as much as I sense it is, in your case. Could be wrong....but it's outside that range that you want to worry, not within it.

Next, I would pick the three worst turnouts and either hand-make replacements (way easier than you might fear), or use modern replacements. ME, Peco, Walthers, Atlas....take your pick, they'll all be better'n what you have...or rather, don't have. I make my own, otherwise Peco. ME Yard Ladders System #5's in the yard.

If you are repulsed by the idea of lifting out those turnouts, do as others have suggested and solder single strand 26 gauge lengths around the joints to power the points. Also, solder single strands between the stock rails and their closure rails. This will take you at least an hour per turnout, but isn't not like you have to catch a train this evening....right? You have little else going on in the train room except trying to reclaim the fun of old. Use good light, work EARLY in the day, not later, while your back and drive are highest, and maybe work on half a turnout at once. Come back to finish the job. In a week you'll be running trains again.

All this aside, if you need a new start, why demure? Once I get to the stage you're apparently at, I start looking for a wrecker bar. Harvest every single thing you can practically re-use, including the track elements, and then start cracking hard-shell. If you have good roadbed, especially splines, re-use what you can. When you have the space all cleaned, start evening planning and design something novel, but at least as complicated as what you had. Keep the design elements (central operating pit, trains run around the room toward the outside?) that have kept your long-lived layout alive all these years, but do fit in some novel arrangements, including bridges, water courses, gullies, chasms, tunnels, switchbacks, etc.

Also, you don't want to put this off. The time is ripe, you have plenty of it, you're pining for trains that run, and you have the motivation. I'd be all over this like a wet shirt.
 

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:( Well, then your OP title is misleading and I, for one, being a seasoned MRRer and likely speaking for other seasoned modelers, regret wasting time and energy reading or giving you advice it turns out you never needed but instead were acting the vigilante, warning hundreds of us who've known, some for decades, all the MRRing pitfalls and that all things, over time, break down from wear ! ....
In other words sir, who asked !? M
 

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My post must have got lost in cyber-space.
My old (~1975) Atlas turnouts needed to be tightened up at the rivet.
Most were not ballasted, so I pulled them up and used a round drift pin as an anvil underneath the rivet, another drift pin on top and a gentle tap, checking to ensure tight but loose enough to still move.

I had one already ballasted, and I pushed down on the rivet with a flat blade screwdriver to crimp it a little tighter.

I still have some new old stock brass Atlas turnouts that I hesitate to throw away.
 

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I don't know where people get the idea that Atlas frogs can't be powered. They most assuredly can! I have a couple of older Atlas turnouts with riveted point rails and the frogs are metal on both of them. The frogs on the newer turnouts are black in color, but they are metal. The metal that Atlas uses for their frogs does not take solder very well, though. What I do is drill and tap the hole for a 2-56 screw, screw it in from the bottom, and solder a wire to the screw. Works very well.
🌈 FB, Yes, the CustomLine switches do have the metal frogs (why they put the black color on top is odd and I believe causes people to think they are plastic)...Not sure but it seems you're overlooking that at the side of the frog at bottom is a little circular piece which sticks out. This is meant to put a screw in to attach the (I believe, neutral) wire of the circuit. The only drilling you need is to run the wire up to the screw from below bench..🛤🌄🛤
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I am going to face-up to where I am with my layout. At present, I am likely bord with this layout, I have been working on it for 30 Plus years. The maintenance suggestions you people have made, have all been done by myself, many, many times before. When I find a problem, I fix it, all to the point of ripping up a section of track and replacing it. Since I am bord with the layout, dumping more money into it seems like a waste of time and money. Simply put, it's either time to tear the layout out and start over; or maybe get out of the hobby all together. I have had fun with this hobby for 33 plus years. I was also into Radio Controlled Model Airplanes for many year previous to Model Railroading and had a fun time with that hobby.

I am now 70 years old. My father died at 62, I don't want to leave a layout for my wife and sons to have to deal with after I'm gone!

Forgive me for still not having a clear understanding of what I should do. I have been floundering around with this question of what to do for around 5 years now. The reality is, none of you can help me, either!

So, in a nutshell this is where I am, STUCK! I would hope for you that when faced with this problem the answer would come to you far easier than it has for me!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
:( Well, then your OP title is misleading and I, for one, being a seasoned MRRer and likely speaking for other seasoned modelers, regret wasting time and energy reading or giving you advice it turns out you never needed but instead were acting the vigilante, warning hundreds of us who've known, some for decades, all the MRRing pitfalls and that all things, over time, break down from wear ! ....
In other words sir, who asked !? M
I'm sorry you feel this way and don't blame you for your feelings about this! I have struggled for a long time with my problem which I have just described, above.
 
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