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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now that I finally got a couple locomotives running on my layout I'm having a lot of derailments at a lot of my turnouts. Yes, the ARE Atlas. I first built my layout in the 70s and they were in my price range LOL So my question is, are there any economical turnouts out there that I could start replacing a few at a time? Right now I have #4s, #6s & #8s. (Atlas) #s . My only concern would be tearing up my road bed. I don't mind cutting track or filling in track. It would be the radius of the turnout to fit the road bed that would matter ! Any insight or suggestions would be appreciated !
 

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What kind of locomotives are derailing on the TOs? And which TOs does it happen at? All of them or the #4s only? Is it picking the points? Jumping the frog?
 

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You never mentioned the issues you see with the turnouts or track scale of your defective Atlas turnouts.
I was thinking along the lines of fixing or modifying what you have since expensive replacement turnouts like Tilig, Micro Engineering, Shinorara and Pico aren't ecomonical.
This video shows what one owner did to fix his Atlas turnouts...

More along the lines of fixing what you have ....
You can make sure that the height of the frogs are the same as the railheads.
Often, on the Atlas switches, the frog height is a little greater than the height of the rails.
Also make sure the top edge of the points are sharp.
If they are rounded or uneven, when the wheels hit them, you have a derailment.
Check the guard rails for any defects and file any excess plastic/metal.

There also seems to be an issue with the "gap" between the "frog point" and the rail is slightly too long, not giving support to the wheels, and they "drop down" causing the derailment. Enginerring a fix for that is problematic.
For those who want to buy economy turnouts, check the "gap" on the ones you are buying!!!!
You can also install rerailers at the turnout egress points if all else fails....
In the end, you get what you pay for.
 

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You can also check the points of your turnouts (and of your track, wheels, etc.) with an NMRA Standards gauge for your scale. These gauges are so useful. Gauges. Unfortunately, they are out of the N-scale gauges.

The adherence to the NMRA standards help a lot in running the train smoothly.
 

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Unfortunately, the measurements and divert angle are not
standard among turnout brands. You may have
to change the track curvature connected to the divert and
add short fill in track pieces to both straight and
divert. I had the same
derailing problems as you with Atlas turnouts. I replaced
those with Peco Insulfrogs...end of derails...but it
did take some fiddling with the tracks to make the
Pecos fit in. But it is worth the effort to have a smooth
running layout.

Don
 

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I have been methodically replacing every turnout on my layout with peco insulfrog turnouts. I did have a whole bunch of atlas snap type turnouts but I gave up trying to make them work. I can get the peco ones for between $20 and $30 a piece depending on size and configuration of the turnout and they have actually worked pretty well as replacements. You will have to add or take away track in about every instance but the angles end up working out good
 

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OP, can you take a picture of a turnout and the first piece of track leading up to it? Take picture from overhead looking straight down, thanks.
 

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Unfortunately, the measurements and divert angle are not
standard among turnout brands. You may have
to change the track curvature connected to the divert and
add short fill in track pieces to both straight and
divert. I had the same
derailing problems as you with Atlas turnouts. I replaced
those with Peco Insulfrogs...end of derails...but it
did take some fiddling with the tracks to make the
Pecos fit in. But it is worth the effort to have a smooth
running layout.

Don
This is your problem, right here.

Atlas Snap Track turnouts, in addition to being "sloppy" and prone to issues, are unique in that they have an UNPROTOTYPICAL 1/3 18" radius curve for their diverging leg. Better quality turnouts have STRAIGHT diverging legs, like real railroads do. So you are not going to find a better quality turnout that will fit the geometry you created with the Snap Switches.

Personally, I would bite the bullet, invest in better turnouts, and use flex track segments to reconnect your layout. Just be careful -- unless you realign the track leading into the diverging leg, you will end up with a much sharper curve than is built into the Atlas curves, which might cause even more problems. I would use either Peco or Walthers Track #4 turnouts, which will cause the least amount of rework.

Of course, if your problem is that your equipment is too long for the 18" curves that are part of the Snap Switches, you have a problem that is harder to solve, as you will most likely need to move to 22" curves and #6 turnouts.
 

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Here's another helper video
Unfortunately, that video is pretty good home grown idea for inserting a "tenstioning" spring in the turnout to help keep the points snug against the rails. This may help somewhat -- although unlike the guy in the video, most of us use roadbed under our tracks, which makes creating clearance for that spring a little less straightforward than shown.

More importantly, though, he's modifying a Custom Line turnout, which is already a huge step up from the lowly Snap Switch. But he doesn't address flange and frog issues that often plague Atlas products, nor does he address the riveted hinges, which are prone to getting sloppy over time. To these problems, the Snap Switch adds very short point rails, which cause an abrupt lurch when the loco enters the turnout, and the fact that there is not notch in the stock rails for the point rails to nest into (you can see these on the Custom Line if you watch the video closely).

TractionFan's self-published ebook on fixing Atlas turnouts is much better.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Here are some pics of my trouble areas. Actually, one is a pic of one of my control panels. I'm thinking a lot of my issues are the under table Atlas switch machines. Sometimes the points don't close tight enough. But my derail issue seems to be at the frog. I found a pretty good deal on some Blue Point turnout controllers so I will install a couple and see if it helps at all ! Almost all of my locos are older Athean Blue Box GPs,F7s etc. I've upgraded the motors and installed decoders so they seem to run pretty ,at least for my satisfaction. I will try to do a video of some derailing happening !!!
 

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Those aren’t the snap switches.

Two tips …

1.Use a small bubble level and make sure the railheads are level. If they aren’t use shims under the ties. The plastic frogs may require a light sanding if they are proud of the railheads.

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2.Use the NMRA gauge. I shimmed the guard rails so the tolerances are tighter.

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The only time I have derailments at turnouts is user error.
 

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Now that I finally got a couple locomotives running on my layout I'm having a lot of derailments at a lot of my turnouts. Yes, the ARE Atlas. I first built my layout in the 70s and they were in my price range LOL So my question is, are there any economical turnouts out there that I could start replacing a few at a time? Right now I have #4s, #6s & #8s. (Atlas) #s . My only concern would be tearing up my road bed. I don't mind cutting track or filling in track. It would be the radius of the turnout to fit the road bed that would matter ! Any insight or suggestions would be appreciated !
zeetrains;

Atlas sells two different product lines of turnouts in HO-scale. Custom Line, and Snap Switch. Which do you have?

If the frogs are metal and have a little lug on the side then they are custom line, and they probably have two straight routes & no curved route. They would also have come without switch machines attached.

If your turnouts have black plastic frogs, one 18" radius curved route, & one 9" straight route, and came with a big black switch machine attached to one side, then they are snap switches.

The reason this matters is your statement about tearing up roadbed. Chances are, you will have to tear up a little roadbed, and some track, in order to make any replacement turnout fit. (other than another identical Atlas) That "one straight route & one curved route geometry is unique to the Atlas Snap Switch turnouts. The Atlas Custom Line turnouts with two straight routes would be a little bit easier in terms of fitting a better brand of turnout into roughly the same place, but no other brand will be an exact "drop in" fit.

Good quality turnouts are not cheap. The better brands are Peco, Micro Engineering, and Walthers. Any of these will cost about $20-$30 each. How many turnouts do you have? If its more than a very few, then replacing the Atlas turnouts you have with something better will be quite expensive.
The attached file "All about turnouts" has a lot of information on turnouts in general and my quality rating of seven common brands.

There are three lower cost options.

1) Fix the turnouts you now have.
The attached file "Improving Atlas turnouts " shows how to do this.

2) Make your own turnouts.
This is a lot cheaper, about $5 each for materials, BUT there's a catch. You will need to invest a lot of time. Its also only economical if you are replacing approximately ten, or more, turnouts. (Most layouts have at least ten.) There is another advantage to this option. You can make your turnouts any shape you want, including the exact same shape as an Atlas turnout so it actually can be a "drop in" fit. The attached file, "How I scratchbuild turnouts" explains this in depth, including cost of materials, tools needed, and the simple fact that anybody can do it. Its not hard.

3) Buy used turnouts on E-bay.
Risky, since you won't really know what you're getting.

Good Luck & Have Fun

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
zeetrains;

Atlas sells two different product lines of turnouts in HO-scale. Custom Line, and Snap Switch. Which do you have?

If the frogs are metal and have a little lug on the side then they are custom line, and they probably have two straight routes & no curved route. They would also have come without switch machines attached.

If your turnouts have black plastic frogs, one 18" radius curved route, & one 9" straight route, and came with a big black switch machine attached to one side, then they are snap switches.

The reason this matters is your statement about tearing up roadbed. Chances are, you will have to tear up a little roadbed, and some track, in order to make any replacement turnout fit. (other than another identical Atlas) That "one straight route & one curved route geometry is unique to the Atlas Snap Switch turnouts. The Atlas Custom Line turnouts with two straight routes would be a little bit easier in terms of fitting a better brand of turnout into roughly the same place, but no other brand will be an exact "drop in" fit.

Good quality turnouts are not cheap. The better brands are Peco, Micro Engineering, and Walthers. Any of these will cost about $20-$30 each. How many turnouts do you have? If its more than a very few, then replacing the Atlas turnouts you have with something better will be quite expensive.
The attached file "All about turnouts" has a lot of information on turnouts in general and my quality rating of seven common brands.

There are three lower cost options.

1) Fix the turnouts you now have.
The attached file "Improving Atlas turnouts " shows how to do this.

2) Make your own turnouts.
This is a lot cheaper, about $5 each for materials, BUT there's a catch. You will need to invest a lot of time. Its also only economical if you are replacing approximately ten, or more, turnouts. (Most layouts have at least ten.) There is another advantage to this option. You can make your turnouts any shape you want, including the exact same shape as an Atlas turnout so it will be a "drop in" fit. The attached file, :How I scratchbuild turnouts" explains this in depth including cost of materials, tools needed, and the simple fact that anybody can do it. Its not hard.

3) Buy used turnouts on E-bay.
Risky, since you won't really know what you're getting.

Good Luck & Have Fun

Traction Fan 🙂
Thanks much.....very useful information !
 

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If cost is a factor, and if you’re a kit builder, Central Valley might be worth considering. I think the tie sets start around $15. Rail is sold separately (weathered or non-weathered). There are youtube vids on building them to give you an idea of skill level required.

Walthers/Shinohara have… from my experience, lower profile ties which creates a step in the rails when butted to Atlas flex. Maybe that was a temporary quality issue that was corrected, and maybe not? If still present you’ll have to shim every turnout. They work well though otherwise.
 

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OK, I've determined my turnouts are all Atlas snap switches not custom line. So now my options are, convert to Atlas Custom Line or there are lots of Shinohara's on ebay ! I would need 18 turnouts and certainly can't afford PECO !
zeetrains;

Your choice, of course, but since you have 18 turnouts, and cost is a big factor, why not just fix the Atlas Snap Switch turnouts you already have in place? This is by far the easiest, and least expensive, option. You might want to try modifying one of your Snap Switches using the info from my file. Then see how it performs.
Atlas Custom Line will be a small step up the quality ladder from Atlas Snap Switches, but Shinohara is a better quality turnout than either Atlas. I have not used Atlas Custom Line turnouts myself, since they are not available in my scale (N) Neither the Atlas Custom Line,* or Shinohara, turnouts will be a drop-in fit for snap switches. You will need to take up some track, and probably a bit of roadbed, in order to fit either of them. Also both come without switch machines, so include that considerable cost when planning your course of action. You may be able to use your existing Atlas switch machines on Atlas Custom Line* turnouts, but they will not be strong enough to operate the Shinohara turnouts. Those Atlas switch machines are the weakest on the market. That's why Atlas Snap Switches have unusually loose point rails with rivets at both ends. Its only by making them "super loosey goosey" That the rather whimpey Atlas switch machine can move them. Shinohara, and most other decent turnouts, need a stronger switch machine, like a Tortoise motor. (approx. $18 ea.)
New, retail, Peco & Shinohara should be fairly close in price. I don't use E-bay, so I don't know about prices there.

Good Luck with whatever you decide to do;

Traction Fan

* If you decide to buy Atlas Custom Line turnouts, make sure of what you're getting. I listed the differences between actual Custom Line turnouts, and Snap Switch turnouts, in my earlier response. There is mis-labeling however. I have seen turnouts labeled "Custom Line" that were physically identical to Snap Switches.
Buying them would be like replacing your 18 Snap Switches with 18 new Snap Switches at the higher price Atlas charges for "Custom Line" + inflation from when you built your layout up to today. Why spend that amount of money for no improvement? :oops: Frankly, I don't see any point in replacing Atlas with Atlas, even real custom line Atlas, but that's up to you.
 
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