Doh! My switches are now sticking

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Jorgemonkey, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. Jorgemonkey

    Jorgemonkey New Member

    I'm in the process of building up my first complete layout (N scale), and I'm having a blast :) So much of a blast that my switches aren't working properly.

    I got my track nailed down, everything worked fine, I then ballasted & painted the track (Pretty sure thats where the problem is lying), and after doing that they don't quite make it over. I've checked the ballast, and it doesn't look like its hindering the switch (I have 4 that I'm having this problem with). I'm pretty sure the culprit is a combo of the paint & the scenic cement. Anyone have any tips on cleaning out those areas short of pulling the switch out & doing a nice clean/repair?

    I actually had the thought of taking a dremel to it to cut out the switches, then I'd just solder it back into place, which could be interesting :thumb:

  2. TCH

    TCH Member

    seems like you have glued the points together or that some of your ballast is stuck between the points. if you used a water soluble glue you should be able to unstick them by flooding them with water and soaking up the glue with paper towels or similar.
    I have just finished unsticking one of my own and it took quite a few times before it was fixed.
    if there is ballast caught between the rails run a blade between them or perhaps some sandpaper. it only takes one grain to stop the points from closing properly.
    hopefully you will learn from this and take more care next time-like I should have done.
  3. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    When ballasting, it's usually a good idea to use a little less ballast around your turnouts, and none at all between the ties in the area of the throwbar. Before you go ripping up the turnout, check to ensure that there's not a build-up of ballast/glue at the free end of the throwbar impeding the movement. I like to paint the roadbed beneath the area where the moveable points will be, using black or dark grey. When you apply the ballast, keeping it well below the tie tops, it won't be noticeable if there are a few bare spots. The prototype keeps the ballast low in this area, too. After you've added and arranged the ballast, but before wetting the area in preparation for the application of the glue/water mixture, apply some plastic-compatible oil to the tops of the ties where the moving points are, then move the points back and forth a few times. This will prevent the glue from bonding the points to the ties. The prototype applies grease to these areas, too, to allow the points to move more easily. Finally, before adding the glue mixture, park the points at mid-throw, so that they're touching neither of the stock rails - this will prevent them from becoming glued in place.

  4. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    It's normal for white glue, matte medium to "wick" underneath the points, regardless of how well you try to keep the ballast and glue out.

    To unstick the points, spray on some methyl hydrate (rubbing alcohol), let it stand for 5- 10 minutes, and then gently move the points (the operative word here is "gently"). Then take a Q-tip and wipe the ties and wiper contacts on the switch points. You may have to do this several times.

    If you've got a lot of ballast/scenery between the points and the closure rails, again, soak it well with alcohol, let it stand for 5/10 minutes and then remove the ballast. You may have to repeat the process several times.

    There may also be a small piece of ballast stuck to the side of the points and the closure rails. This is where a dental pick come in hand. Scrape the dental pick down the sides of the rails. You will quickly find that small piece of ballast if there's any stuck to the side of the rail.

    In all cases, do it very carefully! Too much force and you've got a replacement job on your hands.

    Next time, stuff some Kleenex between the open switch points and closure rail. When applying your glue, make a cardboard "tent" out of an index card and place it over the points and closure rails. This will help to keep the glue out of the points. The glue will still "wick" in under the points but it will be a lot easier to unstick them.

    Bob M.

    PS - Why rubbing alchohol instead of water? Alchohol evaporates faster than water. You can buy it in the quart or gallon size in the paint department of your local building supply store.
  5. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    When applying ballast but before you've applied the glue, it's better to apply too little than too much. If you're too short of ballast, it's easier to add ballast than to try and scoop it up.

    I apply my ballast down the centre line of the track. I fill a cardboard coffee cup with the ballast. Holding the coffee cup in one hand, I tap my wrist with a 1" paint brush using my other hand. This gives me very good control over how much ballast I apply. I then brush the ballast into place with my 1" dry paint brush. I can usually bring the ballast right up to the points without any problems.

    Bob M.
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Bob, just a reminder that rubbing alcohol, which is safe for use on your skin, is not methyl hydrate. Methyl hydrate, a thinner for shellac and some paints, is readily absorbed through the skin, and its vapours through the eyes, and can cause serious liver or kidney damage. Use it with hand and eye protection, and adequate ventilation.


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