Ugly throwbar

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Nazgul, Oct 4, 2008.

  1. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    I don't want to start another debate on the quality of Atlas vs Peco vs Walthers vs M.E. turnouts, but............

    Could someone explain to me why Atlas Custom line turnouts have a T shape on the end of the throwbar....I don't see the reason for it :confused:.
    I mean, it's ugly and doesnt look like anything I've seen on any other turnout. I'm sure there's something I'm not getting but it just looks WRONG!!!! Thank you:winker:

  2. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    It may have something to do with their switch machine, Steve, although not all Atlas turnouts have that type of throwbar. It should be easy enough to slice off the offending parts of the "T", using an X-Acto or utility knife. ;):-D

  3. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    Wayne...That's what I was thinking, and snipping off the T is no problem, but even so, the throwbar and accompanying ties look too short and just kind of "weak", if you know what I mean.......but I guess that is the flip side of the inexpensive coin.:winker: BTW I used them on my previous layout and they worked very reliably...unless some body had one thrown the wrong way! :oops::mrgreen:
    Thank you:thumb:
  4. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!


    You could always solder a PCB tie to act as a throwbar for the points. That's how all my t.o.'s are constructed.
  5. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Take a look at the prototype. No prototype uses a tie or wooden bar the shape of a tie to throw the turnout. They use several metal rods as spreader bars to link the points. Another metal rod is used to move the points.

    No commercial turnout uses anything remotely like the prototype. So to say one looks more realistic than another is in IMHO kind of like comparing Tinker Toys, Erector sets, and Legos as ways to build accurate models. The best you can get is a caricature of the prototype in any case. offers one method to make turnout throwbars more realistic. Other methods include sliding PC board ties with pins buried under the ballast. The biggest issues in making realistic throw bars are keeping the point rails insulated (for optimum turnout wiring), providing a slight pivot function at the connection to the points, and enough strength to hold the assembly together under the forces of our switch machines, all while maintaining a realistic appearance. Usually, some form of slot(s) in the ballast is necessary.

    The original impetus for the tie-sized throwbars we see were when early modelers decided to use one of the header ties that lay on either side of the prototype throwbar as the model throwbar, allowing it to slide slightly to throw the points. Railway Engineering and other custom and/or hand layers still use this technique.Commercial manufacturers just stuck a sliding tie between the two header ties as an easier to implement, if less realistic, solution.

    because track is a model, too....
  6. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    tetters...Thank you for the suggestion :thumb:. I have seen your track laying work, and it is very impressive!:thumb::thumb::thumb:. I, unfortunately, find messing with track to be one of my least favorite parts of the hobby:oops:. I don't mind laying it, but I would get no fun out of modifying it. The wiring aspect of the hobby is my second least favorite :oops::oops:. I have nothing but admiration for those of you who have the patience and desire to improve, or make their own, track and turnouts.

    Fred....I always appreciate your posts:thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb:. You always bring me back to reality! My problem with Custom-line was not that they don't look prototype, but that they don't look like the other unprototypical turnouts on the market. I hope that makes sense. They just don't look like what I'm used to seeing on a model layout...

    What prompted this question in the first place is:

    I am getting ready to start my new layout and I will be needing new turnouts. For my first layout I bought Custom-line T.O.'s because they were DCC friendly and CHEAP! I had no mechanical problems with them whatsoever. My only problem was the looks of the throwbar. Anyway, those T.O.'s were #4's and I will be needing #6's (that's why I have to buy new ones). I would like to upgrade (for looks mostly) but I can't afford the extra cost :oops::rolleyes:.

    Thanks Guys for your thoughts :thumb::thumb::thumb:
  7. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Way to go, Steve...!!! Ugly throw bars or's great to hear you're getting set to begin your new layout..!! Will look forward to seeing your progress....:thumb:
  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    I was more tongue-in-cheek than anything. While Atlas has made the size and spacing of their ties more reasonable with the code 83 line of track, the turnouts have gotten uglier over time. Or maybe it's just my eyes have seen too much that is better.

    I still use Atlas turnouts and Snap and flex track for the initial track on my layouts so I can get something running quickly. I even use (gasp!) screw terminal and rerailer sections to help make it quick. But then my growing dissatisfaction with the appearance, especially with those huge blob of plastic frogs and guardrails (and the throwbars are not pretty either), actually helps push me that much harder to get some handlaid replacements in place.

    ...because track is a model, too....
  9. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    Gus...I hope I justify your enthusuasm!:oops::winker:

    Fred...I understand where you were going with your post, and I fully agree with everything you said. :thumb: I really just wish that I could get a little enjoyment out of modifying and or handlaying my own track, but I don't like doing that aspect of the hobby :cry:. I guess we can't like everything. Another reason is because I am the only one who ever sees my layout in person (if someone happens to come over the house and wants to see it, they wouldn't have the slightest idea about such things). That probably makes me lazy............:oops::winker:
  10. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Fred.I love that proto87 stuff. So cool.

    I wish I had come across some of their stuff earlier when I started as I may have employed some of their products in my track laying. I like the throw bar set up that they have created. It looks very durable and very prototypical.
  11. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Hey Steve, what is direly missing on those Atlas turnouts is a pair of "Headblocks". Those are two very long (usually 16') ties, one on either side of the throwbar (which are steel on the prototype, but you probably knew that already). I'd cut the other two molded on ties off and add scale length headblocks, that will go a long way towards added realism.

    I'll see if I can dig up some of my work photos showing real track switches.
  12. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

  13. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    Tom....first of all, it is always a mistake to assume I know anything!:mrgreen::winker:
    Thank you for your response(s) :thumb::thumb: You are absolutely right! The easiest way to makes these turnouts presentable is to do what you suggested and add headblocks:thumb::thumb::thumb:
    Thank you
    and thank everyone else who took the time to reply:thumb::winker:
  14. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Tom....That's some trackwork you got there...!!!! I especially like those headblocks....Seriously, though, that is some great trackwork...Where is that at..?
    'Nother question...Why don't turnout manufacturers model those headblocks..??
  15. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Out of respect for one of my best clients, I'd rather not mention names, but it is a large LPG plant near Bakersfield, CA. They built that yard with 133 pound welded rail, concrete ties, #8 switches and large ballast. It looks better than the BNSF mainline next door which runs 79MPH Amtrak trains on it all day. And this is just a yard! They use a large Trackmobile as their only motive power and the site can hold up to 200 cars at a time (two yards). It's a pretty large place. *In my opinion*, their yard construction was way overkill for what they needed, but, this company is class all the way, so I'm not surprised. I do all of their rail training and consulting for them and am getting ready to train/requalify more guys next month.

    I sure wish one of the model manufacturers would make those large hooped Racor switch stands. (Racor model 22). Us switchmen call them "Backsavers" as it mostly eliminates the need to bend while lining a switch. Best invention since Pop-tarts. I hope the guy who invented them is a multi-millionaire by now. :thumb:

    Not sure who all makes switches with the long head blocks. I know Shinohara does (or did), but I never did like those as the ties (in my opinion) are too soft and delicate. They are also thinner profile than Atlas track, and I really like their code 83. They look nice, but aren't very rugged. So, I use the Atlas or just hand lay my switches.When I use Atlas, I use PCB Board to make headblocks. Not sure why Atlas doesn't model them, but knowing Atlas's great reputation for quality, there is probably a good reason.
  16. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    That sure is some pretty trackwork. I love the details for the throw bars and switch stands. Thanks for sharing those photos.
  17. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Seeing as to how we're into this.....I have never really figured out how the green & red indicators on the turnout points are supposed to work. Is it as simple as green for straight and red for the diverging route..?
  18. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    It's *supposed to be*, but stuff happens. I got my first (and since then, ONLY) "ran through" switch when I was an 18 year old engineer, because I relied on the target of a high stand switch to show indication. BIG MISTAKE (and why I always preach to my students to NEVER rely on the target, always check the points when switching). I SWORE to the boss that the target indicated lined for straight rail (and it DID). My switchman then proceed to spin the target around like a top on the mast, the screw had rusted off. Most targets are only held in place with a pair of little small sheetmetal screws. Once they rust, game over. I felt like a tool after that, but never did let that happen to me again.
  19. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    Also too, on a high stand switch, if you can see the target facing you, it is *supposed* to mean that the switch is lined for diverging route. If you are staring down the long end of the target (in other words, it is in line with your line of sight from the movement), it is *supposed to be* lined for straight rail.

    Again, your ACTUAL mileage may vary. Just check the points. :thumb:
  20. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    This thread started off as a little good natured rant about how ugly Atlas Customline throwbars look. I wasn't really expecting anything except:
    "Yeah Steve, they look pretty lousy".........LOL! :winker:
    But instead of that, We struck GOLD!!!!

    I want to thank everyone for participating! :thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb:

    I learned a lot by all of your insights and further questions. :thumb:
    This is what seems to be missing here lately :oops:....I mean, it happens, but it used to happen more frequently. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I feel. I guess forums ebb and flow just like everything else, and we are in a bit of a down period (technical difficulties, ownership changes, some members "moving on") But even with all that, I really believe that..... announce1The Gauge is still the best forum on the internet!
    And you guys proved that!:thumb::winker:
    Thank you

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