Quick Tip Track

Using Commercial Switches to Hand-lay Track

A few years ago, I was following Joseph Kreiss’ new On30 layout build and stumbled upon an interesting idea: utilizing old commercial switches for hand laid track. Joseph was using HO scale switches to make On30 trackwork. It was a very interesting idea and I wanted to explore this a bit more.

At the time I was working on a small HOn30 layout to display in my home office. I wanted to use commercial rail to speed construction. The switches are Atlas code 55 rail and look good and operate well, however, for a logging line, N scale track just won’t look realistic.

I started by removing a few plastic ties. PC board ties from Fast Tracks were temporarily soldered in place, to hold the track in gauge, while removed the rest of the plastic ties.

Now the switch is ready to spike into place on the layout.

Once the switch is spiked in place, I remove the PC board ties and replace them with wood. I was excited how fast the process took and how reliable the switches are.


  1. Years ago there was a line of “ready to install” turnouts that had tin strapping soldered to the tops of the rails. Spike them down and remove the straps. Did not have to worry about the spacing of the ties to accommodate the temporary tie.


    1. Yes, they were made by BK Enterprises. I just checked and the last of the stock is being sold on the Walthers site, but it says they’ll be discontinued when the stock is sold.


    2. BK Enterprises. They’ve been around for a long time (40 years?). I “won” 24 HO Code 70 turnouts with that strip across the rails. Got them for ~$3.60 each, with shipping. The seller started bidding low, anticipating a bidding war, which never happened. It’s a shame, they look pretty good. Just enough solder to be sturdy. You don’t see them too often on eBay but they do show up.
      They make them in different scales. Still available new but around $20 for the degree of finish that includes the metal strips, if I remember correctly. Several degrees of completion available.


  2. You still had to gage those, I used a few BK Enterprises turnouts and the flangeways weren’t always that great. The company is still around I think although their internet presence is hard to find.


    1. You’re correct Tom. It is important to keep an eye on gauge. I tried a few BK Enterprise switches and I did like the idea of soldering the PC tie to the tops of the rails as well.


  3. I have been toying with this idea modeling the 30” Victorian narrow gauge in On30. I have a few HO turnouts laying around. Good work tho man.


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