…the words that are best suited to summing up the work on a model railway are best summed up using words that frankly just aren’t worth sharing.

Today I spend some time running wires across the first module. An investment of time and material made against the goal of finally running that first train. As I key this, all of the feeders are tied together and my transformer is wired in too. In fact, I could now just plug in a controller and run a train. Well, almost. I run power to each rail on each piece of track. Before tieing in that controller I wanted to work through the layout and check for shorts “one last time.” That’s when I discovered that there was one short, somewhere on the layout. I carefully traced my wires but just couldn’t isolate the issue. Given that each piece of track is electrically isolated from the rest it’s easy to test each one. Through a careful process of elimination I was able to narrow things down to one turnout.


I think that likely I’ve just not cut through the copper cladding on one tie well enough. I tried carefully re-cutting them one-at-a-time on the layout. In fact, I buckled under the frustration and slowly starting cutting the turnout in half on the layout (cutting completely through each tie). The more I worked, the more I was really just making a mess of things. To be honest, while there was really nothing wrong with this particular turnout, I felt I could have done a better job of putting it together. Coupled with this mysterious short, I decided it might be best to remove it from the layout and simply rebuild it from scratch. The great news here is that I’ll be able to recycle most of the rail so rebuilding should actually be quite quick. I’ll simply print off a new template, gap some copper ties and simply transfer the rails over one at a time. Since it was a short circuit that caused all this in the first place I’ll just have to be a little more careful as I go.

I’m so darned close to finally running a train on this layout and it’s that close proximity that makes these minor set backs all that much more frustrating. I guess that if these are my problems, things are pretty all right. After wasting an hour trying to correct the problem with the turnout still on the layout, I gathered some cider and surfed around the web to see if perhaps a bit of retail therapy might help. It was good to take a break, but now it’s time to get to bed. I’ll try and get up a little early and perhaps get a start on the replacement turnout in the morning.



    1. Thanks.

      I gave up looking. I have a terrible feeling it’s a tiny piece of copper cladding that was pushed from the face of the tie to the side. A thread so thin that it’s impossible to see but enough to keep power flowing. Given the ease with which I could just make up a replacement turnout I think it’s just better to invest time moving forward.

      Almost laughing at myself as I mumbled under my breath: “Dammit, I was sure I checked all those gaps.”

      Memories of checking bulbs on Christmas light strings.

  1. He Chris, test every tie one by one. If they short I hook each one up to a power source and use an HO bulb to test the track. I place it directly on the tie, not the rail, and that way you can really quickly narrow down what you did wrong.

    1. I have started to get into the habit of this. While placing each tie, right at the start of construction, I cut each and test the break. I think that, more than anything else, was what frustrated me so.

      All in all, it felt like sorting out Christmas lights.

      If nothing else, I’ll test even more diligently on the replacement.

  2. Hi Chris:
    I think it’s valuable for other hobbyists to read about our setbacks as well as our successes. It’s especially useful for neophytes who may feel intimidated by things like hand laid track. No – it’s not all wine and roses. Sometimes, it’s cider and shopping. But yes – it can all be fixed.
    Good luck with the troublesome turnout – I’ve had many days like that too so I sympathize. You’ll be running trains in no time I’m sure.

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