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Ask MR: How to line turnouts on thick benchwork

By | April 27, 2020

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Question: I‘m building an N scale layout on a hollow core door covered with 2″ thick extruded-foam insulation board on top. I’d like to remotely control a few of the turnouts that aren’t easily reachable from the front of the layout. Any suggestions on how to operate these turnouts? The thickness of the foam plus the door seems to me to be a problem. Thanks for any ideas. – Rob Wesley

Answer: An under-table switch machine will operate a turnout through that much thickness of benchwork if the actuating wire is replaced with a stiffer one that will resist flexing. Look in your hobby shop or online for tempered music wire, which is usually sold in 1-foot or 3-foot lengths. The thicker the wire, the stiffer it is. Try .020″ diameter and go up from there if the wire still flexes too much. Be sure to cut it only with a specially tempered hard-wire cutter, because music wire will ruin ordinary wire cutters or rail nippers. (Ask me how I know this.)

Another option is to control your turnouts with a ground throw or similar control mounted near the fascia, and transmit the movement to the points with a choke cable or similar arrangement. The guide tube for the actuating wire can be buried in the layout surface, run under intervening structures or track, and concealed with scenery. Take a look at Bob Kings- north’s article “Installing ground throws in the foreground” in our October 2018 issue. If that magazine isn’t in your personal back-issue stash, sign up for our online Archive at

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