View Full Version : Scale Size Switch Stands

Michael Whiteman
13th Jan 2012, 11:22 PM
Switch stands come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you will need to do some reasearch into your exact prototype. I will explain how to construct a stand alone version as well as an idea that came to me the other day. I was thinking for the people, like myself, who have under table devises using a piano wire up thru the throw bar that half the work was already done. The smaller the wire diameter, the more scale it will look. You will need to determine this when installing your turnout and mechanism. Leave the wire about an inch long sticking up thru the throw bar.

Here are some basic dimensions and parts definition. Write this down.
.00625 equals one real life inch
.031 = 1/32 = 5 inches
.062 = 1/16 = 10 inches
.125 = 1/8 = 20 inches
Our switch stands will be made up from 5 pieces

Lets's start with the base. I used a strip of .020 x .060 Evergreen styrene. You could go to .080 but keep the thickness at .020. Measure the distance between the inside of the two long ties that the base will mount on. Transfer this to the base. I used pointed dividers. Now create a point half way between these two. If you don't have dividers, cut the head off a sewing pin and chuck it in your pin vise to use as a center punch. Get your smallest #88 bit and drill these 3 places.

While the .010 bit is still in the pin vise let's make the handle. Locate .010 copper wire by stripping some larger stranded wire and removing one strand. Wrap it around the bit, like so, and put it aside.


Next we will make the stand. It is formed from a piece of .016 diameter solder. If you use larger, the assembly will still work but will not look like a scale size. Enlarge the 2 outer holes in the base to something a little larger than the solder. Shape the solder in a "V" or any other shape you are copying. It's easier to get these two legs into the holes if you make one a little longer than the other. Make sure you have this shape centered over the hole for the shaft. The distance from the base to the top of the stand should be 27 inches or 5/32" or .160


After squaring everything up, ACC it to the base on the top side. Cut off the ends using a razor blade and file the underside surface smooth. Using tweezers for downward pressure, I pulled the base down the file.


Next using smooth needle nose pliers that do not have a gripping surface, gently squeeze the solder until it flattens out to look like a piece of strap steel. Typically this section of the stand is about 3" wide. Anywhere from .018 to .025 should look OK.

For those of you who are going to attach this stand to the wire that is sticking up through your throw bar, do this. Enlarge the center hole so the base will fit snuggly on the wire. You might find that filing the end of the wire to a point will help. You might also want to paint this assembly black at this time. Slide it over the wire and down to the ties. Acc the wire to the base on the top side and also to the stand. Note that the switch stand will move when you throw the turnout, but that's OK with me.

For the rest of us that are building the stand alone version, insert a .010 brass wire thru the center hole and ACC it to the base. Then ACC it to the top of the stand. Next slip the handle that we made earlier over the end of the shaft and slide it down to the top of the stand. Figure out what position looks best and ACC it place. Trim and shape the handle. Cut the shaft to 3/4 of an inch or so and paint this whole assembly black.


The next thing that we need is a target. Every railroad had their own shape, size and color. If you don't have a picture of your railroad's, just ask, I bet someone here does. I chose a typical red round model which scales out to 25 inches and is a little too large for the Northern Pacific but looks OK to me. Forget cutting this out with sissors, if you want it to be round use a punch. I made mine from a piece of K&S 3/16 brass tubing. After chucking it in my drill I filed a 45 degree bevel on the outer edge until a sharp surface was formed. The thickness of the target is another dimension that will either make or break the scale size look. Ordinary paper is about .004 thick and only gets worse as you put paint on it. With .002 inch of paint you now have a target that is one real life inch thick. Not very realistic, but what we deal with in this wonderful world of N Scale. Ideally you want to use colored paper or at least use a colored ink marker. I was lucky and found some very thin red tissue paper which ended up being too flimsy. The trick to fixing that is to wipe ACC on the surface to harden it up.


Michael Whiteman
13th Jan 2012, 11:29 PM
Attaching the target is not the big problem that you might first think. Most tall switch stands are 6 feet, so cut your shaft off at 1/2 inch now. Apply ACC to the shaft and simply touch it to the center of the target. How easy was that?


Now measure the distance across the outside edges of the 2 long head ties. Transfer this to the base and trim the styrene to match. Touch up the white on the ends with a felt tip marker. And you're done! Now go make some more......


14th Jan 2012, 10:53 AM
Hey, that's really cool, Michael! Where'd you get the .016" solder?

14th Jan 2012, 11:04 AM
Excellent, Michael. Thank you!

14th Jan 2012, 01:33 PM
Thanks Michael, great tutorial ! :thumbs-up:

14th Jan 2012, 09:58 PM
Mark, you might want to use the Thanks button at the bottom of the original post... this way your appreciation is recorded, and not lost in the posting mix.

14th Jan 2012, 10:56 PM
Normally I do just that (and did just now). I thought I would post my thanks this time :)

14th Jan 2012, 11:00 PM
Normally I do just that (and did just now). I thought I would post my thanks this time :)

That's fine... I just didn't want the "Thanks" button overlooking.

Michael Whiteman
15th Jan 2012, 02:04 AM
Thank You to all who read and enjoyed this tutorial. I think these just add a finishing touch to any turnout. They're easy to make at about zero cost. A friend gave me a 3 lb. roll of this .016 solder, but you can buy it at any electronics supply store. Maybe not at radio Shack, although I've never looked. I'll be doing another tutorial on the electrical switch box that is found on mainline turnouts real soon.

9th Mar 2012, 09:43 PM
Great idea.

Railroad Bill
10th Mar 2012, 11:51 AM
Compliments for the photography and quality of the tutorial. Good idea that I'll use someday. By then might be lucky enough to see your further developments of these details. Had been looking at buying these details. Think I'll wait.

12th Mar 2012, 10:42 PM
that was a great tutorial , thanks