Turnout Or Switch – Gauge Or Scale – Model Railroading For Beginners Ep017
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Turnout Or Switch – Gauge Or Scale – Model Railroading For Beginners Ep017

August 14, 2019

we’ve talked a lot about different items
in Model Railroading For Beginners but the one thing that I’d haven’t done so
far is terminology terminology in a railroad terminology and model
railroading today I’m going to talk about the difference between gauge and
scale the difference between turnout and switch and a few more things so let’s
get started with it right now I’m Tom Kvichak and this is Toms
Trains and Things this channel was created to help other modelers who are
in need of guidance in pursuing their dream of building a model railroad and
when we’re building that model railroad we need to know the proper terminology
of what we’re talking about and what we’re using and that’s what we’re going
to discuss today some people call HO gauge some people call HO
scale some people call the turnouts turnouts and some people call them
switches now there is a legitimate reason for every one of those and we’re
gonna discuss those and we’re going to go over a little bit of a history of
history of railroads and what the gauge is where that came from let’s start this
off by talking about the difference between scale and gauge scale is the
proportion of real size to the size of the model railroad that we’re using say
like 1:48th 1:87th 1:160 for O HO and N scale now gauge is the distance
between the rail now what we use today is four foot eight and a half inches but
it wasn’t always like that it started out at a larger scale of five foot scale
now back in 1825 George Stevenson was a civil engineer and a mechanical engineer
with and him and his son created the first passenger railroad that was called
Stockton and Darlington Railroad now he used four foot eight and a half inches
as this the gauge between the rails now this was in England in 1825 this is long
before in the United States that they used that dimension for the rail back in
1886 the Pennsylvania Railroad used 4 foot 9 inches and the Southern Railways
used 5 foot and I think it was in May of May the end of May in 1886 they just the
the Southern Railways decided to move their rail
in three inches so it would be closer to what the the northern railroads were
they did this in 36 hours and what they did was they took the inside spike of
the Western rail and moved it in three inches and did that all the way up and
then over a 36 hour period moved the rail over that three inches
although all through the rails in the Southern Railway so that became four
foot nine inch and then later on it came down to four foot eight and a half
inches and that’s where we are today where did that four foot eight and a
half inches come from there was a program on PBS a long time ago
that discussed this same question of how we got the gauge for the railroad and it
goes back all the way to the Roman chariots and that they found when they
when they dug up I think it was in Pompeii they measured the ruts and from
Center to Center and it came out to four foot eight and a half inches of four
foot nine inches now they did this big old long story about that that you know
it came from there and it you know just through the years it just came and and
everything that was built was built with those dimensions on there and what they
said was that the horses were more accustomed to that distance that
measurement for the wheels if it was any skinnier or any wider it would pose a
problem with that also in in 1870 Matthias NACE Forney was a editor for
the Railroad Journal and he had a discussion with a lot of the engineers
for the railroads and this is when they were it doing the narrow gauge at the
time and it was discussed and he published this that you know that these
engineers said that five foot was a better gauge because the four foot eight
and a half inches was sub-optimal but that never took on you know since
everything was already four foot eight and a half
inches it just stayed that way and if you ever out in Colorado Denver Colorado
there’s a Forney Transportation Museum there that you would that I suggest you
go see we went there about four years ago and it has everything in
transportation as far as bicycles motorcycles carriages automobiles
locomotives and other rolling stock from the railroads so if you’re ever in
Denver go take a look at it I’ll put a link to their web page down here now if
you want to refer to a chose scale that is the proper way of doing it it’s not a
choke gauge now like I told you gauges the distance between the tracks and a
lot of model railroaders use that term a choke gauge you know that’s fine that’s
the way they want to do it but you know so gauge is actually the distance
between the tracks now if you got 25 model railroaders I said this before
you’re gonna have 25 different answers so however you do it is fine but you
know I just wanted to let you know that scale is the proportion of real life to
whatever size that you’re using and gauges at a distance between the tracks
now let’s move on to turnouts and switches now a turnout is what the
engineers refer to on the railroad now model railroaders also refer to the same
item turn out as a switch now I’m not going to say that they’re wrong that’s
the way that they say it that’s the way they refer to it and also there’s a
single slip switch and a double slip switch which is also a turnout so you
know even when you’re referring to the turnouts like a conventional turnout why
turn out a 3-way turnout at a double crossover double double slip switch and
double or a single slip switch you see the difference in there some of them are
called switches and some of them are called turnouts but the actual
nomenclature for the device is a turnout and the switch is a section of the turn
which I’m gonna show you on some pictures over here in a few minutes now
there are parts of the turnout that I’m going to show you on the computer here
and we’re going to go over that and also on the code for the rail now there’s
different codes on different scales I’m gonna and basically I’m just going to
talk about n scale and a chose scale now in a Cho scale you have seventy eighty
three and a hundred now most of the manufacturer tracks like from the Atlas
tracks the Bachmann easy track those are all code 100 now when you get into the
Flex track you can get code 83 and you can get code 70 now an N scale it’s a
little bit smaller and it goes down to code 55 now I’m not sure if the the
larger one is 70 I have a couple of pieces of flex track now as far as the
numbers on the turnout the turnout number is referring to the distance a
ratio of the distance of the straight track and the curve so like one in four
and I’ll show you a picture of it and explain that a little bit further now
you may be wondering why am I even bothering to go through this well you
know I didn’t realize it that you know since most of us are familiar with a lot
of things in model railroading and you know we’ve done it since we were a kid
and you know we’ve gone back to it or we’re starting out we already been
reading up on it but there are model railroaders who are
starting from scratch and what brought my attention to this is a couple of
viewers we’re asking what watching them some of my videos and they’re saying
what’s this what’s that I you know and I was doing the video on an NMRA gauge
and he says what’s that used for and you know as far as the turnout what’s the
number on a turnout because they had no idea because they never heard it before
so this is basically the reason that I’m going over the terminology and I’m gonna
continue with a few more videos after this one to expand on some of the
discussions now I’m going to show you the a no more a gauge but I’m going to
do another video on the NMR Gate showing you what all the different
items on that gauge is now as far as the turnout goes I’m going to show you the
parts of the turnout and I’m going to show you the relationship of the numbers
on the turnout now if you have a number for turnout and a number eight turnout a
number eight turnout is a skinnier turnout and a number for turn-up is a
little bit steeper and I’ll show you why that is here I have a series of why
turnouts this is a number two and these two are a number four now you can see
the difference these are different manufacturers and even though both of
them are number fours you can see that from the thrown rod all the way up to
the Frog it’s a little bit different and the angle is a little bit different so
nothing is quite precise between the manufacturers so whenever you’re working
on something you have to really check to see what the angles really are this is a
picot insulated frog this is an Atlas electric electro frog I’m not sure
exactly what their terminal terminology is the Atlas is a number four and the
picot is a number five this isn’t it this one’s an Atlas and this one’s a
picot and I’ll put these together like this and number four and the number five
this one’s an Atlas but I think this is code 100 I’m gonna put these three
together right here and you can see I have three different numbered curves
this one’s a picot I know this one and these two right here is Shinohara this
is a code 83 regular track and this is a code 83 Bridge track this one’s made by
pika this one’s made by micro-engineering now you can see the
difference in the ties for the bridge track their closer together and
they’re a different dimension now this is n scale track this one here is code
70 this one here is code 55 now both of these are manufactured by Atlas but you
can see the difference in the height of the of the rail on there and also you’ll
notice the different colors in there that’s true with most manufacturers I
don’t have any code 100 H 0 scale that there’s a code 83 a chose scale right
there and you can see that in the difference between the h o’ and the n
scale you could pause your video here to take a look at this diagram of the
turnout it gives you all the names of the parts of the turnout now whether
it’s a left hand or right hand a curved turnout or a wide turn on it’s all the
same the terminology is the same on every one of them also I’m going to
scratch the surface on steam locomotives and diesel locomotives and how we
identify between the two on steam locomotives that identification comes
from the the trucks on there as an example you might have a 210 Aloka
motive I’m going to show you the difference I’m going to put a display up
here and to show you some of the different ones not all of them I mean
there are so many different ones and I’m gonna do the same thing with the diesels
now the the letters on the Diesel’s all have a meaning on it that you know they
have S SW they have RS they have F they have E they have GP and that list goes
on and there are so many different ones that you could look it up and I’m gonna
give you a link for on the Wikipedia where it will cover every possible
diesel locomotive and every possible steam locomotive and we’ll put all those
graphics up here on the on the page so you could see that go take a look at
Tom’s trains and things dot-com where I have a bunch of other stuff on here that
I don’t have on YouTube videos and I’m always putting more
on there check out Tom’s trains and things and help support this channel by
going there I have some affiliate links on there
I have patreon and also PayPal me Tom’s trains and things so take a look at the
web page in some future episodes I’m going to continue with the the topic of
terminology and try to cover as much as possible that I can going back and and
trying to think what it was like from the very beginning it’s kind of hard so
if any of you out there have any ideas of you know you know what do you want to
know about what’s this or what’s that write it down in the comments section
and let me know because you know I started out a list of the terms that I
want to use and I’m going to continue with a few more videos as many as I need
to make it clear what everything is in model railroading and in railroading
I’ve had a couple of questions since IRMA came through they want to see my
trains running well I got I got a lot my electronics part packed up in and toads
and stuff that I wanted to keep it away just in case we had a failure in the
roof and so I got to stick to all that stuff back up and get everything back
run and plus I was sick for a while so we’ll get that we’ll get the get the
trains running on there and I’ll show you a video on that so keep watching I
got more stuff coming up and we’ll see Ya


  • Reply ELSDP-45 October 14, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    THANK YOU…for sharing.

  • Reply HillBilly RailRoad October 14, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    real nice job thank you for doing all the work that you do to help all of us

  • Reply trainroomgary October 14, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Hi Tom: I am 1/48 Scale, Lionel โ€ข Toy Train Layout. There is also Lionel Tinplate. Cool model train talk. ๐Ÿ˜Ž
    โ€ข Cheers from The Detroit & Mackinac Railway ๐Ÿš‚

  • Reply Ron's Trains N Things October 15, 2017 at 12:46 am

    The guage term is more common in N. A l I t of people refer to N gauge. It is a pet peeve of mine. The N scale old standard track is code 80.

  • Reply model railer October 15, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Yes this is a great video Tom! Theres old school modelers who still use the terms wrong.

    You should do a video on how to figure out the scales. Like whats 1/87 mean.

  • Reply SD70ACe October 15, 2017 at 2:42 am

    since I have found your videos I have learned alot, my wife and I haven't built our layout yet but hope to soon. We hope to build the layout around the time period of when the steam locomotives are slowly meeting the diesel locomotives.

  • Reply aljernon magillacutty October 15, 2017 at 5:34 am

    I once asked another modeler why modelers call a "switch" a "turnout" when people who actually work for a railroad usually call them switches. The reason I was given was that modelers use the term turnout to save confusion since the modelers deal with numerous electrical switches on model railroads. What is your thoughts on this?

  • Reply bnsf6951 October 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    great info Tom… FYI.. "N"ย track codes = 80.. 55… 40… you can only get the 40 rails only there is no assembled track for code 40.. thanks for sharing.. vinny

  • Reply M&M Rails October 15, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Good info Tom. Next topic: Difference between a frog and a tortoise. Or how about a turntable and roundhouse. Or what's a modelrailer? -Mark

  • Reply Jack O October 16, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing, but you can find n scale is confusing when it comes to track, atlas make code 80, code 65 like Kato code 80, atlas makes code 55, now micro engineering makes code 70, 55 and code 40, in flex but only code 79 and 55 #6 turnouts, and Pico make only code 80 track but the code 55 they make has part buried in the ties to simulate code 55, a cool way to do it, now code 40 is a little tricky as wheel flanges can touch the plastic that holds the rail, but I have seen were you can lay it in pc ties to make it work good, hopes this clears n scale a little bit for you!

  • Reply Jason howe October 16, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    not from model rail road standard. it is more from definition from ireland and english rail standards which is why we have a mix of rain width gauge and it has been a pissing contest for to many years on how we have ended up with a width gauge bias and poundage problem on the what services us for rail for across the world, the original 5 foot and up specification on rails was likely accommodate the offset of weight of the steam engines..

    at this stage there is 3 trains of thought in what is narrow gauge and what is school of training you were training you were taught under because the measured distance between the 3 1-1.5 foot or more ..

    and poundage restricts the pysicalweight you can impose on the rail..

    in some cases where you had mismatches in rail it was common either to convert wagons over to a different rail gauge than it is was to run a standard gauge across a network until standardization practice started to take place…

    though in real operation gauges you can go from 1 foot or less wide to 6+ foot wide depending what the track was created for 4.5-4.9 foot is far from standard across..

    realize in the real world that run miniture railways is also a narrow gauge platform that can run with heavier poundage line and can be considered a real railway with the correct rolling stock..

    whilst you might say may be correct in some form of historical context though in reality you are dealing with 2 versions of measurements and 2 schools engineering trains of thought 1 being an english and 1 being irish which may never meet in connection because you either adopt 1 or the other not both, this is a problem in australia we still have to this day..

    I'm guessing this might of a big issues in the states for sometime until it was migrated to where it sits since ww1 or ww2 when and where the government took over rail interests and standard gauge the network where plausible ..

    you likely couldn't replicate the off gauges that existed where steam trains were 1st introduced because it be be hard to replicate in model railways I would think..

  • Reply JA Murphy November 11, 2017 at 4:42 am

    IMAGINE if we used real Railroad terms for Switch (Turnout) angle…
    Or how about CURVES?? Go to your Hobby Shop and ask for some 24 degree curves!! ๐Ÿ˜จ๐Ÿ˜ต๐Ÿ˜ต
    I have to believe that several Model Railroading nomenclature was designed and modified over the years, just to save headaches. Especially for the newer guys.

    That was an extremely valuable bit of video Tom! No matter how old I get, I love learning and relearning. Thanks!
    Hope you get your Irma issues all sorted, and get some trains running again!!

  • Reply csx68 BNSF Keystone Corn Route November 23, 2017 at 2:49 am

    how about the saying wagon/carriage/railcar/rollingstock/car and loco/locomotive/engine

  • Reply Pistanbroke December 20, 2017 at 2:40 am

    they make a code 70 n scale? i thought it was code 80…lol HO guys are clueless…lol

  • Reply Bridgette Wiesmann January 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Please explain the difference between #4 #6 single digit turnouts and the 851 850 860 861 turnouts

  • Reply leeroy excavator March 29, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    just found this. thanks! just started buy tracks and engines and such, to build a setup around my living room. want to build a twin track setup. dont know anything about it other than the track I had from when I was a kid. I am gonna start out pretty simple but didnt know the diffence between a turnout and a switch.

  • Reply Phyllis Raines October 22, 2018 at 12:26 am

    I was told you could use any train on any track but,
    You could not use different train track for instant ATlas with Bachmann.
    Is this true? I am also trying to find out before investing in track can the turnouts
    bridges etc. be used with flex track.

  • Reply Debbie S August 7, 2019 at 3:25 am

    Good job Tom

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