Ok, I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. Sometimes things are just done right and they need to get mentioned! That describes the stuff from Fast Tracks. I’m always quick to criticize a company or put something down, but painfully slow to recognize the truly great things. Fast Tracks turnout building jigs and related equipment are one of those items that deserve special mention!
While I was in my 18 months of doldrums and not building the layout, one of the things I invested in was a whole set-up from Fast Tracks to hand lay #6 Turnouts in Code 55 track. All I can say is WOW.
As the package arrived, the first thing that hits you is the excellent quality of all the parts. Nothing is pared to make this hand laying experience easy and useful. The jig for the turnout is a solid hunk of aluminum that seems durable as hell. The PointForm tool and the StockAid are also incredibly beefy. Their heavy enough to use as weights to hold everything on the jig during the build. Very handy. What really sets rig apart is the instructions. Hours of video and hundreds of pages of PDF text, with great photos takes you step by step through the entire process. Even I couldn’t screw it up.
They have videos and information on soldering for those who haven’t done that before. I went through it and I’m a graduate of the USAF High-Reliability Soldering school. I can solder gnats wings together in a pinch, and I still enjoyed the video with all it’s tips and tricks. The videos, combined with the text will have you building amazingly smooth running turnouts in a few hours. And that’s just for the first one. After you have the hang of it, they become easier and easier.
The PointForm and StockAid tools are ingeniously crafted to allow you to file the points and frogs in a way that makes the align perfectly. As you may guess, this is the most critical part of turnout building and has been the problem with all the other solutions out there. The guys at Fast Tracks have conquered that problem with gusto and perfection. If you follow the video/text/pictures, you WILL make perfect points and stock rails. Just go slow the first time and read it over twice.
They also have a number of “cool tools” that you can buy, and are worth it too. The Tie-Breaker is an ingenious device made of laser cut wood (beefy stuff too, not balsa) that does nothing more than help you cut the PCB ties to the correct length. Is it required, Nope. Is it quite possible the coolest tool since the bread slicer? Yep! The Frog Helper is another hunk of aluminum that does one thing, hold the frog points in perfect alignment for soldering. Again, not required, you can do a FINE job on the jig. Does it make life a little better/easier – you betcha! All their stuff is like that, they take model railroad problems and engineer contemporary solutions that just plain work.
Do they save money? Well, yes, I suppose. Building turnout does lower the cost, but that is not why bought it. I have a dream of one day being an MMR and I thought this might help in the future. I also knew I was going to need a ton of switches in the yard and these will fit that need quite well. Once they are painted up and tacked down, they look fabulous, and they run smooth as glass.
Overall. I would have to say, Run, don’t walk to your computer and order the kits from the guys. Figuring out how the shipping works can be a little strange (they’re Canadiens, eh?) but they do a great job of getting you what you want as soon as they can.
Happy turnout building! I know you’ll enjoy, because if I can do it, anyone can!