When I built my suspended railroad all the way around my gameroom, the project was so extensive that I tried to save money where I could because the room is 13 feet wide and 24 feet, 8 inches long. As a result, most, if not all of my 027 track was used track. Since it could not be see, it was not at all hard to sandpaper just the tops of the old rails to a nice gleaming shine, particularly when I used a rotating wire brush wheel on the pins. I think I have some Marx pieces mixed in with my Lionel track.
In addition, some of my turnouts were the very old type as shown in Picture E. By following the directions below and referring to the pictures, you can convert these old timers into modern turnouts that do not rely on track voltage. Instead, they have a constant voltage of their own even when trains are not running. They always throw quickly and dependably.
If a train is coming and one of these turnouts is incorrectly thrown, it will automatically self correct to prevent a track wipe out or derailment. To power up your old turnouts, the very first step is to turn over the turnout and grind out the 4 rivets that hold the bottom to the top. The yellow circled spots in Picture A shows the holes these rivets were in looking up from the bottom. One of them is under the housing that is held in place by the two screws circled with yellow in Picture E. Remove this housing from the top and set it aside.
My Dremel tool used to grind off the 4 rivets is also shown in Picture A. The red arrow is pointing to the thin wire that must be unsoldered or cut where the arrow is pointing. If you look at Picture B, you can see how this wire is pushed up through a hole to the turnout’s top side and then soldered to a 1 inch long bolt.
Picture C shows where I drilled a small hole in the side of the removable top housing. After placing a lock washer over the bolt, I passed it through the housing and screwed on a hex nut to hold it tightly in place. A second nut will be added later after you connect an additional power up wire from your transformer. Drill the hole close to where it is shown in the picture so the power up wire is long enough to allow you to lift off the housing when the bulb needs changed.
Picture D shows how to cut and insulate two short pieces of unused track. Notice that one of the outside rails must be completely insulated from the track and from the metal railroad tie beneath it. Attach the other end of these wires to the two outside silver posts as shown in Picture E. Now, when the wheels of your engines and cars run over these short sections, your turnouts will automatically correct themselves to prevent derailments. Current will flow to these dead sections through the wheels and axles of your trains. I permanently soldered these wires to the short track pieces.
As a final step, reconnect the turnout bottom, with its insulating paper sheet, to the top with very short flathead bolts, from the bottom upward. If your turnouts can be seen, you can dab black paint over the shiny bolts and nuts to hide them from view.
Although at first this project may seem difficult, it is not. It just takes care and a little time. Using this system, your turnouts will stay lit even when your trains are not running.
Obviously, you must connect your turnout controller as normal placing its two end wires over the two you’ve added to the silver posts. To power up your turnout, simply add an additional wire from another transformer post to the bolt you just installed on the side of the housing and secure it with a second nut. If the turnout does not work, reverse the two regular wires running to your layout’s main train tracks. If the turnout throws incorrectly, reverse the wires connected to the two outside silver posts. I guarantee you will have far fewer derailments and will enjoy your railroad all the more.
Caution, You will not want to leave the wheels of a train sitting on the short dead sections for long time periods because this could make the turnout coils overheat. You will notice a hum and a harmless spark each time train wheels roll over these small dead sections.
Happy railroading, and power up.