Atlas N scale turnouts

Ken’s been in touch. He’s shared how he added Atlas N scale turnouts to his layout:


After reading, enjoying, and gaining a lot of inspiration from your blog I thought I might add to the story.

I just did a little remodel of my temporary layout to gain more storage for trains.

This meant putting a turnout (points) into an existing track. Not something people do all the time. Except for Dangerous Dave that is.

On this section of the layout, which is intended to be hidden, I am using Atlas N Scale turnouts and N scale code 80 track.

I started by laying out the location of the turnout. I held it in place while I cut the existing rail with rail nippers.

The ends were a little rough so I filed them off to make more of a square cut.

Since I use flex track, I had to modify the ends to be able to slide rail joiners on. I used a Zona saw, sliding against the underside of the rails to remove just the very top surface of the end tie. If this is not done, the thickness of the metal rail joiner will lift the joint enough that it could cause derailments.

I slid rail joiners on, connected one end on the existing track, then moved the track just enough to get the other end on.

You can see in the video that one end had to be loosened to get the saw in, and that made it easy to work the turnout into place.

I hope this brief explanation is clear enough, feel free to ask any questions.

Ken from near Albany, NY USA”

Altas  n scale turnouts

Altas N scale turnouts

“Hello Al,

I enjoy receiving your emails and seeing what other modelers are doing.

I also like the innovative ideas some come up with. I want to share one of my own innovations, namely an easily removable backdrop.

My layout is planned to be a double deck, but because I am limited to a single car garage and sharing it with my mom in law’s car, I do not have space for a helix. Thus I have to make use of a linear climb along the long walls of the garage.

This climb is to be hidden behind the backdrop, but also needs to be accessible for cleaning and in case of a derailment.

I used an aluminum angle to support the track on the incline. The sce-ne in front of the incline is a car factory with a car loading ramp at a stub end track, but since it is on a narrow shelf, I did not have much depth to play with.

Thus, a printed backdrop of a factory was chosen, chopped and spliced together on the computer and printed it out.

Then cut and glued it to some cardstock strips. Because the factory itself is almost 6 feet long, I broke it into three smaller pieces for easier handling.

The final step was to mount this cardstock in such a way that is is removable quickly and easily. Magnets to the rescue. We use a magnetic notepad on our fridge for our home’s grocery list. When I looked at the back of this notepad, I found my solution.

The magnet was a very thin flexible magnet, and I know our art supply store sells these magnets in A4 sheets. I bought one and cut it into strips, gluing the strips to the aluminium angle where the card-stock will lean against it.

I then placed the cardstock against the incline, marking where the magnets are. After removing the cardstock I glued small metal plates (sourced from magnetic door catches) to the correct areas, and when dry, I simply put the backdrop in place and the magnets hold it in place.

To remove, I simply pull it till the magnets release and I have access to the rail behind the backdrop.

Hope this method can help fellow modelers with similar problems.


Henry van Wyk, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa”


HO scale model train

HO scale layout backdrop

That’s all for today.

A big thanks to Ken for sharing how he addes his Atlas N scale turnouts. And to Henry too.
Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here, if you want to stop dreaming, and start doing.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

11 Responses to Atlas N scale turnouts

  1. James Marek says:

    I noticed a few manual switch levers in your video. What brand do you use? Are you pleased with their performance? TY


  2. Brian Messenger says:

    Henry, brilliant idea and may become useful on my layout. Well done. Glad to see that you are still active in the hobby. If you are ever down my way at all (Port Elizabeth or Knysna) please call in and see me.

  3. Elmer Banks says:

    Thanks to Ken for showing the addition of switches to his layout. I just purchased 8 remote switches to replace my manual ones, as I was a bit tired of moving up and down my 20′ X 2′ N scale, as I have a Bachmann command control DCC which has no walk- around capabilities. I also added Atlas switch machines to 2 manual switches, which required removing the switches, attaching the machines and replacing them. With N, it is a delicate job. Ken shows how all this can be done with patience and near perfection. Advanced planning helps and watching Ken’s tutorial really helps. And yes, passenger cars of length are excluded from my pike. Two feet is a bit tight for the curves. First N pike needs additional room at each end. PLANNING!!

  4. Robert Brady says:

    I think those insulated jointers are causing the loco hesitation.
    The Critic

  5. Vinnie Monti says:

    Always good to see how turn outs are executed… good job

  6. Rob Schweitzer says:

    Henry, thanks so much for the background tip. That is exactly what I was looking for. Brilliant idea!
    St. Goar & Murren Scenic Railway
    Ann Arbor, Michigan USA

  7. Terry Miller says:

    GREAT idea on the magnet scenery. I can use this idea.

  8. Woody's Workshop says:

    I would think using a chisel tip sharpie and marking the rails to be cut, removing them from the layout, and using the rail nippers correctly and cutting vertically through the rails instead of horizontally would be better.
    Video’s on American Railroad Academy shows this method.
    Also the flat side of the nippers should always face the side of the rails you intend to use. The flat side cuts straight, where the angled sides leaves a point to the rails. Less work and time to dress the rails you going to use.

  9. Will in NM says:

    Ken, Very nice video of turnout installation technique. Glad to see I’m not the only one who struggles with Xuron rail nippers. 🙂

    Henry, Brilliant idea using magnets to attach the removable backdrop. Office supply stores sell something similar to your A4 sheet — adhesive backed magnet sheets for making business card refrigerator magnets. I’m thinking of putting the magnetic sheet on the backdrop and using ferrous metal strips attached to the wall to hold it in place.

  10. Ken says:

    @James Marek I use Caboose Industries ground throws. I love them!

    @Robert Brady. After a thorough cleaning, the hesitation disappeared. I’ve never had an issue like that just do to insulated rail joiners since the power is supplied from both sides.

  11. Robert Brady says:

    Ken You cleaned with bright boy in the vid and the hesitation started there after ,why even use the insulated joiners? I’ve used insulated joiners but not for the reason you did. Show us a new vid of the same location.

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