Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mating Kato and Atlas track

Kato N-scale track includes a rerailer-grade crossing piece, but the HO line does not. We (the members of the Lubbock Model Railroad Association) have found that it would be helpful to have such an item on the club's TTrak-HO layout. So, I set out to graft an Atlas piece to the Kato track.

The first picture shows the initial problem, a difference in "deck height." This is about 1/4",

so I fitted 1/4" square styrene stock under the Atlas piece to raise it. This is slightly high, but that will be remedied in a few moments.

Next, I decided to remove the extra ties at each end of the grade crossing. I think this will make it easier to blend the scenery together.

A quick check shows that the joint is lining up rather well, I thought.

Next, I glued the styrene to the grade crossing, one piece under each rail. I later had to trim it back a little, but that may not be necessary in all cases.

The ends of the crossing were opened up a bit around each rail. Again, this may not be necessary in all cases. I did it to give me room to solder power feeds to the bottom of the joiners.

Then, a bit of careful sanding brought the Atlas down to the desired height to match the Kato.

Okay, now for the Kato part. First, remove the Unijoiners from the track piece. You will save them for later, right? Carefully examine the base of the rails at each end of the section. On one end, there are small 'dimples' in the rail flange that lock the rails to the roadbed. I call this the 'locked' end. The other end I call the 'loose' end.

Using Atlas rail joiners, connect the locked end of the Kato to the Atlas, and solder. Do this at both ends of the Atlas crossing. The railheads should be in alignment. If not, a little filing will clean it up. In my case, the alignment was almost perfect. It is certainly closer than I often see Atlas-to-Atlas across module boundaries.

Next, since this is to fit a particular length, I needed to trim one of the Kato pieces to a custom length. This is where soldering the locked end comes into play. The length I needed is twice the length of a Kato straight. With a full length on the left of the Atlas, I butted another Kato straight against that as a measuring stick. They are touching under the Atlas plastic.

I selected a place near the middle of the overlap, as shown by the pencil point, and marked it as my cut line. I have found that the joint will be much less visible if the ballast is kept and the cut occurs on the edge of a tie. The exact position of this cut is not critical. Being near the middle, however, helps keep it away from the Kato Unijoiner sockets on the track ends.

The cut line is transferred to the bottom of the track piece.

Then, placing it in a miter box, I cut it with a razor saw. Cut only the plastic! When the saw reaches the rails, stop.

The loose end will now slide off the rails with little to no effort. Clean up the cut ends.

Realign the track and the reference piece, and align the loose piece just cut. These are the only pictures where I used the alignment markings of the work pad.

The end of the locked piece is used to mark where to cut the loose piece to length. If in doubt, cut it a shade long. The loose end can always be sanded to precise length before permanently attaching it.
Once cut, slide the loose piece back on the rails and check the joint for tightness and the overall length for fit.
Remove and sand it as needed, rechecking periodically.

When satisfied with the length and fit, turn the track over and glue the joint. Sometimes I add a little scrap of styrene across the joint, but it isn't necessary in a good, tight fit.

When the glue is dry, flip it upright, trim the rail ends flush to the roadbed with nippers, install the Unijoiner (you did save them, right?) and install it.

Install in place, finish off the scenery, and enjoy your grade crossing/rerailer.
I have one last comment. Kato is code 83, the Atlas I used is code 100. Using the Atlas code 83 crossing may make it a little easier. I only had access to the code 100's through my LHS, so that's what I used.

No comments:

Post a Comment