Getting Started

Basics of gauge-1 switches, part 1

Large-scale railroaders: Parts of a switch, special switches, and more
By Kevin Strong
Published: June 26, 2009
Tuscarora Railroad Nº 3 pulls in to Shade Gap, passing over the switch that leads to the coal tipple. Switches are a vital part of railroading, both prototype and model. Without them, we’d be confined to running trains in a simple loop.
Photo by Kevin Strong
I'm going to spend some time discussing basic garden-railroad features, how they work, and how to make sure they work properly. So what better feature to start with than. . .a switch? Switches are necessary any time one wants to send a train in an alternate direction. They're what makes it possible to store one train on a siding and run another around it, or any other basic operation. They're essential if you want your trains to do more than just run around in circles. Unfortunately they're also the leading cause of derailments on model railroads of all scales. To understand what makes a switch function-and what causes it to malfunction-one needs to know how a switch works and the many kinds of switches there are.
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