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Building points using C&L parts

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The recent thread on modelling Limerick Junction raised interest in building pointwork with C&L and similar systems. I am using the system on a small British Railways layout partially as a decider whether to go with flatbottom or bullhead pointwork on an Irish layout.


The C&L system is based on using ABS plastic chairs and sleepers and chairs in combination with nickel silver or steel rail to represent traditional Bullhead track used on railways in the in the UK and by most of the bigger Irish Companies especially the BCDR, DSER,GNR, GSWR & NCC. On CIE this type of track was widely used on the Kerry Road, Dublin Waterford Line and Wexford Lines until re-laid with CWR in the mid late 1990s.


C&L supply point kits and individual components many modellers use ply or wooden rather than plastic sleepers cheaper and more realistic.








The C&L system is based on a standard 3 bolt chair for running lines and a slide chair to support the moving switch rails at the toe end of a point. A number of different types of chai are used to support the rails around the crossing and check rails in points, with C&L its basically a matter of cutting and splicing a standard chair. Some systems (Exactoscale) manufacture special chairs.




Chairs threaded on to a stock rail Not as tedius as it looks quite therapeutic if you take your time





Building a crossing Ready made crossing vees are expensive, I use a jig for filing and soldering the vee probably takes about 5 minutes.




partially assembled V waiting to be fixed in place

The metal strips are for soldering the "wing rails" in place and maintaining electrical continuity.


Model points are usually assembled by first fixing the straight stock rail in place (long straight rail. Then fixing the vee and wing rails in position ....




Step 1. Straight stock rail and chairs positioned



Step 2. Positioning the vee using gauges.

This point is built on a Templot template, the position of the crossing nose, switch and other critical details are marked on the kraft paper backing before the sleepers and ballast was laid.



Steps 3-6 jumping a head too fast point almost complete


You basically work across from one side to another building a point once the first stock rail and Vee is positioned the second stock rail is gauged from first stock at the toe end and from the vee at the crossing, then the blades and gut rails fixed in position.


The track gauges are roller gauges, the brass gauge has sections milled out for gauging across converging rails at switches and crossings.


On average it takes me an evening to build one of these points. With the formation more or next complete the next job is to install the droppers for the wiring and tie bars, then weaher the sleepers and ballast, before fixing the assembly on the layout.

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I started setting out sleepers and point timbering on the curved approach track to the station. Track and ballasting for the station board is nearly read for transplanting to the layout.




I have followed Iain Rice's technique in "An approach to building Finescale Trackwork in 4mm" in prefabricating complete sections of ready ballasted point and crossing work on a sheet of paper rather than assembling the track in situ on the layout.


On this layout I am experimenting with Templot templates glued with spray mount to a sheet of kraft paper, the complete formation will in turn be spray mounted onto 6mm dense foam (ground sheet) on 18mm ply baseboard and hopefully result in quiet running.




Approach crossover timbering


I gave the template a wash of dark grey water colour to prevent the white paper 'grinning" through the ballast resulting in twisting and curling of the template and backing paper.




Plain sleepers in ballast Sleepers and ballast are laid on white glue (pva) applied with a small artists brush. I found that it is easiest to work in a small area laying no more than 3-4 sleepers and completing the ballast as your go, otherwise its easy for the glue to loose its tack leaving bald spots in the ballast. White glue can easily obliterate the template markings so I first glue the area within the width of the sleepers, place the sleepers in position, then glue the area outside the edge of the sleepers (shoulder or 6') then sprinkle the ballast in place. I then usually place a weighted block of timber or strip wood on top of a finished section of sleepers which helps keep a level top and iron out any crinkling.


The layout will be on an L shaped book shelf with the approach tracks to the station on a curve. The turnout from the main line to the loop is part of a crossover from the platform road either to an engine shed or possibly a private siding.


I had originally intended to use up my stock of SMP (Marcway) flexible track on the plain track on the layout but discovered that SMP & C&L Bullhead rails have slightly different profiles with the SMP an narrower head. The plain track between the crossovers and approach to the platform and goods yard will be laid with C&L components to reduce potential running problems in this area.




The layout is supposed to be the goods only remains of a light railway branch line, some where along the Welsh Borders between Hereford and Chester with quite a bit of influence from the Tanat Valley line near Oswestry but with a hint of the LNWR thrown in.


The layout is mainly an excuse to run my British outline main line and industrial stock and a prod to finish some nearly complete loco and wagon kits.

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  • 3 months later...
Hi John,


Just found this: very nice work.


I've reservations about Iain Rice's backing paper idea, because I think the paper is a perfect sound board, particularly if impregnated with glue. How do you find it?


(I'm off now to try to find the Limerick Junction thread)





Hi Alan


I haven't got to the stage of powered running yet, the crossover from the main-line to loco shed and loop has given a lot of trouble and basically needs to be re-laid, the rail joints in the rest of the yard need adjustment before final gluing down to the foam underlay.


I have had a lot of trouble in achieving a "level top" at the rail joints from what seems to be a combination of the template and kraft paper cockling, ply crossing timbers warping and twisting & difficulty in bonding the chairs to pre-stained ply sleepers with ABS solvent.


The Iain Rice 'system" is based on ply and rivet construction with cosmetic than functional chairs, which probably overcomes the problems with the stability of the paper and the chairs


In the long term the plan is to use stripwood rather than ply sleepers for 21mm gauge track, most likely on a template laid directly on foam or American style cork road bed and sand the top of the sleepers to get a level top before dropping in the rail.

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Works well in 7mm scale too and their point kits make building your own track both satisfying and easy.


The C&L system with abs plastic chairs and sleepers is pretty robust and easy to use, pre-milled switches and pre-assembled crossing vees save time but work out very expensive.


Most of the problems I have had are due to ply crossing timbers that have warped & twisted and the difference in rail section between Marcway (SMP) & C&L track systems.


Although both the rail heights match the rails are slightly different in cross section.

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Hi. Even though I've moved on to starting a layout based on claremorris ( I'll post the track plan for comments soon) and I'm all over the place due to a house move. ( bit I get an 18 by 14 layout space as a result ! ) , I've ordered a variety of trackwork components to experiment.


I'm using templot to layout the whole layout first, claremorris has 5 crossovers in linear formation, and 27 points in total ( I'm modelling the trackwork in its pre Todd Andrews day with the ballinrobe branch operational


I'm going to build to 00-SF which is a good compromise to allow modern RTR wheels , but with 1mm flange ways , this means reducing the track gauge to 16.2 mm over the point work


I've built lot of points in the past using copperclad , it's still the easiest method but I'm going to experiment with cosmetic chairs added afterwards. I will try the fully plastic chair point too for comparison and in a few weeks I should have some photos


My method is to build the point or point formations , off the layout , on a piece of marine ply, I spray glue the template ( its sacrificial ) layout the PCB sleepers. I build and install the common crossing first, I used to build from out from a stock rail , but nowadays it's , common crossing, wing and flange rail ( using 1mm gauge) , then check rails , then one stock rail , closure rails , switch blades and finally remaining stock rail. The wing rail to check rail is the key dimension to ensure proper running .


The key is to always build to track gauges not the template. In fact I can draw templates by hand. You need about 4-6 gauges and also a flange gauge, and most of all a check gauge


Note that c&l point kits are as standard come with DOGA-fine gauges. This standard will require you to modify a lot of RTR wheels to run successfully. I would not reccomend it for 00. C&L do OO-SF gauges. But they go out of stock frequently, templot will generate 00-SF templates


While I haven't tried it , the issues that seem to crop up with totally non soldered point construction is keeping everything in alignment . Because there is no ridgity in the construction. Some people add PCB sleepers or brass tie bars to help. Personally I think the best comprise is Brooke-Smith ( rivits) and key places on the point , with half chairs and then full plastic chairs. ,my first 00-SF point will be copperclad, with added cosmetic chairs. , well see how that looks. Also bear in mind that the plastic chairs implement the 1:20 rail cant and this can cause spring back when the rail head is trapped in the track gauge during construction, by the way I would wet the template at any stage until the point is in position on the layout , in the past I've also successfully used spray label adhesive remover ( radionics ) to dissolve and remove the template.


I will be mating this to either c&l or exactoscale flexi track ( exactoscale have the 4 bolt GSWR like chair )

If I get halfway to looking like the picture below ( admittedly S4) I'll be happy. Using Oo-SF also allows me to use PECO for fiddle yards and out of sight trackwork


Edited by Junctionmad
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