Aristo-Craft #6 Turnout issues

Aristo Craft #6 Turnout issues including Guard Rail Fix Article
(Improvements to prevent derailing risks associated with the frog point; The turnout’s circuit breaker, and a parallel track crossover application using two #6 turnouts.)
Ted Doskaris
May 15, 2007
Revision GE-B
July 28, 2023
Revision GE-B1 - fixed 2 stale links

August 31,2023
Rev. GE-C - Major updates: Added generational differences and versions along with more operational issues and fixes; added table of contents

September 2, 2023
Rev. GE-D - Provided some clarifications; added "Quick Click to" contents in Appendix A



APPENDIX A -Turnout Generations, Fixes, Switch Machines, etc..




The Aristo locos & rolling stock used to illustrate the turnout issues shown in parts of this vignette (article) are equipped with standard Aristo plastic knuckle couplers. However, since time has gone on, all my locos and rolling stock have been equipped with body mounted Kadee "G" scale centerset couplers. The Aristo cars have Aristo, ART-29111, type metal wheels. Other brand locos & cars, also, have metal wheels.

The Aristo #6 turnout, both left & right, no matter what generation or version (brass or stainless steel), have areas of concern that can affect operation - illustrated below.

Summary of Aristo-Craft's # 6 Turnout Issues:
There are 3 evolutionary generations of turnouts in both brass and stainless steel versions.
Common to all generations, except where noted, there are 5 primary mechanical issues to address:
(1) The outside stock rails are too close together (Perhaps because of plastic tie bedding shrinkage not controlled in the molding process). Accordingly, the swinging point rails are even tighter, inviting wheel flanges to strike the ends and ride up - causing derailments. Generation 3 turnouts have better point rail finish.
(2) For the first generation turnouts, the guard rails across from the frog are spaced too far from the outside stock rails - rendering them useless in preventing the frog point from being struck by wheel flanges. Ends of the guard rails also have abrupt transitional "ramps" meant to guide wheels upon entry.
(3) The end portion of the turnout where both straight & diverging paths emanate from the frog is prone to sag causing a mismatched rail head height with the frog railhead - resulting in locos or cars having low hanging parts to strike and wheels to jump up & down.
(4) The cast metal frog ends may physically butt against adjacent rail ends owing to temperature changes - causing a short circuit for track power (Frog powering is via micro switch & poly fuse incorporated in the turnout)
(5) The frog throat area is overly large and too deep - causing wheels to drop down and strike the point of the frog and abrade against the wing railheads, resulting in long term damage. A one time available or aftermarket flange bearing drop-in insert ("Frog Legs") can help reduce this affect.

Descriptions of #6 turnout generations, fixes, switch machines, and other aspects are encapsulated in Appendix A.


To begin - a description of the guard rail problem will be discussed with respect to both
Aristo-Craft's #6 and Wide Radius turnouts' guard rail flangeway clearance as follows:

Since I had received some time ago my dash 9s and attached them to a 38 car 100 ton hopper train I noticed a tendency for the attached train's first car wheels to bump the edge of the guard rail lead-in section whilst sometimes also bumping the the point of the frog. This typically happens on the diverging curved section as the train traverses it and sometimes causes a derailment.
Using an MUed SD45 as a trailing loco attached to the train helps to avoid the derailing; however,
one can still see and hear the "bumping" action of the first train car's leading wheels.

I find this to be prevalent for the #6 Turnout types having the straight metal guard rails as well as the Wide Radius Turnouts having the plastic guard rails in addition to its prior version having the metal guard & frog wing rails.

No doubt the locos' body mount coupler does exert outward force on the lead car's truck mount type coupler - thereby forcing that car's wheels toward the frog and risking derailment as they strike either or both the guard rail's edge and the point of the frog.




I came upon a back issue of an NMRA Scale Rails February 2004 issue.
In this issue is published a proposed track work standard that includes: "S-3.2 Standard Scale Trackwork" and "S-3.3 Trackwork, Scales with deep flanges".
These appear to be applicable to turnouts of various scales, including scale names of #1 and G.

Of particular significance is the "F" specification for "Flangeway (max)".
For both #1 and G scale it is apparent that the specification is 0.106" max between guard rail and main rail whilst this value is increased (relaxed) for G scale to 0.131" for the "wing rail" guard closest to the frog.




Using a dial caliper, I took a measurement of the Aristo #6 guard to main rail and it was approx. 0.135" for the straight section and approx. 0.150" for the diverging section.
Similarly, I took a measurement of one of my Aristo Wide Radius turnout's guard to main rail and it was approx. 0.125".

Out of curiosity, I went out and measured a real 1/1 prototype turnout guard to main rail and it was
about 2 inches. Factoring this down by 1/32 results in approx. 0.062". (The #1 gauge track is 1/32 scale owing to the space between the rails being 45mm - or 1.75 inch.) Of course, I realize Aristo's wheels are not prototypical in their dimensions so one can't claim to have a prototypical guard to main rail clearance - but this does offer sort of a "ball park" comparison.

However, it does appear Aristo's # 6 and Wide Radius turnout versions as previously defined do not meet the proposed NMRA standard as both turnout types clearance is too much.

If both the clearance and transitional shape of the guard rails are improved upon a much better train operation will result, thereby, allowing a more tolerable acceptance in wheel gauge variations and rolling stock lash ups even when having a mix of truck &. body mount couplers. 


Now to illustrate with a few more pictures:
Aristo #6 Turnout diverging guard rail clearance appears to be too much.
(Note the rather abrupt end with somewhat of a beveled transition.):

Train Operation - on turnout

Top view showing lateral coupler force exerted on Aristo truck mount wheel set via body mount
loco coupler serves to force wheels toward the #6 turnout's frog - sometimes hitting its point:

First car of train with its wheel hitting the Aristo #6 turnout's frog point:

Aristo Wide Radius diverging guard rail clearance appears to be too much which results in the leading car’s wheels striking the abrupt transition ramp – occasionally provoking derailment:

Top view showing lateral coupler force exerted on Aristo truck mount wheel set via body mount loco coupler serves to force wheels toward frog whilst striking guard rail approach ramp.– occasionally provoking derailment:

(Note: For the Wide Radius Turnout guard rail fix see topic:
"Wide Radius Turnout improvements Vignette"  )

Guard Rail Fix -for No.6 Turnout

Now for the #6 Turnout and its guard rail fix:

Prior to my modification of the guard rails, trains operating over the #6 turnout would have the first car with truck mount coupler type (when attached behind a loco with a body mount coupler) strike the the point of the frog with its wheel, consequently risking or causing a derailment. Moreover, this happened to nearly all my Aristo Streamliner passenger cars when traversing the #6 turnout. With the Streamliners, a leading truck wheel of nearly all the cars in a train would hit the frog point irrespective of whether or not the car was the one attached to the loco or which path through the turnout it went.
In this regard, the illustration below shows the ill effects of this has on the frog.

(Comment: Other users have performed guard rail modifications to the Aristo #6 turnout prior to what I have done, but I would like to share what I have done as described below.)

The first thing I did was to remove the guard rails. I decided to use the same mounting holes meant for the original guards as they are fairly large in diameter, thereby allowing the repositioning of a guard rail closer to the main rail. (It should be appreciated that shorter length guard rails than the ones I fabricated may be used if one decides to drill new mounting holes in the plastic ties so long as you ensure good coverage opposite the frog’s flange ways.)
For the diverging section guard I cut a new rail about 9 1/4 inch long and bent short transition ramp "wings" at either end. I then ground off enough material from the base to allow its rail head to be positioned at approx. 0.105 away from the adjacent main rail head. This value was chosen based on a published NMRA preliminary specification of 0.106 inch with respect to such clearance. I also notched the base of the guard rail near either end for its “wings” to clear the plastic tie strip “fish plates”. For the straight turnout path, I used the former guard rail taken from the diverging path since it is slightly longer and modified it similar to the new diverging guard rail.
I then drilled and tapped two new holes on the base underside of the new guard rails positioned so they would mount into the original tie hole locations of the turnout.

If desiring to use the same factory guard rails in the same factory places, albeit with modifications, but without having to drill new holes, see "Fix for Guard Rails & Spacing" within Appendix A in this vignette.

The following pictures serve to illustrate the guard rail fix that require drilling new holes:

Aristo-Craft #6 Left Turnout showing factory installed diverging guard rail measuring 0.145 inch clearance between adjacent main rail. (This clearance amount is way too much, causing the wheel of a truck mounted coupler type car - when pulled by a fixed mounted loco coupler of a Dash 9 loco - to strike the the point of the frog, resulting in derailments):

Replacement diverging guard rail, top and bottom views. (Note the notches near either end for tie plate clearance. The straight path guard rail did not need to be notched):

Two new holes drilled & tapped to allow use of existing holes in turnout plastic ties for mounting:

Newly installed guard rail now measures 0.106 inch clearance:

Aristo #6 Left Turnout as installed in Layout with its two new guard rails:

Train of 40 Aristo 100 ton hoppers & 3 RoadRailers being pulled by 2 dash 9s back to back through Aristo #6 Turnout with new guard rails. (Note the nose of the trailing SP dash 9 is now able to pull the first car past the frog point WITHOUT its wheel flange hitting it and derailing.)

First car 100 ton hopper with truck mounted coupler being pulled by body mount coupler of GE dash 9 is now OK going through frog point without its wheel flange hitting it.

First 100 ton hopper car with truck mounted coupler being pulled by body mount coupler of GE dash 9 going through narrower clearance guard rail prevents opposite wheel from hitting the frog point.





Aristo # 6 turnout underside view shows the Poly Fuse (circuit breaker) used in the powered path of the metal frog.

A closer view of the circuit breaker (which looks similar to a capacitor) shows the close proximity of the stress relief bends of its attaching wire leads. If these leads were to touch, the circuit breaker would be rendered ineffective.

The # 6 turnout micro switch serves to direct the proper track voltage polarity to correctly power the metal frog in correspondence to the points' position. The # 6 frog is fairly long in length, and it is desirable to power it, particularly with track power applications for small locos when traversing the turnout so they won't stall out which can happen if an electrically insulated frog were used like those commonly employed in the smaller turnouts.

The tail rails and frog electrical connections via bare bus type wires can be seen on the underside of the # 6 turnout.

Illustrated below is the overall connectivity for the frog power path.




Illustrated below summarizes what issues to address for the #6 turnout to make it more usable.

The frog throat depth in the circled area shown above measures about 0.220 inch. But because of poor geometry of the flangeway widths and wing rail spacing, it should be made to be flange bearing to a depth of about 0.120 inch.


Electrical Issues

The # 6 turnout frog end gaps are required to avoid an electrical short to the non selected path rail as determined by the points' position micro switch. In this regard, the prior illustration shows the plastic bedding tabs that are suppose to avoid electrical shorts - if they had been taller!
(Note: Some folks have reported the gaps closing up in outdoor environments and have learned to place an insulating material in the gaps to avoid electrical shorts.

If in the event that the microswitch were not functioning properly, rolling stock with metal wheels traversing the frog would electrically bridge the frog gap causing a short circuit akin to placing a metal object across opposite rails and then feeding back to the track power supply source.
However, the Poly Fuse circuit breaker will serve to disconnect the power path to the frog after some finite response time. It will then automatically reset itself, but if the short were still present, it would cycle off then on and repeat accordingly.
To my recollection, Aristo incorporated the Poly Fuse circuit breaker with the intent to reduce the risk of a loco's wiring from being damaged in the event the loco were traversing the frog area under abnormal circumstances such as backing into the turnout with the points thrown in the wrong direction. This means you can’t run trains with “powered” trucks (locos or cars with lights) in a direction over the #6 turnout with the intent of the powered wheels serving to push back the spring loaded points.




No. 6 Turnout Template
Making a template for the #6 Turnout in preparation of installation.
(Note: The following was done prior to modifying a #6 turnout with new guard rails.)

When I first built my under house portion of the layout the #6 turnouts were not yet available. In the meantime, I had installed temporary nominal 3 foot straight track sections where I intended to place the turnouts in a cross-over configuration. I was able to arrange the placement of the 3 foot sections using templates.

The below PDF file link is the "template & size reference" drawing I used prior to the actual manufactured Aristo-Craft # 6 turnout (aka switch track with a diverging path ratio of 1 in 6).

Link to pdf of #6

No. 6 Turnout Cross-Over

Since the #6 turnout includes a nominal 3 foot long straight path, I substituted a 3 foot straight track section for each of the two anticipated turnouts required for a parallel track crossover.
I upscaled the #6 turnout drawing drawing on a Xerox to approx. 400% to obtain the physical size needed.

Shown below laid out on my deck are the templates I had used for left and right #6 turnouts.

It required 3 separate sections taped together to make one template. I made two templates and placed them on my layout's plywood track road bed to facilitate laying the tracks in the proper placement so that the two turnouts would just drop in place when I got them.

The below picture shows a partial view of the actual Aristo-Craft #6 turnout - depicting its "frog" and 1 in 6 diverging path.

Below are pictures of the results showing one turnout installed in one of the parallel tracks with the other having a template still in place:

Aristo-Craft #6 Turnout crossover picture showing one 3 foot straight track section yet to be replaced with the turnout. Note the paper template below the straight track:

Aristo #6 Turnout crossover picture showing the one installed turnout:

A few train operations on the completed track crossover are shown below:

Aristo-Craft #6 crossover with the 6 inch section track butted between the diverging sections provides for a 7 inch parallel track spacing and approx. 2.5 inch clearance between the passing cars on the straight parallel sections:

Aristo-Craft UP 9816 and UP 9600 and C&NW 8671 dash 9s traversing #6 crossover:

Aristo-Craft Union Pacific Flags & Wings version dash 9 lead unit road number 9816 on # 6 crossover:

Aristo-Craft UP Mallet pulling train on No 6 crossover headed toward loop back shown in the background in a direction opposite than typical:


No. 6 Turnout Cross-Over Control

The crossover control for my under house layout:

The  #6  turnout pair used as a crossover is presently semiautomatic and is controlled by a small toggle switch. 

Below is shown the wall switch used for power up of all Train electrical apparatus.
The 4x4 electrical box above the switch houses a home made power supply to control a 4 pole relay for loop back track electrical disconnect and polarity change when the up stream turnout pair is in crossover mode for the outdoor train path. The small toggle switch along with other circuitry controls both the crossover turnout points as well as the 4 pole relay. When in crossover mode, the Aristo RR crossing lapel pin as seen mounted on the electrical box will flash red. When the toggle switch is thrown for loop back mode the green LED is illuminated. (The Aristo lapel pin was adapted with circuitry to be a status indicatior for the crossover turnout points' position via feed back by their turnout motors' auxiliary switch.)

Shown below mounted under the plywood road bed is an electrical assembly, including the 4 pole relay, for loop back power disconnect and polarity change with red and green status LEDs. Green is status for under house loop back mode. Red is status for crossover mode when a train will go to the outdoor path. These status are in concert with the small toggle switch setting as previously described.




APPENDIX A -Turnout Generations, Fixes, Switch Machines, etc.

There are 3 evolutionary generations of the Aristo #6 turnout (having diverging paths left and right) made in both brass and stainless steel versions.

"Quick Click" to:
Test Truck & Gauge
First Generation Turnout
Second Generation Turnout
Third Generation Turnout
FIX for Turnout Under Gauged Rail Spacing
Fix for Guard Rails & Spacing
FIX for Mismatching Railheads - adjacent to Both Ends of Frog
Fix for Sagging Turnout End
Fix for inboard (other) side of frog railhead
FIX for Deep Frog Throat
Switch Machine Issues
Augmenting Power Jumpers



Test Truck & Gauge

For problem solving to mitigate the turnouts usable, I used an Aristo-Craft Track & Wheel Gauge and setup a test truck with wheels gauged in consideration of NMRA specs - illustrated below.




First Generation Turnout

Illustrated below is an example first generation brass turnout. Sometime after this was first introduced, a stainless steel version followed having the same attributes and issues.

Comment: This particular turnout shown above had been installed on my under house layout cross-over path for a while. Because most, but not all, Aristo loco and rolling stock trucks have under gauged wheels, derailments were tolerable until I started properly gauging wheels and using other brands. None the less, the marginality of the turnout with long term damage shown to the frog from train operation is very apparent. Because the frog wing railhead in the diverging path does not have damage (not shown here) is because crossover mode was not used very often.

Illustrated below is a first generation stainless steel version - having inconsistent guard rails!



Second Generation Turnout

Illustrated below is an example second generation stainless steel turnout.

The base of the guard rails are factory ground to be spaced closer to the outside stock rails.




Third Generation Turnout

Illustrated below is an example third generation stainless steel turnout.





FIX for Turnout Under Gauged Rail Spacing

Addressing this is to be done before dealing with a turnout's guard rail placement.
Advisory: Illustrated below is a technique to remedy an under gauged rail spacing. Whilst most turnouts with this problem can be done by "tweaking" the straight outside stock rail displacement like shown, more problematic turnouts may need to do the diverging rail using same technique, or in some circumstanced, doing both rails. Moreover, in some worst case situations, an outside stock rail may need to be temporarily removed and re-bent to correct it or better contour it. If so, use a rail bender with care so not to "kink" it, and keep in mind the metal rail has a shape memory to overcome.

Using a test truck like in the illustration to run through both straight and diverging paths and observing results will help to "zero-in" on areas of the turnout that need work.




Fix for Guard Rails & Spacing

Applicable to first generation turnouts

Modifying the factory guard rails to be installed using factory bedding holes - albeit bedding holes may need to be elongated.

Each guard rail base, and their ends that face the respective outside stock rail, are to be ground as illustrated below. (The guard rails must first be removed from both paths by removing the underside bedding M2 screws, 1 screw near each end)


Re-installation of modified guard rails is illustrated below.




FIX for Mismatching Railheads - Adjacent to Both Ends of Frog

To understand the issue, see illustration below.



Fix for Sagging Turnout End

Fabricated plastic parts are used to anchor the turnout's end

Drawing and dimensions of parts needed is shown below.


Fabricated parts shown below


Installing the sag prevention parts are illustrated below




Fix for inboard (other) side of frog railhead mismatch



FIX for Deep Frog Throat - mitigates flanged wheel drop-down damage to frog point & wing railhead

Inserts formerly offered by Aristo-Craft (now defunct) and Train Li are not available; however, a similar part (named "Frog Legs") is available in limited quantities from Colin Camarillo via his website.

Installation of "Frog Legs" is Illustrated below.

Comment: The insert reduces the depth of Aristo frog throat by almost 1/2 compared without it, thus, allowing it to be flange bearing. However, it's to be appreciated that wheel flange dimensions can vary from a given manufacture or even within the same manufacture. Consequently, there may be some wheel drop down with reduced flange wheels, but at least it will be limited with the insert.  Wheel drop down is also affected by how the truck is constructed, for example, if it has suspension springs that are very stiff, the truck's other wheels will tend to hold the wheel up that is going over the frog throat.




Switch Machine Issues

Generation 1 and 2 turnouts use Aristo's factory switch machine with throwbar coupling common with their smaller turnouts. When installed in the #6 turnout, one of the point rails does not completely seat flush against its intended outside stock rail - which can cause derailment. (Generation 3 turnouts have redesigned coupling that allows for adjustment.)

Illustrated below is how the switch machine spacer (extender) can be modified for both point rails to seat against respective outside stock rails.


Using Bachmann Manual Switch Machine - part number 94648

Comment: The Bachmann switch machine does not use springs that allow for train operation push back of the point rails.

Illustrated below is Installation of Bachmann switch machine on the Aristo No. 6 turnout.



Augmenting Power Jumpers - for track power users

Illustrated below is an example to add wires to increase pass through current capability




"Mitigating Aristo-Craft's #6 Turnout to make it usable"




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