Oct 17 2011

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Crossover Track (Curved)

Curved crossover in useClick picture for slideshow

My original idea for a crossover track was to have a connecting track that curved out of one track and into another, but it took me a while to figure out how to make one, so I built the straight crossover track first. After I built that piece of track, I started putting a plan together for making the curved crossover. What I needed was a pattern that I could follow with the router to make the curved cuts.

Figuring out the correct distance between the tracksPlaying with some of the existing track, I found a combination that looked right. Again I used 6″ straight tracks as the base, but this time I used two small curves overlayed on top of the straight pieces as an offset bend. The distance between the tracks turns out to be much greater than in the straight track, so unfortunately this piece wouldn’t mate with the other crossover, but I could live with that.


The dowels are the same diameter as the router bushingI used the two curved pieces to make the template for the router to follow. Even though I technically needed one side of the curve to guide the routers. I cleaned up both sides and made some spacers out of dowels that were the same diameter as the guide bushing I was going to use. I also drilled a 1/4″ hole in the end of the spacers and inserted a 1/4″ dowel into the hole. This 1/4″ peg would fit in the existing track to help align the template. Once the template was aligned I just pinned down both sides of the template with my pin nailer.


I screwed up by not placing the jig correctlyThe first time I used the template I screwed up. I wasn’t thinking about the difference between the radius of the curves on one side of the offset track and the opposite side. It’s rather hard to explain so I included the three following pictures to explain the problem better than my words ever would.


Correct way to position jig

I labeled the sides of the template so I wouldn’t get confused, the side labeled outside always goes on the outside track and the side labled inside always goes on the inside track. In this picture the template is set up to cut the first crossover. Notice how the curve of the template follows the curve of the groove.

Incorrect way to position jig

In this picture you can see how the curve of the template doesn’t match the pre-existing groove — the labels don’t match the postion. This is the mistake I made the first time.

Correct way to position jig

Finally this picture I’ve left the track in the same position to emphasize the correct way to position the template to cut the opposing track. Notice how the labels are once again in the correct position. To cut the crossing track, just flip the jig over and repeat.

In retrospect, the curved crossover didn’t work as well as I expected. Even though the trains don’t have to make sharp turns like on the straight crossover, the multiple changes in direction make it harder for them to stay in the grooves. After much play, my son and I have found the straight crossover actually works much better for switching tracks.

Permanent link to this article: https://workshop.electronsmith.com/content/crossover-track-curved/


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  1. Jeff

    I saw your last post, but did not comment. All of this is pretty cool.

  2. Joe

    When did you switch over to the rounded connecting pegs? Did you end up making more of the straight crossovers?

    1. benjamen

      I had ordered some 1/2″ wooden spheres and got them around the time I was finishing this curved crossover (around March). The problem with the dowel connectors was they would stick in the female connector when you lifted up the track. If the track twisted it could pop the dowel right off the end of track. I got sick of gluing them back on.

      I did not make any more crossovers of either kind. I ended up making a bunch of switches, they seem to be more useful for layouts. When I make my son a larger table (I’m thinking full sheet of plywood), I’ll probably make a few more of the straight kind.

      Hmmm… I can’t find any photos of making switches. I was going to post them if I did.

  3. Evan Stephens

    I’m contemplating getting a router table and trying my hand at building track. I’m concerned about the durablity of home made connectors. How well do your ball and dowel connectors hold up in the real world?

    1. benjamen

      I’ve never had a problem with the dowel actually breaking, only pulling out of the track. Even though it’s only in the ball about 1/4″, I haven’t had that joint fail. Next time I make some track I’m going to drill about 1″ into the track so there”s plenty of gluing area. The problem was worse when I was using 1/2″ dowels instead of balls, probably puts more stress on the joint when it’s twisted.

      I tried emailing you using the google email address on your site, but I got a undeliverable email problem. I was going to tell you to look at my new site:


      This site (oldshop.ele…) is a holding site for the old one until I can get all the articles moved over to the new site. As you can see many of the pictures don’t work. Many of the posts are already over there (well not this one), and since there has been renewed interest in wooden trains online, I’m concentrating on moving those posts.

      1. Evan Stephens

        My bad. I put my email address in wrong. Its woodtrains@gmail.com. I’ve looked through both of your sites and enjoyed them very much.

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