This post is now the current winner of the prestigious the post with the longest title award. Sheesh! But, there is really no shorter way of describing the problem. The dilemma is this: the PL-10 switch machines work best when attached directly to the turnout. But, this means you will need to deal with a gaping hole in your layout. In HO this isn’t too big an issue because the width of the PL-10 is approximately that of the HO track. In N scale, you are looking at a meteorite crater next to each and every one of your turnouts. This is what I’m talking about:
My first attempt to cover this hole was to cut a hole in the middle of the roadbed for the pin and supports of the PL-10 and then slide it back in place. Like so:
While cosmetically this looked ok, the roadbed didn’t stay in place and tended to get pushed into the hole. For the next switch, I decided replace the roadbed under the turnout with a thin but rigid piece of Plexiglas. Why Plexiglas? Because I had scrap pieces laying around. I cut grooves into it for the pin and the legs that attach to the turnout and slid it in place. Like so:
This indeed provided a very solid foundation for the switch and minimized the hole, but it also disrupted the contour of the roadbed. So while structurally quite sound, visually it was ugly.
So, for the third attempt, I decided to use a thin sheet of balsa wood instead of the Plexiglas. The plan was to use the roadbed above the balsa. I cut the piece and prepped it for installation.
Well, the problem with this was the balsa was thin enough to not create too big of a height difference, but that also meant it was way too fragile. It practically fell apart during installation.
In the end what really ended up working is first cutting the roadbed out about 1/2” wider than the necessary hole. Then carving the hole in the middle with 1/4” of space on either side. Then simply sliding the roadbed piece that was removed back in place after cutting a hole in the middle for the pin and legs. Like so:
In comparison, here are the pictures of previous attempts:
The thing is, once ballasted, they all looked just fine. Here are the same turnouts after I put the ballast down:
While I like the reliability of mounting PL-10s directly to the turnout, you end up with a big hole right under the turnout no matter what. For this reason, I doubt I’ll go this route again. For the next layout, I’ll probably use servos to control the turnouts and route the pin through a hole on the side of the turnout.