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Atlas Turntable Kitbash- From Wooden Wonder to SP Common Standard.

June 22, 2009

Kitbashing an Atlas Turntable

The Atlas turntable has been a staple of model railroading for more than 40 years, and still sells well today. However despite it being one of the most mechanically well-designed turntables in existance, it is a model of a very unusual prototype. Wooden plank turntables did and still do exist today. The wooden plank turntabe was used in the late 1800’s for street railways, cable car operations and small industrial railroads to not only provide a means to rotate motive power but also to serve as an accessible pedestrian or vehicular thoroughfare when not in use. It also would have been installed in areas where a turntable pit would have been dangerous or not feasibly built. Despite these advantages, they were expensive to maintain and all but a very select few survive today. Most, if not all of them were “armstrong” turntables in which an operator had to push on the piece of equipment to get it to rotate. Other examples of armstrong turntables include “gallows” style turntables and very early cast-iron turntables, all dating from the beginning of railroading forward.

Due to the fact that the wooden plank turntable is an extremely rare type of turntable, it shouldn’t be on as many layouts as you see them on. The benefit of the Atlas model is that you don’t have to modify your benchwork in any way to use the turntable, which is a major plus compared to nearly any other model on the market.

In this next series of articles I aim to get a solid, non-rotating turntable while achieving the detail of a Southern Pacific Common Standard 100′ turntable, albeit selectively compressed. It won’t be an easy project, but it’ll reward you with an excellent looking and operating piece of equipment that’ll always work well.

The Concept

Atlas Turntable Kitbash

The Idea is to cover the rotating top of the turntable, to legnthen it to the outer edges of the device and create a highly detailed steel turntable structure to be visually appealing and eyecatching.

From a mechanical standpoint, It’ll have wires soldered to the rails on the deck that’ll be fed up through a tube to the rails at track level. The whole turntable will swivel from this central tube which is glued to the former top of the turntable.

A new concrete pit will be scratchbuild out of acrylic sheet and painted. Pit rails will be installed to guide the outrigger wheels on either end of the bridge.

The extended edges will allow a Bachmann Spectrum 2-8-0 (with Vandy Tender) to turn itself around, which was impossible before the modification. This opens up the turntable to medium sized motive power and it can also turn an SD-45T-2 with ease as well.

Testing out the false bottom concept with grocery bag paper and electrical tape. The first step was proving my concept before jumping head first into a complex project, so I cut a large doughnut shape from grocery bag paper electrical tape. Testing out the false bottom concept was a success, it turns fine as long as there’s clearance over the former wooden top of the turntable.

Follow along as we venture into the complex world of constructing a turntable from wood, brass, styrene and acrylic sheet.

Here’s a sneak peek…
Sneak Peek at Atlas Turntable Kitbash

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2009 1:45 pm

    An excellent beginning! As a scratchbuilder an dkitbasher in styrene, I look forward to the build. But that’s not a Spectrum 2-8-0 sitting on the rails in your proof of concept photo . . . .

    • June 22, 2009 5:54 pm

      That’s true that the bachmann spectrum 2-8-0 isn’t on the turntable for the proof of concept, although it is sitting on the main line at the extreme left of the photo. I tried taking the photo with it on the turntable, but it is not a very well-balanced locomotive, and it not only bent the piece of track down to the pit (before I built the outrigger wheels) it also tipped the track forward and eventually sideways, causing it to flop on it’s side before I could take the photo which is not good. If it were an actual locomotive, it would be more well-balanced because the tender would probably have been filled with dense bunker C fuel and water.

      Mt little brass CS&CCDRY 2-6-2 (now kitbashed into a 2-6-0)is a much more balanced loco, and I used that for most of the testing along with an SP SW1500 you’ll see in the construcion photos.

  2. February 12, 2012 3:15 pm

    Question for you – what did you use as the circular spacer in this project? The circular shape that attaches the round table to the bridge?

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