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How to Build a Diamond

By Phillip Cohen - Torrance, CA

Watch how Tom Downing constructs a diamond crossing for the new figure-eight at SCLS.

The latest project at SCLS is the addition of an inner loop figure-eight track. Total length of the addition is approximately 880 feet. The figure-eight required the construction of 2 switches one to enter the figure-eight and the other to exit the track into the inner mainline loop. Additional switches were added to provide sidings near the picnic area and a future mountain siding that traverses the inner burm and eventually will connect to a coal dump.

In addition to all of the switches and track sections that had to be built, the trickiest part of the process was building the "diamond" or cross track. This had to be constructed at the precise angle so that it could be used to join the intersecting tracks without any bends or kinks.

Tom Downing had purchase a ready build diamond track section from Rich Eaton however the angles were incorrect for our layout. Tom used the design to build a new diamond from scratch with the proper angles so that it would mate correctly at the track crossing.

Below are some photos that Tom had taken showing the construction process of the new diamond section.As you can see it is a fairly involved process.

Check for our next article on the completion of our new figure-eight loop and inaugural run.

You may click on an image below for a larger view.

The first step was cutting 3/8" x 1" cold rolled steel bar stock and tacking it to a 2' x 3' 1/8" thick steel plate.

Tom had purchased a diamond off of e-bay that Rich Eaton had built. Unfortunately the angles did not work for our track. He liked the way it was built so he used that as a guide when building this one. Here you can see some more of the pieces welded to the base plate. We use 7.5" rail spacing at SCLS.
Lots of cutting and fitting of the individual rail pieces and guide rails, This shows Tom getting ready to weld the center guide rails in place. You can see the various gauge bars used to make sure that the spacing is correct between the rails.
After Tom got it all welded up he broke out the super duper whiz-bang e-bay plasma cutter and proceeded to cut out the 1/8 plate around the bar stock rails. You can see the diamond really starting to take shape. Almost complete!
The plasma cutter left a ragged edge where the plate was cut away so Tom had to quite a bit of grinding to get the flanges cleaned up and give it a finished smooth look. This is the completed diamond, ready for the ties.

Well, Tom got the ties on, and now it's time to take it out to SCLS and install it on the figure-eight track this weekend. This was a lot of work however it was quite fun. It is hard to believe that there is 20' of bar stock used to build this diamond.

This crossing is affectionately known as "The Downing Diamond of Death". Let us hope it doesn't live up to it's name. Remember to always look both ways before crossing and pay attention to the signals and NO TEXTING!

You may click on an image above for a larger view.


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About the Author:
Phillip Cohen is a former aerospace engineer. Currently a part time professional photographer and full time computer programmer specializing in database driven websites and business applications. Phil is currently the webmaster for Southern California Live Steamers and president of the South Bay Camera Club, also in Torrance.

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