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The Protofour Manual
Tools for Track Construction



Protofour track is assembled by setting miniature rivets in wooden sleepers, arranging the prepared sleepers on a template, and soldering rail to the heads of the rivets with the rail held in gauges to provide precise settings. Electrical bondings and connections are made by placing metal foil strip on the base of the sleeper and forming the rivet over the strip.

Protofour tools are used to prepare the sleepers and timbers for the reception of the rail. The press and tools may also be used as a wheel press for setting wheels on axles, and for setting the gearbox wormwheel on the axle.

PLEASE DO NOT OPERATE ANY TOOL UNTIL THE INSTRUCTIONS HAVE BEEN READ and the alignment of the tool checked. Operation with misalignment can cause permanent deformation of the tool.

The tools, despite their rugged appearance, are precision machinery and should be treated as such. To protect against rust, coating the tools with a thin film of oil or silicone wax is recommended; store tools in an airtight tin together with VPI paper (vapour phase inhibitor) obtainable from any good tool shop.

When making track in any quantity, modellers may prefer to have each tool mounted in its own press. A felt pad mounted on the base of the press will enable it to be used safely on domestic furniture.

Mark III press. (Fitted with punch tool.) PRESS MK III
The press is fabricated from steel plate and provides a jaw clearance of 1¼" (38mm) with a ram travel of ¼" (6mm). Two 6 BA holes in the base of the tool enable it to be fitted to the base of the press so that the plunger locates directly below the ram. Two additional holes in the base of the press enable it to be fixed to a workbench if desired and inclined at an angle if preferred. Ram travel is controlled by an adjustable stop and a spring returns the lever to the upper position when hand pressure is released.

Standard Protofour sleepers are pre-punched during manufacture and so this tool is used for crossing timbers only. These timbers are wider than standard sleepers and are used at turnouts in different lengths. Protofour crossing timbers are produced in strip form and the punch is used to form the rivet holes in the timbers in accordance with the rivet positions shown on the Protofour track construction templates.

This tool acts upon the tail of the rivet to expand and fold it into the sleeper base, making the rivet a permanent fixture. By placing metalfoil on the base of the timber before adding rivets, and forming the rivets over the foil, a permanent electrical bond is made between all rivets, and therefore rails, so connected. A similar connection by means of a perforated brass strip is made to single rivets for power supply to the track.

Both tools consist of a base unit and a body unit with two 6 BA machine screws to hold the parts together and in alignment. A 1/8" dia. hole in the upper part of the tool accepts a plunger and return spring which must be positioned over the die hole (punch tool) or rivet channel (rivet tool). To align the tools, proceed as follows:

Top: Punch tool. Bottom: Rivet tool 1. Slacken the 6 BA machine screws using a 2mm Allen key or, where hexagon screws are fitted, a 6BA spanner.
2. Place the plunger without its spring into the upper body hole.
3. Manoeuvre the body unit until the plunger -
(for punch tool) - enters the die hole in the base and rotates in it freely.
(for rivet tool) - lies centrally over the channel in the base of the tool.
4. Tighten the machine screws carefully and recheck that the plunger -
(for punch tool) - rotates easily in the die hole.
(for rivet tool) - is centrally over the channel.
5. Remove the plunger, replace it together with its spring, and recheck for smoothness of operation.
6. To fit the tools in the press, depress the plunger so that it passes below the ram and place the base of the tool on the base of the press with the upper unit towards the right hand side. This will place the chamfer in the upper unit towards the operator so that the position of the plunger and work can be seen easily.
7. Insert the 6BA countersunk screws into the base of the tool through the holes in the base of the press.
8. Check the correct operation of the tools -
(for punch tool ) - depress the lever carefully and observe the plunger entering the die hole. When the punch has just entered the hole, adjust the limit screw on the press to provide this degree of travel.
(for rivet tool) - charge the sleeper with rivets, place the rivet head in the channel in the tool base and slide the sleeper along the slot until the rivet is below the plunger. Depress the lever and form the rivet shank into a flat plate almost flush with the sleeper surface. Adjust the limit screw until the travel is sufficient to make the rivet flush without deforming the sleeper or completely crushing the rivet. A smear of oil on the surface of the plunger may be found to assist this. The riveting process is not the normal one of 'turning over' the flange of the rivet, but a straight pressing operation in which the rivet shank is widened to give the best fixing for model purposes.


Details showing use of punch and rivet tools 1. Select a crossing timber and mark its base with the timber number shown on the appropriate Construction Template. (A single or double line across the timber can indicate the timber edge, and a clear dot or short line across part of the timber can indicate the rivet position. Make distinguishing marks where WCS and TBS connections are required - see Section 4.1.8.)
2. Place the timber, marked side upward, in the slideway of the tool and move it along the slideway until a rivet dot appears below the punch.
3. Operate the press lever and release it. This will cause the punch to force a circular plug of timber through the die hole and into the clearance hole below.
4. Repeat for the remaining marks.


1. Select a punched timber or sleeper.
2. Charge the timber with rivets. This is carried out by scattering a small number of rivets on to a smooth surface and hooking the timber hole over those with the tails upright. The rivet tails should project on the marked side of the timber. This will ensure that when the track is finally laid, all markings will be below the timbers and so invisible.
3. Place the charged timber on the base of the tool with the rivet heads in the channel and the tails upright. Slide the timber along the channel until the first tail appears below the plunger.
4. Operate the press and release the lever. Repeat for each rivet.

Note: The riveting of sleepers is simplified if the sleeper is held at right angles to the channel and the rivet slid from left to right until the sleeper contacts the rebate in the upper part of the tool. This automatically positions the sleeper rivet under the plunger. Repeat for the second rivet.
If the punch plunger of the punch tool does not retract from the timber by spring pressure alone, the cause is almost certainly a misaligned tool which is rubbing on the side of the die hole. Immediately check the tool alignment as set out above, If this does not cure the problem, the cause maybe a damaged (burred) punch, or the timber may have too much vertical play in the slideway. Replace the punch with a spare, or use a metal foil strip to reduce the depth of the slideway. It may be found helpful to apply silicone wax to the plunger.


A Bond is a connection between one or more rivets lying adjacent to one another on the same timber. A Connection is a point at which power is applied from an external source to the rail.

For Bonding, a flexible, self-adhesive copper foil called Turnout Bonding Strip (TBS) is used. The groups of rivets which should be bonded are determined from the Unit Wiring Instruction Leaflet (IL 4.1.8.) and the requisite Construction Template. The positions of the bonds are marked on the base of the crossing timber and using a scraper or file, the first layer (ply) of the underside of the timber is carefully removed to accommodate the bonding strip. This precludes the thicknes of the foil from affecting the rail level of the unit; alternatively, the strip can be applied directly to the timber base, and slots or depressions cut into the jig and underlay to accommodate the extra height of the timber.

The required length of foil is cut, the backing removed, and the foil applied to the timber. The foil is remarked and the timber, complete with foil, processed as a plain timber.
When rivetted, the foil and rivets may be soldered for permanent bonding, and the traces of flux washed away carefully before laying the track.
For Connections, a perforated brass 'Wiring Connector Strip' (WCS) is used. This is attached to only one rivet of a timber or sleeper, the other end is led in a channel in the underlay away from the unit where it connects with a dropper wire leading to a terminal below the baseboard. The method of attachment is the same as for TBS in that the perforation is set over the rivet and the riveting process bonds the WCS to the rivet, and therefore to the rail. The WCS joint with the rivet may be soldered. The design ensures that any accidental tug on the dropper wire will not affect the connection at the rail. (See Section 4.1.8 (7) ). The construction jig may be slotted to accept the WCS or, in a simple unit, the WCS may be added as the final timber(s) after lifting from the jig.
"Wescolite" silver-type solder or a high-temperature solder cream is recommended for the rivet/rail joint where connections or bonds are located.


Pressing axle into wheel using the press As mentioned above, the wheels may be fitted to the axles by placing the components in the Press. Select the Punch Tool, remove the plunger and spring, and replace loosely on the Press base so that the flat tool base is below the ram. Place the wheel partly on the tapered axle and place the wheel, face down, on the base of the tool so that the axle stands upright below the ram and the crankpin, when fitted, overhangs the edge of the tool. The Press is then carefully operated until the axle is driven home. The second wheel is applied, with bearings where appropriate, quartered and with BB gauge spacers on the rim of the wheel, the Press is again carefully operated until the second wheel rim touches the BB gauges.

To fit the Wormwheel of the Gearbox on to the driving axle, the wormwheel is first placed on the base of the tool, the axle inserted and driven partly home. The upper part of the punchtool is then used to lead the axle through the plunger hole until the wormwheel is centrally set on the axle.

The advantages of the Press for wheel fitting are:-

- Surfaces are correctly aligned
- Force is vertically applied
- The flat face of the ram cannot burr the axle end
- the axle cannot project beyond the front face of the wheel
- the mechanical advantage of the lever altows fine control of axle movement.


Pressing axle into wheel using the press The Mk. I, II & IIA Presses and the Mk. I Punch and Rivet Tools are now out of production, though spare slugs for the tools can still be obtained. For the benefit of modellers who may obtain these versions the following notes are added.

The Mk. I press, illustrated on the left, was a standard 'Easiway' letterpress of its period. The Mk. I tools were made for and can only be used with the Mk. I press. The punch tool consists of a retaining plate and uppertool jaw in which the punches are held, and a lower tool jaw containing the die holes and a slideway for the crossing timber. The punches themselves are in the form of replaceable 'slugs' which are so positioned that either a single hole, or a pair of holes at the correct spacing, may be formed depending upon the positioning of the upper tool jaw. To set the tool in the press, carefully insert the punches into the die holes and press together so that the two tool jaws are fully closed. In this form they are taped together and must remain together until they are finally screwed firmly in the press. This is to prevent damage to the punches and die holes as, if the press is operated with the jaws out of alignment, serious damage will result. The taped tool is now mounted, die downwards on the base of the press and lightly bolted from below using the shorter 6BA screws and washers.

The press lever is then depressed and held in that position while the longer 6BA screws are inserted through the press jaw and retaining plate and into the upper tool jaw. Still keeping the lever depressed, the tool unit is aligned as desired and all four screws tightened in turn. The adhesive tape may then be removed and the punch is ready for operation. The rivet tool consists of an upper retaining plate and jaw which contains the riveting slugs, and a lower jaw containing the slideway for the rivet heads. As with the punch tool, either one or two riveting slugs may be positioned over the slideway.

To set the tool in the press, first place the slideway in position on the base of the press so that the slideway is to the front of the press as in the photograph. Secure it lightly with the shorter 6BA screws and washers, which are inserted from below. Using the longer 6BA screws and washers, fit the retaining plate and upper tool jaw to the press upper jaw. DO NOT DEPRESS THE LEVER DURING THIS OPERATION.

Final adjustment is carried out by PARTLY closing the jaws and checking that the riveting slugs are correctly centred over the slideway. This may require several attempts to get the setting absolutely right, but as this controls the quality of the riveting a little extra care is well worth while. When all screws are tightened and the slugs correctly aligned the tool is ready for operation. DO NOT CLOSE THE JAWS FULLY UNLESS A RIVET AND SLEEPER ARE IN POSITION otherwise damage to the slideway and the slugs may occur.


Since the standard 'Easiway' letterpress used for the Mk. I press was somewhat unreliable in its movement, modifications were incorporated to minimise this which resulted in the design of the Mk. II tools and the Mk. II and IIA presses. The original upper ram and jaw were replaced by a plain ram. Kits can still be obtained to convert the Mk. I presses (Pt. No. T4-117), and the instructions for conversion are as follows.

1. Drift out the top jaw retaining pin. It will be necessary to depress the arm fully in order to finally remove the pin from the rear of the ram.
2. Force off the jaw casting and discard. This can usually be achieved by twisting the casting on the ram since paint is the main cause of any resistance.
3. Drift out the arm fulcrum pin and remove arm, rubbing plate and ram.
4. Replace with the new ram and position return arm centrally over spring and slot in body of press.
5. Replace arm and rubbing plate, depress arm and ensure ram return arm enters central slot.
6. With arm depressed, re-insert fulcrum pin.

The Mk.IIA press was similar to the Mk.II but was supplied with a thin steel plate which should be inserted beneath each of the Mk.II tools when attaching them to the press to raise the tools closer to the ram.

Note: Mk. I tools cannot be converted to the Mk. II pattern.