Hand Laid Track

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Drew1125, Feb 4, 2001.

  1. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    On the new HOn3 layout I'm planning, I'm wanting to lay my own track. Does anybody have any experience with this? I've never tried it before.
    I'll try ro explain.
    I'm wanting to model a small mountain RR set in the 1920's, using about 40 lb. rail.
    There's a little voice in my head saying "Go on & use flex track & pre-fab turnouts. It'll be so much easier & faster." The big problem I have with this is that the smallest narrow gauge flex track I can find is code 70. This is a little large for what i'm wanting to do. I promised myself when I began planning this project that I ewasn't going to compromise or take short-cuts. If I have to learn how to scratch build a climax locomotive, I'm gonna do it. If I have to lay my own track, well, that's what I'll do.
    I'd really like to use extruded styrofoam for my track & scenery base. This would render rail spikes usless. I've heard that you can use Pliobond to cement the rails to the ties. Any body tried any of this, or have any suggestions at all?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member


    I have hand-laid track, but used spikes to do it. You can make beautiful and very authentic track hand-laying it, and it's not as difficult as many think.

    Glue one rail for a little distance to define the track direction, let the glue dry, then use several track gauges to hold the second track in place until its glue is dry. An advantage of using glue is that HO spike heads are pretty large next to 40-lb rail, and the track should look better without them.

    I've made turnouts (switches), too. It's a little more work than slapping a ready-made turnout into place, but far from impossible. I'd use a good ready-made turnout as a pattern, and read a book or article about turnout construction and electrical issues for turnouts.

    Prototype railroads (especially small ones) tended to avoid complicated trackwork and so can you. Try laying several feet of practice track and at least one turnout before you decide to proceed with the layout. These can be part of the layout, just be prepared to re-do them if all doesn't turn out right. Then run a short train over the practice track until you like how it works. I like to run the train a LOT, watching very closely how things work, and changing cars and locos to check on every piece of rolling stock I own. It's a real confidence builder.

    Check all your rolling stock's wheels with a gauge to make sure their gauge is accurate. Even flex-track and ready-made turnouts need adjustment and fine-tuning to work well, so hand-laying track isn't as bad as it might seem at first. The 40-lb rail will look wonderfully fragile and small if you're used to looking at flex-track sizes, and your rolling stock will look much more massive. Be sure to weather the sides of the rail before laying it to get the best effect. Just keep the rail clean where the wheels touch it (top and inside edge).

    Remember that the more complicated a track plan, the more maintenance work you'll have to do on the track, so don't build a maintenance monster! Have fun, and let us know how you're doing.

  3. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Thanks Railery.
    Hey Bob, do you know anything about these turnout kits (I can't think of the mfg. name)? It's a pre-fab frog & you add your own thru rail & ties.
    And believe me, one of the top criteria for this new layout, & one of the things that appealed to me about oldtime rairoading, is trackplan simplicity
  4. Railery

    Railery Member

    Hi Charlie i have a link that may be of
    interest to u, Go to The Gauge/General Talk/
    What do you like best. Down the page is the
    link. Hope it is of use [​IMG]
  5. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member

    Perhaps you're thinking of BK Enterprises. I've used their kits, and they're excellent. I see in my latest Walthers catalog that they now make code 40 frogs in #4, 5, and 6 angles, for about $11 each. You can (as I did) order one and use it as a template for making your own, or you may (as I eventually did) conclude that the quality of the BK frogs is so great that it isn't worthwhile making your own. As a result I ordered quite a few frogs from them.

    As Walthers says "Your hobby dealer can get them for you". Once you've laid a little track and it works, it somehow becomes very satisfying.

    I've seen some very complex trackwork in prototypes that you can't do with ready-made track, and I'm tempted to replicate a bit of it on my next layout, in the "throat" tracks for an HO passenger terminal. The only trouble is that if it isn't PERFECT, the whole layout will be non-operational junk. I'm hoping to run a dozen or more famous streamlined passenger trains of 1950 forward and backward through the trackwork, and I don't want to spend my life re-railing cars.

    The trackwork in question will involve a lot of crossings on curves, which should work just fine if I make them right, but it's just a case of needing to wake up one morning with the confidence to build the stuff, and then doing it. Maybe I'll lay track first, test it a lot, and if it's OK then go ahead with the layout using it! [​IMG]

  6. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Bob, those are the ones. Hey, thanks for all the help.
    I've been told by a couple of people that it's difficult to get narrow gauge items through Walther's. I've got a really great hobby dealer near where I live, & he's never had any problem with any of the standard gauge stuff I've ordered in either HO or N scale, so I'm about to finde out.
    I've got some old code 100 rail laying around, & I guess I'll start by just trying to lay a length of standard HO for practice.
    You know, if I get started on the layout, & some of my tracklaying is a washout, well, I could always model it as a washout! [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by Charlie (edited 02-07-2001).]
  7. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member


    I bet your track-laying will go well. I'm interested to hear if you do it with glue, instead of spikes.

    If narrow-gauge stuff IS harder to get, what better way to insulate yourself against the problem than to lay your own track? As long as you have trucks for the cars and the occasional engine you're in business!

    Bob [​IMG]
  8. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi Charlie, Check out the PECO website, I know they have code 55 in finescale N, but don't know what they have as far as HOn. Might be worth a try.

  9. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    It's not impossible Charlie that they would sell you just the code 55 rail for you to make your own track. [​IMG]
  10. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hey Shamus!
    You see, this is why I've come to the conclusion that I need to learn how to lay my own track.
    If I use comercial flex track,the smallest thing available in HOn3 is code 70. If I buy rail & ties & build my own, I can go as small as code 40. That's why I was interested in the BK Ent. turnout kits, because they also go as small as code 40.
    I'm aware that there may be a problem with flange depth, & if necessary, I'd be willing to use code 55, but code 70 is just too out of proportion for representing my little Appalachian narrow gauge pike.
    I don't know if you've ever heard of a guy named Craig Tice, but he has a fatastic HOn3 layout called the Mojave & Panamint. It was featured a few years ago in (I think) Rail Model Craftsman magazine. He uses handlaid code 40 rail, & home made stub turnouts. Let me put it this way, if I could acomplish trackwork like that, I could die a happy man!
    Anyway, I got my NMRA Bulletin yesterday, & lo & behold, They are begining a series on...you guessed it...hand laid track! It looks to be a good series, with information on prototype practices, steam era vs. modern, rail size, tie spacing & so on.
    I'm really intent on taking my modeling in a more craftsman-like direction. I think trackwork, being a highly visible component to any layout, is a good place to start.

    P.S. Bob - You're great man!! If I can get the photography thing down, I'll post some pictures on here for everyone to see [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by Charlie (edited 02-10-2001).]
  11. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Hey, guess what?
    Upon closer examination of the Walther's catalog, I've discovered that Micro-Engineering DOES make HOn3 flex track in codes 55 & 40! No turnouts though.
  12. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Charlie try BEMO for turnouts. Don't know anymore about them other than the name.
  13. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Thanks Shamus,
    I tried a web search for BEMO, but the only thing it turned up was a company on your side of the pond that makes arcade & video game machines.
    I went yesterday, & ordered supplies for hand laying code 55 rail, (I chickened out - I mean, "compromised" - on the code 40) & one turnout kit from BK enterprises. I'm going to (try to) lay a turnout, & some leads on some scrap material to get a little practice. Since I don't own any narrow gauge equipment at the present time, I ordered a boxcar kit from Grandt Line, to make sure anything will roll on my track.
    Now I just have to sit back, & see if & when my goodies arrive. In the meantime, I'm probably going to start building some of the initial benchwork.
    At least I know that if this track laying thing turns out to be a total bust, or just an exercise in anger management, I can always fall back on the ol' flex track.
  14. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Re: Follow up to message from BobMcD.

    Thanks for your follow up Bob.
    I have the same concern as you about the CA working too fast. I thought about experimenting with a 15 minute epoxy. I hate those 2-part conglomerations though.
    I haven't completely ruled out spikes yet. Micro Engineering makes a "micro" spike that's only 3/16ths of an inch long. That's basically just long enough to go through an HO scale tie. Do you think that would provide enough holding strength?
    Another fear I have about spikes is that they might foul the flangeway on code 55 rail.
    Well, at any rate, I'm gonna stay at the drawing board (or scrap board, as the case may be) until I get a system down that works.
    Thanks again for the moral support! [​IMG] Sorry again about the wild goose chase! [​IMG]
  15. BobMcD

    BobMcD Member


    I have no experience with the 'microspikes', so all I can say is they might be worth a try if the glue gets too cumbersome. I do like your glue approach, though. I agree that I'd worry about flange clearance with spikes on code 55 track, too, but I guess folks are doing it. You're just into smaller rail than I've used, but I bet it'll look great on your logging pike.

    I think your 'test track' approach will tell the story in a hurry. I'd suggest laying a few feet and wiring it, so you can run a loco and a couple of cars back and forth to see how the track holds up. Include a relatively straight section, and a minimum-radius curve part, to see if everything stays in place when you run trains.

    Come to think of it, maybe a small oval would be worth setting up, so you can just run a short train all evening a few times while you're working on other stuff. You'd soon find out if the track stays where it's supposed to. You could also check gauge after several hours of running over a couple of weeks. If nothing's creeping or moving, you're in business!

  16. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi Charlie, this is the best I have come up with for a BEMO contact
    Marcway Models & Hobbies 598-600 Attercliffe Road, Sheffield S9 3QS England

    0114 2449170
    0114 2619729

    They have been doing BEMO for years, and all hand laid trackwork as well.

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