Hand laying my track

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by seanm, Oct 22, 2004.

  1. seanm

    seanm Member

    Well, I have been looking at Peco vs Atlas etc... and maybe the best answer may be to hand lay my rail and turnouts.

    Have any of you had any experience with this? I am particularly intrigued
    by this company... http://www.handlaidtrack.com/ I think my soldering skills are up to it and a jig makes it look pretty easy!

    What about the main rail? Have you seen any places that have any tutorials on how to lay the rail and ties in an efficient manner for n-scale?


  2. jkristia

    jkristia Member

  3. seanm

    seanm Member

    Very nice!!

    I have read how the jig is used to make the switches... can you tell me a little more about the process for hand laying the rail.

    It looks like on your test bed you cemented ties to plywood and then the rail went on... but on the layout it looks like the ties were cemented to a roadbed of some sort.

    How does that work? You cement the ties in place and then... sand them? Then the track is spiked or glued in place? Are you making the switches on the layout or off and then placing them?

    I was wondering about using code 55 rail of some sort and then making just my own switches... but your work looks so good. Do you eventualy get pretty fast at it, or is it as slow as I am imagining?

  4. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    You should look at some of the documentation at handlaidtrack.com. It's pretty extensive and helped educate me a bit on the subject.

  5. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    I have a start on laying track by hand myself. After looking at tons of stuff on the net, I decided to build a switching yard with 11 turnouts. I learned that the best thing to do is build the turnouts in place. The best way is to scratch build the track pieces as you go. I read that the problem with a jig is that it limits you to one kind of turnout, where as, if you learn to build them from scratch, then you can build the turnout to fit the track plan as needed.

    I'm working in HO so I'm not familiar with any problems that may the extra smallness might have, but from what I heard, it's the same.

    I also heard that to ballast the ties before laying the track is a good idea, but that's not what I'm doing. I'm using an old note board for my base as it is covered with cork and has a fibrous backing that accepts the spikes good. I drill holes in my ties for the spikes so the spikes don't split the ties. I'm making the ties and the spikes myself and using old brass sectional track for the rail supply.

    I made a photo copy of a turnout and made copies that I cut out and glued to the base so I can have them as a guide.

    Here is the work I got done so far.

    Attached Files:

  6. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Attached Files:

  7. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Looking good TC! In the documentation I linked to, they also talk about ballasting the ties prior to laying the rails. I don't recall that they gave any reason why though, and I only see problems with the idea. (Spoken with absolutely zero experience in the field.)

  8. jkristia

    jkristia Member

    Here is how I did it when I build my N scale track.

    As you can probably see from the pictures, I solder the track to PC ties (printed circuit board ties from Clover House). So first I glue the ties down on top of either the bare plywood or cork roadbed. I used regular white glue, but would probably recommend the yellow carpenters glue as it doesn't dissolve in water. I did have a few places on curves where the track would shift or move a little bit when I ballasted because the white glue got dissolved with the water. It was a simple fix, just put some weight on top of the rail until the ballasted area is dry.

    Anyway, you put down the ties, let the glue dry completely, then you lightly sand the wooden ties as they are higher than the pc ties, be careful not to sand too much as you will start sanding the pc tie and remove the copper from them. It's not as difficult as it might sounds, just requires a little practice.

    Now after the ties are sanded and the ties are smooth and even, you can lay your first rail. I made a small template from a piece of styrene with a gap which would fit over the tie and with a mark of where to place the rail, this is not necessary, but I found it to be an easy way to get the rails 'centered' correct on the ties.

    Start with a straight section as that is the easiest. Solder the rail in one end, with a straight edge (I have a 4' straight edge) locate the position of the other end of the rail and solder it, now solder the rail to the remaining pc ties, but don't solder all in one go as the rail (C40 anyway) will expand quite a bit when heated, so I usually soldered maybe every 4th pc tie, waited a bit, went back, solder every 4th again and so on, I found this way to work quite well. Done with the first rail, and happy with it's position and flow (when on curves), attach the other rail using 3 point gauges (from ME) and your NMRA gauge.

    After just a little bit of practice you are ready to build a turnout. As TC mentioned, I too build the turnouts in place, and there are lots of places on the net that describes how to build them, so my only advise is to 'go ahead, try it' and don't give up if you have to trash or redo the first one, I did that too, but the second came out better, and suddenly it was possibly to build a turnout in about 1 1/2 hour or maybe even less sometime.

    hope this helps
  9. ScottyB

    ScottyB Member

    If I may revive this topic for a moment. I just put together my first few turnouts from FastTracks. (Okay, the first one was pretty bad, but the rest have been great!)

    My question: How do you get the PC ties to blend in with the wood ties? (I am planning on using basswood for my ties.) The FastTracks website says just to spraypaint the whole thing, but I want my wood ties to look like wood. Ideas?

  10. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I have not handlaid track in N, but in HO I have seen the same issue. What I have done:

    - minimize the use of PC ties. Especially with the scale and near-scale spikes (in HO) from Proto87 Stores, spiking code 40 rail is now quite practical. I believe the same source (http://www.proto87stores.com/p87stores/ntp.htm) has many N components including tie plates and ties with tie plates mounted. A suggestion I have not tried (I have laid my turnouts in place): use just enough PC ties to hold the turnout together when moving from bench to layout. Spike the rail into ties on either side of the PC tie, then unsolder and remove the PC tie.

    - do not gap the PC foil in the center. Gap it offset to one side or the other, and stagger where the foil gaps are. Use as narrow a gap as you possibly can. Or go the opposite direction and remove the foil except where the rail is soldered.

    - wire brush the foil to induce some texture resembling wood grain.

    - hand paint the PC ties with a thin wash tinted to close to your tie stain color. Repeat as necessary to get the color desired. This works pretty well if you have scratched the surface with a wire brush.

    - don't stain all your wood ties alike. Use various color stains to represent the various stages of life of a tie. Mix the different color ties in a box, and pick from the box at random when laying track. This way your PC ties, even if a slightly different color, will be harder to pick out among the mixture of colors.

    - vary the spacing of the PC ties. If there is not an obvoius pattern to the PC ties (every 5th tie or similar), they become harder to pick out, particularly if the wood ties are not all stained alike.

    Hope this helps.

    yours in handlaid track
  11. SeriousSam

    SeriousSam Member

    that looks great. Code 40 is really neat. did you have any trouble with any rolling stock or locomotives not clearing the shortened height of the rails? I had read that some ppl had trouble with C55. So Im just curious.

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