Hand Laying O Scale 2-Rail Track

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by riverotter, May 17, 2008.

  1. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    OK, after reaching the end of my patience with Atlas' 2-rail flex-track I am finally convinced I need to do this O scale track thing the old-fashioned way: hand laying.

    "All" I need now is some advice about the how / what / whom.

    The simpler and more straightforward the better, but I'm willing to consider all the options.

  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    There are several valid answers, depending on the level of detail you are seeking.

    For stunning, beautiful, highly detailed track the Proto48 folks have all the stuff you need. Bolt details on frog castings, point hinges, rail joiners (again with bolt head, washer, and nut details), and tie plates are all available. But P48 frogs and track gauges are not compatible with NMRA-spec O scale. Note that the other details are compatible, regardless of track gauge and wheel dimensions.

    For traditional handlaid track construction, you need several 3 point track gauges, an NMRA gauge, wood ties, rail, and spikes. Frogs and points are generally fabricated from filing rail, with frogs being soldered together. This leads to a very reliable (no derailments), reasonable looking track. It is not as detailed as the Proto48 I described (no tie plates, anchors, and bolt details), but it works well, assuming you take the time to get the gauge exactly right. Whether or not you use 4 spikes per tie is up to you. Spikes are pushed in place using needle nose pliers. Some file a notch in the pliers to better hold the spike head.

    Homasote is recommended for roadbed in HO because it doesn't bend spikes, yet holds them securely. In O, the ties are thick enough that if you use reasonably scale spikes, they will not reach the roadbed. The ties should be strong enough to hold the spikes by themselves when glued on a reasonably rigid roadbed.

    I have to ask what problems the Atlas flex track is giving you. Handlaid track is generally no cheaper than flex, and some flex track (MicroEngineering for example) is actually more detailed than traditional handlaid. Turnouts are where the big cost and appearance differences are in the smaller gauges.

    In handlaid track, most recommend pre-bending rail on curves. Pre-bending was essential for me, since I did not use rail joiners. But there are twice as many ways of hand laying track as there are people who hand lay track. Each develops their own methods and preferences as times goes on.

    The guide I used when starting to handlay track was an article by Jack Work in the April 1963 Model Railroader. You can order copies of the article from Kalmbach or the NMRA library. But there are many other guides and articles on hand-laying track, too. Handlaying Track has a good series how to lay a turnout. "HELPFUL STUFF" - HELP PAGE INDEX and handlaidtrack : Hand Laid Track and Fast Tracks Model Railroad Tools & Supplies, 1-888-252-3895 all have information on handlaid track. The last link has videos on laying turnouts using the Fast Tracks system. I don't have the link for Proto48, but I'm sure they have information, too.

    Start off laying a spur or some other mostly straight track. Then lay a 180 degree curve, and then you are ready for turnouts. I find it relaxing and enjoyable.
  3. Geno

    Geno Member

    I could see the need for handlaid track in specific cases i.e. curved turnouts, but even that is partially covered by Old Pullman. What about Atlas 2-rail flextrack makes it difficult to use? Is it the bending of the rails to a certain radius?

  4. jesso

    jesso Member

    We have a member in our club that hand-laid all of his proto48 track. When he moved his layout here from Reno, it was in 17 sections. Tonight we put in the last piece, now he has to do scenery and adjusting. Here is a link to his page: CCMRRC Jim's Layout I am sure that he could tell you a lot. If you are interested I can try and get you two together.

Share This Page