Handlaying track and turnouts

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by triman, Jul 13, 2002.

  1. triman

    triman Member

    I know it's been done ad nauseam all over the web, but, where is the best place to learn how to handlay track?
    I'll be starting with the usual starights and freehand curves initially but then hope to graduate to turnouts eventually.
    Thanks in advance.
  2. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi Triman,
    I have never even thought about laying my own track and points (Switches), but on the other hand, it might look better. Anyway, perhaps you might like to take a look at the NMRA website for information.


  3. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    triman, I have been handlaying track for years, it takes much longer to handlay than it does to slap a piece of flex track down. If you have a large layout you will have to concider time as a factor in laying track, how long do you want to spend on this part of the hobby?? With the way and appearance of flex track is these days you realy have to concider if it is worth it to handlay the track. There have been several posts on how to weather flex track it is amazing how close to the real thing you can make it appear. I did make my switches years ago, of course only code 100 was available at that time, and had difficulty with the throw rails. On short ones they were too stiff and if you cut them and put in something to make them flow freely, in a short period of time they would become too loose, thus went to comercial , peco, switches. I put down mostly code 100 flex track on my small layout, only reason was that I had lots of it, and am slowly replacing it with hand laid code 83. One advantage of building your own switches is that you can get the degree of angle that you require and not have to go with what is make commercially. I have built a few switches on scrap board using code 83 for practice and they work fine so am going to replace my commercial ones as I go. Again you have to concider the time factor.
    You want a place to start, it is right infront of you, it is called a workbench and practice. Take a scrap piece of your sub board be it homosoate or whatever, put down some ties, mark where your rails go then put the rails down. To practice making switches , photocopy a switch then glue the paper down and try re create the switch. Remember you will throw away or start over several of your first attempts, so go slow. You require a couple of good track guages, a NMRA guage, ties spikes, rail and the most important thing is PATIENCE !!!
    Good luck and enjoy., let us know how it is going. Ron..
  4. BillD53A

    BillD53A Member

    Central Valley has just released some turnout kits that are supposed to be outstanding...you provide the rail, they provide the ties, points, frog, anchors, tierods, etc. They are supposed to be fantastic. There is a group about handlaying track at Groups@Yahoo.com. Do a web search; there are sites out there, but when you get down to it you are just gonna have to get in the trenches and do it. That includes making the mistakes. Don't let them discourage you. Bill
  5. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    Bill, thanks for the info on central valley, will have to look into that one as I am planning on doing some switches. Do you know if they have a web site, have done some searching but no luck so far?
    Yes Tariman as Bill says do not let them discourage you, go for it and give it a try. Ron.
  6. t. alexander

    t. alexander Member

    Hello Triman, Thats how I started, by just jumping right in.

    I use two spiking gauges and an NMRA gauge. The ties and spikes are from Micro Engineering. The track is code 83.

    Since my HO layout was a small switching type I went ahead and glued the ties for the entire layout at once. Starting with the turnout ties, after determining exactly where the track was supposed to
    then once everything was dry I sanded the tops of the ties to make sure they where even.

    I built the turnouts on the workbench and layed them first.

    I usually spike every fifth tie but some spots (curves) may require more. Turnouts are a different story This is where some tinkering happens, especially with the point rails.

    I also used a flatcar by rolling it along as i went checking for any hangups. and adjusting as needed.

    As farmer Ron stated patients. ;)

    I'd like to know how many spikes i've launched into outer space. :D

    I found the whole thing really enjoyable. Handlayed spurs and sidings really look good.

    Good luck

  7. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hi t.
    When you describe your systematic procedure, it doesn't sound nearly as scary!!
    What method do you use to avoid the "dogleg" or kink if you have a rail joint in a curve??
    Thanks for an enlightening post!

    :D :D
  8. BillD53A

    BillD53A Member

    The Willie K WAlthers Catalogue of Unavailable Model Railroad Supplies lists the Central Valley turnout kits; not all are available yet but should be by the end of the month. The URL: http://www.walthers.com
    Here are some other track laying sites:
    Dont let all this stuff scare you.
    After you read all this stuff, ya still have to get your hands dirty. Just jump in with both feet and try it. HTH Bill
  9. t. alexander

    t. alexander Member

    Hi cidchase,

    Since my layout was a shelf type switching one there wasn't any true curves. But i have layed curves on a test loop i built.
    this is how i did mine:

    When laying curves I found that pre-bending the rail a bit helped relieve some pressure that would be forced on the spikes.

    I would stagger the rail joints so both would'nt end up in the same spot, then solder the joints and pre-bend. I spiked the inside rail of the curve first. I relyed on good ol' eyeballing by sighting down the rail to keep from having "flat spots" in the curve.

    I used alot more spikes in the curves, in some spots every tie just to keep things in line.

    Although they make spiking tools I used needle nose pliers which I cut a notch in to hold the head of the spike, which could be why I lauched so many. :p
    Mind you I am by no means an expert at it nor do I claim to know the best way but after some adjusting it all worked pretty smooth.

    t. ( thats a lot of I's)
  10. Catt

    Catt Guest

    The only time I hand lay track is if I need a turnout that is not available any other way.The only other way I would hand lay is if it was the only way I could get track down.My life is way to busy to waste time hand laying track especially when the commercial stuff looks so much better IMHO.
  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I started to do handlaid track when I was in high school. It seemed to be cheaper than flex track and I could say I did it myself. When I got a job with pay, I bought RTR stuff.

    Are you thinking of spiked, flat-bottom rail like the North American? There are still variations on that.
    You need a 3-point track gauge so that it widens on curves.
    You need ties. I started with balsa because that was all I could get. Don't use balsa; it crushes and splits.
    Are you spiking, soldering or gluing the rail down? Spiking looks best, but they can cause problems with wheel flanges on smaller rails. You can get away with spiking every 4th tie if you can stand the look.
    I never glued my ties to the roadbed, but the mags say to do that, then sand the tops level (then stain them again!)
    Use the smallest spikes you can find. Use longer ones where there are problems like joints. Use long -nose or needlenose pilers to hold the spike and get it started, then push it the rest of the way with the nose. if you push too far you can shift the rail a bit (can be good or bad).
    For a prize length, you will want to have tie plates under the rail (metal plates that protect the tie, spread the load, and tilt the rail a few degrees).
    Sorry for the disorganized list; it's after midnight here.
  12. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Hi Triman, Check an earlier thread called "Track". It is currently on page 3, last post date 5/28.

  13. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    If you go to the "photo contest", the photo I posted there shows some dual gauge trackwork that was hand laid. I've had a continuous battle with this section of track, but have managed to keep it operating for many shows. Track is not my "strong suit", and one of my least favorite aspects of the hobby. I hand lay dual gauge because spending is an even less favorite aspect of the hobby(give me a hand full of buffalo nickles and I'll squeeze you forty acres of fertilization). While my usual response to most "how do I do this", is jump in and do it, it's how you learn. In this case I'd recommend checking out all the suggestions(above), and if possible, find someone who handlays, and try to observe. A video would be of great help (anyone have some help here?),if you can find one.
    I will add this caution, there are probably as many different techniques as there are people who handlay turnouts. Finding one that you are comfortable with may take a while.
  14. triman

    triman Member

    Thank you ladies and gentlemen for all that.
    There's a bucketload of stuff to read and digest, then I'll get a coupla lengths of code 83 or similar, some trackbed, handful of nails and a knock-o-meter (hammer for the uninititated:D ) and try it.
    Like swimming, I spose it's jump in at the deep end and sink or swim.
    Anyway, thanks once again.:)
  15. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    BillD53a, many thanks for the valuable informtion on the sites that you have posted, thanks again. Ron.

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