How do you pre-bend rail?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Hunkiedoo, Jan 8, 2003.

  1. Hunkiedoo

    Hunkiedoo Member

    Do you pre-bend rail for hand laid track curves? if so how do you do it without getting kinks?

    My sad story :( : About 2 years ago I soldered together 3 lengths of code 70 rail & Gooed it to hand laid ties on a 180 degree 24" radius curve. Looked great at first. Now thermal expansion/contraction loosened the goo in many places & I lost gauge. Against my better judgement I sawcut gaps & added rail joiners to provide for thermal movement, but the rail "went straight" at each gap/joiner & there is no way I can get the kink out of the joint.

    I am thinking I should have pre-curved the rail somehow. Maybe even to a SMALLER radius than its final in-track radius?? (I dragged each rail over a table edge before laying but I would guess I only got about a 6 foot radius that way).
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Rail bender

    A-many years ago, a company made a rail bender. I haven't seen it mentioned for decades.
    The device was a flat panel with three rollers on it. (Imagine 3 quarters on a board) The middle one was down a bit and mounted in a slot. You slid the middle one up and down to make a radius sharper than the one you wanted and then pulled the rail through - under the first and last roller and over the second. The review said that the few inches at the end of the rail would have to be cut off or bent by hand. The rollers were available for code 100 and code 70, because flat wouldn't work (flange on bottom of rail sticks out more than head.) Our school metal shop had a similar device but the rollers were a couple of feet long, for doing sheet metal.
    The way to bend rail without the device is to use 2 pairs of pliers, gently. This takes practice, so start with the brass track from your train set. :D
    I always put spikes in around rail joints, usually O gauge spikes for HO track. One right in the middle of the rail joiner is a good idea. (you may want smaller heads on the inside of the rail.)
  3. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hi WD, It may be that you don't have to pre-bend the rail. I think maybe the problem arose from attempting to lay too many lengths at once, although its tempting to do that. Try just laying one stick at a time. Don't worry about the gap that will be left between them. You can solder a jumper across the gap on the rail's web to ensure electrical continuity.

    Start by laying the outside rail first. Then using at least two three point gauges and an NMRA gauge lay the inner rail. Even if you use the "Goo Method" spiking the rails at every 4th or 5th tie wouldn't hurt. An excellent method is to use a PC board tie every 5th tie and solder the rails to it. This will hold excellent alignment. Be sure to cut a gap in the copper of the PC board tie so you don't have a short between the rails.

    Did you use the soldering gun/iron method with the GOO? It will make Goo bond the rails tight to the ties....just smear some Goo on the bottom of the rail and let it set up until tacky. Then put the rail in place and run a hot soldering tip slowly over the top of the rail. The heat transfer will cause the Goo to bond tightly. I use this method to attach rails to turntable bridges where I don't have room for spikes and I've never had one come loose. I use a 150 Watt soldering gun to do it with. Since you're laying a 180 degree curve you'll probably have to use spikes to hold the curve at the rail's ends.

    Hope this helps.
  4. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    WD, Your problem is in the use of goo instead of spiking. Code 70 at the radius you mention should be no problem. Anytime you have a 180 degree curve and hope to have goo hold it for a long time you will have a problem. Goo just isn't that good an adhesive. There is an adhesive called Pliobond which is bettter, as Vic said it can be applied to the rail bottom, allowed to dry then when in place (held with some spikes) the rail can be heated with a soldering iron to soften the glue and a good bond results. Care must be used in the heating process, as the rail will tend to expand and then contract later. I use pliobond on code 55 for industrial sidings, but spike code 70 and larger. Spike heads will clear the code 70 if you install them well. Code 55 , to my experience, has to be glued, or soldered to pc ties. Your original thought to solder the three lengths together before laying was a good one. Now that you have cut gaps, slide rail joiners on them and use spikes on several ties in each diection from the joint, including against the rail joiner itself. You want to apply an inward pressure on the outside ot the joiners, and outward pressure against the inside rails coming away from the joint in order to combat the rails attempt to straighten out there.

  5. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi WD and welcome to the gauge.

    Probably the best track and points (turnouts) to use in model railroading has got to be PECO , unless you require to make your own track. With PECO track and points (turnouts), you have the added option of using either code 100 or Finescale code 75. It really doesn't matter which of the two you use, because by the time the track is ballasted, all the track will look just fine anyway. Also by using PECO track and points (turnouts), you will have the added advantage of being able to use the PECO PL10 point motor to fit underneath should you so wish to do so. Apart from anything else, the yards of track are flexible, so you can alter the shape in any way you desire.
    . If you want to raise the track slightly to give the impression of a well maintained main line, then I would use 1/16th cork sheeting. Whether you use the cork sheet or not, both ways of laying the track will look fine when it is ballasted. Okay, let me describe how I would lay one yard of track. First of all, with a sharp knife, cut off two of the end sleepers to allow the metal rail joiners to slip on easy. Do this at both ends. Now, after marking where you want your first piece of track to be laid, place a track pin at either side of the track on a sleeper (Tie) , two sleepers in (Not in the middle as this will reduce the gauge slightly) Now with the needle nose pliers, press the track pins into the insulation board. At this stage please check that the pins have not bent down the edges of the sleepers. If they have, gently raise them up a little with the knife. At this stage, I assume that the track is a straight piece and not curved anywhere. If it is a straight piece, then lay the 2' steel rule up to the sleepers so as to keep the track straight and the same distance from the edge of the baseboard. Move
    along to the end of the track and repeat the stage of track pinning. When both ends are done, make sure all is still straight with the steel rule and pin the rest of the track, every five inches or so, again checking that the pins haven't gone too far down.
    That's the first piece down, now on to the next yard of track or maybe a point in you case. I don't know, but which ever it is, the same method applies for laying trouble free running.
    Lets for the purpose of instruction, lay another yard of track onto the first, and solder the two together. As with the first yard, snip off two sleepers from either end once again. Place metal rail joiners on to the new piece of track and place it at the end of the first piece of track. Now very carefully, making sure that the track is flat on the insulation board, bring it into the first piece of track. Don't lift it as you bring it into the other rails as you will bend the metal joiners and cause derailments at a later date. Just be careful, and take your time. At this stage, sight down the two pieces of track and make sure that the two are in fact straight, if they are, then pin the second yard down as you did the first one. After which you can solder the joints for good electrical contact.
    If you have never soldered rail joints before, then here is how it's done. My soldering gun is of the instant type, press the trigger and it's on. Some others need time to heat up. Which ever type you use, make sure it's hot and ready for use. Here goes. - With the gun hot, place the tip of the gun or iron onto the rail joiners and apply the solder to the rails, not the gun or iron, if the gun is hot enough, the solder will flow underneath the metal joiners for a good connection.
    Remember the 1200 grade wet/dry you bought, use a small piece and gently go over the top of the rails to clean them off. Now run your fingers along the tops of the rails. If there are any height differences, now is the time to file it down a little then go over it once again with the 1200 wet/dry. When you file the track, just file one way, not backwards and forwards. Don't forget to run your fingers inside the track as well. This is what is called Bullet Proofing the track. As a further check that the two pieces of track a 100% right, grab one of your freight cars and roll it over the track joints to see if all is well. It should glide over the track like silk.
    The same method applies for laying points (turnouts), except not all points (turnouts) are in fact soldered because some will need plastic rail joiners so as not to get feed back from the controllers.
    When buying PECO points (turnouts), they all come with ample documentation as to how to wire them up, so there is no need for me to explain how this is done.
    Lets now take the job of laying track a little further for track which has to go around curves. This time, it is easier to solder two pieces of track together first before pinning it down. Just lay two yards of track down on a flat surface and join the tracks together then solder them as you did before, with the exception of the track pins, it is the same procedure. When the two are ready for use, just pick up the two yards, one yard in each hand and very carefully bend the two halves together to form a horseshoe. Now lay the track down at the place you wish to join these tracks to, and you will notice
    that the ends of the tracks have staggered. Don't panic. Lay one end of the track onto the end of the ones previously laid, so that the horseshoe tracks overlay the old track. Now with a knife, make a cut mark over the longest rail and snip it off and file it up. This end is now ready to join to the other two. When all is pinned down, you will notice the once again at the other end, there is a staggered rail end. Once again, mark with a knife the long end so it is the same length as the other one, then cut it off and file it. Once again, when all is pinned down use your fingers to check for any irregularities, if there are any, file them away and try you freight car once again.


  6. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    I agree with the others and their advise should be well taken, Myself I handlay most of my track, I do not glue it. I handlay one rail length at a time, when I am doing curves I lay the ourside rail first, if it is going to take more that one length of rail to complete the curve I handlay the outside rail to almost its completion. Then I soder the next rail on to it and then spike it down. I ensure that I put several spikes in the area of the rail joint and one on both sides of the rail joiner. Then I do the inside rail, again if it takes more than one rail I repeat the above process. I have used this process for years and no problems. I do not soder my strait tracks, this allows me expantion joints.
    I use code 100, 83 & 70 rail and peco switches. I am using code 100 rail as eventually down the road I am going to switch to a larger scale 0n30 (which uses ho track) Ron..
  7. Donn Welton

    Donn Welton Member

    Pining ties

    I had a little trouble, Shamus, imaging "place a track pin at either side of the track on a sleeper (Tie) , two sleepers in (not in the middle as this will reduce the gauge slightly)." Does this mean two sleepers in from the end or from the middle of the yard of track? And when you pin, do you pin through the sleeper (tie) or somehow catch the both ends of the sleeper from the outside with the heads of the pins? Peco track does not have predrilled holes in the ties, as you know, and so if you go through the track do you drill a hole first? I am about to begin laying allot of track and want to make sure I do it correctly!
  8. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hello Donn,
    First of all, Peco track is very easy to put (Peco track pins) through. These pins are 1/2" long and very thin.
    Yes, you pin two ties in from the end of the track, and outside the track. Peco does not need to be pre-drilled as stated above. If you are trying to pin it to Plywood or Chipboard, the pins will not go in, I use 1/2" insulation (Sound board) which allows the pins to enter easy. Hope this is okay for you

  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I use nails that are about the same weight as spikes and put them against the rails on the outside, between the sleepers.
    I had a friend who put Peco pins just outside the chairs that hold the rails, on an angle, and after it was painted you couldn't tell it was done (unless you looked).
    Pin near the ends and then anywhere in the middle that it doesn't want to stay in shape. Also pin where ther's a change of curvature.
    If I need to pin through the tie, I like to pre-drill, but thin pins will go through, and leave less hole when removed.

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