Tetter's Layout Progress and Other Pics.

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by tetters, Feb 3, 2007.

  1. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Hey guys. Thanks for the input. The point is maybe I'm not too sure what I'm trying to achieve here. I think I might be "stressing" about it too much and should just get over it and paint them. :mrgreen:

    I do like the result. They still look like wood which I guess was my main concern, that is, after painting they wouldn't.

    Actually, I like how some of the ties stayed dark. Most of the tracks used by CN and Go Transit here in T.O. look like that...some black, some grey, some brown. I think what I may do is do an initial staining and then go back and do some touch-ups, maybe some dry brushing with some more black, dark brown and grey. I should to take care to not over do it though.

    I'd like it to look like the yard has some heavy use and that it is being maintained...however not obsessed over by the R.R.
    Kinda like I'm doing right now! sign1

    Thanks again guys I started sanding the ties last night, which actually doesn't seem to take long. A few quick passes takes off quite a bit of material! I still have more ties to lay down though if I want to achieve my mid December goal.

    I also imagined the ballasting would go something like this since it is a yard since I don have to worry about getting any little rocks stuck to the rails.

    1) Buy several canisters of the fine ballast.

    2) Dump entire contents on rail ties.

    3) Spread even with a sponge brush taking care to remove the ballast from the tops of the ties.

    4) Mist small sections at a time with alcohol and water solution.

    5) Mist said section with glue and water solution. Let dry.


    Well...not really. I'm sure it will not go exactly as described. :p

    I'll keep you posted with the results.
  2. cnw1961

    cnw1961 Member

    Tetters, you are right, it sounds too easy – can’t work like that :cry:! Looking forward to see how your ballasting really worked out :mrgreen::mrgreen::p.
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Kurt are you familier with the Yahoo group "Citrus Modeling?" Bob Chapparo started the group to focus on Southern California citrus shipping via Railroads. He has some links there to a couple of modelers who have tried to accumulate photos of all of the old citrus packing houses they could find as well as some links to historical photos of packing houses that are long since demolished.
  4. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Man...I'm beat...


    What you are looking at is the East end of the Yard Facilities. The two tracks center fore ground will be for the engine service facilities. I'll be including a two door garage / machine shop, and maybe some sanding towers. I was thinking of simulating fueling by somehow depicting underground tanks with some "pumps" nearby so the engines can gas up. The track to the right is a stub which the locos and two cars can back up onto before the flat world theory is finally proven to be true. the photo is deceiving...there is lots of room at the end there.

    All of the ties required for my mid December goal are just about down. I just need to finish laying the ties for the yard lead...half are down, and few extras at the ends of the curved t.o. x-over. After the holidays then I'll worry about getting the rails in for the RR's customers.

    Get this though...I ran out of ties!!!

    I do have some more which I bought from the LHS which are actually a tad shorter then the ones I purchased from Fast Tracks. I was hoping I could save those for the sidings. What I may do...even though I don't like the idea is to start chopping the abundance of t.o. ties to match the length with the rest of them. I still have about three feet to go. Man that will drive me bonkers...and I know I'm going to do it, cause I'm sick in the head like that! wall1

    Well, anyway. I've sanded most of them except for the ones I just glued. Next step is to drill a slot inbetween all of the throw-bar ties as in the furture I may install switch machines on all if not most of my turnouts. For now I'm getting some Caboose Ind ground throws with the contacts to power the frogs for the t.o.'s

    Tomorrow I'll finish the lead ties, and drill the holes. Then...I'll stain the ties! Yee-haw!
  5. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    I'm kinda stoked right now...painting the ties was actually better then I thought. I was stressing so much about the final product, that I should have just relaxed and let it flow...literally. Using the same method as with the mocked up turnout ties, I used a small bowl of water and just a few squirts of paint on a coffee can lid. Working quickly I just started dabbing, brushing and wetting the ties. Viola! Instant RR ties. I may go back and do some touch ups, but right now...all this work is starting to finally look like a layout.

    I also laid the remainder of the ties for the lead. Yes, I even cut some t.o. ties to keep the tie length consistent. Glutton for punishment I am. Just letting the glue set for 24 hours before I sand them.


  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Shane, are you planning to ballast before or after installing the rails? I'd definitely recommend after. And don't just dump all of the ballast onto the track and then attempt to spread it around. I find that a small paper cup (such as those kitchen or bathroom Dixie cups) gives you great control over where the ballast goes. I usually move the cup along the centre of the track, tapping it as I go, to keep the ballast flowing. Less than you need is better than too much, although a soft 1/2" brush is useful for pushing around the excess or levelling what's in place. Then go back and do both roadbed shoulders in turn. Use the brush to level and re-arrange things as required, making sure to keep the ballast away from the throwbar area and the flangeways of the guardrails. To remove stray ballast from the tietops, lightly grasp the metal ferrule of the brush between the thumb and forefingers of one hand, laying the handle across the railtops, then, as you move the brush along the tracks, lightly and rapidly tap the brush handle with the fingers of your free hand. The stray ballast will "magically" bounce off the ties and into place between them.
    You can mist the contoured ballast using either water and alcohol or water with a few drops of dish detergent added. Either should work. Use a sprayer that will allow you to spray a fine mist. To avoid having the force of the spray dislodge loose ballast all over the landscape, aim the first few spritzes upward, letting the droplets fall like rain. Once the surface has been wetted, you'll be able to spray it directly. Make sure to thoroughly wet the ballast right down to the base. Not doing so is probably the main reason that many people have trouble getting a decent-looking and durable ballasting job. To apply the glue/water mixture (white glue works just as well as matte medium and is way cheaper, especially if you buy it by the gallon. Those who claim that white glue dries shiny are not using sufficient wetting agent. The proportions should be about 50/50 water/glue, although a little heavier on the water will still work well) don't ruin a perfectly good spray bottle (and while doing so cover your rails and anything else nearby in glue, too). Instead, use a dropper. An eyedropper will work, but a plastic squeeze bottle with a small nozzle will be much faster. Simply move along the track, as quickly as necessary, allowing the glue mixture to drip onto the ballast (or ties - you won't see it once it dries). You should be able to see it being drawn into the ballast, due to the wetting agent. I usually do the area between the rails first, then the sides in turn. The glue mixture will spread throughout the ballast and down to the roadbed, so make sure to apply enough to allow this to occur. The result will be ballast bonded solidly in place, yet with the appearance of loose, individual pieces.

  7. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Hi Doc. Thanks for the big tip.

    About the ballasting. From what I've read on-line about handlaying says to ballast before you spike your rail. Those who do it, swear by it as it is easier to get the ballast in place without the rails getting in the way or getting little rocks glued to the rails.

    At least thats based on the info I could find on it.

    Eveything else you've recommended is bang on with what I've read on the subject of ballasting too. I was planning on following those same instructions to a T. :thumb:

    Also...I was only being silly when I said I was just going to dump the ballast on the ties and spread it around.

    I'm crazy enough to handlay track...not crazy enough to ruin a perfectly good job up to this point though!


    Still I'd appreciate your thoughts on what I've read about the ballasting before the spiking. Maybe I'll get some trains running sooner then I thought! tooth1
  8. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    For once I have to disagree with the good Dr. Ballasting before spiking rail is one of the benefits of hand laying track.

    Actually, I put my ballast down as soon as I place the ties, using the same glue for both (I used diluted white glue in the past, but am looking forward to using matte medium on the layout I am getting ready to start). I come back the next day, and sand the tie tops to get them level. This does get rid of any high spots in the ballast, too. I then vacuum the ballasted ties to suck up the sanding dust and excess/non-glued ballast. Next, touch up tie tops with stain and add additional ballast in any bare spots.

    Now, I'm ready to spike rail. I don't use rail joiners, so pre-curving rail is essential for joints on curves. Don't ask me how I learned this.

    yours in handlaid track
  9. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    You don't use rail joiners? I've now heard two schools of thought on this. I would think that you could get away without them as well, however I've also been advised esle where that I should use them. Just cut them in half so they are well "hidden".

    I'd be interested to know your technique on how you spike your track if you are not using joiners. Do you spike right at the joint? Maybe double up to ensure good alignment? I understand the pre-curving which makes complete sense.

    Also how much of gap do you leave in between the rails. I've heard the thickness of a business card is sufficient to allow for seasonal expansion and contraction of the rails.

    I appreciate some insight as always. Glad to see some more people taking an interest in what I'm doing here too. :wave:
  10. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Pgandw, what kind of ballast do you use that can be sanded?

  11. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    How do you propose to ballast your turnouts, as not all of the ties will be in place on the roadbed if the rails are not there? :-D

    While it's good to use the glue to hold both the ballast and the ties in place at the same time, do you wet the area after doing so, then apply more dilute glue mixture? If not, chances are that all but the very bottom layer of ballast is not secured, meaning that it gets sucked up by the vacuum with the sanding dust, and is wasted.
    Also, it sounds as if you're doing too much work: whether you pre-stain your ties before gluing them in place, then sand them before ballasting, or install the ties, sand them level, then stain them, it seems to me that the staining, or stain touch-up would be a lot easier (and faster) without the ballast in place. Even if you want a variety of tie colours, to show age, etc., the majority will be similar, allowing you to use a much wider brush (like 2" or more). You wouldn't want to try that with ballast in place. ;)
    Another thing to consider is painting the rails. This can be done either before or after ballasting, although, in my opinion, before is better if you plan to have anything other than well-groomed, mainline track. And this is why I think that you'll have a better-looking finished product if the rails are in place before ballasting. How much secondary trackage have you seen where some of the ties are not at least partially covered by dirt, with weeds growing between them and up around the rails. On the prototype, the only place that the ballast (or dirt) is kept well below the tietops is around the moving points of the turnouts. Everywhere else tends to fill up, either with ballast, dirt, or weeds and trash. And of course, without the rails in place, the little trick with the brush handle won't work. (Admittedly, you wouldn't need it if you did the extra step of resanding the ties after ballasting, but it is handy if you're modelling anything other than a manicured mainline, and a lot easier to do than resanding, and touch-ups.)
    As for matte medium, I've used it and it works well - as well as white glue, although it's almost four times as expensive, by volume, and can be thinned only in the same ratios as white glue and still perform effectively.

    If you're not using rail joiners, I would guess that it's because you find their appearance too obtrusive. There are ones available besides the bulbous variety, and any can be cut-down in length with a cut-off disk in a Dremel. While the low profile ones are a little fussier to install, once painted, they more-or-less disappear. If you're really particular about appearance, you can trim away all but the portion that fits onto the very base of the rail, then install cosmetic fishplate/joint bar castings, although, in that case, they should be installed every 39' (or whatever was prototypical for your chosen era) and a cut made into the top of the railhead to simulate an actual joint. This would also give you that prototypical clickety-clack as the trains pass, too. :-D Without rail joiners, you obviously need a feeder wire for every section of rail - nothing wrong with that, although for my tastes, soldering the rails together with the joiners is much easier and gives the added benefit of positive rail alignment.

    Having said all of this, I realise that those who choose to handlay their track also choose to march to the beat of their own drummer. Personally, I like the look of the ties with handlaid track, but the lack of tieplates (prototypical on some sidings or in older eras), and at least four spikes at every tie just tends to sort of poke me in the eye. :eek: And lest you think that I know not of what I speak, I have done a few scratchbuilt turnouts, built on individual ties glued in place. While they worked well, and were fun to build, I still had the same issues with them. :rolleyes: None of this detracts from the fact that I admire the craftsmanship that goes into building handlaid track. For my next layout, the Central Valley tie strips, with some minor modification, look rather appealing, but that's another story.

  12. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    I had honestly thought about that... :-?


    What I may do is spike the turnouts in place before I ballast. It would also solve that pesky problem of wiring the buggers in place after I ballast. Plus you're right about the points and the throwbar areas. At least with them tacked in place I would pay attention to how much I'm putting in those areas so as to not over do it.

    I could still always ballast the straight sections before spiking. Sort of a 50/50 compromise...if you could call it that.

    I can actually see this working out if done this way.

    Thanks again. To everyone.
  13. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    An excellent discussion here!

    First - rail joiners. My thoughts - were and are - they are ugly, particularly when using smaller rail codes - code 70, 55, 40 are what I use for 1900 era HO and HOn3. Even then, code 70 is really too large, but I like the contrast with the code 55 (again slightly too large) on the HOn3. But back to rail joiners. In addition to being ugly, unless soldered or the track is fully fastened to a firm roadbed, rail joiners fail both mechanically and electrically over time (as does cork roadbed, but I'm getting ahead of myself). With sectional or flex track that was not securely fastened to a firm roadbed, my experience was that the rail joiners would "work" ever so slightly. First electrical contact would be become intermittent, then the "springy" Atlas flex track would kink at joints on curves. Final disadvantage is having to recess ties to account for the rail joiner thickness.

    But the idea of cutting small rail joiners in half length-wise and hiding them with paint is intriguing. Perhaps some experimentation is in order here.

    I do have to admit I had a devil of a time getting good track alignment on curves before I learned to pre-bend the rail. Even with pre-bending the last half to one inch or so of each rail piece on a curve needs to be cut off before installing because the end is very difficult to consistently bend to a smooth curve radius. I will experiment with butt soldering rail pieces (with silver solder) on the upcoming layout. The current system works well with 4 spikes per tie for about 3 ties on either side of the rail joint. The pre-bend ensures there is little stress on the spikes.

    I solder 12"-18" lengths of magnet wire - 26 gauge - to each rail section (on the underside) before laying the rail. An 1/8" hole between the ties under the rail, and a piece of piano wire as a fish completes getting the feeders in place. Yes, each rail piece has to have a feeder or a jumper soldered to it in my scheme. But the layout survived 4 moves in 9 years - 2 locations in Coos Bay, OR; Pensacola, FL; Hollywood, FL; West Lafayette, IN - with nary a mechanical or electrical problem.

    As Doc suggested, I do paint the rail before laying - brush on some Testor's of the appropriate color, then rub the inside corner with a rag before it dries. If the rail piece is going to be a stock rail of a turnout - I lay my turnouts in place as I go - I also wipe down the rail base in the area of the guard rails.

    Doc does make a good point about ballasting before spiking rail. Since you are building your turnouts at the bench instead of in place, you won't be able to ballast the areas where the PC board ties are going to go in advance.

    I used a combination of Campbell basswood and Timberline redwood ties - mostly the latter. The redwood ties fit my region and era reasonably well, and didn't require staining. Staining ties before installation, and then sanding the tie tops gives an easy indication of when to stop sanding. Restaining after sanding will give more variety than expected because of the now very different amounts of stain absorption from tie to tie. I'm hoping I can find another source of redwood ties because my stock is running low. I don't have the equipment or the patience to rip my own.

    I agree about the tie plate detail. For my era and line - a 1900-era short line in coastal Oregon - tie plates would not have been used. Nor would creosote. Older ties still in service would likely be hand-hewed rather than sawed. But if you are modeling an era of tie plates, then doing the full detail by hand is indeed tedious when you can buy ME flex track and CV ties with all this detail already cast in. By the same reasoning, hand-laid track will look more realistic in my case than the ME and CV parts that represent a more modern era.

    Ballast: I used Campbell Products on my last layout. I will probably try Arizona Stone or similar product the next time around. When I sanded the ties, I surmise that I actually dislodged ballast pieces that were above tie top level. Did I waste some ballast when I vacuumed the sanding dust and loose ballast? Yes, but not a noticeable amount. I took some care when I spread it to gather up excess and to level it off just below the tie tops when applying.

    Roadbed: I have experimented with soft wood, cork, Homasote, and Celotex (I think it was Celotex, the lumber yard called it a Homasote-like product. It was certainly compressed paper fiber-based like Homasote, but had a surface paper layer.) I have sworn off cork because it always dried out and crumpled on me over the years. I have to admit I never ballasted track laid on cork, so there is a reasonable theory that the ballasting operation seals and helps prevent the cork from drying out. The Celotex was OK; the Homasote was great for handlaid track. The soft wood - I tried white pine and redwood - always had hard spots in the grain that curled the spikes.

    As far as super-detailing the right of way with weeds and other items - I never got that far with my previous layouts. I don't know how it will work out with my current track laying process. It is a good point, and I will ponder it as I get ready to start my "final" layout. I do like the appearance of having ties and ballast laid, but no rail in place. If I have roughed in some scenery, it feels like I am doing things like the prototype - building the roadbed, then extending the track into the wilderness.

    Just my experiences; others have had different. I try to understand the good and not-so-good points of everybody's methods so that I can put together the best system that suits me. Handlaid track is a very personal thing, and I don't think any 2 people do it exactly alike. I took up hand laying track to improve my model railroading dollars/hour cost. I had more time than I had dollars if I bought RTR. So I learned new skills, and had a blast.
  14. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    A good way to look at things and none of us knows so much that we can afford to stop learning. Or stop having fun, either. ;):-D

    By the way, I do solder all of my rail joints, so I only have one set of feeders from the power source to the track.

  15. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Whew! Lots to digest there gents. I'm on a schedule though so I will not dwell on the finer points. However, I will modify the gameplan some and keep pressing forward.
  16. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Hi guys. For the record I went to Toronto x-mas Model Train show today. I spoke to a gent who was hand laying some track for a module and asked him a ton of questions. He was very helpful. He tacked his Fast Tracks t.o.'s in place before ballasting took place. He only pre-ballasted his straight sections.

    So that answers my question.
  17. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    woah, I found this thread just in time! Didn't realize you were handlaying, and have noticed you are spiking into cork. Let me know how well the cork holds the spikes, as I am planning a new layout in HOn3 and plan on handlaying everything.

  18. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    When I mentioned to the guy who was handlaying at the show I was using a cork roadbed he said it work would be fine.

    I think the how you spike into the ties has more to do with it then anything. I'm also using the smallest ME spikes you can find. Which won't be sitting in the roadbed much at all really. Advice I'd recently received and read says to spike in at a slight angle and not straight down. This allows the spike head to sit flush on the rail bottom and also allows it to clear the rail top initially. Plus since you are spike on both sides, the two opposing angles created by the spike act as a clamp on the rail.

    Trust me I'll be keeping everyone posted. I'm getting close to that point now so I'm starting to get eager to get on with it as well.
  19. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Some success this evening...some set-backs...

    I spent over an hour and a half trying to figure out how I was going to mount my Caboose Ind throws...I think I finally figured out something that should work, however getting them set up and the turnout prepped is pretty darn time consuming... I think once I get a system down they'll go in pretty easy.

    That said, I don't know If I'll be able to make my goal.

    Not if I want this to work properly and last a long time at least. I've got sooooo much on plate its starting to get overwhelming. I need to focus on little goals and take it from there. I think my first goal will be to get the curved turnouts and west yard ladder assembled and wired by the end of the week. I think that is doable. As for the rest...I dunno. We shall see.

    However, I finally received my DCC system in the mail. I hooked it up to a small piece of flex track I had lying around and used that as a programming track. I also wired up some LED's (correctly this time) and ditched the 12v lamps. Canadian Pacific GP7 # 8416 is the first loco I bought. That's her in my avatar. So it seemed fitting that she would be the first programmed and tested. Modified to DCC, with new lights and some Kadee #5's I placed her on the programming track and plugged in the power pack. Well I'm happy to report no blue smoke of death and everything seemed to work just peachy.

    Initial thoughts. I cannot believe how much quieter the loco sounds on DCC. On DC it was LOUD! the LED's work great and are brighter then the old 12v lamps. Question though...why does the rear light stay on? Even when I change direction to forward it stays on. Does it have something to do with the CV programming in the decoder, or is this how the prototype operated?

    Perhaps some one can chime in and let me know. Otherwise that's all for tonight.

  20. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Hello Tetters:wave:
    First off, the directional lights are set by cv programming.
    Second, I know you are in a hurry to get some trains running, so I propose a compromise for now. Use flex track to speed things up. You can remove it later when the pressure is off and use the rail for your hand laying. Kind of expensive, but I think the trade off would be worth it.


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