Track and siding question

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by spitfire, Dec 4, 2002.

  1. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I have a question for all you knowlegable folks. I know that track is usually elevated a bit from ground level, using trackbed or whatever and then ballasted. My question is, what happens to this elevation when a small industrial siding branches off? Is the siding elevation the same as the mainline, or is there a grade going down to ground level? Around here, the sidings appear to be right at ground level - how is this done with a model?

    :confused: Val
  2. farmer ron

    farmer ron Member

    Here on the west coast nearly all industrial spur tracks are down near ground level, with the tracks raised a little off level ground it still gives it some drainage. Unless you have qa yard and the tracks are at ground level and you have an industry off these. There is a couple of ways to do this.
    If you are going to put your spur tracks down to a lower level
    (ground or just raised up) use shims or cut cardboard glued together to lower the height. You can also glue some of the material that you use for the main track down then file or sand it down to give you a slope to the height that you want.
    I personally use cardboard strips to give you the grade that your want then put the track on top of it. I hand lay a lot of my track, as I do not have a large layout, and have had minimal difficulty spiking with the ties on top of the cardboard. Putting flex track down would be easy. I rarely put my tracks at ground level, yard tracks etc yes, but for industries I usually put it on one piece of thin cardboard to give it that little bit of raised look for drainage. Ron...
  3. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Val, I have used HO cork roadbed for the mains and N scale for sidings with good results. I used spackle to transistion the heights. That was a long time ago. Because I mostly handlay now I use Homasote rather than cork. You can buy Homasote in 1/2" thick 4'x8' sheets. Lately you can buy homasote roadbed similar to cork(eliminating the hassle of carting the sheets home and the mess of cutting them) from Homa-bed, advertised in MR often. In any case, you want to transistion from main line height to siding height, and the amount of verticle differance varies in different situations. One method I have used is using the expandable foam which comes in a can. I cut a piece of scrap paneling or similar wood to the shape of the lead off the main to the siding (I did this because my lead was an s curve) I wrap wax paper around the bottom of it and spray the foam where I need the ramp, put the form on top and screw it down at each end. Let it cure overnight, remove screws, clean up edges with a knife and rasp and you're ready to lay track.

  4. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Val I use roadbed under the main (the 2 tracks on your right) and no roadbed in the yard. Your HAVE to be VERY CAREFUL in your tracklaying as the track going thru the switch is going thru a vertical and horizonal curve at the same time! :eek: This is n-scale, I can only hope it is easier in the larger scales :D .

    Attached Files:

  5. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    I like your ballasting and trackwork a lot Tyson.

  6. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Thanks Gary :) !
  7. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Thanks Gary! Thanks Ron! And Tyson - c'mon, you're kidding right? No WAY is that N-scale!

    ;) Val
  8. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hi Val,
    I've put all my track on the same level (on cork roadbed), except for a siding I wanted lower for appearance, but I am using fill materials to alter the ground level. You can bring the ground level right up to the tie level or whatever height you want. I have seen some short ind. spurs around here with virually no elevation, some going thru paved lots, etc. with the top of the rails even with the ground level. Varying the ground height also adds a little realism to the flat plywood or foam base. :D

    Also those vertical easements are a real pain (.02) and create a bump unless you have a lot of room to stretch it out!! :D :D
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    take the mainline roadbed height at least a few inches beyond the frog and make sure the transition piece runs at right angle to the track.
    Sidings aren't just lower than the main; at Bramalea there's a siding parallel (roughly) to the main that is higher because the main was cut down to be level and the siding follows the original contours; I'm sure there are others. If you model an area of Toronto that is steeply graded across the track line, you could have it lower on the south and higher on the north.
    I was just reading an article about British railways where an ex-employee said that their main line was supposed to have 12" of clean ballast beneath the ties; at some places he knew it was down to 2". (I don't know if there was dirty ballast under the clean.) They weren't to
    worry becasue the chalk under it was naturally draining; problem was the chalk was also slow draining -- took better part of a week.
  10. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    This post deals with the more general subject of changing track elevation. On the Garfield branch I am currently working on, I wanted the track directly on the ground, as Tyson has done. Since I was using code 70 flex track, laying directly on plywood was no problem. However, I can sometimes be cheap, and why use expensive flex track for the portion which will be in the street? I have lots of code 70 rail on hand. But why glue down a bunch of ties which won't be seen? I decided to use 1/8" basswood, a strip just wide enough for the track. To get the bottom of the rail of the flex track to meet the top of the basswood, I needed to rise up .065. I decided to rise .070in 7 increments of .010, one every inch. A very gentle, ought to be unnoticable, grade. This photo shows the styrene strips glued in place on the plywood.

    Attached Files:

  11. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Next I slopped a lot of spackle on them.

    Attached Files:

  12. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Somewhat predictably, I then used a spackle knife to even the top.

    Attached Files:

  13. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    When this dries, as I type, it will be ready for track. This tecnique would work for raising or lowering an industrial track.

    Attached Files:

  14. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    When dealing with a more substantial rise, like this 1 1/4" in 21", I use expandable foam from a can. I did this a couple days ago so can't show photos as I go. I posted how i did it earlier so won't repeat it here. A photo is worth a couple hundred words. I'm using homabed in this area because it will be handlaid, and spiking in the homasote is by far the best choice. I will fill in the ground areas so that the track is not so elevated.

    Attached Files:

  15. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Gary, thank-you thank-you! That is so excellent and looks fairly uncomplicated and easy to do. I've done a lot of spacking in my time, so I'm pretty comfortable with this approach.

    Also to David, that sounds like very sage advice as regards the actual turnout. I know that downtown Toronto sidings are also at road height - not sure what elevation the mainline is at.

    Cid, I always use spackle over the plywood so that I can have little ridges and puddles and tire ruts etc.

    :D Val
  16. RaiderCTE

    RaiderCTE Member


    I have been wondering the same thing. And Gary thank you so much. That makes great sense. I have a limited space for the incline from ground to roadbed height. But all I have to do is put a parallel line with the ties at the low end and use it to eye the spackle knife and rest the high end of the knife on the road bed.

    thanks again
  17. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hi Val, A "down and dirty" way to transition track from the main line to a ground level siding is to use a window or door shim. You can get them at a building supply place. They are a tapered piece of wood about 10" long and you can cut it to the length needed. They are about the height of cork roadbed on the thick end so they will match up pretty good to it. If you need for it to curve you can cut some slits in the back side of it and bend it as you tack it down. They're usually about 5-10 cents apiece.
  18. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Vic, that fits my budget perfectly!

    ;) Val
  19. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    I'm a little behind the curve on this discussion but another way to raise the ground level on a siding or yard is to underlay the track with foam. You can get "sill sealer" insulation in rolls at a building supply store. It's about a 1/4 inch thick so it’ll just about match the cork roadbed. An upside to this is you avoid layout track on plywood so the trains run quieter.

  20. chapmon

    chapmon Member


    I'm new to the group, and you all have excellent ideas to separate the main from sidings and industries.

    The only think I can add, is you want to take care not to have too much vertical curve built in (you will end up with different heights on the couplers and your cars will uncouple). This is something you have to experiment with, but if you catch it in the building state, it's easier than ripping it out and repairing it.

    Trust me, I've screwed this up at least twice (my memory doesn't go any further back).

    Happy Holidays to all.


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