Using track nails

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by jeff_in_tx, Nov 8, 2004.

  1. jeff_in_tx

    jeff_in_tx New Member

    So is there a secret to using those tiny nails to secure the track? The smallest hammer I have is still too big to fit between the rails and push the nails in flush. Do I just need to find a more diminutive hammer, or what's the trick?

    And to those who welcomed me to this forum by saying there are no silly questions... I'm gonna prove you wrong! You just wait!! ;)


  2. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Beating them in to plywood isn't a good idea anyway, you will bend the nail or it will go sideway and break the hole in the tie. Or you will drive it too deep and pull the track in. I drill a hole with a #72 drill bit and push the nail in with pliers. Saves a lot of problems. Now if you have homasote or something soft you just push them in with pliers. In fact, if you use a pine board for subroadbed you can shove them in without a pilot hole. But in plywood, a hole is a must. Fred
  3. yellowlynn

    yellowlynn Member

    Jeff, it all depends what you're driving the nails into. If it is wood, I would use a good caulk. Put a SMALL line down the middle, smear it flat with a finger, lay the track, and use a couple nails just far enough to hold it. It sticks good, and I have pried it off several times so I know it isn't permanent. Otherwise, cut off a spike and use the head on the nail and tap the small end like you would a punch. Hope this helps.

    Whitehouse, Tx
  4. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Jeff -

    Unlike Fred, I do drive mine into the plywood. The "secret" is you need a nail-set (a piece of steel flat on one end to hit, with a small cupped point on the other end into which the nail-head settles). Home Depot sells a nice packaged set of three in various sizes: They're colored yellow, black and red. I use the red one for track nails.

    I use cork roadbed, so I push the nail in, the cork holds it in place. Then I tap them in with a small hammer (7oz.) until they're firmly into the plywood, then finish with the nail-set. Yes, you must be careful or you will bend them or drive them too far, but it take not-much practice to develop "the touch"

    Fred's suggestions are all to the good as well -- I've certainly done it that way with great results. If you're laying the track directly on plywood (which I personally don't recommend), then his way may be better -- not having a roadbed or cork, homasote or similar to hold the nail in place makes it much harder.

    In the end I've simply found it's far, far faster to just nail them in -- IF you are good enough with the nail-set...

  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I would second Lynn's suggestion for a good adhesive caulk, and skip the nails all together. You can use them on flextrack curves - bang them in far enough to hold the track while the caulk sets - not too long - and then pull them out.


    JOE ALOIA New Member

    For Years I Have Been Nailing My Track Down, And Always It Distorts The Track ,one Way Or Another.the Latest Opions As Well As Mine Is To Use A White Glue,wich Dries Clear,add A Weight Over The Cant Go Wrong With This Method
  7. Chessie6459

    Chessie6459 Gauge Oldtimer

    I have some track that i nailed inplace to display some of my engines but did not put the nail the whole way down through the track. Cause here in the near future i will be removing the track for the Southern Pennsylvania Lines Railroad. Hopefully next year i will get started on the benchwork. Key Word Hopefully.
  8. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    I don't nail the track down any more. Tried that, and found it too difficult to deal with. Especially if you need to lift the track again (adjust it) or you wack it just that little bit too much, and you depress the tie, and pull the track together. I just use them only the OUTSIDE of the track, between the ties, just to hold it in place. I don't use "flat head" nails, but the tiny little 1/2 inch "brads". (very tiny head on them) Once in place, when ballasted (and glued) there's no need for them, and I remove the nails. However, I have left some of them in, and just a micro-milli-mini bit above the railhead (on the outside), and once painted (weathered), and ballasted you would not know they are there, and you get this brilliant "clickety clack" from them as the wheels pass over them. :thumb: :D
  9. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    The nail-set works just fine for me too Kris. I use cork roadbed over 1/2 inch foam which is on 3/8ths plywood so the spikes go in quite easily. Once the ballast is cured I remove all the spikes I put in.
  10. jeff_in_tx

    jeff_in_tx New Member

    Heehee... figures. From now on I'm just gonna just ask yes/no questions. :)

    I'm laying the track directly on pine. No roadbed, no plywood. And since this is my "I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-doing" attempt at a layout that may or may not last long, I'd prefer to be able to pick the track back up later if I can.
  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    I lay my track directly on MDF. Here's the tool I use to spike in track nails:


    The item closest to the top is the tool in question. It's actually a punch for attaching snaps to leather, hijacked from my leatherworking kit. It's essentially a rod of metal with a small divot (maybe 1/8") in one end. I set the nail in the hole in the tie first, of course. With the divoted end, I shove the track nail as far as it will go--the divot is about 1/8" deep so it ends up about 1/8" above the level of the track. I then turn the tool over and use the flat end to shove the nail flush with the track.
  12. Glen Haasdyk

    Glen Haasdyk Active Member

    I just finished laying all my track acouple weekes ago. Its laid on top of cork (I bought it by the sheet, cheaper than buying the ready made stuff) and 5/8" plywood. I used the track nails to set the track in place. Use the nail-set, it's worth it's weight in gold when you are putting the nails down. The trick is to use a smaller hammer so you have more control and set the nails down until the heads just touch the ties. Don't shove the nails down until the tie is distorted, this will pull the track out of guage and cause problems down the road.
  13. DeaconF

    DeaconF Member

    nail it

    I too have tried all the above and will stick with nails. I use them in the hole in flex track and I use them like spikes when needed. there are good nails and bad. I think the nails you get it the Hobby Shop are the worst. go to a good hardware store with the size you want and buy in bulk.
    I saw a tool recently somewhere???? it was a pair of needle nose pliers with a "T" shaped cut in the surface at the end of the pliers. This will allow you to hold the nail a little better. I have gotten into the habit of pushing as far as I can and then releasing the pliers and using the head of the pliers (closed) to finish pushing. Be careful here not to push too far - You don't want the head of the nail pushing down on the tie. hope you can find those pliers - I am going to try and make one with my dremmel and a tiny punch.
  14. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Frank -

    I believe I saw an ad for those pliers in the latest issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. They definitely looked like a good idea to me.

  15. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    I use O scale spikes instead of nails..However,if you use nails be sure not to get them to tight.If you get the nails to snug the track will "bow" in and thus be out of gauge..I caution against using glue..You may want to rearrange your track during the track laying phase of your layout or a little later and you *could* end up wasting track IF you need to make any track adjustments.Also remember your ballast glue will help hold the track in place.
    Then remember some day you may want to build a new layout and salvage some of your track and switches for use on your new layout..
    So IMHO gluing track is not the best of ideas that Model Railroader magazine authors has come up with(that's where I first learn of gluing track)..All to sadly I had to learn this the hard way when I tore out the old switching layout I built 6 or 7 years ago and tried to salvage the track.So from my lesion learn and cost of new track including switches the only glue I will use on my track is ballast glue..

Share This Page