Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Let's lay some track

Laying track can really be as simple or as complicated as you'd like to make it. There's the choice of raised road base, cork underlay, super elevation, insulated joiners for cab controlled block wiring, electrofrog and insulfrog turnouts and finally whether your layout will be wired for DC or DCC operation. All of these however will still look 'bodgy' it not done right. Fortunately this post is about none of the above. Instead, I'm going to show you my favourite method of track laying, the KISS method. Short for keep it simple stupid.

Firstly, let me say this isn't really an advanced layout I'm showing you how to build. But simple methods, when done well, will still yield amazing results. First up, you need to get some colour down beneath the sleepers, or railroad ties if you prefer. Now I've seen large layouts use a airbrush to cover the rails, ties, base or underlay in various shades of grey, but this isn't a large layout, and no, I don't possess an airbrush. So, remember the lead pencil outlines I drew around my track-work in my last post? Well, start by mixing up a 'hodge-podge' batch of black-brown acrylic paint on an easel, and apply just 1 coat between each of the lines. I simply moved the track aside as shown above to do it.

I used PVA tacky glue to secure my track-work to the layout base, being careful to avoid the movable turnout arms.

When dry, move the track back into place, or a little further aside if you still have more black-brown paint to apply, until you have no bare layout base showing between the sleepers or ties. Now from here, you could go and drill some holes in the sleepers and bang some track pins in to complete the process. But after seeing how well the PVA tacky glue worked on securing the wood trim to my layout's fascia, I decided to use it to secure my track in place. With my wife's help, Denise and I carefully lifted a section of track at a time and applied a liberal coat of the white tacky glue beneath the track-work, being careful to avoid going anywhere near the movable arms of the turnouts, and placed it back down into position. The glue has a drying time of about 25 minutes, making it easy to maneuver the track back into the correct position while checking that there are no gaps showing in the rail joins. I also used a steel ruler to check that the distance from the track to the layout edge was uniform along the entire length of the layout.

Fill those unsightly gaps where the tracks join by splicing and inserting some leftover sleepers.

Next up, I took those leftover pieces of track I cut free when fitting the rail joiners, and cut the spacers away so that I was left with a single sleeper, or railroad tie.

Cut away the spacer and metal plate outline from a scrap off-cut of track, and it can easily be slid under the gap in the rails.

By also cutting away the outline of the metal plates that hold the rail in place, the clean sleeper as shown on the left, can then be slipped under the gap in the rails while the glue is still wet.

The blank spaces between the rail joins look so much better once filled with the leftover sleepers.

Once the gaps at each of the track joins were filled, I did a final check that all the rail joins were sitting flush and that the distances between my tracks and sidings were all uniform. By the time I took the above photo, the track would no longer move and only the pooled up areas of excess tacky glue were still showing as white. Using glue on a perfectly flat layout surface such as mine, proved easier than my past experiences of nailing track to a baseboard, and I managed a uniform bond across every section of track. I imagine however, that if you were using glue to secure track to a gradient or rise, that you may have to position some kind of weight onto different areas of the track to keep the track pressed to the surface while the glue dried. By gluing my track in place instead of using track pins, not only did I avoid having unsightly pin heads appear in my track-work, I also avoided having any nail heads protrude beneath my layout base. Remember, I only used 9 mm plywood for my layout base.

I'll now leave the glue to fully dry and strengthen overnight, and tomorrow I'll be able to pull out the soldering iron and wire this baby up for some action! But as usual, that's a story for another day.

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil