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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Your First Model Railroad Part 5.

Let's look back to see what's been done so far.  The railroad has been planned including what's going to be on it and the track plan.  The bench work has been laid out and put up, and lights are shinning down on the future railway.  This project is coming along well so far, but there is still a great deal of work to go to ''complete" the layout.  But now the railway needs some iron on it, so bring in the track laying equipment.
Track laying is almost an art inside of an art, from plastic roadbed to hand laid masterpieces, track laying puts the railroad in model railroading. However there are three methods to laying track.
Sectional track 
The first method and the best for beginners uses sectional track.  this method is the simplest because most modern sectional track uses plastic roadbed.  Personally, I prefer to use track with out the roadbed because ballast looks better when it is not a mold, however I do think that Sectional track with roadbed is a good method for a first time railroader.  Good manufacturers of sectional track with roadbed include;

  •  Atlas with N, HO scales Super Snap track
  • Bachmann with N, HO, On30 scales E-Z Track
  • Life Like with HO scale Power Loc track
  • Lionel with O scale Fastrack
  • MTH with O scale Realtrax

When laying track that already has roadbed on it, glue the track down to the table-top on the ridges on the bottom, after the glue dries, add cinders and other materials in the right-of-way to make the track realistic. For road Crossings, build up plaster to the tops of the rails to form a gentle ramp (leave room on the inside of rails for wheel flanges).  When wiring, just attach connection at one place on the layout and at: switch backs, sidings, yards, and at the end of ALL spurs.  This will keep electricity in the rails of all of the track.
Flex Track Method;
This is probably the most economical way of laying track, but you still must ballast.  For this method, you will need some sort of material to raise the track off the table top. road bed from several manufacturers is available to use and it is cheap.  To install flex track, first draw the center line of the track on the layout surface so that all of the switches and spurs are exactly where they should be like on the track plan.  After this is complete, glue down the roadbed making sure that it is centered on the line. after that take the first piece of flex track and glue it down on a straight section of roadbed, this acts like an anchor for curves. continue this until you come to your first switch or curve.  For a switch, glue it down before the connecting piece of track, avoid gluing the points and switch throws to the layout (if that happens, good luck getting the switch to throw).  Then cut the connecting piece of track to length and place it in its spot on the layout.  When you approach a curve, bend the piece to match the roadbed, then cut the rails even. after that glue down the piece of cut flex track and tack down the flex track to keep it from moving.  another way to make a curve is to use sectional track that has no roadbed (Atlas is the best manufacturer of sectional track without roadbed) and connect the pieces to form a curve.  This works for anything under 24" radius.  Other wise just use Flex track.
Hand laid method;
This method gives the most realism, but hard work is what keeps most from using this method.  The biggest challenge when hand laying track is keeping the gauge consistent.  I would recommend using a preformed tie every few inches.  After the track has been nailed to the track, the plastic tie can be removed.  To get more info, one should find a friend that knows how to lay hand built track, it is just one of those things that is easier to learn from watching rather than reading.

The next step in track laying is ballasting. real railroads use ballast to keep the track from being submerged in water, ballast also distributes the weight of the train to the right-of-way.  this means that ballast is important to railroads.  however ballast differs in time and era.  During the steam age, railroads often used cinders from the ash pits of locomotives as ballast on spurs and secondary lines, however, main lines still needed something denser to hold the track in place due to higher speeds.  On the CNW, a gravel pit in Rock Springs, Wisconsin supplied Pink Lady Quartz gravel to use on all of the main lines.  After the CNW got bought out, the gravel plant stayed open, supplying gravel to the former CNW lines because the Quartz would grind up new ballast because Quartz is one of the densest rocks on the planet.  Because of the ballast, the future of the CNW line through Rock Springs was changed.  So is ballast important to a railroad? Yes!!!

So now that the importance of ballast has been stated and explained, let's see how to apply it correctly to model track.
To apply ballast, paste glue on to the surface of steep hills sides and cliffs that ballast will not stick too.  After that, take a small cup and pour ballast between the rails, then take a ruler or other flat object, stand it on edge, and level the ballast to the rails.  After doing that, take a brush and sweep the ballast between the rails, uncovering the ties and the insides of the rails.  This allows the Ballast to roll down slops naturally, like in the real world.  refer to the picture below;

Now that the ballast has been put on the track, it is time to glue all of the loose rocks to the ground. to do this, mix glue and water at a 1:3 ratio and dribble over the track, trying to avoid the tops of the rails and switch points.  It is best to practice this on a few pieces that are not going to be used heavily first because if not done correctly and too much glue is on rails will inhibit electrical flow and is a pain to get off once on.  After the glue dries, take a screw driver ad rasp at the inside of the rails to get any rocks away from where the flanges will run on the track.  lastly, take a track eraser and wipe the rails clean, then test the Track with a variety of rolling stock and locomotives.  If all goes well, keep doing this until the railine is ballasted throughout the layout.
Next up, structures.

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