After publishing several blogs on a variety of subjects not directly related to constructing my layout. I decided to go back to working on track and try to get something running before Thanksgiving. It has been a very long time since did a serious trackwork. There has been fear of getting going. It has been easy to continue thinking about the track. Finally, I ran out of excuses and dragged out the rail, tie plates and spikes.
I started out by a trying a different approach to attaching power feeds to rail. Nothing looks worse than a big hunk of wire soldered to the side of the rail and disappearing into the table top. I decided to try using a .015″ by .060″ strip brass to feed track power. I set it up such that the feed would be attached at a point between the ties. My first attempt was to use solid copper. It ended up snapping at the 90 degree bend. I will probably go back to the copper wire and try it again.
I am sure you have heard about the old saw that talked about how the right tool makes the job go easier. Laying track can be fun or very painful. From left to right the tools are a standards gauge made by NCO Shops, a machined aluminum three-point also from NCO Shops, a PSC cast three-point and a spiking plier from Micro Mark. The NCO Shops gauges are available from Protocraft. The spike plier is a super tool that really does a great job guiding the spike into the tie. I have only bent one spike so far with this tool.
I am going to install Right O’ Way Code 125 nickel silver. The rail will rest on top of urethane tie plates from Wiseman Model Services and being held in-place with some vintage Kemtron X-195 spikes. The Wiseman tie plates are very thin and snap in-place with the Code 125 rail. Jim King of Smoky Mountain Model Works designed the plates using CAD and developed the masters with RP.
The rail is initially held in-place with some “T” pins and a PSC three-point. I do this to sight the rail and make sure it is centered on the ties and that the curve is smooth. Once that is done, I will slip tie plates under the rail in the center of the curve and at the ends. Spike the outside of one rail first. Spike the ends next but don’t drive the spike all the way home. You will now start sliding plates under the rail and start spiking towards the end. Once the outside rail in spiked, you can start on the inside rail. Here is where the precision of the machined three-point gauge comes into play.
From this point on, you will get to do a lot of repetitive steps to complete the track. It is good to check the gauge using the flat steel gauge. Keep in mind, you want some widening of the gauge to allow for longer wheelbase locos and passenger trucks. I have been using a set of Protocraft Pullman Type-242 trucks to see how well the truck goes.
As you spike the curve, you will need to step back and look at the flow of the track to make sure there aren’t any kinks.
I have been installing turnout ties further up the track but that will wait to the next installment. For now, I dug out a heavy box of dirt that Rick Leach sent to me a while back. He filled up a USPS flat rate box with a shovel or two roadbed from the former Northern Pacific right of way in Woodinville. This ends the need to try to match ballast 900 miles away from my home. Thank you Rick.
The kitchen strainer works perfectly for extracting the “ballast” from the dirt. I was surprised how quickly the process went.
So you end up with scaled down authentic Northern Pacific ballast. I will “nuke” the stuff in the microwave before spreading it between the ties. You never know what kind of things might be hidden in the dirt. So the “vintage” Woodinville rock should look great once installed.