MODELING: Trackwork

Photo by Douglas Leach

I finally started to get serious about creating a new layout to run some trains on.  The last time I had a place to run a train was in 2016.  So, this time around will try to correct some of my earlier mistakes.

One problem I had before was the strain on my back and neck build track on a high shelf style layout.  James Lincoln posted a series of stories about how has been building track on a rigid foam core board called Gator Board.  The properties appear to be a stable material that would allow someone to create a form of “snap track”.  It allows a modeler to build complex or simple trackwork on your workbench.  Perfect for my concern over back strain associated with layout building.  I had not paid much attention to this approach.  It suddenly dawned on me that this method may address my medical issues. It wasn’t until Shawn Branstetter posted his approach of using Gator Board for layout building that it resonated with me. Shawn posted his track building on his blog called the Shortline Modelers.  I have lifted a few shots of from Shawn’s blog to illustrate how neat a way to build track.

Shawn finished the track platform ready for rail installation.  He likes to assemble the details to the rail.  Shawn is a “dead rail” guy so he doesn’t have to run feeder wires to the rail or add gaps.

The individual panels are assembled together to create the track plan.

The following images document how I am recreating this modular approach.

I use a styrene jig to hold ties pre-cut to a prescribed length.  I used a track drawing for the Northern Pacific switches for the ligher rail sizes I am using which is Code 125, Code 100 and Code 82.  Rick Leach was kind enough to supply me with this drawing.

This data translates into the tie strip shown below.

I started to work out the placement of the frog and points.  The stock rail was cut and details attached before painting.  I also added feeders to the bottom of the rail and a shot Camo Brown to provide the base color for the rail.


I have started to experiment with coloring the ties. The first color was Star Brand gray lacquer brushed on.   In retrospect, I will airbrush the initial coat. This will reduce the color variation that the pine ties tend to produce. I followed with washes of Vallejo black and sepia acrylic diluted in distilled water.  I am not entirely satisfied with the result but will continue to experiment.

The switch assembly will be started in the next posting.

Merry Christmas


7 thoughts on “MODELING: Trackwork

  1. Gene:
    Though we use different materials, I too suffered back pain attempting to build track for a shelf layout.
    the solution for me was that I made it from a specific workbench in track sections up to 60 lengths (not more than a foot or two of hang over on either end). the only exception being transitional curves where I would do the layout drawing from the shelf, and the actual track laying on the bench. The finished section would then be anchored with flathead screws outside the tie ends, using notebook paper (if necessary) in which to level connect following sections.

  2. Pingback: Building the Sierra Pacific Railroad – Part 4 – Shortline Modelers

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