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Old 5th November 2005, 16:29   #1
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 5,299
Default Laying trackwork

Track Laying
These are the tools needed to lay track.
Needle nose pliers
Small file
Rail cutters
Fine saw
1200 grade wet/dry paper
Track gauge (Peco - RED)
2' Metal ruler
Band-Aid (maybe)
Knife (Craft type)
Soldering gun and solder
Now all that remains is the type of track to use. Probably the best track and points (turnouts) to use in model railroading has got to be PECO , unless you require to make your own track. With PECO track and points (turnouts), you have the added option of using either code 100 or Finescale code 75. It really doesn't matter which of the two you use, because by the time the track is ballasted, all the track will look just fine anyway. Also by using PECO track and points (turnouts), you will have the added advantage of being able to use the PECO PL10 point motor to fit underneath should you so wish to do so. Apart from anything else, the yards of track are flexible, so you can alter the shape in any way you desire.
. If you want to raise the track slightly to give the impression of a well maintained main line, then I would use 1/16th cork sheeting. Whether you use the cork sheet or not, both ways of laying the track will look fine when it is ballasted. Okay, let me describe how I would lay one yard of track. First of all, with a sharp knife, cut off two of the end sleepers to allow the metal rail joiners to slip on easy. Do this at both ends. Now, after marking where you want your first piece of track to be laid, place a track pin at either side of the track on a sleeper (Tie) , two sleepers in (Not in the middle as this will reduce the gauge slightly) Now with the needle nose pliers, press the track pins into the insulation board. At this stage please check that the pins have not bent down the edges of the sleepers. If they have, gently raise them up a little with the knife. At this stage, I assume that the track is a straight piece and not curved anywhere. If it is a straight piece, then lay the 2' steel rule up to the sleepers so as to keep the track straight and the same distance from the edge of the baseboard. Move
along to the end of the track and repeat the stage of track pinning. When both ends are done, make sure all is still straight with the steel rule and pin the rest of the track, every five inches or so, again checking that the pins haven't gone too far down.
That's the first piece down, now on to the next yard of track or maybe a point in you case. I don't know, but which ever it is, the same method applies for laying trouble free running.
Lets for the purpose of instruction, lay another yard of track onto the first, and solder the two together. As with the first yard, snip off two sleepers from either end once again. Place metal rail joiners on to the new piece of track and place it at the end of the first piece of track. Now very carefully, making sure that the track is flat on the insulation board, bring it into the first piece of track. Don't lift it as you bring it into the other rails as you will bend the metal joiners and cause derailments at a later date. Just be careful, and take your time. At this stage, sight down the two pieces of track and make sure that the two are in fact straight, if they are, then pin the second yard down as you did the first one. After which you can solder the joints for good electrical contact.
If you have never soldered rail joints before, then here is how it's done. My soldering gun is of the instant type, press the trigger and it's on. Some others need time to heat up. Which ever type you use, make sure it's hot and ready for use. Here goes. - With the gun hot, place the tip of the gun or iron onto the rail joiners and apply the solder to the rails, not the gun or iron, if the gun is hot enough, the solder will flow underneath the metal joiners for a good connection.
Remember the 1200 grade wet/dry you bought, use a small piece and gently go over the top of the rails to clean them off. Now run your fingers along the tops of the rails. If there are any height differences, now is the time to file it down a little then go over it once again with the 1200 wet/dry. When you file the track, just file one way, not backwards and forwards. Don't forget to run your fingers inside the track as well. This is what is called Bullet Proofing the track. As a further check that the two pieces of track a 100% right, grab one of your freight cars and roll it over the track joints to see if all is well. It should glide over the track like silk.
The same method applies for laying points (turnouts), except not all points (turnouts) are in fact soldered because some will need plastic rail joiners so as not to get feed back from the controllers.
When buying PECO points (turnouts), they all come with ample documentation as to how to wire them up, so there is no need for me to explain how this is done.
Lets now take the job of laying track a little further for track which has to go around curves. This time, it is easier to solder two pieces of track together first before pinning it down. Just lay two yards of track down on a flat surface and join the tracks together then solder them as you did before, with the exception of the track pins, it is the same procedure. When the two are ready for use, just pick up the two yards, one yard in each hand and very carefully bend the two halves together to form a horseshoe. Now lay the track down at the place you wish to join these tracks to, and you will notice
that the ends of the tracks have staggered. Don't panic. Lay one end of the track onto the end of the ones previously laid, so that the horseshoe tracks overlay the old track. Now with a knife, make a cut mark over the longest rail and snip it off and file it up. This end is now ready to join to the other two. When all is pinned down, you will notice the once again at the other end, there is a staggered rail end. Once again, mark with a knife the long end so it is the same length as the other one, then cut it off and file it. Once again, when all is pinned down use your fingers to check for any irregularities, if there are any, file them away and try you freight car once again.

Have fun
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