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  • Track-Laying Tips

    It's a little harder than snap-together, but well worth it to lay your track the 'expert' way.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 26 1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 27

    If you've followed our suggestions that a permanent table-top layout is the best way to build a model railroad, you're at least considering a "better" way to hold your track in place. With some twenty-year's experience, on over a dozen layouts, we figured the members of the Elmhurst (Ill.) Model Railroad Club ought to know what they were doing. They feel their system, used on both their giant HO and their N scale layouts, is the best there is.

    The Elmhurst 'system' follows the practice proven on literally hundreds of modern model railroads. The track's sub-base is a minimum 1/2"-thick straight wood or plywood supported on an "open grid" type of benchwork and risers. The actual track base is 1/2"-thick Homosote - a cardboard most like material that can be ordered in 4x8-foot sheets from large lumber yards. Homosote has the unique advantages of holding the track spikes or nails firmly yet is soft enough to deaden the toy-like clatter of the model's wheels. Yard areas are covered by a single sheet of Homosote equal to the outer edges of both tracks and buildings. The "mainline" sections of the railroad are covered by strips of Homosote sawed one-inch wider than the track. Both top edges are then beveled off at a 450 angle to leave the flat top surface the width of the track's ties. The Homosote is glued - not nailed - to the wood sub-base. Nails conduct too much noise, defeating one of the major reasons why the Homosote is used.

    Most experienced modelers use the flexible, three-foot long, sections of track rather than shorter snap-together pieces. There're fewer track joints to worry about and the flex-track can be curved into smoother bends. A line, representing the center line of the track, is drawn on the Homosote to serve as a guide in laying the actual track. The track is then spiked in place using HO scale model railroad spikes forced into the Homosote with a pair of needlenose pliers. A tramel is used to check the curves for exact radius sections. Finally, a layer of white glue (or floor tile latex Campbell or B&H through your local hobby shop) as work progresses and a metal straightedge on the straight cement) is brushed in place and scale ballast (available from is sprinkled in place. When the glue is dry, the excess ballast is brushed or vacuumed away.

    TOP LEFT: The track sub-base, usually 1/2" or thicker wood, is coated with white glue to accept the track's Homosote base boards.

    TOP RIGHT: 1/2"-thick Homosote (a cardboard-like wall board) is cut one-inch wider than the track's ties, then beveled on each top edge.

     MIDDLE LEFT: The Homosote can be held in place by nails driven part way in. When glue dries, remove the nails to keep noise to a minimum.

    MIDDLE RIGHT: The top of the Homosote must be sanded perfectly flat, to offset slight differences in thickness, before track is positioned.

    BOTTOM LEFT: A line is drawn to represent the centerline of the track. The track is then spiked in place using HO spikes; needlenose pliers.

    BOTTOM RIGHT: A metal straightedge is best to be sure flex-track is straight. Use a tramel, pivoted at radius' center, to check all curves.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 28

    LEFT: Cut a spacer block to match spacing between ends of ties for use as an alignment jig on passing sidings and double track.

    RIGHT: When passing sidings or double tracks are in line with just-laid first track, they too can be spiked firmly in place.

    BOTTOM: Coat the sides of the ties with white glue or liquid latex cement. Add drops between each tie with an eyedropper.

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 29


    TOP LEFT: Ballast is sprinkled in place, while glue is still wet, between ties and along sides of Homosote base board's bevels.

    TOP RIGHT: Excess ballast can be pushed away from sides of rail with a piece of cardboard. Pat ballast down against edges of base.

    BOTTOM LEFT: When ballast cement has dried, check train operation. Pieces of ballast that cling to inside of rails must be cut away.

    BOTTOM RIGHT: The Homosote and sub-base must be cut away to clear the switch machines. These gaps are for N scale Peco-brand switches. 

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 30


    For N scale super-detail buffs, Rail Craft, 42 Greendale, St. Louis, Mo., 63121, offers wood ties and code 55 rail that is nearly perfect for N scale. Rail is glued to ties with Goodyear Pliobond cement; ties and ballast glued down with white glue. 

    1001 Model Railroading Ideas - Winter 1970 - Page 31


    Article Details

    • Original Author 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Source 1001 Model Railroading Ideas
    • Publication Date Winter 1970

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