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Process of laying track - Layout Design, Trackwork & Operation. - Getting You Started. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Mon Apr 4th, 2016 07:30 pm
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WorldofWilson
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Hi all
As I'm still fairly new to this fantastic hobby I was wondering if I could check with all the more experienced folk if I am attempting laying track in the correct way. My current situation as that all the track and points is laid and connected on top of the cork sheets on the baseboard.
  • Next step will be to use track pins to pin to the baseboard
  • Then to lay the bus wires under the baseboard
  • Then to fix the dropper wires from the track to the bus wires
  • Then connect wires to the controller
  • Then test the track with a loco
After having read much on here, online, and via youtube videos I'm conscious there seems to be many ways of doing the above.


Many thanks
Tom

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 Posted: Tue Apr 5th, 2016 03:32 am
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BCDR
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Hi Tom,

My method is as follows (for HO/OO):

1. Flex track where possible, although I try not to go below a 36" radius for curves. There is a case for using set-track with tighter radii (24").
2. Solder droppers (using the underside of the rail) every 36". Solid core wire, bend end to 90°, around 3/16", file flat, tin, solder in place. If multicore wire, tin, solder, then bend. Cut the sleeper web so that the sleepers can be moved away from the soldering iron. I do not have both rails wired in exactly the same position (i.e., opposite each other) but have then staggered.
3. Locate dropper positions, drill holes. I use a template for this. Drill oversize so that the wire drops through easily. Plug afterwards with painters mastic (latex). At this stage with drill in hand I drill the holes for the switch levers or switch throws.
4. Position track with drop wires through holes, add rail joiners, position to the tangent (straight) or curve using push pins either side of the rails. Run black felt tip marker along side of sleepers. Now is the time to add super-elevation if you are doing this.
5. When satisfied, raise track, neat PVA to the width of the sleepers with a 1" brush, drop track and position to the felt tip marker line. hold in place with push pins. I never use sleeper tacks to hold track in position. That PVA is all you will need.
6. Baked bean tins filled with concrete or cement are placed on the rails for weight (horizontally, a 14 oz can has the right radius to sit nicely on the rails).
7. Let set overnight (or at least 3-4 hours).

If you use set track use rail joiners and solder-up.

My sequence is to solder dropper wires to one section of track, drill holes, put in place and glue-up, add weights, and then start on the next section.

Whether you solder the rail joiners is a matter of preference. You could even leave them off and use cosmetic rail joiners on the outside (brass, solder in place). If you have to replace the track or modify it not having rail joiners makes it easier. As does PVA, which only requires a good soak (wet kitchen towel covered in cling-film overnight) to free it.

Peco HO/OO flex track is reasonably stiff, if you want it stiff enough so that the curve stays in place, a light coat of red oxide car primer works wonders*. Mask top of rail, spray over track (rail sides, chairs, sleepers and all, but mask the switch blade contact points), let dry, bend to desired curve. C+L Finescale OO track is a lot more flexible than Peco.

How you connect the droppers to the bus wires is a matter of personal preference. If you use solder protect it with a coat of liquid insulation.

Nigel

*It helps if you give the track a good scrub in hot water and dishwasher liquid (unscented) before you start as this gets rid of the releasing oil from the rails and sleepers, and really makes a difference to how well paint sticks to the track. That light coat of red oxide primer will help as well.



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 Posted: Tue Apr 5th, 2016 01:23 pm
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Gwiwer
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Firstly there is no definitive right nor wrong way to lay track.

Second - don't become unduly worried or put off by any problems you might encounter as they can be seen equally as learning points. And what you learn you can share with others.

Third - never give up. If something doesn't work one way try another. Or ask here and try some of the hints and tips.

I lay my track in a progressive manner. Starting at one spot the cork goes down followed by the rails followed by pinning. I glue the cork to the baseboard but not the rails to the cork. If anything needs moving a little it's easy to do at this stage.

Then the electrics are added in no particular order but working with some semblance of logic - there has to be a mains supply transformed down to 12 volts and fed into the tracks at adequate intervals. My large layout doesn't use a bus-line, relies on point blade contact and has four inputs around a 34-metre circuit. Purists might argue that isn't "right" but it all works and has done so for eleven years outdoors and has brought enjoyment to a good number of people.

As I said above, in effect, each to their own.

As the layout build progresses so I then come along and add ballast and scenery, finally weathering the track and ballast to complete the job. When building the large layout some was up and running with ballast and scenery in position before the whole thing was even built. Rather than spend months only building board followed by more months only laying track then only wiring up I phased the task and derived considerable enjoyment from it.



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Rick
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 Posted: Tue Apr 5th, 2016 05:10 pm
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BCDR
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Hi Tom,

Rick's right - we all have our own methods, take the best of what others do, adapt to want you want to do, or develop your own methods. There are good and not so good methods, very few are "don't ever do that".

When I started out in the hobby a few years ago (and after my first effort at a layout, least said the better) I talked with and watched some very experienced (and not so experienced!) modelers lay track, then went and did some test tracks of my own to make sure I could do it, including the ballasting. "My way" came out of this.

One thing I didn't clarify but did mention in passing - templates. These can be as simple as the Peco or FASTtracks downloads (which are very useful) to track layout software such as Templot (which I use most of the time). Wood or plastic curved templates of the desired radius are also useful if you don't have compound curves, and a long straight edge (4-6 feet steel or aluminum) is useful for making sure tangent track really is straight. A decent, long, level also helps in making sure there are no hills or valleys. If you want gradients then Woodland Scenics do some expanded styrene incline/decline sets in 2%, 3% or 4% slopes. Steep gradients will require easement of the gradient at the top or bottom if you have rigid chassis engines. If you have a table saw you can make your own gentler gradients from wood. I use cedar shims from the hardware store when I want to drop a siding from the main line.

A bit more explanation re track pins. They don't work well with high density foam underlays, and take some effort to get into wood or MDF. When homasote (compressed cellulose fibers) was the track bed of choice track pins could be easily pushed in. The technique of using dress-making pins (long, round heads) to keep track in position while the glue dries makes the use of track pins through the sleepers unnecessary. The philosophy today seems to be to have a flexible, sound adsorbing method of fixing track in place. Hence the use of silicone or latex-based calks as adhesive. Having a sound-conducting pin that could be in contact with the baseboard (which can be an excellent amplifier) would seem to be counterproductive. I did look at PVA versus silicone and latex with cork-based track underlayment, and subjectively couldn't hear any difference in noise. I've never tried foam or hemasote, so can make no comment.

Nigel




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 Posted: Tue Apr 5th, 2016 08:11 pm
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Spurno
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Hi Tom,i won't add to what Nigel and Rick have said because it is good advice but i would suggest because you have laid your track and will have to take it up again to solder the droppers etc i would go around your track with a pencil to have some sort of a guide when you put it back down.



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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2016 06:26 am
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Ted
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Hi Tom

  Being new to the hobby , you might not have considered just how involved

 and how far you may want to go in the future. Or how much money you are prepared to spend.

 For instance , you might want to install automatic signalling. Or like myself going fully

 automatic with computer control .

 Therefore I would advise , to make allowances for some of these now, while you are wiring your layout.

 The dropper wires can be made a little longer . (3 to 4 inches) . this will allow for the fitting of block sensors,

 If you do consider using blocks , now is a good time to isolate the track sections for your individual blocks .

 you might want to lay in the wiring for signals ,uncouplers , street lighting . the list just goes on .

 The actual components can then be fitted at a later date. ( or not )  the choice is yours .

 Sorry if this gives you a headache , but it could save you having to rewire later on

 Regards

 Ted

.

 





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 Posted: Thu Apr 7th, 2016 05:35 pm
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BCDR
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Hi Tom,

Ted's hit the spot - plan for changes and modifications.

It's worth laying track to the plan, then running trains to make sure it works the way you want it (plus the ability to expand). Don't bother wiring the power bus up at this stage, but go over the track with a voltage meter to check for continuity/dead rails and to make sure insulating joiners are doing what they're supposed to do. Then attach some crocodile clips to the controller power leads and connect to the rails. An inexpensive 12v nominal DC power pack/controller* and the longest engine and passenger cars can be used for this. This is the time for finding out that a turnout or two needs moving or the exit road lengthening. Or that an S-curve is giving buffer lock or needs a speed restriction. Or that 0-4-0 stalls on the frogs. And it's probably the only circumstance where track pins come in useful (although thumb tacks - drawing pins - either side of sleepers works just as well and generate zero damage). I make my track droppers 12" long to allow some leeway if track/turnouts needs moving or electronics need adding.

If you're planning on a railroad empire best to tackle it in stages (as Rick suggests) so that you can run trains rather than just lay track for the next year. The nature of this hobby is that we all keep adding to our stock, which oftentimes means changes to the layout such as a new siding and turnout, or even a new extension or module. Worthwhile planning for that so that changes can easily be made (the kids are gone - what do we do with the bedrooms- yes! The kids are gone, we're downsizing - nooo!).

One other thing that's useful is to have a fully annotated plan and a list of where/what/why? next to the layout. Plus some  labels underneath that are readable upside down.

You haven't indicated whether this is a built or modular layout, a shelf or plank or a 4" x 8' (or it's metric equivalent). The wiring approach for DC and DCC is different as well, and needs to be part of the plan if you are starting in DC and will be moving to DCC later on.  If you can provide a plan those more knowledgeable than me in this area would provide some feedback. I started with DCC and keep the track electronics accessories to a minimum, so I am really not qualified to offer any advice on DC or DC/DCC blocks.

Nigel

*Every DCC system needs one of these. Useful for checking voltage drop if using a meter that only estimates DCC voltage.




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 Posted: Fri May 22nd, 2020 12:17 am
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SRman
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xdford wrote: Hints & Tips No. 2294
Checking Tracklaying
By Brian Johnson
When we were laying our track for an O scale outdoor layout, we had problems with maintaining alignment. I was out watching trains one day when I saw a track worker lie down over the track and sight along the rails. While it is not possible to do this for all trackwork on a model, you can also use a thin mirror at track level to see what your small scale trackworkers would see.




When laying my own tracks I use the eye-level sighting technique as much as possible. It can go out of alignment in hidden areas after a while, with no chance of getting my eyes down to track level once scenery has been added, or tunnels covered over (on the Underground tracks). 

Periodically I do a "drivers eye" video run around the tracks on both levels, using a flat or well wagon (current camera wagon is a Warwell) and a Panasonic HX-A1 cylindrical video camera Blu-Tacked to the wagon. The camera can be wirelessly controlled and monitored using my mobile phone and fits within the British OO loading gauge.

While the primary reason for doing the videos using different locomotives with sound is for entertainment and to show progress on my layout, it does show me where I need to pay some attention to track alignments and smoothness.



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Jeff Lynn,
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 Posted: Fri May 22nd, 2020 07:48 pm
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Petermac
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No update from Tom for 4 years on this thread Jeff ......................I wonder if he ever found his track pins ........... :hmm :mutley



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 Posted: Sat May 23rd, 2020 01:12 am
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SRman
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Hi Peter, Sol moved this here from the Hints & Tips topic, but Trevor has now incorporated it back into H&T in his more standardised format. That way my reply was not interrupting the flow and consistency of the H&T topic.



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Jeff Lynn,
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 Posted: Sat May 23rd, 2020 07:03 am
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Petermac
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Thanks Jeff and yes, I had a message from Sol telling me he'd done so.  I thought you'd have spotted this was an old thread .............



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