Hand laid track or not?

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

#1
I have been using Trix track for my HO layout and Kato unitrack for my N scale layout. I have found that this isn't necessarily realistic. I was wondering if I should replace it with hand laid track and roadbed or buy some small gravel at a hobby shop, and just sprinkle that over the Trix and Kato unitrack? Is that less realistic than using hand laid track? Thanks.:cool:
 
#2
Well, there is a middle ground. Ballasting the unitrack would definitely help, but there's still the matter of the rail being grossly oversize. I'm using Micro Engineering Code 55 flextrack, which has a more realistic profile, but you can't run older cars and locomotives on it because their flanges are ENORMOUS. They were built to run on code 80, which is what unitrack is.
You can get a good amount of realism with flextrack, so you wouldn't need to go through the trouble of handlaying everything!
 

BN8002

Did someone say B-unit?
#3
I've done handlaid track in the past and I don't see much of a benefit. Yes it's easier to custom fit some trick stuff in..but as far as realism goes I still think it looks off for the time invested..the advancements made in the looks and performance of flex track it's a no brainer to me
 
#5
Matt -

Just to be clear about the terms, there are FOUR types of track being discussed here.

Track with integrated roadbed. The track is attached to molded plastic roadbed and snaps together or uses small clips or connectors. Kato Unitrack is an example.

Sectional track. Small, rigid pieces of track. Available in straight sections of different lengths (typically 6 inches and smaller) and curves of various radii, as well a turnouts, crossings, etc. The track pieces are not flexible, which limits the possible arrangements. Ties are attached to the track, but here is no built-in roadbed. So you would normally lay some sort of roadbed (cork, foam), then lay the track on top of it. Use metal or plastic rail joiners to connect together the small pieces of track. Atlas is one maker of sectional track in both HO and N-scale.

Flex track. Comes in long, flexible pieces, typically about 3 feet long, with ties attached. Unlike sectional track, flex track can be bent into curves of any radius (within reason) and cut to any length you need. Thus, you are not limited to just a few types of curves, and your straight sections of track can be comprised of a few long pieces of flex track instead of many little pieces of sectional track. With fewer pieces of track, you use fewer rail joiners, which is generally presumed to be more reliable than the many joiners needed with sectional track. As with sectional track, you first lay roadbed, and then lay the flex track on top of it.

Hand laid. You purchase individual lengths of rail and buy or make each individual tie. You lay the ties on your roadbed, then lay each piece of rail by hand, securing the rail with tiny spikes or by soldering. Essentially, you lay track much like a real railroad does it, only in miniature.

I hope this helps. If I have erred or omitted important information, I trust others will add their corrections!

- Jeff
 

Trussrod

Well-Known Member
#6
Hi Matt,
As far as I'm concerned you just can't beat the realism of hand laid track on profile wood ties. The shot below pretty well points this out and kindly note that I have not put down any dirt or ballast, which if I do use any other than, real dirt, it will be used sparingly due to the nature of the rural back woods style of railroad I'm building.

Also note in this shot I'm using two different sizes of rail spiked down to the profile wood ties using fine rail spikes. The upper spur with the old Climax on it just starting on a down grade to the lower main line is Railcrafts [now Micro-Engineering] code 55 weathered rail as well as the closest siding on the front. The inbetween track is the main line and I used Railcraft weathered code 70 on it.





Is it slower going, you had better believe it but there are ways of speeding up the tie laying process too which I'll go into. Also by hand laying your own rail and making your own switches, you decide just how far apart the ties are spaced as well as if they're off angle a bit as well as just how evenly they are layed to either side of the rail. Also in building your own switches you can make them to custom fit area rather than being tied down to use the space required by a pre-made switch. I use a rather hap-hazard approach to lay the ties as I don't want everything to look too even and precise. After all it is a back woods line to represent a very rural era in the late 1880's or so.

I've used several methods of laying the ties, from marking the basic boundries of the ties and spreading white wood glue or yellow carpenters glue and then taking a bunch of ties and placing each one fairly quickly, as I see fit, in the glue be it dries. Another way I discovered which is a bit quicker is to use a strip of double sided carpet tape onto which the ties are stuck and hold fairly well until you get ready to use diluted white glue, usually about 2 parts water to one part of white glue plus four or five drops of dish washing detergent to act as a wetting agent in about at least a half pint of diluted glue. BUT don't be too much in a hurry to start glue things down to ensure every operates as you want and that there are not changes you might want to make.

Also when hand laying wood ties you can distress them as you wish to give them whatever degree of aging you want. I use a small wire brush to scrub over the tops to create groves and remove softer wood to increase aging. I then use one of a few stains to give them an aged weathered look.

The the beauty of going slow as it becomes almost like planning out a real railroad in that you can see various things you can incorporate as you go along. As an example I decided that an aditional spur siding on the outside in front of the Five Oaks Station would look good as well as being functional so I just need to add one more switch in the main line to accomplish that and I was planning on working on that tonight but it will have to wait till tomorrow.

Another thing you can do is hand lay the track in the areas that will be seen the easiest and use flex track in the other areas.

HTH
 
Last edited by a moderator:

BN8002

Did someone say B-unit?
#7
Another thing you can do is hand lay the track in the areas that will be seen the easiest and use flex track in the other areas.
This is definately a viable option if you choose to handlay your track. It can also speed up the process a bit. The MRR club I used to belong to handlaid everything except hidden track. It makes those hidden areas much easier to lay and you generally won't have an issue with the track causing problems down the line.
 
#8
Track is a model too. It's not something to speed through and get on with something else. It may be the most important part of the overall layout.

I'm not suggesting it if your ideal layout is a huge roundy round, tail chaser but for "shortlines" handlaying track is the way to go - with tieplates, distressed ties etc. for flowing trackwork it's the only way, in my opinion.

Just my opinion!!! Ymmv.

All the best, Pete.
 

Trussrod

Well-Known Member
#9
As another option to laying down wood ties is another product I also offer through my, Foothill Station RR supplies, which is Grandt Lines pre formed flexable tie strips which interlock on the last thin ties and make track much faster except you might want to spray them a tan or brown ahead of time, they are black, before laying them. I'm planning on using these on the upper section of my layout to speed up the rail laying process as well as cutting down hopefully the time I'll have to spend bent over up on the step stool due to the added height and the line being back farther from the outer edge of the layout.

The only thing in comparison here is that these branch line flexible tie strips are all very uniform which detracts from the overall effect I'm trying to achieve but it should make the track laying a lot easier as they have pre-molded tie plates to position the rail but I'll still need to pre-drill the spike holes.

Speaking of drilling spike holes and many other chores of laying track a cordless Dremel tool is an extremely handy tool to have. Ad a keyless chuck to it and you'll wonder how you ever got along without it due to it's convenience and ease of operation and movement not to mention it's slow speed operation! Model 83001 10.8 volt Lithium Ion rechargeable battery and kit. Amazon had a great price on them.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
#10
Here are some pictures that show various stages of construction of a set of tracks that serve a chemical factory, with hand laid code 55 rail. The things to note are that the track is totally free-form, with the ties bedded down into the ballast, all meant to be slightly different in color and weathering. You can also see how a plaster grade crossing was made. You do need tools and materials, and patience. Tons of that.

http://tmrc.mit.edu/progress/reports/2010/07/IMG_3711.JPG
http://tmrc.mit.edu/progress/reports/2010/09/IMG_4508.JPG
http://tmrc.mit.edu/progress/reports/2010/10/IMG_4597.JPG
http://tmrc.mit.edu/progress/reports/2011/01/DSCN0014.JPG
http://tmrc.mit.edu/progress/reports/2011/06/IMG_5093.JPG

Here's a picture from another part of the railroad, showing how someone's avoiding the heavy lifting! But if you look at the track, you can see the way the ties are disappearing into the ground--I wonder if that could be done with flex track. Also you can see the spikes are placed only every inch or so.
http://tmrc.mit.edu/progress/reports/2011/02/IMG_4767.JPG
 
Last edited by a moderator:

RW&C

N Scale with Stone Tools
#11
Most of the reason to go handlaid is that commercial turnouts usually look lousy, require a lot of tweaking, or both. I'm not patient enough to handlay everything, so if I ever do get around to building a layout (with all my other projects!) I'd probably use flex for all the regular track, and build my own turnouts, unless I was laying track on something where flex just looked wrong (dilapidated track, bridge track, etc).
 
#12
As another option to laying down wood ties is another product I also offer through my, Foothill Station RR supplies, which is Grandt Lines pre-formed flexible tie strips which interlock on the last thin ties and make track much faster except you might want to spray them a tan or brown ahead of time, they are black, before laying them. .
Tried going to your website and in both Firefox 3.6.22 and Safari (I'm on a Mac) and when I click on an item in the left hand pane nothing comes up in the large field on the right hand side of the page. By nothing I mean no pictures, nothing of whatever I clicked on on the left. Just a header in the right hand pane repeating what I clicked on in the left and that's it.

Please don't tell me to use a pc to get to your site.

That and I found nothing for Grandt Lines in the trackwork section.
 
#15
By default, I use IE8 on Windows 7 Professional. However, the site behaves the same in Firefox and Safari as well.

Apologies for sending the thread off on a tangent. We should get back to discussing track laying!

- Jeff
 
#16
By default, I use IE8 on Windows 7 Professional. However, the site behaves the same in Firefox and Safari as well.

Apologies for sending the thread off on a tangent. We should get back to discussing track laying!

- Jeff
Good one - tangents are essential to track laying!
It's not really OT as the poster who's site we're talking about cited a product that seemed to be a good idea and I and I'd imagine others would like to see what's being talked about and that can't be done as it stands.
 

Trussrod

Well-Known Member
#17
Say Jack & jedtray,

Yes, I need to start getting items put in there, I've had several issues to contend with so didn't do anything.

As far as the tie strips I mentioned they are by

CVMW Central Valley Model Works > > http://www.cvmw.com/cvt.htm ,

Once at the site click on, 'Central Valley Ties', and a description and pictures are available.
These must have been available through my former supplier too so I may have to get established with them directly, I think, as my current supplier doesn't carry them either, yet they have some great highly detailed stuff.


Sorry for any confusion my referring to the wrong supplier may have caused.

David
 
Last edited by a moderator:





ModelRailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Top