HO Hand laid track and turnouts

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)
I'm looking for anyone who hand lays their own track and turnouts to chime on on this one. I have been thinking about laying my own track and turnouts. After looking at a few sites and talking with guys in my club, I am still alittle lost on supplies and templates. Where do most of you get your templates and materials from?


Active Member
I handlay code 55 and 70 in HO, and have done code 100, 83 in HO and code 55 in N scale in the past. I have used a half dozen methods and all work, don't be afraid to try a couple different methods. Using Fasttracks jigs is all the rage lately. I have never used them. You can build in place, you can build on the bench. I have built components on the bench (frogs, guardrails, points) and assemble in place. Currently I glue a paper template to the roadbed, cut the slot/hole for the mechanism, glue the ties to the template, stain the ties and then lay the rails on the ties. I use a 1' vertical belt sander to "file" points and frogs. You can download paper templates from FastTracks. I use reduced photocopies of prototype switch plans. I found a MofW rule book from the 1920's for my prototype and it had switch diagrams down to a #3. Here are pix of a handlaid crossover under construction (note the paper template) and the jig I use to cut my switch parts to size.

Last edited by a moderator:
I lay most of the track for the club I'm in, and depending on conditions and my mood, I either do it all freehand or use the method Dave mentions above, just a paper template under the ties. Dave evidently does the ballasting after the rails are down, but that seems awkward to me, and I go in the order ties-ballast-rails. That means that the rails are always freehand with just the ties for guidance, but in fact if you don't maintain a consistent distance from the tie ends to the rails, it won't look right, so if you have an idea of what's meant to be there it works well enough.

This is a setup that I don't like because the points of one turnout are too close to the frog of another, but the location forced it to be that way. It should work OK.
Last edited by a moderator:
I gave a reply in the other forum you asked this question.
But do see my build thread in this forum for some details on hand laying track.


Master Mechanic
I've hand lain my track since I was a 12 yo. I don't use jigs or templates to lay mine out. I just use a pencil and a ruler. I also use my own adaptation to the method that Paul Mallery developed over 50 years ago to lay his turnouts, and its a method that works well for me.

As you can see, there are as many ways to handlay a turnout as there are folks doing it. BTW, I'm 60 now, and still enjoy it. I find it a form of relaxation.

In fact one of the local N-scale clubs has contacted me on teaching them how to handlay their turnouts since they can't find any Atlas turnouts and can't afford any other brand, (very small club, 5 members).
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

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.