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T O P I C    R E V I E W
kumard Posted - 01/10/2016 : 2:19:51 PM
Today I'm starting my new model railway called 'the Town'. It will be another location on the same branch line that my other model 'The Depot' (at Carendt) is situated along.

I'll spend some time in the next couple of months fleshing out the universe that this branch line lives within - namely history, geographical, location, time period, other stations/depots/stops etc. For the moment this is what I have:

  • Somewhere in the upper Midwest.

  • The time period is a mixture of the late 50s, early 60s.

  • The branch is over 100 miles long. It's connected to a mainline in the south-east.

  • It's crossed in several places by other railroads.

  • It ends in a small terminus in a small town in the north-west.

  • The branch is a Soo Line branch that was taken over in some kind of merger or purchase and has never been a favorite of the administration. Its financial returns, marginal at best, are now no longer able to sustain it and it has been marked for closure within two years.

  • Passenger travel ended in the early 50s but the occasional fan trip from the Soo Line Historical Society sends a steam engine up the line with eager rail fans every few years.

Here's the photo that will provide the aesthetic foundation for the model. It has been a favorite of mine for some time now. Although the picture is set in winter or early spring I'll keep the model within summertime but with the usual muted colors.
1/12/15 - With the assistance of another forum member I was able to trace the source of the image (thank you Robert Chant). As I suspected it is copyrighted. I've written to the owner to allow me to post it here but in the meantime I've removed it and have replaced it with a link to the official source.

Here's a sketch of the layout. It's of a simple loop but crossed by another line. The other line is the remains of a local traction company that also serviced several industries. The traction company has long gone along with its electric power and a few remaining industrial tracks are now serviced by the Soo.

I'll post more this week. I'm trying to learn a rail design program to produce a proper working diagram. I intend to start construction in March beginning with the benchwork. The size will be 72 inches with 18 inches.
15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
CWRailman Posted - 01/24/2018 : 01:47:44 AM

I wonder how this would react to rail expansion and contraction. We use a similar process at every other joint between two rails. The two rails get soldered to the rail joiner which gets soldered to the top of a flat brass screw embedded into the roadbed. That becomes the anchor/control point. From that point the rail is allowed to grow in either direction but when it shrinks up it comes back to itís normal position. Here in the US where model railroads get exposed to variances of temperatures expansion/contraction is an issue and it does not take much change in temperature for this to happen.
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Pennman Posted - 01/24/2018 : 12:04:04 AM
This is very interesting to me as well. Thanks for sharing your work with us.

jbvb Posted - 01/23/2018 : 11:05:41 PM
If you haven't handled one, US (and UK in places where flat-bottom rail has replaced bullhead) tieplates hold the rail about 3/4" above the top of the tie, unless a flat place has been adzed into an uneven tie.
Bill Gill Posted - 01/23/2018 : 8:34:10 PM
Thanks, kumard, your photo nicely shows the thickness of the rivet heads.
ed k Posted - 01/23/2018 : 7:44:42 PM
Well done, with a great explanation.
kumard Posted - 01/23/2018 : 6:55:11 PM

The rivets have a stem and a head. The stem sits in a drilled hole and the head sits above the tie. You have to Superglue the rivet (or even better use epoxy) to secure it in the hole.

The rivets are suited to older the British rail profile called 'bullhead' and as a result the rivets are designed to hold the track above the rail so that the modeler can fit the chairs on the rail. USA rail sits nearer the tie on flatter plates and therefore I may have to file down the rivets or drill deeper wider holes. I'm still a bit fuzzy what I will need to but will know more in a few weeks when I build my test turnout using the Brooks-Smith rivets.

Thanks for comments all. I will post a full construction diary regarding the test turnout on my website when that little project has been completed.

Bill Gill Posted - 01/23/2018 : 09:40:31 AM
The riveted & soldered track looks good! What prevents the rivets from seating on top of the ties?
Michael Hohn Posted - 01/23/2018 : 03:48:03 AM
Indeed, very impressive.

kumard Posted - 01/22/2018 : 9:39:12 PM
Thanks Rob,

I'm going to build a standard turnout eg no 6 with the Brooks-Smith rivets method just to see how easy/hard it is. I'll post more on that at a later date
robchant Posted - 01/22/2018 : 4:52:36 PM
Hi Kumar,

The results using the rivets looks fantastic!

Take care,
kumard Posted - 01/22/2018 : 2:44:00 PM
Hi James,

I'll post my conclusions about PCB ties another time but for the moment my advice would be to score the ties to isolate them before laying the rails down. Actually the crossovers are very easy as you just continue the scores in the center line of each track.

I'm not sure I want to use PCB ties again but it's too early to make a final decision. I've been experimenting with a British system called 'Brook Smith' which uses tiny rivets embedded in the wooden ties onto which you solder the rail. My first test on a straight track went pretty well and the method can be used for turnouts and crossovers. It's very fiddly but the result looks superb. Can't use it for this module but will attempt to use it for the next module.

The Brooks Smith method uses rivets made by the Scalefour Society in the UK. I had them sent to me. You can buy them from their website and takes a week to arrive. I drilled holes and fitted them. The rivets sit a little high but this will allow me to add tie plates under each rail (not shown).

It took me a little while to figure out how to solder the rail to such a small surface but eventually I was able to get a sturdy join.

Once ballasted the track looked really good. I'm very excited to build a layout using this method and finally add missing features to the track such as tie plates.

Of course one of the benefits of using this method is that you don't have any pesky cuts in the ties to hide.

Thanks for your comments James.
jbvb Posted - 01/22/2018 : 11:21:38 AM
When PCB ties were a new idea, the MR authors would score the copper twice and pick out the portion between the score marks with more knife work. I've only made limited use of PCB ties, but enough to know this is time-consuming. And of course, with turnouts and diamonds, you never know which tie has a little teeny short till all of a sudden the ohmmeter reads infinity.

Looking at your photos, I feel your pain. Could you make a fixture that holds the Dremel in the right position to cut only .010 deep? Or would it be better to use one of those odd-shaped hand sharpening stones I've occasionally seen to 'sand' out a strip down the middle?

I know some people who had a high-resistance short across a lot of handlaid track (from painting the ties & roadbed black using homemade paint: linseed oil and carbon black). They sawed and sawed, but finally gave up and connected 110VAC across the tracks (watching carefully, with water handy) till it all stopped smoking.
kumard Posted - 01/22/2018 : 01:42:08 AM
Hi all.

Here's the latest.

Having finished isolating track the task was now to start powering the trackwork. There are going to be three independent DC systems:

1. Powering the sections.
2. Powering the turnouts.
3. Powering any lights and accessories around the layout.

Before starting wiring I decided to clean up some of the track. I polished down many of the solder joints but importantly I filled in the gaps in the PCB ties and the gaps in the rails in the crossovers.

I used Woodland Scenics Foam Putty. It was the easiest to control of the three that I tried. I will be using it to build the ballast profile around and between the track so it didnít matter if some got between the ties. Once hardened I polished the top of the ties and used my Dremel to remove any foam that got in between the rails.

To fill the ugly gaps in the crossover rails I used styrene shims that I cut and sanded to straddle both rails. I then used my Dremel to cut the gap between the rails. I gave the rail a lick of paint .

Close up you can see the filled gaps but from a distance they start to disappear. Once the trackwork and ties have been buried I may go back and color the styrene shims a light grey or even pencil color. Although not perfect, the trackwork looks much better with the gaps filled.


I didnít get as far as I hoped today but I made a start. The overall wiring concept for the track power simply involves adding two main buses that will separately power the two sections. I need to secure the buses to the board then run wires down to the tracks.

Hereís a little diagram I put together to help me understand what I have to do. The throttle requires an AC input so Iíll have to buy an AC power transformer. Once that is done the rest is pretty straightforward. The two sections are powered from the throttle and controlled by an on-off SPST switch in the control board.

I want to suspend the bus below the board. I donít want it held tightly against it. I was thinking of using ceiling clamps for curtains but the cost is more or less the same as having Shapeways make them for me. Therefore I did a quick design for a clamp and they will cost around $5 each to print up. The clamps will hold each bus away from the board which helps with maintenance.

This is a quick test fitting of the bus. It will be suspended below the board and held by my special clamps.

Iíve connected power wires to the track above. They will connect via male female connectors. I need to be able to remove sections from the power in order to isolate shorts. This type of connection allows me to do that.

Thanks all. More next week.

kumard Posted - 01/15/2018 : 1:22:40 PM
Michael >> A way to fill gaps is to insert a piece of styrene thatís the same thickness as the width of the gap >> Yep gonna try that.

Frank >> You and Tim Warris from Fast Tracks are in another league when it comes to turnouts and crossovers. >> Thanks Frank. Tim Warris is an excellent track layer and of course owns Fasttracks - where I get most of my supplies. It was his blog on the Bronx Terminal that inspired me to 'have a go' at tracklaying with PCB ties. I used his 'knotched rails' method for my crossovers. One day I hope to have my work be as clean as his. I'm still learning and things got quite messy while I tried to figure things out.
Frank Palmer Posted - 01/15/2018 : 10:35:29 AM
Kumar you and Tim Warris from Fast Tracks are in another league when it comes to turnouts and crossovers. Excellent.

I don't know if you've ever seen his Bronx Terminal layout.


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