Saturday, November 16, 2013

Willamette River Railway - Laying Track

Its nice to get back to heavy model railroading and not working on mailing list, NMRA paperwork, figuring out funds and generally not model building.  Trying to figure out WHAT to do next is a big problem.  So Thayne made it easy for me and invited me over on Friday!

Thayne's layout is in a comfortable upstairs loft.  We were able to work together and still chat with Camille who was watching tv down below.  Good lighting, padded carpet and wide aisles make it fun to work here.
This is a view toward the entrance.

Here is a view toward the back of the layout.

A place for everything and everything in its place.  I love the brass plate for the main power switch!

Thayne wants to ramp up production on the mainline and would like it running by Christmas.  Me too, as I have some trains I'd like to run on it.  There are a ton of turnouts on this layout, so we worked together to figure out a method for installing them all.  Might as will start with a yard lead turnout that was reasonably accessible before we work on the not so accessible ones.

Hard to see here, but there is roadbed here for the mainline rolling into the yard.

We double checked the plans and roughly placed the turnout where it goes.  Scott picked up the wrong one so we had to hunt around for a #8 right hand by Walthers/Shinohara.

We established the steps for preparing a turnout prior to installation.  Let me tell you that 80% of your track problems will come from turnouts and most modelers do not pay enough attention to laying perfect track.  Preparing a turnout is VERY critical for good operation and if you don't invest at least an hour for each turnout you install, you are not doing the job right.

Using our handy NMRA gauge we carefully checked the gauge and clearances of many points on the turnout.  We checked its movements and the frog.  Using some small files we did some work on the frog and filed off the corners on the switch points.  She throws well!

Having a good test car is vital to track laying.  The gondola is perfect.  It has gauged metal wheels, and its body style allows you to place your fingers inside on the floor of the car and "feel" the track as you run it over the rails.  Yes, you can easily feel the bumps in the track!  We hooked up a pieced of flex track to the turnout and ran the car over the track repeatedly, doing a little more filing on the frog.

Keeping parts where you can find them but your shirt sleeves can't (and preventing knocking them to the floor) is key.  Thayne has this nifty little box for track connectors and push pins.

Track laying is close up work.  I carried my drug store 10x magnifiers over.

Other tools you need are Xuron rail nippers, files, Sharpee marker, hobby knife, Zona saw and Bourbon.  Calm nerves are required for good track.  Drink responsibly!  Never spill it on the layout.

After the prep work, we installed a short piece of lead track and test fit the turnout.  I had to trim the lead track several times to make sure it fit perfectly.

Here is the yard.  We moved everything but our tools out of the way.  This turnout is the first one of the ladder and has to be laid straight.

Thayne popped a chalk line down where the center of the mainline will go.  We are working on a sheet of cork as the roadbed for the yard.

We cut off the spike heads holding the track on the last rail and slipped on the Micro Engineering track connectors.  Later, we took off the last tie completely as it was causing a slight bump in the track.  Thayne will go back later and put in a sanded down tie.

The Brite Boy track cleaning block.  Buy them a dozen at a time and leave them all over the layout.  I used this several time.

Thayne is a master tool guy, and he made this track connector spreader.  We used it frequently as the ME connectors are a bit too tight.

We marked the place where the throw bar on the switch points would be located and drilled a 1/4" hole for the Tortoise machine throw rod.

Using Aileen's tacky glue we pinned the track and turnout down to the roadbed being sure to keep the glue away from the switch points and the end of the turnout.  We pinned it with push pins and left it to dry.

We made an attempt to mount the first Tortoise machine but the throw rod was a bit short to go through the think benchwork.  Thayne is going to have to visit the hobby shop and get us a longer wire.  I downed the last sip in my glass and said goodnight after a fun evening.  See you later, Super Thayne 13 The Viking.


  1. Great post! I never thought about including bourbon while track laying - and I'm an ole' Kentucky boy! Rick

  2. Very nice story and photo's, very informative also, it was nice to sit back and read the birth of a layout and view how you were going about constructing the track work. Are you using code 80 or 100? I still love hand laying track and my dink of choice to clear the head is Johnny Walker Black which helps to prevent spiking the fingers to the rails and ties.
    Thank again, enjoyed the posting.
    Jim Violante

    Jim, I'll be using code 83 and code 70. 83 for the main, 70 for sidings. Still trying to decide if I'm going to hand lay or use Micro say tuned!


  3. Always enjoy your return to this blog. I always get valuable tips & hints as you work on your projects. I hope there will be less gaps in the future.
    Martin, Melbourne Australia

  4. Hey Martin! I just want you to know how much I admire model train builders from Australia! Some of the best work I've ever seen! You should see less gaps now that I'm out of the NMRA. From now on I'm measuring success by how much I build.


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