Sleight of Hand

 Posted by Greg Amer at 12:21 am  Track  5 Responses »
Oct 242013

A break from building turnouts

I decided to try something more relaxing: hand laying track.

Why did I think this was going to be a real chore?

Guess what. It’s fun to lay track! And it’s even more fun building track in place on the layout. After spending the last nine or ten months unsuccessfully building what is essentially hand laid sectional track, its nice to have a success. I think I’m going to rebuild my turnouts in place also.


I’m using Kappler HO Scale 8′ 6″ Cross Ties. I glue them to the roadbed with tacky glue, I’ve also had success with matte medium. I’m also gluing in some Fast Tracks PCB Cross Ties at key points.  I use the Proto87 Stores Switch-Works Straight Track Fixture to space the ties. I sand them to a uniform height. I distress the ties with a wire brush and an exacto knife. I stain the ties with alcohol and sepia colored India ink (Video – Finishing and Staining Wood Ties).


I’ve switched to using Proto:87 Stores longer HO spikes and quickly exhausted my supply. I’ve ordered several more frets. They are awesome, they drive all the way through the tie to the homasote roadbed! They are much easier to handle than the small spikes. I’m not bothered with gluing tie plates in place before laying rail, I simply slide them under the rail and spike! I was previously using the small spikes (because they are so short they do not penetrate through the full thickness of the tie.) and I bought several thousand of them, but the small size makes them difficult to handle.

Tie Plates

I’ve been using the Proto:87 Stores heavy duty tie plates (8 hole), but they are a bit of a pain to deal with, mostly because the fret contains several variations of tie plate. Most of the variation has to do placement with simulated spike heads vs. actual holes that spikes can be driven through. There are a couple of plates per fret that do not have any simulated spike heads, I wish I could order a whole fret of them.

I ordered some Proto:87 Stores cosmetic medium duty (4 hole) tie plates to use on the lighter weight track portions of the layout like the Odom Lead. I haven’t received them yet, but the picture shows they omit any simulated spike head and have a full 4 holes open for spiking. I wish this type of fret were available in a heavy duty 8 hole tie plate.

I plan to use some 8 hole tie plates from Monster Model Works on the SIG Runaround Track. I’ve ordered a package and can’t wait to try them out. They are thicker than the Proto87 Stores tie plates (.003″ at the rail base slot) vs. Monster Model Works tie plates (.008″ at the rail base slot), so they can’t really mix and match with the Proto:87 Stores plates, but I see no reason they can’t be used separately on discrete sections of track.

The advantage I see to the Monster tie plates is that the will be easier to handle. The Proto87 Stores tie plates bend easily, slip easily while spiking & while easier to slide them underneath the rail, the slim profile also makes harder to compensate for any uneven ties.


So now, I’m anxiously awaiting more supplies (spikes and tie plates). In the meantime I may have enough time to lay in some more ties while I wait.


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