Laying track on The Roadshow

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I’ve written many posts on this blog about how I hand-lay track. But if a picture is worth a thousand words than a 38-minute video must be worth about 68,400,000 (at 30 frames per second).

On the latest episode of The Roadshow – which documents the construction of two Free-mo style modules for use with The S Scale Workshop – I demonstrate my track-laying techniques. These are the same techniques I used for my Port Rowan layout.

Click on the image, above, to watch the episode. You need to be a subscriber to TrainMasters TV to see it, but membership is quite reasonable.

Thanks as always to Barry Silverthorn at TrainMasters TV for letting me be a part of his show!

TrainMasters TV: I like spiking, really!

 photo TMTV-RoadShow-TrackIntro_zpsc4ca1e25.jpg(Yes – it was actually jacket weather yesterday – at least yesterday morning. So much for summer: Fall – and train shows – are approaching fast!)

I spent the day yesterday at the TrainMasters TV headquarters, working on the modules I’m building for an upcoming series.

After several work sessions that looked more like Carpentry for Dummies, I’m finally onto something directly railway-related: namely, ties and rail.

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I got a lot done in front of the camera – demonstrating how I prep, distress and weather ties (hint: dice are involved) and how I use the wickedly good steel spikes from Proto:87 Stores, which I’ve also used on my Port Rowan layout.

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(Click on the image to read all of my posts in the “Spikes” category)

Here’s how spiking goes:

1 – Roughly gauge the rails
2 – Twist a spike off the fret
3 – Spike one side of the first rail
4 – Twist a spike off the fret
5 – Spike the other side of the first rail
6 – Check the gauge
7 – Twist a spike off the fret
8 – Spike one side of the second rail
9 – Check the gauge
10 – Twist a spike off the fret
11 – Spike the other side of the second rail
12 – Check the gauge

Repeat about 50,000 times – or until you’re ready to shoot caulk up your nose:

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(Professional clown. Closed course. Do not attempt at home.)

That said, I love to spike track. I find the Zen-like state required mentally relaxing. It’s a great break from thinking about work, deadlines, social commitments, chores, or other things that sometimes cause one stress.

And isn’t that what a hobby is for?

Excuse me while I blow my nose…

Barry Silverthorn is a great host. In addition to putting together a program with first-rate production values, he buys me lunch every time I visit to record a segment. Yesterday, we went to a neat fish restaurant on the water. Thanks, Barry!

Chris Abbott also stopped in to the studio, briefly. He was in the area to visit family, and we had some goodies to exchange. Chris – thanks for helping to unload the vehicle, and thanks for sharing the photos.

Great as always to see you both!

Track: Then and Now (TMC-07)

I was delighted to be asked by Mike Cougill to contribute a feature about modelling branch line track to The Missing Conversation – Mike’s quarterly, digital publication that encourages a fine scale, craftsman approach to the hobby.

The issue – Volume 7 – is now available for download from Mike’s site. Click on the image below to read more about Track: Then and Now:
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As Mike notes, this is not a rehash of Detailing Track, the excellent book he produced (which is still available). Neither does my feature simply rehash the material I’ve presented on this blog: I took all new pictures, and wrote a fresh story with – I think – many ideas I haven’t covered here previously.

If you buy a copy, I hope you enjoy it. Mike’s philosophy – one which which I am in complete agreement – is that this hobby is worth doing well. It’s worth pushing one’s limits and trying new things. It’s worth being inspired by – and striving for – excellence, even if that means going back and redoing portions of one’s work that are no longer the best one can do.

I’m enjoying The Missing Conversation and look forward to each new issue.

A visit and sushi with Tim

Fast Tracks owner Tim Warris dropped in yesterday to see the layout and discuss a project with me.

It was Tim’s first visit to my layout and he said very nice things – which is gratifying in two ways. First, because Tim lives in Norfolk County and is quite familiar with the area I’m modelling – so when he looked at St. Williams and said, “I see this all the time around my home” I knew I was doing something right. And second, because Tim knows more about building reliable track than anybody else I’ve met – online or in person – and he really liked my track.

Tim was especially impressed by my use of garden scale switch stands linked to his Bullfrog manual switch machines to control the turnouts:
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(click on the image to read more about my turnout controls)

He also liked how I used two small throwbars – a head rod and back rod – instead of what he described as a “log” to throw the points:
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(click on the image to read more about these)

We also discussed spikes (I use the very tiny milled steel spikes from Proto:87 Stores and have written about my experience with them extensively on this blog)… the tobacco-growing industry in Norfolk County… and how I want to address the reliability problems I’m having with my CNR passenger cars.

Tim is intrigued by my problems with the passenger cars. He rolled a set of trucks over my track work and was appalled at how sloppy the axles are in the side frames. The good news is, he took a set of trucks and wheel sets home with him to play with – and he may be able to offer me a solution. Fingers are crossed.

Later, we met up with my wife for dinner at Akai Sushi. Anybody who knows Tim knows that sushi is a great choice. There are many, many sushi restaurants in our neighbourhood but this was the first time we had visited Akai – and we’ll definitely be going back, as it’s the best sushi we’ve had in our area. Very fresh and beautifully presented in a lovely room. I’m sure I can lure Tim back, too.

Great to see you, Tim! Next time, we’ll run an operating session, too…

Eggnog isn’t the only thing that’s going to be spiked this Christmas

That’s because (drum-roll, please) I’ve started to lay rail!

First rails. Proto:87 Stores spikes on a deck girder bridge.

Now, I am cheating a bit. I’ve started laying rail on the three bridges, because I can work at the bench. In fact, I realized I was better off working at the bench while doing the bridges so I could properly support the structures while spiking the rail to their decks. (I’ll do the same with the rails over the pit at the coal dealer in Port Rowan.)

For spikes, I’m trying something different this time. I’m using scale sized spikes from Proto 87 Stores* – part of their “Ultimate” line of HO track. As Andy Reichert at Proto 87 Stores writes on his website, these are “precision milled from half-hard stainless steel sheet”. This means they’re a more realistic shape and they drive home much like a real spike does, by splitting the grain of the tie. (The more traditional round, wire spike tends to push the grain apart. I’ve also found that these stainless spikes are less likely to bend when using them than the wire spikes.)

The downside? Well, it’s not really a downside, but they are darned small:

Now that's a small spike! Proto:87 Stores spikes, with ruler.

The spikes I’m using are the style Andy offers for O and S scale. They’re about 3/16″ long, which works out to 6″ in S scale. Even the tiniest needle nose pliers tend to engulf them. I was able to use a pair of long-jawed needle nose pliers to install the spikes but will look at how to modify this set of pliers so they’re more like Micro Mark’s spike insertion pliers.

Are they worth it? Well, have a look and decide for yourself.

In this view, we’re looking down on the bridge, with a fret of spikes adjacent. (The spikes come in single frets of 250 or, as seen here, a four-fret size with 1,000.)

Proto:87 Stores Spikes - fret and bridge.

The heads are barely visible, as they would be on a real railroad. I’ve used Code 70 for the running rails and Code 55 for the guard rails. (Using a smaller rail height for the guard rails means I won’t be scrubbing away the weathering whenever Iím cleaning the track.)

I spiked the running rails to every tie. For the guard rails, I added spikes every fourth tie. I was pleased to discover that these spikes are small enough that the guard rails could be spaced very close – at the correct distance from the running rails – without the spikes getting in the way.

Despite their small size, the spikes show up well when one views the track from near eye-level, as in the lead photo. They’ll be particularly effective in photographs.

(I also note that a couple of my spikes are sitting a little high in the lead photo. That’s fine: In looking at photos of the Port Rowan branch I’ve noticed a number of spikes working themselves out of the ties due to the passage of trains, so it’s perfectly prototypical.)

I’m glad I decided to give these spikes a try. Thank you, Andy, for pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for accurate, realistic track-laying.

(*Check the “Links” section on this blog’s home page for the most up-to-date links)