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!

Division Street :: Spiked!

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(Progress ensues…)

I spent a few hours today in the workshop, spiking rails on the Free-mo-style modules I’m building for the S Scale Workshop, and documenting for TrainMasters TV.

The lead photo shows one of the two four-foot long sections that make up the core of the Division Street module. Today, I spiked both sections of Division Street – every second or third tie. I’m feeling a little cross-eyed right now and my plier-wielding hand is feeling pretty angry. But I’m pleased that I’m almost halfway there: Between the two modules, I have 21 feet of track to spike, and I’ve done about 9 feet so far.

Rails are soldered to PC board ties at each end, with expansion gaps in the middle of the modules. While it’s not obvious in the lead photo, I’ve also applied joint bars to the rails. And I’ve installed some rail segments on the abandoned interurban track that parallels Division Street:

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I added the interurban as a way to demonstrate some more heavily weathered ties. I’ve even added rust streaks to the tops of the ties where the rails used to be, by masking the ties and then brushing them with rust-coloured weathering powder. I’m pleased with the effect.

My work table is silting up…
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… so before I tackle the next set of rails I’ll have to do a sort’n’store. But I’ll do that tomorrow, once the eyes and hands have had a break. The bottle of Mad Tom IPA in the photo is an essential part of the spiking process. Sadly, it’s also empty: I think another adult beverage is in order…

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…

Spiking Pliers

I recently had several people ask what pliers I use to drive home the Proto:87 Stores etched steel spikes I use to build track. Looking back through my posts on spikes, I realize I never mentioned the pliers.

I’d love to be able to say I have a bespoke set of spiking pliers, designed by master craftsmen for the purpose. But I don’t. No master craftsmen – just Mastercraft.

I use a pair of Mastercraft Mini Needle Nose Pliers from Canadian Tire:
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The pair I have is no longer listed on the company’s website, but here’s a pair that’s pretty close.

I like the long jaws on these for a couple of reasons:

– They’re sprung, so when I’ve planted the spike I don’t wobble it loose trying to let go of the spike head.

– They’re also long enough that I can see past my hand to actually twist a spike off the fret and position it on the tie.

A few people mentioned that the jaws on their pliers tend to twist when holding the spikes. These also have a bit of twist in them (and even a bit is a problem), but I don’t think one can find a good pair of pliers that doesn’t these days. To compensate, and to provide maximum control when introducing the spike to the tie, I have developed a two-handed technique for holding the pliers. I’m left-handed, so my left hand holds the pliers by the handles and provides the grip and the pressure to drive the spike into the tie. But as the photo below shows, I lightly pinch the jaws between the thumb and index finger of my right hand to keep the jaws from twisting. My right hand also braces my left if needed so I can gently shove the spike into the tie:
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(I’ve also written extensively on this blog about how I distress and finish my ties. Search through posts in the “Ties” category for details.)

St Williams: Wired and spiked

I made major progress on track work over the weekend. All of the track in St. Williams is now spiked and wired. I can now stage two trains in St. Williams – on the main and siding – and run them to Port Rowan and back.

With that, everything from the switch at the St. Williams station to end of track is spiked every second or third tie, and wired with two feeders to every full-length rail (and one feeder to half-length or shorter rails). The final piece of the track work and wiring puzzle is the sector plate and a short stretch of mainline out of St. Williams, behind the tobacco sheds…

St. Williams in progress

… and, of course, the turntable lead and turntable in Port Rowan.

There’s still some fine-tuning to do. For this, I’ll have to mount DCC throttle panels around the layout so I can monitor trains closely – to spot and address any track work trouble.

Lynn Valley spiked

Today the section gang entered St. Williams, having finished spiking all the rail through the Lynn Valley to Port Rowan. It took less than an hour and it’s great to cross the short bridge over Stone Church Road and have St. Williams in my sights.

The Lynn Valley has already been wired so the track here is ready for rail painting and ballast – and I can finish adding Terra Foama through the valley to ensure any derailments that do occur stay on the layout – instead of plunging to the floor.

I’m really looking forward to doing more scenery in this section – although the Lynn Valley is going to swallow a lot of trees. One of these days, really soon now, I’ll have to break out the tree-making tools and materials and start building.

Spikes: Thanks Andy!

Yesterday’s mail – the first since the Christmas break – included my order of 10,000 more spikes from Proto 87 Stores*. I’m really impressed by the excellent products and quick service provided by the company’s brass hat, Andy Reichert.

Thanks, Andy! An impressive turn-around, especially during the holidays!

I wrote about these spikes in more detail in an earlier post.

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