Wonky? No worries

A friend emailed me privately to comment on the “wonky” (his word) rails in my recent track level shots of Port Rowan.
In the weeds, again photo WaitingInTheWeeds-02.jpg

The truth is, my track laying skills are adequate – but not great. This is one reason I favour small branchlines, short lines and narrow gauge railroads: I could never lay track worthy of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the Second World War or of the modern Union Pacific.

When I did this section I was at first disappointed I had a jiggle’n’jog. But then I realised it added character to the track that was in line with the overall effect I’m attempting to achieve on this layout.

By the 1950s, the Port Rowan branch’s days were definitely numbered. Rails were practically lost in the grass, traffic was disappearing to trucks, and I doubt maintenance was high on the list. “Keep the flanges off the ties” was probably the plan.

So I decided to not worry about the wonky rails – providing my trains stay on them. At the slow speeds I’m running – the prototype’s 15 mph speed limit is enforced by custom decoder speed tables – this hasn’t been a problem.

7 thoughts on “Wonky? No worries

  1. Hi Trevor

    I love wonky rails. Ken Bradley with the Delaware & Rutland club taught me to lay rail. My first piece of track was along what I recall was the coal siding, just after the bridge. Its all gone now with the new layout. After leaving the club when I moved to London ON, I came back to visit. I was shocked at how badly I had laid the rail. Ken just laughed, it was the effect he wanted, old run down siding, that was not maintained. Being my first attempt, he figured that’s what he would get.

    Your right, this is branch-line modeling, track was not maintained to mainline standards.

    To think, we missed meeting each other years ago, as we both belonged to the D&R at different times.

    • Hi Bill:
      Great story! Thanks for sharing.
      Yes – it would’ve been fun to be at the D&R together. I remember visiting as a kid – and the impression it made on me.

  2. Ha! I thought you had done that on purpose! I thought it was perfect for a branch line. I actually admired it several times. I hate to say this, but keep laying “adequate” track…

    • Hi Peter:
      Thanks! That made me smile. It’s definitely an argument in favour of the run-down branch line. No worries – my skills will remain adequate.
      I shared this shortcoming because I bet some modellers are worried about their track-laying skills. I wanted to suggest that if the right prototype (or freelance) theme is picked, they can actually be an advantage.

  3. Trevor,

    Until I found this post, I thought the wonkiness was purposeful!

    One question, though – and apologies if it is somewhere on here already – but are you using NASG track standards, or Proto:64?

    Kind regards,


    • Hi Simon:

      I don’t know that I’ve answered it elsewhere as my choice of standards doesn’t make a difference. I don’t interchange equipment with other layouts, after all.

      More importantly, I picked a single wheel supplier (NWSL) for all of my passenger and freight cars, to eliminate any potential issues introduced by different wheel geometries. I use an NASG gauge for laying track but P64 wheelsets. I like how they look. They also work fine through my handlaid turnouts, built using the assembly fixtures from Fast Tracks, which are designed to NASG standards.

      The locomotives are not, technically, P64. But they have fine flanges and no problems with my trackwork.

      I believe standard wheelsets – such as those that come on American Models passenger cars – would not like my turnouts.


  4. If the trains run on wonky rails the better. An observation of the real thing using 39′ rails will note pounded joint bars and misaligned track. Tampers and gauging crews don’t tend to spend huge amounts of time on low speed light density trackage; and considering the era you model all that was done by hand. When I get to my HO branch it will be code 55 handlaid by eye and by gauge – the more wonky the better to replicate a prairie grain branch that required GMD1s for power. Great work as usual Trevor.

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