TRACK LAYING/PERMANENT WAY
Basically this is what its all about. All the time spent designing the layout
and constructing the baseboards is simply to produce a foundation for the track
or permanent way as it is frequently known. With the preliminaries completed
correctly - choice of scale/gauge, layout design and baseboard construction; the track installation should be a relatively simple task.
Also on this page: Uncoupling, Turntables and Baseboard
Joins. Remember to visit our BALLASTING,
TRACK WEATHERING & PLATFORM
Permanent way has three basic components:
Track is the straight or curved sections of permanent way that connect
turnouts and crossings.|
|Turnouts, points or switches.
Turnouts or switches allow the permanent way to divide into two or more
routes. They include standard straight turnouts, curved turnouts, three way turnouts, double and single slips.
Standard and curved turnouts are handed - for example on a standard turnout
if the curve branches to the right it is 'right handed' as the image below
shows for both straight and curved.|
Crossings allow track to cross without changing direction. They are sometimes referred
to as 'diamond crossings'.|
For information on track scales and
gauges click here for more information.
The most difficult decision for most enthusiasts when using track
manufactured by companies such as Peco, is the option between 'insulfrog' and
'electrofrog' turnouts. When this option is available the simple solution is
that electrofrog turnouts should be used as they improve the running quality of
the layout. Many railway modellers are miss-informed over the benefits of
electrofog turnouts. When constructing a layout for a client, Professional
Layout Services will always use where available electrofrog turnouts and slips.
We will usually alter them to live-frog to ensure optimum performance from the
For information on insulfrog,
electrofrog and livefrog turnouts click here for more information.
||A full description of the types of track
available to the model railway enthusiast is shown below. Track type is
determined by the type of stock together with the age of the stock, and
the type of layout required. Four basic track types are available as
Track. Set track uses pre-formed track sections for straights
and curves available in gauges Z to G. All track sections are produced to a
specific geometry based upon the manufacturer selected. The most popular
types include Peco, Hornby, Fleischmann and Marklin with LGB in G scale. Set
track is ideal for layouts where space is restricted and standard ready to
run stock is to be used. It is however not suitable for use with kit built
locomotives and some ready to run stock does not perform on the inside
radius. Stock of most ages is suitable except for the very early stock where
wheel flanges may be very deep. The standard rail profile for most UK set
track is code 100 for 00 gauge, and code 83 for N gauge.|
|Flexible Track - Universal.
Usually manufactured from code 100 rail
in 00 gauge, and code 83 rail in N gauge, flexible track shares the benefits
of set track in that it is suitable for most ready to run models. It is
however more realistic than setrack as the normal minimum radius for bending
flexible track is twenty four inches in 00 gauge, and twelve inches in N
gauge. This allows more realistic appearing track as due to the reduced
radius, the track can be set at the standard six foot spacing between
tracks, unlike set track which has to be set wider to allow trains to pass
in the sharp corners. The track spacing is set when turnouts are combined to
form a crossover. The most popular ranges of flexible track include Peco.
Generally more turnout types are available allowing for more realistic track
formations. Flexible track can however be used in conjunction with the same
code set track.|
|Flexible Track - Finescale.|
Finescale track is the result of
enthusiasts demanding a more realistic rail profile as wheel standards have
improved. Finescale track is generally suitable for kit built models and
most modern ready to run stock, but is troublesome with older stock. The
rail profile is reduced by Peco to code 55 in N gauge, and code 75 in 00
gauge. Peco manufacture a similar range of turnouts in code 75 and code 100.
Peco have manufactured code 83 for the American market.
|Hand Constructed Finescale Track.|
||When 'off the shelf' track by manufacturers such as Peco, Hornby,
Fleischmann and Marklin is deemed to be unacceptable or
un-prototypical by the modeller, the option is to manufacture track
by hand, or purchase pre-constructed hand made track. Hand
constructed track is usually made to specific gauges where scale is
critical e.g. 2mm scale (2mm to
the foot scale option to N gauge), EM gauge and S4/P4 (4mm to the
foot scale options to OO gauge) the majority of stock running on
this track is kit built or re-wheeled ready to run, and S7 (7mm to
the foot scale option for O gauge). The majority of
stock running on this track is kit built or re-wheeled ready to run.
Exact track formations can be reproduced to scale using scale
turnout drawings. Originally track was produced using wooden
sleepers with copper or brass rivets placed at the rail location to
allow the rail to be soldered to the rivet. This in more recent
times has been often replaced by 'copper clad' paxolin board e.g. SMP
and Marcway; or the extensive range of all plastic sleepers and
chairs as produced by C&L
Finescale. In recent years the P4
Track Company has emerged with some of the best track available
for S4. Some manufacturers of
components offer a construction service.
The photograph above shows hand constructed S4 track
constructed using wooden sleepers and rivets to locate the rail being installed
by Professional Layout Services. A cosmetic chair is added to give a totally
realistic appearance to this track.
Professional Layout Services offer the supply and installation of most set
track and flexible track systems including underlay. Underlay is the material
used beneath the track to give the raised ballast profile. This is usually
either sheet or sliced cork which requires ballasting as a separate process (see
our section on scenics), or foam underlay which is designed to represent the
ballast infill. Underlay if used correctly also evens out the level of the track
and reduces the noise created when trains move on the layout.
Professional Layout Services offer a full track
installation service. We will install track onto client constructed baseboards
or baseboards constructed by ourselves. We specialise in the installation of
both proprietary track and hand constructed finescale track in a variety of
Probably the most difficult area in modern UK model railways is uncoupling.
Unlike America where a standard has been agreed between the NMRA and
manufacturers we have no such agreement and as such couplings can vary within a
manufacturers range. Most tension lock uncouplers - both manual and mechanical
do not work properly unless the train consists of the same coupling types. They
may also foul modern locomotives and stock as their ground clearance is much
lower than older models. If you resort to changing couplings then we can add
uncouplers at the requested locations - see image below of MSE uncoupling
magnets set at sleeper height in Woodland Scenics medium grade ballast.
Turntables can be included within the track section of model railways as they form an important
additional track feature
to most steam era layouts particularly those that contain a Motive Power Depot (MPD). A variety of turntables are available in
pre-constructed form e.g. Heljan, Fleischmann and Hornby, or as kits in a
variety of formats e.g. Peco, South Eastern Finecast and Dapol.
Some turntables require a hole to be cut into the baseboard to locate the
turntable well keeping the rim at track level as shown in the above image of a Heljan turntable.
The Hornby turntable locates on top of the baseboard without the need to cut a
hole for the well. The ready to run turntables feature motors and an indexing
system to align the turntable deck with the feeder rails. When constructing a
turntable kit, motor and indexing are left to the constructor.
NON PERMANENT BASEBOARD TRACK JOINS
Baseboard track joins can be a problem on non permanent model railway
layouts, lifting or removable sections for access, or on traversers. The tracks
needs to be fixed in a way that maintains track alignment - if the layout is
dismantled regularly pattern makers/engineers dowels are recommended to maintain
track alignment.. Several methods have
been used over the years, are couple of the most popular are listed below:
- Strips of copper clad PCB board cut at sleeper width with the rails
soldered to the copper surface and an insulating cut between rails. This can
be fragile unless a thicker strip of PCB board is used.
- Brass screws fitted below the bottom of the rails with the rail soldered
to the head of the brass screw - images below.
1). Remove the sleepers and mark the position of the rails on the
baseboard. Drill pilot holes for the brass screws and fix to a height just
below the bottom of the rail.
2). Check the fit of the sleepers over the screws. If laying the track
without ballast fix the track in place. If laying ballast mark the outside
limit of the ballast.
If ballasting the track into a PVA adhesive bed add the adhesive
between the marks. Place the track in the correct position with infill
sleepers and fix in place with track pins or drawing pins. Solder the
rails to the screw heads.
Pour ballast into the PVA and leave to dry overnight. When dry cut the
track on the baseboard join preferably with a carborundum disc.
Use a scalpel to carefully cut down the baseboard join to make a clean
break in the ballast. If multiple tracks cross a baseboard join use a
steel rule to mark the cut line on the rails to ensure all the cuts are in
line. This is particularly important on a sliding traverser. Image above
is shown before excess ballast is removed.
The image above shows the finished join after the boards have been
parted. A neat finish is easily achieved which is protected by a timber
strip fixed to the edge of the baseboard when the layout is not in use.
This is essential to stop the vulnerable track ends from damage.