CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Friday, January 4, 2019

Handlaying Track - final thoughts

The throwbar for my switch was a piece of 1/4" square styrene, drilled and tapped for the 2-56 screws. However, because I used smaller rails on my gauntlet track the screw heads stuck up and the flanges of the wheels hit them when passing over. It was impossible to solder tabs to the aluminum rail. I couldn't figure out a solution so I put it aside for several more months. I reached out to Bruce Milligan of Switchcrafters, who builds large scale switches out of aluminum rail and has a lot more experience than I do. He suggested a couple of different workarounds, including soldering brass pins to a PCB board and then inserting it from underneath the turnout (impossible because it was already spiked down) or using smaller 0-80 nuts and bolts. He even sent me some for free, and they worked perfectly! I used a thinner piece of styrene for the throwbar which is slightly more flexible than the 1/4" piece, and it all worked like a charm.

After getting it all set up, I briefly considered purchasing another Bachmann switch stand but in the end went with something simple. I glued two pieces of wood under the end of the throwbar and then drilled two holes through the throwbar into the wood. I can insert a little metal pin into the holes and the switch is held in one position or the other. For the NMRA requirements, this should be sufficient. Wiring was simple on this track because the polarity of the rails never had to change. I drilled and tapped the rails for 2-56 screws and ran the wires around the screws. The wheel flanges clear the screws but not by much.

I may ballast the three track pieces, but it isn't required for judging and I fear gluing up the works.

Final Thoughts
When I started planning for the handlaid track requirement a year ago I was pretty nervous. I had never done it before and I figured it would be really difficult unless I used the FastTracks tools (which, to my mind, seemed like cheating). But, some excellent articles in Model Railroader and Garden Railways magazines walked me through the hard parts. Since I built them in G scale, I didn't have access to commercial NMRA gauges so I made my own. I wish someone would offer them in laser-cut acrylic or perhaps metal, but because of the loose tolerances all over the place in large scale it is probably too late to get industry conformance to anything.

I have always dreamed of handlaying track for my future (really future...) G scale garden railway, so this was good experience. Though stressful at times (such as lining up the rails before soldering), I found the whole process to be exciting and educational. I learned that I prefer working with brass over aluminum, and I would like to try stainless steel rail like the stuff Aristcraft used to make. As it stands, I have conquered my fears of handlaying track in any scale. It won't always be easy and mistakes will be made, but is really cheap compared to other, more expensive modeling things that can be screwed up easily (like locomotives).

I am glad the NMRA MMR program pushed me to develop these new skills. I think it was pretty fun to cut and glue down the ties, stain them, spike down the rail with real spikes, and then run a train over it. I made it myself! There is an immense amount of satisfaction in saying that. And, I am now even closer to finishing up my Civil merit badge requirements too, which is pretty exciting.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you are getting closer to your MMR! I am slowly working on mine, I think I will go for the golden spike award first.
    Good luck,