(Click Images to Enlarge)
The track on the left is 1912 Ohio. It can only be represented with hand-laid track. Note the lack of tie plates and visible spikes. Our hand-laid Code 55 duplicates the look fairly successfully.
Atlas Code 100 track with an S scale figure. Sure looks like Narrow gauge doesn't it. Once a modeler moves beyond the "it's my railroad and I can do what I want level", track becomes a model. Not talking about "Rivet Counting" but trying to convey that the effort is the depiction of a railroad. Compromise is necessary because of the available resources.
When the layout was On2-1/2 the track was upgraded to hand-laid track, the effect was not what I bargained for in the application. The layout became very small and the track looked like what is it was, 2-1/2 foot gauge. D-oh!!!!!!!! Be aware of what you are trying to acheive. Sow's ears will always be sow's ears.
I build turnouts using templates and PCB ties. This is a picture of an On2-1/2 turnout based on an Atlas Snap-switch. Fast-tracks has a jig that is really good for assembling turnouts. They also have templates on the website.
I use more PCB ties than Fast Tracks to shorten the length of the isolated frog. It is gapped at the red lines. I use PCB header ties enabling the switch points to be moved manually. They have a friction fit, and if not a thin styrene shim is put under the tiebar. I have no problem with unpowered frogs if the equipment has proper electrical pickup on all the tender wheels and a least one pair of drivers.
Homasote is great for hand-laid track roadbed. It is soft enough to spike and has enough thickness to develop a proper roadbed. I cut the Homasote with a utility knife. Make the roadbed the width of the ties. It is easier to develop a ballast shoulder in the scenery phase. The piece on the right has a ballast taper attempted with a utility knife. D-oh!!!
Glue turnout templates to the roadbed. I got this idea from the Fast Tracks website. I use Elmer's ProBond. It is waterproof and has a great "tack.
Mark the PCB ties on the template and fill in the wood ties. I use a NWSL Chopper to cut the turnout ties. I cut my own ties and they are .015 taller than the .062 thick PCB ties. The turnouts "float" on the ties and there is clearance for the jumpers.
The regular ties are cut in a miter box with a stop. The miter box is screwed onto a 1x4.
Fill the areas between the ties with the regular ties. I just place them by eye. Yes, I have used one of those "piano key" templates. I found it is more trouble than just plopping the ties down in glue.
I apply a small bead of glue where the tie is to be and push the tie into the glue.
Replace the spout with one off that old dried up white glue container. You know the one that is on your shelf.
Stain the ties black with a WATERPROOF media. WATERPROOF India ink and alcohol is good. Just make sure it is WATERPROOF. DON'T us Rit Liquid Dye it is not waterproof and will mix with the tie paint. Ya wonder why I am emphasizing WATERPROOF. If you spray the non-waterproof media with a clear finish it semi-seals it.
Staining the ties is to give a height gage when the are finish sanded. Also the ends get colored.
Sanding with a power sander worked on the On2-1/2 ties but was a mistake on the HO ties. You will get woopties. Make a long sanding block and do the sanding manually. I used 80 grit sandpaper. Sand the ties until there is almost no black.
I added texture to the ties with a "Distresser" that Micro-Mark sells. It really does a great job adding that wood look to wood. The ties below have a coat of gray paint and have not had an black oil wash applied to emphasize the texture.
The ties with a light wash of black oil paint and fake turpentine. I find that mixture better than the overused alcohol/India ink mixture. It goes into the texture better.
I paint the ties Apple Barrel Country Grey. It gives the ties a "new " unweathered look and a base for weathering.
Attach jumpers and feeders to the turnouts. Radio Shack has a good tinned wire. Make little "L" at the wire end attached to the rail. Make the feeder about one inch long.
Put rail joiners on the turnout. The curved diverging route should always have joiners. Leave off joiners that come from a diverging route. Put joiners on dead end routes.
I use minimal spiking just the ones at the ends and an occasional middle.
Place turnouts then connect them. Start the rail from the diverging route and go toward the straight.
Drive spikes with a serrated channel nose pliers, place the spike away from the rail. The flanges will clear easily. I use Micro Engineering small spikes.
I do both rails at once. Use a bunch of track gauges. The rail will position itself between the turnouts. The weight of the gauge will keep the rail in position. If there is a curved route start from there. I spike every 12th or 15th tie. The rail will still stay in place.
Solder TWO feeders to each rail section bottom.
Bring a wire up through the benchwork and solder it to the feeder. Ugly, but it will be covered eventually.
Mark the end of the rail with a model knife. Clip off the excess and slide a rail joiner onto the rail. Slip the joiner onto the spiked turnout.
Loosening Micro Engineering Rail Joiners
Atlas Code 55 joiners slip right on but the ME's are really tight. Loosen them by sliding them onto two pieces of rail and wiggling the rail sections.
Paint the PCB ties with the gray tie paint. Wait until the paint is completely dry and give the ties a thin wash of black oil paint and turps.
Testor's Modelmaster Acryl Burnt Umber matches the ME weathered rail color perfectly. Next time I will paint the turnout rails before mounting.
If you have to coax a section or track around a radius the geometry is wrong. Rip it up and do it right!!!!!
Eventually one of your turnouts won't work right. I rushed this one. The diverging route at the arrow doesn't match the template. Nothing would go through it even though it looks good. Make a new one.
The Code 55 rail is the easiest I have laid. That ranges from code 40 to 148. I am very pleased with the look and the performance of the switches. It is nice to have this size readily available with the advent of N scale's move toward better track. Now early rail people can have realistic looking track.