Visit the On30 Pacific Coast Air Line Railway
Main Page for more Construction Articles
Comments Please email me at:
hminky@yahoo.com
Please make subject:
pcal
The unfinished side of the On30 Pacific Coast Line is being "retracked". We are replacing the HO Atlas Code 100 Snaptrack with handlaid track. Not for appearance, the HO track looks fine, because laying track is fun. Also the track arrangement will be changed to accommodate easier switching with the Bachmann 2-8-0. The ideas presented in this piece are based on Ed Stimpson Jr's excellent  article in the May 1978 Model Railroader, "Maintenance-free Turnouts.
Here is a good example of nineteenth century trackwork from Walt Disney's "Great Locomotive Chase". Dirt ballast, untreated ties, note the details, the ties have very little detail and are bleached a very light grey by the sun. Note they are evenly spaced and straight.
Modern trackwork outside of Cheswald, Delaware. Tthe ties are smooth with limited detail. Oak ties have a very tight grain so little grain shows.
I use Model Power Code 90 rail stripped from their clunky HO "code 83" flextrack. It is cheaper and the right cross section for O sale 60 pound rail. Atlas code 83 is another good choice. Micro Engineering code 83 has too small of a base for O scale being HO 136 pound rail. A good source of information about turnout building is FasTTracks. Go to their website and study all their info. They have excellent jigs to make turnouts. I used one and it takes about 45 minutes to build a turnout. I built my first turnout when I was 14 because I couldn't afford anything else and hve found Ed's the best method. Building turnouts on the bench is so much easier.

I use pine ties cut on a table and Dremel saw. My PCB ties are sheared from sheet. I do it myself because I can't get the sizes I wanted. Also I am always worried about not being able to obtain a commercial product five years down the road. I use ME 1/4" spikes which have become a rare commodity.

(Click the following Images To Enlarge)
Click Here To Go To the Fast Tracks Website
These are some of the tools we are using.
I use a P-B-L Hot Tip resistance unit to solder. It works great but is expensive. Fast Tracks has a video explaining soldering with a conventional iron.
We are duplicating this HO Snapswitch. The are great because they allow tighter trackwork which flows better.
Trace over the switch with a crayon. Most restaurants have free crayons, mine are from Olive Garden.
Make sure the point rail end is located on the template.
Using a cheap compass set it at the length the ties will be past the rail.
Trace along the outer rails to determine the tie location.
Mark where the point rail ends.
Locate the header ties from the point location. I use Caboose Industies 202s.
Mark off tie locations from the header ties. Mine are 19 inches  spacing.
Draw perpendicular lines from the straight rail.
Measure the longest tie in the turnout. Mine is eleven feet.
Mark off the turnout tie length regression.
Rough the PCB ties with a coarse rat tail file to give them a "grain". A finished tie to the right.
Cut the ties to length with a flush cutter.
There are two ties need on each side of the frog gaps to support the rails. Use rubber cement to glue the ties to the paper.
Make sure the straight side tie ends are straight.
Cut the straight stock rail with rail nippers.
Mark the rail where the points are to come against the rail.
A closeup of the points and stock rails.
File back the base of the rail, Bevel the base at the notch to assure the point will be flush.
Topside of the stock rail
I use this flux and solder. The solder is .015 dia kester from Mouser.com
Spread flux down the rail line.
Solder the rail to the ties starting from the point end.
Cut and locate the first point rail.
File the point rail so the end is parallel to the stock rail. I like this point system. There are others.
File the web off the base of the point rail.
Using an NMRA gauge locate the point rail and solder it into place.
Make the second point rail fitting it against the first.
Solder the second point rail and add a wire if you are powering the frog.
Polish the frog with 600 grit paper.
Test the frog with a truck
Start the closure rail by making a notch in the base.
Bend the rail
Bevel the end of the closure rail.
Fit the closure rail rail along the lines of the template
Locate the closure rail along the frog. The rails of the frog and the closure rail should align.
Cut the point end of the closure rail about 1/32 second short of the notch in the stock rail.
Remove the base of the rail to allow the rail to snug up against the stock rail.
Bevel the end of the point rail base.
Taper the outside of the point rail until it is a sharp point.
Round the point end with a taper at the top.
Solder the closure rail in place
Bend the curved stock rail and locate the point notch.
Notch and remove the base like the other stock rail.
Locate the curved stock rail with gauge relative to the closure rail.
Set the gauge of the curved stock rail at the Max at  the point end and the min  everywhere else.
D-Oh!! The fun of demonstrating modeling. Cut the long ties too short. Fix them later.
Test with a truck regularly
Make the straight closure rail like the curved. Solder in place using min gauge.
Remember to test regularly.
Make guard rails
Locate the guard rails with the NMRA gauge
Locate the throwbar with your switch stand. Solder the point rail to the throwbar,
Locate the second point rail with the NMRA gauge and solder.
Gap the frog with a jeweler's saw with a fine blade.
Mark the tie gaps. The frog is gapped at the two locations shown.
Remove the copperclad from the PCB ties with a cutoff wheel.
Randomly space the tie gaps. WASH OFF ALL THE FLUX with warm water and detergent.
Attach color coded wires using only ROSIN flux and ROSIN core solder.
D-OH!!! Make sure there is enough slack in the wire to lay against the baseboard.
Tools to mount the switch stand.
Locate the switch stand and drill the hole in the throwbar.
Mount the switchstand to the header ties with screws
Use an electrical tester to determine continuity. This one costs about $3 at ACE.
Use this epoxy to fill the gaps. It works great.
Mix about as much indicated in the circle.
Put the epoxy in the gaps. We fixed our too short D-Oh!! tie moment with added pieces.
Use a flat needle file to even out the epoxy fills. Buy a cheap set at a flea market for this work.
Gap filler flush with the ties.
More texture can be added with a burr in a motor tool.
Added grain effect. These ties have not been ruffed with the rat tail file. A scriber also can be used.
Spray with white metal primer. Here we used Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer.
Mark the location of the switch on the layout. Use a pencil. "Waterproof" markers will bleed thru the glue. D-Oh!!!
X out the PCB tie areas.
I mark the tie location and run a strip of glue along the tie line. A maximum of glue with minimum waste is achieved.
Put the ties down into the glue. It is faster than a tie jig. Make sure the ties are straight. Skewed ties only show that your track crew has no pride, an important concept in the nineteenth century.
Here we made a template to "gang" two turnouts for smoother trackwork.
The ganged turnouts on the layout.
Marking the PCB ties
Xing the location
Marking wood tie locations
Wood ties put in place
Add styrene shims under the PCB ties to match the wood tie level.
The ganged switches in location.
Add wood blocks to support the header ties and switch stand. Drill holes for clearance for the switch stand screw.
Push the stand into the soft wood to determine the location.
Apply a coat of Gesso to the top of the ties.
Sand the ties so almost none of the white remains. Prime the ties with Gesso to eliminate the yellow wood color.
I use this paint because it produces the colors I want in my light. Different paints, primers and light produce different results.
Make a solution to produce this color wash.
Paint the ties with the thinned paint.
Prime the ties with Gesso and apply the thinned paint.
The paint-primer combination produces a warm grey in my light.
The ties are primed white to produce the same surface as the PCB board ties. Then the primer can be stained. Otherwise the two surfaces would not match. Shown here with a temporary layer of ballast sand.
I use MicroEngineering 1/4 spikes to attach the track to the ties. Paint the rails after fastening with Floquil Roof brown. Keep a container of thinner available. Apply the thinner to paint on the ties while it is still wet. It will spread out and look like rust stains.

This a "What I did" more than a "How to". That is what the site is about, chronicling my adventures. So don't e-mail me about using India Ink/Alcohol, etc. I have moved away from that method for weathered wood. If you have any new thoughts please email me those.

Our HO Atlas track
(Click to Enlarge)

Turnouts can be "ganged" on the bench for smoother operation.
Click here to "gang" turnouts.