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Model train track


Model train trackHaving settled on the layout of a model railway, and taken possession of the room wherein it is to run, the constructional work can begin in earnest. There are only two ways, speaking generally, by which an indoor track can be made; either it can be laid directly on the floor, or it must be raised on a board or support of some kind. Obviously, the first plan would never be successful ; therefore it is safe to assume that the line will be set up on a table of some kind. Here, again, there is in principle a limited choice of method. One is to fasten brackets of some kind to the wall ; the other to make up trestles or stands and span the spaces between them - with suitable boards.

When the occupier of the house is also the owner, there are no restrictions to be considered, but a tenant will perhaps be prohibited from defacing the wall with the necessary plugs and fixings for the brackets. Thus the trestle system is in general the most flexible and advantageous, and the requisite members can be prepared en masse, as each will have a similar number and disposition of component parts.

The dimensions of trestle parts will have to be settled according to the size of the railway, but as a rough guide, if the trestles are made in the usual "A" shape they can be of 2-in. by 1-in. planed deal, well screwed at all joints, but the top bar is preferably of thicker stuff, say two inches square, as this gives a better nailing surface for the top boards. The number of trestles required will and wider tracks depend on the total length of the top boards, and upon their spacing. For ordinary purposes, 3/4 -in. tongued and grooved flooring boards are the best, and with them the trestles can be spaced about three feet apart. The height of the trestles should not be less than three feet, as this avoids bending down unduly, but if higher, the optical effect is enhanced, as the more nearly the line is on eye-level, the more natural and realistic it appears.



In practice it is not often feasible to do this, and a height of about three feet is customary and convenient. When floor boards are used they can be nailed directly to the tops of the trestles, and, of course, built up to the requisite widths and shaped at the edges or corners according to the requirements of the layout. The outer edge should be finished with a neat moulding, or a plain strip of wood about two to three inches high and 3/8ths in, thick, rounded at the top edge. The upper part of this strip may stand up about an inch above the surface of the boards. All longitudinal joints in the floor boards will take care of themselves, as the material is tongued and fits one into the other, but transverse or cross joints should always be located immediately over a trestle top.

In the case of a small No. "00" gauge table railway, it may suffice to build up a large top on an ordinary kitchen table and thus save the expense and trouble of making the trestles. A perfectly flat model railway never looks entirely real, unless the surrounding "country" undulates in a natural manner, and to obtain the best effects it is desirable carefully to plan out the terrain or substructure of the line. An arrangement that has proved very satisfactory, as shown in Fig. 20, comprises bearers supported at the back by a strip of wood attached to the wall, and at the front by separate posts.

The normal floor of the railway is made up with boards in the usual way, but another light board is run around the front at a lower level, and the spaces between filled ill by cardboard or other suitable material at an agreeable slope. A similar arrangement at the back serves to simulate a hillside or other natural feature. Methods of dealing with scenic effects of this kind are described furtheron in this website at greater length, but the item is introduced at this stage as it is necessary to leave the requisite space for stations, hills and valleys, or whatever effects may be desired, although they may not be dealt with until much later, after the track itself has been completed.

Outdoor tracks can be dealt with in a generally similar way, except that it will not be necessary to provide anything in the way of artificial hills and dales. The substructure must be rather heavier and trestles abandoned in favour of posts about three inches wide and two inches thick, set up in concrete. For single tracks it will suffice to set up such posts at convenient intervals, say about five feet apart. Longtitudinal members measuring two inches deep and three­quarters of an inch thick are then bolted, one on each side of the posts, as shown in Fig. 22, but for double tracks, siding and other parts where a greater width is necessary, two posts are set up and connected by cross pieces as shown.

The arrangements for curves is shown in plan in Fig. 23, the longitudinals being readily shaped by making saw-cuts across the batten at about six-inch intervals. These are then sprung into place, bolted to the posts as before and a few distance pieces nailed between the two to keep them the correct distance apart. Woodwork used in this way is vastly improved, both in appearance and durability, by a good coat of Solignum or other wood preservative stain. The best way of setting up the posts in the earth is shown in section in Fig. 24, the method being to make a hole about six inches diameter in the earth, and about 18 inches deep. Fill in some concrete made of one part of Portland cement to four parts of fine gravel measured by bulk. The post is then driven into the wet concrete, tested for uprightness by means of a plumb bob, and the rest of the hole filled in with concrete. The upper part is tapered off with cement mortar, made of one part cement to two parts of sand, as this slope prevents the rain settling at the lower part of the post. The baseboard can be made of wood, but is unsatisfactory. A better plan is to use asbestos ashes cement sheets 1/4-in. thick, obtainable from most builders' merchants.

This material can quickly be cut by scoring a line on the surface with the sharpened tang of a file and then boldly bending the sheet over the edge of a strip of wood, which will cause the sheet to split along the scored line. Curves are more difficult, but can be shaped with any old saw, although a worn hack-saw blade is as good as anything. A few holes are drilled where needed, and the strips then screwed to the longitudinals. Such a structure is most durable, and as the base is cement, any station buildings or other features can be built up of cement, in conjunction with small pieces of the sheeting.

Having made the base, the next thing to do is to mark on its surface the exact outline for the different tracks, positions for buildings and the like, and then to settle on the kind of track that will be employed, and to get ahead with the interesting work of laying the line.

Track for the No. "00" gauge can be built up on the plan shown in Fig. 21, by using steel strips 1/8th-in. high and 1/16th - in. thick for the rails, and soldering angular pieces of tinplate to them, as shown, to act as chairs, which can then be spiked to the wooden sleepers. Track for No. "00" gauge can also be bought commercially.

Larger model trains gauge tracks, particularly No. "0" and No. "1" gauges, are available in a wide range of ready-made pieces, and also in the form of separate components. The commonest is the tinplate, as sold in all toy shops.

Tinplate track is always supplied with tinplate sleepers ready for use, and the pieces have only to be fitted together, laid in place and fastened here and there with screws or nails to keep them from moving. Better-class track, when ready made, is almost as easy to put down, but when the component parts are used the method is a little different, depending upon the maker and style.

The permanent way is usually assembled in a similar way, but the chairs are secured to the rails with wooden wedges, called keys, and then laid on sleepers as before.

Whatever kind of commercial track is selected, the method of laying it after the chairs have been fitted to the rails is similar, always assuming it will be nailed down to a wooden base of some sort. Supposing, for example; a simple oval track is to be laid, the best plan is to lay the four corners or curved parts first and then to lay the straight pieces. To do this satisfactorily, get a piece of batten about one inch wide and half an inch thick, and of suitable length, according to the radius, and use it as a radius rod. A hole is made near one end to accommodate a pivot pin, such as a nail driven into a block of wood, as in Fig. 27, and at the other end a slot of a size to suit the sleepers. In use, a sleeper is placed in the slot, the radius rod put in place with its pivot at the proper place on the plan. The sleeper is then nailed down with 1/2-in. panel pins and the subsequent sleepers similarly placed and fixed. Correct spacing of the sleepers can be gauged by using a piece of rail with the chairs fixed on it in their proper positions. When all the sleepers are correctly nailed down on all the curves those on the straight part can be fixed, using a thin string electric railway track stretched tightly between two nails as a guide to help to keep them level.

Next make a rail-gauge, which may be a piece of tinplate with two little slots correctly spaced in the lower edge. This is screwed to one edge of the radius rod, and used as a guide for the placing of the rails. Commence as shown in Fig. 28, that is about five or six inches along the straight. Fix the outer rail first, and then fix the inner rail, employing the radius rod and gauge to ensure an even sweep and a correct gauge or distance between the two. The gauge of the railway track on curved parts should be slightly increased above the normal, making No. "0" gauge 1-5/16-inches wide on the curves instead of the normal 1.25 inches, and similarly with larger gauges.

Points and crossings are dealt with in a similar way, but the sleepers are graduated in length as requisite, and some of the chairs are combined, all of which will be apparent when using regulation stock parts. The radius of points and crossings is dependent on the angle of the crossing and usually referred to as one in eight, or some other proportion, which is measured as shown in Fig. 29, where the angle is one in three, but for most model work something between one in four to one in six will be about right.