How to avoid track pins in N scale…

November 26, 2008

…use sticky tape! A break from the usual method of laying track occurred with the desire to avoid the unsightly lumps from track pins which look awful in any scale. Especially when used to place N and Z scale track. Most especially when the track is as fine as Atlas Code 55. I have recently experimented with double-sided adhesive foam tape with success, a material which has done much to made track laying in the yard area so much quicker and easier. By choosing a type which does not grip with astounding strength from the second it comes into contact with something, it is possible to adjust the track if required.


Track laying has got as far as the junction at West Missoula seen in the picture above. The complexity of the baseboard tops has slowed progress on track a little. Turnouts are fixed in their correct formations ready to place when road bed is done. Road bed itself consists of a single layer of 1.5mm cork sheet cut to shape and glued with ordinary PVA wood glue – allow to dry for 24 hours! The foam tape is laid on top of that and the track follows shortly after. This provides a good ballast shoulder and a clearly defined right of way for the railroad.

Any method of track laying has its pros and cons. Whilst pins allow track to be removed and easily adjusted, the pins are definitely unsightly. Also, you need to use quite a few to secure straight track formations.

Gluing track down means that adjustment after glue has set is almost impossible and it is possible to jam turnout switches. Track formations may need to be temporarily pinned to allow glue to set without loosing the shape of the desired track formation. Caulk and glues will have a nasty habit of squeezing up between the sleepers too, which can be problematic with track for smaller scales.

Double-sided foam adhesive tape, if the right one is chosen, allows adjustment initially but develops a permanent bond fairly quickly. It helps deaden sound from running trains but can be tricky to place accurately. It must also be protected from sawdust and other such detritus because it collects that too. On the plus side, track laying is quicker, neater and less messy than using glue or caulk. Also, it will provide an initial bond for ballast which makes ballasting much easier to do and the flood of dilute glue used to glue ballast in place does not affect it.


With the baseboard tops complete almost as far as Desmet junction and 1.5mm thick cork road bed in place, the track is dropped loosely into place. Centre lines for each line are to be drawn in place on the cork and foam tape stuck down after that. Progress appears slow but that is because the ‘cookie cutter’ baseboard top construction method used on this area of the layout took a little working out.


The sidings in the foreground, once placed, are for ‘Rocky Rail Services’. Desmet Junction together with the cement terminal will occupy the area in front of the helix. Note the line running along the back of the baseboard and headed behind the helix. That will form part of a hidden turn-back line to allow continuous running as part of Phase 1 of the layout. Some temporary track beyond Desmet will connect this to the mainline until the central peninsula is constructed.

That’s it for now – there’s track laying to do this morning. Finding the time to tear myself away from the layout to type a few words is not easy at the moment!


Much news…

November 20, 2008

News flow is getting back into gear with the latest announcements including overhead line equipment for 25Kv ac electrification from Peco (also announced new track with pressed steel sleepers) and a Class 86 locomotive from Heljan for 2009-10. All good news on top of ViTrains announced later versions of the Class 47. Pre-production images look very encouraging too. Also, the first of the much anticipated Hornby HSTs has arrived too together with a model which will be a good match: the former Lima Class 101 in Blue and Grey livery.

On my own workbench is a new Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED slide/neg scanner which was bought to enable both a friend of mine, Graeme E. and myself to scan our extensive slide collections which number over 15,000 between us. It’s quite some beast and takes a great deal of learning to make the most of its advanced features, a task that’s kept me away from the layout this week. However, with the latest modelling news in mind, here’s a selection of scans of newsworthy items – all taken in the summer of 2002. Hard to think that’s six years ago…how times have changed. Especially at Nuneaton.

02-629Cheltenham Spa and a Virgin XC HST…Fuji Provia 200ASA film and a lovely Saturday. Hornby’s HST made an appearance this week – at least the first version of many to be produced.

02-526Heritage livery on a Class 86, also taken on Provia film under less than ideal conditions. Heljan has announced a Class 86 model for 2009-10.

02-593Photographing ‘drags’ at Nuneaton. Whilst passengers were inconvenienced on Birmingham and Wolverhampton services, the WCML upgrade work certainly offered some interesting photographic opportunities at weekends.

02-585Class 47s made it into the news again this year – a new ViTrains model before Christmas – much anticipated here.

02-586Heljan and ViTrains have made good choices – popularity and loads of liveries to produce.

DCC book:

My own news concerns my DCC book published by The Crowood Press: Digital Command Control for Railway Modellers, which was published this summer. To all intents and purposes, it has sold out at the warehouse. Dealers will still have copies if you are seeking one. A reprint is on the cards for next year. I am pleased with this development and the problem with line diagrams being reproduced in mono instead of colour will be corrected.

Platform 4a & 4b:

Another bit of news, or rather a serious consideration is the future of my older exhibition layout. With no invitations on the cards for Platform 4a & 4b plus the issue of storing it whilst working on other projects, I am thinking of dismantling it to recover useful components. It needs an overhaul anyway and I very much doubt it could be sold. After all, it’s EM gauge; I need the stock used on it for other projects and the supports would not be available either as they are shared by Dudley Heath Yard!

Food for thought. I will think more on it during today.

All the best!

Slow progress…

November 13, 2008

I am sorry for neglecting you this week. It seems to have taken ages to recover from the Newcastle MRS exhibition of last weekend. Re-ordering stocks, doing paperwork and all that stuff. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable show, despite the rubbish venue, a dirty council-run sports hall – Gateshead council should be ashamed of itself for such poor management and cleanliness of its facilities. What do we all pay such huge levels of tax for in the UK? Not for better services, so it seems.

Anyway, D&E layouts included EM gauge Canada Road and Andi Dell’s OO gauge Dagworth. I went spotting for the Great Eastern’s equivalent of the 4-Cep EMU: the Class 309. Andi obliged by running his 4mm scale models which were much appreciated. There’s something about BR Mk.1 Express EMUs from the former Southern region and the GE which has never been matched by modern power door stock, not even the BR MK.3 EMU coach profile.

Anyway, it has been notable how the number of visits to my new blog site has grown – thank you for calling by. Particular interest areas beyond my layout project include the new DRS service to and from Inverness. It started with Class 66, No.66 415. The closest I can find to it is Bachmann’s OO gauge ‘low emission’ Class 66 in DRS colours as 66 412:new-out999_997I am wondering if I will have work for this loco on my future layouts. Even so, it’s an attractive-looking model and one I plan to keep.

Digging around in my archives, I found these images. Any guesses as to where this is?

This picture may help…gives it away!


Demolition of the old carriage cleaning depot at Inverness to make way for the DRS terminal. Hard to believe when I took that picture that it would become what it has in such a short time. I understand that ground conditions were challenging for the contractor – when running a reach stacker, that could be crucial.

Finally, when away at shows with either my layout or Nairnshire Modelling Supplies, my in-laws look after the cats which know how to ambush them at the side door to make an escape into the garden. Of course, our two youngest are the worst culprits:

It-girl of the cat world is Sophie. Very happy to pose in front of a camera.

Sophie again – very cute. The smallest cat I have ever had the privilege to share my home with.

Katie is big sister and when we collected them from the SSPCA shelter in Inverness at 12 weeks old, Katie had taken control of their destiny, looking after Sophie who was just a little scrap of fur.  It was Katie that checked Sarah and myself out and decided: They’ll do.  There is a touch of Siamese in them both, shows more in Katie than Sophie. Katie,  who is exceptionally intelligent, exceptionally naughty and very very chatty, still looks out for her smaller sister. We love them both despite the performances and the two older cats, Foxy and Miss Nibbles have happily let them move in. The only problem comes from competition for the mats in front of the wood burning stove we have in the living room!

West Missoula – layout progress update.

November 7, 2008

Grabbed a few quick pics of the layout and scribbled this quickly: Track laying has reached West Missoula, the west end of the yard. This means that all of the track and the six staging yard roads are now in place, wired up, tested and running.

The six roads to the rear of the baseboard are the staging yard roads, although the furthermost one also forms part of a continuous run loop for those times when watching trains roll by is more desirable than heavy duty operating. The staging yard will be concealed in part with a removable back scene to separate it from the mainline and five reception yard roads to the front. Trains will be backed into the staging yard on arrival to avoid releasing engines from the end in a similar manner to practice at terminus stations in parts of North America – Vancouver being one such example. The engines can then be replaced with others when re-staging trains between operating sessions. It’s very flexible and the return loop also helps with re-staging of trains so they are correctly formed relative to operations on the full-size line.

A great deal of testing of train reversal was undertaken to check for reliability and the results are very good indeed. All credit to Atlas code 55 track.

The fascia and throttle ports are now installed over parts of the layout too.

Looking west: No more track for the coal drag – for the moment. Cork forming the sub road bed has been laid at Missoula West. Note that the staging yard roads are stub end roads, hence the experiments with backing moves which have been more successful than I thought they might.

Sorry anbout the mess – as soon as that cork is glued and stable – down with the double crossover and yard leads. Then it’s tidy up time and out on to the mainline towards Desmet Junction. Track laying and wiring will speed up from this point  – there’s less of it to do!

However, a trip to the Newcastle and District MRS show in Gateshead this weekend will put the brakes on progress for a few days. We will be there with Nairnshire Modelling Supplies. It should be a good show – I believe that D&E presence in the form of Andi Dell’s ‘Dagworth’ forms part of the line-up. We will catch up on the antics of his much loved and spoiled (probably) cat, Joy, a lovely Siamese if that’s the case. Should be a fun event!

More next week!