How to avoid track pins in N scale…

…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!


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