Monday, June 10, 2013

Hand Laid Track and Ballasting

There was a brief dialogue today on Proto-Layouts Yahoo group about hand laid track and ballasting methodology.
I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the matter along with images.
I chose to handlay for a number of reasons. Economy was one factor, but not a big one.
Quality was certainly a big factor. The vast majority of commercial turnouts are poorly built. Out of gauge. And usually have large unsightly lumps of plastic for hinges and pivots, etc.
And they are not DCC friendly without a lot of work.
But arguably the biggest reason was ballasting. I've never been able to install commercial turnouts and then ballast the area without having issues with gluing the points shut. It's probably a shortcoming on my part but it is my reality.
By handlaying I can ballast before the rail goes in thus eliminating the potential for trouble.
I used the Fast Tracks Twist Tie system throughout the layout and built the individual turnouts in place as I progressed along.
 With the track centres drawn in, the switch ties strips are glued in place. I placed lengths of steel stock to weight things down while the glue dries. Then ties are laid down filling in between the switches. When that's secure, the tops are sanded and then all is stained. It is at this point that first pass with ballasting is done.
 As you can see I use light grey for the main and cinders for the secondary trackage. I can then build the turnouts in place using the various tools and jigs created by Fast Tracks. One of the neat aspects of the Twist Ties is that they come with holes drilled for spikes, which can really speed things up.
Once the rail is down and wired, and tested,(Yes test now!) I paint the sides of the rails and move on to scenery.
 This an open field area that has had Sculptamold added to the area and then painted earth colour in preparation for various ground covers. As you can see the ballast is only really in place around the ties, the edges leave much to be desired.

Once ground cover has progressed to a certain point, I can come back and refine the roadbed and the ballast. There's still lots to do in this area. Right of way fencing, telegraph poles, and lots more texture and colour. But I think you get the idea of how I approach the project.

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