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Lennart's Model Railroad Blog

About this blog

This blog is about my current model railroad layout project; The N scale "Summit" layout, which is a freelanced interpretation of the Southern Pacific Tehachapi tunnels and their surroundings. Or at least, that is what it is meant to be. What it will turn out to be is another matter. The banner photo above shows what I want to recreate in N scale.

Tie staining and weathering

Track laying Posted on Sat, June 12, 2010 19:10:07

Earlier today I ran out of stained ties for the siding. So I set out to stain some more ties. I did this by simply letting them swim in a bowl with black water color. After a few minutes in the bowl I moved the ties to an old news paper to dry, as shown in the picture below.

This batch of ties turned out somewhat darker than the previous one. To compensate for that I swabbed on some more black water color on the ties already in place. While at it, I also put on some orange/brown water color to simulate rust (beneath the rails to be).

As you can see the flex track main line needs som weathering as well. Compared to the wood ties on the siding it really looks plastic right now. I’ll probably paint the main line ties and rails with “grimy black”. From Tehachapi photos on the web it looks as if that would be about the correct color (

Tie foxtrot

Track laying Posted on Mon, May 31, 2010 20:29:22

Progress has been slow lately, but tonight I got the chance to lay some more ties for the siding. While doing so I thought it might be a good idea to share some thoughts I have had on the subject.

I lay my ties by hand, i.e. I am not using any kind of jig. I use the score between the two halves of cork as a track center line, and I make pencil marks to get an even tie spacing. So before having laid any ties I essentially I have something that looks like this:

I then pick up a tie with a pair if tweezers, dip it in white glue and put it down on the first mark. I use eyesight to center it and to get it perpendicular to the center line. Here is what it would look like with two ties in place.

But if you just keep going like that something strange is bound to happen. Although you have the center line as a reference the eyes and the brain tend to have a sneak view on the previous tie and instead try to align the next tie with that one, rather than with the center line. Or it tries to, anyway. But for some reason that does not work. It all tends to end up like below, with the ties slowly moving away from the center line:

Or they start to swing, no more being perpendicular to the center line:

Or both things at the same time:

I found out that a way to avoid all this is to place a single tie some distance away. It is easier to correctly place such a single tie, without the eyes and the brain being distracted by any nearby ties. See the tie marked “1” in the picture below. You can then place another tie somewhere in between (“2” below), using the ties both to the left and the right as a reference.

After that, it is a piece of cake to lay out the missing ones. It is a bit like foxtrot: two steps forward and one backward, if you see what I mean.

Ties for siding

Track laying Posted on Fri, April 23, 2010 17:29:44

I have started work on the siding. As I think I mentioned earlier I have decided to use code 40 track for the siding. Which also means I am handlaying it. This because rolling stock and engines have a tendency to catch the “spikes” on code 40 flextrack. At least that is what I have heard. The same problem does not exist for handlaid code 40 track.

I am using wood ties from Kappler. I have pre-stained them by soaking them in a wash of water and black water color. This gives them a grey aged look.

I started by making a pencil mark on the track centre line for each tie. In this case I did that by first laying the edge of a piece of paper along the already laid flextrack and making a mark on the paper for each tie . I then moved the paper to the siding roadbed, now making tie marks along the track centre line, using the marks on the paper as a reference.

Then I laid the ties I used eye sight only. I took a tie with a pair of tweezers, dipped it in white glue and then put it down in place, on the earlier made mark. This did not centre them exactly, or put them at an exact distance from the previous one. On the contrary, but that just gives the track a more realistic appearance.

The wood ties are a little higher than the flextrack ties, so the top of code 40 track will end up nearly at the same height as the code 50 track, as can be seen in the picture above. Some filing of the flextrack, or some tie plates on the first few wood ties, will fix the slight height difference.

All flextrack in

Track laying Posted on Sat, April 10, 2010 16:13:24

All the flex track has been laid. There is still no track on the siding, but the loop has been closed. So I staged a pair of trains (an SP freight and a CNW unit coal train!) and ran a few laps.

It went well, except for two derailments just when I was about to call it a day. Both happened when passing a turnout in staging. Apparently I have some glitches there to identify and fix.

First length of flex is down

Track laying Posted on Thu, April 01, 2010 20:29:04

The first length of ME flextrack has been laid, and it all went well. As I said before, the ME flextrack differs from other brands I have used in the past. Once you have bent the ME flextrack it stays bent. And if you over-bend it you must deliberatly bend it back again. If you are not careful and go too fast you will end up with track that does not form a smooth line but wiggles back and forth. But this is no real problem once you are aware of it. The advantage is of course that once you have shaped a piece of track it stays that way. And you do not have to use a lot of weights or pins to hold it in place while waiting for the glue to set. If your roadbed is smooth and you use a fast setting glue some light pressure for a short while is enough.

Other flextrack, which spring back under its own tension, automatically forms smooth curves once you fix the end points. That is a nice feature, but like an eel they are tough to keep in place.

Here is a picture of part of the not-yet-glued track (with some feeder wires attached).

In the picture you can see another thing about the ME track. When you bend it the ties not always come together on the inside of the curve. Some pairs of ties are instead farther apart under the inner rail than under the outer. The ties in the middle of the picture above has lined up that way. This would be great for a branch line or unkept siding, but not for a Class A road mainline. So I sat out to rectify the problem. I did that by sliding an X-acto knife under the rail, edge up, between the ties at the location where they were too close together. As in the picture below.

Some pressure on the rail, from above, cut the plastic under the rail, between the ties. Then it was just a matter of sliding them apart, as I have done in the picture below. Looks better, don’t you think?

Sounds like a lot of complaining. But that is not true. I am very pleased with how the track came out so far. What sounds like complaints is just a report of things I noted about the ME flextrack, compared to other flextrack.

Once the first length of track was in I hade to do a test run. So here is a picture of the very first, and very short train, on this version of the Tehachapi Summit layout. It looks nice, leaning inward on the super elevated mainline track.

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