Cutting ties

I started cutting and laying ties on the HO scale Bush Terminals micro layout this evening. This is the first time I’ve had anything to do with HO scale track since I built a module a very long time ago. I’m going to be handlaying code 55 rail on this little layout to replicate the prototype’s seventy-six pound rail. I’ll be soldering this to PC board ties. In N scale I used ties made from styrene strip but thought I’d use up some of my stock of balsa sheet for these HO ones. Not only will this be a great chance to use up some of that stock, but also a chance to break out one of my favourite tools: my Master Airscrew balsa stripper.

This little tool work basically like a table saw but in a much simpler fashion and using a knife blade clamped into the cutting head. It’s a really slick little tool to use to make up your own balsa strip and probably the best ten dollars I ever spent on a tool. I’ve had mine for about twenty years now and couldn’t imagine not having one. I thought I’d grab a quick photo of the tool in action and some of the ties I cut.

I really recommend using the PC ties from Fast Tracks. Recently they replaced their already excellent ties with a new series, called Copperhead, that are actually machine cut from sheet stock using a CNC router. These ties are really neat.

I need to cut my switch ties but have all the regular ties in place now:


Once the glue has tried I’ll get the ties nicely sanded. I can’t wait to start soldering in some rails so I can move this neat little scene one step closer to a photo taken during an operating session and not just a “proof of concept”.

On the N scale layouts I found it really handy to rev up AutoCAD and draw out a full scale template for the layout with all the ties marked out. I have done the same for this layout. I find glueing the ties directly to this template really speeds up construction and also does wonders for managing the alignment of the ties. Click on the plan view below to download a PDF of the layout. The PDF file prints onto three letter-size sheets of paper and is marked with alignment arrows to help assemble the three sheet in place on the layout.



One comment

  1. I can certainly understand the desire to use commercial trackwork… I primarilly use handlaid track in situations where I can’t find a suitable commercial alternative. Having the skills to handlay track certainly lets you be more flexible in your track planning…. think about putting a diamond on a layout. commercial options give you perhaps half a dozen different crossing angles. If you can handlay that crossing, you can use any arbitrary angle for the crossing. You can even put it on a curve if necessary. While handlaid track CAN take longer than using commercial trackwork, it can also be quite enjoyable to work on. If you don’t enjoy it, that’s fine, but I know a number of people who enjoy winding down after a long day at the office by handlaying track. The one thing I wish we could still buy is a Kadee Spiker. This was a device that Kadee made until sometime in the 1980s which looked a lot like a staple gun. Instead of shooting staples, it shot spikes down each side of a piece of rail (of course, most N-scalers who hand lay track solder it to PC Board ties, rather than trying to spike the rail). PaulThat Kadee spiker is how I did it when I was part of the H.O. club. It made it pretty easy.

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