Tie plates?

It’s amazing how much time you can spend fretting over a particular decision. Given the way my mind is wired, these types of activities are typically those I enjoy the most.

When it comes to making up the turnouts, as my previous post indicates, I’m using a soldered style of construction. I know there are new methods and I know there are those that produce significantly better looking models. In fact, I really admire the alternatives and my curiosity is definitely piqued by their potential. The decision is entirely by emotional need. I just like making up turnouts this way and those darned PC board ties are a mark of my style.

For the plain track I’m less sure of my method. I intend to use only wood ties. Sipping my morning coffee I was looking over my empire and thinking about how I’d like to attach the rail to the ties. I’ve made spikes before so likely will just do that again. Should I bother with tie plates? I have never used them in the past. While only a minor detail, they’re the sort that might fun in terms of: trying something new and adding another layer of visual texture to the finished track. Maybe just along the length of “mainline” that borders the scene? I’m using heavier rail there anyway.

I do plan on adding joint bars and rail braces. I do feel like, especially on such light rail, they are rather noticeable and will contribute texture that I will appreciate. But those tie plates…

I’m not soliciting advice here or asking for someone to make the decision for me. I doubt I’ll lie awake in the wee hours of the morning second-guessing the way this has changed my life. Right now I’m just amused by how big a decision something like this feels like or how big I’m making it feel.



  1. Interesting distraction, Chris. In N, it could be argued that these will hardly be visible, but they do produce a change in texture, so maybe rectangles of paper would suit? (If so minded, you could fit rectangles of 0.005″ brass between the rail and pcbs ties on your turnouts, or file away the copper away from the tie plates.)

    This is a fairly important question, as unlike most things on a layout, changing the fundamentals of baseboards, track and to some extent certain scenic ideas is basically a “scrap and replace” operation. Everything else, buildings, ground cover, equipment, details, etc., can be added, amended or upgraded without major disruption. In fact, once the boards are built and track is laid, the rest can follow at leisure.

    This is not to say that it is impossible: as Mike Cougill revealed, it is perfectly possible, but he was simplifying his layout in a manner quite close to the prototype, rather than pulling things up and relaying it. I would find that a daunting task. In fact, twenty years ago, I found it so daunting that I gave my layout to a friend!

    Worth getting the basics right, I think. Pondering over what will keep you happy for the foreseeable future of the layout is not a bad idea, but don’t spend the extra 4 hours it would have taken to do wondering about whether or not to do it!

    Hope that helps.


    1. I’m not sure that even relaying track is that big a deal. In the hobby, we tend to make it out to be but if we anticipate it in our construction it can be accommodated. I’m keeping that in mind.

      As for tie plates I was thinking of small paper rectangles. That I can do. Maybe just try a small section out…


      1. “if we anticipate it in our construction it can be accommodated”

        Brilliant advice to those making tentative steps into a more finescale approach, but who shy away from handled track to begin with. Start with ready to lay flex track and large number turnouts, using if possible the finest rail sections you can. Make sure that you will be able to remove this and replace the roadbed at some point in the future, when you have built up your confidence.

        As you say, if the future possibility is anticipated, then accommodate it into your construction and it will not be a problem. (In my example from twenty years ago, I had hand-laid the track – badly, or at least not to a good enough standard – and couldn’t face doing it all from scratch. Now, I would recover the materials e.g. rails and fixings, ties where possible, scrape back the road bed to the sub roadbed – in this case, the baseboard surface – and do it again. I was younger then!)

        Great insight there, Chris!


      2. Thank you Simon,

        Something I’m looking forward to most with this layout is to create a space for iterative work. As my skills improve I want to revisit parts of the layout. I do not want to rip the whole thing out as I really believe in the design but elements like track construction I can revisit in time.

        Right now I really want to grow more in terms of how I paint, weather, and scenic track. I want to do this more than I want to practice detailing track. Making up these turnouts provides a canvas for the skills I want to practice next. In turn, when I’m content with the quality of the scenic work I can go back and revise the canvas itself.

        Eventually, this whole layout evolves into a finescale one but, in theory, isn’t held up while I master the component steps.



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