so what is going on with the layout?

I was wondering how long since it’s been since we last talked about the layout. I know that a week or so ago I had an update on Sunday and then there was another one before that. At the rate I’m working that seems like a healthy balance so there’s not a post every time I brush another few grains of ballast into place.

When I built the two turnouts for Victoria I used code 83 rail and connected the points the throwbar using head pins. I joked to Peter that those head pins are so handy, they’re inexpensive, and the packaging is usually a life’s supply. Indeed, the ones I’m using are from the same package I was using when building the stub turnouts on my layout in our home in Charlottetown. I love building turnouts this way. It works very well and makes me happy.

Elsewhere on Victoria I have been using some really beautiful ties from Mount Albert Lumber. Every time I open that bag I just want to make the layout larger. I should have bought and used their turnout ties too. I’ve “always” used balsa ties inside the perimeter of the turnout for those filler ties. I’d buy hard balsa for this and it always used to work. This time I was impatient and I was cheap so I used some soft (“lite”) balsa I already had. Talk about a lesson in the true cost of things. Predictably this grade of wood has spike holding ability that’s worse than trying to spike rail to tap water. In the region between the two turnouts I am actually using CA under the foot of the rail to bond the rails to those ties and then spikes are really just there as part of my “faking it” campaign. That leaves the few ties within the turnout. It sort of shows in the turnouts that they need something to hold them down and I was running out of spikes so I figured I’d just go ahead and order some spikes from Fast Tracks and when I was doing that order the ties I should have used in the first place.

So, I’m a few weeks older and just a little wiser for the experience. The ties should be here this week so what I’ll do is a kind of phased tie replacement program:

  • The turnouts are sort of glued into place so just lifting the whole turnout seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
  • I like plans that register higher on the screwin’ around scale.
  • Cut out and around the balsa ties and remove them.
  • Replace those ties with the new Mount Albert ones.
  • Spike down the rail there.
  • Drink wine.

There are some extra PC board ties in the turnouts that really don’t need to be there. I’m going to try and remove them while I’m at this. I won’t start digging them out until the other ties are replaced and the turnout is firmly spiked down. I’ve repeated the picture just above but that shows just about all the ties that will be replaced when I come out of this work having completed it.

Speaking of repeating photos…

When I first built the turnouts the clearance between the points and stock rail was very close. It worked and looked fantastic. However…I think I’m going to use Caboose Industries ground throws on these two turnouts. Their N scale ones have a travel of about 0.125″ which was about twice what I was working with. After a lot of fretting and some spectacular fails at trying to reduce that travel I just replaced the throwbars in the turnouts–increasing that clearance (travel) to 0.100″. The ground throws will work beautifully here now. In my imagination widening this gap felt so much farther and, in the end, I can barely tell the difference. What in the heck was I so worried about? Almost nothing. About forty thou. Screw you anxiety.

I have feeder wires in a lot of places and I have been able to run trains on the layout and that’s been great fun. The staging yard isn’t even started so I can’t use the runaround track as a runaround track (since it’s other end is the staging yard’s cassettes) but I’m having a whole bunch of fun with what I’ve got.

Categories: Victoria On30

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3 replies

  1. Hi Chris,

    I really like the track and ballast of work. I’m confused what you are talking about with the head pins and the points. Could you elaborate?

    I’m always nervous about using CA, does it hold the rails to wood well?


    • “About head pins and points” I have taken some photos so what I’ll do is put together a dedicated blog post to detail this.

      On CA and track…

      I’ve handlaid a lot of N scale track which is code 40 rail on N scale ties. The contact patch between those two things is about 1mm square (1/32″ square) so I reason that the 60/40 solder I use is probably no stronger than most medium CA’s. The main issues I would foresee in using CA as a bonding agent to going rail and ties would be:
      * working time, there just isn’t much time to shift rail around but maybe a thicker CA adds in a few more crucial seconds?
      * it would seal a wood tie so they’d need to be stained first;

      In 2015 I built a HO scale turnout using recycled rail on cardboard ties over foamcore roadbed. I still have that turnout. It rides around in a box that my ties and rail stock is also stored in. That box and this turnout have been to shows around Atlantic Canada and while I’m not intentionally rough handling it, it also hasn’t been handled delicately. It works just as smoothly today as it did when I build it. The only thing holding it together is CA. I wrote about it in this blog post:



  1. Good morning – Prince Street

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