You know what it’s like: One second you’re thinking to yourself that this is a fantastic mug of tea and the next you’re thinking that when you solder an N scale turnout together the solder pad bonding the rails to the ties is only about a square millimetre in size. Further to that thought, you catch yourself thinking about all those times when you burned a tie trying to move a rail closer to gauge. Your mind wanders and you can’t hold back any longer. The seconds slip by as you find it ever increasingly hard to ignore that question you’ve been mulling over and why you don’t just glue the rails in place.
Before I get too far into explaining myself here I will mention that I have memories of fibre-tie flex track. I remember what it was like to work with that stuff and those memories were on my mind too when I started thinking about cardboard ties. Now back to what I did.
Photographed above is what I made. The turnout itself is a wye, it’s HO scale. The rails are code 55. The ties are cut from some 1mm thick cardstock that was originally the back of a notepad and the turnout was built in place on a piece of foamcore. As mentioned, the only method used here to bond the rails to the ties is a medium viscosity CA glue. In terms of assembly, I followed the same order of operations I’d typically use and started at the two rails that form the frog and the worked outward from there. Here are some thoughts from this experiment:
Curving rails before gluing them in place was time well spent.
If I managed to glue the rail in the wrong place the joint could be easily cut through with a razor blade and then re-glued in the correct position. You could, in theory, cut and re-glue a rail’s position any number of times. This is a clear advantage compared to other methods. Those folks who use a similar and popular method based on an adhesive like Pliobond where I used CA already know this.
Compared to soldered construction this approach was faster. The biggest savings in time was realised in not gapping all those crossties. However, I’ll need to attach a few more leads to power individual rails where on the soldered turnout I could just rely on the tie itself as the conductor.
The resulting turnout is surprisingly durable. I brought it with me to last night’s op’s session and several friends succumbed to the natural temptation to try and work a rail loose. No luck.
If I needed a bit more reinforcement to hold the rail to the ties I could go back and spike the rail into place. Given the foamcore base, if I was to do this, I’d need something under the foamcore that would grab the spikes as they were driven in.
Being paper, these ties will need to be sealed. Regardless of what the track was made of I like spraying a layer of colour on the track anyway. Lately, I’ve been using Krylon’s camouflage colours for this and being oil-based this step, that I was going to do anyway, will work to seal the ties too.
I’m sufficiently impressed with this little sample to want to try another and to get a better feel for whether or not this is something I’d like to keep doing. If nothing else, it was fun to make up this sample and I now know what it’s like to glue two or more fingers to a piece of model railway track so I feel just a bit wiser too.