Model Rail (UK) - - Workbench -

I cut a 2ft length of 2mm thick plas­tic to a width of 15mm and made notches along its length to make it more flex­i­ble. This al­lows me to draw along both sides to set out the ap­prox­i­mate po­si­tion of the rails. Mark out the location of the rails and points care­fully and neatly, to make the plan eas­ier to fol­low dur­ing track­lay­ing. Where lines in­ter­sect, make lat­eral marks with the pen to in­di­cate roughly where the point tie-bars will be lo­cated. A Sharpie marker pen is ideal, and the thick­ness of the tip against the ba­ton cre­ates par­al­lel lines al­most ex­actly 16.5mm apart - per­fect for ‘OO’! A bit of mask­ing tape holds the plas­tic ba­ton in place while I mark out the curves. I’m in­ter­ested in hav­ing tracks run­ning at slightly dif­fer­ent lev­els. It adds vis­ual in­ter­est and gives the lay­out ex­tra di­men­sion. As long as the tran­si­tion is smooth be­tween the lev­els, there shouldn’t be any run­ning is­sues. One of the joys of build­ing your own track from sep­a­rate rails and sleep­ers is that you’re not re­stricted by a man­u­fac­turer’s choice of ge­om­e­try. You re­ally can go for al­most any shape you want - within rea­son. I cut and as­sem­bled lay­ers of foam board, en­sur­ing smooth tran­si­tions be­tween the three dif­fer­ent tiers. Where pos­si­ble, I over­lapped the boards to add strength, and fixed them to­gether with PVA wood ad­he­sive.

After glu­ing, I pierced each layer with an old screw­driver. This helps the glue to pen­e­trate each layer, al­lows the fumes and mois­ture to es­cape, and speeds up the dry­ing process. Once the glue has set, each cop­per-clad sleeper is tinned with solder in readi­ness for the rails. En­sure the sur­face is clean and brush on plenty of flux. Then melt a small blob of solder onto the iron and run it lightly over the sleeper. You can buy ready-shaped point blades, but they’re easy to file to shape with a lit­tle prac­tice. Bull­head rail is eas­i­est, as the top and bot­tom of the rail are the same width. File it to a gen­tle point while rest­ing the rail on a flat sur­face. Use a gauge to site the check rails and frogs cor­rectly, al­low­ing ad­e­quate clear­ance for wheel flanges to pass through un­hin­dered. This cop­per-clad point is al­most fin­ished. Plenty of weight is needed to keep ev­ery­thing flat while the glue sets. Leave it to set overnight at least - or 24 hours, if pos­si­ble. Be care­ful not to get any glue on trea­sured books, or the din­ing ta­ble! The un­der­side of the rails also re­quires ‘tin­ning’. With a pair of pliers, hold the rail se­curely and ap­ply flux. Then run the iron with a lit­tle molten solder on the tip - along the rail. Work on about six inches of rail at a time. Flat-bot­tomed rail doesn’t lie flat, due to the base of the rail be­ing wider than the top. To get around this, make a tiny groove in a strip of wood and use it to keep the rail steady while you file the other face. It’s a good idea to have a stan­dard wagon, with the wheels set to the cor­rect back-to-back mea­sure­ment, to check for smooth run­ning along plain track and, in par­tic­u­lar, through the points. I al­ways en­joy work­ing out­side on a nice day. Fix the sleep­ers onto the board with PVA or con­tact ad­he­sive. Dou­ble-sided tape would also be a neat and quick op­tion. PVA glue dries quickly out­side on a dry, sunny day. Po­si­tion the rails onto the sleeper, spac­ing them with a pair of gauges, then push the iron up against the rail and sleeper un­til the solder melts. The pre-tinned sur­faces will fuse to­gether. Keep the sol­der­ing iron tip clean for best re­sults. When form­ing the point frogs and check rails from flat-bot­tomed rail, file a tiny nick into the bot­tom edge of the rail, on the in­side of the bend. This con­sid­er­ably re­duces its re­sis­tance to bend­ing. To avoid short cir­cuits, a small groove will need to be filed into the top of ev­ery sleeper to break the cop­per ve­neer. The edge of a nee­dle file will do the job, al­though a slit­ting disc in a mini drill makes the process much quicker.



















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