making my own track

R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
HI Folks-
Been on this site for over a year and really enjoy reading everything related to live steam garden railroading. I am in the very beginning of settling on a modest design for the back yard but haven't decided whether to make a ground-level layout or a raised system so that will need to be determined. But, in the meantime, I would like to hand-spike my own track. I have a friend who gave me several pieces of brass rail plus some leftover cedar ties he made so that I could try my hand at making some track. It went fairly well as my first attempt went but am now thinking I will need to accumulate more supplies (i.e. ties, small nails, plus rails).

I recently visited Wales and rode on 2 narrow gauge trains there and really fell in love with that whole lot so that's what I'd like to model. I would like the gauge to be 45mm, haven't decided on a scale yet but am not a "rivet counter" so keeping 100% accurate isn't my goal; I want it to look nice plus be able to run dependably.

So, here are some questions for consideration:
1. What would common dimensions be for ties (sleepers) i.e. Width, Height, Length
2. What code track would you recommend
3. What rail material would you recommend (won't be electrifying the layout)
4. Are there preferred methods of attaching rails to ties
5. What about wood preservation of ties
6. Any good references for hand spiking track

Sorry about the wordiness but tried to give a little background as well as state some questions.

Thanks for any replies.
Robin Young / Forest Hill, MD / USA
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
15,188
546
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
So, here are some questions for consideration:
1. What would common dimensions be for ties (sleepers) i.e. Width, Height, Length
2. What code track would you recommend
3. What rail material would you recommend (won't be electrifying the layout)
4. Are there preferred methods of attaching rails to ties
5. What about wood preservation of ties
6. Any good references for hand spiking track
Some of your questions are a little tricky to answer as you do not state where you are wanting to go.
1 depends on Scale 7/8ths 1:29 1:24 1:20 Track Gauge Representing 2' 3' Standard Gauge?
2 again answer to q1 may kead to an answer or choices
3 brass or nickel silver is ideal for rail, but steel will be cheeper and if you are only running Live Steam and Nattery th drils of oild from the Steam should help longevity
4 this is a real tricky ine, brass pins costently lift with expansion and contraction of wooden sleepers, steel pins will rust away a good option is to make a U out of copper mains wire. Pass it between two holes in the sleeoer for each rail bend into the flange and solder. Gets tricky with points though.
5 old engine oils is great but not very environmentaly friendly. Other water based preservatives to be honest may ned redoing every year and the bottos of the sleepers will not get done if you do not lift the track to re preservative coat thus starting the rotting process.
6 not quite sure what you mean here.

Good luck and perhaps some more advice from others.
 
R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
Some of your questions are a little tricky to answer as you do not state where you are wanting to go.
1 depends on Scale 7/8ths 1:29 1:24 1:20 Track Gauge Representing 2' 3' Standard Gauge?
2 again answer to q1 may kead to an answer or choices
3 brass or nickel silver is ideal for rail, but steel will be cheeper and if you are only running Live Steam and Nattery th drils of oild from the Steam should help longevity
4 this is a real tricky ine, brass pins costently lift with expansion and contraction of wooden sleepers, steel pins will rust away a good option is to make a U out of copper mains wire. Pass it between two holes in the sleeoer for each rail bend into the flange and solder. Gets tricky with points though.
5 old engine oils is great but not very environmentaly friendly. Other water based preservatives to be honest may ned redoing every year and the bottos of the sleepers will not get done if you do not lift the track to re preservative coat thus starting the rotting process.
6 not quite sure what you mean here.

Good luck and perhaps some more advice from others.
 
R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
Thanks dunnyrail, I appreciate your reply and I understand that some of my questions were a bit vague. The last question was inquiring about any written articles, websites, etc. to read more about hand spiking track. I've got a fairly good idea how it's done but since I'm a newby I don't assume that my approach is the best.
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
15,188
546
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
Thanks dunnyrail, I appreciate your reply and I understand that some of my questions were a bit vague. The last question was inquiring about any written articles, websites, etc. to read more about hand spiking track. I've got a fairly good idea how it's done but since I'm a newby I don't assume that my approach is the best.
I think the answer to q4 is the best way to go.
 
stockers

stockers

Trains, aircraft, models, walking, beer, travel
Staff member
GSC Moderator
24 Oct 2009
25,432
80
61
Nr. Ashford, Kent. England.
Have a look at this. The builder, Greg, is a regular on here.
 
  • Like
Reactions: gregh
korm kormsen

korm kormsen

Registered
24 Oct 2009
2,466
33
lots of questions.
the length of the sleepers should be more or less equal to the width of your roling stock.
if you build an "old time" US layout, there should be more sleepers, than spaces between.
if it is modern US, or european, make it two to one. one sleeper, twice as much space, next sleeper...
if it is european narrow gauge make the distances longer, when the gauge is smaller. there were/are 2' gauge lines, that have a sleeper every yard, or so.
how to fasten? with cheap nails (with small heads). hammer them near completely in, then bend them over the railfoot.
how to preserve sleepers? don't. they weather nicer and after three or four years you will relay your track anyhow, because of new ideas.
i beleive in the "standard" code 332 rails. less problems than with the smaller stuff.




here you see, how not to do it. the wheels touched the nailheads and made a hell of a noise.
had to re-do it, that the nailheads lay on the railfoot.
 
Gavin Sowry

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
6,186
230
66
Hutt Valley, NZ
....... and after three or four years you will relay your track anyhow
Amen to that. Seriously, 'prototypical' track like that will be high maintenance, low life, if used outdoors. The sleepers (ties) will rot, and the spikes will rust.
 
gregh

gregh

electronics, computers and scratchbuilding
Have a look at this. The builder, Greg, is a regular on here.
Thanks for the plug.
I've been making my own track since 1999 or so. Yes sleepers do rot and nails do rust. But hand made track is cheap and looks good.
Just some pics of old track so you can judge for yourself about longevity.
When I started in 1999, I used shoe tacks. They have outlasted the sleepers.
91050_b0a917a3cd061afdac27072a65d0fe9f.jpg


Here's what bad drainage does to the treated pine over 19 years
91053_f447eff4997d62d849ca2ba7996bae4e.jpg


Here's some from 2003. Nails do rust and I don't think using plated ones really helps. If you can buy brass nails and bend them underneath the sleeper like I do, that would be the best. The treated pine sleepers are lasting better than the Oregon timber support. (Douglas Fir to you?).
91048_0bccb34fc399b58d18f1a774539f9822.jpg


Here's some that's been on the ground since 2010
91049_65858908d44749771942f8da6d0061b8.jpg


and this is on a trestle, so keeps pretty dry, since 2014
91051_941ae2c87ddbc18db2c25cc2ab1d85f4.jpg


And the real money saver is if you can make your own turnouts too. I've never done a video on that, but it's not hard - just time consuming. I make my frogs from styrene as I have no track power.
91052_eb9b5d0ce9a6bb4abc82aa00a110e457.jpg
 
Last edited:
R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
Have a look at this. The builder, Greg, is a regular on here.
Thanks Stockers, this is exactly the kind of reference I was hoping to find. I'll take a look when I can.
 
R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
lots of questions.
the length of the sleepers should be more or less equal to the width of your roling stock.
if you build an "old time" US layout, there should be more sleepers, than spaces between.
if it is modern US, or european, make it two to one. one sleeper, twice as much space, next sleeper...
if it is european narrow gauge make the distances longer, when the gauge is smaller. there were/are 2' gauge lines, that have a sleeper every yard, or so.
how to fasten? with cheap nails (with small heads). hammer them near completely in, then bend them over the railfoot.
how to preserve sleepers? don't. they weather nicer and after three or four years you will relay your track anyhow, because of new ideas.
i beleive in the "standard" code 332 rails. less problems than with the smaller stuff.




here you see, how not to do it. the wheels touched the nailheads and made a hell of a noise.
had to re-do it, that the nailheads lay on the railfoot.
Thanks Korm, great info. I am looking to doing an Welsh narrow gauge so looks like plenty of space between sleepers. I will have to start referring them to as sleepers from now on.
 
R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
Thanks for the plug.
I've been making my own track since 1999 or so. Yes sleepers do rot and nails do rust. But hand made track is cheap and looks good.
Just some pics of old track so you can judge for yourself about longevity.
When I started in 1999, I used shoe tacks. They have outlasted the sleepers.
View attachment 231762

Here's what bad drainage does to the treated pine over 19 years
View attachment 231765

Here's some from 2003. Nails do rust and I don't think using plated ones really helps. If you can buy brass nails and bend them underneath the sleeper like I do, that would be the best. The treated pine sleepers are lasting better than the Oregon timber support. (Douglas Fir to you?).
View attachment 231760

Here's some that's been on the ground since 2010
View attachment 231761

and this is on a trestle, so keeps pretty dry, since 2014
View attachment 231763

And the real money saver is if you can make your own turnouts too. I've never done a video on that, but it's not hard - just time consuming. I make my frogs from styrene as I have no track power.
View attachment 231764
Thanks Gregh, your trackwork is what I'd like to emulate. Photos are always useful and I'll probably refer back to yours on occasion just to see how it's done. I'll check out your video ASAP.
 
P

Paul M

Registered
25 Oct 2016
3,397
303
56
Royston
Very helpful thread this. I've never thought about making my own track. Must take some practice to get right.
 
R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
Very helpful thread this. I've never thought about making my own track. Must take some practice to get right.
Paul-
I wouldn't have considered it either except I have a friend who's heavily into the hobby and he's made a lot of his own track so once he gave me some tips and a few pieces of rail and a box of sleepers I tried his technique and it seemed to work ok for 1 piece of straight track. However, I was interested in others who might offer other tips, etc. and I've liked what I've seen / read so far.

Now my next big challenge will be "how do you make curved track?". I don't know if a rail bender is necessary so other comments are welcome in that regard.

I'll wait til later to solicit suggestions about making turnouts / points.
 
PhilP

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
23,832
597
Tamworth, Staffs.
'Freelance' curves are better than set-track. - You can make a transition form straight into the curve. This looks, and rides, much better.
I believe there are rail-benders which will do both rails at once?? - Guessing not cheap though!

Make the curves as big as you can.
If you must have very tight curves, then increase the gauge slightly.

Oh, and invest in a 'chop-saw'. You are going to be cutting very many sleepers!! :eek::nod::nod::nod:
 
R. YOUNG

R. YOUNG

Registered
22 May 2017
27
0
73
MARYLAND
'Freelance' curves are better than set-track. - You can make a transition form straight into the curve. This looks, and rides, much better.
I believe there are rail-benders which will do both rails at once?? - Guessing not cheap though!

Make the curves as big as you can.
If you must have very tight curves, then increase the gauge slightly.

Oh, and invest in a 'chop-saw'. You are going to be cutting very many sleepers!! :eek::nod::nod::nod:
Yes, the old chop saw, that thought actually crossed my mind so will have to start looking. Also it looks like "end nippers" will work well with crimping the nail heads over the foot of the rail quite easily. Gotta go shopping I guess.....!
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
15,188
546
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
'Freelance' curves are better than set-track. - You can make a transition form straight into the curve. This looks, and rides, much better.
I believe there are rail-benders which will do both rails at once?? - Guessing not cheap though!

Make the curves as big as you can.
If you must have very tight curves, then increase the gauge slightly.

Oh, and invest in a 'chop-saw'. You are going to be cutting very many sleepers!! :eek::nod::nod::nod:
Massoth do Rail Benders as you say Phil not cheep, I luckedcout at GRS with a second hand one that even had Peco Rail Rollers just what I wanted. Advantage is they sell Rollers for varying popular Rail Sizes. Plus it indeed does both Rails at the same time. Great investment.

As for a Chop Saw for cutting sleepers, a Bench Saw would be what is required to cut to Width and Height. Cutting to length is easily and quickly done in a jig that can hold 4-5 of the resultant Sleeper Cuts. Will give neater ends if a fine saw is used.

Greg's suoerb vid shows a way to go that sorts out the problems that I had with lifting Brass Nails. I used Bonds Brass ones much like a 7 to represent proper pinned track but they turned out to be so problamatical. Looking at the vid by Greg it out to be possible to knock out 3-4 yards of Track per Hour which will be roughly how much time mine took to make back in the 80's when I was scratch building Track. Points are a longer job (after a few I got each one down to an hour) but you can save big bucks by building your own, you willl need some Gauges a Roller Gauge or at least a couple that will slot onto the Rail to keep it to gauge as you make the points.

Do us some pics when you get started please, we do like to see how things are done and they will be inspiration to other newcommers like yourself.
 
Last edited:
gregh

gregh

electronics, computers and scratchbuilding
Massoth do Rail Benders as you say Phil not cheep, I luckedcout at GRS with a second hand one that even had Peco Rail Rollers just what I wanted. Advantage is they sell Rollers for varying popular Rail Sizes. Plus it indeed does both Rails at the same time. Great investment.
Surely you don't need a two-rail bender when making your own track? I've always assumed that 2-rail benders work on complete TRACK, not rails on their own. Have I got it wrong?
(My rail bender is where my belt is.)
 
korm kormsen

korm kormsen

Registered
24 Oct 2009
2,466
33
for the standard 332 brass i need no bender.
straightening R1s, and bending the curves i need a hole in something (for pre-bending near the needed curve), a (very) small hammer with a roundish head, some iron to serve as anvil and pliers to loosen/fasten connectors. - and strong fingers.
to make curves, i normally lay one rail over the length needed. when that looks right, i lay the other one (to gauge)
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
15,188
546
71
St.Neots Cambridgeshire UK
Surely you don't need a two-rail bender when making your own track? I've always assumed that 2-rail benders work on complete TRACK, not rails on their own. Have I got it wrong?
(My rail bender is where my belt is.)
I am refering to a Rail Bender is for Ready Made Flexi Track Greg. Though a bender for individual rail does make for a more accurate bend. But I see your method also works well too.