Installing (Laying) N Scale Track

Discussion in 'N Scale' started by Stan, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. Stan

    Stan TrainBoard Member

    (From the senior novice modeller.)
    All the N scale layout & construction books I've bought or read talk about installing track on your layout using various methods -- with nailing seeming to have the most advocates. So I'm planning to go that route. I'm using Atlas Flextrack, turnouts & track nails on top of Woodland Scenics roadbed. BUT -- I already have some problems:

    1. Finding the tiny holes in the ties is a bit of a problem -- but using " eyeglass loupes" on my trifocals ease that problem.

    2. The bigger problem is that the head of my small (upholstery) tack hammer is wider than the rail spacing! And using that with a "nail set" is no help because the nail set indentation (which is supposed to secure the nail head) is a smaller diameter than the nail head!

    Very frustrating. Are there any special N scale track nail tools available and, if so, who's got them? Or, are there other ways to go?

    (Walthers catalog was no help since they don't indicate the hammer head size on anything they handle.)(The MLR "Nailing Fixture" is only good for straight track.)
  2. Glenn Woodle

    Glenn Woodle TrainBoard Member

    If you can't see the tiny holes in the flextrak, you may be better off using white/yellow glue to hold down the trak, then use lots of straight pins& weight till it dries. The yellow carpenter's glue dries a bit quicker. I'd let the glue dry overnite once you have all the track in place.

    What you don't want to do is hit the rail or your finger with the hammer. Also, you have to be careful not to distort the track.
  3. Keith

    Keith TrainBoard Supporter

    What I do, when I need to lay track, is use a pin vice, with a drill bit in it, that's slightly smaller than my track nail, and drill a pilot hole through ties and into plywood sub-base. Making sure to pass through the first layer of glue between plywood layers.

    A Dremel tool, or equivalent, also works good for this. But requires a it more care, so drill bit doesn't break. And usually at a most inopportune time!

    By doing this first, I can drive nails using a set of pliers, with little or no trouble.
  4. Gats

    Gats Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Stan, if you intend on using nails rather than the gluing method, hit the hardware store and grab a small nail punch. I have one for very small domed head nails, sort of like short pins but harder.
    Just be careful of driving the nails too far into the sleeper (tie) else you narrow the rail gauge.

    BTW, the punch is years old so don't ask where I got it from! [​IMG]
  5. okane

    okane TrainBoard Supporter

    Just my two cents worth. I too find the small sizes in N Scale a challenge.

    To lessen that burden I went with Kato Unitrack and glued the track down, I found this a lot easier than using flextrack, nails, razor saw etc.

    The bonus I was up and running trains very quickly. I am now spending time byilding a larger layout.

  6. Fotheringill

    Fotheringill Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Stan- A STRONG suggestion. Do not use nails.

    1. It is a pain the rear.
    2. The nails now made have heads just slightly wider than the nail punches now available. In the 1970's they fit nicely.
    3. If you ever have to pull up any track, you might as well throw them out since you will break the ties when you pull up.
    4. I take it this is your first layout. You will not be doing a perfect job and will be pulling up some track. I know this because of my experiences. Just look at my signature in this post.
    5. If do use nails, do not nail down your turnouts. It is one thing to pay $1 for a piece of track and quite another to spend $15 on another turnout.
    6. Personally, I would use a 50-50 Elmer's glue with water mix after a quick alcohol spray to break surface tension. It will come up with some more alcohol or even water if need be later on. Keep the track in place while drying with push pins commonly used on maps and available everywhere. They will fit very nicely into the nail holes. On the Elmer's, make sure you buy the regular, not the one for school. Pete posted that the school stuff dries with a shine. Some folks use Liquid Nails for Projects. This will give you additional headaches in case of a rip up.
    Please DO post here and wait a bit for some answers. It will save you time, money and a load of aggrevation, in the long AND short run.
  7. Fotheringill

    Fotheringill Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

  8. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member


    I have used several methods, including the liquid nails which gives just about the right amount of work time to get your track fixed where you want it.

    Most of my track does have nails. There is a small pin vise and various size drill bits you can get in rr stores to put holes where you want them without using power tools. Also, there is really no need to hammer the nails, assuming you are using some kind of homasote or cork roadbed.

    I use needlenose pliers or my Xuron rail cutter to hold the spike and push it down. Of course, if you use the Xuron (which is always handy, since you have just used it to cut track!) don't expect it to do as well in cutting rails later on.

    I use peco switches, and I also nail those, using the holes outside the rails near the switch stand area. They provide four but you usually only need to use one. Every so often, a turnout will bow up in the middle a bit, and I use nails there to keep it level, pre drilling the hole as described above.
  9. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I use an will continue to use latex liquid nails for projects. It does take a little practice to get the bead right, and a putty knife to smooth it out befor laying the track into it. I use tack nails only to hold the rails in postition. Turnouts are 'floating'--I do not glue them down. They are simply held in by other track that was glued down.
    I have not had track glued with LN come up, have not had trouble removing it. I just use a stiff putty knife, and slide it under the ties. Just ensure all the track nails that were holding it in place are removed first!
  10. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member

    Hemi -

    In other words, there is a trick to everything, no?
  11. Trains

    Trains TrainBoard Member


    We used track nails everytime we build.
    Just a thought , go with homsaote under your roadbed and track. You can push the nails in with needle nose pliers. We are useing it and very happy the way the track goes down.
  12. Powersteamguy1790

    Powersteamguy1790 Permanently dispatched


    I wouldn't use nails at all to lay your track.

    You're much better using Elmer's glue or Liquid Nails.

    I wouldn't place any glue around the turnouts either.

    If decide to use nails , you're going to find that nails create uneven pressure on the track and will give you many alignment problems.

    If you decide to pull the track up, the nails will ruin the trackbed to boot. [​IMG] :eek: [​IMG]

    Have fun whichever method you use. [​IMG]

    I have Unitrack and use a hot glue gun to keep the track in position. It's been that way for almost 6 years now.

    Stay cool and run steam.... [​IMG] :cool: :cool:
  13. Trains

    Trains TrainBoard Member

    As you can see there are all differant ways to install track. Everyone has there way of doing it. Pick a way that you think you would like and go for it.
  14. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    And a lot of trial an error. Mostly error. I learned a lot about glueing track down after doing about 40' of mainline. It pays to pre-solder (while straight) a couple sections of flex together for a curve, and glue the whole section at your desired radius. Keeping the joints at straight sections eliminates many kinks. Keeping track connected and unkinked while glue dries with unsoldered joints is a pain!!! Also, pre-solder feeders to each rail, on all track longer than 4" In other words, everywhere. Electrical conductivity should never be a problem, except on filthy track. Drop feeders soldered to rail joiners, and connect them in between crossovers (make sure the polarity isn't crossed) *I spent 8 hours figuring that one out!!* Gluing is my favorite trick. The key is using just enough to stick it well, and be semi-permanent; but not so much it oozes thru the ties, and makes a mess. A tiny bead about 1/8" or less spread with a putty knife will do the trick. Track nails to tack it temporarily, and you're set tillt he glue dries. Remove nails after it's dry, and it doesn't move. Not in extremely dry climate (eastern WY) or in extreme humid (summer in North Dakota). Heat didn't bother it, nor extreme cold.
    I laid mine on pink foam, on WS foam roadbed. Next time, I'm going cork. The foambed is nice, but it's not for me.
  15. dstuard

    dstuard TrainBoard Member

    I find that contact cement works well when glueing flextrack to cork or Woodland Scenics foam roadbed. Bruch some on the underside of the flex and along the top of the roadbednand stick it down! be sure alignment is correct, 'cuz it's not easy to adjust once in place.

    DON'T use contact cement on styrofoam. Psychedelic things can happen.

    As others have said, float the turnouts.
  16. Stan

    Stan TrainBoard Member

    The previous posts show that the "Gluers" outnumber the "Nailers" by slightly more than two to one. Three posts were "neutral". (Is that, maybe, a political thing???)

    Thanks to all for your ideas. I guess I will join the "Gluers".

    I did some experimenting (gluing track to roadbed & roadbed to base) with another product that no one mentioned. It's called (I kid you not} "Aleene's Original Tacky Glue". It's available at "Michael's Arts & Craft Stores" -- a large chain of stores in the U. S. & Canada. It is white, but dries clear. It is very "tacky" and thus, holds objects well without much pressure needed while drying. Yet is fairly easy to separate the flextrack (Atlas Code 80) from the roadbed. Best way to apply is with those small "throw away" bristle brushes with rolled metal handles.
  17. verse2damax

    verse2damax TrainBoard Supporter

    On my layout I use Quicktite at strategic points on the flex track(in places where I don't use any cork roadbed), after I'm comfortable with the positioning of the track I then apply some Super Ponal #3 covering all ties on both sides of the track. This glue also dries clear but leaves a sheen, ballast and scenery details will take care of that (sheen) later on.
  18. Tom Hynds

    Tom Hynds TrainBoard Member

    I just laid a 6 ft 8 in stretch of Code 55 rail on a test track I'm building.

    1. Used white glue to attach track plan (paper) to foamboard.
    2. Used Liquid Nails to attach foamboard to wood.
    3. Used Liquid Nails to attach cork Roadbed to paper covered foamboard.
    4. Used Latex caulk (no silicone) to attach track to roadbed. Bought white 'cuz the local HD was out of (or maybe does not stock) the clear.

    No problems [​IMG] with any of them, Other than the white caulk sticks out (shows) pretty bad. [​IMG] Can't wait to ballast the tracks to get rid of that.
  19. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    I would have to agree with what is mentioned here. the method you use will be directly affected by the type of subroadbed you are using.

    Plywood-I would be very against the old school nails that Atlas sells. I never had good luck laying track that way. try the liquid nails on a sample piece of track and see how that works.

    Pink foam- I used sewing pins to hold the track. Once the ballast was glued down I pulled the pins out.

    homasote is already covered up above [​IMG]
  20. Stan

    Stan TrainBoard Member

    Guess I forgot to mention earlier that mysubbaseboard is similar (but better) to plywood. It's "MDB" -- medium density board fabbed from wood chips. A little more expensive than plywood, about $40 for a 50"X98" slab -- but all surfaces (top, bottom & edges) are very smooth and do not require sanding/smoothing -- even after being cut to size by a circular saw! Got mine at "Lowes" and had them cut the pieces needed for my layout. But definitely too hard to push in nails.

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