Construction Tools and Materials for Laying Track?

Grey One Nov 12, 2004

  1. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    I am over whelmed by trying to figure out what I will need. Knowing me... I'll start to lay the track and oooops, I forgot some critical thing. The problem is I don't drive and the nearest hardware store isn't near. I am schedualing a week off and hope to have everything ready.

    Does anyone have a list of the Tools and Materials one would want to have on hand when they start to lay Micro Engineering track. Let's say they have the table work done and they are good to go.

    In my mind I need:
    Track - Micro Engeneering, C55
    Cork roadbed - Midwest
    50 / 50 water / white glue Any speciial brand?
    Rail spikes? Whose / what type to go with ME?
    Tap hammer, (I use an actual rr spike)
    Sharp utilty knife to cut cork
    Yard Stick and Tape Measure
    Steel straightedge
    Nice red wine
    Any thing else?

    Thanks guys?

    PS: You guys told me so and I am going with code 55; ;)
  2. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter

    You'll need something to cut the rails. I use a Xuron nipper.

    I've found that small flat blade screwdrivers are helpful for moving rail joiners this way and that.

    A nailset for driving spikes saves your fingers. I don't use spikes on C55, as they tend to bend the ties and narrow the gauge. I do use construction adhesive and lots of T-pins. T-pins are good for lots of tasks, especially setting up the initial curves.

    A track gauge.

    White glue is pretty much white glue--I use Elmers. I use it full strength to attach the roadbed to the foundation.

    Extra track joiners. You'll ruin a few. 'Tis better to start anew than re-use a ruined one.

    ME C55 is much stiffer than Atlas or Peco, so it demands a lot of care. I've had no problem with it, although it is a small minority of track.

    Time for dinner--all for now. C'mon folk, let's give GG all the hints he needs!

    Good luck, GG!
  3. steamghost

    steamghost TrainBoard Member

    You'll want at least a couple of track gauges to check your track work, generally on the curves you will bend. I'd get the 3 point kind, and an NMRA gauge is always useful to have for that and clearances.

    Xuron rail cutters -- makes things easy, the best.

    Couple extra packages of rail joiners.

    Use spikes if you like, but pushpins can keep the rail in place while it dries. Glue should hold well by itself assume humidity is reasonable.

    White glue -- in a 50/50 mix Elmer's is fine, doesn't dry shiny. And that formula's for ballast. Use full strength for roadbed and track laying.

    I assume you are soldering sections together (and not all sections)? You should. Then you need to drop feeder wires, 18ga or so, through holes drilled in the base. I think we determined here not to solder continuous sections longer than about 6' to allow for expansion/contraction. If you glue down the track with something really strong like Pliobond, expansion/contraction is less of a problem.

    For superelevating curves and leveling spots, you'll need thin cardboard for shims.
  4. steamghost

    steamghost TrainBoard Member

    Wow, great minds think alike and in different time zones besides. I swear I did not copy his post. Pete's working on his road right now, so there's the man to listen to.
  5. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    Thanks guys. to the list we add:
    Xuron – nippers, Is that a brand name?
    Flat small blade screw driver
    T pins – Holding rails in place
    Push Pins – Holding rails in place
    Track gauges – several
    Light soldering iron and solder – Practice this first
    18 gauge wire – Black and Red? I’m doing DC to start
    Rail joiners – lots of them
    Shims – Cardboard and? Other materials?

    BTW: here is the "final" aproximation:
  6. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter


    I'm only going to address tracklaying, not wiring. Wiring is a whole 'nudder topic.

    Xuron is a brand new. Should be at any LHS. They are in the $10-15 range, IIRC. My track-laying kit used to include a bunch of small files, to clean up after rotary tool (Dremel) cuts. An unabused Xuron will cut for years, without the need for files. But it only makes a square cut on the "backside"--the cut on the other side is pinched, and has to be re-trimmed by the backside to be usable.

    T-pins and push-pins are the same thing. Go for the medium and big--skip the small.

    For shims, get a sheet of .040 styrene. I hear that's the thickness to use to super-elevate curves. I do that only ocassionally, so I'll pass to other better recommendations.

    Lots of rags to wipe up excess white glue. Shortens the drying time.

    A rasp or Sur-form tool. These will smooth both roadbed (cork) and subroadbed (plywood or, in my case, foam).

    When you break apart cork roadbed (you have to split it down a seam on its length, and the inner edges become the outer shoulders), you'll find that one edge has a nice shoulder and the other edge is not so nice. So spend just a minute touching up that rough edge with either a rasp, or sandpaper. 60 grit works just fine.

    So, various grades of sandpaper could be helpful.

    Bye for now.
  7. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter


    I'll repost this about my wiring efforts:

    Large holiday parties make train rooms spotless. My workbench was clear for the first time in months. I tucked all my tools and supplies into boxes and bins. I cleaned track and scenery meticulously, the latter with tweezers to remove every speck of unwanted debris.

    Two 40-car trains rewarded me by running flawlessly all Friday evening.

    By Saturday evening, the train room was again a mess. What happened?

    I had decided to make some “simple” changes to the wiring.
    I needed more control options—that is, more local cabs.
    In terms of wiring logic, this was not a puzzle—in fact, the wiring would be simpler in the end.

    Finding the right wires was a puzzle, as this section of the layout had undergone countless changes, resulting in a rat’s nest of wires. So the first tool out of storage was a multi-meter, to help trace the wires. I next took out the masking tape and indelible ink pen to mark the wires.

    Once marked, I found the wire cutter and square-nose pliers to unmount the old control switches.

    I had to wire six new rotary switches, so out came the coils of colored wire, the soldering iron, the wire stripper, the needle-nose pliers, and my 4X optical visor. Next came the fine sandpaper and wetted sponge to renew the soldering tip, as well as the weights I used to tension the wires so I could solder all the connections of each switch at once.

    I had to drill new holes or enlarge existing ones in the fascia, so out came the battery-powered drill, the drill bit set, and a measuring gauge.

    The extensions on the rotary switches’ pole were too long to tighten the retaining nuts with the square-nose pliers, so out came the rotary tool, mandrel and cutting discs, and my protective goggles.

    The rotary switches needed new labels, so I made a trip to the computer room to design and print them. Back in the train room, out came the scissors and a hobby knife to trim the new labels, and the glue to paste them onto the fascia. And the screwdriver set to attach the new knobs to the shortened poles.
    I needed mains for the new local cabs, so out came more color-coded wire, and the stapler and box of staples to tack the mains to the underside of the layout.

    I started connecting and soldering. Out came the soldering paste (for larger wires) and electrical tape to wrap finished connections. Because of the rat’s nest wiring, I tested every connection when I made it, so out came long wires with alligator clips to extend the reach of the multi-meter.

    I used the hobby knife to strip insulation from the mains. Just when I thought, “Boy, if the knife slips here. . .” the knife slipped. Out came the paper towels, the antiseptic, the Band-Aids and, eventually, the super-glue—yes, it works, and better than a stitch, but requires great caution.

    After this break it occurred to me, now that I had two local cabs and a simpler wiring scheme, that the cabs shouldn’t be dangling from their feed wires but mounted where operators could see their operations. I found the tape measure in the kitchen and determined the size of the platforms. Out came the saber saw and its blades to cut slots in the fascia. A trip to the workshop radial arm saw yielded two platforms for the new cabs. Then I hunted for screws to secure the platforms to the layout.

    I could now run, with two mainline trains constantly looping, three separate engines on the branch (Main3, plus locals 1 and 2). With these changes operations became “alive.”

    Since it was still early afternoon, I decided to tackle a few “simple” scenery changes. Out came the paints, brushes, joint compound, ballast materials, thinned glue—

    No wonder my train room is always a mess. What other hobby requires so many tools, so many skills, so many challenges, and so much tolerance of a mess?
  8. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    Pete that is so kind and generous. When can you come up for a week? :D [​IMG] [​IMG] or maybe a few of you guys? I have a lost and lots of room. Pete you know how wonderful New England is in the winter. I bet you can't wait to come back to the slush and suff. [​IMG] :D
    /Hope I put enough smillys in and they know I'm joking in good humor.
  9. racedirector

    racedirector TrainBoard Member


    You might also look at hot gluing your rail. I am laying code 55 in my HO scale yard and will be using hot glue. It is a bit tricky to get right, but once you get it laying the rail will go real quick. Not that I can support that statement as I have only been doing test bits of track, but Ironhorseman (Bill) on here swears by the method.

  10. sandro schaer

    sandro schaer TrainBoard Member

    maybe a few more things :

    - as said, i'd also recommend to glue the track in place instead of nailing it down. had some good results using woodlands track glue or similar products.

    - better think of where to put power feeders on your track now ! i soldered thin wire to the bottom of the railjoiners. placed the track on the trackbed, drilled two small holes right where the joiners will be. put the railjoiners in place and slide the wire thru the holes. i've done this to 99% of all the rail joints on my layout. flawless operation.

    - you might consider of super-elevating your curves. have some thin styrene strips ready

    - eye/ear protection. if you decide to cut your rail with a dremel.... this small cutting disks fly very far and very fast.

    - have your camera ready. you might need the pictures for the insurance....

    - first aid kit... just browse thru this forum. search for 'oops' and you'll find out why...
  11. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I use Xuron nippers, and a dremel tool with a cutting disc for most cutting jobs. I always like to have 2-3 extra packs of joiners handy as well, and where I differ, I use track nails to hold the track down. But I use Latex Liquid Nails to hold everything down. Roadbed, track, scenery, everything. Holds tight, reversible with a putty knife.
  12. Fotheringill

    Fotheringill TrainBoard Member

    25 watt soldering iron, flux and THIN wire solder.
  13. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter

    We haven't had much luck with the Boston weather. The last two times in winter, we got stuck in those hellacious two-day ice storms--the ones where you can't even walk out to your car. The last two times in spring, it rained the whole week.

    But at least the rail system has improved dramatically. If there had been rail service out to Southboro in 1991, I probably would have taken a job downtown and still be there.
  14. MP333

    MP333 TrainBoard Supporter

    You also need some good lighting. I even use a flashlight sometimes to highlight a dark area in a turnout or something.

    Good magnification, such as optivisors, unless you have 18-year old eyes.

    And some good music, or run train videos.

    Have fun!

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