North Section Track

The track on the North Section is finally complete. The elapsed time was longer than the south section, but that was due to real life getting in the way of the trains. Overall, I think the effort was less for this section than the first. Compared to the south section, I made a couple of minor changes in approach.


  • Instead of shimming the PC board ties with wood, I used 3-ply Strathmore. The wood had to be sanded to .021″, and that was not only time-consuming, but also inaccurate. The result was that some ties were high, and some were low, though only by a few thou. On the south section, I accommodated the variation with solder, on the north section, I aimed to do better. In the end, while it was faster, it wasn’t more accurate because I bodged the clamping of the shim. I used full depth ties, which deformed the Strathmore. Next time, when clamping the shim, I will use the PC board ties themselves, which should make it all line up perfectly with the adjacent wooden ties.
  • On the south section, I typically formed and installed one piece of rail at a time. This meant that I was sometimes waiting for glue to dry, and I could really only do one or two pieces of rail per evening. On the north section, I ganged these together, assembly-line fashion. All the stock rails and frogs were completed in a couple of evenings, and installed in one five hour or six hour session.
  • Andrew tinned the rails on the north section. He is better at tinning than I am, and laid down a seriously thin coating of solder. On the south section, by contrast, I had enough solder under the rail to fix them down. All it required than a brief touch with the resistance soldering unit to fix the rails in place. The thinner tinning slowed me down as I had to either solder with the regular soldering iron or cut a sliver of solder and heat with the RSU to wick it into place. The future I will do the tinning (badly).
  • I didn’t tin the bottom of the frogs, but rather used the RSU and a sliver of solder in the past flux. On the south section, a couple of frogs came apart as I was tinning them. I hate going backward, as it means I have to go back and dust off the fixture I used in the earlier step. Not tinning the frogs was a good idea.
  • On both sections, I painted all the rail with a rattle can before laying it. On the south section, I did it on a piece of cardboard, and the paint sometimes seeped under the rail, interfering with the Pliobond. On the north section, I tried it on a piece of plywood, which made it worse. Then I found that if I raised the rail off the surface, the glue didn’t get painted at all.


Overall, I’m delighted with the way this section looks. As you can see, I took out the embankment because the paper kept deforming and created a crack along the edge of the roadbed. I’ll replace it with styrofoam after the layout is installed and working. I’ve also decided to delay finishing the ballast around the points and frogs until everything has been fully tested.

There are still the bus wires to go together for this section, and all the turnout controls need to be installed on both sections, but we’re getting closer. Next, I’ll be building the cabinets for above and underneath. That will feel a lot like house construction, and so, I will only post a single blog post when it’s done, rather than ongoing reports. So, be prepared for a bit of a wait!


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