US Style Track in S - Jameston & Leven River RR

Discussion in 'Techniques' started by JimG, 22 February 2016.

  1. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I've got a couple of drawers full of US RTR S scale locos and rolling stock which I obtained some years ago and I fancied getting a small switching layout put together which would give me something running while other projects were ongoing. The layout will be about 12' x 1' along a wall in my bedroom, so there won't be a requirement for too much track building since there is a physical limit on how much track I can get in twelve square feet. :) I've decided to model quite light track by American standards and I'm going to use Code 82 FB rail, a pack of which I happened to have around. :) As for sleepers, or - as I should call them - ties, I'm going to cut them out of 2mm plywood and the CNC mill will be ideal for that. :)

    To hold the track down, I'm going to use spikes from Andy Reichert in the US.

    Spikes Scale HO

    I got a sample pack of his range and I've opted to use his O and S scale short spikes after a bit of experimentation.

    This is the early stages of cutting the ties. The small piles of sawdust show where the 0.5mm spike holes have been drilled already and the 1mm cutter has started on the vertical cuts for the tie lengths.

    A bit further on, the cutter is now slicing the lot into tie width of a scale nine inches.

    ...and the finished sheet ready to lift off the table...

    ...with a close up to show the spike holes. The plywood is still a bit "hairy" from the cutter but that cleans off quite easily when taken off the table. But the line is supposed to be a slightly run down short line so I don't want the track to be perfect, but more towards the "Jordan" standards, so a bit of roughness here and there won't hurt. :)

    I've also cut some long timbers for turnout construction but I suspect that I'll need to cut a lot more. Having just spent a day on Templot drawing out pointwork to US standards, I'm going to need a lot of timbering since they do have their turnout timbering at a closer pitch than in the UK.

    This is the bit of test track I built to test out the system, using a bit of 1.5mm plywood I had available and using the spikes from Andy Reichert's sample pack. The spikes I'm using have a 0.6mm x 0.4mm cross section so I chose the 0.5mm drilled holes to give a small amount of grip to the spike. this seems to work well with the spike being retained in the holes and holding the rail quite firmly. I've opted for the 2mm ply to give a slightly greater depth to better match the length of the spike.

    A closer shot showing the spikes. They are probably slightly oversize for absolute scale in S, but they look fine and they handle reasonably well. Inserting them is a bit fiddly but I was getting better at it as I progressed. :) I intentionally tended towards the "throw it together" method of working in the hope that the track would have the "Jordan" look but it came out quite straight and flat - I'll have to concentrate more in future. :)

    The freight car is an S Helper Service hopper (beautiful quality and detail) with a Kadee #5 coupler fitted. The coupler's dropper is too high and won't operate properly in magnetic uncoupling, but I'm aiming to use manual uncoupling so the droppers could be cut off in any case.

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  2. Dog Star

    Dog Star Western Thunderer

    That reads rather like a commendation of a poor achievement when the opposite is more correct - Jordan has a skill in producing US O-scale track with character and deserves recognition for his work. Whether Jordan is going to agree with this sentiment is open for discussion ;) .

    Or maybe Jim, you can CNC engrave a plaque for Portway Center - "ties by Starbucks, rough and ready treatment by Jordan" :thumbs: .
    Last edited: 22 February 2016
    Jordan likes this.
  3. Dikitriki

    Dikitriki Flying Squad

    I think it's far more difficult and time-consuming to produce deliberately poor working track, than it is to produce superb flat, gauged trackwork.

    Given Jim's precision background, I suspect that there may be a certain level of mental anguish involved.....

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  4. Jordan

    Jordan Mid-Western Thunderer

    :D ;) had to smile at that!!
    ...especially since there I was, reading the OP, thinking to myself "there's how to do it properly", when all the time the intention was to copy the look that results from not doing things properly.... :confused: :)

    Teeny-weeny Point of Order for Graham; 'Portway Center' used Peco & Lima R-T-R track, not my hand-laid concoctions.
    In one way this made it easier to do the rough track trick, as the track just needed shimming up & down whilst testing rolling stock, so the 'lean' could be pushed to the limit. On the other hand it was much harder to get the rickety "never quite straight" look to the rails as the flextrack plastic sleeper bases are actually quite rigid, along a short distance of 4 to 6in or so.
    Last edited: 22 February 2016
  5. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    It was a tongue in cheek reference. :) Probably the most difficult track to produce is run down, uneven track that will still work on the model as well(???) as it does in real life. :)

    allegheny1600 and Jordan like this.
  6. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    Probably correct. When I hand laid my On30 track I took care to be as perfect as possible. When I finished it was not the case and I thought nothing would run over it. However, to my surprise both locos and stock ran perfectly. On the other hand it was good to see the stock wallow around true to prototype without derailment.

    Which has given me an idea. Should a derailment (god forbid) occur on my next US layout should I use rerail frogs rather than the Maradona solution i.e. hand of god :).
    Jordan likes this.
  7. Jordan

    Jordan Mid-Western Thunderer

    Definitely!!! :p
    In fact derailments are so common on some of the worst US track that I wonder why we get so hung up about it on our layouts :) It's quite prototypical, & as P.D.Hancock once wrote, sometimes happens in such a prototypical way that it's almost a pleasure to watch.... :confused:
  8. Overseer

    Overseer Western Thunderer

    Looks good. One small detail point - in timber ties the spikes were nearly always offset on each side of the rail to reduce the risk of splitting the tie. There were rules about which side lead, similar to which way the keys face in bullhead track, but they only relate to running lines and then mainly on grades so a random arrangement would be typical in a yard. It is interesting to see how the etched spike look as I am trying to decide which spikes to use for my 1:48 track, so far none look quite like the local prototype spikes.
  9. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    They are actually offset but by a small amount. :) You can just about see it in the close shot of the sleepers on the milling machine table.

    ...but I could maybe offset them a bit more. I think I remember starting off thinking about a 0.3mm hole which looked OK, then I upped the diameter to 0.5mm. The hole diameter in the CAD drawing (above) is actually 0.6mm since I was trying to work out an accurate distance between spikes for the base of the rail. The CAM program, when hole drilling, only looks for the centre of the circle in CAD and the drilled diameter is set by the drill or cutter. The cutter for the holes is a 0.5mm slot drill which seems to have stood up to the job very well with something like 3000 holes so far. :)

    The spikes from Andy Reichert work well and the sample pack is worth it if you're wondering which size would be best. Handling the spikes can be slightly tricky and a good set of tweezers and/or snipe nosed pliers is necessary. Andy recommends modifying the points of tweezers to handle the spikes and that might be the best way for the HO scale ones - which are minute. But for the ones for the larger scales, I found a pair of serrated jaw, snipe nosed ones were best. I might change my mind when I lay more track - I've only laid the one foot length test track so far. :) It's also an "if it pings off, forget it" situation. :)

  10. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    For my P48 track I have opted for coffee stirrer ties, Grandt Line code 100 tie plates (mine will represent a light line using code 100 rail) and ME (Micro Engineering Company) small track spikes. I have also purchased a pair the Micro-Mark Spike Insertion Pliers.

    I haven't laid any track yet but when I do I'll post some pictures so you can see.
    Jordan likes this.
  11. Jordan

    Jordan Mid-Western Thunderer

    Jim - any chance of a picture showing comparison of the different spikes in Andy's Sample Pack?
  12. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer


    Andy provides a picture on his web site that I pointed to in my first message

    Spikes Scale HO

    but it doesn't give any actual dimensions, which is why I got his sample pack. :) At the moment, I haven't got my samples to hand since I left them at the club last week. I'll try and get my hands on them tomorrow and measure all of them. I doubt if you will want the HO ones since they are really minute. I'm using the small S/O ones which have a cross section of 0.6mm x 0.4mm on the spike body and the length of the spike is about 2.5mm. I think that is the one which is fourth from the left in the picture on Andy's web site.


    [Later] PS When I get my hands on them I can send them to you - I've got 3000 of the spikes I'm using en route to me at the moment. Jim.
    Jordan likes this.
  13. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer


    I got the spikes from the club yesterday and here's a picture of the larger S/O scale spikes.

    I've put a rule in to allow you to gauge the lengths. The spikes are etched in 0.4mm sheet and the body of the spikes is about 0.6mm x 0.4mm. I'm going with the ones on the right hence my use of 2mm thick ties.

    Other work has been going on and here's the latest output from the mill...

    ...some S scale tieplates machined from 20 thou styrene. These number 200 which is about the correct amount for a yard of track using 22" - 24" tie spacing.


    ...and a closer shot with the tie plates removed from the double sided tape with some cleaning up. The final cuts pick up the glue from the tape so it's a fair old job to get rid of all the swarf. :) I think my ridges to locate the foot of the rail might be a bit too high. They are machined from 20 thou styrene sheet and the base of the tie plate is 10 thou and the ridges are 10 thou. Maybe a 5 thou/15 thou split would look better although a 15 thou base in S scale might be getting a bit too thick, scaling out at just under an inch (15/16"). I'm also looking at machining them taped to a separate plate so that the plate with machined, but still stuck down, tieplates can be removed from the milling machine, painted rusty-ish brown with a quick spray from a rattle can. Then the plates can be removed from the tape, making the painting a lot quicker than trying to do them individually.

    Further work will have to wait until Sunday or later - I've got the S Scale AGM to prepare for today, and to attend all day tomorrow. :)

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  14. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    Well I got the S scale AGM out of the way over the weekend then went back to spiked track. I cut another set of tieplates but with less relief on the top - i.e. the plate itself is 15 thou and the relief on the top is 5 thou, and that looked a bit better.

    This was the sheet of re-jigged tieplates - almost the full 200. :)


    I also had to re-drill the ties so that the spike holes matched the tieplates. Before I could do the drilling I had to clean up the bases before putting them in a holder. That was a bit of a boring job for almost 600 ties. :)


    I cut a holder on the mill and re-drilled the ties, ten at a time - another bit of a grind. :)

    I also took the opportunity to get rid of the bright white of the styrene tieplates and delivered a quick scoosh of Halford's primer.


    After a bit of fiddling around, experimenting with how I was going to put everything together, I decided to stick the tieplates to the ties. To do this, I grabbed a 0.45mm drill in the pin vice and used that to line up the tieplate on the tie using the spike holes. For gluing I now use a hypodermic instead of a brush. I find I can apply the right amount in the right place and I don't get the wastage I get using a brush. I got the syringe off Ebay (three syringes and 50 needles for a few pounds) and the glue is butanone.

    Here's the drill shank being used to locate a tieplate just before the butanone is applied.

    To make the track, the method I have developed is to fit both tieplates to the ties, then partially fit the spikes on one side of the ties. I then locate and glue one tie on the track plan and feed the rail through the spikes and then tighten up the spikes to hold the rail in place in the locating shoulders on the tieplate. I then put spikes pon one side of the other ties and feed them on to the rail - just like feeding chairs on. I then locate every tenth, or so, tie on the track plan and glue them to the plan. After that, I go back and locate and glue all the intervening ties to the plan. After that the other rail is placed and spiked down. I might find another way of doing things after more experience but this system works reasonably well at the moment with a little experience of it.

    ...and a shot of the wee bit of test track built so far. The tieplates tone down quite well and I've started a bit of the Steve Cook sleeper treatment with shoe dyes and IPA...

    ...and a slightly closer view showing that I haven't driven all the spikes evenly. :) I didn't help myself by using a bit of expanded polystyrene as a base under the cork sheet which isn't the firmest of bases to press spikes on. :)

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  15. Jordan

    Jordan Mid-Western Thunderer

    Jigs, templates, drills... you won't get rickety track by doing things properly... :p :D ;)
    Must admit I've never heard of threading on "pre-spiked" ties before - but I suppose most people spiking track won't have laid British chaired track so wouldn't think along those lines.
  16. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer


    The problem really is of my own making by using pre-drilled holes in the ties. If I had been able to drive the spikes through the tieplates into undrilled ties, then I could have laid all the ties on the plan, then laid rail and tieplates before spiking them. But it's not really possible to drive Andy Reichert's spikes into wood without some sort of pilot hole. The other way of building could be to drill pilot holes through the tieplates before driving the spikes and I might look at that method when building turnouts.

    However, I do have a bit of variability. :) When I was re-drilling the ties, I noticed early on that lateral alignment of the ties was not exact because of one or two factors. However I decided to leave the situation since it would give some variation in tie placement so that the tie ends were not all perfectly aligned. That did mean that I couldn't pre-align the ties on the track plan before laying rail and tieplates - another reason for sticking the tieplates to the ties. :)

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  17. Dikitriki

    Dikitriki Flying Squad

    Bet it's still dead level though:)

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  18. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer


    I was thinking that it might be easier to fit the rolling stock with eccentric wheels to get the "Jordan" effect. :)

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  19. Dog Star

    Dog Star Western Thunderer

    I can just see Jordan filing flats on some wheels for authenticity and audible impact ;) .
    unklian likes this.
  20. Jordan

    Jordan Mid-Western Thunderer

    Say.... there's an idea..!! :) ;)