Ply or Plastic Sleepers?

Discussion in 'Permanent Way' started by paratom, 21 March 2021.

  1. paratom

    paratom Western Thunderer

    I am about to embark on building a MR layout and would like some feedback on the choice of timbering material modellers have chosen for their layouts. At the moment I am experimenting with using Templot templates which I am saving as DXF files for laser cutting. The timbers will be connected with half etched tabs under the rail that can be hidden by a covering of ballast after the track is laid. The ply I am using is .8mm thick which I believe is the same thickness as the plastic track that I will use in the fiddle yard. The advantage I see of using ply sleepers is that you can get a more realistic look than you can on the plastic ones providing the grain is going length ways along the sleeper which I haven’t done on the image below. There was a good article a while back on using ply sleepers with plastic chairs in the MRJ but maybe thing have moved on from there and modellers have a different approach . My only reservation is the bond strength between the chair and the ply sleeper as I would imagine you would get a better bond with a plastic sleeper. I would be interested to hear of any experiences from modellers who have gone done the route of using ply sleepers and what glues they have used.

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  2. simond

    simond Western Thunderer

    My whole shed layout is C&L plastic chairs on ply sleepers, fixed with MEK. 7mm / 31.5 gauge. I started building track Christmas 2014, I’ve had one minor issue with chairs and timbers separating, sorted with a hidden pin into the baseboard, soldered to the invisible side of the rail. I also deliberately took some track up to adjust the alignment, separated chairs from sleepers with a scalpel, adjusted the sleepers and restuck the chairs with more MEK.

    Details & pix on my Porth Dinllaen thread on RMWeb from Porth Dinllaen in 0 and onwards

    I’d have no hesitation in doing more in the same way.

  3. Dog Star

    Dog Star Western Thunderer

    I have been building S7 track using 1/16" (or 1.6mm) birch ply sleepers / timbers for at least twenty years, the chairs are from Exactoscale and C&L, affixed to the ply using either Butanone or Plastic Weld. No problems and the oldest layout is still running.
    BrushType4, john lewsey and simond like this.
  4. garethashenden

    garethashenden Western Thunderer

    There is a difference, as you point out, in the strength of the bond. The plastic chair/ply sleeper bond is weaker. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. If you find that a few chairs need to be repositioned, its really easy to stick a scalpel blade under the chair and separate the joint. Less so with well bonded plastic sleepers.
    john lewsey likes this.
  5. eastsidepilot

    eastsidepilot Western Thunderer

    Ply sleepers all day long, never had a problem, I think they look more authentic as well.

  6. john lewsey

    john lewsey Western Thunderer

  7. Phil O

    Phil O Western Thunderer

    I use plastic chairs and ply sleepers, stuck down with plastic weld. If adjustment is needed just slip a scalpel blade under the recalcitrant chair(s) and start again.

    Which ever way you decide to go, I would suggest that you have several track gauges.
    simond and 3 LINK like this.
  8. BrushType4

    BrushType4 Western Thunderer

    Ply sleepers glue fine. Just a thought to save a time cost on preparing the dxf and engraving out the tabs between the sleepers, why don't you cut the tabs out completely and use the panel around the sleepers to fix them in place on your baseboard. If you are using the tabs to align track a light etch line in the sleepers would do the same job. If time and cost isn't an issue, carry on. :thumbs:
    simond likes this.
  9. 3 LINK

    3 LINK Western Thunderer

    There was an article on this exact subject many years ago in an MRJ, and the chap went to extreme lengths when testing including dangling weights between chairs and sleepers! Believe it or not the plastic chairs glued to the ply wood sleepers had the strongest bond.

    simond likes this.
  10. John TAYLOR

    John TAYLOR Western Thunderer

    There`s always one that swims against the current.......

    I agree that ply wood sleepers look the best.... but I used plastic sleepers and they have been coping in extreme temperatures for 5 years now problems....

    Pencarrow, 3 LINK, Ian_C and 6 others like this.
  11. cbrailways

    cbrailways Western Thunderer

    Hi John. Track looks like the real thing to me.

    Thread diversion. Who is the supplier of the point rodding and point rodding roller stools shown in your photograph or am I imagining them?
  12. Dog Star

    Dog Star Western Thunderer

    What you say may well be correct. However, we run Heljan diesels and at around 4Kg for the Cl37s (around 9lbs) and we have no problem with those locos causing chairs to break away from the ply sleepers.

    regards, Graham
    3 LINK likes this.
  13. John TAYLOR

    John TAYLOR Western Thunderer

    Thanks Chris,

    Point rodding stools are those from C&L range of products. Not sure if they are still available.


    For the stools I now use Modelu products.

  14. cbrailways

    cbrailways Western Thunderer

    Hi John. Thanks for the info and apologies to Paratom for highjacking his topic.
  15. paratom

    paratom Western Thunderer

    From the two forums I have posted this subject on, ply seems to come out tops which I was hoping for. The reason for the tabs between the sleepers is so that I can cut the tabs at both ends of my point that are attached to the panel and the sleepers will stay in position. I haven't half etched the tabs on this laser cut point and would probably make them wider on the new laser cut points. Apparently you can buy .8mm walnut which is closer to the timber colour than ply and is a stiffer material which might be worth experimenting with.


    Attached Files:

    DrIain likes this.
  16. Pencarrow

    Pencarrow Western Thunderer

    Wood or plastic?

    rps20180206_104545.jpg.cb6122d019cc5b6ef0a521d6e819e2ac.jpg rps20180205_154222.jpg
    GrahameH and 76043 like this.
  17. simond

    simond Western Thunderer

    I'll go for it!

    Beam on stops, and knowing your talents for carving it, I'm betting plastic.

    Sleepers under the stops, ply

    Sleepers on the adjacent track, plastic.

  18. AJC

    AJC Western Thunderer

    Whisper it, but I'm not sure it makes much odds, at least in 4mm. Sleepers in reasonable order don't show a lot of texture and it's very easy to overdo it. I'm using a mixture of copperclad, plastic and card (mounting board - obviously only for cosmetic sleepers, an Iain Rice idea) and I don't suppose the difference when painted and ballasted will be at all obvious. Similarly, if you're viewing at a low angle or at eye level you're unlikely to see the texture that is present. In 7mm, it's perhaps more apparent, but again, track in good order shouldn't show too much grain. Track in less good order, of course...

    So please yourself, because ultimately that's what matters.

    Last edited: 23 March 2021
    cbrailways, simond and 76043 like this.
  19. simond

    simond Western Thunderer

    if using copperclad, don't grind a slot across the middle of the sleeper using the edge of a cutting disc as you'll have to fill it or it looks awful, and don't grind next to the solder or the copperclad might peel. If you hold the disc at a shallow angle to the sleeper, you can grind out a shallow, wide scallop which has cut marks running along rather than across the sleeper, and you might get away with paint only.
  20. AJC

    AJC Western Thunderer

    I'll be filling - it's a good use for spare Milliput.