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Track Laying Primer in Model Railroad Construction


One of the most critical components of model railroad construction is the laying of the track and roadbed. It is critical because if not done properly, your trains will derail, track will warp, and you may have to redo major portions of your model railroad construction project. Imagine having to rip out a section of your model railroad construction because trains constantly derail at a certain track location. Laying track from a beginner train set is simple but the serious modeler wants more than an oval on the floor. Let's see how modelers lay their track in their model railroad construction projects.

Seriously consider flex track for your model railroad construction. Beginners oftentimes start with the track sections that came with their first train set but flex track provides an advantage in that it allows you to create curves that are not limited to a pre-defined radius thus giving them a true-to-life look. Its most obvious disadvantage is that you have to cut the rails when the ends offset as a result of bending.

Build quietness into your model railroad construction. Trains will run noisy when track is laid directly on top of plywood. Some modelers build wood frames and mount sheets of styrofoam as the surface for their model railroad construction. This makes for a very lightweight model railroad and one that can be easily stored away should you need to. But the main advantage is that styrofoam helps to muffle the sound and is soft enough to allow mounting of track using its surface as the roadbed. Another material sometimes used as a main surface for model railroad construction is homasote which is compressed paper wallboard.

Mount elevated roadbed for your main lines. If you look at the main line of an actual railroad, you will notice that the track is built higher than the surrounding area. The main reason for this has to do with drainage. Model railroaders use pre-manufactured roadbed material that is usually made of cork to mount their track on. Spurs that run into commercial areas will usually be at street level so you can create sloping roadbed to run trains between levels.

Plan the track route in your model railroad construction. Never start laying roadbed and track without an accurate plan. This involves drawing the track plan directly on the train table plywood, homasote, or foam surface. You can draw curves by making a compass from a long piece of wood with holes drilled for the different radii you will use.

Exercise caution before laying track. Track with plastic ties usually has pre-drilled holes so that you can mount it on the roadbed with spikes or small nails. This is an area where you must be careful because the plastic ties could warp and cause your rails to go out of gauge. Never pound nails in order to mount track. In fact, the best method to mount your track is by using adhesive.

Add realism to the roadbed of your model railroad construction with weathering. You can make the rails and ties of your track look much more realistic by either painting them or using commercially sold track weathering agents. Real life rails do not gleam on their sides and the ties are not glossy black. They are variations of dull brown and black. Just put a small amount of oil on the tops of the rails before spray painting. This will allow you to wipe off the paint on top of the rails easily.

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