First steps in track building and P4.

Help and advice for those starting in, or converting to P4 standards. A place to share modelling as a beginner in P4.
C_FORD_97
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First steps in track building and P4.

Postby C_FORD_97 » Sun Sep 06, 2020 6:50 pm

Hi all,

I'm a complete novice to track building and P4. I want to build a new layout at some point in the near future that's around 6ft long featuring a nuclear unloading/loading facility and a passing branch line to feature a few local services and short speedlink trip workings set in the North West late 80s early 90s. Before I take the plunge to build this the obvious thing to do is have a go at building a test plank in P4 to test my ability in track work to such standards and convert a couple of bits of rolling sock to see how it all goes.

Ive designed a track plan in Templot to hopefully test my skills enough, it utilities 2 B7 left hand turnouts. Ive included the design if anyone can give me a few pointers as to the way I have planned it out as im unsure if it is prototypically correct around the turnout's with how I've moved the timbers so they don't overlap one and other.
Ill just add that im not fully up to scratch with templot but I keep referring to the forum's for guidance reading back through others experiences.
overall plan.png
overall plan.png (107.92 KiB) Viewed 1251 times

turnout 1.png

turnout 2.png


My plan is to build this using Bullhead track, plastic chairs on ply timbers. I'm unsure of where to purchase the timbers for use with plastic chairs, are the Brook Smith method ones usable? Or should I be looking elsewhere?

For track I believe that I should be using code 75 for the following?

3 Hole S1 Chair from the stores,I have read online these would be a good representation of the period and location I'm looking to model?

For the turnouts would I need the following from the stores?
2x 4CH501A Chairs A B and C switches
2x 4CH502A Chairs 1:5 1:6 1:7 1:8 1:10 common crossings

My list of tools for the track building from the stores is:
1x Track gauge, triangular, for automatic gauge widening.
1x Flangeway gauge
1x Checkrail gauge

Many thanks in advance for help and guidance, i hope ive explained everything in good detail.

Connor

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Mike Garwood
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Mike Garwood » Sun Sep 06, 2020 6:57 pm

You could send the whole plan to someone who can laser cut the plan in one go. Save a fair bit of work.

There are various people who do this. As I've started Hengoed HL, Intentio have done mine. It didn't break the bank, I was really surprised. The next set of point work will becoming there way once I sort out the baseboards.

Mike

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Noel
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Noel » Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:28 pm

C_FORD_97 wrote:1x Track gauge, triangular, for automatic gauge widening.


I would suggest that two gauges will make life significantly easier. I don't use triangular gauges, but have come across suggestions that they can hold the rail head vertical, which results in instant gauge narrowing when you remove them, as the chairs adopt their designed 1:20 inclination, so you may wish to check that possibility on your gauge. Also, make sure you pre-curve rail for curved track; it doesn't have to be absolutely exact, but if you don't then there will be a lot of undesirable stress on the chairs and problems getting the alignment right.
Regards
Noel

Terry Bendall
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Terry Bendall » Mon Sep 07, 2020 7:47 am

Noel wrote:but have come across suggestions that they can hold the rail head vertical, which results in instant gauge narrowing when you remove them, as the chairs adopt their designed 1:20 inclination,


I have to say that I have never found this. If the chairs are glued to the sleepers and the gauges left in place whilst the glue dries then the top of the rail should be in gauge when the gauges are removed. It does of course mean that you either need quite a lot of gauges and progress will be slow. I always use the triangular gauge when making track.

A long time ago I did build some turnouts with rivets at the key places and functional chairs elsewhere and these worked successfully. However these days I prefer to stick to one method only - either riveted sleepers throughout with cosmetic chairs afterwards, or, assuming they are available, use Exactoscale plastic turnout bases and plain track bases with chairs glued in place. If they are available, the Exactoscale turnout kits make things much easier and success is almost certain to be achieved.

Terry Bendall

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steamraiser
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby steamraiser » Mon Sep 07, 2020 8:14 am

I have had some experience referred to by Noel.
I have modified one of my gauges by removing the outer section of the three pegs. This allows the rails to sit at an angle.
I always check with the solid brass block gauge (I have forgotten its name.) for tight spots. These can be eased with the aid of a sharp scalpel to separate the chairs from the sleepers.
A splash of glue also helps as it will soften the glue already in place.
I like to track lay with a minimum of three gauges. One in the area that you are gluing, one behind and one in front.

Gordon A

davebradwell
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby davebradwell » Mon Sep 07, 2020 9:13 am

Just to add that when you bend rail in your fingers it's likely that it will also bend vertically - place it on a flat surface and check that it leans correctly. Sometimes you'll even find it leaning outwards. When you make the crossing, the rail here will be vertical and needs a slight twist to sit comfortably in the chairs as it heads off to other parts. This seems to be some kind of dark secret not to be mentioned.

You'll find it impossible to use a single triangular gauge as they have no sense of direction. It's worth checking anything set with a gauge using a decent vernier - when you find it's always right you can stop doing it. Drill shanks are good for checking or even setting, check and wing rails. Ensure blades open adequately - 1.4mm. No mention of tiebars - a vast subject but Masokits come up regularly as a nice bit of design.

I can never understand why there's so many test planks and it's something else to store - why not just build the layout? You can always relay bits of it that suffer from first time nerves.

DaveB

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Le Corbusier
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Le Corbusier » Mon Sep 07, 2020 9:31 am

C_FORD_97 wrote:Hi all,


My plan is to build this using Bullhead track, plastic chairs on ply timbers. I'm unsure of where to purchase the timbers for use with plastic chairs, are the Brook Smith method ones usable? Or should I be looking elsewhere?



Hi Connor,

I built my test track using Exactoscale chairs and ply sleepers. The ply sleepers came from the stores .... as do the chairs now. I decided to go the functional chair route and found that by flooding the base of the chair with Butanone and pressing down on the rail lightly for about a minute the chair bonded to the ply just fine. I use roller gauges to set the track out so it doesn't affect the inline ....HTH :thumb
Tim Lee

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Le Corbusier
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Le Corbusier » Mon Sep 07, 2020 9:33 am

davebradwell wrote:I can never understand why there's so many test planks and it's something else to store - why not just build the layout? You can always relay bits of it that suffer from first time nerves.


On the one hand to give you sometyhing to make mistakes on without serious emotional investment, to develop techniques beyond track laying and to have something handy for road testing and running in stock :D
Tim Lee

C_FORD_97
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby C_FORD_97 » Mon Sep 07, 2020 10:30 am

Thanks for the replys so far from everyone!

I have seen the method of having laser cut timbers from track plans but wasn't sure if this would be worth doing for my plank.

Thanks for the information from all regarding the gauges. I think I'll add a second one, plus the roller gauges to my list.

Thanks for the tip regarding pre bending rail before fitting this is something I hadn't thought to do.

Tiebars are something that I have neglected to mention but I shall look into the masokits ones so thanks for that.

I appreciate what your saying Dave regards to a test plank but I think like Tim suggests it would be handy for testing rolling stock and also I'd like something to practice my scenery and electrical work on. It would be handy to also test future developments on.

Thanks again,
Connor

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Le Corbusier
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Le Corbusier » Mon Sep 07, 2020 10:59 am

Its a bit long winded and jumps about all over the place ... but if you scroll down through my thread a keep an eye out for the pictures you can see my journey regarding track building ... starting from pretty much the place you are currently at. I used my own version of the Howard Bolton approach. :thumb
Tim Lee

C_FORD_97
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby C_FORD_97 » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:11 am

Le Corbusier wrote:Its a bit long winded and jumps about all over the place ... but if you scroll down through my thread a keep an eye out for the pictures you can see my journey regarding track building ... starting from pretty much the place you are currently at. I used my own version of the Howard Bolton approach. :thumb


I'll try and have a good detailed look through your build Tim which does look very interesting, especially being from derbyshire myself.

Connor

davebradwell
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby davebradwell » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:15 am

I'm sure you'll follow your plan, Connor and I wish you every success but there's a whole genre of layout out there which are described as "scenicked test planks" which suggests some do get attached to their plank. They raise questions like have they boxed themselves into a corner? Would they have started from here? I just felt it worth stepping back from the number of bolts on chairs and throwing in the bigger question.

DaveB

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grovenor-2685
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby grovenor-2685 » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:18 am

davebradwell wrote:You'll find it impossible to use a single triangular gauge as they have no sense of direction.

I don't understand this statement at all, its up to the user to orient the gauge correctly on curved track, other than that where does direction come into it?
I successfully built plenty of track with one gauge before I got a second one, it helps to have two but I only got the second as it was available cheap from the Bring and Buy.
I do use two in my step by step, http://www.norgrove.me.uk/points.html

steamraiser wrote:I have modified one of my gauges by removing the outer section of the three pegs. This allows the rails to sit at an angle.

To be clear I take it you mean reducing the depth of the slots so they hold only the head and not the foot of the rail. Your phrasing could be taken to mean removing the outer side of each slot and that would be a disaster.
Regards
Keith
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Le Corbusier
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Le Corbusier » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:19 am

davebradwell wrote:I'm sure you'll follow your plan, Connor and I wish you every success but there's a whole genre of layout out there which are described as "scenicked test planks" which suggests some do get attached to their plank. They raise questions like have they boxed themselves into a corner? Would they have started from here? I just felt it worth stepping back from the number of bolts on chairs and throwing in the bigger question.

DaveB

Honest Guv, I am going to start the main layout soon :?
Tim Lee

Philip Hall
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Philip Hall » Mon Sep 07, 2020 12:04 pm

I’m very much with Dave in using a vernier as an additional method of checking gauge and other critical dimensions. There are some places where you can’t get a gauge and also the ‘feel’ of a gauge comes with experience. Basic construction is fairly easy with the gauges but getting rid of the odd problem is made easier with a measuring tool. On my old layout my standard method of gauge widening was to take the Society’s rectangular gauge and see how much it waggled about in the four foot. After a while I found I could always tell if things were ok, but accurate measurement sometimes told me I could be wrong!

I have never had a ‘proper’ test track; for as long as I can remember I have just had three lengths of flexitrack (P4, EM and 00) above my bench and just bent it to whatever radius the stock was intended to traverse. Bending a reverse curve gives you a check on what happens at a crossover. I will admit however that a multi gauge test track is part of the plan on the new layout and will be of a length to give 00 and EM stock a decent run rather than a quick up and down for a few feet.

Finally, the business of the inward cant of the rail in plastic chairs. I can’t be bothered with the hassle of trying to avoid the problem, so I’m going to be old fashioned and just have soldered upright rail on the pointwork. Ply sleepers, rivets every two or three sleepers, with plastic chairs cut in half and glued either side of the rail. The rivets will hold the rail very securely and the plastic chairs glued either side won’t let the rail go anywhere either. Being cut in half means that they can’t force the rail out of gauge. I can’t see from a foot away which way the rail leans (and I have some odd lengths of FastTrack where the rail leans the same way on both sides!

Philip

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Will L
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Will L » Mon Sep 07, 2020 12:32 pm

Philip Hall wrote:I’m very much with Dave in using a vernier as an additional method of checking gauge and other critical dimensions...


Hum. I thought our member recruiting process always sold membership on the basis that while our track gauge was defined as 18.83mm, we used gauges to set this and there was no need to indulge in high precision measurements?

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Le Corbusier
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Le Corbusier » Mon Sep 07, 2020 1:05 pm

Best approach is to get going and have a bash. The actual building work will flush out any questions and or problems. For my simple piece of trackwork I just used the guages and all has appeared to work :thumb
Tim Lee

Philip Hall
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Philip Hall » Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:31 pm

Will L wrote:
Hum. I thought our member recruiting process always sold membership on the basis that while our track gauge was defined as 18.83mm, we used gauges to set this and there was no need to indulge in high precision measurements?


I’m not disagreeing with the use of gauges - that’s how I would build track and sort out 99% of problems. I was just agreeing with Dave about the value of having a vernier. Sometimes it’s useful to measure things very precisely. I have begun to apply this sort of approach to wheels and chassis and it’s so much easier having precisely true components which fit, thereby removing much fiddling at the end. For example, having a small lathe (old Unimat SL, nothing fancy) means I am able (more easily than by hand) to produce axles for an engine which are exactly the right length with a nice little turning centre in them.

Philip

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steamraiser
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby steamraiser » Mon Sep 07, 2020 4:21 pm

grovenor-2685 wrote:
steamraiser wrote:I have modified one of my gauges by removing the outer section of the three pegs. This allows the rails to sit at an angle.

To be clear I take it you mean reducing the depth of the slots so they hold only the head and not the foot of the rail. Your phrasing could be taken to mean removing the outer side of each slot and that would be a disaster.


That is exactly what I have done.

C_FORD_97
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby C_FORD_97 » Thu Sep 10, 2020 7:10 pm

So ive built myself a 3 x 1 board for my test track, it will be used for oo gauge too so will be very much useful for testing all my rolling stock. I've decided to scrap my original track plan an go for something basic with only 1 turnout and a curved track off to keep it basic for now.

I made an order with the stores Tuesday and was happy to come home from work today to my parcel of purchase's.
Test track board.jpg

Now im not sure if im doing something wrong, but im finding it hard to actually thread on the chairs to the rail, and when I have It looks as if the foot and body of the rail are to large for the chairs...
Please excuse the crude close up but you can make out the bowing bottom of the chair and the gap between the rail body.
S1 Chair.jpg

The chairs are S1 3 hole type and its Code 75 Bullhead rail, both from the stores.
Is this just how I should expect the fitment to be or have i got something wrong here? I have tried to file the end of the rail foot to create a lead for the chair but this still feels stiff.

EDIT
*After further investigation watching a tutorial on YouTube and reading through the Digest for track building I believe I haven't actually prepared the rail properly so I will have a go at this over the weekend and hopefully this will solve all my problems...

Connor

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John Donnelly
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby John Donnelly » Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:33 pm

Having threaded over 2000 chairs over the last four months, a couple of pointers from someone who was a complete novice at building track with individual chairs:

1. It's difficult to tell from the photo but have you got the rail the right way up? I.e. the rail head is larger than the foot.
2. If you're not already doing so, I've found it much easier to the thread the chairs whilst they are still on the sprue.
3. I've ended up filing the whole end of the rail to a point rather than just the foot which I just square off once all the chairs have been threaded.
4. Even allowing for all the above, I've found that the failure rate is still quite high with a fair percentage of chairs breaking when they are threaded on to the rail.
5. I do have the same problem you've illustrated with some chairs but a bit pressure when gluing them down has helped.

John

Philip Hall
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Philip Hall » Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:30 pm

I have understood that there is/was problem with the web of some rails having become thicker over the years (or now manufactured like that) so that the fit in the chairs is very tight - possibly too tight. Interestingly, a year ago I assembled some FastTrack bases and the fit of older rail was much easier than very recent supplies. Both came from the EMGS, were nickel silver, and the old was very old indeed, maybe 20 years old. HiNi rail from C&L seems to be a thick web.

This is unfortunate if it is happening with current supplies from our stores. Is there a solution?

Philip

Highpeak
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Highpeak » Fri Sep 11, 2020 1:35 am

As a novice with just a couple of turnouts to my credit (for which I gave myself a C Must Try Harder) I am a bit reluctant to weigh in here, but nobody has mentioned the Mint gauge. I bought one of these at Scalefour North a couple of years ago and was embarassed at how much tweaking I had to do in order for it to slide along the track.
Not so much a construction tool but I found it to be an invaluable Quality Control device.
Neville
If at first you don't succeed, try reading the instructions.

C_FORD_97
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby C_FORD_97 » Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:51 am

John Donnelly wrote:3. I've ended up filing the whole end of the rail to a point rather than just the foot which I just square off once all the chairs have been threaded.


This I believe to be my problem, i haven't filed a the whole of the rail end to a point just a lead on the bottom of the foot.

Thanks for the replys and suggestions. I will report back at the end of the weekend with my latest results. :thumb

Connor

Terry Bendall
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Re: First steps in track building and P4.

Postby Terry Bendall » Fri Sep 11, 2020 6:46 am

C_FORD_97 wrote:This I believe to be my problem, i haven't filed a the whole of the rail end to a point just a lead on the bottom of the foot.


My solution is to thin down the foot of the rail and the vertical web since those are the only parts of the ail that the chair will touch. Not a point just a short taper.

I find it easier to leave the chairs on the sprue, put them on a block of wood so they are clear of the bench top, move the chair to the edge of the block, hold it with the fore finger of the right hand and slide the rail onto the chair. Obviously get the rail the correct way up.

Highpeak wrote:Not so much a construction tool but I found it to be an invaluable Quality Control device.


Which is exactly what it was designed to do. :D I had one of the first ones from Roger sanders when he first got some made.

Terry Bendall


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