Learning to build Track

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JFS
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Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Thu Mar 24, 2011 4:11 pm

Hello everyone,

Since a number of people talked about learning to build track, I thought I might post a few pics of work-in-progress on my new layout. My track building approach is "unconventional" but has been developed to maximise the benefits of "modern technology" such as functional plastic chairs, Templot templates etc. I have also tried plenty of other ways of doing the job and all have upsides and downsides so I would say that I have adopted my approach in the knowledge of, rather than out of ignorance of Other Ways! But please don't anyone suggest using tubular rivets - I have knocked up several thousand of them and can see no need ever to use another one - ever!

The job starts with developing the Template (my shorthand for a template developed in Templot!) two copies of which are then printed - one to make a "rail forming and sub assembly pre-fabrication jig" and the second to stick to the base board so that the track can be built directly upon it. The test track I brought to the meetings was built this way and this is what I am proposing we use for the group Test Track - I think it builds really accurate track which runs well.

The pics show the first stage of building pointwork - to build ACCURATE pre-fabricated assemblies for the crossing work on the "rail forming and sub assembly jig" - this is how they did it on the Real Thing. The Template is the guide for positioning the rails along with the Crossing Flangeway gauge. The secret in this stage is to build the assemblies with the rails NOT cut to length - but left as long as is practical. I very carefully curve these rails to fit perfectly over the Template - that way, when the rails are subsequently cut to length, they are already curved thus avoiding any tendency towards threepenny bit track!. This excess length also allows the rails to be positioned accurately prior to soldering-up.

To assemble these units, I use short strips of nickel silver at all the positions where the prototype would use block chairs, the strips themselves will subsequently be hidden by Exactoscale crossing chairs. The rails themselves are held in the correct vertical alignment by sliding functional chairs on the outer ends. I don't make any attempt to secure the bits of N/S to the Template and the rails are only located by means of blutac blobs. Nonetheless, by proceeding in a logical sequence, one rail at a time, you never need more than two hands at a time.

A big advantage of a pre-fabricated assembly built this way is that you can "tack" solder it together, then lift it off the jig and squint along it to check that the rails are perfectly aligned - in the event of any issue, it is simple to unsolder and adjust without singeing timbers or un-soldering previous work.

Some pics...
K crossing jig.jpg
Building the K crossings on the Template - on the far one, the closure rails have been firstly bent to form the knuckles of the vee and one has then been cut to length using a piercing saw - the kerf of the saw will then be the gap of the rail joint in the Exactoscale insulated fishplate.


Secondly, a pic of some completed pre-fab assemblies.
Prefabricated assemblies.jpg
You can see that I have partly cut the rail and fitted etched brass fishplates at the cosmetic rail joints. You can also see at the extreme left a pair of loose-heel switches - necessary because of the restricted space in the tandem. The rail is cut completely through here and I use the fishplate as a (rather crude) hinge.


One aspect which I hope you can see in the pics is that the bends in the K stock / wing rails and in the common crossing wing rails are NOT sharp - they are a fairly gentle radius (equal on the Real Thing to n feet where n is the crossing angle - a one in nine crossing being 9 feet radius - which even in 4mm is a pretty gentle 36mm radius curve!

Hope this is useful for the beginners. Sorry for patronising everyone else!!

If people are interested, I will add some more posts to show how I assemble these into track and how I do switch rails, functional chairs, wiring connections etc etc.

Let me know what you think.

Best Wishes to all,

Howard

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LesGros
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby LesGros » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:31 pm

JFS wrote:
If people are interested, I will add some more posts to show how I assemble these into track and how I do switch rails, functional chairs, wiring connections etc etc.

An interesting method, please do continue to post the rest of the process to completion.
LesG

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never made anything useful

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Thu Mar 24, 2011 5:53 pm

Thanks for the encouragement Les.

Herewith a couple more pics illustrating what I mean about pre-curving the rail - hopefully also showing how well the rails can be kept in alignment.
Prefabricated assemblies 1.jpg
Prefabricated assemblies 1.jpg (30.01 KiB) Viewed 11674 times


Prefabricated assemblies 2.jpg
In this shot, you can see how the wing rail extends to the tip of the switch - of course it will later have to be spilt for electrical purposes.


Before anyone asks, it is all Hi Nickel rail - to many bad tales about steel (whoops, was that can full of worms?)

Sorry the shots are so blurred - never was much of a photographer!

Regards,

Howard

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Andy W
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Andy W » Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:35 pm

Yes, a very interesting thread. Thanks Howard.
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Armchair Modeller » Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:56 pm

:thumb
Last edited by Armchair Modeller on Thu Sep 13, 2012 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:25 pm

Armchair Modeller wrote:As a newcomer, I would also appreciate some clarification on the use of steel, please.


In forty years of P4 I have never used steel and never seen any need for change. And I know of one well known P4 modeller with an extensive layout in steel rail who bitterly regrets going that way. So my instinct leans towards N/S. But you will find plenty of threads here and on RMweb where people argue otherwise!

It is not because I don't like steel - I love it for things like loco motion and it is very nice to cut and file - but track needs soldering and the fluxes used for steel will cause rust - everywhere. For a newcomer, I therefore would say stick to N/S - later on you can experiment and make your own mind up!

Alternatively why not not build a simple test track in both and see how you get on? It is well worth building a few bits of track before you invest your efforts in a full layout - materials are pretty cheap really!

Good Luck!

H

ken kirk
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby ken kirk » Fri Mar 25, 2011 3:40 pm

Thanks for the article Howard.I too have been building track for many years but am always looking for new ways to do it. Certainly this method of knitting complex trackwork seems to have a lot going for it and will be considered when I continue with my own layout. Message for those new to trackwork. Don't think you ever stop learning! At the Nottingham Area Group, we actively encourage you to have a go and will be programming in some tutorials later this year.
Thanks again Howard, Look forward to the next installment.
Ken

bevis
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby bevis » Sun Mar 27, 2011 8:37 pm

Really good Howard, Thanks.
How about a photo tutorial on that functional point rodding that fascinated me on Tuesday night?
Regards,
Bevis

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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Armchair Modeller » Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:24 pm

:thumb
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JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:04 am

... unfortunately, in my experience the resulting rust is not "scale" - except in so much as every day, every week, every year there is more of it than there was before!!! :D

Howard

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:31 am

bevis wrote:Really good Howard, Thanks.
How about a photo tutorial on that functional point rodding that fascinated me on Tuesday night?
Regards,
Bevis


Hi Bevis, well here are a few pics of it as it was built as a starter..

Compensator.jpg
Compensator.jpg (45.87 KiB) Viewed 11453 times



The base and top layer of the cranks are from Southwark Bridge Models - beautiful but not strong, whilst the "structural bits" are hacked from Brassmasters parts - strong, but non-functional and a bit ugly! We must resort to Such Things because Colin Waite no longer sells his stuff and I have almost run out of his bits!

Ambis.jpg


You can see that I did not trust the Ambis stretchers to be strong enough, so I used the detector rods to give extra strength by soldering them to a strip of PCB. This was a big mistake, not only is it unnecessary, but it makes the switch too stiff and imposes extra strain on the tiebars! This is a "B" switch with two stretchers. "C" switches have an extra one.

I made the rodding stools from Brassmasters etches which are overscale but easy to assemble and quite strong. The rodding joints are the hard bit - the ones on the compensator pic are Exactoscale but they no longer sell them. Others are Colin Waite - but I am running out! The Ambis stretcher kits include joins similar in design to the Colin Waite ones - I will have to ask Allan Austin if Ambis sell these separately.

Hope that helps as a starter.

Best Wishes,

Howard.

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:49 am

JFS wrote:
Hi Bevis, well here are a few pics of it as it was built as a starter..



... and a couple more..
Switch drive.jpg
Switch drive.jpg (49.18 KiB) Viewed 11451 times


On thing I must mention is of course that the thing MUST be designed according to prototype principles as you are dealing with exactly the same expansion issues. Because this was a "test track" I was able to cheat a bit and locate the "signal box" in the must convenient place - not always easy on a real layout - but I would always design the rodding in as part of the track design - you can always spot poorly thought out rodding! or stuff which would never work in practice!.

One other problem is that some bits in the prototype are hard to recreate in model form but which are essential for operation - adjustable cranks (which can be adjusted) are a prime example. And, if you accidentally "trail through" a point with your 9F, dont be surprised if the rodding needs re-adjusting!

Stretcher.jpg
Stretcher.jpg (49.99 KiB) Viewed 11451 times


Best Wishes,

H

Martin Nield
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Martin Nield » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:52 am

I'm just catching up with this correspondence and I would also like to thank Howard for leading this discussion. I have built a lot of track over the years for various layouts, but all using the Brook-Smith system of plywood sleepers, brass rivets and cosmetic chairs. I would be interested to know from Howard and anyone else who has used the Exactoscale system is how you go about adjusting track once it has been glued together? In my experience track needs adjustment over the years as expansion and contraction cause movement - unless you keep your layout in a temperature-controlled environment! With the Brook-Smith system it is relatively easy to remove the cosmetic chairs, adjust the track with a soldering iron, and then stick the chairs back on. How do you do this with glued track?
Regards,
Martin

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Mon Mar 28, 2011 12:55 pm

Martin Nield wrote: how you go about adjusting track once it has been glued together?


Hi Martin,
I actually think that adjustment is MUCH easier with glued track - all you do is to slip a scalpel blade between the chair and sleeper and slice through the joint, do as many or as few as you need, put the gauges on and re-fix with solvent. With rivets, my experience is that they are very difficult to adjust since it is impossible to "unsolder" any more than one at a time - as soon as you move the iron away, the joint freezes up again. What this means is that we end up moving the rail over one sleeper at a time and this must result in stress on the rail and / or dog legs in the rail. Worse, if we re-heat rivets for long enough to melt solder, we must heat the plywood round the rivet and for me, this means that the rivet looses any ability to accurately hold the rail.

BUT for me there is a more fundamental question here - WHY does track move over time? My theory is that it is because we solder it! Of course, when we build our soldered track we are very careful only to do every fourth joint at each pass to avoid any build up of heat in the rail (aren't we?) but nontheless even a slight heating means the rail expands and so, when it cools it is under stress. Worse, thereafter the rail is fixed every 10 mm with an inflexible joint - thus, like prototype CWR it is subject to stress - compression in summer and tension in winter. For me, that is a sure-fire recipe for rail to move. By contrast, with chaired track, the rail is free to move along its length with temperature whilst still being held to gauge. Of course, this movement needs to be managed, rail anchors need to be planned, and we need to recognise that expansion joints are just that. Another downside is that over time, little shiny patches appear round the chairs showing where the rail has moved, but that is nothing which can't be fixed with a bit of paint when we are re-rusting our check rail tops.

For me, plastic chairs are the way to go but you are spot on to recognise that there are consequences to such as decision and we must have answers to how we are going to manage those.

My goodness, I just had a horrible flashback to the 1970s - drilling every sleeper, placing the sleeper over two rivets, banging with the hammer, cleaning the rivets, tinning the rivets, soldering it all up and ending up with bullhead track which looks like flat bottom until we have bored ourselves witless glueing chairs on which unglue themselves at every derailment (not that I ever had any of those). thanks goodness that was only a flashback!!!!

I have a bag of rivets upstairs - for sale to anyone who needs them :D

Hope that makes sense,

Best wishes,

Howard

craig_whilding
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby craig_whilding » Mon Mar 28, 2011 4:47 pm

Some interesting pictures.

Im just completing a crossover for the MMRS layout Slattocks Junction and one half is traditional ply and rivet with 1/2 height sleepers following Dick Petter's instructions while the other half is full height sleepered with plastic chairs apart from the critical sleepers around the crossing where i've used the old Exactoscale etches that fold up for soldering the rail to. These things are a good alternative to prefabricating assemblies and a good crossover from full ply and rivet.

The only area I find you really need to be careful with plastic chairs is in the switches where the slide chairs don't constrain the gauge exactly for the stock rails. I've slightly bent the rail outward and used the chairs to keep it pushed inwards to gauge as a result.

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:12 pm

Hello Criag,
and thanks for this. Personally, I don't use plastic sleepers because they don't take paint well ((OOOH SORRY ABOUT THAT! below the belt I think!) Seriously though, for the current layout I am using full thickness ply for the pointwork but with plastic flexi track for less visible bits. And I will never be convinced to use rivets simply because I can find no need - I will very interested to hear the comparison of your outcomes. I never used the old Exactoscale etches so that will be interesting also.

I really liked Dick's MRJ article by the way - always good to hear from someone with real railway experience.

You are dead right about slide chairs and I have been trying to find a decent way of doing it - if I ever were to see a use for rivets it would be in this area!! I built some 00 FS (spit) track for a friend and used lost wax brass slide chairs soldered to the rail (which is not easy) and epoxied to the plastic sleepers, but I like the Exactoscale P4 chairs which are plastic only. so for the point in the pic above, I expoxied the plastic chairs, poking the glue into the hole in the chair base. I did this after all the rails had been fixed so I could be sure that the rails would not move - it worked alright but I keep looking for better ways - glueing the tongues solid is a big risk! I am just experimenting with epoxying the plastic chairs to the rail prior to fixing them to the sleepers.
If it works, I shall post the outcomes here.

Good luck with the track - ill you post some pics of progress please?

Best wishes,

Howard

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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby grovenor-2685 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 10:04 pm

In forty years of P4 I have never used steel and never seen any need for change.

well, I have used steel for 40 years and seen no need to change :)

- but track needs soldering and the fluxes used for steel will cause rust - everywhere.

This is a problem of technique, not of steel rail per se.
As mentioned there are other topics on here giving more detail, but there are plenty of instructions for building soldered track, starting from the original P4 manual and repeated many times over the years. The key is to build on the bench as far as possible, clean up after soldering just as currently being discussed in relation to loco kits. Then any soldering you need to do on the layout where it can't be washed off use non-corrosive flux. Normal electrical rosin core solder does the job.
Regards
Keith

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:39 am

Many thanks for this Keith - I am sure you are right about technique, and well done for adding another perspective. I am also thinking that the approach you suggest would help people who moan that the problem with N/S is that paint does not stick well to it :D

I knew those were worms wriggling about when I looked in that can earlier, so can I ask everyone who wishes to debate steel vs N/S rail to go to the many threads where this has become the topic of debate for example:-

viewtopic.php?f=9&t=425&p=7045&hilit=STeel#p7045

I might even start a thread myself, but not in the NAG forum!!! The NAG test track will be a first track building experience for at least half a dozen people and for that, we shall be using Hi Ni but others are free to use anything they like - and I hope that those who are embarking on their FIRST project will please report back their experiences?

Indeed perhaps this is an opportunity for a "head to head test" Keith, (or anyone else!!!) Why don't you assemble six total beginners help them to to build a 12 board double track continuous run with about 8 turnouts, all on transition curves, store the results for 3 or 4 years in the cellar of a pub where they still drink more bitter than lager and we can compare outcomes :D :D :D

Best wishes,

Howard.

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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Armchair Modeller » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:17 am

:shock:
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craig_whilding
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby craig_whilding » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:42 am

JFS wrote:Hello Criag,
and thanks for this. Personally, I don't use plastic sleepers because they don't take paint well ((OOOH SORRY ABOUT THAT! below the belt I think!) Seriously though, for the current layout I am using full thickness ply for the pointwork but with plastic flexi track for less visible bits. And I will never be convinced to use rivets simply because I can find no need - I will very interested to hear the comparison of your outcomes. I never used the old Exactoscale etches so that will be interesting also.

The pointwork im building is ply sleepers only, 1/2 height with the rivets and full height with the plastic chairs. The full height point leads to the headshunt for the goodsyard so will be loosely ballasted compared to the 1/2 height on the main. We do have Exactoscale track panels in plastic on the curves and thankfully those paint very well! No flexi though, its all 20 metres of individual chairs.. Im certainly not using the Exactoscale etches as intended and reviewed in MRJ 127. I didn't like the method of gauging everything apart from the final track gauge!

I really liked Dick's MRJ article by the way - always good to hear from someone with real railway experience.

He was civil engineering not pway but he has certainly brought a lot to the club layout since he became involved.

You are dead right about slide chairs and I have been trying to find a decent way of doing it - if I ever were to see a use for rivets it would be in this area!! I built some 00 FS (spit) track for a friend and used lost wax brass slide chairs soldered to the rail (which is not easy) and epoxied to the plastic sleepers, but I like the Exactoscale P4 chairs which are plastic only. so for the point in the pic above, I expoxied the plastic chairs, poking the glue into the hole in the chair base. I did this after all the rails had been fixed so I could be sure that the rails would not move - it worked alright but I keep looking for better ways - glueing the tongues solid is a big risk! I am just experimenting with epoxying the plastic chairs to the rail prior to fixing them to the sleepers.
If it works, I shall post the outcomes here.

I have quite a few slugs of the old Exactoscale cast NS slide chairs and the etches to solder to them for attaching through the sleepers so I may try that when I come to filling in the gap between the toe and the closures. Rivets are a bit of a nightmare on the slide chairs i've discovered when trying to motorise the existing ones now. It does take a bit of filing to get the blades moving over them correctly.

Good luck with the track - ill you post some pics of progress please?

I'll post some pictures later in the week when I hope to finish the stock rails but I posted a picture of the ply and rivet one on rmweb:
http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index. ... -progress/

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Tue Mar 29, 2011 1:26 pm

Armchair Modeller wrote:At worst, I will have wasted a few hours of work,


Dead right attitude!! Give it a go and see how it works for you! And you did not waste those hours - you invested them in experience!!!

Just one small thing however, and that is that some of the people who say "never again" built extensive layouts twenty or thirty years ago - before you commit to anything too ambitious, it might be worth seeking them out and finding exactly what makes them say that because the long-term picture might be important. And not everyone airs their prejudice on the Big Bad Web like we do! in passing, I don't think I have ever heard anyone using N/S rail saying "never again", but then I have not heard everyone :D

I am by no means qualified to advise anyone on steel rail track for obvious reasons, but if you are looking to post-treat any rust then Jenolite is a phosphating passivator which I have used before and that might be better than paint. The choice of flux is probably vital - again the steel experts will not be short on opinions - just steer clear of anything based on zinc chloride ("Killed spirit of salts", Baker's fluid etc) = this stuff lives in the garden shed and stays there - a fantastic flux for steel, but never to be let anywhere near any tools!

Best Wishes,

Howard

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Andy W
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Andy W » Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:33 pm

"And you did not waste those hours - you invested them in experience!" A marvelous philosophy.
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Armchair Modeller » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:18 pm

:o
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Terry Bendall
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby Terry Bendall » Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:49 am

Martin Nield wrote:... how you go about adjusting track once it has been glued together? In my experience track needs adjustment over the years as expansion and contraction cause movement


I am also catching up on this thread. From my experience, the beauty of Exactoscale track and turnouts is that they don't need adjusting. I have now built 8 turnouts and the tandem turnout described in Scalefour News 169 and no adjutsment was needed after building, or since. Because the rail is held in functional chairs there is some movement allowed for. Use a gauge at the key places, as the instructions saw and they work first time every time. The first use was on my son's layout Ravencroft Sidings (on show at RailEx this year) and the layout is kept in my workshop which is a wooden building in the garden. Although it has 2 inch insualtion there are extremes of temperature and there have not been any problems so far. In my book Exactoscale turnouts are the best thing for track construction so far and makes things very easy.

[quote="JFS"]Just one small thing however, and that is that some of the people who say "never again" built extensive layouts twenty or thirty years ago - before you commit to anything too ambitious, it might be worth seeking them out and finding exactly what makes them say that because the long-term picture might be important.

Pulborough is a big layout (28 feet scenic section) and it is now 25 years old, still in existance although it has not been out to a show for a while. The track is fine overall although the odd running repair is needed. What lets it down are problems with the wiring, all DC oi course, quite complex and not done in the best way. As a layout it works well but because we are all getting a bit older, working it is sometimes a bit of a trial because of the wiring. Brighton Road, the new layout from the Mid Sussex group, is also quite large (30 feet scenic section) and the group is now really too small to cope with something of this size and I think that is the issue to be faced. If we were starting Brighton Road now probably we would not because the size of the group but things were diferent 10 years ago when we began.

I think we need all sorts of layouts in P4. We need the large and impressive layouts that have a "wow" factor like Birmingham New Street, Balcombe Viaduct and others. (Pulborough was once describe as "awesome") We also need the small simple layouts that anyone could look at and think "I can do that". We also need everything in between, including a mix of periods and types of layouts.

Terry Bendall

JFS
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Re: Learning to build Track

Postby JFS » Mon Apr 04, 2011 8:29 am

Hello All,

Another little instalment - I have been working on the double slip, and the first half is almost done. This one is quite difficult as it has compound curvature in different directions on both roads. This means that the "standard" Exactoscale Double Slip chairs do not fit and so there is a considerable amount of trial and error to find chairs to do the job. In this case for example, the heel chairs from the 1:7 slip are a better fit than those from the 1:8. Also, the timber positions need tweaking to ensure the when the chairs are correctly positioned on the rail, they are still centred on the timber. To complicate things further, the timbering on the Templot output is for GW style elbows which differ from the REA style which Exactoscale use. Needless to say I forgot about this until after I printed the Templates. As a consequence of all this, this first one took a long time and a lot of unsoldering and re-soldering until it all fitted but now that this one is done, the second one will be much easier.
This positioning of chairs by the way is much more than mere cosmetics - the Exactoscale chairs are functional, and if they are in the wrong position - by even a small amount, the rails will be wrongly spaced, and when the formation is curved that position moves.

I see from the pics that I still have some cleaning up of the rail sides to finish...
K Crossing.jpg
K Crossing.jpg (46.66 KiB) Viewed 11093 times

Half D Slip.jpg
Half D Slip.jpg (30.36 KiB) Viewed 11093 times



Best Wishes,

Howard


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