HOrailroading - Information and discussion on all aspects of HO scale model railroads

Track Tips


Clean Rail Joints - Roger Rutchi

Use an automotive points file for dressing down the rail ends, solder joints and a multitude of other file task. The automotive point file is a very fine double cut file, thus leaves a very smooth finish. It is about 3/8" wide and 4" long. Easy to hold and double sided. When it fills with solder, heat it with a torch and brush the solder out with a stainless steel brush. The solder won't stick to the stainless steel.

Easy Track Ballasting - John Waitkus

Here is an old tip, but some may not know about it.    When ballasting (adding "rock" to the track) put the ballast down dry.   This makes it easier to get it where you actually want it.  When you are satisfied with the appearance, spray the ballast lightly with a mixture of water and a very small amount of dish soap, using a "plant" type sprayer bottle.   Continue until the ballast is well saturated.   Then "dribble" a mixture of 50% white glue and 50% water (with a small amount of dish soap) over the ballast.     Keep it off the rails.    It should soak in.     Adding a little oil to the throwbars of turnouts, and "working" them while the glue dries should help eliminate any points from gettting stuck.   Let the glue dry over night.    Look for places where the ballast is loose and repeat the process as necessary.    A quick cleaning of the tops of the rails once everthing is dry and its time to run some trains.

Cheap Ballast Spreader - James Shotton

I use the foam packing used to package new locos.   I cut a portion of it off, about 10cm by 5cm.   I apply the ballast to the track, enough just to cover the ties.   I then push the foam along the track to spread the ballast applying firm downward pressure.    You will find a nice even spread, just level with the top of the ties.    Apply the watered down white glue and dish suds in the usual way.    Quick and very efficient, no more playing about with a small paintbrush trying to get is just right.     The foam I used came from the packaging used by Bachman to protect their Spectrum series.    I guess any firm foam packaging will do.

Buss Wires for Better Operation - John Waitkus

When using flex-track, some people like to solder the rails together to get better conductivity through the rail, but there is a better way.  If you solder a small (22 gauge, about 8 inches long) feeder wire to each section of rail and run them under the layout, you can use a fairly large (14-18) gauge "buss" wire to connect these feeder wires together and route the wire to your control panel or power supply..  This will insure conductivity to every piece of rail.

By placing the feeders near the end of the rail, you can connect two rails making only one connection, and you can make this connection at every other rail joint.   You can stagger the connections so that the opposite  rails never have a connection at the same rail joint.   Besides making it easier to trace, this will help to avoid a short circuit by accidentally connecting the opposing rails together.    Using differently colored feeder and buss wires will help also.

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