Lennart's Model Railroad Blog

Lennart's Model Railroad Blog

About this blog

This blog is about my current model railroad layout project; The N scale "Summit" layout, which is a freelanced interpretation of the Southern Pacific Tehachapi tunnels and their surroundings. Or at least, that is what it is meant to be. What it will turn out to be is another matter. The banner photo above shows what I want to recreate in N scale.


Track layingPosted by lennart Mon, August 09, 2010 20:24:25

Yesterday I started ballasting the track. So far I have only done a short stretch. I started with some sand on the sub-roadbed, below the actual roadbed. Here is a picture, with the sand still wet from the white glue and water mix.

Next I ballasted the siding with the minitec "Standard-Schlotter Phonolith N" ballast, which arrived from Germany a few days ago. On the mainline track I only put this ballast on the slopes of the roadbed. As you can see below there is still now ballast between the mainline ties.

Instead I used Woodland Scenics Gray Blend for the mainline. The idea was that this lighter ballast should represent newer ballast, while the siding had to make do with old ballast spread at some earlier stage.

The effect turned out to be very subtle. I might try to use a little more of the lighter ballast for the rest of the mainline. Anyway, here is a last picure from a slightly lower vantage point.

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Ballast samples

Track layingPosted by lennart Thu, July 29, 2010 15:30:39

On previous layouts and dioramas I have been using Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast for my track, and I have been satisfied with the result. But this time I wanted to test something else. Perhaps if I could find something even finer, and looking just a little bit more like real rock.

I remembered reading, on David K Smith's Z scale web site, about a German firm selling good looking ballast: minitec. I contacted tehm and they were nice enough to send me some samples.

I also found another German firm, Asoa Modellbahnzubehör, that seemd to offer nice N scale ballast. So I ordered some gray ballast from them.

Thus equipped with a number of ballast samples I ballasted some of my track, so I should be able to do some comparisons. Here is the result

Use the following link to open a larger, high resolution, version of the same photo.

From left to right you can see
- Woodland Scenics Fine Ballast, Gray Blend, #B1393
- ASOA, Granitschotter, N Scale, #1609
- minitec, Standard-Schotter Phonolith N, #0311
- minitec, Gleisschotter Phonolit N, #0011
- minitec, Gleisschotter Phonolit H0, #0021

The ASOA ballast is not bad at all, but does not really measure up when compared to the others. It has partly dissolved, and does no longer constitute single rocks.

The two minitec N scale samples are nearly identical. If I understood the minitec German-spoken web site correctly, one of them has the correct scale size rocks (Gleisschotter) while the other (Standard-Schotter) follows a German modelling standard (AGN) and uses slightly larger rocks, for better visual appearance. But the difference is not really visible.

The HO ballast is just thrown in for comparison, since the people att minitec sent me a sample.

I like the minitec N scale ballast the best, and will probably be using one of those.

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Painting track

Track layingPosted by lennart Wed, July 14, 2010 19:16:27

Today I painted the track. My main objective was to paint the ME flextrack ties to get rid of the shiny plastic look. I started out with that, spraying both ties and rails with grimy black. The latter was not really necessary since the track came pre-weathred, but it is hard (at least for me) to spray the ties without getting anything on the rails.

I had not intended to spray the unweathered siding rails, since that would probably ruin my newly done tie weathering. But it struck me that I did not really bother, since spraying the siding rails would be that much easier than hand-painting them later. So I did the siding as well. Here is a picture.

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All siding track is in

Track layingPosted by lennart Thu, June 17, 2010 22:15:08

All the track for the siding is in place, meaning all track for the whole layout is in place. Here is a picture showing the handlaid code 40 track siding in front and the code 50 flextrack main behind it.

The next picture shows the whole length of the siding (to the left).

I have also managed to connect the power, so trains can now roll on the siding as well. As I still have only two decoder equipped SP engines some of my old CNW locos have to do duty if I want trains on both the siding and the main line.

Finally, a close up on some freight cars on the siding. The train in the background is actually parked in the staging yard.

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Siding track

Track layingPosted by lennart Mon, June 14, 2010 20:16:13

The combined height of a wood tie and code 40 rail is a little less than that of a code 55 Atlas turnout, meaning I needed to shim the ends of the siding track to get the rail tops aligned. I put short pieces of masking tape under the wood ties in order to raise the siding track where it met the Atlas turnouts. Three layers of tape brought the code 40 rails up to the required height. The picture below, with a piece of test rail on top of some wood ties, shows how the rail tops align.

Note that not all three pieces of tape are of the same length. By making them successively shorter you get a nice height transition.

With all the ties in place it was time to start laying track. I started by marking the location of the first rail. I constructed a simple tool to help with that - a piece of styrene sheet with a piece of square styrene rod glued to it, and a hole for a pencil - as shown in the following picture.

When in use, the "tool" is flipped over and placed with the rod along the outside end of the ties. Then then tool is dragged along the tie edge, with a pencil in the hole. This draws a line along the location of the first rail, at a suitable distance in from the tie ends, as shown below.

I use Pliobond (a contact cement) to glue the rails in place (simply the best and only way to bond rail to wood ties according to the people at Fast Tracks). I cut the rail of the standard 3 ft length in half, since this makes the rail pieces easier to handle. I then pre-bend the rail so that it keeps the indended curvature more or less by itself. I do not use any tools for this. Gently bending code 40 rail with your fingers is no match.

I then apply Pliobond to the ties, along the pencil line drawn earlier. I use a toothpick to apply the cement to the ties. I then flip the rail piece over and apply Pliobond to its underside. I just let the cement flow directly from the tube down on to the rail. You need to adjust the pressure on the tube and the speed with which you move the tube. Otherwise you will either get to much or to little cement on the rail. Ultimately, you want to be able to get the cement in place with one single steady sweep of the tube. It is not always I succed with that ;-)

Then it is just a matter of flipping the rail over and place it on ties, along the drawn line, gently but frimly pressing it in place. Here are two pictures of the first piece of rail in place. There is still some excess glue to remove.

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