• Getting Started with hand laid track Part 2: Ties

    This is the second in a series of articles on hand laying track with simple tools. The previous article, which describes the tools used, can be found here:


    In this installment, we are going to describe how we form strips of ties and attach them to the layout.

    The first step is to prepare the roadbed for receiving the ties. The process here is no different than preparing the roadbed for any other type of track. My standard procedure is to lay down cork roadbed on top of the completed base scenery, and then paint the base scenery and roadbed with a brown color.


    After the roadbed is prepared, we need to build our tie strip. The tie strips are built using the tie strip jig discussed in part 1. It is used to provide uniform spacing of the ties.


    In this case, you will notice I am using a combination of stained wooden ties and PC Board ties. Since the piece of track I am building is on a module, I want it to be more secure than simply gluing the rail in place will allow. The rail will be soldered to these ties after the glue dries.

    Once the ties are inserted, a strip of masking tape is used to join the ties together. The masking tape can be used to remove the ties from the jig.


    If your jig is not long enough for the length of track you are laying, insert ties into the jig, but a leave a few open slots so that you can line up the first few ties in the existing strip with the jig before connecting the two strips together.


    Then insert the existing tie strip into the jig and connect the new ties with more masking tape.


    The finished tie strip for this project is intentionally longer than the length of track to be laid.


    The finished tie strips can be rolled for storage if they are not going to be used immediately.

    When you are ready to lay the ties, run your adhesive of choice down the roadbed, just like you would for flextrack. My adhesive of choice is wood glue.

    Once the adhesive is in place, the tie strips are laid to follow the center line of the track, just like you do with flextrack.


    Once the glue has dried, the masking tape can be removed.

    In part 3, we will lay out the rail on the ties and secure it in place.
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Paul Bender's Avatar
      Paul Bender -
      That's two P Bender 's handlaying track :-)
    1. Gen's Avatar
      Gen -
      Excellent so far, PB!
    1. trainboyh16-44's Avatar
      trainboyh16-44 -
      Interesting, you take a similar route to laying ties to me!
      How much more time do you find this takes than flextrack?
    1. pbender's Avatar
      pbender -
      Quote Originally Posted by trainboyh16-44 View Post
      Interesting, you take a similar route to laying ties to me!
      How much more time do you find this takes than flextrack?
      There is a tradeoff here, so it is hard to say, and it depends on what you're doing. Flextrack tends to be a little quicker to get something
      running because you lay the rail and the ties down at the same time. Handlaid track can be easier to ballast because the ballast really
      does go under the rail between every pair of ties (I've also seen people put in all of the ties, ballast, and scenery before laying an inch of rail).

      The biggest thing you actually gain by hand laying your own track is the skills needed to repair the track when something breaks.
      I don't know how many times I've seen someone rip out a section of flex track because a heat kink caused a rail to pop out of or
      break the spikes. This is a 5 minute zero cost repair with the proper tools.

    1. Comfortably numb's Avatar
      Comfortably numb -
      COOL! I like the way you are doing these articles.