• Getting Started with hand laid track Part 3: Laying Rail

    This is the third in a series of articles on hand laid track using simple tools.

    The first article covered the required tools:

    The second article covered building tie strips and putting those in place.


    In this article, we will cover the final step in the process for basic trackage, laying down the rails, and making sure they are properly gauged.

    We start with the tie strips in place from the last article. In this case, I made little effort to make the ties "pretty". This particular piece of track is modeling the lead to an industry on a lightly maintained branch line, so the track saw infrequent maintenance.

    You can see in the previous photo, I cut the two rails to length before continuing. I am using code 40 rail for this project.

    The next step is to run a bead of pliobond on the underside of the first rail. Follow the directions and let the pliobond become tacky before continuing.

    We next put the first rail into place. We want the track to be centered on the ties. For this project, I eyeballed the position of the first rail. I hold the rail in place at this point with bulletin board push pins.


    Use a rail joiner of some kind to connect the rail to any existing track. I used ones from Proto87 stores for this project.

    Apply pliobond to the underside of the second rail as you did to the first.

    Working from existing track, use your 3 point gauges to align the two rails. The three point gauges attach to one rail (on the wide side) with two notches and to the other rail (on the narrow side) with a single notch. this holds the rails in gauge, even on curves.


    Once the position of the second rail is where you want it, tack it in place as well.

    Continue working until the entire rail is tacked into place.


    Give the glue some time to setup, but not completely cure, before proceeding. The next step is to remove the push pins and check that the track is in gauge. The simplest way to do this is with a railcar that you can roll back and forth, watching to see that the wheels stay in the right place on the rail.


    At this point, you can use heat to set the pliobond or give it time to cure, as indicated on the packaging. Since my track is installed on a module, I soldered the rail in place to the PC board ties.

    The final result as seen from above looks very nice, and performs very well.

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. benjaminrogers's Avatar
      benjaminrogers -
      This is awesome information! Thanks so much Paul!
    1. tramtragic's Avatar
      tramtragic -
      Well, you sure make that look easy! I'm new to N scale: I purchased a pair of six wheel diesels and some underframes with the intention of adding an On18 line to my On30 layout, but the detail in these tiny locos and the tremendous range now available have changed my mind! I am fascinated by trams and street railways, but I don't think I have the skills (or the eyesight!) to venture into traction in N!
      Thanks for the helpful information!