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Tools for Track Laying

Bobby has only started in the hobby and sent in his first question about laying track hoping for feedback from experienced pros:

“Hi, I’m not flush with cash and thinking ahead I know I’ll need to buy/borrow tools to put down my first sections of track. What will I need to do this?

Click on the COMMENTS tag below this posting to view the track laying comments, or to add a comment or answer to help Bobby.

9 Responses to Tools for Track Laying

  • Gordon Whitesays:

    If you are using flex track on your layout, you will need rail nippers. You can get good ones from any on-line or “brick-and-mortar” model railroad retailer. They are not expensive. You can expect to pay about $20 for a good pair.

  • Henry van Wyksays:

    You can either nail track down in which case you will need a small hammer and I find a small punch with its end blunted works well when there is not enough space berween the rails like at a turnout with guardrails. Then I use the punch and small hammer to drive nails home. The second option is to glue rails down in which case you will need a caulking gun and either liquid nail or silicone.

    • Morgan Bilbo, PRR fansays:

      The method I use is: Caulk. I use DAK Alex/$2.84 10 oz tube at Home-Depot; and a caulking gun. Cost? And a spatula, $1 at Dollar Tree, to spread the caulk. I caulk the roadbed to base, I caulk flex track to roadbed. I do NOT caulk turnouts. Use good metal joiners, not cheap ones and make sure they fit properly. When laying two pieces of flex together, solder the joint. Put feeders every 3-4 feet. I usually try to make sure feeders are on flex, not on turnouts. (Unless you need them for frog feed.) I do not solder anything to a turnout, except for absolute necessity. I like this because: When you need to take up track to reposition it, or replace it, the track/and roadbed can be easily pried up with a spatula. The tube of caulk that I bought, has done 25 feet of track so far and some still left. A more pricey caulk is DAK 230. Both caulks come in colors, but I prefer the clear. Looks white for 24 hours until clears. Some other ideas are: solder feeders before laying, right on the bottom of the rail, practically invisible. Paint roadbed before laying & paint roadbed before laying track. By painting ahead of time, you save a lot of work. Touch up after laying is easier this way. All this keeps rails level. Spikes can interfere with flanges and nails can dent track.

  • Terry Bellsays:

    I have found that any good straight edge helps with the layout. It should be at least 3′ such as a yardstick. Longer one will come in handy on longer runs.
    Also if you have a good buddy who is a woodworker get him to make you some radius patterns. most curved sections are 15 or 18 or 22″ radius. Remember that the radius is measured from the center of the track. The track ties are 1-1/8″ wide so the radius should be 9/16″ less than the stated radius. If you want outside radius patterns, they should be 9/16 greater than the stated radius.
    I cut my track when needed with a pair of regular side cutters and then grind them down with my Dremel tool. It works great for me.
    A soldering gun will save you money soldering wires to connectors. These connectors sell on ebay for about a dollar each. You can make yours basicly free.
    I see you have a computer so get Any Rail. You can really play with planning your layout. It is a computer program that allows you to put your layout together and get an idea of what it will look like. It has a couple of bugs, but you won’t go too far off.

  • George Kernsays:

    Simple hand tools are great, and not very expensive. However, learn how and when to use them. Side cutters, saws, needle nose plyers, drills and drill bits and such can do much, but if not used properly, they can do more to discurage than help. Messuring tools of all kinds, and I found that making some of your own simple tools not only improovwes your skils, but also chalenges you to do more. Some tools you just can’t buy. The best advice… Planning much planning before you do the final assembly, some times the best laid track plan is of no use if you can’t install the ascocoiated structures, and sceanery. Finaly watch You tube, or other programs and learn the mistakes others had made, this realy helps. Good luck.

  • Bill Gittinssays:

    These are the tool that I list in my personal working notes for doing the job.
    For laying track
    Marker and or pencil
    Straight Edge
    Caulk Gun
    Putty Knife
    Spreader for Caulk
    T Pins
    Burnisher and Wire Brush
    Track nails (optional)
    Block sander 100 grit
    Hammer small
    Hobby knife (#11 Blade)
    Utility Knife
    Long nose pliers
    Track Gauge
    MNRA Gauge
    Weights (Sand bags)
    Spreader for Ballast
    Spreader (Spoon and ½ inch brush)
    Glue (White diluted)
    Drill for feeder wires
    Drill for Switch Machine

  • Morgan Bilbo, PRR fansays:

    I must add. Terry’s mention of AnyRail. You betcha red rider! 8 months ago when i started my layout. I drew a plan. Revised it so many times I thought I’d over done it. When I built the first section, it went well and I found a few places where the track just didn’t do what the plan said. ?? That’s what you call “thinking and changing as you go”. Be flexible,. I am now on the third section of my layout and revision #60.. The first two are done. And neither looks like my original plan. So draw a plan, but be ready to make adjustments as you build. What I like with AnyRail is that I save each revision until that version is done. Then delete all the others. And have the layout pictured on my PC as I’m laying track. To be sure I am at least following the basic. And don’t be frustrated when you go to lay track and it don’t fit the way it did on AnyRail. It’s a great tool though!

  • Frank Bsays:

    If you are a beginner to the hobby, I advise buying first a basic book on model railroad layout construction.
    This will answer a lot of your questions, including many questions you didn’t know you needed to ask.

  • Sheldon Clarksays:

    Books on modelling and on the prototype, articles ditto, videos, visits to model railway exhibitions and a notebook, the contents of which should be transcribed onto a database or spreadsheet on your computer/laptop/tablet, so you can find information when you need it.

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