Layout Construction · Proto48 · Trackwork

Let’s Talk Track

As I get the plywood sub roadbed installed and marked out, it’s a good time to talk a little about track.

The D&NE is a struggling New England shortline set in 1953. Using the W&OD and the St.J&LC as representative prototypes, the mainline is likely laid in 75# rail with no tie plates. Sidings are typically lighter, say 50# rail or thereabouts. In O scale, code 100 rail is equivalent to 75# rail and code 83 is about 52#, so that is what I’ll use.

I’d like to take the trackwork up a notch with cast frogs, guard rails and points. Turnout sizes are going to be a little longer — mostly #7 turnouts with the occasional #6. Some of the turnouts in St. George are built into curves or easements and the frog will be nonstandard but on the order of #7. Right-O-Way has #6 bolted frogs in code 100. American Switch and Signal has both #6 and #7 frogs in code 100. I’ll have to build a few frogs to order on the workbench and detail them to the same standard. Right-O-Way or American Switch and Signal guard rails and points will be fine as is. Rail will be spiked every tie.

Speaking of ties, St. George yard is a graded area with the track embedded in a mixture of old ballast and dirt. This is brought up to the tie tops for the safety and convenience of the trainmen working the yard. Half-height (4″) ties will be perfect. Mixing in some 9′ ties will add some randomness. Right-O-Way,  Kapler and Mt. Albert are all sources for ties.

The trackbed will be Homasote from Cascade Rail Supply. I’ve noticed some folks are using cork but I find that a little mushy for hand spiked track. IMHO Homasote is the perfect material for trackbed but I don’t cut my own. The thickness of the sheet material is all over the map and it’s a mess to cut. Milled roadbed is worth every penny.

The D&NE will ultimately be powered by DCC so there is no need for block wiring. I doubt I’ll drop a feeder from every single rail section but there will be plenty. Underneath, there’ll be #12 red and black buses with the feeders tied in with suitcase connectors. Frogs will be isolated and wired via a green feeder to a power routing switch of some sort. No need for powered turnout machines on this railroad. I’m looking into Blue Point manual switch machines which have an integral electrical switch for the frog polarity. FastTrack sells a laser cut wooden version too, the BullFrog.

Minimum radius on the D&NE is 52″. I’d go larger if the room were only wider. For small diesels, 2-6-0s, 4-6-0s and mostly 40′ cars this will be fine. A 70′ or so combine is planned for the mix but that’s still no problem. After all, it’s borderline broad radius by NMRA standards. The throat of St. George yard comes off of a 52″ curve and fans into several turnouts built into easements off of that curve. That’s where I’m busy with the track layout right now.





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