Proto48 · Research · Trackwork

Nailing down the trackwork

It’s high time for me to nail down my approach to trackwork for the D&NE. Having about 12′ of track and 2 turnouts down, it’s not too late to tweak things before moving on to completing the trackwork in the St. George area.

Switch ladder off of track 2 in St. George.
Point area. This one is getting a Blue Point control.
Here are the vintage guard rails.

As you might recall, the D&NE is set in northern Vermont circa 1953 and follows track standards typical of New England shortlines of that period. I’m working primarily from photos of Peterborough, NH taken about this time and field trips along the ex-B&M Hillsboro branch as it sits today. This means primarily 75# rail (code 100), 52# rail (code 83) on some spurs, no tie plates and those shapely guard rails. Also, I’ve noticed that the outside splice bars sit quite proud of the railhead.

The first bit of trackwork in St. George was okay but something was bothering me — it just didn’t look right. The guard rails weren’t the right shape and the tie plates under the frog had to go. Also, I just had to take a stab at fattening up those splice bars. Better now then later with more track down.

Original attempt. Tie plates under the frog area. Guard rails not shaped correctly. Outside splice bars flush with the rail.

As it turns out, my field trips to the Hillsboro branch have yielded lots of old 75# track with no tie plates but all of the turnouts I saw were updated over the last 60 or so years or were new. The first turnouts in St. George were influenced by these but they shouldn’t have been. I went back to the excellent photos in Randy Brown’s Peterborough article in MR Planning 2000 and a few others found on the B&M Railroad Historical Society online archives for a closer look at vintage turnouts.

Dateline: Peterborough, NH, circa 1950. Light 75# rail. No tie plates to be found. None. There is a small flat plate under the point of the frogs. No gauge plates. There are rail braces along the stock rails near the points and at the guard rails. And the guard rails have that pronounced bend (I didn’t get that right at all).

In all of this track work, the outside splice bars sit proud of the rail. The old 75# track on the Hillsboro branch is that way today and I’ve seen it elsewhere. There’s a block of wood around the size of a 2×3 stuffed inside a piece of channel iron behind the outside splice bar. It might have been a poor man’s lock washer. Drawing the splice bars tight against this softer material put some pressure on the nuts and helped keep everything in place. [Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyone know better?] I’m going to try to replicate this effect. It’s very noticeable when looking down the line.

One of those proud splice bars on the Hillsboro branch at Milford, NH.

So, I bit the bullet and removed all of the tie plates, gauge plates, outside splice bars and guard rails from the first stretch of trackwork. I left the points alone – they were fine as is. A simple plate of 0.010 styrene was slipped under the point of the frogs. New guard rails were fashioned that better match those seen in the photos. Replacing the outside splice bars was tedious but it’s done. I backed up the plastic splice bar castings with 0.040″ by 0.040″ styrene to fatten them up.

Now we’re talkin’. The rail and various gubbins are painted with Model Masters Leather followed by oil washes of  burnt sienna, raw sienna and black. Then, Pan Pastels of similar shades were worked in. The freight house switch is operated by a Bull Frog mechanism from Fast Tracks. I’m trying a Blue Point on the lead switch. Both operate well but I hate installing these things under the layout.

Let’s declare victory and move along to the crossover and station tracks.




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