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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Rail track construction 101

This article is intended half as a record of how the Brooklands rail track was constructed and half as a guide as to how to build one. As with any track construction project, vast amounts of patience and dedication are needed, as well as a healthy dose of crying out "Whyyyy?!" and suppressing the desire to burn the wretched thing for all the trouble it's caused.

Firstly, we took stock of the boards we had and worked on figuring out how they were going to fit together. I should say right away that making a multi-section rail track is a pain and added significantly to the difficulty of the entire project. If you can get away without making it in sections, I'd advise it.

The first thing to do was fitting the different boards to each other securely. To connect the boards we first bought a length of solid metal rod a few mm in diameter and then a hollow tube that it just fit inside. Cutting these into lengths we drilled small pairs of holes in the connecting faces of the boards and sunk the tube in one side, the pin in the other to make a socket and pin joint. These stopped the boards from shifting. Once those were installed, we added a number of pre-made catches bought from a hardware store to lock the boards securely together.

That done, it was now time to mark out the track layout. Three lanes were chosen as was the case on some of the original tracks. These were drawn in pencil by myself, each lane 3 inches apart, and the corners marked using a nail and pencil on a piece of string. This less than perfect method lead to a couple of slight miscalculations! I marked fastening points every six inches down the straights and every three inches on the corners.

This done, it was now time to lay the rail itself. O-gauge Pico rail seemed to be fairly close the original rail used. After much trial and error, we settled upon the following method: first a crosshead screw was screwed firmly into the board, and then by use of a high-power soldering gun solder was melted onto the top of the screw. The rail was then held in place with a pair of pliers while two soldering guns applied heat to the screw, melting the solder and letting the rail settle. While this seems a lot of heat to apply, we found the rail conducted the heat away very quickly and it was quite hard to get the solder molten!

We worked out way around the track by this method, laying the rails one at a time around the track. As you can imagine, with two people wielding soldering guns and another trying to hold the track still with pliers it was somewhat complicated to get right! At the corners we simply hand bent the rail into the right shape to be soldered down. At the tightest loop I realised I'd somehow gotten the curve wrong with my pencil-on-a-string and it was rather tight. Too late to change it, we went ahead and soldered it down anyway. At each join between a section we drilled a hole down through the track next to the rail and soldered a thick wire to the side of the rail, left dangling below the track for now.

Once that laborious task was done (took weeks, not a fast process…) it was time to add the lower wire that carries the positive current. After some experimenting to find where we could get suitably thick copper wire that wasn't braided we hit upon the power cable from a dead cooker. Enter me, a pair of wire cutters, and a long, long time spent stripping out the central earth wire from the flat cable until we had enough to go round the track three times. This, thankfully, was somewhat easier. Nailing in flat headed carpet tacks 3/8 of an inch to the right of the rail, level with the places where the rail was fixed down, we then laid a blob of solder atop each tack as before and needed only a single soldering gun to heat the solder up enough to fix the wire down firmly.

Again, a hole was drilled down through the board and a second braided wire connected that fed down to underneath the board. The hanging wires were now screwed into commercially bought connector blocks, so that they could be plugged together when the track was clipped together to ensure the current flowed from section to section smoothly.

Now it was time to paint the surface of the track. We used paint with a high sand content, which dried incredibly rough. After going around the track with a scalpel, scraping any paint off the top of the copper wire which had covered it, the track was now almost finished. In a few places the solder holding the rail in place had to be filed lower to let the guides go down the rail smoothly, then finally with the addition of standard transformers and power supplies (notably without brakes) the track was ready for use.

Hopefully the above account will inspire a few of you to try and build one yourselves, where you will discover the true depth of pain and suffering these simple steps entail!

Rich
 

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Brian Ferguson
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3,652 Posts
Rich, no small task! Thanks for sharing it because it is not something many of us will ever experience. Building a routed slot track is one thing... building a rail track puts you in a league by yourself! Congratulations!
 

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Registered
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1,133 Posts
Showing my icnorance here I'm afraid but what's the difference between a rail track & a routed track?
 

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mac pinches
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2,154 Posts
building rail tracks aint for the faint hearted!!!! the cost is far higher than slot tracks, both in time and expence. the base boards are much the same as Rich said, but i would suggest that drawn 3/32 wire is used as o gauge rail is an extrusion with many contours, domed top, waisted sides, flat bottom, to get this to form a tight curve is asking a lot. with round wire this prob is not so great. most steel stockholders have it and its far cheaper than nickel-silver rail. the guide shoe is also a simple "u" shape with a wire rail. to hold the rail to the baseboard an "L " shaped peice of the same wire was passed through a hole drilled in the boards and held in place with a washer soldered to the underside of the board, this raised the rail to the 3/16 height for the southport standards. as i recall most of the tracks we ran on in the late 50,s early 60,s where built in this way, the soldering is much easyer as hardened steel scewes and soft steel causes problems.{note} if i recall there was a book," something something rail racing" by Laidlaw-Dickson, that shows this method, if anyone has a copy, maybe they could post a picture or two,it would make clear my poor wording. the positive return was a wire running beside thr main rail. when the brooklands track was in concept, Jeff Davies asked me to make a test car for trials on it, i built a small oval track with this method, but with a rail car the return wiper is only on one side of the car, this means you can only run one direction on an oval, so i fitted another return on the other side of the rail so i could test both right hand and left hand turns if anyone is crazy enough to build a rail track may be this would allow you to run in both directions. mac p
 

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John Roche
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4,233 Posts
QUOTE Showing my icnorance here I'm afraid but what's the difference between a rail track & a routed track?

Rail racing was the method used for model car racing before slot racing. The cars pick up the power and are steered by raised rails. Have a look at jeff Davis site:

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/j.davies4/

Jeff has also written a book available from Pendle and SCD in the UK, Patto in Oz and Electric Dreams the USA.



John
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you Richard.

It would be great if someone would build another rail track as this would really help rail racing return but be warned it took just slightly longer than weeks it took from May until August to build the Brooklands track because of the method we used.

As Mac said their are quicker ways to build one.

RR
 

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Graham Windle
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4,445 Posts
It can slide about an inch in each direction They are pretty quick when set up well andy its a bit like having a second guide.You can still acually derail though I do remember Charlie Fitzpatrick telling me he got banned once for making a locked on rail guide once which hooked under the T shaped rail rather like the old amf lock guides but in reverse .
 

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mac pinches
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2,154 Posts
one of the quick ways round a rail track was to apply just enough power to the back wheels to "lean" on the rail , this way the car was held steady, too much power then the wheel would hop the rail, having both wheels on the same side aint the way to go fast!!!!!!!!!!, if you got it right its suprising how fast these cars where. the big torquey, slow reving pittmans could stand the trade off of the drag of the wheel against the rail, its a different type of driving than slot, get it right and its great fun mac p
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Mac is right, you lean the car against the rail and you can corner very quickly. Personally I find rail racing more exciting than slot racing and it is great fun.

When slot and rail racing existed together rail racing was by far the quicker of the two!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RR
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The answer to this has to be no, it does not in any meaningful way exist. As their is only one rail track and this I feel can't count as rail racing still existing.

RR
 

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Phil B.
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3,773 Posts
Memories of the Railtrack build - Buying one cheap sheet of ply that warped and had to be wetted and piled high with everything heavy to straighten it over a few days (a big mistake , never buy cheap ply).

Richard accidentally/on purpose branding Jeff with the soldering iron (the smirk gave it away Rich).

Me annoying them with Irish Rebel songs on tape (heh heh).

Jeff never buying a drink (no change there then).

Working on till three or four in the morning with the Brooklands deadline looming.

Shimming the joints to adjust the rail height (a nightmare).

Grinding down the solder blobs holding the rail took forever (why did we use so much solder).

Turning out the lights and watching the blue sparks from a metal diff arcing on the rail (spectacular).

Slapping a coat of green paint on the boards, black weathershield on the track, adding the trees, lake and buildings and seeing the track come alive.

If you think about building a circuit make it worthwhile and do a big one, allow yourselves three times as long as you think its going to take and then some! Don`t set a date for your first meeting before finishing the track or you too will have a lot of late nights and early mornings.

Would I do it again? Never.

Am I glad I was involved in it? You bet.

Will I be building my own test track - I might - just to run my cars now and again.

Come to think of it, I might even build a worm drive car just to satisfy my curiosity.

And last but not least - seeing how pathetic my attempts at building rail race cars were compared to the beautiful, precise engineering and model making efforts of the experts!
Cheers - Phil B.
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Phil, without you their would not be a rail track or a book or anything else.

It was so much hard work it was unbelievable but I am so glad you, Richard and I did it.

I still think the 'C' type you built was brilliant, great bit of lateral thinking.

Best wishes,

Jeff.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
There is nothing to say on any alledged branding via soldering irons. This is a matter of national security. No comment. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200. Look! Over there! A distraction! *runs*

In my defence, I did manage to lean on a hot iron and only notice when it burned a hole right through my jacket and got to my arm...

Rich
 
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