Articles - Track: Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail
10/20/2014
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With the tie plates done (see "Handlaying Series: 3b. Gluing" article), we can now move to the actual process of installing the rail. I cut two pieces of rail to the desired length, if need be, and then use the Tomalco Track gauges to roughly line up the rails to where they are equally spaced on the ties. If you wire your rail, then this will be the time to solder feeder wires to the rail. For those of us who are "Dead Rail", we can skip that step. Note that the photos below show the track not ballasted, because this was an experimental 1'x2' section on which I was testing this track-laying concept (it worked, and I have since been using it on my main layout).
Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail
I then slide a tie plate under one of the rails. The tiny 1"x2" strip sits to the outside of the rail's base. Then place another one under the opposite rail on the same tie. I do that again with another tie some distance away, and put a metal weight on the rails in the space between them. That holds the two rails in position and the gauges will make sure the rail spacing is correct. Visually line up the two rails so that they are evenly spaced across the ties.
Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail
Using a small applicator (this is a dowel with a sewing needle whose eye has been cut in half; bought at a local train show), I apply super-glue to the joint area between the tie plate and the tie. Capillary action will draw the glue into and under the joint. If the tie plate has shifted somewhat during the alignment, you can use the applicator to gently push it into position as you apply the glue. The super-glue will grab in a matter of one or two seconds, so you must be quick, but gentle. I then do the same step again on the tie plate on the other side of the tie. And, finally, do that again to the tie plates on the other tie.
Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail
This is an optional step. The reason being is that I am getting ready to permanently glue the rail to the tie plates. This is OK if the track will be in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room, but if it is not, the rail will need to be able to move around. You could drill a hole in the tie plate and spike the rail, or apply some sort of brass wire to simulate the spike head's functionality of preventing the rail from lifting up, if you want to use this method and have those ambient conditions. I am using super-glue to attach the rail to the tie plate. I do this by applying the glue to the applicator, and then touching the applicator to the joint corner between the tie plate and the rail base. Again, capillary action will draw the glue into the area under the rail base and above the tie plate. I let the weights and gauges sit for several minutes to really allow the super-glue to set, and to prevent any movement of the rail. When it was all done in a test piece I had built, it was nearly impossible to remove the rail from the ties; I really had to willfully force it to come apart before it did. So, this is a very solid connection that is established here, especially when you do this to every single tie.
Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail
I then continue to glue two tie plates to a tie every so many ties apart. What this does is it establishes the overall flow and position of the track. If you just start applying tie plates from one end and work to the other end, I found that it is too easy to get the rails to misalign. Note: when placing the weights on the rails, be sure that they have tie plates (even loose ones) under them, so that they do not bow the rail down.
Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail
The initial set of tie plates are installed, and the rail has been glued to them. It is now just a matter of filling in the blanks.
Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail
I do a set of tie plates in between each of the initial ones, and then go back and attach the tiny 1"x2" strips to the inside of the rail base. I use a pair of curved tweezers to place them (do them all in one section), and then use a fine-tipped paint brush to apply the styrene glue to them, pushing them against the rail base as I do that. The photo below shows the result. Later on, when the rail is painted, it will be easy to paint the tie plates as well. You could add some sort of brass wire or a small piece of styrene to simulate the spike heads, if you want to. I am not going to do that here, because most of this track will be buried in ballast and it will not be visible. So, this is my alternative to spiking rail. I am very happy with the results and straight track is now actually straight!
Handlaying Series: 4b. Gluing Rail