Hand Laid Track Attempt – Part I


I stole away to the train room this afternoon (not really, just sounds more dramatic that way). I started just spending some time weathering and distressing ties with my Xacto #11. I had heard of doing this before, but usually in bigger scales. A recent post by Hunter Hughson (Weather Ties – Test Shots) provided some good motivation to try it myself.

Basically I just took my #11 to ties in different ways to add cracks, gouges, etc. Then I painted them with a paint marker (it’s what I had on hand, but Hunter has another blog post on using acrylics that I want to try in the future). Here are some examples:


These are in pretty tough shape…

I did this for quite a while building up my supply.

Ties on right are weathered but not yet stained

Ties on right are weathered but not yet stained

Eventually I had enough to glue some down, my original plan was to hand lay just the bits leading up to the trestle and use the flex that came with the trestle kit. However, it occurred to me that my pieces of rail are 18″ and this whole module is only 18 inches and that it would be a lot easier to make sure the track is properly lined up across all three sections so my plan now is to run the rail all the way across.

I used un-weathered ties to work out spacing:


Trippy… this was a bit mesmerizing in person

Then I used some masking tape to hold them in formation:


With them still taped I carefully removed the un-weathered ties to glue down:

I didn't stain the button of the ties so I wouldn't accidently put a weathered face down.. and you won't ever see it anyway

I didn’t stain the button of the ties so I wouldn’t accidentally put a weathered face down.. and you won’t ever see it anyway

I used some wood glue because it’s what I had on hand, it’s a little slow drying but makes a pretty good bond in the long run:

Looks kind of like frosting

Looks kind of like frosting

With the ties still on the masking tape I put them down properly spaced and lined up:


The glue ended up being a bit thicker than I had intended but ballast will end up covering it up anyway. Since the wood glue is such a slow dry I ended up leaving the tape on while the glue dries. Next time I’ll do the other side and then start spiking on either end. Once I get the supports and scenic structure in for the trestle I’ll spike down ties to the trestle as well. It’ll be a squeeze but if I can make it work the operational benefits of having no joints will pay off in the long run. If that doesn’t work I’ll just have to cut the rails to drop in the trestle.


2 thoughts on “Hand Laid Track Attempt – Part I

  1. Looks great Matt. By the way, I tried out oils and acrylics for weathering ties. The post about my attempt with oils is here: http://ontarioinhoscale.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/weathering-ties-test-shots/

    The post about my attempt with acrylics is here: http://ontarioinhoscale.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/weathering-ties-with-acrylics/

    I’m still not sure which I like better, but the acrylics dry in minutes while the oils take days to dry. That alone might seal the deal for me.

    Show us more when get further along.

    1. I can agree with the speed thing, I’m currently staying trim wood for some basement finishing and the drying time can be a little ridiculous and that’s not even a hobby :).

      I’ll definitely have a Part 2 when I get more done, this will be my first time hand spiking rail other than two test ties so I’ll definitely be documenting how things go.

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