My first attempt at tie plates used the Proto 87 Stores sample kit. It has a sample of tie plates, spikes, joint bars, etc and a very simple spacing template that looks like this:
They specifically say it’s for someone who’s not too sure how invested they want to get in it. After gluing down one tie plate with it I could definitely see why, you basically had to fasten it in place and glue tie plates in without gluing down the template and there was nothing to keep it in the right place or aligned. I decided to just upgrade to the suggested method which comes with a tie alignment jig.
The tie jig is pretty cool because it can easily handle three different tie lengths and two different spacings.
Once you get your ties aligned you overlay the the tie plate jig with the correct settings and then glue on your tie plates and swap the jig to the other side. The kit I got came with two syringes for applying glue but since these are really disposable once the glue dries in the syringe I’m going to finish painting my all my ties before I start gluing to avoid prematurely having to dispose of one.
I got the 19″ pro base system which appears to just be a picture frame with a stainless steel “picture” and then some nice strong magnets to hold the jigs in place. What I like about this system is once you have a base it lowers the cost of subsequent jigs because you only need to purchase the parts you need and they also offer a upgrade kit for the 19″ base to 38″ (for the really big switches). That said, I’m going to stick to Fast Tracks for turnouts as I’m not really terribly interested in going full P87 right now and I really like Fast Tracks turnouts.