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Not to sure where to put this but here goes.

When I was younger I had a decent sized layout But died off
quickly due to my ignorance on how to lay track I never had books
on the subject and at that time no internet..

What used to happen is no matter what I did I could not keep the
cars from derailing from what I can recall I used wire cutters and slapped
the track together obviously I was doing something wrong just don't know what.

Any help advice is appreciated even if its just a link to some good reads


Fun Lover
There are several good books out there that talk about laying track. I'd suggest finding one.

Instead of wire cutters, you will need to invest in a pair of Xuron rail cutters. It will set you back $12-15 depending on where you buy them, The biggest asset you will have is patience. Track-work has to be good or the layout is not fun. Period.

Once you get it as close to perfect as you can, you take a file to take care of the rough edges. Run a car over each joint back and forth until you can no longer feel any clicks. Turnouts are the most work. The points should be filed flush with the rail and the frog should be smooth so the there is no hop going through.

Another good investment is an NMRA guage. This will help you check to see that your track is set at the right specs. Believe it or not, all commercial turnouts are suspect.


Looks like 2 good investments track cutters look like wire cutters
but from the looks of them they have a thinner head more apt to cut and less likely to squash the track correct?


Well-Known Member
Yes, the Xuron Rail Nippers are hard and sharp and force the bit that you want to remove away from the piece you want to place on the layout. So, when you cut the rail, the flat side of both jaws goes toward the "good" piece of rail you have measured. The wedge on the upper sides of the two jaws will force the rejected piece away from you like a watch your eyes!

One thing you may have had were curves too sharp for the couplers to handle...the glad hands between the cars. Or, if you had really crude cuts at each rail end, you had sharp burrs that caught the wheels, maybe just the disk-like flanges that run inside the rail head, and that launched the axles up and out from between the rails.

When you nip your rails, take a metal file and bevel the top tire surface of the rail head a few degrees only need a couple of degrees and the "ramp" should be about 1/16" long. Do the same thing for the flange face, the inner surface of the rail that faces the opposite rail. This is very important on tight curves where the tightness forces the flanges to scrub the inner flange face along the curve. If you have any burrs or large gaps, th flanges will pick the edge and you know what will happen. Bevel the inner edges, effectively making a crude cam, and the flanges will find their ways along without complaint. Every time you cut rail, reach for the file. Also, do the same for all six rail ends of any turnouts you purchase.

As Chip says above, commercial turnouts, 3 times out of 4, need tuning. The points rails are often the only problem, but also the guard rails adjacent to the frog (where the inner rails form the V) can sometimes be too far away from the close rail. We can talk about that in another thread later.


I thank you for the tutorial.
I do have one more concern I used to use cork under the rail
I know it helps dampen the sound and give a more realistic look but would it
be better to use some of that Styrofoam like you would use on the outside
wall in a basement? Or would this not provide enough bite for the small track nails?
And speaking of the nails how much force should be used to install the nails?
Meaning should the head just barely touch the tie-downs?


Fleeing from Al
You can lay track down directly on styrofoam. This works fine for yards and industrial trackage but you'll want a subroadbed for mainline track to give you a higher, more realistic ballast profile. Cork is the traditional choice but I've had a lot more success with Woodland Scenics Track-Bed like that at You can get it a lot cheaper at on-line discounters like MB Klein and Hobbylinc. It's easy to use and deadens sound better than cork.

Track nails are really a thing of the past. They don't hold well in styrofoam and they also don't look very realistic. A better solution is cheap latex caulk in a tube. You first glue down the styrofoam if you're using that as the base of your layout. You then glue down the subroadbed and then spread a thin layer to hold the track. You can use a few nails to keep things in alignment until the caulk dries and then pull them. Once you ballast the tracks, you won't see any evidence of the caulk.

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