How to build a Model Railway

(when your not quite sure what your doing)


Episode 2 - Tracks n stuff

Ok enough of playing around time to get something on the base boards – rather than messing about on paper the plan is pencilled in on the base boards, slight curve on the station, with rather more extreme curves into the fiddle yard – the track goes under a road bridge at the fiddle end of the station so this will form part of what I believe is conventionally known as a scenic break. Not quite sure how much of a break this will be because as New’s pointed out in his Track layouts book if this is a permanent layout at home who are you kidding.

Well it all seems to pan out so need to put some cork down for the track to run on – two reasons for this, first I am told it reduces the noise and secondly it raises the track a bit which will make the ballasting look better (something I am not looking forward to doing). Also 6 points are required in the station and 2 in the fiddle yard and these need thinking about – definitely mounted underneath for the station I think as thinking of structures to cover 6 point motors is likely to be a strain for me.




It now time to visit the modelshop again to get some points and flexible track, also sent away for some tracksetta metal templates. Decided to stick with Hornby for all the track and points, no particular reason (maybe its paying homage to the Meccano man?). However I draw the line at Hornby point switches which are grotesquely large, PECO ones are a more sensible size.

In the process of laying track down I realised I needed to decide what to do with the point motors - make a big hole and mount the motor on the point or drill a slit and mount it under the baseboard - decided on the former because I didn't fancy trying to line things up - so pause in track laying drill some big holes to slot all the motors in to - couldn't make up my mind whether to use track tacks or double sided tape so used tape to hold the points down and any sectional track being used and tacks for the flexible track - it all seemed to come together eventually. I set the points that cross between the mainlines before the station platforms rather than inbetween them as on the prototype because if they needed fiddling with it would be easyire to get at them.


The large gap on the fiddleyard baseboard is for a turntable because I fancy making one out of Meccano (eventually).

My next problem was how to link the track at the baseboard join (the baseboards themselves are linked by two bolts); theoretically as a permanent layout I could just lay track across - but thinking ahead to potential electrical problems I wanted to be able to easily lift a baseboard (don't want to have to crawl underneath at my age). Of the many methods suggested by those that know I eventually decided to go for the Freezer method of soldering the track to four wood screws in the baseboard and then cut at the join. This proved a bit of a nightmare because my soldering skills are well... weak. Further at the station end of the main baseboard fitted with the fiddleyard baseboard slightly lower so I had to raise the tracks a bit on the wood screws.


Now all that's done time for wiring - being paranoid about the conductive properties of rail joiners I was going to take power to all the track sections, but realising the number of holes I would have to drill and wires to solder to rails I decided to compromise and not to extend that rule to each leg of a point because 8 points = 24 extra wires! I used single core wire for the drop from rail to below baseboard and 24 core for the power bus



The drop wires are connected to the power bus by Maplin Snaplock connectors - although I did discover that the snap did not lock for single core wires - its snap and pliers to get a good connection. At the end of each baseboard I fed the bus wires into plastic screw connectors. For connection across baseboards I used those plastic power connectors usually seen inside computers with some short wire to go to the screw connectors. The Black wires in the picture on the right are power for the points on the fiddle yard.

Which brings me onto the points; although I was going to use switches to start with I wanted to leave the option to


control them digitally which means that the common feed for power could not be wired as a common lead because the output on accessory decoders requires this wired for each point (I think so anyway and I am not taking any chances).

So all wires from the 6 points on the main baseboard are taken to a bank of screw connectors. Then the power is commoned to the connector for the point control panel. This connecter is a 20 way computer ATX power connector. Had a bit of a problem with this because despite soldering the wires to the pins that you insert into the plastic connector one or two came out during the frequent plugging/unplugging process - solved the problem by squirting hot glue into the rear of the connector - that held them.

  Right time to plug in the Dynamis - initial testing with the M7 revealed some unpowered sections of track - check those pesky snaplock connectors - yes several needed some more work with the pliers to make the connection.
  After that everything seemed to work. Not made the point control panel yet so had to check each one separately, one point was sticking a bit but some judicious wiggling of the motor seemed to do the trick. Time to try two locos - that worked - I was even brave enough to have two running at once and then with much confidence three - Whoops good job I had put buffers on the fiddle yard as I couldn't switch back in time to stop the T9 bumping into them (see things to note about DCC in episode 1)
  Episode 3