In much the same way as track on the full sized railway needs maintenance from time to time, so it is with a model railway. In this case it was the crossover from the goods loop to the main line requiring attention. As the existing crossover was in an awkward position and of soldered construction the easiest approach appeared to be to lift it entirely, then to rebuild it in situ. This was the agreed course of action.
I hadn’t intended to tackle it myself; I knew it would be time consuming and would put a significant chunk of the layout out of action while the project was underway. Not only was the curvature going to be tight, the existing track was laid on springy foam underlay (great for sound insulation but not good for a firm track bed), over an uneven baseboard joint and constructed from flat bottomed rail. There had been plenty of proposals but no volunteers.
In a rash moment of impatience with the lack of progress and deciding that nothing would be achieved if the job wasn’t started, one evening I started to rip up the old crossover. From that moment on the job was mine whether I wanted it or not!
C&L track with bullhead rail was selected for the work; offering both ease of construction and flexibility, especially in view of the geometry. The crossover is located on a sharp curve between two tracks that converge. Bespoke hand built track was the only practical option and although the flat bottomed main running line has a short section of bullhead rail now, once Jeff has done his work with his paintbrush and the ballast is in place it shouldn’t be too obvious.
The setting out was time consuming with the adjacent siding used as a datum. Some experimentation was required before I discovered a suitable gel pen that would write on the foam! Sleepers were cut and laid, lightly glued to the top of the foam with PVA, except for those fixed rock solid where I squirted the glue without checking first that the top of the bottle was tight! Fortunately I didn’t need to adjust those ones. The rails were pinned to the initial alignment then pre-curved horizontally and vertically (to relieve stress), cut to length, stock rails joggled, chairs trimmed and affixed, dropper wires soldered and matching baseboard holes drilled before they were finally fixed in place. The chairs were individually glued and heavy weights obtained from a local steel stockholder used to hold all firmly in position until everything had set. Fishplates were standard Peco ones, filed short to fit between the chairs.
The order of construction would be familiar to anyone who has built C&L track, starting from the stock rail and working across the point, the last job being to infill with the point blades. The tie bars are narrow copper-clad strip drilled to accept lugs soldered to the point blades; the lugs rotate in the holes in the tie bar thus eliminating a potential stress point and the tie bar can be readily removed if need be.
It wasn’t long after the first part of the crossover was laid that some of the track started to buckle due to the foam underlay not being sufficiently supportive. This was almost to be expected as C&L track likes a firm base and some of the sleeper ends were drilled and pinned to alleviate this.
Some plain line either side of the crossover was re-laid with some adjustment to the horizontal alignment to facilitate a better tie-in. This also made it easier to achieve a better ‘top’ where the bullhead rail meets the deeper flat bottomed rail.
Lockdown provided an ideal opportunity to do this work; with the clubroom closed there was no pressure for an early end to the ‘engineering possession’ from members keen to run their stock. Nevertheless it was a pleasure when I was able to hand over to Richard and Paul for them to complete the wiring and to carry out test running. I’d much rather work above the baseboard than below it!
Please click this thumbnail to see an image of the work underway