One ofthe things I always admired when I was in my teens back in the mid 80's, was people who hand laid their track and points. The finished product always looked so much nicer than Peco Code 100 track that I had at the time.
So when I got back into my model trains earlier this year after about twenty years of them being packed away in in a box and my four metre x two metre layout long gone, I decided that for my next layout I would like to not only use finer scale track, but to also give building my own points a go.
Initially I was going to use the Fast Track template from the US as it looked like a very easy way to build points, but then after some discussion it was pointed out that the sleeper layout did not match the NSWGR points we use.
Luckily someone was kind enough to supply me with a scale drawing of a set of NSWGR points with the sleeper layout clearly shown, and I used this in conjunction with the Fast Track No.6 point diagram to morph the two drawings together in Photoshop, so I had the HO scale rail layout and the proper sleeper pattern. Several sets were printed out in both right and left hand versions.
I bought a few lengths of Peco Code 75 Flex Track as this would be what I was going to use for the layout, and stripped a length of its rail as I couldn't find anywhere locally who sold the rail seperately.
I bought a length of balsa wood that was the same thickness as the Peco sleepers, or should I say located the rail bottom at the same height as the Peco flex track, and made a simple jig that allowed me to cut the sleepers to width quickly and accurately, after a strip of balsa was cut to match the varios sleeper lengths. I think I've cut out about one thousand balsa sleepers out so far! I used a multi compartment fishing tackle box to store all the seperate length sleepers in, with each little compartment marked with the sleeper length that matches the point drawing. This makes it very easy to grab the correct amount of sleepers in the right length to make a set of points.
Once again in my haste to begin, I couldn't find any good track gauges locally, so after looking through the nut and bolt drawers, I found a set of slotted bolts that were a nice tight sliding fit over the Peco rail head. So I cut out a piece of MDF, drilled some holes, put the bolts through so they sat snugly on the flex track and tightened the nuts top and bottom. It looks and sounds crude, but it worked fine. I've since bought a couple of sets of brass roller gauges which look much nicer, and to my relief slid over my MDF and Bolt gauged track perfectly. So once again don't be afraid to use what you have and a bit of initiative to get the job done if you can't get the glamour tools at the time.
So armed with a Dick Smith soldering station, some Clover House PCB Sleepers from the Model Railroad Craftsman (http://www.mrrc.com.au), MDF track gauge, balsa sleepers and point drawing I began.
I used a tiny dab of PVA glue to glue to PCB sleepers to the drawing in their correct position. Once dry I began soldering the track to it, straight stock rail first. With a set of files I shaped the rail to make the frog and soldered it in place, and gradually filed and laid the rest of the track.
Once it was all soldered in place I checked over it with the gauge, and then ran a set of AR Kits bogies with RP25 profile wheels back and forth through it. They rolled very freely in all directions, suffered no wheel drop through the frog area, and for my first attempt and not only building points but soldering as well, I was very happy.
I individually stained the balsa sleepers using my cheap $2 shop water paints in various shades of grey. I used some clear sticky tape attached the to drawing sticky side up, and then placed the balso sleepers in their positions. A smear of super glue wa splaced on the bottom of the rail and the points were lowered into position on the balsa sleepers. I placed a heavy dead fat weight on top while the glue set. After an hour or so the points were pulled fron the sticky tape and I sat back and admired my creation!
There were a couple of small things I wasn't totally happy with, purely from an asthetic point of view, and rather than go to the trouble of modifying this first set, I thought I'd paint the rails and use it as part of a small diorama which which I could photograph models on.
Having built the first set, I've learnt a lot, and figured out some better methods for some of the steps, and I think the next set I build will not only be easier but of an even higher quality. It certainly proves that you never know what you are capable of until you give it a go.