Baseboards and Track

Last updated: 14 May 2011

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Baseboards and Track - updated 14 May 2011

Most of my track is Peco bullhead. I started by pinning it to an L girder made up with two pieces of 4" x 2" rescued from the demolition of the roof of an old cottage. The wood was treated with dark brown Garden Timbercare from B&Q. However the surface of the wood dried out from the heat of the sun and cracked. Rain lay in the cracks and the wood started to rot. Also the rail expanded and shrunk with the heat sometimes moving in the chairs and sometimes not, leading to a lot of distortion in the track.

I now use 18mm WBP Brazil ply (from B&Q) on a 4"x2" frame. It is all well creosoted and then felted. So far I have tried Marley High Performance Underlay (Sand Finish) and Marley 14 Traditional Lightweight Felt (Sand Finish). The felt is glued to the ply with Wickes Bitumous Roofing Adhesive. A further layer of felt just under the sleepers is glued to this and track glued on top. Stone ballast (Bird Grit) is then used to kill the exposed adhesive. Ronseal Outdoor Clear Satin Varnish diluted 50/50 with White Spirit is dribbled on the ballast to hold it together using a pipette. Hopefully that will lead to a firm waterproof foundation. The rail will now move through the chairs without distorting the track. Time will tell how long this will last but my first piece of ballasted track has been down since 2001 with no ill effects.

WARNING: I tried using Ronseal Matt Varnish and white spirit on my indoor 3mm track but the plastic chairs came away from the plywood sleepers. When I read the small print on the tin of varnish it said "Do not use on plastic type materials"! So, on my 3mm layout I now use Rustin's Shellac Sanding Sealer diluted with methylated spirits. However I have seen no ill effects outside so I have continued there with the varnish and white spirit.

The photograph shows track before and after ballasting. The white strips are PVC screwed to the end of each board. Without these the adhesive seeps through the felt and glues the boards together!

I have built a pergola over part of the station area to protect it from the gunge that falls from overhanging fir trees. This gunge forms a nasty green deposit which is more of a problem than sun and rain.

It is now 2011 and some of the cheaper exposed felt is shrinking and splitting. However I don't want to put you off so first here is the more expensive High Performance Underlay.

Now the cheaper stuff which has gone like this:

and moves on to this:

and this:

Clearly the plywood is not going to survive unless I do some maintenance soon. I think the felt under the ballast may be alright so I have 2 options.

The first option is to remove the track by cutting the felt at the ballast edges. Then lay new felt on the baseboard and glue the track back on top of that. I did this several years ago with a 10ft length of track which I had mistakenly laid on blockboard. This is still fine with no ill effects to date as you can see below.

This also shows more of the High Performance felt and the bell cable which I used for track feeders and hide in the ballast shoulder. This is still waiting for a bit more ballast. These days I use a thinner black cable.

The second option is to remove the damaged felt and lay a patch of new felt. I think this will only work if I ballast over the joins to keep the water out.

I will let you know how I get on.

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C&L Track - added 14 May 2011

Most of the track and points so far have been Peco although I do have one C&L point and a one using PCB sleepers. The C&L and PCB points seem to be handling the weather conditions without any problem.

I did not do a very good job of the alignment of the main line leg of the triangle. It proceeds through a series of curves and straights. I have used Templot to redesign this area and incorporate the junction itself on the curve.

I have also used Templot to design the west end of the station to get away from the fixed geometry of Peco points. The inner curve has a radius of 9 feet and the 5 points are C10s. I have moved the baseboard for this into the conservatory and started work but I didn't like the big gap in the frog on the point on the inner circuit so I am building the outer ones to 31.5mm gauge as a trial. So far they are looking good and my stock runs through them much more smoothly with no wheel drop. I thought I might have a problem with my Heljan diesels but the 1.5mm flangeway seems to be OK. I think their flanges might be hitting the chairs on the inside of the rail but I won't know if this is a serious problem until I install and test the new trackwork outside.

I am using C&L plastic sleepers and separate chairs to build the track for these sections. Hopefully it will get finished sufficiently to move back outside while we still have the nice weather!

This shows my method of construction.

The paper templates are fixed to the felt using roofing adhesive and weighted with bricks while it dries. The sleepers are fixed to the paper templates using Butanone. The track is completed while you can still see the template and then it is wired and ballasted in my normal way. I think it is important that the paper does not get damp before it is sealed by the varnish during ballasting. Time will tell whether this method will survive the weather outside.

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Last Legs - updated 3 June 2006

I am working on the legs of the final baseboard in the main circuit so this will be the last chance to see how my legs are constructed.

Baseboards are supported by pairs of independent legs with a piece of fence post (3" x 3") across the top. Packing is added between fence post and baseboard to maintain level. A piece of scrap gas pipe is banged into the ground and a concrete base about 6" diameter poured around just below ground level as shown below.

This view shows the gas pipe and concrete base for a pair of legs with the fence post on top holding the legs in place while the concrete sets. Holes are drilled in the underside of the fence posts to locate the pipes. The straight baseboard will sit on top of the fence post running into the picture. A second baseboard also rests on the right hand side of these legs because this is the beginning of the curve.

Black plastic downspout goes over the gas pipe and sits on the concrete base as shown below. This is filled with cement using a maximum 10mm ballast. The gas pipe should project about 1" above the downspout to locate the piece of fence post which has two holes drilled for the purpose. In this picture the middle hole in the fence post is redundant.

The fence post is slightly wider than the plastic downspout and the fence post is cut slightly within the baseboard edges so there is nowhere for water to get in or settle. The final assembly is shown below.

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