Build a diorama: Part 1 – Track Laying
Afternoon all! Today I’ve started building a diorama using our BB022 Baseboard that were recently released into our ever-growing baseboard range. I still haven’t fully decided on what scenery to include, but both of my options include this track plan, so I’ve gone ahead and laid the track! I’m using Peco Code 75 Bullhead track, which looks far superior to standard code 75 and Code 100. It’s relatively easy to work with too, providing you have some track laying experience, soldering skills and patience.
I started by laying some loose track to finalise where the track was going to go, then I drew on the board to give me a guide to where to I wanted the track to go.
Next, I cut strips of 3mm, high density cork to be about 35mm wide. This is quite a good habit to get into when laying track, as the cork provides multiple benefits. To me the most important one is realism. The cork raises the track and provides a natural looking shoulder for the ballast and also adds a bit of depth to your model railway. The cork also improves the running quality, as laying track straight onto your baseboards will lead to loud running, the cork acts as a cushion and deadens the sound of your rolling stock rolling over above.
The cork is quite malleable so it was quite easy to bend into shape, but if you’re laying it under 4th radius curves or tighter, simply cut it down the middle which will make it easier to bend around the corner. Once cut, I used some Deluxe Materials Super Phatic glue to hold it down.
Once glued down, find a suitable paperweight to hold it fast for 10-15 minuets
I then cut the bullhead track into 30cm lengths which closer represent a prototypical length of rail and filed down the cuts so they are nice and smooth. Due to the delicate nature of the track, sharp track cutters are essential. Mine were quite blunt and left a very rough edge, so lots of filing was needed! This problem would be mitigated with sharper track cutters. Needless to say I now have some on order!
Next I fitted the fishplates which are incredibly fine, delicate, highly detailed and realistic! You need to open them out a tad to make them fit, I found that prizing them open with a flat head screwdriver was the answer to this.
There’s one thing that I must highlight and advise you to take onboard when laying track, especially Bullhead track. The fishplates are so small and fine that they cannot be relied upon to provide electrical continuity, or hold the track together. Unfortunately this is not Hornby train set track, you can’t make a sword out of it by attaching some straights together! The fishplates are purely cosmetic. This means that you need to treat every section of track as its own independent section that isn’t reliant on any other section of track. Thus, every 30cm section of track requires its own power feeds, which while annoying, it provides much greater reliability (especially on larger layouts) and gives you plenty of excuses to practice and hone your soldering skills!
Now. Power feeds, aka dropper wires. To get the most hidden and realistic look I used the finest wire I could find, stripped a ~1mm length at one end and bent it over by 90 degrees, I then tinned the ends with a minimal amount of solder. Then I cut the webbing off the bottom of two sleepers to separate them as shown below and tinned the undersides of the rail, again with a minimal amount of solder. I used plenty of Flux and a glass fibre pen to provide a good join.
I then placed the track down and drilled small holes for the dropper wires to feed into. I then fed them through, connected the track and made sure I was happy with how the track looked, spacing sleepers out and finalising the curve I desired. Once I was happy, I flipped the board upside down and started wiring the droppers to the main power feed, aka Bus Wire. To do this I used spade connectors, these are readily available on Ebay and provide good connections and are reliable. I’ve used them on many layouts and never had an issue with them (apart from some dodgy soldering on my half!) Unfortunately, I ran out of thicker red and black wire suitable for the Bus Wire, so I slummed it with some Blue and Brown layout I had spare from a customer’s layout. This is a fairly straight forward operation, all I did was solder a spade connector to the end of each dropper wire, clamping the female part onto the bus wire then joining the two parts together. Hopefully you can see how I did it with these photos!
Finally, I tested to see if everything worked, then once I was happy I glued the track down!
Since writing this article for you I have decided that I’ll be modelling a little stream that follows the track on one side, with the country path that crosses the track and stream. Hopefully that’ll look quite nice I think (if I can pull it off…)
As usual thanks for reading and part two will follow next week! Have a good weekend all, and stay safe!