2015-03.2: Roadshow - Trackwork

14 Mar 2015

Average: 4.8 (25 votes)
38:38 - March 2015 Act II - Roadshow: Trackwork (2015)

In part 7 of the Roadshow, Trevor experiences the Zen of Laying Track, with great tips on sanding, staining and distressing ties, and making strong and reliable track transitions between modules.

Act III: Open house on the Cheshire Branch ...

Go to Act III


I am always looking for good tools. What brand knife handle is that you used to cut and carve the 1x10 boards covering the copper clad ties?  And what kind of blades does it use?

I am really enjoying this series!  And thanks for the dice app recommendation! That is so much more handier than finding or carrying a real set of dice, and more fun than a random number generator on a calculator!  We humans need that kind of outside influence or we will tend to make everything relatively balanced or evenly spaced!

And given the hopper car you used, consider giving a weathering clinic video!  Each person is unique and I can never see enough weathering strategies.

I can't wait for the next segment!  

Dave B

Great description of laying track.  It sure looks good.

One point I would like to make.  When handlaying with spikes you should wear safety glasses.  I have handlaid track in the past and taken a spike or two off of my glasses and even had one stick in my cheek when the spikes got free of the pliers.  Had I not been wearing glasses the spikes would have hit my eyes and that would have been no fun.  So safety first applies.

Bruce Wilson, Barrie, Ontario

pburr47's picture

Beautiful work, Trevor! Can't get enough of your episodes.

tpmarshall's picture

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. I enjoyed doing this episode. I find hand-laying track very relaxing and encourage people to try it.

Dave - the knife is a Veritas carving knife from Lee Valley Tools. The blades are interchangeable - Lee Valley sells several styles but I've also used Xacto blades in this handle. The fun thing is, the back of the handle unscrews and one can store a few blades in it. I keep four blades in mine of different styles so I always have a useful blade at hand.

Bruce - you're right. Safety glasses are a good idea.


- Trevor


   Really nice job!  The cufflinks are over the top!  (Who wears cufflinks while modeling?)  Just wondering why you didn't use two PC ties next to each other right next to the module join?   Brilliant idea disguising the tops with thin sheet.   I don't think I will try it in N scale, but the PC ties can be given a bit of "grain" after the rails have been soldered.  The multi blade knife would do the trick.

  How do you keep from dragging your long sleeves through every bit of adhesive and paint you put down?

Toni Ryan

An awesome long episode! I am really enjoying this series!

tpmarshall's picture

Hi Toni:

Glad you liked the cufflinks - or "chuff links" as I like to think of them.

Apparently, I wear cufflinks... and one learns very quickly where one's arms are when wearing long sleeves around layouts. (This is also an old shirt that's fraying at the collar and cuffs, so if it gets a bit of stain on it it's not going to be ruined.)

I didn't use two PC ties right next to the module join for a couple of reasons.

- I was concerned about blending the PC and wood ties and thought spreading them out a bit would be less obvious.

- Also, I wanted to have more strength under the rails at this point to make sure everything stays in line. I figured that using a few PC ties, spread to either side of the joint, would help relieve any stresses on the rails from setting up and tearing down the layout.

- Finally, doing it this way make sure that the rails were supported on the wooden ties, at the correct height. The PC ties are just a bit thinner to provide room for solder to flow under the rails. I didn't want any vertical kinks in the rails here - which I could have introduced while applying heat to the rails for soldering.

Honestly? This could've just been me overthinking things. But half the battle with any project in this hobby is assuing oneself that an idea is going to work, so that one can proceed with confidence. Doing it this way made me more confident that the rails would end up where I wanted them to be - and stay there.


- Trevor


I'm always looking forward to your next segment in your series, and I really appreciate your style! I've found that, even if someone knows a particular thing inside and out, it doesn't necessarily follow that they are the best person to expound on it. (Case in point - certain ex-quarterbacks calling a football game; they might know the game as well or better than anyone, but they end up just being annoying, spouting technical analysis which, at least to me, is both incomprehensible and unnecessary. AND in a voice that, to be kind, needs some broadcast-style training!). You, on the other hand, always have a smooth, easy way of speaking whilst imparting very good info on the subject, not to mention the well-done hands-on work in front of the camera. Keep up the good work - I'll be eagerly awaiting everything you show us in your videos.

By the way, another thing I think is really neat; the trains rolling past your window as you work - what could be better or more inspiring than that??


                                                                    Fred Barrett

   C.I.G.*, Cumberland Transfer RR

*Chief In Garage; elsewhere, not so much  

tpmarshall's picture

I thought I'd add a note here...

It's probably obvious, but not actually shown on the video... but in addition to gluing pieces of thin stripwood to the tops of the ties between the rails, I also glue lengths of thin stripwood to the ties to the outside of each rail. I cut these a little longer than needed (I don't measure them)... glue them in place... then trim them to the length of the underlying tie with a hobby knife.

- Trevor

coyoteww's picture


Thank you for another great segment. A lot of great information in this segment. I like your wood distresser, I could use it in addition to the various brass / steel wire brushes that I use now.

Is the tubing 1/4" X 1/8" ? I measured my smaller Xaxcto blades and they came out about .235 for the shank end.

Look forward to the next episode !


tpmarshall's picture

Hi Michael:

Thanks - glad you enjoyed the episode. I don't have the Wood Wrecker handy but I think that's the right size. If you have a supplier of brass shapes within striking distance (in addition to hobby shops, hardware stores sometimes carry K&S or similar supplies) you can simply take a blade and test-fit it. Or, buy a few adjacent sizes and whatever does not work can be used to build stuff!

Happy modeling...

- Trevor

Who made the 3 Point gauges that you used in the track laying?  Enjoyed the episode and glad you took the time to cover everything and not meet an artificial time limit. Even after laying track on and off for 40 years I picked one or two good tips. Thanks. 

tpmarshall's picture


I'm glad you enjoyed the episode and that you picked up a couple of good tips. That means I did a good job! :-)

The three-point gauges were made for me by Tim Warris at Fast Tracks. Since I work in S scale, things like three-point gauges are harder to come by than in more popular scales, so I had Tim do these for me as a special order item.


Hi Trevor, Nice work, and it was fun to see you and Barry in Scranton.

If anyone is interested in making their own wood wrecker, here is the info from my Wood 101 clinic:

Use a 6 inch length of rectangular brass tubing by K&S or Special Shapes Co. It needs to measure 5/32" x 5/16" outside dimensions. The Special Shapes part number is RT-45.

Cheers, Gerry

Mt. Albert Scale Lumber Co.

Hi Trevor, great clinic on module building. Very informative, picked up a couple of good tips and tools (Love the destressing tool made out of old X-acto blades) to try in my endevors. What, no tie plates? ...lol..... Though of incorperating them into the mix? Your work gets me into thinking of doing a presentation module based on your standards only in O scale P:48.

Good show!

Leonard Lee Davis

Hay Trevor, You've probably responded to this a thousand times. Is the station where you do the clinics your place or TMTV? Love the trains rolling through as you film videos.


Leonard Lee Davis 

tpmarshall's picture

Hi Leonard:

Thanks for the kind words on this. The station belongs to TMTV brass hat Barry Silverthorn. I just camp there when shooting videos for him.

Tie plates - yes, I thought of it, then dismissed it. I'm lucky in that the prototype I model in my basement never acquired tie plates. The track was built in the 1880s without them, and it lasted into the mid-1960s without them. Tough on the ties, but hey - that adds character, right?

I imagine the easiest way to model them would be with small slips of paper. Paper would be thin enough...


- Trevor