"Leading The Way In Track Development"

Taken from a series of Articles that appeared in the 'Gauge 1 Model Railway Journal'

(1st Article)


Ever since my earliest days of Gauge 1 modelling I have always wondered why we had a rail section which bore little resemblance to the real thing in that the foot was almost the same section as the head.  Why is it that we have much better sections in the smaller gauges, and even in Gauge 3 they have a far superior rail section?  It is one of those mysteries from the dark past, probably to do with an old section from someone like Bonds or the like.  As a supplier of rail, it is one of the most frequent questions I am asked from new comers to the Gauge; “Which way does the rail go up.”  If it wasn't for the fact that the upper section is slightly wider, it could be used both ways, now for some in Gauge 1 this really wouldn't matter.  It is a funny thing I have spoken to people who spend £4000 on a beautifully made loco, then are quite prepared to put it on anything that just resembles a track, and ballast what do I need that stuff for?  When I entered the market in selling low cost track parts, all you could get was 1 yard brass or nickel silver rail, then came 1½ meters?  I introduced the 2 yard and then the 3 yard rail; these longer lengths are extremely useful when laying track around curved work as the old problems of doglegging can be eliminated, and with the use of lost wax rail joiners and gauge widened track you can now achieve smooth running through curves.  But, we are still running on that old section rail, called code 200.  Could we not have scale rail?  Could we not run both "Finescale" and the more commonly used "Standard (course) Scale" wheel sets without hitting the chairs?  The answer to all this is, yes we can, but the main drawback has been the investment in new rollers to produce the new profile.  These are extremely expensive, but once made in hardened and ground steel they should last a long time.




It was my conversations with Simon Castens and his requests that I should do something, which has spurred me on to bring this to realization.  We had to look at everything that was required, with a stream of emails and calls between us to iron out the requirements.  With scale rail it would be the obvious thing to make this in nickel silver, but unfortunately the price of raw material has risen by such a large amount in recent months that this would make the price unattractive.  But there is a material which fits the bill; it is a particular grade of Stainless Steel which will give us all the requirements we are looking for.  It goes without saying that the material is much harder wearing than brass and so would be much more beneficial on club or exhibition tracks where there is heavier than normal traffic.  The other advantages are in its appearance, as the steel dulls a slight surface rust is formed, just as in the real thing.  Steel on steel wheels gives better loco adhesion as well.  This grade will conduct electricity for the 2 rail or stud contact people.  Another main advantage is in expansion and contraction rate which is about 1/3rd less than brass.  The only real problem which I can hear you say is, 'Ah, but you can't soft solder it', but that is not so, you can, it's just that you need a particular type of flux.  Tests were carried out and there are various ones available.  Soft and silver soldered joints have been outside for years now without any signs of detriment to the joints. Next is the rail section itself.  My first thoughts were to take the most common full size rail section 95R and simply scale this down to 10 mm to the ft., but life is never that easy.  Annealed wire has to pass through the rollers about 5 times to form the profile, which for this rail is .95 mm in the Root section, to take it down to scale thickness of .69 mm would require at least 2 further rolling passes.  Each time the section is put through the rollers it work hardens so the rail may well need to be annealed again combined, with a risk of cracking and something called "tilt". This would add to the production cost.  There probably isn't any true section rail available on the market in any of the scales, and the difference is only .26 mm in our scale, and of course you can only see .13 mm when looking from 1 side, that's about 5 thou.  Overall height should be 4.75 mm but after some little persuasion this was reduced to 4.56 mm, the reason was that we would now have a rail section which would suit both camps, those who are in the 3/8/1 ft. camp, and those in the 10 mm/1 ft. camp.  One group can say they run on 95 lb rail and the other on 85 lb rail.  The difference of .19 or 7 thou, about the thickness of 4 human hairs. No ones going to see that, are they?  This reminds me of a wagon kit I bought in my early years from Tony Riley.  Nice kit, nice bloke, got it home and looked at all the parts, saw the rivet heads all lined up on the spru's, I know, I'll take all those tiny bits off ready for assembly, then I read the instructions (as you do) only to find that there were 4 difference rivet heads!  I think they were plain round, round with a washer, square head and hex head with washer: So I got the 10x magnifier out, and to my amazement, it was so.  Next time I saw Tony, I joked with him about it, and said 'Who is going to stand at the side of the track with a magnifier looking at the different rivet heads as they pass by'.  'Ah, but they could do'.  So mine is not to reason why, mine is but to do or die.  O.K.  I will reduce it Simon, down to 4.56 mm, we can run finescale on this track, but, can we still run standard (coarse) scale?  Yes we can, because we still have a clearance of 2.05 mm.  Only the very old stock would bump on the chairs, but then I find that they would bump on the existing moulded chairs anyway.

Rail width is 2.24 mm both top and bottom as in full size, the head is 1.15 mm with a foot of .66 mm, all the radiuses are as full size.  The top and bottom rake angles have been adjusted for the thicker root section, and to hold the rail higher in the chair.  We knew all along that the foot section would not exactly fit my injection moulded chairs (there being more vertical movement) but this is not noticeable, and the rail is held nice and snug.  For now, this rail will be available in both stainless steel and traditional brass, in 36" and 72" lengths, those of you who like to have plenty of clickerty clack, can cut the 72" in 3 to represent the 60 ft. long rail, or in 4 for 45 ft. long rail. The rail technically should be called code 179.5, but that's a bit of a mouthful so it will be called code 180.  And the price of the new rail, well you me be pleasantly surprised.


(2nd Article)


Is it my imagination or am I the only one who has noticed pictures of beautifully made locos taking many months to construct sitting on any old piece of track that has been found in the back of the workshop with not a hint of ballast or weathering.  I remember going to a model railway exhibition and spotting a simple layout, consisting of just a single line running to a simple halt and buffer stop beyond, the attention to detail was exquisite.  We now have the track parts we require to really make some fine exhibition layouts.  Up to now the rail section used has been totally wrong for this type of layout, now, with the introduction of code 180 scale rail we have the basic item to build from, I now sell more of the code 180 in stainless steel than the brass, and this new section has overtaken sales of the older code 200.  Initial fears for outdoor use of their being wheel slip have not materialized, and there has been a few unexpected advantages, in that the rails tend to keep much cleaner, there being far less of that horrible track deposit on the rail tops.  We have noticed also that for some reason the stock seems to run far more freely on the stainless steel than the brass, and also there is a lovely ring to the rails as the loco comes towards you, like those days of standing by the track side, you knew the train was coming by the noise in the rails. The one thing I felt was lacking were the “fishplates, I introduced the lost wax version of these which a lot of people found useful on the curves as they held the rail a lot tighter and seem to alleviate the dog leg problem on the curves, but they are more expensive and my lost wax caster just cannot seem to keep up with demand.  So I determined to develop a low cost injection moulded version.  Hence the introduction of the new fishplates for both fine scale (code 180) and standard scale (code 180/200) universal versions.  Gauge 3 will also be pleased to know that they have for the first time their own dedicated fishplate.  Without boring you too much, the tool for these has a double side action which moves the sides away from the bolt head detail whilst a stripper plate pulls out from the rail section to leave the fishplates on their spru.  I have experimented with different materials, for example 'polypropylene', it is a well known material and would be useful for those wanting to retrospective fit after the track is in situ as these can be sprung onto the rail.  I have done some in 'A.B.S.' which are stiffer but could break, and then there is 'glass filled nylon' which is very tough but eventually snaps.  Best results so far have been from a material called 'Acrylate Styrene Acrylonitrile', 'A.S.A.' for short which is very UV light stable, stiff with some flexing and does not snap.  Just out of interest and to see how many people notice some of the finer detail, even the bolt heads are set at different angles.  The first person to tell me the angles they are set at receives a pack for free.

AND NOW......

(3rd Article)


It's been some 10 months in the offing, but here at last the finest track for Gauge one just got finer!  The all new injection moulded Finescale Tract. Why bother, you say?  Well it was there to be done and since I had the code 180 rail drawn for me; it has motivated me to provide a track suitable for this.  The reason I started doing track parts many years ago was because I could not get what I wanted for my own railway, I wanted white metal chairs with wooden sleepers.  I still think that the wooden track has a really nice appeal, but even with teak sleepers, the maintenance is a continual task, and the prospect of laying 32,000 chairs for the basic layout was daunting.  Most of this wooden track has now been replaced with plastic.
My brief when making the standard double sleeper unit was 1) to match the existing sleeper unit but with a much finer detailed chair and 2) for the rail to be held tighter in the chair so that the gauge was kept.  I think I have achieved this, but I still receive the occasional comment that the sleepers are too hard to thread onto the rail, oh well you can't win them all!  I introduced the new code 180 rail, the existing code 200 rail was over scale, ugly and awkward to identify the correct way up, but it has served us well.  It was interesting to be able to use the existing standard sleeper unit with the new 180 rail in it, and although it had a small amount of vertical movement in the chair, it was still acceptable, the reduced flange depth seemed to make no difference at all, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of G Scale rolling stock also ran on it, this I can only put down to the fact of a large Cone Radius, as the wheel approaches the chair the radius lifts the flange away from the sloping chair side.
Having done the injection moulded 'Fishplates' for both the old and new rail sections, it was time to think about an all new sleeper unit specifically made for the 180 rail, but what chair design should I use?  The choice was made for me upon a visit to Andrew Townley's garden, when I spied a Great Eastern Chair; it had been painted black with the writing picked out in white.  G.E.R. 1905 T B S 95 lbs.   Do you think I could borrow this?  Off to Mike for the CAD design work to be done, consequently this spent a few weeks as a paper weight in his office!  But, should I do this for 10 mm or 1 to 32?  The decision was made for me as Mike had already scaled the chair down to 1 to 32.  This gives us a sleeper length of 85.56 mm (yes we really are working to this degree of accuracy), a sleeper width of 7.86 mm and a scale thickness of 4 mm.  I also had included extra alternative sleeper ends, so that the sleeper could be cut down to make an 8' 6" sleeper in 1 to 32 scale (80.94 mm), so get the Stanley knife out boys.  Of course if you model in 10 mm this track already has an 8' 6" sleeper for you, what could be better.  Now all of you, who have complained in the past about why we base the old track on an uncommon 9' 0" sleeper, can now complain that it looks too short now I'm used to the 90 mm length!  With the rail now held correctly in the chair, there is an increase in flange depth clearance to 2.4 mm, that is without taking into account the wheel Cone Radius.  Someone at the Reading
show has already borrowed the track to check if the G Scale Accucraft loco would run on it, and he came back with a big smile, You're right, it will run.  So at the risk of repeating myself, please get this loud and clear ALTHOUGH IT IS FINESCALE TRACK, YOU CAN RUN STANDARD AND FINESCALE WHEELS ON IT!!!  The wood block detail was to be included, but of course as soon as I said this, it meant a side core action tool, this basically moves part of the tool away, before the 2 halves open, sounds simple, but adds a great deal to the cost and complexity of the tool.  A small benefit is gained here, as there is no core pin, the chair is stronger.  The sleeper has of course to be moulded singularly due to the side core action, but I see no problem with this.  The old sleeper unit has 2 fixing guides under the sleeper, 10 mm from each end, so that you can 'wallop' track fixing pins through the plastic into the baseboard, this is rather a crude way of doing things and I must say that we should be moving on from doing things like this, so a fixing point was included to the inside of the spacer bar, just right for a ¼" escutcheon pin with no more splitting the plastic if you don't pre-drill the sleeper!  The only claim to fame I have in the manufacture of the tool has been the sleeper graining.  A piece of pure graphite was prepared for me and I took this home and spent a few hours engraving it ready to be sparked in. I think that this has come out quite well, you can't see the actual grain very well, but if you look on old sleepers, these have deep slit cracking with weather worn grain, anyway I was pleased, when the first samples were taken to the tool room, the comment was 'Grain looks nice'. Fortunately John the toolmaker has a good sense of humour as I said, 'Yes this was the hardest part of the tool to get right, don't worry about the engineering!' I said all along that if I did this new sleeper unit, I would have the numbers and letters sparked into the chair; I know most people wouldn't notice, but take a look, they are there!  So here it is then, available with 2 different grains, in 2 gauges, standard gauge (45 mm) and gauge widened (45.5 mm), same colour as the standard track (dark chocolate brown) with extra U.V. light protection suitable for tropical conditions included as standard, hope you think all the effort was worth it.

Happy modelling.