Pulp mill turnouts! A visual guide to a new way of laying ties.

Remember how INFURIATING I found ties? While hiking in the mountains, my brain had an idea. a fantastic, wonderful, groundbreaking idea. Turn it all upside down! This simplifies the hell out of ties.

Instead of gluing the ties to the turnouts…glue the ties to the ground! I’m using clear silicone sealant, it won’t be dissolved by most chemicals you’ll use on the layout, whereas other sealants may be. I took lots of step-by-step photos, so here we go:

First, I start with paper templates as before, downloaded from Fast Tracks to match their turnouts. I put double-sided tape on them, and then put the wood ties on, with the end to be cut extending off the straight side of the turnout. This makes cutting them easier, and straight ties on that side look better than lopsided ones. Since I’m putting these on the roadbed later by flipping them over, I use the opposite of the templates that I would normally, every right-hand turnout becoming a left-handed one.

Next, you trim them up reeeeal nice.

Flip it over and do a rough test fit…

Put the turnout fixture on top of it for a more accurate locating, and mark the edges of the templates in pencil to guide your caulk…

Spread the sealant onto the place…you need to spread it very thinly to make sure it doesn’t come up between the ties and interfere with your points or ballast. You can see at the left side of this picture that I didn’t quite manage this.

How do you like those lines, eh? SOMEONE got lazy. Too bad I’m the only person I could blame.

Next up, you lay them down with the fixture again as in the fourth photo, and after lining it up properly weight it down and leave to dry for however long your sealant takes to dry. When dry, peel it up slowly at an angle. This will avoid putting undue stress on a single tie and pulling it up.

Remember how I had too much sealant on the left side? I carefully took it out with a knife, cutting it from beside the tie on each side and then teasing it out. It’s important to cut away the sealant you pull up, because that way you won’t accidentally pull up a tie. Anyway, you get good at this quickly enough that you won’t have to worry about it for long.

Now you’ve got all the wood ties looking nice!

Next step is to prepare holes for the feeder wires. As I covered in earlier posts, I run a feeder to each rail and each frog. Put your fixture in place, making sure it’s held down PRECISELY AND ACCURATELY. Then use a good, contrasting coloured marker (I used a red sharpie) to mark where your feeders will drop down, just inside the rail.

Once that’s done, drill the holes with as small a bit as you can get away with.

Meanwhile, you get the feeders on the turnouts.

Test-fit into place to make sure you don’t have a feeder that’s in a place that will bunch up under the turnout, stopping it from laying flat.

Once you’ve made the proper adjustments, paint the ties. (I would use an airbrush, but I don’t have a compressor.)

I used Floquil paint pens, they have a set of 3 including railroad tie brown, rail brown, and rust. I haven’t used the rust yet, but have applied the rest in an obvious fashion. Painting the ties before they’re on the turnout lets you get it in awkward spots such as between the points and the stock rail. I didn’t paint the throwbars since I will later be soldering ground throws to them. After you’ve painted the rail, it’s important to clean it as soon as you can. With the Floquil paint, I used a rag soaked with rubbing alcohol stretched over a block of plywood to thoroughly clean the railhead. You must be careful not to catch the rag on the rails, since the ones just past the frog are only held on by one tie….why yes, I did snap them off! How did you know!?

Now put your painted turnouts into place! I secured them with pliobond, the same as usual, but I haven’t yet done a good enough job to say whether that works or not.

Obviously, then you connect them to the rest of the tracks. Since I snapped off some of the rails, I just brought the flextrack to the appropriate spot and soldered it to the final tie.

Aaaaand pulp mill! I’ll do the chip tracks and powerhouse track  (right side) later this week. I’m going to try to get all the trackwork done before I go on vacation. For once, I’m actually on track, as it were!

The two tracks on the right side are for acid tank cars, the two in the middle will be covered loading docks inside of the building that I’m kitbashing (ordered the windows today), and the left side is a loading dock on the outside of the building. Further to the left is the kraft building, which you’ll have seen in other photos.

Here’s a great historical shot of the acid tanks when the mill was brand new in the early 60s. I thought it would be easier to access the tracks if they weren’t side-by-side behind the mill, as it’s already a 2′ reach, and you don’t want to be jamming your fingers in there, knocking details off left and right.

I’ll probably build the tanks out of PVC pipe.

Oh, and I made a shelf. Right under the terminal strip, made of spare 3/4″ ply. Nice and solid. I left room for further boosters since there will probably be 3 booster districts on the layout in the end. This is a good central location, being in the middle of the room. Ignore the feeders that I have yet to tie into the bus. I think I said this already, but to reiterate: DO YOUR WIRING BEFORE FASCIA! It’s causing me no end of contortion.

That is all for now. I hope you enjoyed my nice big post.

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3 thoughts on “Pulp mill turnouts! A visual guide to a new way of laying ties.

  1. Very cool. I like it a lot!!! I have been looking for an alternative to quicksticks.

    Having read this great post, I’m wondering if there might be a variation on your technique that makes it easier to place the tie strips.

    Instead of putting the doublesided tape on the paper template, perhaps try spraying the template with a tack adhesive or even hairspray, you just want it tacky enough to hold the ties temporarily. The next step would be to put clear tape on top of the ties to lift them away from the template. Now, you would not only have the ties in the right config, but you can see through the clear tape to position the ties exactly where they need to go on the layout.

    Thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Steven

  2. That’s an idea, Steven. I’ll try it when I’m next laying ties – but that won’t be for quite a few months until I start building up the summit of Farron. My concerns would be that the adhesive would lose tack before all the ties were carefully placed, and that the tape might not have enough rigidity. Still, worth a shot.

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