Ensuring Reliable Track Work and Preventing Derailments

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Duration:   10:01   mins

Douglas Hodgdon from Model Railroad Academy and Track Talk Live is alongside Michael Swiridow, the curator of the Pine County History Museum Model Railroad Club in this video to talk reliable track work and preventing derailments. When Hodgdon lays track, he uses ribbon rail track gauges. The track gauges are laid across rail joints to make sure there are no kinks in the joints. These gauges are available in almost every radius so can work on any track. Swiridow also suggests using pliers to create a slight bow where the ends of track come together to help remove any kinks. To further prevent kinks, a finishing nail can be tapped into the track to keep it in place as glue dries.

Hodgdon uses model body putty to fill holes in frog switches so the phalanges can ride over the frog. Swiridow also reminds those reusing track to make sure that all the rails are the same code, size, and height. If a modeler is using an older car with a smaller code and running it over a phalange that may be wider, the car may not be able to go through the frog switch. In this case, Swiridow suggests making the phalange deeper to match the older car or locomotive. When a layout has grades and curves, Hodgdon recommends putting in a transition. He uses a stiff three foot metal rule to create a smooth arch at the transition.

Next Hodgdon talks levels. Levels should be used to check if the track is level crossways. An unlevel track can cause derailments. It is important to place a straight edge across a rail joint and make sure there is not a vertical kink at the rail joint. There are also digital levels that reads out the grade on the track, removing any need for math. Finally, a rule of thumb when laying track is to not go steeper than 2% on a grade. For more videos on railroad tracks, visit the Model Railroad Academy website.

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