Or, in this case, read Norman Solomon's series of track-building articles in Model Railway Journal. That would have been very helpful with my recent track-laying experience.
Before going away racing at the weekend, I decided to lay some of the track that I've been building for my demo board. Having seen Norman's demonstration at the Missenden modelling weekend earlier this year, I thought that I would try his technique of fixing the track using PVA and ballasting it at the same time. This would be laid on a bed of Carrs foam, which is just the right thickness and firmness to give a resilient but yielding foundation.
I also used the technique of laying granite ballast immediately on top of the wet glue, in the areas where I wanted to show finished track. So I did this, after spreading the glue reasonably well, up to and over the edges of the masking tape that I'd use to define the formation, and placing the track carefully on the wet PVA. Then I applied a few weights just to hold the track in position and left it for the weekend. When I came back to it, this is what it looked like:
- the track had stuck well, and hadn't tried to lift or twist
- the glue was flexible, and the foam trackbed still worked as a firm foundation
- the ballast had generally taken well, sticking to the glue without going rock solid. It had also stayed reasonable clear of the sleepers, so I don't have a huge amount of clearing up to do.
Less good points:
- the steel rail has rusted! Having been very careful to keep it unblemished prior to laying it, there are now patches of fresh rust all over the sides and head of both plain track and pointwork. This is going to have to be cleaned off. I suspect that it is something nasty given off as the PVA dried, and as it is much more pronounced on the sections where the weights were placed, I believe that it was trapped from evaporating away.
- there is glue and ballast that has crept behind a couple of the switch blades. This is going to need some careful digging out and cleaning.
- the PVA stuck the masking tape too well to the edge of the track to separate easily. I'm having to carefully cut it off the underlay. In future, I think that I need to lift the masking tape when the PVA is still wet, and chance the glue and ballast creeping further.
So all in all, a mixed result. I'm confident that it doesn't need scrapping and rebuilding, but it does need a bit of TLC to get it back to a usable state. Live and learn!