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I want to start hand laying track. More for money saving reasons than a desire to put in half a billion spikes. I was wondering how many spikes per tie all you track builders use?

I have heard 4 per tie, 8 per tie and 2 per tie staggered. I have also been told to put a stringer under the ties to help support them?

What techniques does everyone use? Wood or composite ties? Metal or stainless spikes? Can the track be bent once it is assembled, or does it have to be bent rail by rail?

I'm sure i'll have a ton ore questions, but i think this is something i want to go forward with. Oh and for the record, I am using aluminum code 250, laying it in ballst with some ladder track method. And i am on battery power.

Thanks for any help
Terry
 

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Hey Terry
It looks like we are asking similar questions about doing the same thing. I just ordered some Al 250 track from COCRY to start hand-laying. Check around a lot for the best price. There is quite a difference.
Stretch from COCRY told me that it is prototypical for most NG to have had four spikes per tie. He said only the rare very well to do NG RR's had eight per tie.

Hope this helps,
Matt
 

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I use 4 spikes per tie.
Cut ties from 3/4" pressure treated and predrill for the spikes. It goes fairly fast with a jig and drill press.
I use 16 gauge nail gun finish nails for spikes, they are a good shape but getting them free of the glue is a pain.
I've better results with a spline under the track than just setting it in ballast.
I doubt one could bend it after assembly. I use Code 250 aluminum and bend it by hand with good results.

Harvey Campbell
 

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Hi Terry,
For what it's worth here is my expierence with hand laying.

Code 250, T6 aluminum rail on 1/2 by 3/4 ties nailed to 1/2 by 3/4 stringers all the wood was Redwood. By cutting the ties 3/4 deep and using the 3/4 deep stringers it gives 1 and a half inches of embedment in the crusher fines. A real pain to pour and tamp the ballast but once it is in place it is there to stay.

I built a jig to hold the ties for the straight sections and nailed on the stringers (6'ft sections)then soaked them with preservitive. When dry I then spiked on the rail. I used no tie plates and used 4 spikes per tie. Spike one rail first using a straight edge, spike the end ties, then the middle tie, then spike the middle tie of each section and repeat until finished. Then spike the second rail using the same method. USE TRACK GAUGES, Rollers are good but you need a 3 point for the curves. Be sure the gauges are for the brand of track your using as different rail has different widths.

For curves it is a little more involved. I bought a 6 foot section of 220 volt wire that is used for making up pigtails for electric stoves, dryers, etc. This wire is about the same width as the rails and is fairly stiff. The wire was used to layout each curve section on the ground then carfully moved to the work bench where the tie pattern was layed out and the stringers attached in short overlapping sections. The rest was done as per the straight sections above.

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE STAINLESS STEEL SPIKES!!!!! They won't rust, which sounds great but isn't. Because they won't rust they will not stay in the wood and will continuously work up and snag wheels etc. and allow the rail to wobble around. Use black steel spikes they rust and lock into the wood.

On curves I used 2 spikes on the inside/outside of the rail at each tie. Be careful of the pressure used in spiking as the spike can actually deflect the the foot of the rail causing it to twist out of gauge.

As described above each curved section was built on the bench to fit in the rail bed. I don't think you can bend curves in hand laid rails after spiking with out loosening the spikes.

Are you battery power or track power?? If track power be sure to attach jumper wires to each section while on the bench.

A lot of extra work to install but the only maintainence I have had in 10 years is a little reballasting each year and removing the stainless spikes and replacing them with black steel ones as they raise from the ties.

OH yea, I regularly run the wheel barrow over the rail with no ill effects, just throw down a little extra ballast to keep the rail from twisting.

Use rail clamps at bridges and switches for easy removal for service/maintainence.

Anyway this is how I installed my first garden rail and it has been in service for 10+ years with no problems.
Good luck with your project.
Rick Marty
 
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What techniques does everyone use?

i put a piece of plastic sleepers under the rails, and nail my wooden sleeper just beside. then shove the plastic sleepers a little to the side, to make place for the nex sleeper i want to nail down.


Wood or composite ties?
i use untreated ceder for indoors. for outdoors i would use oily wood, palisander.

Metal or stainless spikes?
simple shoemaker nails. they are not round, but triangular, so i don't have to drill any holes.


Can the track be bent once it is assembled, or does it have to be bent rail by rail?
if the track can be bent after nailing the rails to the sleepers, i still have to find out how.

i only use wooden sleepers, where i want a rugged look, not the perfect uniformity of the plastic sleepers.
that wish meets well with my lazyness.
i don't pre-drill the sleepers. i normally don't mark, where to nail. i don't control, if the sleeper lies at exactly 90 degree to the rail.
i order the sleepers cut lengthwise, upper edges broken, smoothed and cut to pieces.
the last time, i paid about three dollars for a two gallon-bucket full of sleepers.
they are so cheap, that i don't care, if some split from nailing. if one splits just a little, i leave it in place, if it splits too much, i throw it out.
 

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On the handlayed track on my portable layout I ended up using 4 spikes per rail per tie, thats a total of 8 spikes per tie. I was using track though at a much tighter than normal radius and had issues with keeping the track in correct gauge due to the tight curvatures, so the extra spikes wee needed mostly to keep the spiked track snugly in place till the rest was spiked down.
 

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and predrill for the spikes

I use the same techniques. There's a small, battery mini-drill on Micromark that makes the predrill easy, and they also sell 'spiking pliers' with cushioned grips.

I pre-bend the curves using a rail bender. I also gave up spiking plain track - too much of a pain, when C&OCRY sell track bases for peanuts.
 

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Full sized practice uses "Tie Plates" which spread the load of the rail over a larger area on the tie (sleeper). These plates have 10 holes for spikes. 3 on each end are used just to spike the plate to the tie and two on each end closer to the middle right at the edge of the rail foot to hold the rail to the plate (and tie). But I have never seen more than 6 spikes in the plate at most. Usually there will be one (or maybe two, but often none) in one of the 3 on just one end (usuallly outside the gauge) and at least one in one of the 2 holes on each side of the rail foot (3 total spikes).

I have seen a few places where there seems to be a pattern of putting one spike in one end of the plate to hold the plate to the tie, then the rail is held down with 2 spikes on one side and 1 on the other, The next tie has the 2 and 1 spikes on opposite sides of the rail. The next tie will have 1 spike on each side. Then the pattern repeats, 2 & 1, 1 & 2, 1 & 1. BUT, the pattern is often interrupted by spikes that have worked loose and fallen out, or varied due to tie damage or grain geometry (or maybe the whim [inattention?] of the track laying crew). This is with hand layed rail. With the automatic track laying machines there are often 2 spikes on each side of the rail foot and none in the outlying holes.

Modern rail is often on concrete ties with cast-in metal spring clips that grip the rail foot (and no spikes at all).

Tie plates are tapered such that the part of the plate that is toward the outside of the gauge is thicker. This tilts the rail inward slightly. The holes for the spikes are also offset such that a spike in each hole will not penetrate the tie in the same grain line of the wood. The holes "inside" the gauge are farther apart than the ones on the "outside".

In handlaying rail for miniature track, it is especially iimportant to make sure spikes on each side of the rail do not penetrate the tie in the same grain line, nor too close to the edges of the tie.
 

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Korsman, That is a great idea. I thinking what a pain in the neck ( some have a lower opinion) it would be to keep guage when hand spiking track.
 
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