Thursday, August 25, 2016

Building a module (Part 1: Track)

In this post I want to show you how to build a simple straight module following our standards. First of all we need to build the wooden "box" that will be the base for our piece of the layout. If you read our norms there is a very important part (as in all modular norms) called "header". This is the wooden piece that connects with another module. As we are doing a straight module those pieces are in the East and West part of the module, but they can be placed in any part of our module where we want to connect to the following or previous one. It is also possible a module with more than two "headers" when diverging the track, or even just one in case it is an ending module with a loop.

In any case the "header" is the most important part and must be done with exact precision, so do not try to do it yourself using manual tools. Just half millimeter of error will cause trains to derail in our scale as tracks will not be aligned in a perfect way. So my suggestion is to go to a carpenter's workshop where they have a numerical control machine and pay for these pieces to be done following the measures in the manual. They can even make small holes to place and drive the screws to assemble the whole box.

Next important thing you need is the gauge, which is also defined in the manual. Gauges you see in the photo above have been laser cut and are made in stainless steel. They have the same exact precision as the headers. And finally you will need also a straight tracksetta from Peco available at any train shop offering Peco products.

Gauge is used to check several measures when placed in the gauge holes:
  • At both sides shows the top limit of the header. It will check the header is correctly done.
  • Inner slots show the base of the track (3mm over the top of the header) 
  • The width of the inner slots is exactly the 9mm gap between rails, the same width as the tracksetta that will fit in this holes. Tracksetta combined with the gauge will assure the track is aligned, perpendicular to the header and at the exact height.
First of all we have to place the track bed. I like to use 3mm cork, but you have other solutions like Woodland Scenics track bed which is also 3mm height. In the last 5cm at each end of the module you should use a rigid track bed to make sure the track height is not altered. In my modules I cut a piece of 3mm PVC or methacrylate. Use the gauge to center it and glue it with carpenters glue or contact glue. The rigid pieces of PVC is better to glue them with cyanoacrylate or any other specific glue:

With the track bed fixed in place we can place the track using Peco pins. Use the Tracksetta to make sure the rail is completely straight and aligned with the gauge, and do not fix the last 10 cm of the track at both sides until the next step:

Then use a Dremel tool or similar to cut the rails if they stand out of the header limits:

Now you can put again the gauges at each side and center the track using the tracksetta. Tracksetta fits in the gauge gaps and makes sure the rail is perpendicular to the header, and with the tracksetta and gauge in place fix the last centimeters of track with both pins and cyanoacrylate:

You can see in the following photo how precise has been fixed the track:

In next steps I will show how to make the wiring and sensors.

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