A model railway beginner’s guide to laying track
It’s tempting as soon as your train set is unboxed to start laying out track in a rush to get things working. To more experienced modellers, this step is a breeze, but if you’ve never laid track before, things aren’t always so obvious. In this article, we clarify what’s needed to ensure your track offers smooth and fault-free running of your trains in a step-by-step guide using Horby Setrack.
All Hornby track is inter-connectable using ‘fishplates’- small metal clips pre-fitted that allow rails to be guided as they slot together while guaranteeing the flow of electricity around your circuit from the controller. This simple plug-and-play system ensures an electrical circuit that allows your trains to continue running.
Laying track can be a quick procedure, but make sure you’re happy with its shape and appearance before progressing to the next stage. Here are 10 simple steps to help you get your track set up.
Connect two sections of Hornby Setrack together, place them on a flat level surface and align the fishplates.
Place each end into the other at the same time. The two sections will require a firm push together. Gently try parting the two – there should be a little resistance confirming the connection is solid.
Incorrectly inserting a section of rail into the other isn’t always obvious, but will result in a rail sticking higher than its neighbour as seen here. Run your finger across the top – it should feel smooth and flush.
If you want to include accessories like a level crossing, add them now. If you have a loop, you’ll need to add straights of equal length to the other side.
These small pre-painted black track pins from Hornby are discreet. Approximately 130 are supplied in a bag which is sufficient for all but the very largest of train sets.
Hold each track pin with pliers before gently tapping into place with a hammer. You’ll avoid hitting your hands, but be careful not to damage your track. The pins should be flush with the surface so they don’t catch the underside of passing trains.
You can install track accessories at this stage too such as this Hornby Uncoupling Ramp. It automatically uncouples wagons in sidings so you can depart hands-free. Installing the ramp is a tight fit, but a useful tip is to use a small paper clip as a tool to push the tabs into place.
At the end of sidings, the fishplates that protrude must be removed. You’ll need to use pliers for this and a little brute force as they can be stubborn to remove.
Hornby Buffer Stops are an important addition to the end of sidings. They prevent damage from runaway trains to your scenery and are a simple push-fit.
Now you’ve mastered laying your new track, you’ll want to consider ballasting. Check out our ‘how to ballast track’ guide for more step-by-step tips.
Still searching for trackplan inspiration? Our guide gives you simple trackplan suggestions to help you get started.
Need more advice? Our techniques section is full of best practice advice and tips to help you create your own model railway.
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