How to... Lay track

11 September 2018
1-07853.jpg Adding Hornby Track
After planning your track circuit, laying track is a first important step to ensuring your train set runs smoothly. Here are the simple steps required to lay track successfully.

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 section, I’ll clarify what’s needed to ensure your track offers smooth and fault-free running of your trains for years to come.

All Hornby track is inter-connectable using ‘fishplates’. This simple plug-and-play system ensures a reliable electrical circuit which allows your trains to continue running. All sections of track on which you want to run a locomotive will require power, hence a metal fishplate must be used, but sometimes you might want to park a locomotive in a siding and operate another. If this is the case, you’ll need to use a Hornby plastic fishplate which guides rails, but insulates against power. You can then wire a switch between the two rails to either supply power, or not. Let’s look at good track laying techniques.


To connect two sections of Hornby Setrack together, place them on a flat level surface and align the fishplates.
Hornby Settrack


Don’t force the two sections together because you’ll damage the fishplates. Place each end into the other at the same time.
Hornby Settrack fishplates


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.
Align Track fishplates


Using an incorrect track radius on your train set might result in a gap between rails and a sharp turn. Refer to the Hornby Track Planner on page 24 to avoid this.
Push fit fishplate


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.
Incorrect Hornby fishplate


If you want to include accessories like this Hornby Level Crossing (ref. R636), add them now. If you have a loop, you’ll need to add straights of equal length to the other side.
Hornby R636 Level Crossing


Hornby track sections can be bought separately to add to your train set. I’ve used two Express Left Hand Points (ref. R8077) and a ‘Y’ Point (ref. 8076). As the names suggest, the first deviates to the left from the main track, the other splits equally left and right.
Hornby points


Whether its Hornby Setrack where components are fixed, or Hornby Flexible Track, holes are provided in each section so that you can fix them to your baseboard.
Track pin hole


These small pre-painted black track pins from Hornby (ref. 207) are discreet. Approximately 130 are supplied in a bag which is sufficient for all but the very largest of train sets.
Hornby Track pins


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.
Fitting track pins with pliers


The pins should be flush with the surface so they don’t catch the underside of passing trains.
Hornby track fixings


You can install track accessories at this stage too such as this Hornby Uncoupling Ramp (ref. 8244). It automatically uncouples wagons in sidings so you can depart hands-free.
Hornby uncoupling ramp


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.
Hornby uncoupling ramp installation


A small white marker post is provided for you to install if you wish, so you can see where the ramp is located from a distance.
Hornby uncoupling marker post


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 repair track fishplate


Hornby Buffer Stops (ref. R083) are an important addition to the end of sidings. They prevent damage from runaway trains to your scenery and are a simple push-fit.
Hornby bufferstop
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