Friday, October 28, 2022


Over the course of time and frequent operating sessions, one finds certain spots on a railroad that need extra attention. While I strove to build and lay track with care, I still have spots that confound my attempts to make them operate reliably well.  Such has been the case with my track at RR-East Springfield.  The switches installed there were among my very first that I built using Fast Tracks tooling and the first track I laid permanently.  Therein lies the likely source of my problems.  This spot has drawn repeated “fix-it” notes and several serious attempts to correct the perennial derailment issues.  I documented one of those previous efforts with:


RR-East Springfield.  Track issues keep showing up in the two switches that are part of the mainline through this area.


In spite of my previous efforts, I continued to have problems in this area.  Taking another close look aided by a different selection of reader glasses, I spotted a funky almost-kink at the insulated track joint just beyond the points of the RR-East-most switch.  I attacked that problem by soaking the adhesive caulk holding the track with alcohol (50/50 rubbing alcohol is sufficient) and then lifting and resetting that track to eliminate the track joint issue.  The alcohol softens the caulk, but when allowed to evaporate, the caulk usually reforms to provide at least some bonding.  I added spikes on both sides of the insulated joint and made sure the joint was filled with styrene and filed the rail and joint smooth.


I then cross checked the switch geometry with a NMRA gauge.  While everything appeared in gauge, I took the opportunity to adjust the points a little.  Fast Tracks normally recommends a minimum clearance gap between the open point and the stock rail.  I have found my equipment (dominated by six-axle road locomotive) benefits from having a bit wider gap.  I recently found the awkward switch location up at Crescent Lake had too much distance between the frog and the frog guard rail.  I double-checked that, but this pair of #8 switches appeared to be fine.  Still, it was worth checking.


Reworked track at RR-East Springfield.  Note the short section of straight track just beyond the points.  This is some of the original track.  Just beyond that is the unpainted replacement track forming the curve.


While I was working in this area, I decided to try to reform the cork roadbed for the ballast slope.  That had been upset when I re-laid the curve leading into the switches back in 2019.  I tried using my finish router with a 45-degree bit.  While this helped form the ballast slope, it was hard to control.  I added a temporary edge guide—a piece of styrene taped to the base plate of the router.  The combination of that plus a very awkward work location led to me damaging some of the track.  That lead to pulling up most of the track curve and replacing it with a new section of flex track.  At this point the project was getting deeper and deeper into difficulty—far more than I expected with a “simple” track fix.  


Cutting the ballast slope into the cork roadbed at RR-East Springfield.


Cutting the ballast slope.  Note the wandering router cut.


I finally chose to leave the ballast slope cut for another day.  I critically needed to get the track back in service for another operating session in early November.  That session will show me whether I have finally cured this headache.

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