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TonyMcGartland

Baseboard Joints

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What is the best method of preparing the trackwork prior to making the cut in the baseboard joint? I have read about PCB's (??) and other methods but what is the tried and tested way that's best?

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Some people use bits of PCBs, copper-coated fibreglass, cut to sleeper size, and firmly attached on either side of the baseboard joint. The rail can then be soldered to the copper surface of the rigidly attached sleepers.

 

The copper needs to be broken between the rails, before painting, to avoid short circuits, as shown.

 

pcb_esivalmistelu.jpg

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The best way to make an 'invisible' joint with PCB is as follows:

 

For the last 3cm or so either side of the baseboard joint, strip the sleepers carefully from the track (assuming you are using Peco or similar)

 

Solder an extra piece of rail 6cm long below each of the stripped length of rails, so the rail is double depth.

 

Solder a piece of PCB and say 3 - 4 cm wide and 6cm long to the bottom of the lower edges of the rails

 

Cut a slight recess in the top of the baseboard if necessary and glue/screw the bottom of the pcb to the baseboard top, making sure that the rails are level over the joint.

 

When the glue has set, cut through the rails and the pcb with a thin razor saw or similar

 

Cut up the plastic sleepers you removed and stick the pieces back in place above the pcb and around the rails. You may need to pack the underside of these dummy sleepers to get them at the right height.

 

This makes the PCB invisible and is very robust.

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Im not a fan of the isolated copper clad sleeper approach ( I must say I like RichL idea). But I offer my experience from many years ago, on my 2nd layout , when I built all the plain track from copper clad, and used the method at baseboard joints ( and my club uses the same idea still today ) . Personally , I found if you catch the end of the rail , in my case it was a lifting section that got caught in a coat as it was coming down, the copper clad sleeper will not protect the track , either the copper layer fails or the sleeper breaks away. So in reality i dont think its a particularly robust method at all. (and in plastic track its not great visually ) . Its marginally stronger then the plastic sleeper , but its all still quite fragile

 

to repair that section , i used small brass screws that were screwed into predrilled holes, the tops cut off and soldered to the bottom of the rail ( and optionally replacing a dummy sleeper ) . Done carefully this is near invisible when painted , I have seen some where the screw head was left , but it creates a very visually intrusive " blob".

 

The damage trashed nearly 2 feet of copper clad track, that had to be relaid , ( it was disrupted to the next rail joint ) and a large hole in the coat , rail edge is sharp !.

 

so I personally think you need something anchored deeper in the baseboard , then just a glue joint over a sleeper length

 

just my tuppence

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"I'm not a fan of the isolated copper clad sleeper approach...i use small brass screws that were screwed into predrilled holes, the tops cut off and soldered to the bottom of the rail

 

Of all the methods suggested I quite like the idea of a brass screw inserted into a pilot hole and screwed to the correct height before soldering the rail into position. As you say, you can easily disguise this with ballast etc.

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Over the years, and on many portable layouts for exhibitions, I have used a number of ways of securing the rails at baseboard joints. No matter how careful you are when transporting layouts, the rail ends can get knocked and damaged, even if there is some form of protection at the ends. The protection has to be removed at some point leaving the ends vulnerable.

I have used the brass screw method as described by Junctionmad, and while it does do the job well, I found that you had to know precisely where the track was going to go before laying it, in order to put the screws in. There was no moving the track a few millimeters to improve the final alignment afterwards, and it was impossible to put in screws after the track was laid, without disturbing the alignment.

The copper clad sleeper method has the disadvantages mentioned by Junctionmad, but is easy to install. It does hold the track firmly in alignment, is easy to adjust by use of a soldering iron, and the sleeper is easily replaced if it gets damaged. However, anything more than a gentle nudge is likely to require a major repair.

After much experimentation, my eventual choice has been to use 12mm copper panel pins with the heads cut off. Once the track is in it's final position and perfectly aligned, a pin is driven into the baseboard as close as possible to the outside of each rail until about 1mm below the top of the rail, close to, but not at the edge of the baseboard, and soldered to the rail. A neat soldered joint is fairly inconspicuous after the rails have been painted, but certainly looks no worse that the baseboard joint itself. The pins hold the rail ends quite securely, and any damage resulting from minor knocks can be adjusted quite easily with a soldering iron, or even a large screwdriver placed against the pin or the inside edge of the rail, and walloped with the palm of your hand, or even a tap with a big hammer will do the trick.

Edited by Dhu Varren

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I found that you had to know precisely where the track was going to go before laying it, in order to put the screws in

 

well yes, but normally with track like PECO , you do an initial install, temporary pin it etc and test it, you can then mark the rail locations and lift/move the track. Then on the final install , soldered up , ballast paint etc

 

Again , I'd lay it continuous across the baseboard edge , soldier up to the screws and cut with a dremel

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Where possible I have used short pieces of Peco setrack ST-203 or ST-202 to straddle base board joints. When I separate the boards, initially only a few mm at a time using opposing bolts and butterfly nuts, I slide the fishplates away and the ST-203/202 bits of track are removed to a box. Now our layout is moveable as opposed to transportable, so this method has suited that, but obviously probably no use for exhibition layouts. There is a difference between needs for moveable, portable and transportable. :) The trackwork was designed to have such straight joins where there is a change of base board (i.e. short straight), or rather I positioned the baseboard joints to suit the trackwork. Its time consuming to move but it works (i.e. adds about 30mins).

Edited by Noel

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To all.... the my layout is not for exhibition, travelling or moving. It was built on two baseboards so I could get them home from work in the car. If I ever have to move it briefly to decorate the room, change the carpet or maybe once a year bring it to the local model exhibition I can. So thus far, I think Noels idea sounds like a solution worth exploring. Thanks all.

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To all.... the my layout is not for exhibition, travelling or moving. It was built on two baseboards so I could get them home from work in the car. If I ever have to move it briefly to decorate the room, change the carpet or maybe once a year bring it to the local model exhibition I can. So thus far, I think Noels idea sounds like a solution worth exploring. Thanks all.

 

yes but it doesn't suit ballasted track , it relies on being able to lift out the section of track . I suppose you could arrange for the whole track and ballast and everything to be removed, maybe ?

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Junctionmad, you are so right. Someone else pointed that out to me in a PM earlier today. However I have made some forward movement today before I lose the plot. I ran the loco today for 20 minutes. 10mins with cork and 10mins without. I recorded the sounds coming from both options and played them back. The corked board was much quieter so I coated my baseboard with PVA, spread evenly, and placed the cork on top. I chamfered the cork edge along the suggested distance from the sleeper ends and it dried quite quickly. I like it.

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yes but it doesn't suit ballasted track , it relies on being able to lift out the section of track . I suppose you could arrange for the whole track and ballast and everything to be removed, maybe ?

 

Slip of 1/32 ply under track and ballast makes it all rigid.

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Noel, does the small piece of track have to be a Peco set track? Can I use flexi that is well fitted?

 

Yes if it is short (i.e: less than 4 inches, ideally about 2 inches). But instead, another thing I have done in the past is bent some short setback pieces. Cut rigid plastic between one or two sleepers under rail, if possible slide rails out so you can bend them rail incredibly slightly, slide back in to sleeper chairs, (or bend while on sleepers) and then when in shape put glue to fill and rejoin the plastic under the rail that connects two sleepers making the whole lot rigid again. Effectively you temporarily make it semi flexible, adjust it, then make it rigid again. An alternative is to use flexitrack but glue it 'in shape' to a very thin piece of platicard or 1/32 ply under the sleeper section to make it rigid but in the shape you want.

 

PS: I have bent straight Peco stream line points in the past (i.e. via plastic cutting), but just barely enough so that they are not dead straight to the eye.

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Thanks for that Noel. I happen to plan on cutting short sections that are around four - five sleepers wide. I don't want to make it look obvious so may make one of them slighter longer to stagger the joints.

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I also thought of concealing the joint and break in the ballasting with sleepers as can be easily seen here in Omagh. This is the area I am modelling so its pretty close.

 

GNR021.jpg

GNR066.jpg

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Over a dozen or more exhibition layouts, rail soldered to screw heads works best, but ALWAYS lay the track over the join first, fix in place and cut after. Should ensure perfect alignment no matter how often the boards have to come apart.

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