Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby Marquette » Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:32 am

So, as I mentioned in the "Proto 120" thread, I'm going to be committing to P:120, but even if I wouldn't be going that route, rail is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

So I thought I'd start this thread because, well, rail is probably the most vital thing for this hobby, in any scale.

Tillig's track is Code 83, Kuehn's track is Code 70. Commonly available rail comes in Code 70 (Micro Engineering etc), Code 60 (Peco), Code 55 and Code 40 (both Micro Engineering).

Tillig's Code 83 track - assuming the rail is accurately .083" tall - translates to 9-15/16" tall in TT scale... which is pretty ridiculously large, honestly. I don't think there is *anything* in the real world using rail that heavy - at least, not in North America.

The heaviest rail ever made for line trackage (i.e., with the "standard" rail profile) was 155 lb - and that was only ever used by the Pennsylvania RR. The Pennsy did have heavier - 159 lb and even 174 lb - but these were girder rails with a totally different profile than regular rail (see here: http://prr.railfan.net/standards/71086-A.pdf). And even then, both the 159 lb and 174 lb were specified with 9" height - almost a full inch shorter than Tillig's Code 83.

The heaviest I know of in Europe is the 151 lb rail that was used on the Baikal-Amur Railway.

Following some research and some number crunching, I came up with the following list of North American rail standards. Note PRR = Pennsylvania Railroad, AREA = American Railway Engineering Association, ASCE = American Society of Civil Engineers.

Standard lbs/yard = rail height = height of equivalent model rail (take the last two digits there and you have the Code - e.g. 0.083" = Code 83). Note the list is descendingly ordered from tallest to shortest, not by rail weight. Also, sorry, but I'm not going to convert the numbers into metric.

PRR 152 lb/155 lb = 8" = 0.067"
AREA 140 lb = 7-5/16" = 0.061"
AREA 132 lb = 7-1/8" = 0.059"
PRR 130 lb = 6-5/8" = 0.055"
AREA 115 lb = 6-5/8" = 0.055"
PRR 125 lb = 6-1/2" = 0.054"
PRR 115 lb = 6-3/8" = 0.053"
AREA 100 lb = 6" = 0.050"
PRR 100 lb = 5-11/16" = 0.0474"
AREA 90 lb = 5-5/8" = 0.047"
ASCE 85 lb = 5-3/16" = 0.043"
PRR 85 lb = 5-1/8" = 0.0427"
ASCE 80 lb = 5" = 0.042"
ASCE 75 lb = 4-13/16" = 0.040"
ASCE 70 lb = 4-5/8" = 0.039"
ASCE 65 lb = 4-7/16" = 0.037"
ASCE 60 lb = 4-1/4" = 0.035"

Another way to put the above numbers, in terms of available model rail:

Code 60 = AREA 140 lb (Peco's Code 60 rail reportedly measures out to 0.061"-0.063", so this is the closest)
Code 55 = PRR 130 lb/AREA 115 lb
Code 40 = AREA 75 lb

Happily, 115 lb rail falls into the 110-120 range used on most mainlines in North America.

The 140 lb rail would only have been used on the most heavily-travelled mainlines - much like the Pennsy's 155 lb rail was in limited use, even the New York - Pittsburgh mainline only had 152 or 155 lb rail in certain parts, so even the Code 60 rail would be of limited use in TT.

75 lb rail might be found on sidings on steam railroads and perhaps as mainlines on interurbans, so that would also have some good use in TT.

But for the most part, most lines were laid with rail in the 85-100 lb range... for which there is nothing commercially available in model rail that I know of. Which surprises me - Code 50 would be about 65 lb rail in HO and would be bang onto 155 lb in N, Code 47 would be about 60 lb in HO and around 145 lb in N, so both of the major scales would get use out of it, too... which makes me think perhaps it would be worth getting in touch with some P:87 and N finescale guys and see about getting something custom made... Code 47 would be perfect, I think... about 60 lb in HO, 90 lb in TT, about 150 lb in N. Okay, I'm going to follow up on this.

Not going to get into more right now, but I have some further things I will do for my track. I want to learn how to do it myself eventually, but for the short term I want to find some source for custom etchings to get scale tie plates etched. I don't think I want to spike my track though - I will likely opt for the pliobond method... but there's plenty of time to figure that out through experimentation.
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby Arseny » Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:46 am

Did you try Filigran-TT rails? They are Code 55, if I am not mistaken

http://www.ttfiligran.de/
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby Marquette » Sun Apr 13, 2014 4:19 am

I did briefly consider TT-Filigran, but fairly quickly discarded it as an option. Filigran's track doesn't look bad, but it does have a couple of problems from my point of view - the biggest being that it is still NEM-compatible, meaning that is very far from fine scale - only the size of the rail itself is smaller... that's fine for simple track but will get noticeable in turnouts, crossings, anywhere with guard rails, etc.

The other problem from my point of view is that it is still European track. At the very least I'd like something that is generically more North American, and ideally - and this is much more workable if I'm going to be laying my own track - I'd like the track to match in scale as close as possible to the standards specific to the railways I'm modelling, using their standard drawings. Lately I've really gotten bit by the idea that just as we're modelling the trains, we should (or at least, I want to be) modelling the track itself as well, since it's such an integral part to a railway.
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby scaro » Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:43 am

i'm always pulled in several simultaneous directions on prototype. i wonder what grade of rail was common on the reading, CNJ and PRR/NYC/PC branch lines in the northeast? heavier rather than lighter?
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby Marquette » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:35 am

I know very little about the Northeast - by that I mean anything east of Pittsburgh and Buffalo or north of Charlotte.

But something I would point out to anyone modelling the Pennsy is to be careful with rail weights given in relation to Pennsy trackage - Pennsy's standards were different from AREA standards!

Notable examples are that 6-5/8" rail height was 130 lb Pennsy rail, but 115 lb by AREA standards (note this is 0.055" model rail, so Code 55).

What Pennsy called 100 lb rail was 5-11/16" high, whereas AREA 100 lb rail was 6" high... what Pennsy called 115 lb rail was 6-3/8" high, whilst AREA 115 lb rail was 6-5/8" high (which as mentioned above was PRR 130 lb rail).

As you get smaller this discrepancy also gets smaller, e.g. PRR 85 lb rail was 5-1/8" high, whereas ASCE 85 lb rail 5-3/16" high... this means PRR 85 lb would be 0.0427" high in model rail, and ASCE 85 lb would be 0.04323" high in model form... even I'd call a 1/16" - five ten-thousandths of an inch in scale form - negligible.

Admittedly if one is using AREA definitions of rail weights throughout the scene this difference would be moot, and will probably remain moot anyways since there is nothing available between Code 55 and Code 40.

Ben, do you think in the UK there might be some interest in getting some smaller rail made (around Code 47) amongst any of the finescale guys, 2mm or whatever? Perhaps in steel?
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby railtwister » Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:59 am

If you are going so far as to consider going to the considerable expense of having yet another size of rail drawn for the purpose of modeling fine scale track in TT scale, I have to ask how you are going to model the other things necessary for that track to qualify as "Fine Scale"? Things like tie plates, spikes, rail joint splice plates, etc., are all going to be needed for the track to look reasonably accurate. Also, consider that if the rail's end profile is to be of scale proportions, will it's base be wide enough to support the rail sitting upright on the ties, especially in curves? I think it is possible to carry the "Fine Scale" concept too far, to the point where it becomes an obsession rather than a hobby endeavor. Fine scale track modeling is fine for display tracks and small dioramas, but how practical is it, really, for use on even a small layout? And how much rail could you expect to use (or sell) to justify such a project? I think the resources would be better spent producing tooling to make accurate looking flex track that would utilize available rail sizes, rather than producing rail in a size so few people could use.

It would be interesting to know just how much code 40 and 55 rail and flex track has been produced and sold over the years in popular scales like HO, HOn3, and N.

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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby Marquette » Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:44 pm

Just last night I was discussing how to make tie plates with my friend; we've come up with a couple of ideas on that, etch being one. Spikes were another subject - I will be gluing my rail, not spiking it, but spike heads are certainly doable, to glue in place. Joint plates, too, and all those other track details are all [b]very[b] doable things.

You're right - even a small layout's worth is probably too much to detail up this far - and that's not something I've ever contemplated. But, for foreground scenes, IMO it will be worth it.

Having said that, I don't believe one has to go to *quite* that level of detail - only as far as is desired: "good enough" is what *you* determine is good enough for yourself. For foreground scenes that will be easily visible, I want to detail it up as well as I can. For areas less clearly visible, in the background for example or where there is a mass of tracks such as in a yard, then a lower level of detail is definitely acceptable to me, because there will be plenty of other details in the area to make up for the lack of detail on the track.

But the one basic absolute necessity is that the rail (and wheels) look right.

Contrarily to you, I believe that one cannot take fine scale modelling too far. This hobby is one that is extremely diverse. Ben Hom I believe it was who said that about the only thing everyone involved in the model railway hobby has in common is a general interest in railways. And that's true - everyone is in it for different reasons. I do have my "Grand Master Plan" of what, ideally, I would like to achieve with my eventual layout, of course, but a lot of that is stuff that is "nice" but "not necessary". It's taken a long time to get to where I am in my thinking but I've discovered that I have less interest in seeing trains run than I have in modelling real-world scenes as accurately as possible at a given point in time. So yeah, if my demand on myself for a higher standard of modelling means I will only be able to manage building a small part of my Grand Master Plan, at the expense of running longer trains according to real-life timetables... then I will happily have only a small layout that I can do some local switching operations on, if it means I can have it all at the level of detail and accuracy I want.

But I'm digressing too far. Point is, everyone needs to decide for themselves what they want out of this hobby. The above is my take. Some people are happy to make trackwork as simple as possible in order to get long trains running. That's fine too! If you're having fun... that is what matters.

Back to rail: my friend and I were also discussing methods of "rolling our own" rail, and he has an idea for it that seems very promising. So even if there is nobody in the world beyond the two of us who want Code 47 rail, if that works out we can make what we need. But I am almost certain that there will be Proto:87 guys and N Finescale guys who will be interested in a weight of rail in between 0.055" and 0.040".

How much code 40 and 55 have been sold? I am sure a lot more than I think you would expect, judging from your post: obviously, plenty enough has been sold for it to be produced by several manufacturers. Otherwise it wouldn't be as easy to get as it is. And I am confident that there will be a similar market amongst HO, HO narrow gauge and N scale guys for code 47.

But to answer your question,

And how much rail could you expect to use (or sell) to justify such a project? I think the resources would be better spent producing tooling to make accurate looking flex track that would utilize available rail sizes, rather than producing rail in a size so few people could use.


It doesn't matter how much. If it turns out we can roll our own code 47, then we'll do that, and we'll be the only ones who have it. If finescalers in other scales want to get in on having some custom made, then the price just became affordable, and the question is answered, too. But this is an avenue I want to explore fully before giving up on it and settling on using only available rail.

Accurate-looking Code 55 flextrack might be something I'd be interested in investing, too, if only for use in "invisible" places like tunnels and staging yards... provided that the gauge tolerances are kept very tight. If the standards are as slack as NEM standards I probably won't be able to use it safely with P:120 wheels. Obviously I would have no use for any premanufactured turnouts and other stuff that isn't simple... track.
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby areibel » Sun Apr 13, 2014 1:26 pm

Are there NEM standards for anything Fine Scale or Proto? I though that was all NMRA stuff?
Not that it really matters to me- a lot of what you're talking about is era based. The local line was the Erie RR mainline, it received 132RE rail in the 1950's, before steam was gone. It replaced lighter rail, I was told it was 117 but that may have 115, and that was just before steam was done on the Erie (1951-52). There is some 115 on the sides of the yard, and I know where there is some 90 pound but that's on an abandoned PRR branch about an hour away. It hasn't seen traffic since the 40's or 50's and was out dated then! Code 70 will do just fine.
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby Marquette » Sun Apr 13, 2014 1:48 pm

I don't know - I don't think there are any NEM standards for finescale stuff.

The 132 lb rail you mention - that's really the heaviest you'd find anywhere apart from a few places on Pennsy mainlines - but that would be like 0.059" rail - which is a lot closer to 0.055" than it is to 0.070". Even the "Pennsylvania Special" 155 lb rail is smaller than Code 70 (true by only 3 thou - before I discovered the Peco Code 60 rail, I was going to use Code 70 for the two tracks of the Pennsy main).

90 lb rail was still quite common in the 50s on branchlines - the NP's Palouse & Lewiston branch, for example, in eastern Washington was mostly 90 lb with some 75 lb. A lot of yard/siding trackage on secondary mainlines was laid with 90 lb, too, and most of that secondary (medium-duty) mainline track was laid with rail in the 110-120 lb range. Only the more heavy-duty mainlines really got anything heavier than 120 lb rail.

There is still, even today, 90-100 lb rail in regular use not far from me, on the CP's Vancouver & Lulu Island branch (and some of that rail is over 110 years old!), so although yes, not much, it *is* still around. My point with this is that yes, what I said is era-specific to some degree, that degree is not a great degree - it's applicable across eras. Indeed rail has gotten lighter than in the past, the 151/152/155 lb rail is gone; I know after the Soviets tried 151 lb on the Baikal-Amur mainline they were unsatisfied, and I believe they eventually replaced it with 130-some lb rail. I also don't believe any of the 152/155 lb rail the Pennsy laid is around anymore, either. (As an aside, the V&LI branch I mention has a turnout that we measured out - it works out to a #4.5! Prototype for everything, as they say...).

So, it's less era-specific than location-specific. Mainlines and mainline yards will by necessity be laid with heavier rail than lightly-travelled branchlines and branchline sidings/yards, even today.

Wheels to NEM standards will work on track laid (to NEM standards) with Code 55 rail - see TT-Filigran. By extension, so will RP-25 wheels. Regardless of whether one wants to use NEM or RP-25 or NMRA specs for Fine TT or Proto:120, I still think Code 70 is too heavy for TT and that any endeavour to make some form of "mass produced" (be it kit or ready-to-lay) track of a North American appearance should be done with code 55.
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Re: Rail... and other aspects of modelling track.

Postby scaro » Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:24 pm

Marquette wrote:Ben, do you think in the UK there might be some interest in getting some smaller rail made (around Code 47) amongst any of the finescale guys, 2mm or whatever? Perhaps in steel?


I guess anything is possible. The 2mm guys maybe but they tend to be more interested in code 40 and lower ... they do code 30 now. I am not currently a member of the 2mm association so can't easily find out ... need to be a member to access the mail list. They make plain and bullhead rail in addition to flat bottom code 40 rail.

3mm scale I doubt. No discussion of lighter rail on their forum. I think to an extent British finescale tends to use slightly heavier rail and slightly deeper flanges. This, I am told consistently is why their finescale standards work in practice at exhibitions and the like ... they are a little more robust.

To the extent I have thought of it, I'd thought I would consider code 55 fine for my needs .... though if there were code 47 I'd probably try it.

I asked on the RITS list what another favourite line, the Rock, used on grain branches. Turns out they had 72lb/yd on branches - equates to rail 1mm high in TT, ie code 40 exactly. There was quite a bit of 90lb/yd too.
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