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Peter's Model Railroading | The Layout | Stops | The Hazel Mine Complex | Hazel Mine Tipple
Tipple Track

These are the tools I am going to use to install the Tomalco Track flextrack (Tomalco commissions these from Micro Engineering as a custom order, since Micro Engineering doesn't carry S-scale track). I will be using code 100 rail. The track is attached with Loctite PL3 adhesive. I am using the cheap chisel as a means for spreading the glue. The straight-edge is to make sure that the rail is as straight as possible. The metal weights (hidden behind the straight-edge) are used as weights to hold down the track while the glue sets.
(external link: Tomalco Track)

The official first piece of track was installed on April 18, 2021. I lined up one end of the flextrack with (what will be) the right-hand edge of the module, and let it overhang on the left edge, since my module is 2 feet wide and the flextrack comes in 3-foot sections.

In the real world, parallel tracks need to have a spacing of 13 feet. It doesn't matter how you measure it, so long as it is 13 feet. Three of the five tracks on the Hazel Mine have their own "bay", so their placement is pretty much fixed at this point in the game. However, two of the tracks share one wider "bay", so I had to actually do this measurement before gluing them down. I am measuring the distance between the right edge of the right rail of both pieces. I used a black permanent-marker to trace out the location of the flextrack piece, so that I knew to where to apply the glue, and to make sure that I'd position the track in the correct spot again. After installing all five tracks, I let the glue cure overnight. The glue's instructions state that it is fully cured in 24 hours.

The next step was to cut off the excess flextrack from the module. While one would normally use the rail nippers by Xuron, which I have, my past experience with the Tomalco Track flextrack has been that when the tool snaps through the rail, there is enough of a jarring motion that the rail actually breaks off the tiny, molded-in rail spikes. So, there are a couple of things I did. The first thing I did was to apply glue between the rail and the ties for the last five ties of each track on both the left- and right-hand sides of the module. This should help in preventing the errant shirt sleeve from getting caught on the ends of the rail and ripping the rail off of the ties. I only applied the glue to the outside of the rails, so as to avoid any issues with the flanges of the wheels. I would normally use superglue for that, but my superglue bottle had gotten too old and so the glue was no good anymore. Instead, I used Aleene's Tacky Glue.
(external link: Xuron Track Cutter)

I decided to cut the excess rail off with a cut-off disk mounted to my Dremel motor tool. This, too, can cause quite a bit of damage if it is not handled properly. So, I placed the three metal rail gauges (also by Tomalco Track) near the end of the track, making sure to leave enough room for the Dremel tool to still be able to get into the space necessary to make its cuts. This prevents the rails from shifting left or right while the Dremel tool does its magic, and also acts as a heat sink, as the cutting action can melt the plastic ties. I placed the metal weight on top of the three gauges, and held that down with my other hand while I did the cutting (my initial thought was to use a clamp to hold that metal weight in position, but the clamp interfered with the access that the Dremel tool needed).

Cutting all five tracks like this went well, with no mishaps, resulting in what you see on the left side of this photo; a nice, clean cut. Some final filing may be necessary here and there. We now, officially, have ten feet of track on the layout!
(external link: Dremel Rotary Tool)

This entire surface will eventually be covered with ballast or some sort of ground foam, but just to be safe in preventing any of the white of the ceiling tile from shining through, I painted the entire "ground" surface with an acrylic "Burnt Umber" paint. This also protects the ceiling tile from sustaining damage from possible moisture being used in the future. I had already previously painted the edges of the ceiling tile with the green paint, so there is currently no more exposed ceiling tile.

Between painting the ground, and the fact that these foundation blocks were rescued from my previous layout, they could stand a new coat of paint, so I re-applied Polly Scale "Aged Concrete" to them all.

The final paint work to be done before working on the ballast is to paint the rails. I always buy the unweathered version of the flextrack (the "weathered" version uses a chemical reaction that doesn't ever really stop, which is OK for the sides of the rails, but it doesn't look good for the tops of the rails). The downside is that I have to hand-paint the sides of the rails. Since I am building small modules, this isn't too bad of a chore. It only took me three days of modeling sessions to paint all 40 feet of rail edges. With the demise of Floquil and my preferred "Rail Brown" paint, I have tried several. The one that I am now using as my standard is Anita's All Purpose Acrylic paint "Rich Brown" (part #11185), which I found at my local Hobby Lobby. I apply one coat of this to the sides of the rail. It doesn't provide a smooth, even coating, which I think adds to the rusted-look effect I am after. It is a thick paint, so you have to be aware of that. I don't thin it. Some of the paint will get on the tieplates, which is a plus, I think. I paint a section, and then use my finger to wipe off the excess from the top of the rail, wiping my finger on a piece of paper towel. It goes reasonably quickly once you get the hang of it.
(external link: Hobby Lobby)

This photo is a bit over-exposed, because the camera was focusing on the dark brown "ground", but you can see the difference that painting the rails makes when comparing the partially-painted back three sections of track versus the rest of the track.

All the rail has been painted, and this photo shows a better-exposed view of the trackwork.

The first layer (there will be at least two) for the ballast is applied directly to the painted ceiling tile surface. I used full-strength white glue, painted on a section, and then spread a thin layer of the ballast mixture over that area. This mixture consists of a solid black and medium gray collection of stone granules by "Ashland", which I suspect is a name brand owned by the Michaels arts-n-crafts store. I also added some small black "coal" product to the mixture (I believe that was from Arizona Rock & Minerals).
(external link: Ashland)

So, then it was just a matter of doing small sections throughout about a week of modeling time to get this whole area covered. When it was all done, I swept up the loose particles and put them back into the container for the next module. I apply at least two layers of ballast, because in the past I have found that if you just put a thick layer of ballast down, the glue never penetrates to the bottom of the pile. So, you'll find, over time, that portions start to break or collapse and lots of ballast starts running out, especially if you have a more portable situation, as is the case with mine. So, you want to build multiple thinner layers until you achieve the depth and the look that you are after. This will take significantly longer, but it will be worth it in the end, as fixing ballast in the future when the area is "finished" is quite difficult to do.

I started adding more "coal" ballast to the area. This photo clearly shows the left side I have done. This is just the first layer on top of the layer shown above. Away from the tracks I started using more earth-tone colors.

After finishing the first layer after I took the photo above, I added three more layers of various colors and various pebble sizes. I allowed each layer to cure overnight. The final touch was to use some acrylic black paint to paint the areas in between the rails, so suggest an accumulation of coal debris from 20+ of dumping coal in the hoppers. I also put coal and dirt tracks under the two bays that offer local truck service. The automobile is a stand-in for those. The 4-bay PRR hopper (a scratchbuilt H21a) was put in place to give a sense of perspective.

Although the individual tracks are only two feet long, that's still plenty of space to put a couple of engines and/or cars on them for temporary display. However, because there is nothing on either side of the ends of the track, I decided to install some Hayes wheel stops. I have been using these for over 20 years now and love them. I have found them to be the most effective and least-damaging methods of preventing equipment from falling off the layout.
(external link: Tomar Industries)

Normally, ends of these wheelstops are to be dug into the ballast, right in front of a tie. That is what keeps them from moving down the rail. Since I wanted to maximize the amount of space I have available for equipment storage, I installed mine at the very ends of the rail. I used super glue, the gel kind, to attach these. When I build the next module that butts up against this one, they are easy enough to snap loose from the rail and re-use them elsewhere. Normally, these should be painted yellow, but for this temporary use, I decided not to bother with that.