It pays to invest in some good track tools to help you around the layout.
These are the primary track tools for making turnouts (track switches). Copper-clad circuit board ties in foreground are from Fast Tracks. These specialized tools from Fast Tracks make the job considerably easier. Anyone can now build a switch.
Pictured here are:
Especially needed for slip switches and larger scale rail like G scale rail.
This is a paste flux. Use liquid flux if you can find some.
You can use a lower wattage iron in a pinch but soldering rail takes more heat than soldering smaller wire. Your best choice is a soldering iron that has variable heat like the more expensive ones from Weller. Weller irons also have replaceable tips.
Fast Tracks tools include special ones for forming the points and frogs. You don't have to use the jigs if you want to work freehand or with paper templates but the jigs make the work a breeze. The tie and switch jigs are designed to accept Micro Engineering Company ties (product 36-101). These can be purchased as weathered or non-weathered.
I mix up some stain using India ink and alcohol or use the Hunterline weathering mix. I also like the Mt. Albert sugar pine scale 7" X 9" X 8' cross ties (product MA170).
The best tool I own for making quick work of filing rail was recommended by Fast Tracks. This was worth every penny. You can find it at Canadian Tire, Home Depot and other hardware stores. I've since found it handy for all kinds of filing and sanding jobs. You can buy different grades of sanding belts. I wish I'd known about this tool years ago. Fast Tracks now makes a jig for filing the stock rails. We are using it for the turnouts being built for the new Nottawasaga Model Railway club layout.
Another main tool is a simple bench vise to hold hand-made turnouts when you're cutting gaps in the rails.
After finishing painting, immediately clean the rail tops and remove any paint while it is still wet..
These are products I've used over the years. I prefer to use a Bright Boy eraser and Aero Locomotive Works fluid. Others may leave a residue on the rails that can pick up dirt from wheels. Plastic wheels seem to be the worst offenders.
I also have an Aztek rail cleaner car that I pull around the layout with Aero fluid soaking the J-cloth pad. The long-handled tool with the eraser I bought from Micro-Mark. It's great for cleaning in tunnels, bridges and other out-of-the-way spots. For other comments, go to my track cleaning methods page.
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