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Tips for better tubular track

Improve the look of this hobby staple
Charles Angelo Irace
Stamped metal track has been around for over a hundred years. This “old reliable” track system is very sturdy and works equally well for permanent and non-permanent layouts. I start by darkening the center rail with cold metal bluing compound. Bluing compound is used in firearms restoration and is sold at many sporting goods stores. I’ve had good results using Birchwood Casey no. 13425 Super Blue Liquid Gun Blue. If the track is dirty, I clean it with Birchwood Casey no. 16225 Cleaner-Degreaser before I dab a little bluing on a cotton ball and wipe the center rail. You must use gloves and eye protection when using these compounds and work in a well-ventilated area. After setting the track aside to dry overnight, I place oil or WD-40 on a cotton ball and lightly wipe down the middle rail. Lastly, I wipe all the excess oil off the middle rail.
Charles Angelo Irace
Now it’s time to cut down on the rumble and roar. I purchase lengths of foam tubing from the pipe insulation section of my local building supply store. This product is made in a variety of thicknesses. For O gauge tubular track, you will need foam insulation slightly thicker than ¼ inch. I use a paper cutter to slice the insulation into 5/8-inch-wide, 2¼-inch-long strips. A sharp hobby knife and a straightedge would work equally well.
Charles Angelo Irace
Push the foam strips into the underside of the ties. The strips should be slightly thicker and wider than the inside dimensions of the stamped-metal tie so they’ll stay in place and support the track slightly above the surface of the train table. I then screw the track in place, making sure to leave enough play to allow the track to move slightly up and down on the layout base. This cushions the track enough to deaden the thunder of the trains.
Charles Angelo Irace
I also use sections of foam insulation as extra ties between the stamped metal ones. If you decide to use wood ties, make sure there is a gap between the wooden ties and the track. Slide the foam or extra wood ties under the rails, and glue them into place. For a finishing touch, and as a bit of added sound dampening, I use cat box litter. I apply it sparingly, brush it off the tops of the ties, and adhere it with diluted white household glue applied with a spray bottle. Commercial model railroad ballast is available from a range of CTT advertisers.


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