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How Many Track Nails/Spikes to Hold a 36" Piece of Flex Track Securely?

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How Many Track Nails/Spikes to Hold a 36" Piece of Flex Track Securely?
Posted by richhotrain on Friday, March 30, 2018 3:15 PM

I have been experimenting with track spikes through ties outside of the rails as opposed to my current method of track nails through ties between the rails. Why, you ask? Because I cannot stand the appearance of track nails between the rails when viewed through the eyes of a mini-cam. The nail heads look like bowling balls.

When working with the track spikes, I am making extensive use of straight edge tools to get the track laser straight.

But, what I notice, whether using nails or spikes, is that the portions of the flex track between the nails/spikes can still move laterally. So, it requires a fair number of nails/spikes, closely spaced, to ensure that the flex track doesn't move laterally. Maybe, that is the advantage of caulk over nails/spikes.

Anyhow, for those of you who use nails or spikes to secure flex track, how many do you use per 36" section of flex track?

Rich

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Posted by gregc on Friday, March 30, 2018 6:12 PM

i know this isn't the answer you're looking for, but some thoughts

for hand laid track, every 5th tie is good enough.    but this is to prevent the rails from spreading apart and the wheels dropping down between them.   the ties are glued in place.   obviously not the problem with flex.

when reading Tony Koester's article on hand laid turnouts, he always encouraged you to try, because you can always just scrap it up if you screw up.   not very permanent  (GE -- good enough)

have you considered glueing down the track?   you shouldn't have to use a strong glue, just something to hold it in place.  use nails to hold it in place until the glue dries or weights (especially if foam)

 

may i ask, why are you rebuilding your layout?    best of luck

 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, March 30, 2018 7:07 PM

I use a track nail in every hole to keep the track in place then pull them after ballasting.  A small dob of tie color paint fills the holes so the track cam doesn’t see them.
 
 
 
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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, March 30, 2018 7:58 PM

gregc

may i ask, why are you rebuilding your layout?    

Good question. I build my current layout in stages, starting in 2005, then adding to it in 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014. It was pseudo-prototypical in part and freelance in part. Overall, the track plan made little sense.

But, worse than that, it was not level and the track work was anything but straight. I have a love/hate relationship with it. When I bought the mini cam and filmed videos around the layout, I was aghast at how awful my track work looked. And, it was terribly overballasted. Other than that, it was fine. LOL

My new layout will occupy the same space and will follow a similar footprint. But, it will be level, and the track will be laser straight. To answer your other question, I have thought about securing the roadbed and track with caulk. In fact, that would probably be a whole lot easier than nailing or spiking. I have to think more about that.

Rich

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Posted by SouthPenn on Friday, March 30, 2018 9:55 PM

Proto87 makes scale spikes. They would look fine holding the rails down.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, March 30, 2018 10:08 PM

richhotrain

I have been experimenting with track spikes through ties outside of the rails as opposed to my current method of track nails through ties between the rails. Why, you ask? Because I cannot stand the appearance of track nails between the rails when viewed through the eyes of a mini-cam. The nail heads look like bowling balls.

When working with the track spikes, I am making extensive use of straight edge tools to get the track laser straight.

But, what I notice, whether using nails or spikes, is that the portions of the flex track between the nails/spikes can still move laterally. So, it requires a fair number of nails/spikes, closely spaced, to ensure that the flex track doesn't move laterally. Maybe, that is the advantage of caulk over nails/spikes.

Anyhow, for those of you who use nails or spikes to secure flex track, how many do you use per 36" section of flex track?

Rich

 

Rich, and there is the problem, nails or spikes always leave the track able to "wiggle" until it is ballasted.

That's why I like adheasive caulk..........it makes flex track just like hand layed track - zero movement.

And it has enough working time, yet enough "grab" to allow the adjustments, on striaghts or curves.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, March 30, 2018 11:27 PM

 My answer? 0. Like Sheldon, I use caulk. Used it on my last two layouts with zero issues, so I will continue on the next one.

                                        --Randy

 


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Posted by hon30critter on Friday, March 30, 2018 11:48 PM

Sheldon and Randy, and others who have recommended using caulk:

Tomorrow morning I am going to the club with the Pres. to look at our 'wiggley' track. I'm going to strongly suggest that we use caulk when we straighten the track out and for all future track laying.

Thanks,

Dave

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, March 30, 2018 11:50 PM

Rich, I found that when I first layed the track, using track nails, everything looked good until a couple of days later, and suddenly the "straight" track wasn't.  I'm not sure why it changed, as the room temperature varies little, even between summer and winter, and the room is unheated/uncooled, but well insulated.  Most of the wiggles could be easily corrected by pushing the nail-head in the proper direction, although a few needed to be pulled and repositioned.  I do straights by-eye, as most are too long for any easily manipulated straightedge.
I left the layout for a couple of months, to see if anymore movement took place, but there was none, so I went ahead and ballasted.
I also solder all turnouts in place, and secure them with nails too:  a floating turnout is trouble waiting to happen - most of the track I've lifted over the years has been turnouts that were no longer needed in the location where they were originally installed, and all were easily re-used elsewhere.

I soldered all of my rail joints, then cut electrical gaps where needed (DC operation).  In all of the time that the layout's been here, I've not had further track movement nor any buckling.
I don't know what caused the initial movement - perhaps gluing the track in place prevents it, but if I need to remove track, as I have several times after ballasting, a soaking with "wet" water and a scraper lifts track or turnouts without difficulty and they're completely re-useable (of course, for that, I also had to remove the nails - their appearance doesn't otherwise bother me). 

As Mel has suggested, if you use nails, simply remove them after ballasting.  If you're putting them near the ends of the ties, you should be using twice as many as you would if you simply used the holes provided by Atlas - one on each end of the tie used, and at about the same spacing as the almost-pre-drilled holes which Atlas provides.  That means that you'll have twice as many nails to pull after you've ballasted the track, 'cause don't think that nailheads sticking up from the ties' ends will look like smaller bowling balls in that unusual placement.

Don't make a simple task more difficult.  I admire the patience of those who handlay their track and turnouts, but if you don't use a minumum of four spikes per tie, and, in most cases, tieplates, too, then your track doesn't look all that prototypical to me - and before you jump on me for that, yes, my Atlas track (and Peco, Micro Engineering, Shinohara and Atlas turnouts) have their unprototypical drawbacks, too.  Neither of us are doing Proto 87, so using that with which we're comfortable suits our purposes....one of mine was ease of use.

Wayne

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, March 30, 2018 11:50 PM

Caulk may be in my future. 

But I am hoping that someone will chime in who uses nails or spikes to tell me how many they have to use to hold the flex track firmly in place.

Rich

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, March 30, 2018 11:55 PM

richhotrain
I am hoping that someone will chime in who uses nails or spikes to tell me how many they have to use to hold the flex track firmly in place.

Beatcha to it, Rich.

Wayne

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Posted by bagal on Saturday, March 31, 2018 3:59 AM

I use neither nails nor caulk. I have founds screws with washers between the ties works well. Easy control so minimal downward pressure on the ties and allows a small amount of movement. When we are satified with postioning a small amount of white glue between the ties holds the track in place until ballasting.

bagal

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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, March 31, 2018 5:41 AM

doctorwayne
 
richhotrain
I am hoping that someone will chime in who uses nails or spikes to tell me how many they have to use to hold the flex track firmly in place. 

Beatcha to it, Rich.

Wayne 

Wayne, thanks for that short follow up post. Without it, I would have missed your longer post that was posted at the same time as mine, but yours showed up first.

I suppose that I am making too much of the mini cam videos that show my nail heads as bowling balls. On my current layout, I left the nails in place after ballasting, and I can still pull them all out. So, you and Mel and others are right about pulling the nails post-ballasting. Like you, I hate to use caulk because I am always pulling up track and relocating it. I have to think about this a little longer.

Rich

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Saturday, March 31, 2018 6:18 AM

Use flat head nails instead of the Atlas nails?

Also,  I don't understand the laser straight track obsession.  Real track, except for continuously welded rail, is not all that straight.  I mean its relatively straight.  Over time it does become not as straight.  The rail grows in the sun, and develops sun kinks.  

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Saturday, March 31, 2018 6:22 AM

A few random thoughts:

Like Wayne l solder all my rail joints. I do not caulk turnouts, but I do install a nail or two in them. But generally they are well trapped by the ajacent track.

I use homasote roadbed, I like the more firm base. Guess that comes from my TruScale wood roadbed beginnings.......

20 years of service on the old layout, no issues.

Admittedly there is no reusing of track.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Brunton on Saturday, March 31, 2018 7:07 AM

I use nails in all but the closely spaced holes for hidden track. Every third hole is spaced close to one of the other two, so in effect I use two nails every three holes. On curves I solder the joints and continue with the nails as described above right through the joint - the solder hanles the stress of curing the rail ends just fine.

On visible track I use spikes in the outer rails every 8-10 ties. I drill out the molded-on spikes and insert a track spike against the base of the rail as in handlaying. Much more time consuming, but I don't have the big mid-tie holes to contend with later. I think I'll try the remove-the-nail-after-ballasting approach next time - sounds much faster.

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Posted by SouthPenn on Saturday, March 31, 2018 10:53 AM

I forget the reason why I did this: On one section of track I used white glue to hold flex track down. Put a bead of glue where the track goes, smooth and widen the glue with a paintbrush, install the track and put some weight on it. I also used thumb tacks to hold the track in place.  Let the glue dry. 

I was afraid to use caulk in case I needed to remove the track. White glued items can easily be removed with a little warm water.

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Posted by SouthPenn on Saturday, March 31, 2018 11:07 AM

richhotrain

Caulk may be in my future. 

But I am hoping that someone will chime in who uses nails or spikes to tell me how many they have to use to hold the flex track firmly in place.

Rich 

I use whatever it takes. There is no set amount. Sometimes I drill extra holes in the ties to keep the track from moving. I try to move the track by hand and if it moves, I add another nail or spike. Curves take more nails or spikes than straight sections. I am using mostly Atlas flex track which is springy.

My hand-layed track gets a spike every 5 ties, every 4 ties in curves.

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Saturday, March 31, 2018 4:29 PM

I hate using caulk for tracklaying, with the blazing heat of 10,000 chili-fueled poops.

I use Micro Engineering track spikes, about four or five per 3' section of track.  I also do not understand the obsession with laser-straight track.  I'm modeling 1980s Upper Peninsula Michigan and the track was anything but perfect.  In fact, I bend my flextrack into a series of S-curves and then straighten it out again so the track ISN'T perfect.  I also pull off some ties and spread the rest out a bit, and make some crooked.

 

Disclaimer:  This post may contain humor, sarcasm, and/or flatulence.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Saturday, March 31, 2018 4:49 PM

Bayfield Transfer Railway

I hate using caulk for tracklaying, with the blazing heat of 10,000 chili-fueled poops.

I use Micro Engineering track spikes, about four or five per 3' section of track.  I also do not understand the obsession with laser-straight track.  I'm modeling 1980s Upper Peninsula Michigan and the track was anything but perfect.  In fact, I bend my flextrack into a series of S-curves and then straighten it out again so the track ISN'T perfect.  I also pull off some ties and spread the rest out a bit, and make some crooked.

 

 

And I am modeling the double track Class I mainlines of the Mid Atlantic in 1954 which had lazer perfect, carefully maintained trackage.

As for caulk, I have already explained why I like it, you failed to explain why you don't?

Sheldon

    

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Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, March 31, 2018 5:25 PM

hon30critter
Tomorrow morning I am going to the club with the Pres. to look at our 'wiggley' track. I'm going to strongly suggest that we use caulk when we straighten the track out and for all future track laying.

Who here likes waffles?!? Well, like it or not you are going to get one from me!Smile, Wink & Grin

We had a close look at the wiggley track and discovered (to no-one's surprise I'm guessing) that we needed to use more track nails. The Atlas flex track has holes about every 4" and that's what the crew did. They did add extra nails at the rail joints. The track around the rail joints doesn't move when pushed sideways but the 4" gap between nails is enough to allow the track between the nails to shift sideways, and that is what was causing our problem. We also noticed that the track would tend to pivot around the single nails. If the track was twisted in one direction on one side of the nail it would also be displaced in the opposite direction on the other side of the nail. The bottom line is that we will put track nails every 2", straightening the track as we go.

We made a couple of decisions regarding the use of caulk. First, we decided not to lift the existing track to put caulk under it. Adding extra nails seems to be much easier to do. Second, we want install the rest of the track with nails so that it can be easily adjusted (corrected might be a better term). We will hopefully have two or three crews installing track over the next few weeks. The President and I will closely monitor the process but we can predict that there will be some errors made, just as there were errors when we had three crews laying cork. Using nails instead of caulk will make those corrections easy.

Dave

 

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Posted by SouthPenn on Saturday, March 31, 2018 7:10 PM

If you have long straight runs, you could put a nail at each end of the run and pull a string from nail to nail. Then you will have a reference to help keep the track straight.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Saturday, March 31, 2018 8:24 PM

Every 2" ?, that is a lot of nails.........

Sheldon

    

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Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, March 31, 2018 9:18 PM

South Penn:

Thanks for the suggestion.

Sheldon:

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Every 2" ?, that is a lot of nails.....

Not really. It's only twice as many as we installed in the first place. Besides, it will be more prototypical!Smile, Wink & GrinLaugh We can pretend that the layout is twice as big as it really is!ClownSmileLaugh

I think adding more nails will be more acceptable to the track crew than taking the whole thing up to apply caulk.

Dave

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Saturday, March 31, 2018 10:01 PM

hon30critter

South Penn:

Thanks for the suggestion.

Sheldon:

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Every 2" ?, that is a lot of nails.....

 

Not really. It's only twice as many as we installed in the first place. Besides, it will be more prototypical!Smile, Wink & GrinLaugh We can pretend that the layout is twice as big as it really is!ClownSmileLaugh

I think adding more nails will be more acceptable to the track crew than taking the whole thing up to apply caulk.

Dave

 

Are we talking nails in the center of the track?

As perviously commented, I failed management by committee, and have been labled "does not play well with others" on occasion.

Best of luck,

Sheldon

    

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Posted by hon30critter on Saturday, March 31, 2018 11:57 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL
Are we talking nails in the center of the track?

Yep. If we get really ambitious we can pull them once the track is ballasted but somehow I doubt that will happen.

Remember that this is a club layout with lots of different people working on it. That means lots of mistakes and we have to be able to correct them. If I was building my own layout I would definitely use caulk, but ungluing track to remove a kink or a wiggle is way more work than pulling a few nails and then sticking them back in. 

Despite the pitfalls of design by committee and having to oversee a bunch of different people with different skill levels doing the work, I am enjoying the process. The President wants just a couple of people to do all the fussy work. I don't agree with that approach. I want to teach people how to do the work properly despite the fact that that slows the construction process sometimes. I feel fairly strongly that that is part of what the club is all about, and that is one of the main reasons that I am involved with the club. Or, maybe I just like hearing myself talk!Smile, Wink & GrinLaughLaughWink

Sorry to the OP. I'm hijacking the thread. To directly answer the OP's original question, we are putting nails every 2".

Dave

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Sunday, April 01, 2018 1:29 AM

Personally, I use 2 track nails near each end and then 3 or 4 others along the rest of the 36" section.  I don't use a mini/rail cam so I just leave them.  Maybe it's just my 70 year old eyesight, but I have trouble finding them all if I need to take up the track.

Paul

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, April 01, 2018 5:25 AM

This has been a very interesting discussion, and I appreciate everyone's comments and suggestions.

I remain conflicted as to how I will ultimately secure the track.

The use of caulk is tempting, but I hesitate to go that route because of the relative permanance of caulk once applied.

I have tried track spikes as an experiment over the past few days, but they are small and hard to work with, and very slow going, so I will probably eliminate spikes as an option.

That brings me back to track nails. However, I think that nails every 2 inches is overkill - - sorry, Dave. I remain obsessed with the mini cam viewing issue, so I have been experimenting with flat head nails on the ties outside of the rails. My preliminary results are positive.

I have been alternating the nails on opposite sides of the track every 6" or so. But, that is still six nails per 36" section of flex track. So, tomorrow, I will see if 4 nails per section is sufficient. One thing that I really like about alternating the nails on opposite sides of the track is that the arrangement seems superior to nailing down the center of the ties between the rails. No wiggle!

Rich

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Posted by gdelmoro on Sunday, April 01, 2018 7:07 AM

I used track nails in the center of ties and have never had a track work problem. Zzz  Oh wait, that was a dream!

Gary

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, April 01, 2018 8:15 AM

richhotrain
Anyhow, for those of you who use nails or spikes to secure flex track, how many do you use per 36" section of flex track? Rich

Rich, What works for me is 2 spikes every sixth tie. I was taught this method back in the fiber tie days and it still holds true.

Larry

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