Making a New Nn3 Code 40 Flex Tie System

tracktoo May 4, 2019

  1. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Some of you may have seen some of the posts I've made over a few years now about designing and building complete miniature power trucks, rolling stock, and related equipment for general use, triggered by a desire for a nice performing narrow gauge coal mine locomotive. I've been working on all of the necessary components for a little while now and recently added a 3D resin printer to my equipment list which has added a lot of the necessary finishing capability I needed. Utilizing the new printer and existing machine tools I have developed a new flex tie bed, Code 40 Nn3 track system and put together my first Nn3 Code 40 test track for both testing rolling stock and demonstrating the track in service.

    The track is on a 9" x 14" x 1/2" foam base and is both a test of the track system as well as a test track for my Nn3 miniature chassis and rolling stock projects. As a test track for tight turning 4 wheel chassis' and rolling stock this test track is laid with 2 1/2" (64mm) radius and 3 1/2" (89mm) radius turns. The ties are on 24" centers and detailed with tie plates that functionally set the gauge when laying the rail. The rail is bent before to install, uses no rail joiners, has feeders soldered to the underside of each rail and dropped between tie gaps. It is glued into the guide plates with contact cement in the style of Fast Tracks hand laid track and switches. I will be making my own switches but this one is using a pair of Rokuhan 55mm turnouts with adapters to the code 40 rail and provision to allow the removal of the switch for servicing without tearing out track. It's pretty slick.

    The track is painted but no ballast yet. I used Model Masters acrylics in the airbrush, Field Drab on the rails and RR Tie Brown on the ties. I masked the foam base, painted the rails first but didn't mask the rails when painting the ties, just shot from directly overhead. Seems good so far but in some spots I got more Tie Brown on the rail sides than I intended.

    I'm really liking the rail and tie look in general and happy with how the Rokuhan switch adapters worked. It also looks like the Rokuhan switches may not look so gawd awful clubby when finally painted and ballasted. [​IMG] There's more to do but I'm liking it this far. And the gauging came out EXCELLENT! For the most part it's right on the target of .260"/ .262" (6.65mm) and within a few thousandths when a small excursion does exist. It's ALL well within the NMRA spec of .257" to .270", coming nowhere near needing that generous tolerance and without using any gauges while laying the track, letting the designed in tie plate guides do their job. I'm very happy with that.

    The one item that proved to be most useful was the rail bending tool I made. I expected it would be handy but after using it on this first trial of the whole system, I don't think I would want to do this without the tool. It will be indispensable for this work.

    The under board wiring needs to be completed as well as ballasting and the board base but this is the progress so far. Even though it's only a test track I will likely put down at least some scenic materials so it's not so completely ugly to look at (like my test tracks this far). It will still be some time until I'm finished with it due to time availability.

    And some pics:
    Laying tie bed using tape for .010" super elevation on the turns.

    Nn3 Code 40 Test Track.jpg

    Rails added and painted.

    Nn3 Test Track .jpg

    Closeup of painted rail.

    Nn3 Test Track  Closeup.jpg

    Referenced rail bending tool:

    Rail Bending Tool.jpg
     
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  2. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Here are a couple of phone videos showing some detail on the use of the Rokuhan switch guides and the rail bending tool that were used for laying the track on that test board. No production value but for those interested they are the easier than trying to describe the whole thing. :cool: Enjoy!:)

    First, the switch installation guides, photos then video:

    Rokuhan switch adapter.jpg

    Rokuhan Switch with adapter.jpg





    Second, the rail bending tool:

     
  3. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    Hmmm.....could be interesting for modeling a Los Angeles Railway PCC car....
     
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  4. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    I plan on making tie bed for N, Z, dual gauge, code 40 or even code 55 when needed. If anybody has an immediate application requiring any of those send me a note and I can put them on the list for immediate attention. :cool: But for street trolley tracks consider the following idea.

    A good way to do that is to bury the track in the foam base. I have done that for that exact purpose, trolley tracks in the street, using a Dremel attachment that works like a miniature router and is the way I cut the pockets in the foam to bury the Rokuhan roadbed switches in that demo. It's sold as a tile cutter but has all of the elements of a miniature router. The pocket depth can be very precisely set on the bench with your dial calipers so the pocket is flat bottomed and very square. Draw your edge lines and then cut away. It can also be held up against a straight edge for longer straight runs, cutting one side at a time and then free handing the removal of the remaining center. And this tool is useful in many projects around train boards and foam for setting all kinds of pocket detail. I stumbled on it by accident and have posted it several times on several boards but it never seemed to excite anybody. All I can say is I've found it damn handy many times.:cool:

    When I did that I used code 80 flex track but code 55 could also be used. The code 80 afforded plenty of working room on the height, cut to depth at the tie width, and then another cut at the edge of the track pocket, .020" deep to accept Plastruct stone sheet to finish the outside edges to blend to the street height as I have seen in Pittsburgh's street track.

    To bend around corners the stone sheet can be cut through on the mortar line, most of the width but leaving a piece to keep the strip bridged in one piece. That lets those trim sheets bend very comfortably and neatly following the track radius and once painted the cut lines on the mortar joints don't show even a little. I left the rail about .020" above the stone sheet for track cleaning without any interference from the stone trim sheet. I butted the outside edge right up to the track and for the center of the track I cut it about .025" per side narrower for wheel flange clearance. I also remember using a piece of styrene sheet (.020"?) as a shim to bring the cut pieces up to fit properly on the height. They were cut narrower to lay flat on the rails between the spike detail and glued down with regular styrene cement. They also didn't need to fit all of the way out as the stone sheet could support itself for the short span where it was fitted to the rails.

    I wish I had some photos to show you but historically I'm terrible about that and have none. Here's a pic of the tool though, taken while I was doing the above switches.

    Dremel Router for pocket.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
  5. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Super cool! Just how did you make the rail bender? It looks like part of a camera L-bracket for a tripod mount...
     
  6. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks. That tool was expected to be useful and is why I decided to make one but it was a pleasant surprise when it exceeded expectations in performance and simplicity of use. Those moments make me happy. :D

    The frame and stop knob were 3D printed with the frame designed to be easy to grip and operate with one hand. The sealed bearings were purchased and the balance was machined to fit. The last video above demonstrates the use and mentions the build at the very end. The tie bed worked extremely well too and that tool was at least part of that success. Nice looking and very accurate gauging.

    Next I have to make some nice, smooth switches that work with the tie system. :cool: And make the same stuff with Z tie spacing so you can have Code 40 track for Z, too. Although I'm jumping the gun saying it, all of this will be available for purchase and some could be made to order now. And watch for a complete running Nn3 mine loco and train soon. :)
     
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  7. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    I finally got the Code 40 Nn3 test track ballasted, the buried Rokuhan 55mm switch detailing finished, and a quick bit of ground foam just to make it a little less boring than my normal test tracks. I'm REALLY happy with how it's all working and looking! :)

    The board is 1/2" foam measuring 9" x 14" with either 3 1/2" or 2 1/2" radius turns. I'm planning on making my own switches but the Rokuhan method demonstrated to me that with the track adapters I made and some patience detailing they can be made very presentable, at least to my eye. :confused::)

    Here are some pics:

    Painted and Ballasted
    Nn3 Code 40 Test Track- Ballasted- 1.jpg

    And with some ground foam.
    Nn3 Code 40 Test Track- Ballast and Ground Foam- 1.jpg

    And some closeups of the Rokuhan switches ballasted and detailed

    Rokuhan buried switch- Code 40- painted ballast- 1.jpg

    Rokuhan buried switch- painted ballast.jpg
    Nn3 Code 40 Test Track- Ballast and Ground Foam- 1.jpg

    And for the HO guys there's no reason why this can't be 22" gauge! :cool: Any interest? It could be made with appropriate tie size and spacing.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
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  8. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Killer job integrating the Rokuhan switches! Until you look really close, it's hard to tell they are not handlaid! If you are looking to do a mine layout, I'd say nix the ballast and use local dirt or tailings for more realism. Mines built their track as cheaply as possible...
     
  9. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Yes. And depending on type of mine and locale that can be many colors and mixes. And depending on the mine's volume and funding they may actually use specific rock ballast as tailings aren't always the best stuff for roadbed. But this was just a test track for running locos as well as a test for the new Code 40 flex tie bed and all related procedures. As such it served that purpose well and will now be put to work as the test track it was intended to be. And it looks a whole lot better than what I've been using for test tracks. o_O :D

    At some point I plan on a small diorama, maybe a T-Trak module, to actually detail out a mine or two. Maybe one Appalachian coal and another Colorado minerals. Still have a lot of work to do on all related components.:cool:
     
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  10. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    I like it! I need a small micro Nn3 layout just like that for my Showcase Miniatures Nn3 train. It’s looks perfect for Shays and Climax locos.
     
  11. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, Jim. Those are exactly the kinds of applications I had in mind with this whole venture. :cool:


    That particular one may not work for your application as the turn radii are very tight, meant to test 4 wheel locos and rolling stock like those tippers above. And the switch also might be too tight at 55mm. You'd want to test those pieces but with the flex tie bed the radius can be whatever you want. :) And I'm planning to have code 40 turnouts, too. I'll be working on those soon.

    Send a PM if you would want to actually use some of these pieces or if you have something you'd like to see available. I have a pretty decent quantity of Code 40 Tie Bed and rail available right now It's my intent to have a pretty complete Code 40 Nn3 system available, switches and all. :cool:
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2019
  12. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    I'd love to see this rail system in use in a Colorado gold or silver mine.
     
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  13. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Any mine scene with locos, to my eye, can be very cool but the gold and silver mines in Colorado (or the Rockies in general) can have some very dramatic scenery with big mountains, sheer cliffs, tie walls, and very cool wooden trestles. :) And even cooler when the locos and equipment are so tiny. :)

    Maybe within the month or so I'll have an example of a whole running train. It's been a long haul getting here, working out all of the details but especially making the minuscule chassis with good scale speed, smooth control, yet as little as 3/8" +/- off the rails.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2019
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  14. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    53FF7321-1C4C-4D6E-A597-5A2D9492F381.jpeg
     
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  15. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Those would look really good on some of that Code 40 track! ;) No big spikes and 24" tie spacing. That's Atlas Z flex, isn't it? This photo has the tippers on the Code 40 track and to the left is one more Code 40 and then Atlas Z flex Code 55. To the right of the tippers is regular N scale Bachmann track bed sectional track and then Rokuhan Z with the gray tippers.


    20190124_183830.jpg


    And here's another view.

    20190124_184452.jpg

    And a couple of hundred feet (or so?) ready to go.

    20190124_190543.jpg
     
  16. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    @JimJ Your picture above got me to thinking (doctor said the pain will stop), and it occurred to me that I should just send you a piece of that track as a sample to set your locos on. A 9" piece would fit diagonally in a small USPS standard box. If you'd like to do that send me a PM with a shipping address and I'll get a piece out to you. :cool:
     
  17. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Got it, Jim. I'll set it up and paint it, too.:cool: Unless you want the bright rail. :unsure: Just say the word.

    Give me a day or two to get it out. I'll be anxious to see that track with those locos on it. :)
     
  18. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    I would like to paint and weather it but thanks for the kind offer.
     
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  19. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Got it!
     
  20. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Packaged up and ready to ship.:cool: And I included a small bonus that I think will look good with your engines. :whistle: May not fit your theme exactly but still full of Nn3 coolness.:) Could probably find credible use in your MOW train.

    I'll PM a tracking number tonight.
     

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