Anyone building a modular layout has no doubt run across this quandary: how to keep your trains running smooth over the gaps between modules. Rails run right to the edge of your module or section, and then just stop. You’re now faced with the challenge of aligning the next module perfectly, so trains run in an uninterrupted and worry-free fashion. But the chances of getting the transition right diminish without a standard and consistent method for laying and securing the rails at each transition point.
Because I started laying track without a ton of experience with flextrack specifically, and without a lot of model railroading experience at all, I was unaware of many modelers’ creative solutions such as soldering the end of your rails to a few PC Board ties (see picture below), or otherwise immobilizing your rails near the end of your module for spot-on track work. My track was laid on a cork bed and fastened down with some kind of clear and slightly flexible caulk, so there was all sorts of misalignment and chaos when the modules were aligned.
Side note: I highly recommend this PC Board ties method. I would have used it myself and avoided the need for this article at all if I had dome some more research before hastily starting the shelf layout. For more information, this great video from M.C. Fujiwara, How To Make Beautiful Butt Joints (For Free-moN and other modular railroads), is an amazing resource.
Bad news is that I didn’t know about all that when I laid my track, and to adopt this method would have required me to rip up and re-lay all the track near each module’s end.I started googling around for other options, and came across a very creative solution.
The folks at County Gate, modelers of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway in 009, detailed this creative solution on their troubleshooting page, and it looks like this:
They created a removable section of track to bridge the joint between modules and developed a series of connectors to hold the section in place. They used hollow brass tubing and a rod that aligned the section and kept it in place.
Because I had already laid all the track, I would have to modify their design to make it work on my layout. I eliminated the removable sections and just decided to solder the brass tubing to the outside edge of the rails at the ends of both modules.
I picked up some 1.5mm brass tube and 1mm brass rods from K&S Precision Metals, as suggested by the 009 group. Even though I’m using shorter and daintier code 55 track, I figured those dimensions would still work for my purposes.
Once the tubing was soldered in, (which was, I might add, very difficult. I’m not very talented at soldering, these pieces are very small, and my soldering iron is in bad shape) I cut some pins from the brass rod, bent them into an “L” for removal purposes, and threaded them through the tubing.
The key to success is soldering the tubing evenly and uniformly on both module ends, or else the tubing won’t line up and the pins won’t pass through.
It turned out well enough for me, and I’m happy with the results. It’s a fix though, and you’d probably be better off using the PC Board method to keep things lined up and running smooth.
My utmost gratitude to pioneers MC Fujiwara and the L&B Rwy 009 group for developing and sharing their ideas with the railroad modeling community. You can find MC Fujiwara on the N Scale forums and on Youtube. You can find the L&B modelers here.