Plastic timbers!

Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Good evening!

A few days ago the rail chairs I ordered from the 3mm Society arrived which means I can embark on the bullhead sections of my layout. I intend using, and have already bought, Evergreen 0.060" x 0.125" strips for timbers. So far, so good!

I was just reading Peter Thompson's account of his "Norwich Central" central layout in the current (May 2021) Railway Modeller where I was pleased to see he'd used plasticard sleepers (along with a mention of Templot). Pleased, that is, until I got to a later paragraph where he says that in the two years between building and running the solvent he used made the sleepers shrink and reduce the gauge.

Does anyone have any longer term experience of using this method of track construction, with details of any solvents to avoid? Could sleepers really shrink in length? My solvent of choice is butanone but maybe something a bit milder might be safer, both for me and the track!

Cheers,
Paul
 
_______________
message ref: 1126
Hello Paul,
I can't comment on the RM article as I haven't taken that mag for many years ( other than when I find recent back copies going cheap at shows or model shops ).

I am quite keen on plasticard as a sleeper material and have used butanone to make test lengths in sizes down to 0.020" thickness. I just checked a length and the gauge is still 18mm ( for EM-SF ). I built the test lengths on a plasticard base and used Tamiya Extra Thin cement in the square bottles ( which you have probably come across in your 'other' hobby ) to secure the sleepers to the base before attaching the chairs with butanone. The plasticard base was attached to a ply offcut.

If you had a soft layer for sound insulation under the sleepers it may be possible that the sleepers would bow slightly - in effect reducing the gauge. Does Peter's article mention the solvent used ?....or what the sleepers were stuck down onto ? If it is a bowing issue would treating the sleepers on the back side help to even out any stress.

I wonder if plasticard and Evergreen and the Javis product show similar reactions to solvent ? I cut my sleepers from sheet and the ones I used for the tests were from Javis as that seems to be what most model shops stock these days.

It is a pity that C&L and Exactoscale chairs aren't made from Tamiya plastic although they may not then grip the rail as well. I will be interested to see if anybody else has seen an issue with plasticard sleepers before I actually built anything major with them.

Rob
 
_______________
message ref: 1127

Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Rob

I've been buying RM since mid-1981 and still enjoy it. 40 years of issues are also stopping my flat from blowing away in the wind! I do buy MRJ just to balance things out a bit, whenever it deigns to appear, as well as Hornby Magazine although I tend not to keep the latter - just the electronic copies.

I was planning to do exactly as you have tried - glue the timbers/sleepers to a plasticard base first then fix the chairs and rails. The attached photo shows that method for the 3-way stub point. Despite appearances, the timbers are glued directly to the 2mm thick polystyrene sheet. The gaps are where some reassuring copper-clad timbers will go. Plain track will use thinner sheet, maybe 0.040" - the 2mm is to give me something sturdy to fit the operating mechanism to. Plain track will have the templates glued to plasticard sheet with Pritt stick, then the centre section cut away leaving just the extension lines to allow me to position the sleepers. There's no way I'm going to cut out individual slots in plain track!

Peter doesn't mention the solvent used, but he does say that he laid the track onto neoprene. He doesn't say what the track was stuck down with, or when, so maybe it's possible that rather than the plastic shrinking, the underside was expanding bowing the sleepers and upwards and therefore tipping the rails inwards. He doesn't mention bowing though, just shrinking. For the bullhead sections, I don't intend using any underlay except cardboard to adjust the levels. (The main running lines are on C&L 3mm foam, but that's fully soldered construction).

Although I'm aware of TET, I've never actually used it! I do have a bottle of Humbrol Liquid Poly somewhere, but butanone is so cheap it gets used for almost everything, usually with suitable ventilation... My other go-to glue is Airfix tube cement, but some people frown on those who use that for some reason :confused:

I guess I'm going to find out how well this method works - I'll let you know in years to come!

Incidentally, the last of the components for making the signals from my post in January have just been ordered, so I now have no excuse to put tiny LED's into Daniel's APLS cases! I seem to be working on so many different aspects of my layout at once that it's sometimes hard to see progress, but I think lots of things will suddenly come together at once. I hope... I do at least now have some track laid on one board with servos set up.

Cheers,
Paul
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1185.JPG
    IMG_1185.JPG
    1.8 MB · Views: 21
_______________
message ref: 1128
Hi Paul,
Hope the bear doesn't mind the fumes! When I had my first 'bear' he was called Fred. When I got a second that was called Susan my mum promptly slashed it in both groins and re-sewed so it sat with it's legs together :)

Sounds like the project is starting to make rapid progress. Look forward to seeing the results.

I don't much like leaving Martin's lovely templates under track after it is laid. Curled up paper under PVA impregnated ballast doesn't hold much ice with me. My idea for plain track is to print out the templates with rack centre lines and timber centre lines before licktly tacking them to the base material. I then make a very light mark with a sharp blade to indicate the locations of these on the base. When cutting the sleepers from plasticard I make very light passes with the blade to indicate the sleeper centre and track centre. With the templates removed I can then fix the timbers down with no paper in the way. A simple gauge makes sure the chairs arrive on the sleepers in the right place. Sounds long winded but it works out fine.

Revell Contacta is an excellent adhesive/solvent for plastic kits and such like. It comes in a squeezy bottle with a thin applicator tube and rarely clogs the tube. Not, of couse, suitable for chairs but great for many plastic kits in combination with the Tamiya ET.

I have several box-files full of articles from Railway mags going way back. I just tore out anything I thought may be of interest. Our roof is held down by the wife's junk:) The only mags I keep complete are MRJ's and even though I have a full run upto 260 it stops there for some reason. I can grab a few for bed time reading and be back in the days of Inkerman Street or Copenhagen Fields.....younger members of Templot Club may have to 'Google' those two.

Rob
 
_______________
message ref: 1129

Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Rob

Oh yes, the bear! He was in an antiques centre looking at me so home he came! Not antique though by any means. I found his chair in another centre some time later.

The templates don’t stay in place. They’re stuck to the base with Pritt stick so they can be peeled off. On the turnout in the photo, the timbers are stuck to the base through slots cut in the template and bits will be peeled off as I go along, although I’ll do the next one differently to make the peeling off easier. On plain track, the cente section covering the sleepers will be peeled off the base, but I’ll leave the odd section between the sleepers just to give a reference for one rail. Once the rail is in place, any remaining template will be peeled off. No marking of the base, the template is used directly. Sections of track will then be laid much like Peco Setrack. At least, that’s the plan!

Younger members can buy the current issue of RM to get a taster of Copenhagen Fields! I must admit that layout doesn’t do much for me despite being very well made, and I’m afraid that Tim Watson’s recent article in MRJ put me right off. Judging by the letters pages in following issues, it seems I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like the tone of the article. Inkerman Street though, there’s one I need to dig out again! Every now and then I work my way through my MRJs!

Cheers,
Paul
 
_______________
message ref: 1130
Last edited:

Phil O

Member
Location
Plymouth.
Hi Paul,

Although I have no experience of plasticard or C & L plastic sleepers, I have heard of the gauge narrowing after time. Personally I use ply sleepers and timbers, with no apparent problems. I use EMA Plastic Weld to stick the chairs to the ply.
 
_______________
message ref: 1131

Hayfield

Member
Location
Essex
Paul

The issue with plastic timbers curling is caused by solvent contracting when drying, usually with the early thinner timbers (0.8 mm thick), this could be overcome by ensuring the sleepers/timbers were firmly stich to a base material

C&L brought out a thicker timber and sleeper bases (1.6 mm thick) which seems to have solved the issue, Exactoscale have always used the thicker base

However during the extrusion process some timbers come with a natural curl, plastic track bases still need to be carefully stuck down (using a weight whilst the glue is curing).
 
_______________
message ref: 1132

Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Paul

The issue with plastic timbers curling is caused by solvent contracting when drying, usually with the early thinner timbers (0.8 mm thick), this could be overcome by ensuring the sleepers/timbers were firmly stich to a base material

C&L brought out a thicker timber and sleeper bases (1.6 mm thick) which seems to have solved the issue, Exactoscale have always used the thicker base

However during the extrusion process some timbers come with a natural curl, plastic track bases still need to be carefully stuck down (using a weight whilst the glue is curing).
Hi,

I'm planning to use 0.060" (1.5mm) timbers glued to probably 0.040" base for plain track, with a 2mm base for the few chaired turnouts, so with the C&L experience of thicker timber and sleeper bases I'm feeling more confident! These sections of track won't be laid onto any kind of soft underlay so gluing them down firmly won't be a problem.

Cheers,
Paul
 
_______________
message ref: 1134
Last edited:

Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hi Paul,

Although I have no experience of plasticard or C & L plastic sleepers, I have heard of the gauge narrowing after time. Personally I use ply sleepers and timbers, with no apparent problems. I use EMA Plastic Weld to stick the chairs to the ply.
Hi Phil

I've built plenty of ply sleeper/plastic chaired track but I just thought I'd try something different for this layout! My "problem" with ply track is that of keeping it rigid when handling it off the template. I did consider gluing ply timbers to the same 0.040" plasticard base but decided to go all plastic. It is a bit of an experiment, I must admit. One foreseeable problem might be that of making fine adjustments, which is easy with ply, but I'll see how it goes.

I've tried various glues over the years for fixing plastic chairs to ply sleepers, and once again butanone comes to the rescue - I just can't bring myself to pay silly money for a tiny bottle of solvent labelled "for modellers" when butanone is so cheap, albeit quite nasty. If the chairs break before the joint, I count that as a success. I remember Brian Lewis's article in MRJ years ago demonstrating the strength of the ply/plastic bond, when he was C&L.

Cheers,
Paul
 
_______________
message ref: 1135

Phil O

Member
Location
Plymouth.
Hi Paul,

My small bottle of Plastic Weld is 2 1/2 litres of diocloromethane, I think I've spelt it correctly. I had a friend who was a laboratory technician who borrowed my plastic weld, as they had tried everything else to stick perspex together as part of a school project, as it worked well and when I got my little bottle back it had just growed. It came from Reagent. I googled it and it cost about £30.
 
_______________
message ref: 1136
Hello Paul,
I just came across an article in MRJ ( issue 210 ) regarding DL-Limonene as an alternative to MEK etc. No idea if it is strong enough for sleeper/chair joints but the article ( by Geoff Kent ) does maybe suggest that it may reduce the risks of warping. I seem to remember it used to be available from Andrew at Wizard but I can't get on his site to check at present. You may wish to check out the article if you have it....

Rob
 
_______________
message ref: 1429

Paul Boyd

Member
Location
Loughborough, UK
Hello Paul,
I just came across an article in MRJ ( issue 210 ) regarding DL-Limonene as an alternative to MEK etc. No idea if it is strong enough for sleeper/chair joints but the article ( by Geoff Kent ) does maybe suggest that it may reduce the risks of warping. I seem to remember it used to be available from Andrew at Wizard but I can't get on his site to check at present. You may wish to check out the article if you have it....

Rob
Hi Rob

I have a bottle of DL-Limonene from Wizard Models but to be honest I'm not impressed. It may well have been that article that prompted its purchase. As an example, it's also supposed to be good for gluing "glazing" on plastic model kits without the fogging. Several months ago I knocked over a part finished Vulcan (it was standing on its tail!) and one of the cockpit crew ended up rattling about inside. Coming back to it later, I wondered if I could get the canopy off to refit him before painting the model. Not only did the canopy just pop off, after several months, but the joint line was still sticky! Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I can't imagine what. The joint was good and the canopy was taped firmly into place for about a week whilst I thought the glue was curing. It's not the first time I've found it just doesn't stick well.

I'm going to view plastic sleepered track as a bit of an experiment. Whilst I'll be mildly miffed if it starts curling after a few years (months?), I'll simply remind myself that it was an experiment, honest! I will use copper-clad timbers at gauge-critical points though.

Talking of copper-clad, there's been a lot of criticism of Phil at C&L for very slow deliveries. With some trepidation I placed an order for copper-clad and paid by bank transfer - and that stuff isn't cheap these days! Apart from an initial acknowledgment email, I heard nothing until the order arrived about a week later. I'm very happy with that service!

Cheers,
Paul
 
_______________
message ref: 1432
Top