Scratch built tracks

“Here’s some photos I just took. I laid Atlas track 4 months ago with 50 peco switches. I am now removing all the atlas track and hand laying my own track along with hand made turnouts. They are much smoother and the trains run incredible..


I think Lou’s layout is going to be very impressive when it’s finished. I wouldn’t have the patience to do the track like that. It does look fantastic though.

‘Ebay cheat sheet’ is here.



75 Responses to Scratch built tracks

  1. I hate to write a negative word but to me (living in the USA ) the track looks like Lionel track with the spacing of the brown ties. Maybe in the UK it is OK. From a disatance, the brown ties are all one really sees until you look closer. One does not really see the lighter ties at first. Thje scenery looks real good.

  2. Stunning scenery!

  3. whats going on big mannn!!! question can these new tracks can bachmann trains runn on theose tracks??? and how much do there cost for a set!!! Jonathan tj Johnson on

  4. Excellent workmanship! With hand laid track, you have personal control over how your engines perform on those tracks. And you can make sure that there are no unwanted kinks in the track joins, which can cause headaches. Six axel diesels can’t always run on bad track.
    Don Wick
    West Bend, WI

  5. Louis has done a marvelous job there , I wish i had the patience to do my own track , nice layout too

  6. Lou,
    how about your secretes such as
    *what did you use as radii & turnout templates for you curves
    *rail fixings such as fish plates & expansion joints
    *sleeper details & sound dampening underlays
    *rail cross-sectional profiles, materials and supplied length,
    *DCC consideration if appropriate
    I look forward to happy snaps of your finished project
    The best of luck and lots of fun Dr Bruce


  8. Nice….would be tough in N scale though.

  9. I have been doing hand laid track for awhile. The work is a bit tedious but the results are much better. I lay all the ties first then stain the ties. Afterward, I put down ballast. Only then do I lay the rail. I weather all the rail before spiking it down. I am still using commercial turnouts but I only select the best quality ones to use. The expense pays off in the end.

    Bob Virnig

  10. What do you mean in the uk it is OK, we expect realistic track,we are not as backward as you think we are.
    Don’t forget railways stared here.


  11. Lou,
    Fantastic layout!
    I’d never have the patience to make all those turnouts. Good luck with the rest of the track.

  12. nice work…looks fantastic

  13. Cool Work. My wife are doing a huge HO layout too. Approx 20 turnouts in a L shaped 18X 10 X 8 ft tabled area. You have done a great job whether ou use the Atlas tracks or hand laid. Please post more later.

  14. real nice track will be doing same on mine one day my own version of the g&d by JHON ALLEN the man building bigger version of the original small g&d so i can run larger engines nice job looks real good.


    You truly are a dedicated and artful train modeler.
    Norm Boling……..USA

  16. I recently removed atlas track from my layout as I found the atlas points

    were live no matter which track the points were aligned for. My Bachmann locos used to derail on them. Atlas curves are too sharp for Bachmann branchline locos , same with large Hornby locos such as the Flying Scotsman.

  17. That is really nice and a great job too!! I used to do the same thing in S gage, lay my own track using brass rails and small spikes with the wooden ties, then I would make my own switches. I used to use the old cable which were used on pull chokes for the older cars with a spring return on the switch, it was tediouse work but they worked really well and never had a problem with them. I now use only gargraves track and that works much better but they just do not quite line up with the S gage electric switches but then again I also solved that problem.

  18. Well done how did you get those realistic cliff faces?

  19. @Don,
    Not wanting to start an “across the pond” war, but (Maybe in the UK it is OK) was a pretty ignorant comment!
    The lighter track is obviously a work in progress and unfinished. Image 15 & 16 shows the ties of a more uniform brown colour. Do you really think that someone who has put so much effort into making their own track and creating such fantastic rock formations and layout, would “accept” an unrealistic tie colour?
    Having previously lived and worked in the US for a while, I can assure you that things aren’t always bigger and better in the USA.

  20. Very impressive. I really like the rock cliffs and hope that you would share some tips on how you created them. God blessed you with patience that I don’t have. Larry, (BNSF conductor) USA

  21. Outstanding work !!! I really like the big sweeping turns. Can you show us an overview of the track plan?


  23. Well I’m glad it’s you and not me, as I had a go at making my own turnouts years back and they all ended in a screwed up ball in a scrap yard on my current layout. So my hats off to you Good Luck like to see progress photos as would others I reckon.

  24. I can see where hand laid track is better than commercial track, but I still like the results I get using commercial track. Fortunately, the only Atlas track I use is the Flex Track. It is easy to work with, and doesn’t take a lot of time to lay; especially on tangent track lines.
    Hand Laid is really good to use, if you have the time to lay it. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time. I have a business to run, and it is hard to take the time away from my business to build a layout. But then, since I also do modeling in 1:1 scale, I can still enjoy the thrill of watching trains.

  25. You’ve got to respect someone who puts that much effort into scratch track building. The rock faces & cliffs are about as authenic as you can get. Kudos

  26. Just plain WOW! Send more pics of finished layout.

  27. I don’t get the light colored rail ties??

    Ties are soaked in creosote that makes them dark brown chocolate or close to Black. Unless you have a great plan to color or dye them somehow.

    Scenery looks very good though. Nice Work!

  28. very impressive must be very patient theres alot of time gone into just the track work i am very interested on the retaining walls how you made them and the color scheme looks great thanks for sharing if you put a video on you tube please send the site details. Ian in Australia.

  29. Hey Lou – What a Rail Job!!
    I’ve always prided myself for patience in building my layout; and have even re-laid sections of track for better clearances and operation. But I’ve got to say that you have most modelers beat! To redo the entire track plan and lay custom tracks requires “the patience of a saint.” Beautiful job and kudos to what will no doubt be a fantastic appearing and smooth running layout.

  30. It appears to me that the handlaid track in using Fasttracks Pc board ties and jigs to build the track sections. that would be why the ties looked spaced like they are. you usually paint the ties after a system check to gain a completely relistic look…


  32. hard to believe that you can build a switch from scratch better than a Peco and more important it operates with no derails

  33. Please post some video on how you did your rock formations, etc. great looking stuff!!!!!

  34. those tracks are superb i am so impressed jellous even what a great job if your in Aussieland come and do mine

  35. I’d love to know more about the process. Where do the rails come from? I’m guessing you can buy pre-formed rails from somewhere? Where? What are they pinned down with? It looks as though the rail is pinned to every sixth sleeper, then the intermediate 5 are slipped in underneath, right? How do you form the curves?
    Fantastic job. I’d like to do that in N-guage.

  36. Keep us posted and informed. Keep those photos coming in.

  37. Wow! Are you using rock formations as facia??? If so, great idea. I may try it.

  38. Aloha,fantastic work

  39. I’m 72 years old and at the end (?) of an 8 year planning of a model of a rural junction in northern Illinois. I believe the most important instruction I have ever received was from my local model shop owner and friend: “Always remember, you are the President of your railroad. No one else has any say about it – It is only yours.” I embrace that idea, and I try my best to always approach the work of another with that understanding; it’s his (hers) and it is not my place to criticize. If there is something that I would do differently is of no importance to anyone.
    Lou, you have done beautiful work. More importantly, you are pleased with the result, and if the “President” is happy, everybody should to happy.

  40. if the president is happy then every body is happy
    there 3 ways to do things
    1.the right way
    2. the wrong way
    3. and my way { great job }
    Ben neb. usa

  41. Marvelous work, amazing detail. I’ve been debating laying rail over ties for a garden railroad, this is a convincing argument in favor of that. Being outdoors may introduce some expansion/contraction issues, but we’ll see. Thanks for the posting.

  42. It looks fantastic I love the track and the rock formations I like it more then any others I have seen you should be very proud of that layout

  43. beautiful job. Maybe u can give some tips on how u carved ur rock formations. Awesome work.

  44. Would love to see an overall track plan and also love to know if your rock faces are carved (man made) or if it is bark or cork. If man made could you do a “How To” ?
    Mike in Oz

  45. I’m fighting with whether to hand lay track on my layout or not. Saw comment earlier about the dark ties. Checked the pictures by zooming and seeing that the dark ties are printed circuit board ties to keep everything in gauge. Excellent. Once everything is painted and ballasted it will look great.

    Good job.

  46. Enough comments on the rails. I am extremely impressed with all of your rock work. It is the best I have seen. Would love some tips on how you did it.

  47. Beautiful work… Are the dark ties “PC Board”? That would explain their regular spacing and obvious color difference.
    I have a deep and abiding respect for anyone who can hand lay track in the smaller scales.
    As to Atlas Track, while I have not had any problems with their code 100 product, I find the code 83 to be more than a bit finicky. There are many tutorials available on how to improve the reliability of that commonly used product. In my experience, PECO offers a more continually reliable product and a more useful range of turnouts (switches/pointwork).
    As an added note… I have found Bachmann’s EZ-Track to be very reliable and useful when young children are about. While my son did in both PECO and Atlas track when he was about 4 or 5, my daughter crawled all over my EZ-Track when she was of that age and climbed like a home-sick angel: no damage to the Bachman track with either my son or my daughter’s not-so-gentle ministrations. What it lacks in authenticity and range, it more than makes up for in durability! This is especially true if it is fastened down to a solid baseboard.

  48. very nice work.

  49. Lou’s workmanship and attention to detail is a sight to behold. The double curves are simply stunning. However, and I by no means am being critical, but there is something I don’t understand. What is the purpose of the dark brown ties every six or so ties? The track work would look so much more realistic without the darker ties and with only the lighter ties or with all darker ties. Can you explain why it is hand laid in the design it is in?

  50. The track is truly awesome. I can’t imagine the time involved in creating such detail. I really would like to see the details of how your rock formations were created. They are very nice! Hope to see that info soon.

  51. hey guys this all very good stuff for what it is I think is still about running the trains the tme spent on back ground is was to much for me, thanks

  52. What a fantastic layout. You’ve done an excellent job on the rail laying as well as the scenery. I would love to see the whole layout when you get everything finished. If the rest of it is as good as the rails and rock faces, I’m blown away. Thanks!

  53. Hi,
    Great trackwork!
    For those who want to lay their own turnouts of any dimention you cant beat a bit of ‘TEMPLOT 2’ software you can create your own curves and angles and then print out an exact template, to scale.
    I must admit, I thought that the layout was American: given the coaches/Cars in the later pictures.
    It seems as if copper clad PCB has been used every 6 sleepers/ties or so and wooden sleepers/ties {Could they be matchsticks} for the rest.
    What-ever! Keep up the good work.
    Denis (British N)

  54. Well said David, do you think the here in the UK we accept inferior stuff. .

  55. Dear Lou,
    Fantastic!. The rock faces are very realistic.
    What gauge are these? Are these ready made tracks (preformed). If so where do you get the tracks and tiles and how are the tracks anchored to the tiles?

  56. that looks great….. I wish I could do that….. Harley

  57. I started with Trix twin track in 1958 but soon graduated to Peco track and points. Since then I have moved locations and relaid the same track and points for differing layouts. Having now moved my layout from the loft to the garage due to my advancing years I am still using some Peco turnouts ( points) and point motors that have survived for up to 40 years but mixed with some replacements. What I have found is that as long as you don’t rush lifting the old line or the track relaying and ballasting, the points and track can be both realistic and efficient. You obviously need to have a lot of time on your hands to go to the length of making your own track and points but that is the point ( sorry ) of the hobby. Here in UK we have some really good products so I use them and thus have spare time to run trains and build more fiddly little things to fit into the landscape. Love the rockface, have you thought of a couple of climbers ?.

  58. LOU is using the FAST TRACKS JIGS to make track I also use there jigs and related products I love there products simple and fun to use.

  59. I live in Chicago iL , at the MUSEUM of SCIENCE & INDURSTY , there is a layout called THE GREAT TRAIN STORY. Your layout reminds me of that. The railroad is HO it is modeled of Chicago & Seattle.

  60. your layout is BEAUTIFUL .

  61. Where do you buy the materials? Please can you give some detailed instructions? I never heard of this laying scratch track! Very good job Love your landscape work.

  62. You are an artist . I love the stone work! It has given me some ideas THANK YOU VIC

  63. Great job Lou !!!

    Wondering if you used plaster/resin molds for the rock cliffs, hand carved them, or some other method ??? They look awesome!

    The overall layout is outstanding !!!

  64. Great job, and great patience. There are just too many track manufacturers out there to make laying your own track feasible. Micro Engineering and Peco are two of the best and leave nothing to be desired. I want to get trains up and running. I hope something is published on his scenery.

  65. Of course the ties will be stained. DAA! It is a beautiful layout. I also really like the rocks. A how to on the rocks would be helpful.

  66. What scale are we talking here ?

  67. Absolutely beautiful work in progress! Love the different levels and open spaces in the layout.

  68. Wow!!!!

  69. Laying the track would be hard enough to manage. Then scratch building switches, I don’t even want to think about that. GREAT JOB, LOU!!!

  70. Forget about the materials, I want to know where you got the teeny, tiny men who laid down the track for you?
    Just kidding. Fantastic job!

  71. Teeny, tiny men is sexist, women work on crews too now. At least on this side of the pond.

  72. The mans work is GREAT, track, rock work and so on. If you do not see this is work in progress ( as in it is not done ) ( this is to all that had stupid comments and or questions) I think you all should shut up or show what you have done.
    NV Bob

  73. I have to agree with Bob, fantastic work. I have not even started mine, makes me wonder. I would like to show my work of starting from the get go but coments like those, I don’t know. I have a room, a 10 x 10 room so to get most room for a buck, I am going to go around the room. I wanted to have my O gauge up front and my H O gauge in the back ground. So now I am going to have two to go around the room. O gauge on the top and the H O on the bottom. My wife is going to hate it but now I have to pull all my train boxes out to start making a table, excuse me, two tables. Lol Lou, keep up the great work. I wish I could post pictures or do I have to mail the info in?
    Thank you, Stephen

  74. I found how to keep everyone up on my progress. I also have been reading everyone progress on there on lay out and how to’s. So I would like to thank everyone’s input on how to’s. It seem that everybody has there on way of doing things but the end result is all most the same. One thing I love to accomplices is in the detail. I can’t wait to get started. Until next time, have a great day.


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