Saturday, October 23, 2010

Finally some track laying!

Four bolt fishplates are very common through the branchlines of NSW, six hole fishplates were also used with only four bolts used in the centre holes.
The colour of the sleepers is very bleached out, I may still be modelling my sleepers a little dark. I think we tend to model what we think we've seen, I know my memory does escape me sometimes, that's where photos come in handy. I also note that these sleepers are of a line that had closed over ten years ago and this would definitely effect the maintenance of the line. Taken near Guyra in northern NSW.
Darren shows the timber spacing the heel of his rear foot is in the centre of the sleeper, about two and a half foot centres.

The timber sleepers that I need to complete the track work number at about 320. The process of staining continues in batches of about 40 or so. I have a fair number done so it's on to the laying.

I've marked out the spacing of the sleepers, and also indicated the location of the frogs so that it is easier to position the turnouts. I have marked the spacing as 3ft centres. The branchlines were from two and a half feet to three foot centres. A couple of weeks ago I'd marked and drilled the holes for the activation of the turnouts so that made today faster to get into.

The job of gluing the sleepers down is fairly straight forward. I put in a PC board sleeper one in seven sleepers. I am not obsessed with the alignment of the sleepers, only that they follow the general arrangement or radius of a curve. I imagine I could spend alot more time doing this more precisely however there is result vs time spent evaluation that we as modellers must all grapple with. So the sleepers with a space for the PC sleeper have been laid across the front of the module of the other side of SSC. A weight applied, and a wait for drying.

That's about it for today, see ya! Geoff.


  1. Remember that branchlines in service the sleepers would not have been quite as bleached as those on closed lines.

    The reason is that steam dropped oil & fine ashes as they moved. Likewise wagons did the same, with some load spillages.

    Looking at tracks on grades there was a lot of white from crushed sand to the rails but in the centrelines was usually a lot of oil stains.

    Prior to pulling my old layout apart for our move, I had also painted some sleepers in various shades, as well as placing some new wooden sleepers in place & not painting them, remembering that few lines did not have new sleepers replacements.

    Little details to help with the affects.

  2. Hi Geoff,

    Totally agree with what Colin said however, I did find when I added ballast it helped darken sleepers as Chucks ballast is essentially dirt.
    Don't know if this helps or adds to the confusion.


  3. Hi Geoff

    I tend to agree with the comments that those sleepers are very very sun bleached.

    This pic here taken at Central shows similar patterns but slightly more colour, I would assume due to a little more oil and muck dropping on them effectively "sealing" them a little.

    The rusty stains near to the rails is also an interesting feature, caused by the water draining off the rails and giving the sleeper that rusty finish.


  4. Colin, absolutely agree, the sleepers definitely will be weathered up. I posted at another time that my plan was to get all the basic work done on scenery and the trackwork. Then like when you finished building a wagon, weather it up. The centre of the sleepers especially. so far the timber I've laid is certainly much darker than the stark white of the photos.

    Andrew, I want to use chucks ash, and dirt, and ballast also. So I imagine it will dirty up when these are applied. I did try using the ash that he sells on a spare bit of track to see how it worked, and it does seem to go on fairly cleanly.

    Darren, the variation of what is out there is huge! Hope my little effort stands up when it's finished! I like the rust, and it's fairly easy to add as well.

  5. I am pro grey bleached sleepers! I have studied sleepers on various lines in Victoria and NSW notable the Maldon line which is partially restored so there are a mixture of sleepers of varying ages.

    The new ones are definitely brown and are much squarer. I think as they weather they go grey and loose their square shape. They are not universally grey often the centre of the sleeper is darker (presumably due to lack of weathering).

    I have gone with a base of light grey with darker grey centres on some sleepers and brown others - I think this represents the subtle diversity of sleepers of varying ages on any length of track.

    My section was quite short and whether this is a viable technique on a large layout you will have to judge.



  6. Ian, my layout is anything but large, that is one of the reasons I went with hand laying to begin with. There is such variation in sleeper colours, weathering and actual shape I daresay that no one could get this wrong or be accused of not matching some part of the railway system. You mention using shades of grey, what paint have you used and how did you apply it?

  7. Geoff,

    I used a light grey probably close to Tamyia XF53 Neutral grey. I used our back fence to match the colour! I was using Peco flexi track so I took the rail out and gave them a quick paint of "rust" probably Zinc Chromate Primer. With the rails out it was quick to paint the track. I then painted the fish plates in the same rust colour.

    Then I slid the rails back in and used a dark grey and dark brown to try and vary the sleeper colour to represent varying stages of decay.

    Like weathering how you go depends on where your layout is located ad what class the track is.

    Hope this helps.


  8. I have found an interesting series of photos of the recent replacement of sleepers on the Forest Creek bridge (Castlemaine Maldon Railway). The images can be found at and the third one down is of great interest. Firstly it shows the variety of colours of the sleepers even before they are put in the track. Secondly on the left hand side you can see the current track and you can see varying patterns of discolouration on the sleepers themselves.

    I know these aren’t from the 1880’s but overall they give a good idea of the way sleepers weather and the colour patterns.