I’m forging ahead on my S scale layout segment depicting the Welland Avenue car barn and storage yard that formed the heart of the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway. As reported elsewhere on this website, I drew a plan for this scene in mid-July and I’ve quickly progressed to benchwork, cork roadbed, and ties.

Ready for rail.

There’s a joke about the four phases of a railway modeller’s life, as defined by the track they use. Those phases are:

  • Phase 1: Sectional track
  • Phase 2: Flex track
  • Phase 3: Hand laid track
  • Phase 4: Flex track

I guess I’ve reached Phase 4. On previous layouts, I’ve hand-laid my track on individual wood ties. This time around, I’m embracing flex track – sort of. That’s because I decided to try laser cut tie strips from Fast Tracks – part of the company’s Twist Ties line. These are strips and turnout blocks laser cut from thin plywood. They have laser etched alignment guides to help place the rails and a number of pre-drilled holes for spikes.

Call me a convert: I was able to lay all of the ties in an afternoon, and – more importantly – I did a better job than I have in the past. The rail guides etched into the tie stock allowed me to line up sections correctly and I’m confident the resulting track work will be neater.

On my last layout, Port Rowan, messy track work was not an issue – in fact, it was a feature: My prototype was an end-of-life branch line facing abandonment, so the occasional odd jog in the rails looked perfectly intentional.

But the NS&T was never abandoned: It was still very much a going concern (at least, for freight traffic) when its parent company, the CNR, pulled the plug in 1960. That’s because “pulling the plug” mean turning off the electricity – not giving up on the business – as the CNR switched the NS&T from radial railway subsidiary to diesel-served spur lines. Parts of the one-time NS&T still serve customers today.

With the ties down, I can move on to staining them and adding rail. I’ve unpacked my turnout-building tools and will start cutting, filing, and soldering. I plan to build conventional Fast Tracks turnouts, with PC board ties in key locations – then fit them to the tie strips. To that end, I’ve marked ties to be removed to make space for the PCB ties, once I’m ready to lay rail.

Meantime, I continue to make progress on various freight motor projects so I will have plenty of equipment to use as a test the trackage. I’ve ordered supplies to build the structures. And I’m doodling ideas to help me decide whether, and how, to incorporate this scene into a larger layout.

All in all, a surprising amount of progress in just a few short weeks!

Published by Trevor

Lifelong model railway enthusiast and retired amateur shepherd who trained a border collie to work sheep. Professional writer and editor, with some podcasting and Internet TV presenting work thrown in for good measure.

4 thoughts on “Twisty

  1. Great job. Great article. I arrived in St Catharines on July 4, 1971 to start at Brock. While every other rail enthusiast was in Belleville paying hommage to 6218, I was in a car heading to the Brock Grade 12 summer program. We arrived via Wellsnd Avenue, crossing the tracks st the car barn/freight shed. I thought it weird for a railway station and subsequently discovered the station in the Grimsby Sub. But the site of what remained of the NS&T will always remain with me. Thanks for doing this project.

    Philip JAGO.

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Coming along great. I’ve used Fast Tracks products and they’re excellent. I’ve used the the straight part of the turnout jig to solder lengths of straight rail using some of the PC tie spots for alignment.

    Liked by 1 person

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