This week’s mail brought a welcome tool: a Kadee Spiker. I took the plunge and bought one after spiking all the track for the car barn scene I’m building for the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway – because that exercise reminded me that I’m no longer a young hobbyist.
It’s been more than a decade since I last spiked a layout – that one being Port Rowan in 1:64. Since then, a lifetime of Typing For Money has started to take its toll on my fingers and wrists – and while laying track earlier this month my arthritis flared up big time. I realized I’m going to need mechanical assistance if I’m to build more NS&T layout beyond this 2×8 foot experiment – or any other layout with hand-laid track for that matter.
If you haven’t encountered one of these, the Kadee Spiker is a uniquely-engineered staple gun. When you place the Spiker over the rail and depress the handle, it shoots a specially-shaped staple. As the staple leaves the gun, it’s cut in two places – turning the staple into a pair of spikes.
Ka-chunk! The spikes are driven into the tie – one on either side of the rail. Move to the next location and – Ka-chunk! Ka-chunk! Ka-chunk! Kadee’s instruction sheet notes someone skilled with the Spiker can lay track 10 times faster than via other methods.
The key phrase there is “skilled with the Spiker”.
This tool has received a lot of bad reviews over the years – mostly around its ability to kink rail. Kadee’s instructions note that practice is required and one should work on some sacrificial pieces of test track to perfect the technique before applying the Spiker to your model railway. So, that’s what I’ll be doing. It may take a lot of practice, but I’m good with that.
Since I’ve already spiked all the rail for the car barn, I won’t be tempted to forge ahead foolishly – with predicable results.
It was actually my friend Pierre Oliver who suggested the Spiker – via an off-hand comment along the lines of, “Wouldn’t it be great if those were still available?” I did some Googling and much to our mutual surprise, they are.
I was under the impression that after many decades of offering these (the first ones hit the market in 1946), Kadee stopped making them. But there they were, on the Kadee web site, brand new and with plenty of spikes for sale.
(I’ll warn you: They are expensive. But if I wreck my fingers and wrists, I can’t Type For Money, so for me it’s a worthwhile investment.)
There are a couple of other key phrases that apply to the Kadee Spiker:
- The first is “Wear eye protection” – because when the Spiker cuts a staple into two spikes, there’s a little piece in the centre of the staple that is launched out of the front of the gun at escape velocity.
- The second is “Don’t shoot spikes at your fingers, or into your leg, or at your train friends” – because blood makes a lousy weathering solution for your models.
These caveats could explain why the Spiker was not available for so many years – and it wouldn’t surprise me if it is discontinued again in the future.