Changing Track – How To Alter Already Laid Track

6 Intermediate 6 Comments

rail alterationIt happens on every layout at one point or another.

You have a fantastic track plan. You’ve laid the track, ballasted it and even got some scenery in place.  It looks great.

And then you decide to change it…

Perhaps you’re realised a stretch of track and a station is needed… Or maybe an extra siding would be useful? Whatever the reason just about every layout gets changed at some point and this usually involves altering the existing track.

But how do you remove and replace already laid track?

Well you could go all medieval on your railway: force a flat head screw driver under the sleepers and prise a section up until you have enough leeway to twist and bend the rails until they ping out of the joiners connecting to the rest of the track.

You could, but I wouldn’t recommend it. That’s the quickest way to damaged track. And it’s simply not an option if you want to reuse the track.

I was faced with exactly this conundrum the other day. My layout consists of sections that I’m building and then fit together. I wanted to change the track at the end of one board from a straight to a curve so it would meet the track on another board being added at a right angle.

As said, I could have done the brutal way and levered it up with a screw driver and then twisted it to free it from the track joiner but there’s a much easier, gentler option.

Using a Dremel and cutting disc, slice though the rail joiners connecting the track section you want to remove. The Dremel is one of my most used tools on my railway and this is one of the many things that it can do, transforming an otherwise fiddly project into a quick, easy, operation.

Now spray water over the track to loosen the glue and ballast if you have it. Let this work in for about an hour.

With the rails free at one end and the glue/ballast softened lifting the track should be easy.

Now just wiggle off the remains of the rail joiners from the rail ends and drop in the new track. If you struggle with fitting joiners, read this tip on making a tool easily fix rail joiners to existing track.

That’s it.

There’s a handy video by Everard Junction that includes a visual demonstration of the technique on his OO gauge layout for those that prefer video guides.

Hope this helps. If there’s any other track work problems you’re struggling with drop me a line and I’ll be happy to cover them here.

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  1. philip riley - April 23, 2017

    hi cutting the old track out is easy enough but when you put the new peace in how do you put the new fishplates on

    • Hi Philip, they can be levered if careful. Alternatively, connect wires to the new section, drop it into place and then secure it in place but without joiners. You don’t need to use joiners if the new section has its own power feed and it’s carefully aligned before fixing – perhaps with a bit of solder to keep them aligned but use a small tip to aovid melting the sleepers.

  2. Tony Banton - October 9, 2017

    I cut back another sleeper in from the end of the rail, you can then push the rail joiner right onto the rail, so that hardly any is protruding. Then line the new rail up, and with the aid of a pair of pliers, gently work the rail joiner back to its normal position.

    • Hi Tony, that could work for some track. This tip is about cutting and lifting already laid track, how do you do that? Cheers, Andy

      • Tony Banton - October 10, 2017

        Make the ballast damp, and obviously remove any pins, and you will find the track quite easy to remove; hopefully the rails will be reusable, but sometimes you may find that you’ll have to replace the track with new, at least a length of flexible Peco track is not too expensive!

        • That’s pretty much what the articles says Different way of applying the getting the ballast damp but same general technique.

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