This is a creative DIY tip for making your own portable rerailer is almost too simple.
Portable rerailers are one of those handy accessories you don’t realise how much you need until you have them.
Simply put, they’re a triangular shaped piece of plastic that is placed on the track and down which rolling stock runs while sitting within a gap that decreases in width down the slope until it reaches rail width at the bottom. Place a loco etc on the slope at the top and by the time it reaches the bottom, the wheels have aligned with the rails and it rolls smoothly onto the track.
This video shows a Hornby rereailer so you can get a better idea:
If you struggle with your eyesight and can’t easily see the wheel flanges to place rolling stock on the rails, the track is too far away to reach easily or you can’t see the track because of scenery or buildings, they provide a quick and easy mechanism for positioning trains on the track.
I have one for my Z gauge set (it came with Marklin starter set I’ve recently reviewed), for my N gauge layout and I did have one for my OO railways. I say “had” one for OO because, a while back, I lost it.
I know! How can I lose a large red chunk of angled plastic? Stupid, yes, but missing it is.
It’s around somewhere but I just can’t find it.
But because I know it’s going to turn up sometime (and soon please!) I don’t want to buy another one.
Instead, I put my creative hat on and set about making my own. And it turned out to be a LOT easier than I thought.
While cleaning the spare bedroom (I haven’t got permission to convert it into another railway room yet) I propped the door open with a door stopper and carried on with the hoovering. For about 5 minutes.
And then I had a lightbulb moment.
I glanced back at the door stopper.
It was a triangular shaped wedge of plastic. Hmmmm.
Could it? Would it?
I switched off the hoover, grabbed the door stopper and headed for my workbench.
I placed it on some OO gauge track (flat underside face down) and marked where the rails lay. Two grooves, deep enough so it sat on the rails, were then cut in the underside so it would grip the rails.
Next, I marked where the rails met the plastic at the thin end on the top side and then drew a line from these marks diagonally up the slope to the top corners. I cut into the plastic but then hit a snag. Or rather I hit the hollowed out section of the inside of the plastic wedge. Hmmm.
A little bit of thinking and searching on the web and I found some wooden door stop wedges. These were stupidly cheap, less than a pound each.
Once they arrived I had a second go I marked diagonal lines at rail width from the thin end of the edge to the widest points at the other end. Then, having had a chance to think about the design, I then drew a line from the rail meeting point at the flat end this time traversing up the slope to the centre at the top end. You can see this in the picture at the start of this article (the hatched area being the sections to be cut out to roughly wheel flange depth (about 3mm for OO gauge).
The inverse diagonal slip provides guidelines for the wheels while reducing the amount that needed to be cut out. I also cut a small section at the track end so the wheels roll onto the rails.
After a few minutes hacking away and sanding I gave it a proof of concept trial. You can see this above.
A bit more tidying up with my Dremel sanding down so the runs for the wheels were smooth and I had a DIY rerailer that cost £1.
As I said, too simple and I now won’t need to buy a replacement rerailer for my OO locos and a lot less.
Even better, this solution can be used to make portable retailers for just about any gauge. So when my N and Z gauge rerailers join their bigger cousin in whatever corner of my house it’s hiding and I lose them too I can just make new ones too.
The only restriction is finding door stops long enough but a search of eBay and local hardware shops produced what I was looking for — long enough for my wagons and GWR locomotives — but you might need to look around if you want something for larger rolling stock.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.