Tiny Terrific Track Tweaks : how to make your track work look better

fish plate rail joinersI’m always on the lookout for ways to improve the look of my railways. Just recently I came across these fish plates and wow do they make a difference to track work.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

For much of the time, the rails on model railway track look reasonably authentic — especially if using the more prototypical track such as code 75 or 83 (for US model railroads) and wider sleeper spacing.

One aspect that always disappoints, however, is the joints between the rails.

For most layouts, standard rail joiners are used and while these keep the rails together, and carry the electricity, they’re hardly realistic.

On real (prototype) track the rails are held together with plates bolted across the rail ends or, in some cases, with extra wide chairs on sleepers to bridge the joins.

The result is that model railway track joints look nothing like the real thing and can ruin the look of otherwise beautiful work.

And then I saw the joiners by Proto-87.com. In the photo below, real fish plates are seen on the left, Proto-87’s version on the right. (Click on the picture for a close up).

fish plates

How good does that track look!

They sit low on the rails so don’t interfere with wheel flanges and running of the trains and are available for various track codes on HO, 4mm (OO/EM etc) and N gauge track.

I’d solder runs of Flexitrack together and then place these at regular intervals along the rails. (Soldering the track keeps the sections of track together and allows the electricity to pass along from rail to rail).

Tim from Proto-87 suggests fitting them by cleaning the rails first (to remove grime), sanding the back of the fish plates and rails and then fixing them in place. Finally, the rails and plates are painted and weather pastels added for detailing and the work finished off with a layer of dullcote to hold the pastel dust in place and take any sheen off.

It’s a tiny aspect of a layout but one that I think really contributes to the overall believability. What do you think?

Model railway track picture from the Piur Freemo module.

Disclosure: ModelRailwayEngineer received no money, products or another form of payment directly or indirectly from Proto-87 for this post.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.


Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

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.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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