Solve track errors with this tip I discovered while making videos

I’ve recently been paying around with video of my layout. It was while recording that I discovered this neat track laying aid.

I’ve been experimenting with on-board and trackside video on my trains recently. You’ll have seen some of my initial video recording clips if you follow me on Twitter and I’m also exploring camera options, as I alluded to a recent post on potential track side cameras. And it was while trying different camera angles out that I stumbled across this neat trick.

I’d positioned my phone camera across the track to get a head-on view of a BR Class 08 shunter as it emerged from a tunnel. It was only on replaying the footage that I noticed the track work was, ermm, problematic…

When laying track, especially track that’s in difficult to reach or cramped locations, it’s not always easy to see that the track is aligned correctly.

And sure enough this run of track, which is hard to get at being at the rear of its baseboard, looked good from the side but when seen length ways it wasn’t quite straight.

I’d positioned it, checked it (with the limited visibility available given the track location), check again and then fix it down.

But with the benefit of camera footage looking along the track I can now see there is clearly a problem and the line bends slightly on the joint.

This got me thinking. How could I use this track level view to aid future track laying and stop this happening again?

Obviously positioning a camera, taking a photo or video, picking up the camera and checking it after every section of track is going to cause delays on your layout the likes of which Southern Rail would be proud.

But then the design of smart phones provided the answer.

Lay some track, position your smart phone ((in my case the Sony Z3) so the camera looks down the track and view the picture in-situ on the screen.

Extra: For a quick, cheap, DIY smart phone stand hacks watch the video below.

Job done. Instant views along the track without having contort myself into positions and shapes the human body wasn’t designed for.

Use selfie-mode — the front facing camera on most cameras — to view the track work back on itself (as you would with a mirror) if that’s more convenient.

Track alignment problems suddenly become a thing of the past. No more finding the track doesn’t run straight after you’ve glued it!

Alternatively, if you don’t have a smart phone, place a small mirror on the track and use that.

If you struggle with track work take a look at 5 must have tools for track work. These tools really helped with my track laying.

> 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 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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