Sunday 12 May 2013

Track with Steel Sleepers (1/35)

One of the great advantages of narrow gauge industrial railways were their ease of construction. The steel sleepered track panel was a major contributing factor. The steel sleeper came in several designs, but all of them rather difficult to model in 1:35. Several modellers have been working on scratchbuilding the sleepers from different materials, some using plastic profiles others experimenting with 3D-printing.
Different steel sleeper profiles. Scan from an Orenstein & Koppel catalogue from 1922.
Recently James Coldicott released a range of steel sleepered track panels in resin. It is now possibly to order lengths of track, both straight and curved, just like a company in 1922 would have ordered track panels from Orenstein & Koppel, Dolberg or Decauville. I couldn't resist the temptation to do as any sensible industrial railway operator did in the past, so sent off for 5 straight and 5 curved panels. As I use 16,5 mm gauge I ordered the sets 20S18 and 20T1 - as below.

New supplies for the track builders at Nystrup. The track came well protected in a solid cardboard box lined with bubble wrap. No damage from the trip over the North Sea!
One straight panel and a short and long curved panel.
Find the track panels on the website of James Coldicott complete with link to ordering and payment. On the website you will also find a most useful PDF document with prototype information and advise on how best to lay the track segments. No excuse for not trying! The design of the panels has rendered the thin profile of the steel sleeper ends very well. Without compromising structural strength of the panel. The resin bar beneath the rail profile can be removed with care if you should want to recreate a sparsely ballasted track. See two close ups of a straight track panel below.

I plan to install a stretch of steel sleepered track on a future module, perhaps with the odd wooden sleeper added for stability. On Nystrup Gravel's lines most of the orignal 10 kg/m track on steel sleepers didn't last long into the 1930's but on some straight parts it wasn't replaced until much later. Straight track isn't influenced by the same forces as curved track, so the gravel company spared heavier rail and better sleepers where they were most needed.


  1. Hi Claus,
    I've just received a box of track from James this AM. I'm planning to use his track on my layout, though depending on availability I may have to use a Micro Engineering switch. It looks good. How do you propose to join and electrify?

  2. I haven't really been thinking that far yet. I suppose I'll just solder the panels together on top of a PC-board strip later to be hidden under ballast. Feed wires can be soldered to the rail sides or undersides by removing some of the resin under the rail profile.

    In this case, I'm sure you will have solved the problem before I even get to it. I'm looking forward to receive your good advise.