Track in Santiago Yard

Three yard tracks ready for trains, but each is a bit different from the others. Green tags are reference points for locating cosmetic joint bars.

Santiago Yard was laid down by the Grand Trunk in the early 1900’s, and taken up by CN in the fall of 1964. As I was four years old at the time, I hadn’t the opportunity to get any photos. And the yard has few photos published of it, if any. I had to work from some conjecture to build the yard in a plausible fashion.

What I did was plan and build the yard with some knowledge of GTR/CN practice. A CN 1948 property plan gives some basic information, such as distance between track centres. The tracks were closer together than modern specifications. In the days of small freight cars, and trains moved in yards by men giving hand signals from a perch on the running boards of cars, this was not a major impediment.

The three yard tracks known as No 1, 2, and 3 Siding were spaced 12′-9″ apart. Regulations taking effect two decades after this yard was laid required that new yard tracks be spaced 13′-6″ apart, but this of course did not apply to existing yards, “grandfathering” Santiago Yard’s track spacing.

Rail laid in the yard originally would have been GTR standard 56# rail in 33′ lengths, same as on the main track. Tie spacing for yard tracks in a yard like this was usually 16 untreated cedar ties to a 33′ length of rail. Rail joints often spanned two ties, so the track builders often tried to get the ties under the rail joints close enough together to support both ends of a rail joint.

The use of heavier cars and locomotives made possible by better train airbrakes of the Westinghouse “K” and “AB” brake systems resulted in wheel loads that broke 56# rails under cars and locomotives; heavier rail was needed. Cedar ties were unsuited to the heavier axle loads made possible by better braking systems. So just about any track seeing regular use received upgrades, often using secondhand “previously worn” aka “PW” 80# and 85# rail 33′ long from main track which itself had been upgraded to 100# or heavier rail in 33′ or 39′ lengths. Creosoted ties replaced cedar. I chose to model this in my 1956 rendering of Santiago Yard.

No 1 Siding is Peco Code 60 rail to represent 85# Algoma rail. No 2 and No 3 Sidings are Micro Engineering Code 55 rail to represent CN or ARA/AAR standard Dominion Iron and Steel 80# rail. Both were very commonly used in Canada.

Ties in place for yard tracks, ready for ballasting and rail laying. The roadbed is stained grey to make it more difficult to discern areas of missing cinder ballast, should I miss a spot or two.

No 1 and 2 Sidings were laid entirely with wood ties, the rail to be spiked to them. No 3 siding uses a PC board tie every fifth tie, the rail being soldered to the ties.

The Code 60 rail for No 1 Siding was cut from the supplied Peco 24″ lengths to represent five 33′ lengths of rail; I plan to install cosmetic joint bars in time. I wound up with pieces of rail about an inch or so long as leftovers. Likewise the Code 55 rail for No 2 and No 3 Sidings were cut to a length representing seven 33′ rail lengths. These were joined with the appropriate rail joiners, soldered together to suit the rail length needed between turnouts on each yard track, then laid down. Rail spiked in place used mostly Micro Engineering “Micro” spikes; I found some difficulty driving these with a pair of needlenose pliers at first, but eventually developed a feel for spike driving that resulted in maybe bending one out of six or so as I tried to drive them.

Sighting down the rail is what I feel the best way to lay rail (or flextrack) straight. Spike halfway down one rail first. Then spike again halfway between the centred set of spikes and half of that, and so on…. I had spiked about every fifth tie when spiking was finished. Complete full spiking on one rail before laying the other. If rail is not laid straight, there’s only so many excuses about bad track that you can offer. Afterwards you’ll just hate it every time that you look at it. Do it right the first time, and enjoy.

If you’ve used wood roadbed and need to straighten spiked rail, place the blade of a flat screwdriver against the side of the spike in the direction that you want to move the rail. A small–SMALL–hammer directed against the end of the screwdriver handle will move the rail slightly. This works well on wood roadbed. If you’re using Homasote, Tentex, or Sundeala board, good luck. These soft paper-based materials probably won’t like your doing this, and your trying to correct rail straightness in this fashion will surely damage the roadbed. The problems probably will return in time. I had this problem with a layout built decades ago where I used Homasote roadbed. And it’s one of many reasons why I prefer wood roadbed.

With one rail fully spiked down and straight, it’s a simple matter to gauge with your preferred track gauge off the spiked rail, again starting at the centre of the length of the second rail as you did the first.

Soldering Micro-Engineering Code 55 rail in place on PC board ties for No 3 Siding. No 1 and 2 Sidings are completed.

No 3 Siding used rail soldered to PC board ties for stability. I can be a bit clumsy, and I don’t want my wayward elbow or hand to remove rails from the ties if I were to spike them instead of soldering them.

When I laid the wood ties for this track, I left a tie out of the tie space in my tie jig every fifth tie. The wood ties were laid down per usual on a drawn tie-end line, then the PC board ties laid in place on the roadbed in the missing tie spaces. After ballasting, I cleaned the PC board tie tops using a sanding stick. A small dab of rosin flux paste was applied using a small Microbrush. A hot 35 watt iron transferred a small dab of standard 60/40 electronics solder to tie tops in the area that the rail is to be laid. If there’s too much solder on one tie, it’s easy to pick up some of the excess using the iron and transfer it to another tie top not yet tinned.

The rail base is cleaned of blackening by drawing the rail over a sheet of 400-grit wet or dry sandpaper. Once the base is as clean as I can make it, I place a small dab of rosin core paste on each solder-tinned patch on the ties. The rail is immediately placed on the ties, held down with an aluminum tool (a rod with a slot cut in the end of it), and soldered to the tie tops as shown in the above photo. To straighten the rail, I heat the rail with the soldering iron and push it in the direction needed using the aluminum tool. Again, the second rail is laid and gauged true after the first rail has been laid straight. I seldom have had to add solder to make a solid joint, and this method is very economical with solder. It looks good, too.

The PC board ties were cleaned of rosin flux using a small No 1 paint brush and a small bit of lacquer thinner to remove flux residue. The ties were then painted to suit the colour of the adjoining ties; some ties I took the easy way out and painted a near black to represent new crossties. I still have to add the cosmetic joint bars and paint the rail, but…



Three yard tracks are in place, and it’s time for a fun photoshoot.

The end result of my work? I’m very pleased with it.