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admin 28.12.2013

As the cost of copper continues to rise, garden railroaders are looking for ways to cut costs, including ways to make the best use of their existing investment in Code 332 track (the kind LGB pioneered).
Update for 2014 - In late 2013 AristoCraft went out of business, but their track is still being sold for the moment as GeneratioNext track.
Tie Strip Issues - Most often, when track fails, you'll discover that the culprit is the tie strip. In some cases, you can tell that a tie strip has gone bad because the rail is simply pulling away from the ties. When I was setting up the portable railroad most recently, I noticed that the outside rail had too much inward flex because a few of the plastic "tie plates" had given way. As an example of a more obvious problem, I had some old Delton track that simply fell to pieces when I tried to move it recently. Somewhere in between those two was my oldest loop of AristoCraft track - outdoors for something like 15 years.
When LGB reinvigorated garden railroading, they introduced a rail profile that was oversized but which could handle almost anything that would happen to it in your back yard (except maybe a low-cutting lawnmower).
As an example of options available for replacing the tie strips for Code 332 rail, here's a table of AristoCraft's tie strip products and their last advertised "list prices." If you're refurbing LGB track or modeling in narrow gauge, consider Aristo's "Euro" tie strips - they're a pretty good match for LGB's. Removing Rail Joiners Most garden train track has slip-on rail joiners of some kind, but sometimes getting them disassembled from the rail is more complicated than you might think. AristoCraft railjoiners provide little holes for screwing the railjoiners to tiny holes that are predrilled in the rail.
Other Railjoiners - Most other brands of garden railroad track come with railjoiners that slip on in both directions. If you have AristoCraft track, you'll notice that the tie strips are fastened to the rails from the bottom by tiny Phillips-head screws. Again, be careful to protect the rail's shape when removing the tie strips or storing the rails. While the rails are out of the tie strip, this is a good time to verify that they are not twisted by setting them on a flat surface. I don't recommend cleaning your rails up any more than necessary because you lose that cool brown color they've faded to.

Sometimes, though, a rail may be so corroded that you are afraid you will have trouble getting the new tie strip on. Note about Aristo Track - If you have Aristo track and are using Aristo replacement tie strips, look for the end of tie strip that has the little holes for the screws to go in.
Look at How the Original Tie Strip was "Nipped." Aristo tie strips and several others come with connecting pieces on both ends of each tie, like little ladders. If you ordered Aristo replacement ties for 48"-diameter curves, those don't need to be nipped, as the curve is molded right into the tie strip. To do the nipping, I used a wire cutter - although you could use a knife or something else just as easily. If you don't have a track gauge, fasten a few pieces of track together and push a car over them to see if the car runs runs smoothly. If you have track like Aristo that has tiny screws underneath, replace the screws once you've checked the track gauge. On the other hand, if you have some other brand of track, you might consider a screw-on aftermarket joiner such as Hillman (shown at right) or Split-Jaw rail clamps.
The photo to the right shows a piece of repaired Aristo 10'-diameter track and a piece of off-brand 6'-diameter track, both with new Aristo ties installed. I'd be delighted to hear anything you've done along this line, or any other maintenance tips you want to pass along to our readers.
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Because the rails of the old track are so sturdy, they usually outlast the tie strips, the rail joiners, and even the roadbed they're installed over.
Fortunately, though brass track is costing as much as $6 a foot in some markets, UV-resistant tie strips are available from companies like AristoCraft for a little over $1 a foot. The tie strips had largely broken down into a black powder that was in no danger of holding the rails in place once I nudged them at all.
Your Aristo track will be more sturdy if you take care to reassemble the track so that you can put the screws back in the way they came out. You'll notice that every other connector on what was the outside edge has been "nipped," except for the last three ties on the end.
This will help you identify any places where the rail has been bent in such a way that the repaired track will be out of gauge. Contact the seller- opens in a new window or tab and request a shipping method to your location.
However, when that does happen, consider getting replacement tie strips from the original manufacturer, or trying a sample before you buy a bunch - I'm told that not all Code 250 track follows the same profile. All information, data, text, and illustrations on this web site are Copyright (c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 by Paul D. If you reside in an EU member state besides UK, import VAT on this purchase is not recoverable. In case you wonder, for that piece, I wound up nipping between every outside tie except for the last two ties on each end. The rail needed to be straightened after peeling off the old tie strips; it didn't just need straightening, it had kinks, dips, and twists that had to be removed.
I have built one turnout from the instructions in Garden Railways, and plan to replace at least four more turnouts with hand made ones as I have time. I have enough track complete and installed to run my trains, although I have only worked on about 15% of the railroad.

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