The CVT Story:
by: Jack Parker 1987
H-O track may not be dead! We are betting that it will be re-discovered in a big way with
this new product.
Ties are the first major new track product in decades. It has been made form first-hand experience of
the H-O track laying techniques of nearly 50 years. Ideas and features from the first fiber tie strip
to the latest, but not so new, molded pre-fab flexible track have been examined. The best of all this
is now available in CVT, plus a couple of new ideas thrown in. At first glance it might look like a step
backwards. It falls into the category of "Hand Laid". But that's where it stops. From that point on it's
better track than ever before.
We've looked at'em
all - some you may have forgotten: Varney, Mantua, Tru Scale, Kappler, and more. There's track from the U.K.,
and Europe and yet there is still room for a truly better track system for the scale model railroader.
CVT is injection molded
with wood grain, scale tie plate, and spike detail. It is extremely flexible and easily spiked. It is self-gauging
with code 70 and code 83 rail. It is available in two (2) distinct styles, CVT #2001 for mainline and CVT #2002
for sidings, branch or period trackage. It is easily curved to even traction sized radii, and, CVT is moderately
The ties come attached to
the sprue to protect them during shipping and handling. They are easily removed from the sprue with scissors. For
more fun try a pizza cutter!
Let me give you a little
background on the reasons for its development. During the construction of my 15' X 26' H-O layout in Los Angeles, I
came to several conclusions, but mainly, that there must be a better way to put H-O scale track down. That layout
was mostly hand-laid fine nickel-silver rail on pre-cut wood ties. I had considered molded flexible track, but the
combination of rail sizes and tie styles available and the code 100 was simply too gross for my taste. I did use
the economical code 100 flexible track on hidden trackage. To call this material "flexible" is some-what misleading.
Formable maybe, but not flexible. To form smooth, accurate radii is next to impossible. When a semblance of a curve
is finally achieved, joining the two pieces together for a continuing smooth radius through the section of damaged,
skewed, and missing ties is absolutely beyond reason. I found the same problems with other types of "flexible" pre-
fabbed track products. The pre-fabbed track was the least reliable on the railroad due to the poor joints. To make
matters worse, as I stated, this track was used in hidden areas under scenery and exposed trackage, making trouble-
shooting and re-railing a nightmare.
Back to hand laying. First
the ties were stained. I then commandeered my children to sit, jig, and tape the ties into strips. After the roadbed
was prepared, the ties were glued down trying to follow a pencil line for centering. The tape really didn't adjust to
the curves that well (It started out flat and straight). Occasionally the enslaved help didn't get a few ties taped
just right and in trying to squiggle those ties around in the glue, sometimes 12" or 14" of taped ties would be dangling
from my elbow or finger-tips. Finally, the ties were in place and left to dry under a bed of ballast spread over the top.
A day or two later the excess ballast was removed and things looked pretty good, so rail laying began. The first few feet
of rail went down and I went back and started laying the second rail. Gauging went pretty well, although it started
getting a little tricky in the first curve. Then I sighted the first few feet of track and I was horrified!
It was very kinky - wandered
from spiked tie to spiked tie. By tapping the spikes this way and that - then re-gauging the opposite rail with the
same tapping, the trackage started to smooth out, but then a new demon appeared! This class1 mainline trackage was like
a roller coaster!
the sub-base and roadbed was sturdily and precisely built of plywood's
and pine, all carefully block sanded, the rails were noticeably out of
vertical alignment. I had tested various materials for roadbed, and found
that the various Homa-stuffs, wallboards, corks or cardboard's (foam core
not invented yet) were not sandable enough, consistent enough, or hard
enough to maintain solid level spiked track. The best material was clear
white pine (costly) and the second choice was 1/4" lauan Philippine mahogany
plywood. I used both.
The roadbed was fine. The
culprits were the "precision" wood ties. The rails were removed and the ties were block sanded. During this operation,
many of the high ties were snagged and had to be re-glued and re-sanded.
After block sanding the ties, the top surfaces were re-stained by lightly wiping the surfaces with a stain-soaked
bit of cloth. Rail laying was resumed and things were going better, but the rail would still kink during an alignment
or gauge adjustment. The ties would compress when slightly too much pressure was used, re-creating the problem with
the un-sanded ties. Finally, the skills improved, and with a "draw filing" of the railhead, the track improved.
Other problems were, that to maintain smooth rail joints, easements, and transitions, the rails would not be
centered on the ties. Whereas, by now the track worked pretty well, to my eye, it was "off," literally off center.
When summer came, much of the hand laid went out of gauge between spikes. Spiking was increased to about every fourth
tie or 1 inch spaces. Expansion gaps were cut in, the rails were de-kinked again, and re-filed. The track was now
touted as some of the best around. Fifty car trains were running reliably and there were moments of happiness and
pride of accomplishment.
The mainline had been laid
with code 83 and the branch line and yards with code 70 and 55. It really looked pretty good, but when no one was
around I agonized over the fact I had failed to provide my tie taping crew with 2 spacing jigs to create the
difference between mainline and branch line. Finally, I had a railroad representing a class 1 heavy steam, first
generation diesel, high speed, super elevated, heavily railed mainline, that must have been laid in the 1870's! I
didn't have a tie-plate one! All of that work for a result that still fell way short.
When it came time to move
from Los Angeles, my friends were dumbfounded when that railroad was dismantled in 4 hours. With wrecking bar, sledge
and carbide tipped saw, the layout vanished literally into a cloud of dust. No one could understand why I had a smile
on my face, but in my mind the "new layout" was already taking form. Many things would be better firstly the track.
CVT borrows from the old, we added
some new things and it is here now. Having read the saga of my track laying on the old layout, consider these features:
are injection molded precisely equal in thickness from tie
to tie. If the roadbed is accurate, the track will be! CVT
is molded in black high impact styrene so basic color is established.
It can be easily painted, while still on the sprue!
ties are connected under one rail allowing true flexibility.
This feature allows the ties to spread or "fan" evenly or
compress evenly when curved. This configuration allows radii
down to 6" or even 4" (attention traction folks) without losing
gauge. Try that with flexible pre-fab track!
Being styrene, the ties can be drenched with water-based glues,
paints and stains which can be wiped clean with no warping
ties are self-gauging with scale tie plate and simulated spike
detail. If a gluing technique is used, simple weights can
be used to hold the rails in place!
tie plate detail is designed for code 70 and code 83 rail
sizes. With extra attention to gauging, code 55 can be used.
Code 100 - sorry, but, we can recommend a large company in
New Jersey who can help you!
12" sections can be glued together to make continuous lengths.
Long sections can be "rolled" out, pinned into proposed positions
giving a preview of what the finished track is going to look
like. This goes back to the old fiber tie strip days. We did
a lot of that previewing while we were saving up for the rail
(@ .99 per hundred ft.)!
sighting device is provided on a few ties spaced along each
section that assists in aligning the track on a drawn centerline!
connecting web is at the BOTTOM of the ties so that it is
covered with ballast or earth. When finished track is viewed
from low or eye level, you can see UNDER the rails!
distinct styles are provided, giving a clear contrast representing
mainline and branch line trackage. This effect is even stronger
with the use of more than one rail size. The branch line type
(CVT #2002) should be popular with those who model period
and traction themes. Most assembled flexible track products
represent neither branch line or mainline - just a compromise!
is economical, usually less than existing flexible pre-fab
"fine" track. Far less if you shop around for your rail.
is less rail waste (joining curves with flexible pre-fab requires
cutting of the excess rail) with CVT, there is no wastage
of tie material or rail!
final results exceed anything ever at any cost for realism
for very little more, some say less, effort than so-called
flexible pre-fab track offers. You also have your choice of
splitting, crushing, warping or shrinking of wood and fiber
materials. Not a termite in a carload!
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