Finescale modeling in 1:48

Detailing Track

OST Publications

Track is a system

 Choosing To Handlay: The Gorilla In The Room
Let’s address the gorilla in the room from the outset: handlaying track with the amount of detail shown here is labor intensive, time consuming and expensive. The quantity of tie plates, joint bars and other details adds up very fast and these items aren’t cheap. Placing four spikes per tie is a herculean task with many feet of track to do. It isn’t for the faint of heart or those who lack the patience and persistence to see the job through.

With that said, handlaying P48 track isn’t the black art that many people think it is. The larger materials are easier to handle and you use the same techniques as any other scale. The one difference you might not be used to is using individual tieplates. The OST blog has numerous posts on track modeling (use the category Detailing Track) and I offer two books on the subject.

There is ready-to-lay P48 flex track but at this writing (2021), there are no out of the box commercial turnouts. You have to build your own or commission them from one of several custom builders. For those who want to do the work on their own, frog and point castings in nickel silver simplify the process for turnouts and add a fine level of detail. Right-O’-Way offers kits in a number of frog sizes that include the points and guardrails. Jay also has joint bars and rail braces along with slide plates and throw bars (head rod is the correct term).


Right-O-Way turnout rail braces, head rod details

An N scale ground throw from Caboose Industries works perfectly for P48

Modeling track in P48.

If speed or doing things easily is your main goal then the commercial track and turnouts of five-foot legacy gauge are the better option for you. With care in assembly and attention to painting and weathering, ready-to-lay track can look good and perform well.

I’m being direct in these pages because it’s disrespectful not to tell you about the reality of working in P48. If you’re not intimidated by the work involved, that’s a good sign.

The reasons to handlay track are many, such as near total design freedom and the ability to pick your level of detail. They are also personal. As seen in the images here, I carry my track all the way to the end because I’ve wanted to model track with this level of detail for decades. Also, I enjoy the work and if I’m going to put in this much effort then skimping on these details seems a waste of time. There is a pride of workmanship and a profound sense of accomplishment in completing track of this quality.

Let’s kill a few myths

A long time persistent myth is that P48 isn’t suited to operation because of the alleged finicky standards and tolerances.

I can only speak from my own experience and first hand observation of other layouts. I find no difference between P48 and HO in terms of train operation. Accept for the larger diameter, the P48 wheel profile is nearly identical to the RP25 HO wheel and no one complains that they don’t stay on the track. P48 models have several times the mass of HO and the perform beautifully.

I built a P48 layout that suited my needs and operated it to the same degree I did in HO and I’m baffled by this idea that P48 is only for show. I had very few problems with derailments and believe that the models actually track better with fine scale wheels. The experience with my former Indiana & Whitewater was as enjoyable any other layout I’ve built.

A key with any scale or standard is to know what you want and the extent you are willing to compromise to get there. P48 is as much a mindset as a set of standards. Once you see what’s possible with the wheels and track, it’s a simple step to rethink the level of detail on the rest of the car. From there you might reconsider your structures, scenery and the overall quality of your modeling in general. Or you might be satisfied just to have the correct gauge and better looking wheels. It’s all your choice and I can’t say that enough.

Once again, this is just a quick overview. I have a number of books and blog posts on laying and detailing track in P48. Right-O’-Way will be your main supplier of ties, rail, spikes and essential details that lift model track to another level. Handlaying track is something I enjoy but also recognize it isn’t for every one. Whether you choose to try handlaying or not, the resources below will help you get going. With the exception of OST books, these are not affiliate links. Since I build my own turnouts I have no experience with the custom builders. They are recommended by others and the work looks top notch.


Selected Posts from the OST Blog
Modeling Oil Soaked Track
One of the most popular posts on the blog.

Working with O scale Tieplates
Be aware the prices quoted in this ten year old post are very out dated, though the techniques still apply.

Books by OST Publications

Detailing Track book by Mike Cougill

Detailing Track

A complete guide to hand laying, detailing  and weathering track in quarter-inch scale.

24.95 + 9.65 Flat rate Priority shipping.

Detailing Track book by Mike Cougill

The Missing Conversation Vol. 7

This ebook covers the differences between modern and steam era track. Trevor Marshall outlines his decisions for the track on his former Port Rowan layout and I review the lessons learned from years of modeling track.

This is an ebook that is downloaded after purchasing.

9.99 with immediate download

Additional Resources

Track Supplies
A broad range of track details, frog and point castings, ties, rail and code 125 P48 flex track.

Built to Order Custom Turnouts
O Scale Turnouts
Handlaid turnouts to order in both five-foot legacy guage and P48.

Signature Switch Company
Offers a wide range of custom turnouts built to order.