From Chapter 1 Of Vol. 7
While the design of a railed road to guide wheeled vehicles hasn’t changed much from its crude beginnings, the heavy timbers capped with iron straps and supported by stone blocks used in the early 19th century would disintegrate under the rolling weight of a 20th century Lima built 2-6-6-6 Allegheny.
Over the century and a half that separates the two, the construction and materials of railroad track progressed from heavy timbers and cast iron to continuous welded steel rails stretching up to fifteen hundred feet in length laid on prestressed concrete ties. The ongoing refinements are driven by new technologies that allow for larger, heavier and faster trains to be carried safely. Countless lives and millions of dollars in freight were always at stake in the quest for a more reliable transportation system upon which the nation was built. To understand these details and their application to our modeling, this edition focuses on the differences in track between the beloved Transition Era and today.
Unlike the continual progress evident in full-size track, model track products have stayed remarkably consistent over the years. Legacy products such as sectional and flex track still dominate the market in the most popular scales, while handlaid track gained ground with modelers who care about increased realism, or who need items not offered commercially.
As modelers, we’re less worried about our impact on the national economy, than with our concerns about the ease and speed of getting track down and how reliably it operates. Hobbyists take a pragmatic approach to track, treating it as the means to get the trains running. For many, a realistic appearance is often secondary to slapping it down and watching the trains go. Gradually though, the work of pioneering modelers who saw track as an opportunity instead of a commodity, helped create the desire for a closer- to-scale, more realistic looking model track.