The track base is now complete as far as the intermediate station on the mountain pass line, and slightly beyond, and I have been laying the track and have successfully run trains to and from the station. I had to use flexible track because the fixed-radius curves I have in hand are not small-enough radius to provide the effect I need in the space I have available. It is hard to lay flexible track for such tight curves, but with care it can be done: it tends to tilt and can tip trains off, and it is also not easy to avoid variation in curvature, which can be catastrophic when working so close to the tolerances of the locomotives and rolling stock. I did make a test curve before I designed the layout so I knew that I had some vehicles which could go round these curves successfully, but I also suspected I’d have several that would not and would have to be confined to the other part of the layout!
I drilled the sleepers and pinned the track direct to the MDF which I was using for base: no cork underlay was used on this section because it was all going to be hidden under snow, so the ballast shape did not matter and I felt that with the need for firm track here the trains may just run slightly better on a firmer base. After one of the test runs I did some adjustments to the track where it was joined just outside the intermediate station – the join was not quite straight, only very slightly out – and sometimes caused some vehicles to derail. One railcar in particular was right on the edge of its ability to take the curve and the slightest deviation was enough to allow the flange to climb over the rail!
Now that the track is laid I shall have to install the point motors and wiring, position the tunnel mouths and erect the overhead electrification masts to the open stretches of track. For light relief I can build the station buildings and the road. There is to be a level crossing, and there will be a road winding up the mountain pass. There is also the need to take the line onward to the terminal station higher up the mountains. Once that is done, then completion of the mountain scenery becomes feasible. Exciting!