G’day Fellas,

The A&O 1 along with a few other great examples of standard gauge O layouts I have seen published over the years has finally inspired me to have a crack at O scale myself. I think I will be limited to a very small switching layout to start with but all empires have to start somewhere.

I was hoping you could point me in the right direction to find some track guages useful for hand laying, there seems to be a non existance of these in Australia, Im not convinced that the NMRA standards gauge will be very helpful, but that is all I have managed to find so far. An online store would be ideal.

Anyway, Great layouts, Great site, keep up the inspiring work.

Thanks for your help.


Mykl -
I’m not the A&O trackwork expert (David is), but on the A&O we seem to use lots of NMRA gages. They are critical for scratch building turnouts, especially for the areas around the frog and along the point rails. They give the “final word” on all dimensions. They work great for code 100, 125 and 148 rail. The only thing they don’t do is hold rail in place while it is still loose. And there never seem to be enough of them when we are working even though I buy another one and toss it in the pile every time I see one.

In years past I’ve seen 3-point gages at Caboose Hobbies in Denver, CO, but at that time I was still an unrepentant HO-scaler and paid no attention to O-scale items. Perhaps P&D Hobby Shop in Michigan can make a recommendation.

One of our track gang, Jackson, wanted rolling gages like the ones he used to hand-lay all the rails on his beautiful HO layout. These were at one time commercially available from a fellow who made them in HO and On3, but not to his knowledge in O. Not only did he want them custom made (as he stared at yours truly who has a Sherline lathe in the basement) but he rejected the first prototype because it wasn’t knurled in the middle! :unamused: Oy!

I suppose that we may not always know what we are doing (speaking of myself) but we do have fun in the process!

Ahem. Getting back to reality, a primary disadvantage of this design is that they must be made for a specific rail code (100, 125…) and a specific manufacturer (in our case, MicroEngineering.) This is necessary because code refers to a standardized rail height, but the width of the head can and does vary with manufacturer.

The pair with “dimples” on the end were turned for Jeff (another member of the track gang) who uses code 148 rail on the mainline of his layout. The rest in the photo are code 125. Shown are the last of the gages to be made.

On the A&O we have a few for code 125 mainline rail and a pile of them for code 100 sidings and yards. After I made these Jackson showed me his HO gage. The center was turned down in diameter, so that it would work some of the distance between the points and frog of a turnout. *So now he tells me! * :smiley:

Perhaps you have a modeler friend with a lathe (the Sherline lathe was originally designed in Austrailia.) If so, these are made of 360 brass. The minimum gage is set to 1.254 inches (0.004 more than the NMRA minimum) to be consistent with David’s practice of laying rail close to or at the NMRA minimum gage. The maximum, after fitting a sample of rail we use, offers a few thousandths of an inch play to keep them from binding. That is why they must be made individually for each size of rail.

Another very useful tool is a common modeling T pin.

Here we see T pins temporarily holding rail in “alignment” just after all of us had a big laugh (what’s wrong with this picture?) The subroadbed is Micore, a mineral product commonly used as the structural core inside office space dividing panels. It readily accepts pins and spikes, but does not hold either as firmly as Homasote.

All the best, and welcome to the A&O forums. Please stay in touch from down under!


Hi Bob,

Thanks for your detailed reply, My dad has a lathe so if I ask really nicley he might turn up a gauge or two for me! I guess my concern with using the NMRA gauge was holding it perpindicular to the rail, but the tiny variation in gauge from holding a guage a few degrees off square might not make any difference to reliability. I did have a look at the sources you suggested, but didn’t see anything promising, not to worry, where there’s a will there’s a way.

It took me a good while to work out what was wrong with that second picture the first time I saw it. :confused:

Would I be correct in assuming that Homosote is like a thick cardboard? This is another product we dont get down here, but I have used a product called Box Board for other non railroad models, a thick cardboard made from recycled paper, available to about 4mm thick (about 1/6 inch im guessing). That is the closest thing I can think we might have, but might be denser than homosote. I will give it a try when my rails arrive and let you know how it turns out.

Thanks for all your help!


Mykl -
Homasote is a soft product made from recycled newspaper pulp, originally made as a type of building construction insulation board, and about 1/2 inch thick. It is pretty easy to drive a track spike into it with one push, and that is extremely important when hand laying track. Cardboard is usually too hard and will bend the spike over. You should be able to take an ordinary sewing straight pin and drive it fairly deep into the material, at least 1/4 inch, with relative ease. If not, the material is probably too hard. On the other hand, the spike should not pull out easily, as it would if one used styrofoam for the sub-roadbed.

There are many outstanding modelers in Australia who would be far more familiar with locally available materials than I. You might ask on some of the other model railroad forums, even if they do not cater to O-scale, as track laying materials and techniques are similar regardless of scale.

All the best.


Hi Bob, Thanks again for your reply.

I had always wondered exactly what homosote was like and your description was excellent, I will have to keep a look out for simlar products available here. The majority of layouts I have seen (have not ever seen an O scale layout in the flesh) use flex track screwed to ply sheets, or sometimes a commercial foam roadbed. I know some guys do hand lay but they can be difficult to track down.

Thanks again.



I’ve a friend that models HOn3 in Australia…let me ask him what he uses for his materials.



I just got a response. Here is what the guys say:

[quote]In Australia the equivalent product to Homasote is called “Caneite”.
I understand it is a pressed Sugar Cane waste product and while used
for similar building purposes and also used in a similar way to
Homasote by local model rail officianados it has been found wanting in
its ability to grip and hold a model railroad spike.[/quote]

Hope this helps out.


Got another few replies

[quote]There is a product called “Canite” and is 1/2 inch thick however it is getting
hard to find.

Bunning Hardware Stores in Oz have it in 3 x 4’ sheets for around $20 and it is
used as a message board similar to a cork board.
I once came in 8x4’ and 6x3’ sheets and is a lightly compressed fibre of wood
type material.

As far as I know we don’t have Homosote sheet here in Oz.

I use rubberised cork sold to make oil gaskets.[/quote]


And another one

[quote]A cheaper and imperfect substitute for Homosote is Celotex. It is more commonly
available in the US at big box building supply stores than Homosote, which is
difficult to find in some locales. This must be painted with latex paint in
order to hold a spike, but doesn’t work well with re-spiking over and over as it
crumbles. It is not as rigid as Homosote, but is lighter. It accepts gluing
about as well as Homosote.[/quote]


Hey Craig,

Thanks for your help! really appreciate it.

Im just waiting for rail to arrive so I can start a few test segments.

Thanks agian.


Mykl -
This afternoon I visited Caboose Hobbies in Denver for the first time in over a year (despite living only about 60 miles from the mother ship.) Surprise, there were three 3-point O-scale gauges for Code 125 rail. I bought one, and there should be two left on the peg. The only other gauges for O-scale were the standard NMRA design.

Some track layers like 3-point gauges as they can automatically spread the rail gauge a little bit on curves. Just point the single-point side towards the inside of the curve. The instruction sheet inside the package recommends using a pair to make hand-laying easier.

It is Precision Scale #4968, marked on the underside with the old KEMTRON brand name, for code 125 rail only. I have not yet checked the accuracy of the gauge.

The Caboose inventory tag description shows “TRACK GAUGE CODE 125, O” and a bar code number of 05854968. It is a brass investment casting.

Note that these won’t work properly with code 100 rail (although they will fit, but too sloppy) and should not fit at all on code 148 rail. My receipt shows a charge for $6.45 USD. The Caboose web site shows them for $4.00. I can’t explain why I was charged $2.45 more in person! Just enter the 05xxxx number in the SKU field of their home page advanced search box.

I’ll give you a week or two to order them if they would work for what you are doing. If not, I might order the last two myself!

All the best.


Beautiful, Thanks again Bob,

I plan on picking up a few of these just as soon as I get a price for international postage.

Seems my shopping skills need some polishing, I searched their site for a few hours before and couldnt find them.

Thanks again mate, for the heads up, and for keeping me in mind, really appreciated!


Mykl -
It has been a while. How did the track gages work out for you? Have you started laying rail?


Hey Bob,

Thanks for keeping me in mind.

The gauges you found at caboose hobbies turned up about 3 weeks ago, but I got a bit distracted with life, and keep changing my mind about track arrangements. Last light I decided on laying a couple of short sidings and a turnout on a couple of 1’x2’ modules to start off, when I finally make up my mind about what I want to build it should be pretty easy to incorporate into somthing more ambitious.

Now that youve got me focused again, Im going to try to find somthing in my collection of offcuts to use as a base board!

Thanks mate!


Well that has all gone much better than I was expecting! I haven’t quite finished the turnout yet I still have wing (or guide or whatever theyre called) rails to put on. I wanted to test that the rest was all within acceptable tolerances first, by running a few spare trucks through the turnout, which I have yet to order, so completion might be a little way off.

Overall though, really happy with everything. And really thankful for the help I received through this forum, and to a&o 1.0 for, in part, inspiring me to have a go at o scale. If I ever find my camera, I will post a pic or two.

Thanks guys.


Give us a picture please! Sounds great. And with each turnout and piece of track you build, your skills increase. And so does the fun. One of the best joys of the hobby for me is watching trains snake their way thru switches I built.
Keep in touch,


Found my camera!



Lookin’ good! And 4 spikes per tie. Wow. The frog looks well done as well as the points. Are you sure this is your first turnout? Many more await as it gets in your blood. :slightly_smiling: How did you power the points and frog?


Thanks David!

This was my first attempt at O-scale, I tried 2-3 turnouts in N-scale a while ago, all soldered to pcbs rather than using timber ties. I decided I would prefer a small number of high qualty/detail hopefully scratch built models rather than a fleet of little things. And I dont like soldering, which is why I havent gotten around to powering the wye yet. Insulation gaps are going to have to be cut bofore any locos move.

Spiking is strangely theraputic… I only had small spikes, and used cardboard for the roadbed. Worrying about the rail moving is why I spiked everything. Turns out, I think if I gripped the rail with pilers it would take all my strength to get it to move. I just hope it holds up over time.



Spiking can indeed be rather theraputic. It provides a unique simultaneous sense of creation and progression. And, your rails won’t move.
If you’re having trouble with soldering, it might be that you need a better soldering outfit. What are you using?