With all of the turnouts constructed and most of them installed, I’m on a mission to lay all of the track on the layout.  It’s not much track, but it’s enough for one person to tackle, an hour at a time in the evenings.

Back in the spring, I glued the ties down according to my track plan, and then spent a great deal of time experimenting with different approaches to weathering them.  I’m using code 55 in an attempt to replicate as accurately as possible the rail that I found at Tonawanda Island.

I wasn’t expecting to face some decisions around which spikes would be most appropriate for the layout, but it should have come as no surprise to me.  I’m always looking for ways to up my game and make my models more realistic.  To that end, I’ve tried three different brands of spikes, with a range of results that I’ll share in the following photos.


These two tracks will be inside of the warehouse at International Paper. The rail is code 55 and spikes are Micro Engineering’s smallest.


In this image, the pair of tracks in the background are spiked with Walthers Code 70 spikes.  The track in the foreground was spiked with Proto:87 Stores “Longer HO Scale” spikes. Look carefully at that track in the foreground. There are six spikes in the picture.

I think the Micro Engineering spikes are probably OK with larger rail, but I won’t be using them on any of the trackage that is readily visible on this part of my layout.  The Walthers Code 70 spikes are very consistent in size and shape.  I found the Micro Engineering spikes to be slightly more difficult to work with because the heads were not consistently sized. This mades it difficult for me to judge how far back from the base of the rail to start the spike.

Proto:87 Stores spikes are perfectly consistent because they’re photo etched.  They’re also really small. Almost absurdly small.  I’ve had tiny splinters of wood caught in my skin that were far larger.  In fact, there might be some bits of dirt and sawdust on my layout that is larger than the head of a Proto:87 Stores spike.  The next was taken an oblique angle, so it’s easier to spot the spike heads.


The track in the foreground of this image is in the process of being laid with Proto:87 Stores spikes, while the tracks in the background were done with Walthers Code 70 spikes.  Again, all of the rail in this shot is code 55.

I find that my progress is slower with the Proto:87 Stores spikes.  The short piece of track where I used these spikes looks real nice though.  Ultimately, I’ll need to decide whether I can go bear going slow enough to use the tiny spikes.  And they sure are easy to lose.  The following images compare the Walthers Code 70 with Proto:87 Stores spikes.


I’m not sure if I need to spike more ties with the Proto:87 spikes. I’m surprised at how well they hold the rail in place. This image shows them still on the fret, next to a small pile of Walthers Code 70 spikes that look massive in comparison.

IMG_0863At this point, I’m committed to spiking the rest of the the coal track with Proto:87 Stores spikes, but I haven’t yet decided if these will be used anywhere else on the layout.  If I did any more than this one track, I might be inclined to take out all of the Walthers spikes that I’ve already put in.   Ugh. What a hobby 😉

19 thoughts on “Spikes

      • I’ve decided it’s dangerous for me to go to the Proto87 stores, first I was like it’d be cool to have a little diorama with super detailed track. Then I was like I could do this for a module, then I can start over on my current projects and it will be awesome.

        I think I’m safe for now, but when I run out of ME spikes I might switch over to Proto spikes.

  1. Hunter great work on the track it is looking great. The proto spikes look like the metal slivers I remove from my fingers at work!. Could you explain what type of tool you use to spike with and why you find it works for you. I am thinking about building a diorama for taking pictures and would like to try hand laying track for the first time. It’s nice to

  2. I used the Proto:87 Stores spikes exclusively on my S scale layout, and on the modules I’ve been building to participate with the S Scale Workshop. Yes, they are small. But I found that after doing a bit of spiking to get used to them, I actually lost fewer of them than the other, round types. And they do hold extremely well – in part I think because they split the wood along the grain lines just like a prototype spike. The round wire spikes from other vendors compress the wood.
    Regardless, the secret to solid track work is to ballast. The glue (I prefer diluted Weld Bond) will help lock the spikes into the ties and lock everything together.
    Congrats on the progress – great to watch.
    – Trevor
    Port Rowan in 1:64

    • I’ll definitely be doing more painting of the track (and spike heads). For instance, some of the rail I used is unpainted, and some of the rail that is already painted will be repainted because I’m not completely thrilled with the colour. When I paint the rails, I’ll paint the spike heads too.

      I don’t think painting the spikes before they’re installed is a practical move. The paint would probably come off when the spike is being driven into the wood.

        • I don’t know, Rene, I don’t think it will be very difficult to paint them. I’m going to be painting the rails, and the spike heads will get painted in the process. I’ll post about that when I get to it.

      • Hi Hunter, This thread popped up in my feeds again, and so I thought I would let you know that I am now pre-painting my spikes (Krylon camouflage brown). It doesn’t seem to impede the performance at all, and makes them much more visible; some paint does scrape off, but not as much as you might think. I see it as a base colouring, as with the rails, which I also pre-paint. Later, I will go back and add final colours, but at least I don’t have to carefully cover all the shiny bits. You can see them in photos of my turntable ring rail (eg https://www.flickr.com/photos/renegourley/19860334909/in/album-72157625936039528/). Cheers, Rene’

        • Looks great Rene. I weather my track after it’s ballasted, so the spike heads seem to have disappeared under the grime. Speaking of paint, I haven’t used Krylon yet, but I’ve been using some generic primer that I found at Canadian Tire to get some grippiness onto my wheel sets. They take weathering powders so much better. I’m rediscovering the convenience of a spray bomb in this kind of application.

    • Yes, Claude. I have a package of them. I held off with the tie plates for two reasons. First, at the site of paper plant that I’m modeling, I found a few ties in the bushes and almost buried in the ground (the factory is gone and so are the tracks). I found tie plates on one tie, but the others had no plates, and a couple had spikes still partially in the ties. This leads me to wonder if some tracks didn’t have tie plates. The other reason I’m holding off is that this particular track (with the Proto:87 spikes) is only a test track for me, and if I put tie plates under on only this track, it will look very different from the rest of the tracks around it. It’s an all or nothing proposition. I think that the tie plates are not really missed until their absence is made obvious.

  3. Hey Hunter,

    The Porto spikes look great. Your photos prove it. I’ll be giving them a try. Your track is looking ver good! I also like the stain you used on the ties.

    Best, Scott

  4. Thanks for putting this page together. Those Proto87 spikes sure do look like fun to work with. I see that they sell them in different lengths. Which (length) of spikes did you use?



    • Chris, I bought the “Longer True HO Spikes” which gives you a combination of two different lengths of spikes on each fret. I think the “True HO” spikes are impractically short. Pay attention to what you order because the product names are very similar.

      • Thanks Hunter

        Looking at the website I see he lists:
        0.075″ long as both a “cosmetic” and a actually use it to spike your track version
        0.120″ which would be the ones to use

        I can see how with those lengths you really need to be careful about the material you use for the ties so you have something that the spike can bite into. Spikes I’ve used in the past (e.g. Micro Engineering) were longer so would grab into the roadbed too so you had that additional help.

        Thanks again for the advice.


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