Tag Archives: Peco Bullhead Track

A few details about Boltorr Road Halt

First draught
First draught
The layout is based on a 8′ x 2′ module. I would have gone metric, but that would add an extra degree of complication. It’s an effort to even find a metric tape measure here in the US. Then there is the regular size of board material, usually 8′ x 4′.

The rail plane was designed to be a few inches above datum to enable depth as well as elevation to be rendered. I understand the attraction of a flat baseboard, but I’m really trying to represent the 3D nature of the landscape. I want it to look as if there were untold ages of geology and history before the railway scratched the surface of Dumnonia.

The original plan for Boltorr is rendered on the right. The drawing app is AnyRail and the track Peco Code75. I’ve since upgraded to Peco Bullhead which has only recently become available but only LH and RH points at the moment. A little bird told me that Peco may soon be producing a curved BH turnout, but if not the crossover will mean the track will have to be slightly realigned to accommodate straight points.

Other changes are fairly minimal and come about from the transition from 2D to 3D which exposes improbable or anomalous topography. The main issue has been that the vertical dimension has turned out to be more spectacular than I anticipated.

Peco code 75 FB v. BH

I’ve been asked more than a few times whether it’s worth going over to Peco BH track. FB being “flat bottom” profile rail, and BH being “bull head”, a profile found in the UK until the 80s.

Given that OO gauge is a fudge there is always going to be a compromise about track standards. But it has to be said that FB definitely looks superior, even given the restraints.

Streamline FB top; BH bottom
Streamline FB top; BH bottom

Peco Streamline Code 75 Flat Bottom was not designed for the UK market. The track is modelled on HO standards, understandable given the worldwide market for HO, OO being an almost exclusively UK peccadillo.

As you can see from the above image, the sleepers on the FB rail are correctly spaced for 1:87/HO rail, but look too close and narrow for 1:76/OO. The BH has correct spacing and width for OO layouts, given that the rails are too close together for a true scale model. Therein lies an interesting discussion on “gauge” v “scale”. But that’s for another day.

Getting closer to eye-level, the difference appears more like this:

Comparing Peco OO BH - left - to Streamline FB HO/OO - right
Comparing Peco OO BH – left – to Streamline FB HO/OO – right

On a practical note, Peco FB seems to be more fragile than Streamline, so that might be a consideration, and the range of turnouts is restricted at the moment, although given FB’s reception in the railway modelling world this should change soon.

I don’t know that I’d rip up a lifetime’s work on my model railway to install FB, but I’d certainly use it on any new project, even where, technically, BH wasn’t appropriate because its looks outweigh any conflict with FB rail being actually more authentic, and any compromise is far less than the HO/OO thing.

I have some original Streamline left, but in future it will be consigned to tunnels and fiddle yards

What’s your point?

Modelling British outline is a peculiar thing.

There are a number of constraints, historical and practical, which tempt one to compromise.

The first issue is the mismatch between track gauge and scale.

Strictly speaking, Boltorr is being built to a scale of 1:76. More accurately a strange mongrel ratio of 4mm representing 1ft – 12inches. This actually works out to 1:76.2, but this is the least of my compromises.

Still creating...
Still creating…

So, if my layout were built to scale the track gauge would be 18.83mm (4ft 8.5in @4mm/12″), right? Well,wrong. It’s going to be 16.5mm representing 4ft 2.5in. What’s gone wrong?

16.5mm was the de facto gauge for HO models (3.5mm/ft, 1:87), half of O gauge (7.00/ft 1:48 – I know…), the original continental and American compact model standard. 16.5mm is very, very close to being correct gauge for HO/1:87 scale. Unfortunately, when HO first appeared pre-WW2, standard model mechanisms wouldn’t fit in British outline stock because of the comparatively small UK loading gauge, so the larger OO was devised. The downside is that there is a tendency for UK models to look a little narrow gauge on OO track.

So you can see it’s complicated.

However, this iteration of Boltorr is being built in OO gauge. I’ve dabbled with 18.83mm gauge, now known as S4/P4, and it’s possible any follow-up could be built to that standard.

Peco GWR pattern bullhead point
Peco GWR pattern bullhead point

In the meantime, Peco have come to the rescue with their range of finescale bullhead track and points built on the Great Western pattern, which is pretty correct in every respect, other than the gauge. Since I really want something up and running, I’ve settled for that.

There’s a useful review of Peco’s new points here

Next; laying bullhead track and points, and figuring out how to control Cobalt IP switch motors.