Model Railroad Track: A Beginners Guide to Rail Cutting

Venmark International
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Updated May 31, 2022

This article was originally published on our Blog in September of 2017. We are rebroadcasting it because the content is still very relevant and 2022 represents the 33rd anniversary of our introduction of the Model 2175B Track Cutter to the model hobby market. Thank you for 33 years of support and encouragement!

Tom’s Corner

Tips, techniques and commentary from Master Model Railroader Tom Piccirillo

Model railroad track comes in a large assortment of lengths and curve radii. Even so, most track layouts still need some custom-sized pieces to fit together without kinks, and sections of flexible track need to have rails trimmed to length.  Cutting track to size is usually required, and modelers find it difficult to cut the metal rail . . . unless they have the right tools, like the Xuron® 2175B and 2175M Track Cutters.

These pliers-type tools come in two styles: one horizontal (2175B) and one vertical (2175M).

For track that has not yet been installed on your layout, use the Xuron® 2175B Track Cutter.

Cutting model railroad track with the Xuron® Model 2175B Track CutterThe jaw blades are designed to cut through the rail from top-to-bottom. The cut ends of the rail are practically burr-free, so clean-up is not required. One end will be flush, straight and smooth; the other will be rough. Turn the tool around and cut again to clean up the rough end. This tool will cut solid nickel-silver or brass rail up to code 100 (.100”) high. It’s better to first remove the ties in the cut location; you can trim them and install them under the rail joints after installation of the track on your roadbed.

When track has already been installed on your layout, and you’re making additions or changes to the track arrangement, you need to use the Xuron 2175M Vertical Track Cutter.

Cutting Model Railroad Track in a vertical position using the Xuron® Model 2175M Vertical Trrack Cutter

Designed to be held in the vertical position, the 2175M enables you to cut rail without damaging the ties or roadbed.  A couple of light swipes with a fine-tooth needle file will clean-up the rail ends. You can also use this powerful cutter on solid nickel-silver or brass rail up to code 100.


A third type of track has roadbed and track supplied as integral, snap-together sections. Bachmann, Atlas,  and Kato are makers of this type of track.

Snap together model railroad track

Sometimes, you can easily remove track sections from the molded ballast roadbed. You then use the Xuron 2175B Track Cutter to cut the rail. If you cannot remove the track from the roadbed, use the 2175M Vertical Track Cutter to cut the rail. The roadbed can then be trimmed to match the track with a fine-toothed razor saw.

What type 0f model railroad track are you using and how do you cut it? Please tell us in the comments.

Tom Piccirillo

Tom Piccirillo started building scale models at age 12 after discovering a copy of the April 1964 issue of Model Railroader magazine for sale at a local corner store. After receiving his degree in mechanical engineering in 1974, he pursued a management career in well-known industries, such as Burroughs Corporation and Ohaus Scale, and holds patents on electronic connectors. His most-recent tenure was president of Micro-Mark where, for 24 years, he developed and marketed ingenious tools for builders of scale models. Tom is a prolific author and has written many how-to articles for the hobby press, including Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman, The NG&SL Gazette, Fine Scale Modeler, Dollhouse Miniatures, and Great Model Railroads. In 2009, Tom earned his Master Model Railroader certification, and has been awarded the Paul Mallery Trophy for model building excellence. Currently a member of the Hobby Manufacturers Association, Tom consults for major USA and international producers of tool and hobby products, providing editorial and photographic services in addition to Marketing Analytics. He is perhaps best-known for the construction and operation of the O scale Somerset County Traction System, which he has described not only in magazines, but also on Public Television. Tom is also former-president of The New Jersey Live Steamers, where he operates his home-workshop-built 1/12th scale locomotives and cars. He is restoring an antique Mercedes-Benz automobile, and is an accomplished jazz rhythm guitarist.

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