Peco Inspection Pits: Installation + Template

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A while back, I purchased some PECO Inspection Pits from ModelTrainStuff. I planned to paint them a more concrete color, weather them, and install them inside the small shop building I'm putting together from a PikeStuff kit. I decided to share the process with you, and I included an easy printable cutting template to make the holes for the pits quick and easy!

I made a printable template for the pit holes. You can download it as a PDF below:


To paint the pits, since I don't have an airbrush, I used Tamiya spray paint. It's a little pricey, but it works much better on tiny models than typical spraypaint, and in small quantities it's reasonably affordable. I painted the pits with "haze grey" (TS-32) and the walkways with plain "yellow", (TS-16).

I don't have photos of the pits being painted, sorry!

After I painted them, I used some cheap black and brown acrylic paints to weather the kits. For the pits themselves, I haphazardly painted the inside of the pit brown, then smeared/removed some with a wet paper towel. This takes some practice, and if you have an airbrush I'm sure you'll get better/quicker results that way, but I wanted to use what I had on hand. Once I had the pits looking a nice dirty brown, I used small amounts of the black paint (especially around the drains) to depict oil spills and imperfections in the concrete. I used the wet-paper-towel method here, though not as much as with the brown paint.

Above: The difference between weathered/unweathered pits. The right one is unweathered, the left is weathered.

To weather the now-safety-yellow walkways, I covered them with black and brown acrylic paint and used the paper towel method from above.

In the end I think they turned out pretty good.

Above: Close up of a weathered pit & walkway.

Connecting trackwork

I had two stall tracks inside my shop that I wanted to connect to these pits. I had not glued them yet, and I needed to cut one of them so that the lengths matched exactly.

Cutting it down to size

I used a ruler across both tracks to ensure they were both even, and made marks with a sharpie where I wanted the cuts. Then I snipped off only the ties from under the track. I'm using Atlas Code 100 sectional track, so your ties may look a little different, but the procedure should be similar.

Then I used angle cutters to snip the rails at the marks. If you've never done this before, be careful because the rail clippings can go flying and hit you in the face. (Ask me how I know that.)

Above: The jagged, rough cuts produced by angle cutters are quick and easy, but they need some cleaning up.
Below: The angle cutters also produce a burr on the underside of the rail, which will catch on rail joiners.

As you can see, though they were easy, those cuts are not good looking and will not be fun to run trains on. So using my needle files, I cleaned up the face of the cut and removed the burr from the bottom of the rails. I also lightly filed the top of the rail to remove the leftover sharpie. When I got done, I had nice, clean cuts, as shown below.

Above: The cuts after being filed. Note that the ties are not suddenly brown, the lighting just makes it look that way. Sorry!

Since the shop tracks were even, I moved on to installing the pits.

Installing the Pits

Before you do anything, turn the pits upside down and test fit them against your track. Double check to make sure they're lined up. Measure twice, cut once.

I made a printable template for the pit holes. You can download it below:

The template's length is specifically for 3 pit segments. This is enough to make two pits out of one kit. You can combine two of the templates to make one long pit (6 segments) out of a single kit. I made the template in InkScape, a free software, so if you'd like an editable copy please email me.

Using the Template

Print out the template and cut it out with scissors or a utility knife. Then line it up straight with your shop track and use straight pins to tack it down.

Start by lightly scoring the cork around the edges, then go back a second time to make the actual cut. This will give you some room for mistakes. Once you've made the cut, pull up the template. I had already glued down my cork, so it took some force to pull it up. Once you've got the foam base of your layout exposed, make a deep cut along the perimeter with your hobby knife. Then start the messy foam removal process.

Above: Don't be surprised if you find your table looking like this. Keep a vacuum handy.

Once you've got a decent hole hollowed out, test fit it. You may have to do some work on the corners, as I did. Try not to cut the cork, only the foam. Rinse and repeat until you get a satisfactory fit.

Foam Putty: The optional step

I chose to add some Woodland Scenics Foam Putty to the corners and ends of the holes to fill in the gaps. I found it makes the pits fit better, and I think it will keep the illusion of concrete a little better once I install a floor in the shop. You can skip this step if you'd like.

Above: Filling in the sides with foam putty. Don't worry much about the bottom, the ends and sides are the important parts. You can also use this to hide accidental cuts you made (see the right end of the top hole).

After that, install rail joiners on the pits and connect them to your track. Do one final test fit. Lastly, power up your track and run a couple locomotives across the pits just to verify good electrical pickup and solid trackwork. Once you're satisified, use clear latex caulk sparingly to make your pits permanent.

Above: I'm a sucker for CB&Q/BN. Also, I highly recommend using straight pins to hold the pits down while the glue dries. They're cheap, easy, and work great!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have comments, I'd love to hear your feedback via Google+ or email! Happy railroading!