So, maybe you set up a loop of track and an electric train for Christmas, and now you’re thinking about a permanent layout. I’ve been there. Once you build a table, you’ll need to attach your track. Screws are the most common way to do that. Here’s a list of the best screws for Lionel track.
I generally use screws of 1/2 to 3/4 inches in length, depending on what the local hardware store has available in the size I need. I use 1/2-inch plywood on my tables. If you use thinner plywood, you may need to use a shorter screw so you don’t end up with pointy things under the table. You’ll be spending some time under there when you do your wiring, so keep it in mind.
As for sourcing, if you’re willing to pay a premium, Atlas sells bags of 48 screws for $4.25. The screws are a good length at 3/4 inches and are blackened, so they look good with tubular track.
If you’re less picky, your local hardware store is always a good place to start. I find an old-fashioned hardware store like an Ace or True Value usually has a better selection and better pricing than the big-box home improvement stores, and the screws are usually loose, so you can get a better idea of how they fit. If you have very exact demands as far as length and head type and need a large quantity, it may not be a bad idea to place an order with McMaster-Carr.
You might also want to consider attaching your track with zip-ties, for a quieter layout.
Screw sizes for Lionel O31 tubular track
For traditional O31 profile tubular track, use a #6 wood screw. I prefer some sort of round head on the screw, but that’s up to you. Take a piece of track with you to the hardware store so you can try the fit and the look for yourself.
Screw sizes for Lionel O27 tubular track
For the less expensive O27 profile track (Lionel, Marx, or K-Line), use a #4 screw. A sheet metal screw is OK if you can’t get a wood screw in that size. Once again, I prefer any sort of round head on the screw.
Optimal screws for Lionel FastrackFor modern Lionel Fastrack, use a #4 screw with a flat head. The flat head allows the screw to sit flush with the track’s integrated plastic roadbed.
Some hobbyists use a square Robertson head screw, as they find it less noticeable than a Phillips or slotted head. Having seen some photographs of Fastrack layouts using Robertson screws, I have to agree.
My trick above for quieting track doesn’t do much for Fastrack, but here’s a tip for quieting Fastrack with carpet pad.
Painting screws to make them less noticeable
Regardless of the type of track you have, you can make the screws less noticeable by painting them. Drive a bunch of screws into a piece of scrap lumber. You don’t have to drive them in very far. Then spray paint them a color close to the ties or roadbed in your track. Black is easy of course. Gray primer will provide a decent match for Fastrack roadbed. I’ve always had difficulty matching the brown ties on post-1970 O27 track, and since they change the color frequently, it doesn’t help. But any shade of brown will stick out less than unpainted metal, right?
Spray the screws, paying especially close attention to the heads, then let it dry. Remove the screws, then drive them into your track. If I mar the paint a little, I touch up the screw with a bit of acrylic paint from a bottle.