I Gave Up on Flex Track for Its Intended Use

Fotheringill Jun 14, 2012

  1. Fotheringill

    Fotheringill Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I will use it for straightaways and not curves. I am spending an inordinate amount of time getting the cuts exactly right as far as distances for hookup. I have read all the past threads about the right way to do it, but my lack of ept is quite apparent. I am content in my track laying mediocrity.
  2. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    In the past I have laid out the flex sections, when more than one has been used, and done all the work off layout on the workbench getting the ends lined up and soldered and then moved it to the layout usually with minor tweaking. I also don't have the cork roadbed permanently affixed so I can tweak that also. When it is time to cut off the ends to connect to the straight track I have used the Dremel with the flexible attachment that allows me to have the cut off wheel in perfect vertical alignment since you can get the small head on the attachment much closer to the track in a horizontal plane. An Exacto precision edge allows me to have good vertical alignment on the cut off wheel.
  3. DiezMon

    DiezMon TrainBoard Supporter

    this may be a dumb question, but you're cutting the track AFTER laying out the curve, correct? meaning, get it curved to the point where you want the two joined, then cut the longer rail? It's easy with ME track since it stays curved..

    One thing I've done is push back the ties on each piece, even cutting the little joining plastic between ties so I can push them back.. then after joining the two tracks, slide the rails back up the joint, which helps a lot with alignment... just a thought :)
  4. Lemosteam

    Lemosteam TrainBoard Member

    On my first 4x8 in the early 80's I made a small fixture to use a razor saw to cut my flex track. It was a small block of wood with two grooves in the bottom to fit the track rails deep enough to be just above the ties. One flat side was perpendicular to the centerline of the track and had the highest profile. I would press down on the track at it's intended centerline ( at the end where the track extends from flexing) and lay the side of the razor saw against the vertical plane where I wanted my cut and then I would pull the saw so the teeth were less prone to catch keeping the blade against the vertical plane. The grooves kinda prevent the rail from twisting and breaking out of the ties. The block was not long enough to negatively affect the curvature so the cut ended up pretty square to the centerline. After that I would file any burrs, solder on the next piece, route and tack (I used track nails back then) and perform the next cut the same way. This worked really well for me and the fixture also came in handy when I wanted to cut rail gaps for electrical blocks. Maybe that would help.
  5. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

    Mark, as much as I have the desire to jump on an airplane and fly up to New York and beat you severely about the head and shoulders until you learn the proper skills to lay curved flex track, I will refrain. In the mean time use your sectional track. One requirement! HAVE FUN and enjoy running your trains!!! [​IMG]
  6. kalbert

    kalbert Guest

    Yep. Me too. Cannot get it to do anything other than the slightest curve. Good thing there's plenty of variety in sectional curves!
  7. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    I do that too. I also do that where I solder my between-the-ties-on-the-railfoot 22 ga. feeders. One thing I've started doing is cutting code 55 railjoiners to the length of the space between ties (easy to do. Mount them on a scrap piece of rail and cut through both joiner and rail simultaneously so the cut-to-length part doesn't "squash". Dress the cut end with either a fine sanding disk or cut-off disk in your Dremel or dress it with a fine, flat jeweler's file...then push it down on the rail...which will "spit out" any other fine burrs) I can get two short joiners out of one normal joiner...and sometimes three.

    I cut both rails on both pieces of flex so that the cut is halfway the distance between two ties, slide at least three ties back on the rails by cutting the spacers between them, then slip on the teeny joiners and get everything aligned. I apply Supersafe Gel flux and then with my old 33 watt Archer iron, apply heat to the inside of the rail web, and melt a little lead-free solder from the other side into the joiner and both rail ends.

    Then, I use the old M1A "Eyeball Method" to once again check for kinks...and adjust any near the joint...and solder the other joiner to the two rail ends.

    I slide the ties back in place, and you can hardly see the joiners...especially when the tracks get painted, weathered and ballasted. And there's no funky tie or two that's lower than the rest of my ties every three feet or so, and ALL of them have spike heads.

    Here's a pic of ME 55 Flex mated up with an ME 55 #6

    I'm still having problems figuring out what the problem is the OP is having putting flextrack together.

    Bob Gilmore
  8. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    It would be better to show you how then give you a verbal picture.

    I can only hope this helps or encourages you to keep trying.
    Here you can see how I joined the flex track. If you look carefully you can see where I overlapped or offset the two joints. How?

    2-8-0's In Action 009.jpg
    Call this a hopeful how to:

    The first thing I do is select the base or subroadbed, wood, foam, I don't think it much matters. Next, I make a compass out of an old wooden yard stick, draw a center line, glue my cork road bed to the center line butting the two pieces of cork in alignment, to the center line. This way when the two pieces of cork butt up against each other you still have a center line to guide you when installing the flex track. Here's where it gets tricky and controversial. Allow me to continue. The moveable or sliding rail is set to the outside of the curve. I then slide the rail forward by three inches doing the same to the next section of flex track. You will soon discover, the sliding rail will eventually get further apart. Not a problem. I like to take the non-sliding rail and cut it back an inch, remove the spike heads where I want to spot the rail joiner. Usually, removing two sets of spike heads is sufficent, if not I will remove three sets. This way my rail joint or joiner never comes together over ties that aren't connected. I then run the loose rail back through the now vacant spike heads and into the recieving rail joiner.

    If I stated this correctly and you undestood what I meant. Hoping you caught on to, understanding my instructions and the technique shared. Providing I did a good job writing this up, just for you to know (this could go on forever). You should end up with the following.

    2-8-0's In Action 008.jpg :cool:

    Caution: I do not solder everything together before I attempt to bend the rails to the desired curve. Better to bend the flex track and then attempt to follow the above directions.

    Have a question feel free to ask.
  9. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

    When I was in n scale I had trouble with flex as well, but workin in HO, its been a dream. I don't know if that's because HO is easier to work with or because I've gained skill or both.

    I don't use a dremel, I use those rail nips. I forget the brand. Tack the track along the curve. Nip the ends a bit long. File smooth, Cut back the plastic ties about half an inch from the joint and then put them back in once the track is soldiered and afixed.
  10. Fotheringill

    Fotheringill Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Yoho- Xuron is the name of the nipper.

    Guys- I have actually done all of what has been suggested and will not be the last holdout on Iwo Jima. I surrender. I don't care if there is a clack clack when the wheels hit the joints. I don't hear too well nowadays anyway.

    Russell- If we can reroute the Sugar Land Route into Grand Central, we got a deal and you will have the finest steak dinner New York City can offer, on me. But, then again, you will have to eat with me as a dinner companion and that is something people have been avoiding for over 60 years.
  11. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Don't give up. :sad:

    N Scale is a bit more difficult to work with as the flex track, wants to bend itself back to straight. So you need to either tack, nail or weight the track down to get it to align itself to a curve. The other problem is you can get a heat kink. In warm weather the track will push itself side wise, looking for a place to expand to. So, cutting in heat gaps and gluing the track down is a must.

    I don't use nippers prefering instead to use a dremel tool to cut my track. With a thin cutting disc I can cut the rail, remove the plastic spike heads and clear the way for a rail joiner in and underneath the rail. No need to remove the plastic ties and no unsigtly gaps in the ties. Now the plastic will heat up as you cut it and will leave flashing but that is easily removed with your finger nail. It takes a bit of getting used to but and I would suggest practicing with it before tackling the real job. The upside, the Dremel cutting disc doesn't leave a burr on the rail, it doesn't require filing off any flashing left behind and if you cut both rails in the same direction they will fit without any obvious gaps.

    An old timer once instructed me to use a Dremel tool, like a pin. I find the smaller battery powered ones are easier to handle and I'm able to control it much like I do a pin. No nippers for me.

    The key here is to find what works best for you or at least what you think works best for you. Flex track isn't that difficult to work with once you learn it nuances.

    Sometimes it's just fun to sit back here and chuckle as newbies help newbies make the same mistakes.:rolleyes:Oh No, they wouldn't do that...would they?

    From the voice of experience, to lessons yet to be learned. Grin!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 15, 2012
  12. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    My flextrack doesn't want to bend straight. My flextrack doesn't want to kink when it gets hot (maybe it "wants" to, but it never has in nearly 30 years). That's because I use Micro Engineering Flextrack. It ain't "N scale track" that's the problem. It's any floppy N-guage flextrack, other than stiff N-scale Micro Engineering flextrack that has the problems.

    Bob Gilmore
  13. MichaelWinicki

    MichaelWinicki TrainBoard Member

    I don't think Atlas code 55 flex is difficult to make curves with... I never thought code 80 was either.

    I'd solder two pieces together on my work bench, take them over to the layout bench, use "T" pins to hold the curve in place and then spread tacky glue underneath the ties. Keep the pins in place for a few hours and that's it.

    No problems at all.
  14. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for your comeback. Different brands and types have their own nuances to work with. My experience has been with the code 80, Atlas Flex track. Once down and in place it seldoms gives me problems. Heat kinks can happen to anyone with any brand if the track is not glued down and the environment, the layout is in sees extreme temperature variances. I have a friend that failed to glue down a section of Code 55, Atlas Flex and it moved. The layout is located in a loft or second story where there is little to no insulation in the A frame of the ceiling. It can get hot up there. The unglued section of track snaked all over the place.

    Glad to hear it's working out for you. That would be good news.

  15. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    Fotheringil - don't take their advice. You and I finally agree on something - and the world still turns. I've no intention of using Flex for anything other than straight yard tracks and maybe straight sidings. It will add a nice visual affect as well.
  16. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Thanks Grey One,

    How pleasant of you to support Fotheringill. A breath of fresh air.

    Odd but lessons learned can come in small packages or snaking track. I hope you get out of it what you put into it.

    I can tell you that the Kato Sectional track, can be a real God Send for you guys.
  17. skipgear

    skipgear TrainBoard Member

    I can't believe all the guys suggesting laying the track and then joining the track on the curve. It is next to impossible to get a smooth joint unless using ME Track. Make all your final joints on straights. Plan your track laying around this rule. In laying curves, start on the straight, bend your track as need be and lay it to within an inch or two of the end of the piece of flex. Stagger the joints as Rick suggested and then solder your next piece of flex straight off the end of your existing piece of track. Keep installing your track from there. I garuntee that you will get a clean smooth joints. I have never had luck trying to join any kind of flex by mating it in the middle of a corner.

    Always solder the track in its relaxed state, then flex it.
  18. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    Curves made with flextrack should be made starting at the middle of the curve. One piece of flex track will form a 90 degree curve with a radius of about 17+ inches. Two pieces of flex track soldered together while they are straight [be sure the sliding rails are on the same side] will form a curve of about 34+ inches. Place the flex so that it occupies all of the curve then join to your other track on a staright portion. I suspect the problem you are encountering is that you are starting the flex on the straight section then trying to curve it but not having sufficient length to make it around forcing you to try to join two pieces of flex on the curve. That is futile.
  19. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    Um, er, that was meant as tongue in cheek. While I will only be using flex track as mentioned I feel everyone needs to try it at least twice. Fotheringil and I have spent years razzing each other. Don't pay it no mind.
    In my youth, (the olden days), I used it a lot.
    For new model railroaders flex track has a lot of great applications that I encourage you to use.
    Advantages of flex track:
    • Cost
    • Speed of track laying - once you get the hang of it
    • Impressive long smooth curves - great for a photo shoot
    • Transitional curves - from sharp to broad
    • Linking two tracks that are not quite lined up
    There are others that I'm sure folks here can provide.
  20. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    Right back at you Grey One. LOL (Tongue in cheek.)

    From one grey beard to another the older we get the more difficult it is to work with this finicky stuff.

    Thank-fully old habits come in handy and I learned to work with flex track years ago. That's why I say it's easier to show you then create a verbal picture.

    I learned from an old grey beard that really knew his stuff. Now, I look older then he did at the time.

    Skip, thanks for the shout out. Too add to your discussion. I have no problems putting in a joint on a curve as long as I offset the joint three or so inches. The technique I described earlier works great for me. What doesn't work is trying to solder two pieces of flex track on a straight and then try to bend it to the curve. You do that you will have one rail traveling and moving about and the joint is anything but smooth around the curve.

    Perhaps I need to provide more pictures of what I've done, regarding installing two pieces of flex track on a curve. Be right back, I have camera in hand, new batteries so, I should be good to go.

    In the picture's below you can see the offset joints set into a curve. You need to know, I put the joint (rail joiners) together, right where it sits.

    100_5953.jpg 100_5954.jpg
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 17, 2012

Share This Page