Measuring and Cutting Code 83 Flextrack

Chris667 Feb 3, 2010

  1. Chris667

    Chris667 New Member

    Firstly, allow me to say what a great place this is to learn so many new tips from people who are more than willing to share their experiences. A lot of inspiration graces these forums through pictures and posts, and I am proud to be a new member here.

    I am new to the hobby, and am looking for some trackwork tips; namely some tips on how you measure and cut track in the initial laying stages. Do you begin with the most complex turnouts? When measuring track, is it as simple as using a ruler before cutting, or is there another tried and true method for ensuring proper lengths are cut, and without completely destroying the track.

    I am using Code 83 Peco flex track and turnouts, and I want to ensure reliable track laying is in place.

    Any tips or methods that you can share would be greatly appreciated despite the novice nature of my question. Thanks in advance

  2. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

    It is best done as a two-step shuffle. One foot forward, two foots forward, and then one of them retreats again...because you find something doesn't quite look right.

    Let me explain: If you have planned your track layout (and you really ought to), you will have a defined curvature at certain places. If it is a minimum radius below which you know you really ought not to go, and if your next turnout doesn't accommodate the track running next to the one on the curve, you have a problem. So, you have to figure out a compromise, and it always means undoing the last several feet at the very least, and in the worst case it may mean a whole rethunk of that part of the layout.

    What I mean is, it all has to work when all is said and done so that your engines and rolling stock will run happily and your design elements are all met. It would be terrible to get much of the trackage laid only to find that you will need to dip well below your minimum tangent lead length, or the minimum radius on the lead, to get to your turntable or engine backshop. Maybe a different turnout will work, or you must relocate the backshop or turntable. Which is easier?

    So, what I advise is to map out your main layout surface trackage using 3/4" masking tape and lay it out on the floor. You take care to maintain proper curve radii, turnout orientation and frog number (so work at getting the diverging angles right with the tape facsimile), and see if it all fits. In fact, when I do this, I actually tape a real (intended for that place) turnout to see what happens to the rail curvatures that follow if I am to get the rails either past or to an important function or facility...such as the roundhouse or an industry, down a street oriented the way I get the idea.

    So, it is an iterative fiddle. Think of doodling, but you should not have to doodle much because most of the hard figuring should have been done before you began to lay out the masking tape.

    Later, when the bench is erected over the floor where you laid out the tape, mark out all your centerlines. Place turnouts here and there, and then hook up lengths of flex to see how the curves will look...use track nails or tape to keep them flexed and in position.

    Lastly, virtually none of us ever gets it 100% right and can close the last two ends of track perfectly. You have to keep your eye on the ball, yes, but there is more to hitting it than just watching have to make all the other things that come before the contact work well. Same with attention to the tiny details as you go, and occasionally step back and imagine the finished trackage to anticipate some tight spots.

    That's about the best advice I can give.

    Oh, one important tip and you should get into the habit early: take a flat metal file and dress the top and flange leading edges of every single rail end, whether on your turnouts or the lengths of flex, whether you cut them to fit or they did. This is important to ensure flanges don't snag in places where curvatures are tight and flanges are forced tight to the outer rails, and where they may run into rough joins in the middle of those curves. By dressing the edges to make shallow ramps on both faces, you ease the flanges as if they encounter cams.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 5, 2010
  3. Wolfgang Dudler

    Wolfgang Dudler Passed away August 25, 2012 TrainBoard Supporter In Memoriam

    Welcome at TrainBoard, Chris.

    I can only underline the words from Crandell.

  4. Chris667

    Chris667 New Member

    Thats excellent information and makes sense to me as I read it. The wonderful part of this hobby is that there seems to be so many different ways and variations of accomplishing each facet of the hobby.

    Thanks so much for the information -- I'm currently learning so much and writing as much information down as I read through the forums. Every bit will assist me in developing my skills and building that dream layout I've always wanted.

    Thanks again!

  5. watash

    watash Passed away March 7, 2010 TrainBoard Supporter In Memoriam

    Crandal pretty well covered most of it. I might add this: Look at our Advertizers and find a "XURON" rail nipper, and buy two. Keep one marked so you only use it for trim and tiny cuts. Use the other one for normal rail cutting. It will eventually get a bit dull, but still does well at cutting rails to length. It is designed for and made for cutting nickelsilver, but will cut brass and copper. Do not try to cut steel rail with it!When these make a cut, the metal is distorted only on one side, leaving the other side a smooth flat surface. (Dykes distort metal on both sides, so rails require filing.) You will see what I mean after your first cut. Hold the rail so the Xuron cutter lower jaw is flat against the base of the rail, then squeez so the other jaw cuts down through the rail head first, then the web, and finally the base. They may not cut all the way in two the fifth time. It is easy to bend the rail up and down and it usually breaks of the first time. I keep a little 3" Nickolsen flat smoothing file handy to lightly dress the flange side and tops of the cut rail. Now after slitting a finger, I dress off the outside too.) Also be sure to stagger the joints at least 2" apart. If you make a practice of having the tight non-slip rail on curved flex track always on the "outside" rail, it will force the inside rail to extend out beyond the tie strip for easier nipping to the correct length. Do bend the ends of curved rails a bit before fasening in place. Try a test curve and trim fit before fasening down permanently, like Crandal said. By the time you have laid track all three directions from a turnout and around a curve, you will be an old hat at this track stuff. Then you will be a regular "Gandy Dancer"!! Don't feel like the 'Lone Ranger', come here any time, we are always eagerr to help, hinder, or get in the way....

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