Build #07: Flex Tracks as Planning Tool

In my previous post – Build #06 Track Laying Visualisation – I started working on the track laying for 2 segments, or to be exact, marking the lines for the tracks. This might should overboard or too much planning but I liked the overall process of the hobby. The hobby is not just about collecting trains and running them in circles or whatever configurations. As I build my layout, I am also learning more about railway operations and how for example tracks were laid and why they were laid in certain ways. I do some research and talk to modellers and colleagues who know more about (German) railways.

I have also blogged about using Peco turnout templates as planning tool. This round I would like to blog about using flexible tracks (aka flex tracks) as another planning tool. I am 100% flex tracks on my layout, besides turnouts of various configurations. I decided to use Peco code 55 tracks and turnouts as they are more prototypical. In addition, Peco is one of a few manufacturers that offer concrete sleepers flex tracks (the others being Kato and MicroEngineering). However, as planning tool, I strongly recommended Atlas flex tracks. These Atlas code 55 flex tracks (below) were super flexible, you could bend them to tight radius and they would spring back to original straight position. My experience with Peco flex tracks was these tracks had to be “shaped” to position and they stayed put. So, these were good when you want to lay and glue them in place: but not as planning too. I was lucky to have 12 pieces of these Atlas flex tracks from my stock, which I bought 10 years ago.

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My approach to laying tracks is to position the (paper) turnouts and crossings and join them with flex tracks. This way, I could shaped the tracks to whichever configuration I want and at curves, I would have some easements or transition between straight and curve tracks. Get ready plenty pins (I have 80 pieces!)

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Paper turnouts are cheap to start and you could decide the right turnouts for your layout before buying them. Good, reliable turnouts cost between 12 and 15 Euro a piece and for some special turnouts such as single slip, double slip, scissors crossing, could cost up to 50 Euro a piece. So, unless these special turnouts are necessary – either for aesthetic   or space saving reasons, you might want to minimise them. But testing these turnouts on paper are almost costless. The flex tracks handled the rest as “connectors”.

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Once you are happy with the track configurations – the look and feel, then mark the outlines of the flex tracks with a pencil so that you leave clear marks for cork roadbed and margins for cutting with a jigsaw.

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You will end up with outlines to the shape of you track arrangements. Then you can add margins to the left and right of each track.

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A simple technique that would save you a lot of headaches in laying tracks especially when you have lots of tracks that criss-cross each other and where you want to make sure you have adequate spacing between tracks for obstructions and trackside structures.

I would love to hear from you how you lay tracks and turnouts.

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