Pros & Cons of Flex Track?

Discussion in 'DC' started by trainchaser007, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    In my last thread about telephone wire, Keith (aka klrwhizkid) pointed out that each set of rail joiners increase resistance in track current. It makes sense to me that using the longer segments of flex track would reduce the number of joints/joiners needed and thus reduce the resistance. Am I right or wrong? In either case, since I was already considering replacing my current 9" track sections with more of the longer flex track, I would be interested in the opinions of others in regards to the pros & cons of flex track. For example:

    pros: seemingly unlimited possibilities for layout design, fewer joints= fewer joiners= less resistance= less loss of power.
    cons: the necessity of cutting to fit, smooth curve issues=having to solder joints, removing and replacing crossties on the ends to fit rail joiners.

    Please share your thoughts on the subject. Thanks in advance. - Brandon
  2. TAG1014

    TAG1014 Supporter Supporter

    I'm in N scale and I'll never screw with flexible track again. I use Kato Unitrack (Available also in HO), a extremely high quality sectional track. The road bed can be painted and disguised to your taste and unlimited combinations can be arranged with the track. If you have a special section of track or switches of other brands or flex track, there are several solutions for adapting. Unitrack is a whole system, with cuves, bridges, switches and very positive electrical connections. The brand is Japanese, but can be easily "Americanized." Unitrack can also be set up in trial pattern before you settle on a permanent track plan. I've done three HO and two N layouts with flextrack and had nothing but trouble. Flexible track is pretty much crap in my estimation. If there were no Uinitrack, I'd probably hand lay my track!

    Tom G.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2012
  3. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    I would like to try the Kato track on an upcoming N scale layout. Fitting the ends of HO scale flextrack together on curves drives me crazy and in N scale I would probably create smoother running with the Kato track. I've read it runs like a Swiss watch.
  4. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    I too have tried flex track before. It caused me problems too. On straight aways it wasn't it problem, it was curves. I didn't think to trace my curves and so they didn't come out good. Like the begining and ends might be a 26R while towards the middle it would end up at about a 15R. I still have it and use a little to make temporary expansions (just the switches and train pieces for sidings)
    and I now use the Bachmann EZ track system. Since I switched to it I have done more research and realized were I went wrong so I may go back to it some day. $37 for a Bachmann #4 vs $12 for an Atlas #4 is convincing also.

    Pro's: smoothest and most realistic track system out there, if you lay it correctly, cheaper than road bed, better customization
    Con's: exceedingly hard to lay curves, you have to (suppose too ;)) solder a feeder to every rail.


    PS: I came across a product that would really help with those pesky curves, it's called a sweep stick.
    They also make straight ones and some other weird ones.
  5. TAG1014

    TAG1014 Supporter Supporter

    Jim--There's a hobby shop in New Mexico called Fifer's that has a diagram on their website on how to create variable radius curves and easements with Unitrack: They aslo have other hints for Kato Unitrack. Also they have a lot more track hints (Various brands) on their "How to" page.

    Tom G.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 3, 2012
  6. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter

    I love using flex track. For most applications, I think that it's pretty hard to beat. Curves can be made to be very gentle as on most prototype mainlines, or tightened up as desired to make branchlines, industrial spurs, etc. For continuous tight "horseshoe" curves, (18" radius), however, I use 9" Bachmann EZ Track, since they're interchangable. For me, it's just not worth the hassel of using a template to get the same results.

    One thing I would like to note is that I have sections of both Atlas flex track and Micro Engineering flex track, and it seems to me that the Micro Engineering track does not conduct electricity as well as the Atlas track. Both are nickle silver code 100, but my locomotives will slow down noticeably on the Micro Engineering track, then speed up on the Atlas sections.

    Pat Moreland,
    Union Mo.

    SAFN SAAP Member

    Fast Tracks sells Sweep-Sticks in various radii that you insert in-between flex track rails to create the perfect curves. They are inexpensive and work great! I've used flex in the past. It's very good. Unfortunately towards the detail it's a little too good as it really only represents freshly laid rail, and not one that has been pounded even for a few weeks/months.

    Here's a link to the Sweep-Sticks...

    Fast Tracks SweepSticks

  8. renapper

    renapper Passed away March 8, 2013

    I have always used Atlas 3 foot code 100 flex track on all my layouts that I have built. I will solder all jionters on curves which is usually only one. On straight track I usually solder at most two track jointers which makes a 9 foot section of track; then I leave the next jointer unsoldered to allow for track expansion, but I have never had any problem with expansion because all of my layouts have been in the basement with very close temperature and humidity all year around. I have found it works well to drop a power feeder to all soldered jointers which works will even for DCC. My layout is very large 50 feet x 26 feet.
  9. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    It has been a long time ago, but I seem to recall being able to get spirals incorporated by using flex track. It took some planning to start the curve more gently and sooner than a simple calculation from the radius would dictate. It needed secure fastening once laid, of course. It also seemed to me the natural resistance to bending actually set up the spiral as the track was laid.

    George Nelson
  10. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    George is correct about getting a nice, smooth transition into a curve using flex track. As Richard Napper pointed out, rail joiners on curves need to be soldered to help hold the curve. Most that use flex track will begin by partly determining the difference in length of the inner and outer rails on a flex curve and then will solder two sections together, finally bending and laying the curve in place.

    Brandon, regardless of what type of track that you use, it is highly recommended that a feeder wire be connected to each section of rail, no matter how long or short, to ensure good power delivery to the locomotives. By running a feeder to each rail section, you are virtually eliminating any voltage drop that would occur otherwise.
  11. renapper

    renapper Passed away March 8, 2013

    By installing feeders to all track sections that reduces the system resistance by more than half becuase you are putting the track in parallel with the feeder wires, just like putting two dissimular resistors in parallel, the result will always be less than the lowest value resistor thereby greatly reducing your track voltage drop( tha's why modular layouts can be very large with only one feed point for power). When laying curves be sure your inside rail is the moveable one so you can cut it off when you bend the rail. Parallel tracks in HO scale can have 2" centers, but increase that to 2 1/2" at any curve centers to keep cars from sideswiping each other.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 5, 2012
  12. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member Staff Member Supporter

    I've used flex track all throughout my model railroad "career", with some sectional track thrown in. I can see some of the benefits of such products as Kato's Unitrak, but IMO it doesn't look all that realistic to me. I like to be able to have track I can paint, weather, ballast and (if needed) cover with a little vegetation. But hey, it's whatever you want to use- it's your railroad........
  13. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Flex Track has been very, very good to me.

    I generally like good ol' Atlas Code 100 NS flex track. While the height of the rail is not terribly prototypical, I find that it's perfectly sufficient when the rail is painted, ballast is down and the ties weathered. I like the fact that it's more forgiving of my imperfections in tracklaying. Even then, I don't seem to have problems (that I am aware of) on curves or cutting. I just use a hacksaw or even a jeweler's saw blade.

    It's a trade-off: I'd like more realistic looking track, but I'm primarily interested in running trains. So, it's an easy choice. Besides, it's more affordable.

    That said, I am still eager to handlay track (Doug Hughes, I still have a box of popsicle sticks, per your recommendation, that my kids may never use for crafts) someday, and will do so when I model the Caruthersville Branch. However, in the meantime, with a kid who's interested in running trains today and not 20 years from now, Flex Track is a quick and practical solution.

    Best Regards,
  14. Rick McClellan

    Rick McClellan 2009 Engineer of the Year

    Chico Escuela?

    Nothing beats flex track for speed of installation, appearance and reliability.
  15. Oldguy

    Oldguy Member Supporter

    On all my layouts, I have used nothing but flex-trak mainly Code 70, 55 and code 40. Prior to laying a curve, I always soldered the railjoiners to the length needed for the curve. Granted, I use metal gauges for the curvature needed. Normally, I started with 42" gauge, then added a 40", etc. until I got down to the 36" gauge. But when I started to use spline roadbed, the gauges weren't reall needed any more except in yards and sidings. And since I use old blasting cap wire for my drops, my drops were at each rail joiner.
  16. yardmaster

    yardmaster Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Good catch (pun intended). However, I'd always associated it more with Sammy Sosa, not at all realizing that he was reprising Garrett Morris' character.

    Indeed, I like the flex track for the speed of installation and reliability. And, with higher-quality flex track options, appearance surpasses all else.

    I still yearn to handlay, if for no other reason than I can have the track go exactly where I want it to go.

    Best Regards,

    SAFN SAAP Member

    Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay! Hand lay!

    Did I forget to mention hand laying track?
  18. HWB

    HWB Supporter

    If not for flex track building a layout would be next to impossible as far as I'm concerned. The speed is unequaled. The ease can not be surpassed. The realibilty is outstanding and well the flexibility is in the name. Whether it be code whatever flex track is the way to go for novice to intermediate skilled model railroaders. It allows us to make fine looking layouts in the shortest amount of time. And after all isn't bench work and track laying the things we like to put behind us? Once the bench work is up and the track layed the trains can run and isn't that what it's all about? Anything that makes that process less time consuming and trouble free gets my vote!

    Howard @MP195
  19. trainchaser007

    trainchaser007 Passed away September 22, 2017

    OK!?! I'm excited!!!! I may have just discovered something here!?! Do you all actually mean to tell me that HO flex track exists in a code other than Atlas Code 100 Flex Track? I sure hope I'm understanding you all correctly!!! Can I get HO flex track with brown ties? I mean, really?... whoever had the bright idea to make crossties in BLACK? Excuse my tone but anyone with even just one eye and half enough sense can see that crossties (at least all that I've ever seen) are BROWN...not BLACK! Kind of like... who decided to make BLACK plastic roadbed instead of BROWN. Any child that knows the names of colors knows that RR roadbed is gray... at least all the roadbed that I've ever seen is gray. And this homasote that apparently isn't stocked anywhere in AL or a bordering state...I know it comes in 4x8 sheets but does it come in 2" strips with tappered edges like the cork roadbed does? [Yes, I could have it ordered.] 1 more Q: If I use the "camper tape," with a thin layer of DAP, how hard would it be to change the track plan later with the same "camper tape?" Can it be applied so that it comes up easily? For now, I'm still running my old black plastic roadbed on my new layout table until I get all of this sorted out and make a decision.
  20. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Get yourself a Walthers catalog. Prepare to be blown away by the plethora of goodies available to us. The catalog is a great resource tool even if you don't order from them. No more brass track in your future. I promise.

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