Pros & Cons of Flex Track?

Discussion in 'DC' started by trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017), Feb 3, 2012.

  1. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Brandon, by far the most popular flex track among modelers for mainline is Code 83 with brown ties. If you use the camper tape and DAP method, the track can be relatively easily removed using a good thin blade putty knife. The key is using as little of the DAP as possible to tack the track down.
  2. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter


    Roadbeds in the days of steam were often ballasted with cinders, which are of course black. The branch line which I grew up with was mostly cinders with some areas of chatt here and there. When I started modeling the branch, I used Woodland Scenics cinders for the roadbed. I have recently been helping my Dad restore a 1948 Allis Chalmers tractor and we have been using Black Diamond brand sand to sandblast it. In the process, I've discovered that the Black Diamond sand would make a good looking cinder roadbed or coal load, depending on how coarse it is. And for $7.00 for 50 lbs., it's a bargain. You're right, though, in that you don't see many prototype lines with cinder ballast nowadays.

    I remember a lot of ties on the branch line that were virtually solid black, because they were so heavily coated in creosote. We used a lot of them for corner posts on the farm after the branch was abandoned and they're still black as night. So in my opinion, you can't go wrong either way.

    I did paint my mainline track with Krylon rust colored primer and used grey ballast. Although it's by no means the best looking track around, I think that it's appearance is much better than what you get right of the box.

    Pat Moreland,
    Union Mo.

    Attached Files:

  3. trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017)

    trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017) Passed away September 22, 2017

  4. TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020)

    TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020) Passed Away July 15, 2020 Supporter

    The real key to believable ballast and tie color is not to be too uniform in whatever color. That is, make your tie and ballast color variable. Only freshly laid (Ballast and ties) main line "high iron" is uniform in color.

    Tom G.
  5. trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017)

    trainchaser007 (Brandon Adams RIP 9/22/2017) Passed away September 22, 2017

    Pat, I really like how your track looks...rusty rails w/brown ties. I'm not a serious modeler. I don't really care about "code" as long as the ties are brown. I already have 3 sections of code 100 flex track and 2 code 100 turnouts that I've never used. I would like to use them on my new layout just to save a few bucks. I would only need 10 more sections of code 100 flex track to complete my layout. Now that I've seen your pics, I'm considering using what I already have and buying more code 100. Did you have to do anything to remove primer from the top of the rails for conductivity?
  6. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter

    My recommendation is to keep a cotton swab soaked in alcohol handy and try to wipe the top of the rail down before the primer dries. I made the mistake of using a fine grit emery paper on several sections of track and it scratched the top of the rails. Any experienced modeler will tell you not to clean or wipe down the rail head with an abrasive, as it will leave miniscule scratches which will collect dirt. I haven't had too much of a problem with it, but I started using cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol to strip painted rail heads. Primer dries fast, though, so you have to work fast.

    Hindsight is 20/20, so a better alternative may be to buy some of those railroad colors paint pens. I can't remember who makes those, but a set of them includes different colors for rails and ties, and they're relatively inexpensive. Seems like my local hobby store had them for around $10.00.

    Pat Moreland,
    Union Mo.
  7. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

  8. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter

    Thanks for the comment, George. Yes, that's the same unit I was speaking of in that thread. And, yes, it still runs great. No problems since I took the clips off of the bottom of the trucks and tinkered with the gears and wheels (not sure exactly what I did, but it worked).

    When I get a little extra time, I going to take some more photos of it and post them in the "Favorite Frisco Model" thread from a few weeks ago.

    Pat Moreland,
    Union Mo.
  9. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Pat - Good news that 2020 appears to be well again.

    "Big Red" just has to be the all-time favorite Frisco E-unit! It certainly is mine. Saw her come through Rolla many times, and rode behind her several times as well.

  10. TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020)

    TAG1014 (Tom Galbraith RIP 7/15/2020) Passed Away July 15, 2020 Supporter

    I always liked "Big Red," the enigine and the name. When I was a hulking teen age ball player, "Big Red" was my nickname.

    Tom G.
  11. WindsorSpring

    WindsorSpring Member

    It was good to see that pretty locomotive.
    One other aspect of flexible track is that it simulates welded rail. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on the era being modeled.
    Despite recent line and surface work, trains on the jointed rail on the eastern division out the back door still make the "clickety-clack" sound, unlike the smooth "whirring" sound the "other railroad" has on its welded rail.
    It is all in what you want, I guess.

  12. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    I wish I had used 18" radius sectional curves instead of using flex on my curves. I never thought of that! Everything takes the curves well except every now and then my favorite 4-4-0's pilot truck derails on the curve along my swamp. This is not good. I've changed trucks and tried everything I can think of to eliminate this annoyance to no avail. Nothing else derails at this spot. I need an NMRA tool to measure all the tolerances. It doesn't happen where the joiners are so rails may be a tad tight but no other rolling stock or locos have any trouble. Maybe the pilot wheels are out a bit. They don't look to be.
  13. renapper (Richard Napper RIP 3/8/2013)

    renapper (Richard Napper RIP 3/8/2013) Passed away March 8, 2013

    Jim, Be sure a pick up a HO scale NMRA gauge, you will always have a use for it.
  14. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    Yes I do. Tools are always a good investment and I can't believe I've gone this long without one. I will order one and might as well get a new Jordan kit or two as well. Time to shop for model railroad goodies!
  15. gstout

    gstout Member Supporter

    Regarding the 4-4-0 that derails in curves, I suspect that your track is out of vertical alignment. This often happens with flex track in curves, and if you watch closely as the locomotive passes through the curve what you will see is three wheels on the rails and the fourth one (the lead wheel on the outside of the curve) riding up over the top of the rail and into the swamp. You might try banking the outside rail just slightly and see whether this cures the problem.

  16. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    That is a great idea. I'll try that after while and post the results. Thanks for thinking about it.
  17. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    My very first HO layout (4ft x 8ft - built it on my old Lionel layout table), mid-1960's time. The track plan was from one of the Atlas track planning books - a busy single-track railroad was the theme. I thought that would be good for the Frisco.

    Anyway - it featured a 150-degree turn on one end, single track, 22" radius, but with Atlas flex-track. I had some of the same wheel lifting problems as Greg describes, mainly on steam locomotives (I had a Mikado and a Pacific) with their longer wheelbase than the B-B diesels I also ran. I solved it the same way he suggested - I superelevated the turn (banked it) by sliding half-inch flat end toothpick shims under the outside rail ties, and re-spiking the track. (I held the track to the cork roadbed by using HO spikes every fourth of fifth tie - made for a very quiet railroad). And, as a bonus, it made that big curve look really neat with its prototypical banking. Never had a problem after that.

  18. gjslsffan

    gjslsffan Staff Member Staff Member

    Thats a fine looking RR Pat, very much enjoy seeing your pictures. And thanks Ken, I had not considered using toothpicks to set curve superelevation, but it makes sense as you can slide the taper to make the elevation what you want. I did mine the hard way with Black construction paper cut thin and slid under the ties, and staggered the additional layers to get the easement into and out of the curves, toothpicks would have been easier, always learning something here.
    Tried curve superelevation on this current RR, but it did not work out very well for us, as it tended to aid in the string lining of cars on the curves. I am sure it is because of the trains we run here, so I made the decision in favor of operation as opposed to visual appeal. Wish it would have worked for us here, those superelevated curves sure look realistic, and add that little something in track detail you dont see all the time.
    Tom Holley
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2012
  19. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter

    Thanks, Tom, Ken, George, and Brandon for your compliments. The layout and everything on it is still a work in progress. After posting those photos, I noticed a couple of things that need to be fixed: 1), there's a large gap in the rail on the farthest industry turnout, and (2) those darn phillips screw heads are sticking up in the roadbed on the main track. The rail on that side was a little higher than it's counterpoint and my westbound (opposite direction of Big Red) six axle units would pick the switch and derail prior to entering the tunnel. I tried to shim it, but that didn't seem to work, so I got flustered and put two screws between the ties so that the screw heads would push down on the ties and level things up. Works like a charm, but I forgot to cover them with ballast.

    Since my layout is a dog bone style, I used Bachmann EZ track to make my 180 degree turns at each end. Everywhere else is flex track, including the Salem Branch. I also tried superelevating the curves when I was using standard Atlas sectional curved track, but still had trouble with derailments. The EZ track fixed that. To make it look a little more realistic, I covered the embankments of the plastic roadbed with white glue using a paint brush, then poured ballast on it. I would like to point out that EZ track sits up a little higher than standard track on a cork or foam roadbed, so for anyone who might be considering mixing in some EZ track with regular track and roadbed, you will need to make sure that they are at the same height, or you'll suffer some derailments.

    I have noticed from my observations of prototype track that there doesn't usually seem to be a lot of difference in the color of rails and ties, at least not on main line track viewed from a distance. I've studied the appearance of the UP (Mopac) Sedalia Sub about six miles to my north, the BNSF (SLSF) Cuba Sub seven miles to my south, and the Central Midland (Rock Island) in my home town, and in every instance, the rail color and the tie color were very close. That's why I simply spray painted my track.

    Pat Moreland,
    Union Mo.
  20. Jim James

    Jim James Staff Member Staff Member

    I've tried everything I can without a gauge tool. Elevating the rail didn't help. What sucks is that it only derails about every sixth lap or so. I have another Bachmann old timer and it never derails! This is aggravating. Gotta get that NMRA gauge quick.

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