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Going from track plan to sectional track

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Going from track plan to sectional track
Posted by joecatch on Saturday, March 04, 2017 1:25 PM

I am just a beginner but I did build an HO layout 15 years ago, the Granite and Great Gorge I believe. It was an Atlas sectional track plan and it ran very well. I had to get rid of it when I moved.

Now, years later I would like to build another layout as "complicated" as that one with sectional track again because it is super easy to do. I see hundreds of track plans on the Model Railroader web site that look interesting and I would like to build but I don't have the knowledge to go from a plan to actual sectional track. I have read many MR magazines but haven't really seen anything to address this issue. I think one reason why some people don't get into the hobby is because of a lack of ability to go from a track plan to actual track. Any inputs?

JC

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Posted by cuyama on Saturday, March 04, 2017 1:59 PM

Welcome back to the hobby.

Most published track plans are based on the use of flextrack. So they likely cannot be built exactly as drawn using sectional track – at least not in the same space. Atlas still publishes some books of sectional track plans (and older ones are available on eBay and elsewhere). Their on-line index of plans indicates the book in which they are published. Atlas HO track plans

Assuming HO, similar plans are available in book form for Bachmann’s line of track; and KATO has some track plans on-line for their line of sectional click-track. Note that all the vendors have different dimensions for their various components, so the plans only work as-drawn with their own lines of track.

Some of the Model Railroader project layouts were built with sectional track and call out the components needed. 

My suggestion would be to find a published plan that fits in less than your available space. And then using the actual track parts, scale templates, or one of the Model Railroad CAD programs, you can start recreating the track plan. Personally, I would start with the areas that are half-circles or broader of curved track, as they will dictate the placement of everything else.

The reason I suggest starting with a plan smaller than your available area is that the fixed sizes of sectional track are usually less space-efficient than flextrack, so it’s more difficult to fit in a given area.

Flextrack isn’t that difficult to use – and some time spent experimenting with it might give you more flexibility in choosing a plan.

Good luck with your layout.

 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Saturday, March 04, 2017 2:16 PM

Hi JC, welcome.  It sounds like you want a track plan that gives you a material list as to all the pieces needed to build it ?

Atlas offers that and I think Kato does too, but you might have to buy the plan books to get the parts list.

I new the space I had to work with, developed a do-able track plan that would give me the operating capabilities that I wanted, and fit in that space, and went from there, and figured out what pieces I needed as I went.  I don't think there is a formula where you insert track plan, and come up with a complete list of what you need to build it.

There are a lot of great people in here, and you will get lots of answers, and help.

Mike.

EDIT:  My post is kind of irrevelant, as one the best guys for your situation answered while I typed!  Big Smile  Good luck!

 

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Posted by olson185 on Saturday, March 04, 2017 2:50 PM

Joe,

How one would transfer a track plan depends on the situation and which method is easiest for the particular modeler.

Since you're using sectional track (which I do, too...mostly), though I would recommend flex-track on curves, I would suggest one of two procedures:

1) Use a design program (ie. AnyRail 6) to redraw the plan into the program that will tally up the types and number of sectional track needed of the brand you're using.  Doing this will also help determine where sectional track won't replicate the plan you're copying because of how things line-up or don't (as the program will "snap" connect the pieces), where sectional curved pieces aren't tight enough or short enough, and etc.  In this way you can figure out where modifications (or extra room) are needed on your desktop/laptop.

2) For small layouts (ie. less than 4'x8'), using a chalkline, snap gridlines on a piece of plywood (even if you aren't using plywood for a sub-bed) that will correspond to the ones shown on the track plan you're transferring.  Then, with sectional track gathered around you, assemble track on the plywood in locations approximating what you see on the trackplan.  At some point you'll inevitably see where things aren't lining up quite right (usually because of sectional curves or turnouts).  But this method will give you a very hands-on, visual picture of how the transfer process is working and make it easier to see how to correct it.

Tip: Most MRR track plan(ning) books by Linn Westcott, John Armstrong, et al. are very sectional track friendly.

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Posted by joecatch on Saturday, March 04, 2017 3:04 PM

Thanks for the responses so far. Regarding flex track, I think I would like to try it on a simple plan like the "Fall Creek Branch" switching plan shown in the March 2016 issue of MR. But I wouldn't know where to start using flex track or how to cut it. I tried once using flex and the ends of the rails were burred. And of course the ties on curves are a problem.

I assume one starts with the turnouts? Still not sure where to go from there.

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Posted by cuyama on Saturday, March 04, 2017 3:26 PM

joecatch
But I wouldn't know where to start using flex track or how to cut it. I tried once using flex and the ends of the rails were burred.

A slight touch of a file removes any burrs.

joecatch
And of course the ties on curves are a problem.

Here are a couple of videos that offer a good example. The second uses MicroEngineering flextrack, which is particulary stiff and probably not the easiest with which to begin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2iQCosUmBQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmE0EiWPQHk

joecatch
Regarding flex track, I think I would like to try it on a simple plan like the "Fall Creek Branch" switching plan shown in the March 2016 issue of MR.
<snip>
I assume one starts with the turnouts? Still not sure where to go from there.

Yes, for that sort of plan the turnouts should be located first, but not installed until you lay down roadbed (see the videos).

That particular plan has a couple of issues that could be corrected (both were caused by the way the builder chose to arrange track on his separate benchwork sections). The runaround (the double-track portion) could be lengthened. And the switchback portion is a bit unrealistic and could be reworked to eliminate the need to remove cars from the grain elevator and sash and door mill before switching the others.

Subscribers can view the track plan at:
http://mrr.trains.com/how-to/track-plan-database/2016/01/ho-scale-fall-creek-branch

 

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Saturday, March 04, 2017 3:49 PM

I didn't/dont use a plan,and was told that I did it wrong. But my trains run fine.

May I suggest; You have a print of what you want, or a good idea. Get a number of turn  outs. Place them where you want/think they should be. Start connecting them with flex. Flex connects just likr secional. I cut mine with a Dremel/cutoff blade. May need a few swipes of a file. You can mark out curves with a yard stick or piece of string.Don't nail/glue any thing till your happy.I use foam table to so track was easy to tack in place witth pins.

Once you start, you'll get the hang of it,not  hard. Worst case, you might cut a pieace too short.

IMO track plans are only someone's idea,I'll bet most have never been built as printed. If the train stays on the track, and you like it, It must be right

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Posted by cuyama on Saturday, March 04, 2017 3:59 PM

joecatch
But I wouldn't know where to start using flex track or how to cut it.

I think that the Xuron rail nippers are well worth the investment.
http://www.micromark.com/Xuron-Track-Cutter

I'd suggest safety glasses and don't use them to cut anything else. Some folks use a cut-off disc in a Dremel-type tool (again, protect yourself appropriately). Or there is the trusty old Zona-type saw
http://www.micromark.com/Zona-Flush-Cutting-Saw

 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Saturday, March 04, 2017 4:12 PM

Flex track looks more realistic because you don't have the box section of ties at each end.  Xuron nippers leave a good side and a bad side.  You want to have the good side on the piece you are working on.  Burrs can and should be removed with a needle file, available from Micro Mark or Harbor Freight.  The bad side can be dressed with a larger file or recut with the good side.  Life is easier if the cut section of both rail ends are perpendicular with each other.  In other words the right rail shouldn't be 1/4" shorter than the left.

Atlas flex track is easy to work with as one rail is very mobile.  I believe that should be on the inside of your radius.  If I am wrong someone will say so in short order.  I used to try to carve out the tie for space for the rail joiner.  Now I just cut the ties off and hit them with a burr in the dremel and glue them down later.

Henry

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Posted by joe323 on Monday, March 06, 2017 6:45 AM

Even if you are going with sectional track I would buy a piece or two of flex.  You can cut off unrealistic D squares off the ends ofvthe sections and replace them once the track is down with ties from the flex.

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Monday, March 06, 2017 8:48 AM

As you bend curves into the flex track, the inner rail will stick out - simply cut it flush with the outer rail using a pair of Xuron rail nippers and get some small jewl files to gently take off the edges or burrs and smooth the rail tops, sides and bottoms.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road

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Posted by olson185 on Tuesday, March 07, 2017 10:50 AM

"But I wouldn't know where to start using flex track...".

[Note: I don't have the March 2016 issue to which you refer.]

Typically, for me, if the track plan would have a straight sectional piece connected to a medium or sharp curve piece, I would omit that straight piece and start the flex in its place, in the hope of creating an easement (a gentler, gradual start of the curve).  This may not always work-out but, it looks better. 

Sometimes, taking out two consecutive straight pieces allows the flex to shift the track slightly to one direction before taking the med.-sharp curve toward the other.  Doing this will help keep the rest of the layout in its original, pre-easement, configuration.

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Tuesday, March 07, 2017 5:09 PM

I,ve done it 2 ways; If I knew where the curve is, Put 2 pieces of flex together and form the curve, Then work both ways. Or, attach fex to a trunout that was place where needed, then work both ways. Leave straight, curve as needed,adjust as you go. That 's the neat thing about flex

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Posted by superbe on Tuesday, March 07, 2017 10:15 PM

 

When leaving the turnout going into a curve keep the flex straight for about an inch before you start making the curve. This is to avoid creating a kink where the two join. It doesn't take much of a kink to cause a derailment and some are hard to see.

 

IMO flex is really preferable over sectional. As already said it has a more realistic appearance, fewer feeders, etc. Also the pieces of flex that you have cut off can be used for sidings, and to fill in a spot.

Good luck,

Bob

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Wednesday, March 08, 2017 1:49 PM

cuyama
Or there is the trusty old Zona-type saw http://www.micromark.com/Zona-Flush-Cutting-Saw

I like Zona saws, but the flush cutting one is for cutting wooden dowels.  Too coarse for track.  This set includes a blade for cutting metal

http://www.micromark.com/4-in-1-Zona-Saw-Set

You can also buy the blade separately.

Paul

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Posted by BRAKIE on Wednesday, March 08, 2017 3:52 PM

joecatch
But I wouldn't know where to start using flex track or how to cut it. I tried once using flex and the ends of the rails were burred. And of course the ties on curves are a problem.

There is a fix..What I would do is use a combination of flex and sectional as needed. For curves and short pieces you can use sectional track.

Now a easypeasy method of cutting track is with a track cutter.

http://xuron.com/index.php/main/consumer_products/3/13

 

Also there is a lot of how to track laying videos on you tube that should help you on laying flex track..

Larry

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Posted by joe323 on Friday, March 10, 2017 6:15 AM

Larry gives good advice I assembled and soldered sectional track for curves and cut flex for straights thereby minimizing the number of rail joiners.  As I stated before I clipped the squares off the sections and after laying I slipped plastic ties from excess flex track under the gaps,

Joe Staten Island West 

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Posted by joecatch on Friday, March 10, 2017 5:58 PM

Thank you everyone for your advice. Alot of good info but not much regarding on how to go from a plan to real track.

What I mean is for the Falls Creek plan, how do I know if the turnouts are #4 or #6? From what I am hearing here is just get a bunch of track including various sectional and flex track and crossings and experiment until it all fits together. Is this how it is done? Just wondering, if so, that is what I'll do.

 

JC

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Friday, March 10, 2017 6:23 PM

joecatch

Thank you everyone for your advice. Alot of good info but not much regarding on how to go from a plan to real track.

What I mean is for the Falls Creek plan, how do I know if the turnouts are #4 or #6? From what I am hearing here is just get a bunch of track including various sectional and flex track and crossings and experiment until it all fits together. Is this how it is done? Just wondering, if so, that is what I'll do.

 

JC

 

Well, sometimes you don't know.  In this case the trackplan database entry says minimum #5.  Are some #6? Wye?  Unless the article itself tells you which are which you are usually safe assuming the minimum is used everywhere.

Fortunately, for a plan like this one, the arrangement is not tight.  You can probably use #5's or #6's without much problem.  The DB entry also says flextrack.  But most of the track is straight so you could use sectional straight and curves.  It does say the minimum radius is 26", so use that or larger.

If you're planning to use just short 40' freight cars and locomotives, you could probably get away with smaller curves and turnouts.  If you want to use modern 80' long cars then you might need larger turnouts and curves.

As you can tell, most plans need to some tinkering to meet your needs.  Laying out some track and adjusting it is probably a good approach.

Good Luck

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Posted by mbinsewi on Friday, March 10, 2017 6:58 PM

JC, yep, to sum it up, that's what you do.  If you know your going to build the Fall Creek, than build the 15" x 12' bench work, gather the pieces you need to get started, and start making the plan fit your space.  If you don't have a 12' long space, make it an "L" shaped plan, use 26" radius to make the bend.  And like IronRooster says about the turnouts, use the #5, that the plan called for.  Once you get started, it will all become easier.  Don't overthink this, just build your space, get some track and switches, and start laying it out.

If your afraid of flex track, you can buy sectional radius that you can make work.  But there is nothing to be afraid of with the flex track.  Just start working with it, and see what the "flexibility" of it is all about when it comes to locating curves, switches, etc.

The only way your going to get a plan that lays it all out for you, is to go back to Cuyama's post at the beginning, and buy a planning book, put out by a track manufacturer like Atlas and Kato, that gives you a list of materials, and follow along.

Build your bench work, get some track and switches, and jump in!  You'll love it !  Don't let it intimidate you.

Mike.

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