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Felx track or EZ-Track

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  • Member since
    October 2015
  • 14 posts
Felx track or EZ-Track
Posted by COREY CHERIZARD on Saturday, October 10, 2020 3:13 PM

I'm building my second model railroad, my first one used Bachmann EZ-Track but I'm considering using felx track and Atlas track segments instead. My first model railroad had no scenery (if that means anything).

As a new modeler would it be smarter to use EZ-Track or should I try flex track and segmented Atlas track?

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
  • 22,268 posts
Posted by selector on Saturday, October 10, 2020 4:10 PM

It's hard to answer you without knowing 'who' you are.  We're all quite different.  Some of us are bold and willing to try new things, even when the risk of failure or disappointment is somewhat high. But, what does 'high' mean for different people, and that's where the difficulty in response comes in.

I did use EZ-Track extensively for my first layout 13 years ago, but that was because my wife and MIL had gifted me an On30 Christmas train set that came with lengths of EZ-Track; it was all I knew.  Within a year, though, I had to tear it down.  It was fun, but I found it was limited due to its fixed geometry.  It was also very expensive per unit of length. Just looking at ads, Flex was so much cheaper, and I knew intuitively that it would be so much easier to use and to customize my track arrangement.

I even built my replacement layout with spline roadbed.  Looking back, that was pretty courageous.  But, wow,.....was it ever nice to run on, and WITH flex track.  I even made a bunch of my own turnouts.  I was going for broke.

If you are still new, still doing some learning, and you tend to be 'conservative/slower' about development and evolution, I would fall on the side of continuing to learn how to make up a track system...using what you have.  Find out also what you don't like about the EZ-Track way of fitting tracks in a space.  Once you decide you've had quite enough of that, then branch into flex track, maybe using it temprarily on a slab of plywood to get the hang of it.

If you're adventurous, though, maybe now is the time to take it up a step.  Just make sure you know, concretely, why you feel you must abandon the EZ-Track.  Don't do this on a whim; do it because EZ-Track is too limited in a way that almost annoys you. You'll feel better about the expense.

Unload the EZ-Track on line to recover some cost.

  • Member since
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Posted by peahrens on Saturday, October 10, 2020 4:19 PM

My first layout (60 years ago) was an Atlas snap track one, on cork roadbed.  It was ok.  My 2nd layout was flex track and Atlas non-snap switches on cork.  I had many derailments because I did not get educated on proper track laying.  I did not progress that layout for several reasons.

My current layout is Atlas flex on cork with Walthers-Shinohara (makes no particular difference) on cork.  Basis my prior experience, I was more careful with track laying.  An important example, avoiding kinks at rail joints.  Another is ensuring that your turnouts are level (not twisted due to the cork not level) and the cork is gouged a bit under the throwbar where it moves.  I first read a nice MR booklet on Reliable & Realistic track.  Not in print (I think) but used on Amazon.  

https://www.amazon.com/Model-Railroader-Realistic-Reliable-November/dp/B0030I2TT4/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=reliable+realistic+track&qid=1602364722&s=books&sr=1-2

Another issue is how you plan to operate your turnouts.  If reachable & manual, no issue (several options).  I chose adding undertable Tortoise switch machines.  To ensure success with that, I first laid some track, a turnout and a Tortoise on a small scrap piece of plywood to make it easier to address the real items on the layout.

I think you can be quite successful with a little research on effectively laying manufactured track.

 

 

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

  • Member since
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  • 801 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Sunday, October 11, 2020 8:45 AM

Combining Atlas flex track with the matching Atlas sectional track is a good way to go. I've found the packs of short straights to be quite useful: standard length is 9" but they also make 6", 3", 2 1/2", 2", 1 1/2", 1 1/4", 1" and 3/4" straight pieces which I find more convenient than cutting very short bits of flex track.  Atlas used to make 24" radius sectional track in Code 83 which is pretty handy (still listed for sale). They still make 22" and that radius also comes in 1/3 lengths as does 18". Code 83 looks better than Code 100 and works well if you have NMRA standard wheels on your rolling stock (old pizza cutter drivers rumble on the spikeheads of Code 83).

If your governing minimum radius is 24" it is easier to use sectional track for most of a curve and then use flex track to create an easement at each end where it transitions  to straights ("tangent" track technically). The main advantage of flex track for most modest sized layouts turns out to be creating long straights with fewer joints AND being able to easily transition curve the end of every straight into the bends.  

Frankly, unless you really must have a 26 3/4" radius curve somewhere I'd use Atlas 24" radius  sectional track for all of my "return loops"  and minimum radius curves. Returning loops are the single most artificial aspect imposed on a model railroad layout anyway and the second one is very, very tight minimum radius compared to prototype. So I just go with the deficiencies inherent in these geometrical limitations. You can't hide the tight radius return loops anyway (well, tunnels work but then you can't see the trains either!!) so just build them from sectional track. 

Atlas also makes pieces of rail-less four tie ends with rail joiner recesses to slip onto the ends of their flex track, at least for Code 83 they do. This allows you to create sections of flex track of any length or radius that look and fit just like sectional track. Walthers has a similar  product for their "new" Shinohara based line of track.

Save yourself a lot of work and buy a pair of rail cutter pliers. Remember to orient the cutter with the flat side of the blades towards the good end of the rail you're cutting. Buy a hobby sized flat file to clean up the cut ends of rails.  You'll find the bottom of the flange and the top edges of the flange almost always need a couple of file strokes to take off tiny burrs. The rail joiners will fit more easily  if you make a habit of eyeballing the cut ends and fail ing off any burrs. 

For precise cutting to length it can help to first mark the cutting point by nicking the very top of the railhead with the cutting pliers oriented the "wrong way". For me, I found precision in placing that last cut joint (your "last spike" point where you have to join the two directions with no margin for error) is greatly improved by nicking the rail head using the cutters backwards before reversing the cutters for the final flat ended cut. I temporarily secure the track end that is in the correct place, already cut to length. I then remove four ties from the end of the joining track (ready to slip on the four tie track end, if you aren't using those then you only need to remove one tie, or sometimes no ties). I line the track needing to be cut right on top of the finished track. I place the flat side of the cutters right up against the cut end of the finished track and pinch gently to create two nicks, one on each side of the top of the railhead. That marks the cutting point. Lift off the flex track to be cut, reverse the cutters and use them to find the nicks you made and cut. Repeat for the other rail.   For curves I always cut the outside radius rail first as that is the longer rail.

As for carpentry, making flex track pieces shorter is way easier than stretching pieces cut too short. I have lots of really useful pieces of flex track left over, for someone else's layout. 

The nicks are V shaped and really help in locating the cutters exactiy in the right spot for the final cut. 

Turnouts can also be trimmed a little for length but it is recommended to lay your turnouts and then cut the connecting flex track to length.  You must do it this way if you install your turnout motors first because those are fixed relative to the throwbar (unless you use Atlas clip-on turnout motors which are very handy, pretty ugly and just a mm too high). Cutting turnouts always breaks my heart. They are so expensive. 

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
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  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, October 11, 2020 10:14 AM

The whole hobby is about learning new things and developing new skills.  I am between my third and fourth layouts now.  The first was old Lionels on plywood boards.  The second was HO in my teens.  The third was more of a "real" layout in my 50s, and the next will be rebuilding after moving.

I've had to learn carpentry and DCC, basically at the same time.  I needed to develop scenery skills.  I remember the intense satisfaction if creating Hydrocal castings for my subway stations, and mounting a train cam inside the lead subway car.  Every step, I actively looked for new techniques I hadn't tried yet.  Learning new skills has greatly enriched the hobby and my life.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by peahrens on Sunday, October 11, 2020 10:23 AM

Lastspikemike
Save yourself a lot of work and buy a pair of rail cutter pliers. Remember to orient the cutter with the flat side of the blades towards the good end of the rail you're cutting.

These Xuron 2175B are probably the typical ones for HO.  About $17.

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

 

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 9,618 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, October 11, 2020 10:36 AM

- -
Atlas used to make 24" radius sectional track in Code 83

Atlas still has 24 inch radius curved code 83 sectional track pieces.

This is from their website just now.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
  • 11,152 posts
Posted by SpaceMouse on Sunday, October 11, 2020 11:18 AM

selector
I did use EZ-Track extensively for my first layout 13 years ago; it was all I knew.  Within a year, though, I had to tear it down.  It was fun, but I found it was limited due to its fixed geometry.  It was also very expensive per unit of length. Just looking at ads, Flex was so much cheaper, and I knew intuitively that it would be so much easier to use and to customize my track arrangement.

I pretty much did the same thing. I started with EZ track. My issues: The whatever plans you made using software, were too small. I had to add 6" to the side of my 4x8 layout for it to fit. The track was too tall for structures, and the trains towered over the docks.

If a turnout failed for any reason, they were easy to fix, but you had to access them from the bottom. That means ripping out big sections of track--especially if you ballasted them. 

I ripped mine out after about a year.

Chip

Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 801 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Sunday, October 11, 2020 2:14 PM

peahrens

 

 
Lastspikemike
Save yourself a lot of work and buy a pair of rail cutter pliers. Remember to orient the cutter with the flat side of the blades towards the good end of the rail you're cutting.

 

These Xuron 2175B are probably the typical ones for HO.  About $17.

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

 

 

I bought these right away when I bought my first bundle of random lengths of "used" flex track, actually just offcuts returned to the LHS by some thoughtful layoit builder. We got about 60' of usable odds and ends for the price of two lengths of new flex. 

I've also used an Exacto hobby backsaw but cutters work best unless you must have two square cut ends or you are modifying a turnout and you need to cut close to a frog or some other vital part of the turnout.

We also use these rail cutters to separate the strings of rail joiners. They do bend one side of the cut but only one side. Easily fixed with flat face modelling needle nosed pliers and a modelling flat file.  

Sprue cutters work well for cutting just the plastic ties. And I just used them to cut the rail joiners. They work better. No distortion in the cut line probably because the leverage is so much less. The sprue cutters are borderline strong enough to cut rail joiners but if sharp enough do a better job than rail cutters.  

Alyth Yard

Canada

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