Track Testing

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll be aware that I’ve been working toward building the ship model that is to populate the pier scene on Morpeth for quite a while now. It may also be apparent that I haven’t posted anything about this model beyond a couple of hull shots of it sitting next to the pier. There are a number of reasons for this lack of posts, not the least being the glacial pace at which I’ve been progressing on the model. I’ve been busy moving, renovating the new train room and building new benchwork is always fun. However I can’t claim that this takes up all my time. In spite of my expectations about building the ship I’ve been dilly dallying round the bush on this model for a number of reasons that have sapped my motivation and the primary one of these is that this is new territory for me modelling wise. As such I’ve sort of been approaching it and backing off for a couple of months now. Nothing is square and level and almost nothing fits because of the far from accurate hull casting! Every time I make a start on it I find I have to make major cuts to the wooden components. Because of my lack of knowledge and experience in this type of modelling I’m convinced I’m going to cut off something vital. Easier to just go and make some more benchwork hey? 🙂 Well I made a real start on the ship model last night and in spite of having to lop bits off willy nilly from parts I have no familiarity with I’m going to keep at it. I’ll keep you posted.

I made a trip to Sydney this past weekend to attend the Aus7 Modellers Group biannual O-Scale Modellers Forum. I had to fly down and back on the Saturday but in spite of this rush and the late minute change of plans that caused it I had a great day. I got to hand out the group’s annual award to Roger Porter and also had plenty of opportunities to poke fun at Keiran Ryan, an opportunity that almost made the trip worthwhile all on its own. While I was there I purchased a set of ModelOKits brand new track laying guides.

I tried to buy a set of these guides while I was down in Sydney at the Liverpool exhibition but a technical hitch emerged and Glenn the proprietor of ModelOKits had to withdraw them from sale. I’m glad to say the issue seems to have been solved and I got a set on Saturday.

The guides are laser cut from what appears to be 3mm MDF and are designed to be used with commercial flex track. Micro Engineering track is sold by Glenn and while I’ve been using them with this type of track I’m sure they will work equally well with Peco track. There are seven curved guides and a straight one in each pack and they are provided in 1400mm through to 2000mm curves. Each guide has its size cut into its surface to aid in identifying which one you’re after.

This photo shows six of the guides spread out in front of QW.

I’ve never needed guides like these before because I’ve never used a great deal of flex track in the past. However as I’ve got plans to trial the use of ME flex track (both code 125 and code 100) on this new layout so I’m sure these will come in useful in getting the track laid.

I’m going to have a rant about Micro-Engineering flex track at this point so if you have pets or children in close proximity get them to avert their eyes. Generally speaking I have a great deal of time for ME products: I use their NS code 125 rail almost exclusively in building points and for the track on Morpeth. I appreciate them making 32mm gauge track available in a number of codes that are of use to a modeller like myself however there are two things that really get up my nose about this track and it’s not that fact that the sleepers are too slim and spaced too closely together to look much like Aussie track. I can live with this, after-all this is a US product made for that market. No, what really drives me bonkers is that they don’t make rail joiners to match their code 125 rail and calling their track “flex-track” could be considered misleading advertising in certain quarters.The track doesn’t flex worth a $%*&! and it’s ability to bend in a consistent and smooth manner is so poor that I’ve seriously thought about selling off my small supply and hand laying all my new track or (gasp) using Peco (which flexes very nicely thank you very much). Peco may look even less like Aussie track than ME but at least they sell matching rail joiners! When I asked the lovely girl at ME what to use with their track she used words to the effect that “word on the street” is that you should use Peco code 148 joiners. Having purchased and used some of these I can attest to the fact that they do sort of work but that they’re big and ugly and I suspect that over time, because they don’t hold the foot of the rail well (being made for 148 Peco rail) that the joins made with these joiners will work loose. Selling track without properly proportioned rail joiners is like Toyota selling a car without wheels and telling customers to buy the ones made by John Deere that were designed for a tractor! 🙂

I’ve had this can of Ezy Glide for years and it occasionally gets used to ease zippers or door/drawer slides. I haven’t purchased a can in yonks so I have no idea whether it’s still available.

In spite of reservations about how applying some sort of lubricant to this track may affect working with it later I decided to test a dry silicone lubricant to see if this allowed me to bend it into a vague approximation of a smooth curve. I put some newspaper down (remember leftover newspaper, it’s become an endangered species at my place) and gave one length of track a good squirt with some Ezy Glide I had sitting under the kitchen sink. The stuff stinks and while it is a dry lubricant I’ve always worried that using it on my track may adversely affect trying to paint or solder the track at a later date. I’m going to do some tests on this to see if my fears are justified. Use of something greasy like WD40 is not an option so I’m hoping that the Ezy Glide will be ok. Applying the lubricant did make a difference to getting the rack to flex but I wouldn’t describe the result as “problem solved”. The track became middling malleable after the lubricant was sprayed on and I was able to get the 2000mm track guide to sit between the rails. Trying this before the application of lubricant was a total failure. In spite of wrestling with it for 5-10 minutes I just couldn’t get the track to flex in a way that would produce a curve. It was that bad! I’ve read of other dry lubricants people have used to ease flex track, one on Gene Deimling’s P48 blog where he wrote about using a carbon based lubricant but I couldn’t find this commercially available in Australia. I’ll do some more testing and keep you posted.


3 thoughts on “Track Testing

  1. I can’t comment on the other scale track from micro engineering, but on their HO and On30 flex track, Windex is what works for me.

    Spay it on, and the rail now slides much more easily in the sleeper base (not as easily as peco, but better than ME flex normally does).

    I got the tip off a US forum. It mentioned that Windex was basically alcohol and soap. When sprayed on the flex, the soap allows the rail to slide in the tie strip better. The alcohol then evaporates away, and after a few minutes it all locks up again and hold the curve now set. No nasty residue left behind either.

    Any how, it might be worth a try.


  2. Hi Trevor, similar to John’s suggestion, I’ve put isocol in a spray bottle and found it does a good job as well.

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