Atlas Flex Track

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Bob Collins, Jul 1, 2001.

  1. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    I am just getting ready to lay track and happened to notice that with the 3 foot sections of Atlas Flex track the ties are not completeed connected on one side as they are on the other. Is the reason the one that seems so obvious to me.... that the track is meant to be laid so that side where the ties are not connected all the way along the length of the tack are meant to be laid on the inside of a curve? Can it be that simple?


    Rolla, Missouri

    And thanks to all of you who answered my question regarding transitioning from 100 to 83. I apparently forgot to click on the options button to be notified of any responses, so am just now reading them. Sorry.

  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    I suppose so. I use Peco flextrack, and it alternates from side to side with the "unjoined" ties. DOesn't matter which way you lay it. especially if you curve one way, then the other in the same piece. Dunno how the Atlas track would handle that.

  3. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    Thanks Woodie

    I have a feeling that I will have destroyed a few sections of track before I am completely comfortable with what I am doing. In just glancing at my layout I don't see yet where I will have a situation where I will have to bend a single piece of flex track both ways, but I'm sure it's there somewhere.

    I was reading another posting awhile ago from "nopoop" (I'm not even going to ask!. He/she was remarking about getting some track down and operating before running out of enthusiasm. I am beginning to understand what that is all about too. Read an interesting article in Model Railroader about just such a situation. I've modified my approach to allow me to get some track down that will allow me to play a little while I work. I'll lay main line and position the turnouts where they belong and get that all in working order while I tackle the yards. Summer and outside work take away some of my time from the layout, but that may be good too! It becomes something of a frustration not knowing about various pieces of equipment being available and then when I find out I have to stop doing that job, order the parts and wait for the mail. I have these two bridges with 100 track and I wanted to transition into 83. Several have suggested removing the 100 from the bridges which I have seriously considered right up until I discovered that Walthers builds a 6" section of transition track which sounds to me to be the ideal solution!

    I'm sure that after I attend the NMRA show in St. Louis (100 miles away) in a couple of weeks my enthusiasm will get a big boost!!

  4. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    A lot of contributors to The Guage seem to rely on mail order etc. Perhaps I am lucky in that I have a few suppliers within 15km of me, so If I need something, just wizz round the corner and get it!! I think we've all done the "WOOOOOPS...... stuff it... only got 2 switch motors.... needed 3 acutally...." or "bloomin' 'eck.... forgot the pack of insulated joiners!" cetera cetera! So.... you've built what you have so far, then put a bit of track down... and give it a bit of a decent TOOT!!!

    There were a few spots where i needed to curve one way then back again. To bring tracks together after a combined crossover. That turnout into the yards, where you wanted the yards at a different angle etc.

    I just laid the mainline, put in some turnouts where I needed, got some trains going and then (and still) completing the rest. However!!!! Don't be tempted to run your trains on the completed parts, and do some work on the additonal bits at the same time! Hands, fists, hammers, drills get in the way, and you will, (guarantee it!) that drill, screwdriver, leftover piece of track, will get inadvertently dropped/put on the mainline and KEEEEEERSMASH!..... Need I say more!

    TOOT! [​IMG]
  5. George

    George Member

    Hello Bob Collins!
    The key word here is "FLEX". The sleepers are not joined to allow the structure to be bent.

    One key fact the gallery has overlooked so far is that when laying flextrack, especially on a curve, the rail that slides goes on the OUTSIDE of the curve. Cheque it out, one rail moves through the tie plates, the other is locked down stationary!

    TADAAAA! Now you're cookin' with gas! [​IMG]

    Don't worry about the bottom, keep the slider on the outside!

  6. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member


    Well I'll be....... as many times as I have picked up the track I never noticed that just one rail will slide back and forth! I wonder how much frustration you have saved me with that valuable piece of info, much I imagine!
    As son as I receive the transition tracks I'll start laying some mainline. I looked and looked yesterday and decided to wait as starting to lay the track is best done at the bridges where I need the transition track. I will probably look one more day, then go in and tear out a place where I laid two 90 degree crossovers with what turned out to be a terrible glue. It bubbled and expanded right up through the ties. I think it will work okay, but I'm not sure I can cover it "properly" with ballast when I get to that point. Imagine I will get out the hobby knife first and see how much trimming is possible before I start ripping. If I have to take it up I will have to replace the cork roadbed too as I doubt that any of it will come apart. There again, if I can't reuse the crossovers I have to order some!!

    On the bright side, a gentleman from here in town who used to do some HO has moved to standard guage. He gave me eight InterMountain Railway Company, r-t-r freight cars and a Frisco caboose!

    Thanks again for the tip on the slide rail...all advise and assistance is readily accepted and greatly appreciated!!

    Bob Collins
    Rolla, MO USA
  7. George

    George Member


    Congratulations on your Intermountain windfall! Like friends with pools and boats, we all need friends like that! [​IMG]

    One thing as long as we're on the topic and especially for folks new to using flex, here's what I was told and it works, for me at least.....

    Buy a rail cutter (nipper) at your hobby shop. It looks like a regular wire cutter. DO NOT USE IT for cutting wire or anything else. Remember your mother giving you hell if you tried to use her sewing shears for anything other than material? Same concept. don't forget a small, fine metal file while you're at the store.

    When cutting rail, cut ONLY with the flat side facing the side you wish to use. The other side will give you a convex cut which must be filed flat, which is a royal headache if you've forgotten what you're doing, as it's time consuming to get it right. A nice flat cut requires minimal filing

    When you lay a piece from a straight section into a curve and run out of the length, lo and behold, one side will have more rail protruding than the other. DON'T PANIC! Most people mark both rails with a small file, then cut the rail at a parallel point in the curve. I do not do this.....

    Take an Exacto blade and cut the single tie off the track frame nearest the short end. Next, take the blade and razor off the tie plate grips that hold the rail. Put that little tie aside.

    Remember I said to keep the sliding rail on the OUTSIDE of the curve? Great! Take the next piece to be laid, and work the sliding tie into the protruding ties on the short end through the tieplate holders (plastic "spikes") to the short rail. Remember, where they join, you have to cut usually 2 ties away to fit a rail joiner. Put it on and crimp the sides down to hold the rail firmly. Now get the other side together the same way by cutting wherever necessary.

    The result is that you have succeeded in staggering the rail joints. This will hold together better for a smoother transition for your cars from one piece to another, especially on curves. The problem with making a parallel cut on a curve is that it's difficult to get the track leading into the next piece without a kink at the joint.

    Now you have some unsightly gaps where the railjoiners are located in the run. Take those spare ties you razored the plastic spikes off of, and SLIDE them underneath the joint with appropriate spacing. You have now done a pretty sharp job on concealing a rail joint of Flex Track.

    On straight sections, don't forget to leave a slight gap at every two joints for expansion, depending on your local climate swings.

    I hope this makes sense. Give it a shot and you'll figure out the concept quickly enough.

    One last thought. I've said it before here @TG more than once, and I'll say it here again. Don't chince on buying Flex. You can save some pennies buying Model Power Flex over Atlas, and it just isn't worth the aggravation if you're not used to working with Flex. Atlas holds up better while you are working with it, and it has superior detailing on the ties. Stick with Atlas.

    Happy Rails To Youuuuuuu! [​IMG]

  8. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member

    Hi George;

    My very first purchaces after erecting my benchwork were a small tool box with files, exacto blades, etc and a pair of Xuron rail nippers. They are made for novices like me as they have very clear written and picture instructions on the proper way to cut HO track (different than N and Z scales!!)

    When I get started I will follow your suggestions. It makes a lot of sense to me. I keep thinking I ought to solder joints, but I'm not taking that on right now. I guess I will have to face soldering eventually as I have seen no other way available to bring power to the track. I thought there was some sort of fastener that might be used and could be covered with ballast or scenery, etc, but I've never seen one advertised!?

    Thanks again.

  9. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    As an additional bit of info, Peco flextrack ties are "gapped" on alternate sides allowing either track to be on the outside/inside of the curve, and also allows curves that go both ways (left then right) such as the need to part tracks when moving around an island platform etc.

    George is right about cutting and joining on curves. I made that mistake! It leaves a kink which is very difficult to resolve, especially is you have "insulated" the join using platic joiners (that bend!)

  10. George

    George Member

    Power to the track-

    Spare yourself the mess of soldering and get Terminal Joiners - They're separate rail joiners with the wires already soldered in place. At the rail joint where you want to put a feeder, drill a small hole in the centre of the roadbed between the ties. With a small tool, gouge out the cork or whatever very slightly. Feed the wire down the hole, connect the rails with the joiner. From the bottom, gently pull the wire down flush, and with a small screwdriver, GENTLY push the joiner's tab with the wire feed down into the indentation you gouged out of the roadbed.

    Slop some ballast over the recessed tab and TADAAAAAAAAAAAA! You've cleanly hidden your power feed to the track. Sounds simple, but I bring it up because most people for some reason use terminal joiners and drill the holes on the OUTSIDE of the rail, which is more difficult to hide from view.

    Make sure that your rail joints are staggered. This is a must for this technique, as if the joints are parallel, the terminal joiners are too long to fit both between the same pair of ties. You'll get a short.

    Soldering Felx track Joints-

    Twenty years ago I knew a guy who soldered flex sections together to avoid joints on curves. He was thrilled with it. He was the only one, as I guess it's an art. Everyone else I knew who attempted this failed, cursed and surrendered. Keep in mind, this was pre-installation.

    Soldering joints after laying the track is not what it's cracked up to being either. It can help on a troublesome curve, but remember, you have to have gaps somewhere for expansion and contraction through the seasons.

    I've found it unnecessary to solder (or have a friend do it, as I can't solder to save my butt!)joints. Just stagger the joints, they're better off.

  11. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member


    I can't thank you enough for your advise and assistance. There is no doubt in my mind that you have saved me many hours and much frustration in getting my track down correctly the first time. Also,in doing some additional measuring, etc. while trying to figure all this out I figured out a better way to route in the trackage to a passenger station I want to move from the original plan. To do it the new way also offers me the opportunity to add another bridge which I like!

  12. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member


    Many thanks for all of your help. It sure is a case where two or three or even four heads are better than one. I am able to listen to nice folks like you and do a little additional reading and then go do the task correctly. It sure saves a lot of frustration!!

  13. George

    George Member

    Hi Bob!

    Glad we could all help. God knows in years past a quick answer meant wiating a week or two to get to a hobby shop and talk to "That Guy Behind the counter" who knew boundless more than I did. If we can save you hours of frustration as we used to have without a tool such as TG for quick reference and answers, it's all worth it. I'm no authority by any means. Wiring and I don't mix, that's why I don't work on the Shuttle! [​IMG] But I can get help here for all kinds of things, which is great.

    I must say that I like the approaches of other's that I never thought of before, nor heard of from people at shows or clubs. The learning process never ceases.

    Of the many answers you recieve here, which way is the right way? The fastest, correct way that works best for YOU. Just take your time and think it out before you start, and even as you begin, the original concept will evolve into something slightly different as unseen problems or situations crop up. Remember, you can sink in that time you save on the layout, BBQ, Hiking, Movies, whatever, even more time on the layout!.

    Wasting time on dead ends sucks, don't it??

  14. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member


    I have thought several times about just what you said, havibng to wait maybe weeks to get an answer on something that has you baffled. I can imagine that a lot of folks finally threw up their hands and walked away from a layout just because it was much more difficult to see progress.

    I have a foolow up question to the use of terminal joiners. There are quite a number of places on my layout (I'm trying to follow #82 in the 101 Track plans book Toledo and South Michigan) where it is necessary to use non-insulated joiners. I assume in using the terminal joiner for power I am going to have to cut the track between the insulated joiner where I might have soldered the power wire. Does that make sense to you?

  15. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    Not sure how big your layout is, but I think you may be "overpowering" it. I mean, you can't "OVER" power it, but it's not necessary to provide power at each join in the layout, nor is it necessary to solder the joins. I used railjoiners, no solder, and insulated (plastic joiners) where necessary. Also depends if you are using live-frog or insul-frog turnouts. I've provided power to my layout where its is necessary only because of insulation needs. Power is quite sufficient that way without voltage drop. I'm not running any "blocks"

    They talk that brass track is the best conductor, but I find no probs with the nickel/silver stuff.

    How big is the layout?

  16. George

    George Member

    Bob & Woodie,

    Woodie is correct on overpowering a layout. I asked someone, I think Shamus, about how far should a run go before you feed the rails again. Whoever it was told me "Every eight feet". I thought it might be excessive, but consider the source....Woodie, what's your take on that? On a 5' X 10' in the 70's, I had three separate power leads to the loop so the train wouldn't dramatically slow down on the opposite side from the power pack.

    Bob, I'm sketchy on what you've done. Where did you solder a wire, and if you're using insulated railjoiners (the plastic ones), why did you cut the rail? And ditto Woody's question, how large is your layout?

  17. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    I run two separate mainlines (an inner and outer) and I have powered the outer 3 times, and the inner twice. This was needed because of turnout requirements and insulation needs. (facing turnouts etc) not because of lack of power to a particular point. I don't get power fade anywhere on the layout. One particular feed powers 90% of the inner mainline. The other feed to that mainline just powers the section through the station. (opposing turnouts at either end of the platform required insulating).

  18. kf4jqd

    kf4jqd Active Member


    I used Atlas flex track. I have to admit, I made mistakes too. That is part of the learning process! [​IMG] I had to buy 4 pieces of track! oops! However, it works great.

    One mistake I made was cutting the track to short. However, I used it. You may ask what did I do about the gap at the joint. I soldered it. Then I smothed it out with my Dremel Tool. If I cut alittle of the ties, which I did. Oh well, I was going to lay ballast any way! I like to cheat and cover up my mistakes! [​IMG]

    Happy Railroading,
  19. Bob Collins

    Bob Collins Active Member


    I'm not certain if by answering one of you I will alert the others systems to tell you I have responded. I'll give it a try!

    To answer the first question: my layout is 10'X 21'. I am trying to duplicate Plan #82 from the book 101 Track Plans for Model Railroaders by the late Linn Westcott. The plan is called the Toledo and Southern Michigan RR.

    It is described as a loop to loop with a branch and gentle grades. I plan a couple of modifications as things don't quite fit as the author intended. There are two turntables and three yards. I am actually looking at the possibility of adding a small fourth yard, but haven't really decided yet. There are several passing sidings and spurs that can also be included.If my memory serves me correctly there are either 41 or 42 turnouts and really what I see to be lots of need to block wire the majority or all of the layout. I'm not concerned about fade, although maybe I should, but I don't reall think it is a problem and if it were it would be very easy to run and additional power source to the affected area.

    Early on I bought a Kalmbach book on layout wiring which I went back and scanned again last night. There is a section of a couple of pages regarding the use of terminal joiners that I certainly must have missed before. I estimate and I mean estimate, that to block wire as the plan outlines it will take about 40 terminal joiners to do it. When you have a couple of crossovers and all the leads into the yards it adds up very quickly I have found.

    To answer someones question about soldering and rail cutting I need to explain. I have done NO soldering. I'd like to avoid it if possible. My comment about cutting track was with regard to powering between insulated joiners which I need to use in quite a number of places to eliminate shorting. I see that you have two choices: if you solder you solder the track between the insulated joiners for power to that section. If you use the terminal joiners for the same piece of track between the insulated joiners it seems to me your only choice is to cut the track to install the terminal joiner. Am I missing something in this conversation??

    The other head scratcher I'm facing right now is about powering the switching machines for my turnouts. I bought a couple of Tortoise machines to see how I might use them. I think I will have no problerm where I want to use them on turnouts that are sitting on the roadbed affixed directly to the benchwork, but am concerned about how I might employ them where I have raised the track as much as 4" in some places. I could dig a hole in the styrofoam that I am using between the roadbed and the bench work (possibly) or maybe I can figure out how to create enough wiggle space under the turnout to be able to allow the switching mechanism to move enough to thrown the switch. I keep telling myself over and over that what ever I do that will work will be fine as I can always cover it up with "terrain."!!!

    I'm very tempted to ask which of you is the closest and would you like to come serve as an "onsite" consultant!! As things become a bit more technical I feel closer and closer to hitting the brick wall. I will build it, that I have promised myself, but it is going slower as I have to figure out some of the more intricate steps.

  20. billk

    billk Active Member

    Bob - My $0.02 - Atlas make track joiners with leads attached. Part #552 for Code 83, #842 for Code 100.
    Goto their web site for details -

    Also, I've read somewhere about mounting switch machines when foam is used, and seem to recall a problem with mounting directly to the foam, they had to fasten a "plate" to the foam and then the machine to the plate. The plate was nothing more than a small piece of plywood or whatever.

    [This message has been edited by billk (edited 07-05-2001).]

    [This message has been edited by billk (edited 07-05-2001).]

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