S N A P Vs. F L E X T R A C K

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by George, Jun 8, 2001.

  1. George

    George Member

    SNAP Track. We all started with it. You opened a box at Christmas, or your birthday and you never got so excited before over odd shaped plastic and metal. You probably didn't even know there was anything wrong with the track being brass either! What's more, you were so euphoric, had you been told you would not have even cared!

    That first collection of SNAP Track fueled the imagination. If you were "moving down" from Lionel to a smaller scale, finally you had something that looked like the real thing instead of three rails and a scant rationing of sleepers for your trains. As your interest unfolded, you discovered that you could buy pieces in almost every conceivable length from 9" down to 1/2".

    Remember going from 18" to 22" radius and thinking you had gone "HIGH TECH"? We were all duly impressed, I bet! Remember the first time you said to yourself, "Now I can hardly wait to go back to the hobby shop and get some 24" radius curve track, maybe I'll even go 30!" But alas, at the end of that 22" radius curve, there was a SNAP track bumper to halt your Twilight Cranium Express. 35 years later, I still can't figure out why they stopped at 22".

    Then you spied an ad in a magazine offering three foot sections of something called FLEX TRACK. WOW! Long straight sections, and it bent to order! Then we all found an article somewhere expounding on the virtues of FLEX over SNAP. We discovered the ability to make a curve any harebrained radius desired, or even dictated by limited space. Our trains suddenly had the ability to glide into curves and along natural river banks as never before. Modellers are even able to solder joints to replicate contemporary seamless welded rail for miles of scale miles! Imagine!

    Sooooo, we all grew up and became adult model railroaders and we all use FLEX track now just like modellers do in every article we read, RIGHT?

    Well guys, now comes the pail of cold water here. I'm beginning to think we were a bit rash. Perhaps, we were even WRONG.

    I was thrilled with FLEX ever since the first time I used some in 1969. I got tired of derailments in a tunnel, so I bought a piece and replaced the SNAP, miraculously curing the problem. I was hooked.

    Due to budgetary considerations and life in general, I never went totally FLEX until my previous layout which I finished in 1988. New product developments were really an accomplishment for the industry and I was fully enjoying the advantages of it. SNAP was a thing of the past! [​IMG]

    Everything was hunky-dory until my mother, of all people, happened by for a visit. I had just purchased the IHC Mountain in CN and thought I'd run it for her, as it would spark memories of the past. I took her into the layout room and she was impressed with the work I'd done, especially the benchwork!

    At one point while the train was running with a consist of heavy weight passenger cars, I turned to say something and was surprised to see a bewildered look on her face. I said;

    "What's the matter?"

    "It's so strange. I don't hear ANY CLICKETY-CLACK from the wheels, and the train's running right under my nose! Is there something wrong with my hearing?"

    I was thunderstruck! This had never occurred to me. With the advantage of FLEX track, we created the disadvantage of terminating our beloved CLICKETY-CLACK. I explained to her why this had occurred and she examined the track and was duly impressed. She'd been there for the evolution of my interest in the hobby as a child, and had accompanied me enough in previous decades to a hobby shop to know what was going on, and appreciate it.

    When we had enough of the trains, I shut everything down and we adjourned to the living room. I paused as I was closing the door to keep the cat out. Wistfully looking back at a handsome layout that I was proud of,(and miss!) I couldn't help feeling that somehow, something very basic, yet precious was missing.

    Well, the work was done and time was short. I put the thought out of my mind and enjoyed that layout to the fullest. But now another layout is under construction, and another rare opportunity to correct previous mistakes in life presents itself.

    I presently have just over 25% of the track work laid. It's a four track design for running with a large junction packed with turnouts and crossovers on one side for appearance. It occurred to me while looking at the junction and running a train through it, that the magic had returned to my ears and for a few moments, that immortal CLICKETY CLACK was heard once more.

    Here's the question. How many of you have intentionally reverted to SNAP TRACK in a limited quantity to restricted areas for the sole purpose of having the sound of the train pounding over rail joints? I ask this especially to those of you modelling the eras before 1974? SNAG! They didn't have welded rail before then!

    I realize that this will bring a whole slew of old solved problems back into play (wheel wear, resistance...)and I don't want to go back to a 22" radius curve unless it's hidden in a tunnel, but I now think this feature is a must where it can be seen as well as heard. I have decided to do one area in SNAP where there are two isolated tracks, and ALL the bridges will be equipped with SNAP just for the sound.

    Funny thing is that this angle doesn't seem to occur very often to friends in the hobby, as it probably should. It's the visitors outside of the hobby who definately notice it more, and oddly enough, look for it as well.

    Initially this wasn't even an issue of "not knowing what you've got til it's gone", it just slipped the brain!

    So friends, what are your thoughts on this subject? [​IMG]

    George [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by George (edited 06-08-2001).]

    [This message has been edited by George (edited 06-08-2001).]
  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    Gary is right. I "accidentally" discovered the clickety-clack when I had to cut the rail for insulation purposes, and then "heard" the clickety clack and thought [​IMG] That's just the right sound! I hadn't really thought of it before. I'm not about to cut the track every 150mm or so, just to get that sound though, especially having to wire the join for continuous circuitry. I'll be happy with the clickety clack over turnouts/crossover joins that "just don't quite meet", but the cut rail clickety clack is far more realistic that the turnouts/crossovers.
  3. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi all,
    I file a small "V" in my rails, but stagger the "V" by 1/4" for a better sound. I am not sure about this, but was told that the, rails in the USA are staggered anyway, but they are not in the UK.
  4. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    George, I generally hand lay my track, but the length of the rail is about the same, and I too want the sound of wheels crossing rail joints, it is easily accomplished by sawing a slot every 39 scale feet! Try it, you'll like it.

  5. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Woodie, No need to cut all the way thru the rail, just a cut thru the railhead. I use a modelers saw, but I also am doing my cutting on loose rail prior to laying. A cutoff disc in a Dremel would work for flex track, but might create too large of a slot. I hadn't thought of Shamus's idea of using a file, that seems like a great choice.

    Shamus, I love your photos! Thanks so much for posting them.

  6. George

    George Member


    How large a gap are you talking about? It would only have to be a slight one, but with a saw, that can be difficult. If one uses SNAP track, the joints will be snug, or slightly apart depending on the time of year. I'm just worrying about beating the hell out of the wheel sets doing it this way with a gap made by a saw.

    Shamus, you've got an interesting idea. You regain the sound effect while preserving the integrity and advantages of Flex Track construction, but why do you make a "V" instead of a tiny slot? Using a file sounds better as well, as a smaller grove can probably be achieved than using a Dremel or a small saw. Shamus, you must be talking about something really small, right?

    There's a new product innovation, Flex Track with slots or "V's" cut in as an option.

    Woodie, you have a decent option: To rely upon the crossovers, which certainly can be noisy. That probably will do the job with enough crossovers close enough together, say every two to three feet.

    I'm going to leave the flex alone in one area, as the sound of going over multiple crossings and crossovers will overpower anything else aduible from the wheels.

    How many times have you had to really speak up to be heard in a room full of running trains because of the CLICKETY-CLACK? [​IMG]

  7. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

    Well now, I don't even remember the N gauge units making the clickety clacks but what I do enjoy is the rumble a 20 car train makes. For my sound effects including clickety clacks I play some of those green frog backround tapes through an old auto reverse car tape player. Speakers are spread out under the layout and the sound effect, including birds, is great. Nothing like the real thing.

    NARA member #2
    http://members.nbci.com/Matthyro MAT
  8. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    If you are after a real sound effects, there is an article called "Sound & light Effects - The inexpensive way " in the Academy/Archive here in the gauge.

    shamus [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by shamus (edited 06-12-2001).]
  9. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    George, I use an Exacto modelers saw, and I make just one light pass. All you want to do is make a visible slot. By staggering the cuts on opposite rails and placing them 39 scale feet apart, you not only get the benefit of the clickety clack but also the visual appearance of individual lengths of rail. This can be enhanced by making fish plates from .0010 styrene and a ponce wheel, trimming to fit the rail web, using CA to fasten them in place. Admittedly, this is tedious, and I have not done so yet. I have bought the ponce wheel (from Micromark) and do intend to get around to it, I have a lot of track yet to lay (after I finish more benchwork!) A swipe with a bright boy or similar track cleaning devise will remove any burrs which may cause any of the wear you mention. I have been running trains over these gaps for a couple years with no sign of any problem.

  10. George

    George Member


    I like the idea, but those fish plates had better be awfully thin so they don't interfere with the wheels, or there will be your source of "CLICKETY-CLACK"!

    Robin, from my experience with "N", the little trains go "Clickety-Click, Squeakety-Squeak, Squeakety-Click, Clickety-Click". [​IMG]

    I think I smell a children's story somewhere in there! [​IMG]

    You're on to the best way out. Run a CD and put the time into painting the rail the correct colour.

  11. Vincent

    Vincent New Member

    I use all flex track & get a lot of clickety-clack with metal wheels on my cars.
  12. George

    George Member

    You know something Vincent?

    I was sitting on the train just last night thinking about this. It struck me as strange that at speed on welded rail, there's still so much rhythmic sound to be heard in a coach, especially sitting near the truck. In fact, going into the vestibule, it sounded as if we were on non-welded track. The train was on an open run, far from any crossovers.

    I think the noisiest ride I ever had was in a vestibule on a packed train in Belgium. Maybe that's why I don't hear as well as I should for years!


  13. Vincent

    Vincent New Member

    George I know all about that hearing. But I can hear my trains better than anything LOL.

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