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entry 20 Aug 2013, 17:05
Choosing a type of track for this layout has been a bit of a challenge, but it looks like there might be a new solution!

I’ve always planned to use 2mm scale track components from the 2mm Scale Association. The track has a much finer and realistic look than standard off-the-shelf track, even the finescale variants. However, because of the track radiuses required to fit the layout in to the space available, the track cannot be built to the full 2mm Scale Association Standards. The compromise is that I would have to use the 2mm scale components but build the track to the N Gauge Standards, which give me the tighter curves required.

However, compromising means that there are some sacrifices that need to be made…

The 2mm Scale Association produces a solution for building track called Easitrac, which utilises moulded plastic sleepers. These sleepers are moulded complete with chairs that the hold the rails in place (just like the real thing!).

I think that visually, this method produces the best looking track at this scale. There is a slight problem however…

In the 2mm Scale Standards, and therefore with Easitrac, the track gauge (or the distance between the rails) is 9.42 millimetres. When building to N Gauge Standards, this doesn’t present much of a problem. The track gauge for N Gauge is 9 millimetres, a difference of less than half a millimetre. The problem becomes more noticeable when it comes to constructing points.

The points need to be built to the N Gauge Standards to ensure that N Gauge Sized wheels can pass through cleanly. When you add the extra rails and detail required to construct a point, the .42 of a millimetre does become noticeable and the track doesn’t look quite “right”.

Because of this I decided to switch to the “old school” method of soldering rail to sleepers cut from circuit board material. The circuit board material is clad in a thin layer of copper which you can solder the rails to. This means that the track and point work can be constructed with the N Gauge rail spacing of 9mm. With a great deal of practice you can actually achieve some great looking track with this method, but it does take a lot more skill with a soldering iron.

There are other drawbacks to this method. The circuit board material used to create the sleepers is becoming rarer to find. Circuit boards are now generally made from glass-reinforced plastic laminate sheets, rather than from synthetic resin bonded paper sheets, which cannot be as easily cut down to the tiny sizes needed for modelling purposes. Also to create track which resembles real-life track several components are required to be soldered together, which adds more time to the process as well as expense.

Again, this method isn’t ideal. As this is a long-term project it seems a bit foolish to start using a method when the supplies are dwindling and might not be as readily available in the future.

There is another option, which has only just emerged. A new method of track building has been released this month! It is from a company called British Finescale and is called fiNetrax.

In case you haven’t already guessed, the big capital N stands for N Gauge. This method of track building is based on the Easitrac method of using moulded plastic sleepers, but the system is designed with the N Gauge Standard gauge of 9 millimetres.

This system looks like it could be the answer to my problems. The track should visually be the same quality of Easitrack, solving the problem with the look of the points. It’s actually a system that I can use to build the track I am looking for, with no compromises necessary.

The system is not entirely without issues. It is very early days, like I mentioned earlier the company has only started selling the product in the last few weeks. There is also a very limited range of products at the moment, but I’m sure these gaps will be filled in time. There seems to be a market for other modellers who wish to build in N Gauge, but with a much finer quality of track.

I’m excited to see how the product range develops, and as the system is very closely based on Easitrac I’m hoping that some of the 2mm Scale Association parts will be compatible without too much adaptation required.

I’m planning to build a test section, but it looks like this brand new system of track building will become the method of choice for “Murder on the Tracks”. It certainly seems to fit in with what seems to be a reoccurring theme of using the latest technologies to build this layout!

Read this post, complete with pictures, here

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