I have just sent the following to Pat at MRE Mag, and wanted to post it here in case Pat edits it to bits, or doesn't post it on the site.
Comments, as ever, are most welcome.
In response to Anthony New's posting on EM/P4 track, I believe he has dismissed a few things without properly looking into them.
Firstly he says that the biggest obstacle in producing ready to lay scale pointwork is the fixed shapes of the points. The thing is that prototype pointwork also follows "fixed shapes," or more correctly, standard geometry. The switch or blade end of a turnout is an A, B, C, etc. The higher the letter the longer the switchblade and wider the radius. Likewise the angle of the crossing Vee is 1:4, 1:5, 1:6, etc. Hence a B6 turnout (point) has a type B switch blade, and a 1:6 crossein angle, if thats not fixed shapes I'd like to know what is! If you want to make a curved point, you simply cut the webs between the sleepers and bend the thing, much like flexi track, and in exactly the same way that you can with Peco's "00" points.
He also seems to think that most people are incapable of laying track, I personally doubt this is true, the people who don't lay the track at clubs probably prefer to build stock or scenics.
Paul Plowman's queries about coarse standard 18.83mm gauge, are indeed very achievable. Make the flange a little thicker and deeper and you will find you have a narrower back to back dimension, without affecting the overall wheelset width, and no it won't fall off the track as Anthony seems to think it will, try gauging a set of Alan Gibson 00 wheels to 17mm back to back and you will see what I mean.
As for the comments about P4 modellers prefering to build everything by hand, well, thats the first I've heard of it! All my P4 loco's, and most of my wagons are RTR models with new wheelsets, my track is ready to lay flexitrack, and this is the case for most of the P4 modellers I know. Yes, there are more scratchbuilders and kit builders in P4 than the other gauges, the reason is simple, if your going to go to the trouble of building something that isn't available off the shelf, you might as well build it correctly!
It is a simple fact that 00 gauge is narrow, you can try to hide it, you can ignore it, you can stand several feet away from it at ground level so you can't see it, but it is still wrong! The gauge error is about the same as building a model of an LNER pacific as a 4-4-2, would you be willing to accept that compromise? After all, if you viewed it from a certain angle a few feet away you wouldn't notice it, right?
I don't think many people would be willing to accept that. When a new RTR loco comes out with a body that is 2mm too wide, what happens? The magazine reviewers notice it, the modellers that buy it notice it, and the web is filled with people saying how terrible it is that a manufacturer can release something with such a major inaccuracy. Likewise the boiler of a new steam loco is undersize, and the same thing happens. Yet when the gauge is more than 2mm too narrow, and the wheels are twice the width they should be what happens? Not much, some say don't look at it and you won't notice the problem, others come up with excuses for why the problem exists, and why it shouldn't be fixed. Come on people, where's the continuity?
You model scenery at 4mm to the foot,
you model buldings at 4mm to the foot,
you model locomotive, coach, and wagon bodies at 4mm to the foot,
so your most of the way there already!