Are there any redeeming values to Peco flex track?

C&O_MountainMan Jun 13, 2022

  1. C&O_MountainMan

    C&O_MountainMan TrainBoard Member

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    (I’m working with Code 80)

    I find Peco flex track infuriating to work with. Yes, its semi-rigidity is nice for straight runs of track, but apart from that, I find it very problematic to work with. I bought some, figuring it’s rigidity would cause it to hold a pre-formed radius, and make it easier to work with. Well, it springs back plenty (even when trying to bend it to the modest 22” radius of my main line). And because of the springback, I have to re-curve it numerous times when cutting and test-fitting.

    Invariably, because both rails are allowed to slide in the ties, the groups of ties work themselves farther apart, which creates an annoying tendency for ties to work off the ends of the rails. (The positive capture of one rail, a la Atlas flex track, prevents this)

    The rail-holding portion of the ties is overly delicate, as well - I have yet to escape the curse of an inch or two of rail popping free from the ties when filing the end of a clipped rail. The type of file I use is officially classified as a “woo woo woo” file, (of unmarried parentage, if that word doesn’t make it past the filter), but I’m thinking it ain’t the only one in the room when I’m having to jack around with Peco flextrack.

    And then comes the necessary exercise of sliding the rail back though enough ties, so I can slide it forward again to thread it back through the little hold-downs. I’ve never had to do that with Atlas.

    It’s gonna be one dern bad time if a rail escapes captivity after its affixed to the layout.

    I’m not some dang modeling brute, nor an impatient sort. I used to do wooden model ships (and still may again, someday), no kits, get on the phone to the Smithsonian (yep, really) and order a set of ship’s drawing, hand select my lumber and go to work. I can turn out a hundred identical belaying pins by hand with a sub-toothpick-sized bit of exotic wood chucked up in a moto-tool at just one end, with a file. I’m patient enough to re-rig or re-tension an entire set of backstays and forestays to eliminate any curvature from a mast.

    But this Peco flex track makes me regret my life decisions.

    So how about it? Does Peco flex track offer some unique benefit(s) that I’m not seeing, that make it worth the ills suffered during preparation and installation?

    Is there some way to ameliorate the difficulties of working with this stuff? I think nothing of pre-joining two pieces of Atlas flextrack together, to eliminate some of the track end-clipping, but the higher likelihood of rail popout due to handling a larger, more unwieldy piece (combined with the captured rail joiners in the middle making sliding the rail more difficult), just dissuade me from going that route with Peco.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2022
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  2. Hoghead2

    Hoghead2 TrainBoard Member

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    Having failed in our attempts to enslave the World, us evil Brits resort to petty torments to spite the free World. Peco flex track is just one example. If you ever succeed in laying it it will drive you nuts with it's lousy sleeper spacing. Muwuhuhaha! (Sounds of evil laughter). Fight back, the Fourth of July is at hand! Celebrate by throwing the track in a convenient harbor, along with any Brits at hand and their wretched tea. :)
     
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  3. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    Anyone not wanting their Peco Flex track can send me a PM. I will gladly take it off your hands and give it a home where it will be welcomed and cherished. I am currently in charge of building n N scale layout for a DARE model RR club and contributions are welcomed. We already have a large G scale layout as well as an O scale, S scale and HO scale. We are in the process of building a 6X12 N scale layout. All contributions should be sent directly to the club. I will provide the address in a PM as I do not want to violate any forum rules that may apply.
     
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  4. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I was thinking a bon fire ! Well the track anyways...LOL. Would be more fitting for the 4th of July...JS. ;)(y)(y)
     
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  5. C&O_MountainMan

    C&O_MountainMan TrainBoard Member

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    Yeeaaaaaahhhh, I should have known it was the fault of imperialist swine!;) (j/k!)

    And if you’re asking for a contribution of Peco flextrack, it sounds like you would be in a position to answer my request for a contribution of advice. Seems we are at something of an impasse.
     
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  6. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Is this what became of Lucas Electrics, the Prince of Darkness?
     
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  7. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    You say Peeco and I say Payco...

    :D

    Doug
     
  8. Hoghead2

    Hoghead2 TrainBoard Member

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    But seriously folks, various methods are used here in Blighty. There are some anodised aluminium templates of various radii that can be inserted between the rails to hold it's shape, or used to check as you go. Some of us use glue and weights to secure the track. I tend to spike mine at regular intervals and work round the curve.
     
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  9. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    I just re-read your original post. I missed the fact you were using C80 track. While the C80 is not bad the C55 is a lot better. This is particularly true in the switches. C80 switches are designed to NEMA standards (European) while C55 is designed to NMRA (American) standards. This is particularly true in the flangeway of the stock rail opposite the frog in the switch. The C80 flangeway is wider and this can lead to derailments. As for the flex track people will tell you that the Peco C55 is really C80 but has a double base with the lower one imbedded in the tie. This gives the rail a robustness that its C80 counterpart, as well as other track brands, lack. That being said the double base allows C55 and C80 to join with no need to shim the C55 so the railheads are at the same height. That 'springiness' that you experienced is a good thing. It indicates there is a high percentage of nickel in the rail. Nickel silver rail contains no silver whatsoever. It is an alloy of brass and nickel. Nickel and brass both form oxides when exposed to air (oxygen). But brass oxide does not conduct electricity whereas nickel oxide does. That is very important if you want to run trains rather than clean track. Because it is an allloy and not a chemical compound, the precentage of nickel in nickel silver rail can be raised or lowered. A low percentage of nickel means you clean track more often. The price of nickel on the world market has varied greatly from a low of $7500 a metric tonne to over $100,000. So when track is produced is important. My rule of thumb is when buying flex track is to bend one piece. If it stays bent do not buy it. If it springs back then buy it. Several years back at a train show a vender had some Model Power flex track. He claimed it was old stock that he could not sell. I have no idea when Model Power made this track but he said the reason no one wanted it was that it would not hold a curved shape. He had two boxes of it. The price? It was $1.47 + tax for each piece. I bought both boxes. As far as advice on how to work with it, follow the advice given by Hoghead2 above and spike it down as you go and be sure to leave some small gaps (.015") between each piece for thermal expansion.
     
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  10. tonkphilip

    tonkphilip TrainBoard Member

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    I agree that the Code 55 is better. I have used the same Peco C55 track since the mid 1980s and it has always been reliable and well made. The Peco N Code 55 track holds its shape, is very robust and looks better than the Peco Code 80. An advantage for Peco track is the large range of high quality turnouts and the strong turnout spring that holds the point blades securely against the stock rails without using a Caboose throw or switch machine. With Peco Code 80 turnouts, you get the easy to use InsulFrogs (Insulated Frog) but I much prefer the Live Frog (metal) that you get with the Peco Code 55 turnouts. Another advantage for Peco is that it is almost always available as it comes from the UK instead of China. I still use some Peco Code 80 for staging tracks as it is still good track. However, Atlas Code 80 track is usually less expensive in the USA than Peco! You can also use Atlas Code 55 which looks and works great but it is not at all robust compared to Peco Code 55. - Tonkphilip
     
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  11. C&O_MountainMan

    C&O_MountainMan TrainBoard Member

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    Alright, for a few days, i have started putting together a lengthy response it says "draft saved'" and then I go to be before finishing, and when I come back to it the next day, the draft that was 'saved" is gone.

    So, trying to keep it brief:

    If we're going to talk hat is an alloy, vs. what is a compound, then let's get it right across t he board: brass is an alloy, too (copper and zinc, with the zinc content spanning from 6% to 37%), and there is no such thing as "brass oxide," it consists of the common forms of copper oxides, and zinc oxide (the grey that galvanized steel, like chain link fence, gets after a while)

    I think your characterizations of nickel content ant how often you have to clean are overstated. My Atlas flex track and what Bachmann E-Z track I have lying around stay clean when not in use, whether it's boxed up, or out in the open, I only have to clean track whenever I run. Let's face some certain realities here: If oxidation is the prime cause of poor conductivity and the need to clean track, then running trains on the track, should abrade any oxides away, keeping track clean and bright, and at it's most conductive. It is things like plastic wheels, traction tires, and lubrication residues that coat the track that primarily necessitate cleaning.

    And you absolutely CAN'T evaluate nickel content by how much springback a track has. It is popularly said on the forum here that Peco flex track has higher nickel content then t he other manufacturers, without any information offered to support that statement. My Atlas flex track is, however, the Springback King; I had several pieces coiled up in a box (unbeknown to me) since late 2016/early 2017. I opened it up this past December, and found it coiled up to a six-inch diameter. (Not radius, but DIAMETER) Upon liberating it from it unjust shackles, it unwound, and was bowed about 1" after laying out, un constrained for a couple of days. My Peco flex track, on the other hand, after test-fitting it to a 22" radius, was still holding about a 36" radius after a couple of days laying around free.

    The truth is that flextrack in its lateral bending plane behaves like a tiny composite I-beam, with the rails analogous to the two flanges of the I-beam, and the ties binding the rails together are analogous to the web. The friction between the tie/rail holddown points and the captured rail ,is almost all of the bending stiffness of the "web." And without the web, all you have is the bending resistance of two tiny independent metal ribbons. Atlas has good springback because one rail slides pretty freely in the holddowns/simulated spikes. The other side that holds the ties with an iron grip contributes no resistance to bending nor prevention of springback, because without the friction on the opposing rail, the friction in the tight ties is not being exercised by any bending action, so the elasticity of the rails will straighten the assembly freely.

    Skeptical? Here consider this past week: My piece of Peco flex track hangs on to a 36-inch radius after letting it go. Except now, after test-fitting that same piece into place daily after each effort at dressing up my plaster work in a slope transition area, it won't hold the radius. So, it's springback has changed. I don't think it is sensible at all to conclude that the nickel content has gone down. Likewise, I would assert that a dozen or twenty test-fits to a 22" radius curve haven't caused any fatigue cracks in the rails. What has happened in those 12-20 flexes, is that the delicate little simulated spikes in the Peco flextrack have given up the ghost, and they are not presenting as much friction to either resist bending or resist springback. The web of the I-beam has gone all flaccid. (If it was fatigue, the friction in the ties would allow them to a tighter radius, rather than let the track go back to straight. it is now a very "lifeless" piece of track to me, and both rails at one end have liberated themselves from about ten ties.

    Likewise, you can't draw reliable conclusions about nickel content from batch/lot dates, either. Unless the various manufacturers are buying in synchronization, you're going to have manufacturers buying batches/lots at different times, and different sizes of buys of ingots/blanks from different manufacturers will cause further differences to the timing of any alloy variations among the different producers' material stock. And are they getting their ingots/blanks from the same suppliers, or not? That will also introduce timeline differences among the track manufactures.
     
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  12. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I will be first to jump in here and disagree. This debate has been going on for decades !! The electrical 'arcing' between the metal locomotive wheels and the rail causes the minute deposits on the rails. This 'gunk' build up as some call it is what we have to keep cleaning all the time. There are threads upon threads even here on TB about this. Things like 'No-Ox' are purported to reduce this 'arching'.

    BTW...the heated arguments continue about which keeps the track cleaner...plastic wheels or metal wheels on rolling stock and I don't wanna shake that tree again....lol.;)
    .
     
  13. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    The best wheels are those made from Buitoni wagon wheels macaroni. Captain Kangaroo said so.

    Doug
     
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  14. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Wouldn't the gunk on the tracks and mechanisms be from the atmosphere around us? Especially our contaminated breath?
     
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  15. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    It's a combination of everything that happens to be there and gets stuck to the rails.

    Doug
     
  16. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    Peco flex track is a pain in the neck to work with. The rigidity is a deciding factor. If you like that and are willing to fight, wrestle and bend the heck out of it you might make it work. I prefer other brands of flex track.

    I prefer the Peco switches over most others out there. Preferring to work with them in the yards with manual hand throws. Also prefer Kato #6 switches on the main line. Nice combination with few derailments.

    I won't get into the Environmental Build Up, Arcing, No-ox isshes. All of this happens on every layout out there. Not going to do that. To many experts out there that think they know more then I do. :eek: :mad::confused:

    Well, this discussion has gone on for generations of N scale model railroaders and will most likely continue. Whatever choice you make will be the right one for you.

    As to my Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration. I'm going to blow up a Bachmann steam engine. Think I finally found a purpose for them. :p :LOL: LOL
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2022
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  17. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    Awwwww come-on Rick !! Let's resurrect one of them 'gunk on rail' threads and re-debate (argue) some more...:censored::cautious::mad::LOL::ROFLMAO:
     
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  18. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    I think part of it is the chocolate that falls on the rails when I eat Hershey's Milk Chocolate with Almonds.

    Doug
     
  19. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    ^^^ THIS ^^^ :LOL::LOL:(y)(y)
     
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  20. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    So all electric, even with computer control, doesn't help the economy or ecology? :coffee:
     
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