14.2mm Gauge Flexible Track
Review by Nigel Brown
Originally published in Mixed Traffic 175 April 2009
Updated 11 July 2016
3mm Society: £6.20 yard; 5 yds £28.40 + P&P (at 15 May 2016)
Available through the 3mm Society
Modellers using 14.2mm gauge track have been after a product like this for years. Now at last it has arrived. For your money you receive a bag of sprues of track base panel sufficient for one yard, together with instructions, plus Society Code 60 bullhead rail for one yard; there is a discount for purchasing five yards at a time. There are two panels to each sprue, each panel consisting of six sleepers joined together by a thin web underneath where the rail will go; on alternate sides there is a gap in the web, to allow the panel to be curved. A Stanley knife will detach a panel from the rest of the sprue, cleanly and in no time at all.
The sleepers are very cleanly moulded, with a textured surface on top to prevent them having an unnatural smoothness, and the 3 bolt chairs are very neatly moulded. The sleepers are spaced at scale 2ft 6in centres, a common spacing, are the normal scale 10in wide, and a scale 9ft long. This is correct for anything up until 1918; after that 8ft 6in sleepers were gradually introduced for main lines, and after Nationalisation 9ft sleepers were found mainly in sidings. If you have a good guillotine such as a NSWL Chopper then you can chop 0.75mm off the ends of the sleepers in a batch of panels very quickly indeed to produce 8ft 6in panels. The sleepers are 1mm deep, which should give them enough strength while being easy to ballast. Fig.2 shows a sprue as received, a detached panel, and a panel whose sleepers have been reduced to 8ft 6in.
The instructions are brief but appropriate. Give the rail a good wipe; I ran cotton buds along it. Remove any burrs on the ends. Make sure the rail is the right way up, then feed it through the chairs. That’s all there is to it. The rail goes in very easily indeed, and once in the track can be flexed as easily as any flexible track I’ve ever come across: it doesn’t come better than this. I did wonder if the rail was being held too loosely, but the chairs seem to hold it in the right position with no sideplay, and a Finney & Smith track gauge fitted perfectly.
For laying track I normally print out a track template using Templot software, place some double-sided tape along the line of the track and build the track on top of that. Now we 14.2mm gaugers tend to be a fussy lot, and like to get things like the sleepers in the right positions as indicated on the template, which means that they need to be closer together where the rail joints are deemed to occur. I started with some straight track; once I’d fed the rail through the panels I turned it over and cut a bit out of the webs on both sides where the sleepers needed to be closer. Holding the track above the template and starting from one end, I found it quite easy to position each sleeper in the right position both sideways and along the track and when satisfied to press it down onto the tape. I reckon the end result is actually neater, and an awful lot easier, than the track I build by hand. The result is shown in Fig.1. The next issue is laying curves. If you’re not fussy, there’s no problem. But if you want your sleepers in the right places then the spacing is no longer adequate, so you need proceed as for the straight track but cut the webs between all the sleepers.
Another issue relates to turnouts. As currently only plain track is provided, you’ll need to be able to match it to turnouts produced by some other method. The critical measurement to match is the height of the rail top above the base of the sleepers; on the new track this is about 3mm. I normally use Ian Osborne’s chairs glued to 0.75mm-thick Plastruct or Evergreen strip for the turnout timbers, for which I found that the equivalent measurement is 2.9mm. I reckoned that the 0.1mm difference should be OK if the two methods meet in the middle of a bit of rail, but it might be a good idea to avoid the two methods meeting at a rail joint. [Matching chairs are now available from the Society (see below)]. In the case of a turnout the solution seemed to be to replace the sleeper I’d normally use at each rail end with a sleeper cut from a track panel.
To test the curving and turnout issues, I decided to try something I’d had in mind for some time, to build a “difficult” piece of track to see how my stock coped with it. In Templot I drew a 32in-radius curved track, sharp for 14.2mm gauge, and placed an asymmetrical Y turnout in the middle. I built the turnout in the normal way but used a panel sleeper at each track end. Then I added the curved plain track. Like the straight track, this went in place very easily; however, I did curve the rail beforehand to the 32in curvature of the track, to avoid side stresses and their effects, and reckon that this was a good idea. I tried both short-wheelbase goods stock and a long-wheelbase Fruit D on the track, and all worked fine. This is shown in Fig.3.
This superb product is very reasonably priced, and it will give those interested in 14.2mm gauge a terrific boost. If this is where your interests lie, then get some. You will find uses for it which you’ve hardly thought of.
The next step for the Society is to produce individual chairs to match, for point building. The sooner the better! Buying this track now will help finance that expensive investment, so will itself yield further benefits. Well done to all those involved in this track’s production.
[Matching chairs are now available as well as 13.5mm gauge flexible track. See Price List]