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Discussion Starter #1
Okay so in my never ending quest for knowledge before I buy too much I've discovered flex track. It sounds like a good idea as the number of connections on the whole line significantly decreases, and you can match the track to your layout. But I can't figure out how you connect them or how durable they are because they must be made out of material that flexes:confused:. Secondly what's a rerailer? I thought they just re-applied the conductive part of the track but now it sounds like they're what put the power from the controller to the tracks. Lastly my nine year old brother wants to have a train on my track as well so I'll need a DCC, correct? So my question is: What's a good DCC unit to start with and are brands cross compatible? (we want to run Athearn engines but I've seen an affordable Bachmann controller)
 

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Flex track is able to flex because one of the rails is not permanently attached to the ties. It slides through the ties. You can actually slide that rail completely out and have the tie assembly and one rail left. The ties themselves are formed in what looks, from the bottom, to be a very long repeating 'S' curve, for lack of a better explanation. The S curve and the sliding rail are what allow the track to flex. If you go to a hobby shop and examine a piece, you'll see what I mean. Flex tack can be very useful, but it can be tricky to lay properly. There are others on this board who probably have more practice with it than I do.
A rerailer is a piece of track the has a fake road crossing built into it. It helps to get all the wheels properly on the track when placing cars and locomotives on the track. Place the car on the track and run it back and forth through the rerailer a couple of times and you're done. They also help to keep the wheels on the track while train is running, as they pass over it. A few rerailers strategically placed around the layout is a good idea.
Train sets out of a box usually use special rerailers with terminals built into them to provide power to the track, but they are also available without wire terminals.
As far as DCC goes, IMO the Bachmann controller is a good, very basic unit. It does have some rather significant limitations to it though. You cannot change any of the control values programmed into a locomotives decoder, which means you can't change a setting you don't like on the locomotive. It only has a capacity of controlling 10 locomotives, 9 DCC and one DC.
If it were me, I would pass on the Bachmann and save for a good, basic system from NCE or Digitrax. Once you see how easily your brother can control his locomotive, you'll want to have yours DCC as well, so just get a good expandable system to start with.
One other thing to remember is that a DCC system supplies full power to the track at all times. The decoder in the locomotive is what decides how much of that power to use. A good system will permit running a DC locomotive on the DCC system, but it is still applying full power to the track. This can be very hard on a DC locomotive's motor, and burn it out within a short time.
I would really recommend, if you want to get a DCC system for your brother's locomotive, that you get a DCC loco for yourself, or have someone install a decoder into one of your existing locomotives.
Also, the brand of engine and DCC unit have no bearing on whether they will be compatible. The NMRA has set standards for manufacturers to follow, and this ensures compatibility between brands that adhere to NMRA standards. And virtually all manufacturers do so. Except MTH, they have their own system, DCS.
 

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Railroad Tycoon
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A re-railer.

atlas rerailer 44-qty 2.JPG


 

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ScaleModel,

Do a search for and read Choo Choo Greg's FABULOUS thread here on the forum that explains how build a simple but very helpful PRE-BENDING jig for his flex track. In short ...

Flex track bends easily, but it always wants to snap back into its basic straight shape. You can nail the track down to the desired curve shape, of course, but the ends of the flex track still want to snap back to a near-straight orientation, and connected rail-joiners and maintaining "smooth and graceful curvature transition" at the end of flex track has always been tricky.

Greg's solution fixes all of that ... Basically, pull out one of the rails (as described above), and pass it through Greg's simple jig. This PREBENDS the rail to your desired curved shape. Then, insert it back into the ties, and bingo ... prebent flex track, with little or no tendency to want to straighten itself out.

Thumbs up to Greg on this one.

TJ
 

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Discussion Starter #5
@Flyboy2610: Thanks for the info good to know. I actually did make it to a hobby store today and I checked out flex track, and it was way cheaper to buy standard track since they sell it in bulk. Also we're both getting DCC ready Athearns.
 
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