Building HO Slot Car Track

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Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

I thought I'd make this topic to document my project to build an AFX HO scale slot car track. I had a large track layout setup on the carpet a few years ago and finally got the itch and motivation to make it permanent on a sheet of 4 x 8 plywood. I finally picked up a 3/4" sheet of birch plywood, finished on one side, for a reasonable price of $44.00 CAD and got things started. I would've preferred a 5/8" sheet, but for some reason, that one was $20 more. So, weight might be a factor and I have some ideas to cut down some of the weight.

Last night was doing the not-so-fun task of sanding all plywood edges so they're nice and smooth, and installing six 7" long legs. My plan is to lay down an area carpet and put the track base on that, and people can sit on the floor while racing. An option might be to mount the back side to a wall on brackets, but I don't know how permanent I want the thing to be.

Tonight, I'll grind down the tips of the wood screws for the legs that ended up protruding an 1/8" or so through the top surface, but I'm not concerned about that as it won't be visible once the track is laid out...and I'll coat all the edges with some clearcoat spar varnish. I'm not planning for this track to be a lifelike scenic diorama, I simply don't have the time for that...I'll just mount everything solidly with wood sections for bridge trestles and custom-made Lexan guardrails glued to the track curves with silicone caulk. Let the project begin!

Track Base 1.jpg
Track Base 2.jpg
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by TRX-1-3 »

Sturdy enough in the middle or are you gonna put a post/leg under there? Might sag over time. Looking good so far.
Hope you're doin' something fun.

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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by matt1ptkn »

I used to have a 4' x 7' Aurora AFX 4-Lane track set up BITD. I still have all the track and cars, just not the table. Funny how it felt so much bigger than 4' x 7' back then. Anyway, I was so excited to see your topic and read what your plans are. But then I only find 2 photos of plywood?!?! Come on man, I need to see more than that! :lol: But seriously, this sound like a fun project, and I look forward to seeing what you do with it!
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

TRX-1-3 wrote: Wed Nov 04, 2020 11:50 pm Sturdy enough in the middle or are you gonna put a post/leg under there? Might sag over time. Looking good so far.
I have 2 more legs I can install. Due to the size of the base, I'm toying with the idea of cutting the base into two 4 x 4' sections and having each section with 4 legs, but the track sections at the cut ends better line up perfectly to make a good contact as the track will mostly be secured with silicone. I don't think I want to go that route, though. If I keep it intact as a 4 x 8' table, I will probably install the 2 remaining legs in the center of each 4 x 4' half.
matt1ptkn wrote: Thu Nov 05, 2020 11:43 am I used to have a 4' x 7' Aurora AFX 4-Lane track set up BITD. I still have all the track and cars, just not the table. Funny how it felt so much bigger than 4' x 7' back then. Anyway, I was so excited to see your topic and read what your plans are. But then I only find 2 photos of plywood?!?! Come on man, I need to see more than that! :lol: But seriously, this sound like a fun project, and I look forward to seeing what you do with it!
Yeah, baby steps! This is going to be quite a time-consuming project and I realized I wanted to document the process, so getting the base done is the first baby step. Last night I put a coat of Armor Coat Spar Varnish Clear on all edges and ground down all the pointy wood screw tips. The varnish directions say to apply a second coat after 24 hours, so tonight will be the second coat. I'll probably test-assemble the right half of the track layout tonight and trace it...there will be some areas that I can cut out with a jigsaw to reduce the overall weight.
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

Some progress made on the track base...after laying out my track design, I marked some areas that could be removed to cut down on the weight, then removed those sections. I'm not at all very good at woodworking, it turns out. :oops:

I used a hole saw to start the hole cuts and a jigsaw for the rest. I angled the jigsaw to get the inside edges with some bevel, I thought it would look better than just having straight vertical cut-outs. I then sanded and sealed the edges with urethane clear coat, like I did with the perimeter edges.

I installed the 2 middle legs and some lightweight aluminum U-channel bracing to strengthen it and prevent sagging.

Now begins the laying down of all the track pieces with silicone caulk, bridge supports, etc.

Track Base 3.jpg
Track Base 4.jpg
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

Not much interesting to share, just documenting the track cleaning process. I used a small sanding block, I believe it was 320 or 400 grit, to shine up all the rails...there must've been some minor corrosion after sitting for a few years because cars kept stopping all the time in my test drives. After that, I applied a line of CRC 2-26 lubricant/corrosion protection to all the rails, which also serves as a plastic cleaner for the track sections. Unlike WD-40 or some other chemicals, I read that CRC 2-26 is ideal for this because it won't degrade plastics, and the film of anti-corrosion seems to last for a long time before subsequent re-applications are needed.

Now begins the fun part, actually reassembling the track per my own layout design. I find a lot of layouts aren't fair in that the outside lane's car can go faster when the car is on an outside curve, while the inside car has to take it easy or it'll fly off the track on inside curves if it's going too fast. I designed the layout to be equally fair for both lanes, so each lane has approximately the same amount of outside curves with guardrails to lean on. Most of the cars are vintage MagnaTraction cars which, in my opinion, are the ideal balance between scale speed and magnetic attraction to the track. It's easy to go too fast and fly off the track, unlike more modern slot cars that stick ridiculously firmly to the track and the speeds they go while staying in the slots is just unrealistic and lacking any strategy.
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

Finally, some pics of the track layout after cleaning, and getting all the bridge supports accounted for. I had to make special supports for 3 places where the over/under tracks were parallel to each other so the upper sections would be rigid enough for future cleaning. Each lane has about 14 areas with ~90-degree curves in outside lanes the driver can "lean on" and not worry about flying off the track, and 14 areas where they'll need to take it easy. I didn't use any criss-cross or loop-the-loop tracks because those just lead to broken cars and I don't want to be smashing up these mostly vintage MagnaTraction cars. There are 5 squeeze track sections that make competition extra fun by trying to knock your opponent off the track. The track has some nice straights for some good speed in some places, and is also pretty technical.

The next phase will be securing all the track and bridge supports with silicone caulk.

TrackLayout1.jpg
TrackLayout2.jpg

Just for the history, here's my original track layout drafted 35 or so years ago...my final layout pretty much follows that design with a few extra sections added on.

TrackDesign.JPG
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

I got all my custom guardrails measured and cut from Lexan. No way I was going to use the original bright orange guardrails...they're fugly as hell, always seem to pop loose or have the tabs break off, and there's always gaps forming between adjacent rails where outside-lane cars would be knocked out of the slot. These will be glued directly to the sides of the track with Liquid Nails. The Lexan is also cool because it's lightweight and lets you completely see the cars through the Lexan. I measured them 25mm tall, a little bit taller than the original guardrails once mounted to the tracks.

Guardrails1.jpg
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UV Test - Success!

Post by Coelacanth »

Here's a little trick up my sleeve to make racing in the dark with the lighted cars more fun for the kids...some Sharpie Neon UV permanent markers and a couple hours taping off and coloring the edges of each lane's guardrails. A 4' tube blacklight really makes them pop! It also makes it easier to tell which lane your car is in, as it's a pretty snakey track layout. Each lane has about the same number of outside guardrails to lean on to make racing as fair as possible, and the guardrails are colored so the racers will know if they're in the red or blue lane.

I found I got the best results coloring the edge as well as about 1/4" on each side of the guardrails...and also that a single layer was best. When I tried doing two layers, the second layer seemed to muck up the first layer and it lost consistency. So, only color one layer on each side, and on the edge, if you want to try this.

Some people will remember slot car track sets back in the day that had glow-in-the-dark guardrails, but this takes it to the next level...this glows way brighter than the mild ghostly greenish-white of those glow-in-the-dark parts. You can even see the neon Sharpie on the guardrails has a noticeable glow with the room light on.

UV Test 1.jpg
UV Test 2.jpg
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by TRX-1-3 »

Whoa! Sweet! Looks like that'll be a blast. Play some techno and put in some hot laps.
Hope you're doin' something fun.

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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by matt1ptkn »

That looks so fun! If we lived closer, I'd totally come over and race!!
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

If anybody is in the area, they'd certainly be welcome, once the project is completed! :)

I'm working on a really tedious part of the project now, gluing all the Lexan guardrails to the curved tracks. I'm using Liquid Nails Fuze*It for this, as well as for gluing the track and bridge supports later on. It's rather thick and goopy, stringy, and not easy to apply. It's oh-so-easy to make a total mess of things. I have a limited number of clamps so I can only do 3 or 4 guardrails at a time, wait overnight and do it again (6 to 10 hours curing time). The technique I've been evolving is to spread a thin layer of glue on the bottom half of the track edges, trying to avoid getting too much glue on the bottom, and making sure not to get ANY on the top, and not to put too much on because the guardrails will squish up any excess, which would need to be cleaned up before it dries. The clamps can only be secured from the bottom of the tracks, so I'm starting the gluing from one end of the track/guardrail, pressing and clamping toward the other end. I found the best way to do this (I wish there was a better way, maybe someone has an idea to share?) is to hang that part of the track over the table edge so I can attach the clamps from underneath. When I tried simply pressing all the guardrail to the track from above, when I lifted the track to attach clamps, some of the guardrail came off and touched the track edge glue in the clear/neon part of the rail and made a bloody mess of it, and I had to completely remove all the glue and neon Sharpie and do it over. Ugh. I'll be really glad when this phase is finished.

EDIT: I'm also taking this opportunity to gently bend out all of the connecting metal rail-ends to ensure the best conductivity as possible.

GluingGuardrails.jpg
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by RC10resto »

Great project, nice work!
Tight course, gonna need some Magna-Traction.
Need to find an old pic of my Track from the '90's

Edit - I did post a pic of it about 9 years ago :wink:

https://www.rc10talk.com/viewtopic.php?f=110&t=19935

Time flies

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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

Thanks for that link, I posted on that topic years ago and it brings back some memories! Years ago I met Rod and sold him a rare gun and saw his amazing slot car collection. He certainly lived up to his RC10Talk name. :)

For decades, it was always in the back of my mind to build a permanent track and I had a great layout graphed out. As it would be permanent, I needed it to be complex enough to be interesting and not get boring or repetitive, I wanted it to be challenging and not just let you fly around the track at top speed, and I didn't want to have racers stopping every few seconds to pick up their cars when they went off the track, either. I eliminated cobblestone track, loop track, criss-cross track and wiggle track because all of those would cause you to flip out of the track slots too often and for no apparent reason, or risk damaging those vintage cars. I wanted a layout that lets you build some good speed, but forces you to slow down just as often...with each racer having fair, equal lanes, in either direction.

Wouldn't you know it, but when I got the layout reassembled a few weeks ago before going through the permanent reconstruction, cleaned the track and did some test racing, my 10-year-old daughter broke the wing of my favorite car, the blue #7 Daytona Charger! :shock: It survived 35+ years only to have the wing get broken...oh well, such is life!
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Re: Building HO Slot Car Track

Post by Coelacanth »

Well, I learned some things today, thanks to being a careless dumbass.

In that very pic above showing the guardrail being glued to a curved section, when I disconnected all the tracks to slightly bend the steel connecting tabs for better contact, I reconnected that 3" straight piece in the wrong part of the curve. :x
$%&I$*&(&(%

So, I had to remove the guardrail and learned that the Liquid Nails Fuze*It adheres very well, but not so well that it's impossible to carefully peel off. I'm pretty sure it will hold up nicely for a long time to come. I also learned that it's a pain to remove from plastic or Lexan surfaces. 90% isopropyl alcohol and CRC 2-26, which I used for track cleaning and corrosion resistance, didn't do a thing to the remnant adhesive. Much like silicone caulk would be resistant to removal, I imagine. I was able to scrape most of it off the Lexan with fingernails, a time-consuming process because I didn't want to measure, re-cut and re-Sharpie Neon a new guardrail. As for the track pieces, I replaced the 90-degree curves with other pieces and did the same thumbnail-scrape with the 3" piece because I had no other 3" piece. :x Also learned that the cured Fuze*It isn't totally hard, it still has a slightly rubbery feel, so I think it would allow for a bit of play with heat/cold expansion/compression, but not enough to permit track pieces to come disconnected.

Sharing this embarrassment with you all so you can learn vicariously. :lol:
Completed projects: CYANide Onroad Optima | Zebra Gold Optima | Barney Optima | OptiMutt RWD Mid
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