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Routed track digital conversion, in phases

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  • Routed track digital conversion, in phases

    For the past few years I've had a digital plastic track set up on top of my big routed track. Everyone likes racing on the digital track much more, though they like driving on the routed track better.

    Installing a bunch of lc's into an existing track with scenery, and that has sheets of mdf on top of (but not always flush with) plywood is not trivial, however. On top of that, I used electric fence wire as rails (cheap, nice light mag attraction). One of the main reasons for this is the location- in a room in the loft of my barn in Iowa. This means it's subjected to over 100 degrees F temperature range, which makes copper tape expand and contract so much it's very difficult to keep the track in shape.

    I was inspired by JimD's track in Des Moines, which I've ran on a number of times. He has a 3-lane road course / oval that has the feature of having lane 3 cross over to become lane 1, thus making lane 1 into lane 2, and 2 into 3. Besides the pit, there are only 2 lc's on the track. The track is great fun with heavy traffic (we usually had 5-6 drivers) and little use was made of the lc's. It's more like analog racing without any concern for which lane you're in.

    I realized this was a great way to quickly convert the routed track. Later I will add lc's, first for a pit, then a few for changing lanes. But this way I can do it in phases, and have a useful track long before I get finished installing the lc's. I installed the crossover between two hairpin chicanes, so there will be less chances for collisions (although I was surprised how few occurred on Jim's track). It's in a easily removable section, so if I later wish to remove that feature when I get the lc's all installed that will be fairly easy. Also, since my track was 4 lanes, Lane 1 is merged into 2 in the same section. It will be used for all re-slotting after crashes, and for pitting when lc's are installed.

    Here's before and after pics. Took about 12 hours total, would have been less but I put quite a few layers of magnetic paint down so the cars didn't get all squirrelly when they hit the crossover. As soon as I get lap counter sensors installed, we can race. You just cycle through all three lanes as you drive. I'll probably have qualifying be a 3 lap run, to reward being good on all three lanes.

    I actually enjoy driving my analog cars solo better too, with the lane cycling. Requires much more attention to slightly adjust for the changes each lap, much less repetitious.

  • #2
    Scorpius, right?
    Very cool. I look forward to future updates on this project.

    Did you use copper tape for this mod? It looks like it.


    • #3
      Yes, I'm running Scorpius. JimD's track was D132, and of course the concept works for any digital system.

      I used copper tape for the new section, I figure the short distance will make maintenance much easier, and even if I have to replace it each spring it will be easy. Doing the new section with rails would have taken much longer.


      • #4
        very cool. If I have a 3 lane track I would certainly do what you did. Those 3 lane crossovers are awesome. Let me know when you are ready for flippers, I can probably help you with that. great work post a video when you are racing.


        • #5
          As I think I understand it; in effect the crossovers mean the track is just 1 lane. Without an LC it is true you can "overtake" a car but in the end once you catch up a whole lap you cannot get past a car. Is this really a trick to reduce lane changes by effectively spacing the cars very widele on a track that is large, on the basis it counts as a single track equivalent to 4 normal tracks long?

          Still an interesting proposition. I have though many times about adding a crossover to my digital system so nobody can hog the best lane easily as you automaticaly change lane at one point. I dumped it becuase thet track was too short except if I am on my own so no overtaking. I can imagine on your long track is great! A set of interesting ideas. The complete opposite of Best lane following and does have big advantages.


          • #6
            Yes, the crossover effectively makes the track one lane. It's basically a "trick" to have an enjoyable digital track before I install lc's.

            If a car is in the same lane in front of you, there is no way past- until they crash. This is why I will be installing lc's. But even in our 50 lap races no one has ever not crashed more than once (unless they finished dead last). So the reality of it is that whoever drives fastest and crashes least will win, just like always. The track is about 96 feet, so it should hold 8-10 cars without crowding.

            I still prefer having lc's to make passing choices. And pitting is a high priority. But until then, I can keep running on a fun track, having good races, and only take the track offline for short periods as I install lc's. The problem with a "normal" track conversion is that until one gets enough lc's installed (so you can switch both into and out of each lane) the track is not race-able. This would mean a long stretch of down time. With the crossover, the track is usable at all stages, no matter how many lc's have been installed.

            I think some of our analog only friends should try running on a track like this. As I said earlier, it's a lot like analog racing, except there's no "gutter" lane, and you never have to worry about what lane to place your car in.


            • #7
              It an interesting point. Wait till the guy crashes to pass. A certain sad inevitibility in that staement. But like you said a practical and reasonable approach.


              • #8
                UshCha: Actually, with someone right on your tail and putting the pressure on, there's nothing sad about it. It's very intense and quite fun! For the guy behind doing the pressuring, it's also very intense as you try to push them into a mistake without making one yourself. That part is just like "normal" digital racing.

                I have to say I had reservations about the lane crossing approach, but after racing on JimD's track I experienced how fun and intense the racing can still be even with very little lane changing. It was never boring being behind someone in the same lane, and the situation never became static, especially with several cars in a pack.


                • #9
                  Finally, phase II is complete!

                  After a tough year for slots (big car repair, water softener, dead slot pc, etc) I have finally managed to complete phase II of my routed track conversion. I talked my slot guy at the lhs into selling me the left and right pro-x LC's they'd had on the shelf for 10 years pretty cheap- $25 for the pair. I then cut out the LC sections, routed a square and a crossing slot into the track, and dropped them in.

                  This part of the project could have been done in 2-3 days. Between the record stretch of days below freezing in Nov and the fact I had to cram myself under the slope of the barn roof to route made it take place over almost a month. But, we had two nice days this weekend, and I've managed to get things completed and functioning.

                  I installed the left LC to switch from lane2 to lane1 (which leads into the pits). The right LC switches you from lane3 to lane4. Combined with the lane crossover described above, you can now always pit within 2 laps, and you can get out from behind someone slower.

                  Next nice weekend I will try to have some guys out and get some video. Here's a few still shots of this phase.


                  • #10
                    Well done! I hope you are able to get some video. I know how easy it is to forget when there's racing going on. I'd love to see it in action.


                    • #11
                      Cold again, still!

                      I've managed to get a bit of minor work done (moved the s/f line further down the straight so it's near the end of the pits instead of the middle). But still too cold for racing up there in the barn. Hopefully we'll have a January thaw this year.

                      I've put my LB's in radio shack boxes, with connectors for power, track beacons (db9), and solenoids (1/8"). So I can transfer them easily between my wood track, my test track (45' part routed / part Artin digi-pro), and my Carrera plastic when it's set up (usually as a big banked track for nascar style racing).

                      Here's a couple of pics showing the wood track, and 4 of my 6 LB boxes.


                      • #12
                        Bumpity bump bump.. You going to try to race at grimes this Sunday Ryk?


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by foodstick View Post
                          Bumpity bump bump.. You going to try to race at grimes this Sunday Ryk?
                          I'll be there. I've chipped a Dodge Daytona to run with the Superbirds, and put a slot-it chassis under a modern nascar so I'm looking forward to letting them stretch out. My test track (at 45') just isn't enough to really test the limits. I did the hybrid thing (scorpius/d132) with the modern nascar, so I can use my Scorpius controller. Finally got some tires, too. See ya Sunday!


                          • #14
                            Sounds like you are bringing some heat !


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by foodstick View Post
                              Sounds like you are bringing some heat !
                              With all the parts you have under the hood, I've got to try something!