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Thinking about a new Routed HO track-Copper wire?

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  • Thinking about a new Routed HO track-Copper wire?

    I'm currently thinking about a new Routed HO track. I'm not a big HO racer-and I'm looking to do something different-I'll explain...

    I raced 1/32 "competitively" with a club for about 10 years, had a 50' routed 3-lane at one point. Did a "foray" into SSD for a few years while club racing, then got into 1:1 racing so my priorities changed.

    With our new basement plans I have a 16'X3.5' to work with. I'm not interested in any serious racing, I'm interested in the enjoyment of building a new track, having a fun toy in the basement, doing fall scenery, having a high land to road ratio so the cars look like they're going somewhere, and doing my best to recreate the experience of driving an OOTB quality 1/32 car in HO.

    I'm weighing my options for power. What I absolutely do not want is any type of magnetic rail. I plan on experimenting with magnetic paint, as I've had good success with this in 1/32 and it can make an OOTB scalextric car run like a prepped slot.it, but I have no interest in the 80' 1.5 second mag car experience. I totally get it, it's just not for me.

    I'm considering Copper tape, I've been messing around with an oval made of AFX track with the rails removed. So far I like the way I've gotten some old G-Plus, Amrac, tyco-pro, and HP7 cars to run with braids made of thin stranded copper wire or 2.5 mm soldering braid. As soon as I can get some from Ed, I'll experiment with slide guides.

    BUT...I'd like to consider Copper wire, and in my searching, I haven't seen it done before. That doesn't surprise me because most folks routing and HO track want to build it to the standards for club racing; which makes perfect sense.

    My thought is that it's affordable (240' of 16 gauge for a 3 lane 40' track is under $60), will allow me to use the standard HO pickups, will not wear pickups like steel rail, conducts well, will not be difficult to keep clean, is easy to bend for the corners, and of course is non-magnetic. That's a lot of potential pluses, and the additional labor of laying the wire it if offset by not having to modify chassis.

    So here are my questions, your opinions on these and any other details of the project are highly appreciated.

    1-How would I attach the wire, Thick CA? 16 gauge is .050 thick so it should fill most of a 1/16"-.0625" wide slot.
    2-Should I consider 14 gauge at .064 and shove it in with a hard roller? But would that make for an inconsistent rail height due to the softness of the copper?
    3-Is this a completely silly idea? If so why? Can you suggest a more efficient way of creating the same experience?

    Thank you in advance for your feed back.

    Be well,
    Hayes

  • #2
    Consider a rectangular wire, similar in size to the steel rail, and mount it with cinching wire (regular single strand insulated wire, color coded to the lane). Radcliff wire can make any size you want.
    If you want to stay with round wire, research a ball end router bit that matches the wire size, and glue the wire into the slot. You will want to unroll the wire into the slot, so as not to kink it.

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    • #3
      Hi Hayes,

      I have no experience with copper wire power rails but I have thought about it too.
      I went with copper tape because installation is easy and copper tape is cheap.
      Bad news is - with copper tape standard pickup shoes do not work well at all. By "Not work well" I mean they flat out suck.

      The good news is - motor wire works very well and I actually like it better than shoes.
      I put the shoes and springs in a bag and trade them for other parts.
      Motor wire is also cheap. I have a lifetime supply on a spool.
      I can drive at very slow speeds without stalling and haul the mail too. But installing requires soldering and hammering flat some solid core copper wire.
      If you are not running T-Jets the Slide Guide is great too.

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      • #4
        Motor wire?

        I assume that you mean thin copper wire, with a thin layer of insulation, that's normally used for winding electric motors.

        If so do you use multiple strands, It doesn't seem to me that a single strand would provide good contact, but I'm often wrong. Can you post a pic? I'm very curious.

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        • #5
          Could you post a pic of the cinching wire you're referring to? The only kind of cinching wire I'm familiar with is the stuff for notebooks, and a google search didn't help.

          As for the router bit, a ball tip of equal diameter to the wire would be great, but my calculations indicate that I'd wind up with too high a rail if using anything but a very thin wire. Also I'd love to find a source for a router bit smaller than 1/16'. If anyone has a suggestion I'd appreciate it.

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          • #6
            Looking into the rectangular wire idea

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Spa67 View Post
              I assume that you mean thin copper wire, with a thin layer of insulation, that's normally used for winding electric motors.

              If so do you use multiple strands, It doesn't seem to me that a single strand would provide good contact, but I'm often wrong. Can you post a pic? I'm very curious.
              It's silicone wire. It was advertised as silicone motor wire used in the RC hobby.

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              • #8
                Ahh, silicone wire. That makes more sense.

                I've been experimenting with that myself based on what I say in this gentleman's videos. I've had better luck with the copper stuff from NSR.

                https://youtu.be/l12EqJ0zhOA

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                • #9
                  You can get 1mm router bits from MSC.

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                  • #10
                    Msc?

                    Who is MSC?

                    thanks in advance,

                    Hayes

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Spa67 View Post
                      Who is MSC?

                      thanks in advance,

                      Hayes
                      Google - www dot mscdirect dot com
                      (Can't post link)
                      Last edited by Rooster; 03-21-2018, 06:39 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Thanks!

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                        • #13
                          If you want rails that are not magnetic why not use tinned copper braid? The braided tracks that I race on have braids that are stuck down with ordinary carpenter's glue. If you use regular wire the contact area where it can be glued is minimal, so it might come loose, in addition wire with a circular cross section may not make good contact with a car's pickup shoes. Wire with a square or rectangular cross section would probably work better.
                          There are many track construction methods that have been tried and have been unsuccessful in the past, why repeat those mistakes? I feel that it is best in the long run to stick with proven track construction methods. On the other hand you could build a very simple two lane track on a 4X8 sheet as a test before you commit to a larger project.

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                          • #14
                            Ditto everything Rich said, above.

                            If you install tinned copper braid with a bit of 'reveal' -- that is, five or ten thousandths of the braid sitting above the surface of the track -- any HO car can run on it.

                            The most popular track in the HOCOC racing series has just that construction. Folks run standard hard pickups on the track, and racing is intense. The braid needs no maintenance -- no scrubbing off oxide like you have to do with rail. As a bonus, the car pickups last much longer. They don't develop grooves like they do on rail.

                            If you prefer to use copper tape, then Slide Guides are your best option. They give you superb contact, and the Pickup Wires last a very long time.

                            When I used to exhibit my tracks at slot shows I used a small routed and braided track to demonstrate the excellent contact you got with Slide Guides. I used a small model train transformer to power the track. I put a Slide Guide equipped car on the track and dialed the power down to the point where the car was literally crawling around the track. And I left it there for the entire show. It never stalled. Try that with rail!

                            Anyway, you have options with both copper tape and copper braid. Proven, successful options! Laying wire for your power conductors is a proven unsuccessful option. Avoid that!

                            If you have questions, post them here and I'll answer them.

                            Ed Bianchi

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                            • #15
                              Based on the feed back of the most experienced builders I think I'm going to go with copper tape or braid, as long as I can get plenty of slide guides.

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