No announcement yet.

MrFlippant's Portable Track

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • MrFlippant's Portable Track

    I've been setting up slot car tracks at my son's middle school (grades 6-8) for a few years now. Even after he moved to high school, the kids at the middle school would call me up and ask if I would come again every quarter for their school parties. It's a very popular attraction at these parties, which usually include other activities such as a musical chairs type game, crafts of various kinds, food, and even a dance in the gymnasium down the hall. The kids love the slot car track, but every time I come part of the challenge is not only finding enough tables to support the track, but also the right size and, most difficult, of matching height. I usually end up with at least one table that's above or below the rest. Whatever I have, I cover the tables in a very large tablecloth, and build a pre-designed track on that large surface. Because kids crash a lot, and even Scalextric borders and fences wouldn't keep them all on the table, I built some cheap and simple catch fences that I would literally tape down to the tablecloth at the ends of the table.

    All of this worked fairly well, but building it all up and taking it all down in the time I was usually given was always a rush, plus there were other problems with this way of setting things up. I wanted to come up with something that would not rely on the tables available at the event, and was quicker and easier to put up and take down. I also wanted something that looked more professional, so that I could start looking into offering my services locally for hire, rather than free. This meant that it needed to be self contained and well constructed and great looking. But, where to begin? The best place to begin is by looking for inspiration, and there was plenty of that to be found online.

    With all of the inspirational tracks out there, it was easy for me to form my vision for this project. It would be a small number of medium sized tables that locked together, with the track attached and level to the rest of the surface to allow drifting without deslotting, as well as looking more realistic than track that's raised up, or than bright tan plastic borders. A common question is, why not go routed? Well, that's a great option, of course, but I already had a load of plastic track that probably wouldn't be worth the trouble of selling it. I also wanted the option of using magnet cars without paying the high price of magnabraid (which isn't as strong, anyway), plus I wasn't comfortable routing lane changers yet. Having decided to go with plastic track, I had to decide some other things.

    What size? Well, that was both easy, and kind of funny. Some of you may have already heard of "Ecofoam" being used to cut borders for Sport track. It's a carpeting underlayment made from expanded polyurethane foam and happens to be the perfect height for Sport track. Unfortunately, it's only available in Canada. Last summer, my family vacationed very near to the Canadian border, and during an excursion, I was able to pick up a roll of the stuff. It comes in a pre-packaged 6x9' roll. To use the Ecofoam as efficiently as possible, I either had to make a 6x9 track, or figure out another way to cut it up and arrange it. It happens that the tracks I have been putting together for the school parties were usually 5x12', so I decided that if I cut the Ecofoam in half on the long side, I could put the pieces back together into a 4.5x12' surface. This was perfect, as it was long enough to get a good straight, and wide enough to allow some turn-backs with a little border room. This overall size also helped me decide how big my individual tables would be. I decided that four 3x4.5' tables would be ideal. Small enough to move and carry by one person, but large enough to minimize the number of pieces and provide room for pre-installed support/legs.

    The next thing to figure out was how to make 3x4.5' tables without a lot of wasted wood, which comes primarily in 4x8 sheets at the local hardware store. If I wanted an uncut piece of wood for each table top, I would only be able to get ONE piece out of each sheet of wood, and the rest would be more or less wasted. I hate waste, so sat down with a grid in TrackPower and drew out how I could maximize the wood. I also didn't have a nice table saw or an easy way to cut this all myself, and had to rely on the hardware store to cut the sheets for me. I decided to have two 3x4' pieces cut from each of two sheets. The remainder from each sheet was then cut into 6" strips that I would graft to the ends of my 3x4' sheets to make them into 3x4.5' sheets. At home, using the 1x2s I got for framing, some clamps, weights, and a lot of glue, I extended each 3x4' into 3x4.5' sheets.

    I used waxed paper to prevent the 1x2 from being glued to the table top. I then added framework to the underside of each table top piece. The 3' ends had the frame right at the edge, to give me something to easily attach the future walls to. The end tables had one 4.5' side with the frame at the edge, also for the walls, while the interior frame pieces were attached 6" in from the edge of the table-top to allow my section locks, whatever they may be, to have some room. All of these were glued, pre-drilled to avoid splitting, and screwed together. As you may be able to tell from the photos, I used 1/2" OSB rather than MDF or plywood. Not only is OSB very cheap, but it's also much lighter than MDF or plywood of the same thickness. It might be ugly stuff, but since it was not only going to be painted, but also completely covered up with track and Ecofoam, the appearance made no difference.

  • #2
    She's got legs...

    Supporting the table tops

    My initial plan for each section was a set of those cheap folding table legs that you can buy to attach to any piece of wood to make a table. At only $20 per set, it was a pretty reasonable price as well. The only down side was that they were not adjustable. My wife was with me, so I asked her for her input on alternatives and we looked all around the store. Eventually, we found the section with saw/work horses, including this nifty folding one.

    Not only was it strong and foldable, but also it has adjustable legs for varying table height, holes that would allow me to bolt them to the table tops, and they even had handles to make carrying the pieces a little easier! It was the perfect solution! So, we took the other table legs and put them back, and I picked up four of these to use. While there, I also picked up some hardware. The T-nuts and bolts with washers are to mount the sawhorses to the table tops, and the different clasps were to test which would be best to hold the table tops together.

    Once home, I went to installing the new legs under the table tops. Wanting each sawhorse to support one top, I put them all on center by drawing some lines, drilling some holes, and installing the T-nuts. This is what it looks like on the table surface.

    Unfortunately, that created too much of a bump that I could not be sure would be avoided by track pieces, so I needed to make them flush somehow. That's when I got out my paddle bit and drilled a recess for the top of the T-nut. This worked well, but I needed more washers to keep the end of the bolt from sticking up as well.

    Nice and flush now.

    And how the back side looks, where the bolt will go in through the hole in the sawhorse top.

    This worked really well, so I went about putting the sawhorses onto all four table tops, countersinking the T-nuts and everything the first time around. As always, the following ones were quick work after the first. Here's a shot of the 4 pieces, three on the floor at different heights, and the fourth ready to be set up. As you can see, I don't yet have the tables aligning or connecting, but I really liked the options I had with the different table heights.

    Unfortunately, I discovered a weakness of this solution... a deal-breaking weakness. While setting up the tables and moving them around to align them, I found that the legs would keep trying to fold up. Even small adjustments were tricky, because I could not simply grab the table and move it as needed. The legs would want to fold one way or the other, and the table would just fall back to where it was, or worse, the legs would collapse and cause the table to fall. If I moved the legs to move the table, it would be fine, but this was a time consuming hassle that would only reduce the efficiency of setting this track up.

    I did a lot of experimenting with the legs. I thought I might be able to get by with them so long as the surface I set up on is not carpeted or uneven, but that was not something I could rely on. The feet of the sawhorse legs were not grippy at all, either. They were painted metal, and would slide as easily as anything else on carpet, except that they were small, and more likely to dig in than slide. I then tested some ideas to keep the legs spread out, which is what keeps them from collapsing. With the legs deployed, I could wedge a piece of wood between them so that they would stay open. When testing that, I found that the metal was still flexible enough to allow the legs to spread and the wedge to fall out. Also, the only place I could put the wedge so that it would stay in was on the little ledges used for the leg extension system, reducing the height options available to me.

    In the end, I decided that, as cool as these sawhorses are, they would not be a viable solution, as they were, for what I wanted. They'd be great for setting up and putting tables onto, as I've seen other people do, and I might have done that if I couldn't come up with a better solution. But, I had a couple other ideas to try, based on things I'd seen online, and I was eager to try those out.

    In the mean time, aligning the table tops...


    • #3
      Aligning the table tops

      Regardless of what holds the table pieces up off the floor, I had to come up with a way to make them align as I put them together, as well as staying together when assembled. I knew that one side would want to be lower than the other, and even higher at the other end, or in the middle, so I had to make sure they aligned all the way across the split between tables. Not having the skills or tools to do clever things like David does with his BLST tracks, I did the best I could with what I had.

      Those are the "fingers" I made. They're each about 6" long, and have a chamfer with a rounded top corner so that the table tops are forced over them. The ones I the outside that are meant to align the tables horizontally as well as vertically have rounded leading edge corners as well, so that they don't butt up against the framing of the other piece.

      Each finger was glued and screwed (pre-drilled) to the bottom of the table top, three on one side of the join, and 4 on the other. With each side having fingers that forced the other side up level, the join became level all the way across.

      The result worked well, though I couldn't be totally sure until I got functional legs onto the tables.

      I was fairly confident that solution would work well, so I moved on to latching the tables together. Kids have tendency to bump against the tables in their excitement, so I knew that they would get bumped around, and wanted to make sure they didn't come apart at all when that happened. I knew some people used case/trunk latches to do this, so I got a couple of those and some other things to test out, to see which worked best for my tables.

      I did try the case latches like MrModifier used for his Amman Valley track, but mine didn't want to stay latched once I got them shut. Maybe I had too much tension on them, or they were poor quality latches, but they didn't work for me. The top latch above worked well, but the hook was only secured by one screw, and would rotate when latched under tension. In the end, I found that the window latches (the white one above) worked best for my table, and I installed one on each side of the join, a total of 6 latches in all.


      • #4
        Table Support Attempt #2

        As much as I loved those adjustable sawhorses, what with the handle and all, they just weren't going to work for this purpose. My next attempt was inspired by a couple really clever tracks I'd seen on this forum and elsewhere. I thought that I might be able to align and connect all my tables into one big unit while they were still standing up, and then put the entire thing down into racing position. To do this, the legs would need to be strong, but also have a rounded corner so that the table would roll nicely into place.

        After going to buy more wood, The first step was to construct the legs. As before, I had the man at the store cut the wood for me. One piece of 4x8 OSB into 4 pieces at 2x4 fit nicely into my car. I also got some more 1x2 to help stiffen things up, and some casters because the whole table would likely need to be shifted once down. As the legs would be set back a bit from the edge of the table, and have casters on, the curved corner didn't need to be tangent with the edge of the wood, so I drew an arc that included the casters and where the table would be, which showed me where I needed to cut the wood. I clamped all 4 pieces together, and cut them all in one go:

        Step 2 was to add 1x2 at the bottom. This served as a stiffener, as well as more meat for the casters to be screwed into. I cut the 1x2 to the length of the bottom of the leg, then glued and screwed them on from both sides. Finally, I added a swivel caster to each end, one of which had a lock so that I can make sure the table didn't move easily once set up.

        Step 3 involved installing a piano hinge to the leg, and then to one of the bits of frame under the table piece. Finally, a brace was installed that easily detaches from the table for transport, but is quickly installed for setup. I ended up using light duty gate latches, the kind with a place for a padlock, at both ends, because I would not be able to leave the brace in place at either end and still be able to fold the leg flat. Here's a photo of the leg and brace installed.

        I repeated this process for two legs, because I wanted to test them before spending time on all of them. With two table pieces set up with legs and braces, I took them to my living room to give it a test. Here are those two pieces set up and ready to roll down to race position.

        Alas, I did not take a photo of it when it was rolled down. There were two reasons for that. I was frustrated by the results, and those results caused me to return it almost immediately to it's vertical orientation. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out what happened here. As you can see, there's no support at the table join. I installed the legs this way intentionally, to see how the table would hold up. No matter how I installed the other legs, there would always be at least one table part that had a large overhang, or unsupported connection like this. Of course, it sagged. My joining system was not strong enough to support that much weight with that much leverage. I was not surprised by it happening, but I was a little surprised by how bad it was. The center was well on it's way to the floor, and about to break my other work, before I decided to put it back up on its side. I couldn't have the legs in the center of the table pieces, because then they would stick out to the side and make each section that much larger and unwieldy. I could have one table section with TWO legs so that there was always a leg at the joins and at the ends, but they were already getting a lot heavier than I wanted. Besides, those legs just made the sections more awkward to carry.

        In hindsight, it was better that I ditched this idea, because I'm already tight on space for transport, and these legs made each piece that much thicker when separated for transport. It's a great idea for a tack that is constructed in one large piece and stored up against a wall in a garage to make room for cars and such, but for a portable track that comes apart in sections like this one, it just didn't work out, at least not for me. So, now I have some more scrap wood and a bunch of casters. I've decided that, eventually, I'll put them on my son's old slot car table and offer it up to a neighbor who has a couple kids. Glue some old track to it, and all he has to do is get a couple cars for them to play with.


        • #5
          FINAL Table Support and more....

          Third time's the charm, right? Ironically, I ended up doing what my original idea was, the folding table legs. For $20 per pair, I got table legs that screw to any piece of wood to make it into a table. They were easy to purchase, assemble, and install. Though, the lack of instructions did make for some legs installed imperfectly, but they're still perfectly functional. I didn't get any photos of the legs being installed, as they're just a kit that you assemble and screw to the wood. Although the screws that the legs came with did stick through the top of the 1/2" OSB, that was taken care of easily with my sander and some heavy grit paper. It was kind of fun to see the sparks fly as I ground down all those screw tips. Here's a photo of the tables waiting for work to be done, so you can easily see the installed folding legs:

          And, here's a photo of All four tables with their legs and pushed together into the full size table.

          With all the tables together, I discovered that one of them was just very slightly longer/wider than the others. Too late to change it now, but I had to make sure the tables would align properly and not shift around. The solution was a shim on one end of the table piece, so that the other end was flush.

          Those shims also meant that I had to shim a couple of the walls as I was installing them, as well as the walls on either side of that piece. I used a lot of shims when screwing and gluing the walls to the tables, and didn't get many photos taken during this process. Basically, I used 1x6 pine board, the same stuff I used on my home track, only narrower, as I didn't want the walls quite as high when finished. These were screwed and glued about 1/2" up from the bottom edge of the table framing structure, so that I would have a hidden surface to attach things, such as the skirting, to. The walls are all permanently attached, and serve not only as catch fencing to keep cars off the floor, but as structural elements for things like controller holders and just making the tables stronger. Here they are after installation:

          As you can kind of see in the above photo, another thing I needed was to align the walls. Initial installation has them slightly, and in some cases badly, askew from each other. So, I used some hardwood scrap I had that was glued and screwed to the part of the wall that would force the other wall to align with it. Here's a closeup of one of those alignment pieces:

          The wall that this one butts up against wants to be further inward, so this piece holds it back a little bit. I also sanded the inside edge of the piece so that it wouldn't catch and dig in when assembling the table. It works a lot like the tabs on Sport track, actually.

          With the structure complete, the next step was paint!

          I went with a gloss paint because I wanted it to be a bit shiny. Wow factor, maybe? I dunno. Black, of course, as I had my mother preparing black and white checkered skirts for the whole thing. I painted the entire table, the whole surface, and as much as anyone would be likely to catch a glimpse of without lying down on the floor and looking behind the skirting. I didn't want any of that cheap wood showing through anywhere, even between the slots of the track. It took a lot more paint than I expected, and a couple coats in a lot of places... and I think it could still use a little more, depending on how the light catches it. But, in the end, I think it looks pretty good.

          Here they are, all apart:

          And together:

          Table Skirts!

          As I said, I had my wonderful mother working on the table skirts. Once I finalized my table supports, I was able to give her an exact measurement for the skirt length. With an entire bolt of checkered fabric, a bunch of velcro, and some sew-in weights, she was able to make these excellent skirts for me, in pieces that were easy to install and remove and use as needed.

          To connect the skirts to the table, I glued and stapled the matching part of the velcro right to the underside edge of the table that I mentioned earlier. The staples are mainly to hold them in place while the glue dried, but I can take them off with some muscle if I need to. which I did... when I had glued some velcro too far from one of the ends on a table. Here's a closeup of the velcro on the table:


          • #6
            The Layout

            At this point, I was coming up on several months, possibly near a year, of on and off work on this project. The tables were all set up in the living room. Although we rarely used the space for much activity, that was soon to change. Christmas was fast approaching, and I needed to clear all that stuff out by Thanksgiving weekend when the decorations would be going up for the next season. This was the first fire under my butt. The result was a "git 'er dun" attitude.

            I already had the EcoFoam underlayment on the tables, ready to be cut for the layout. With time running out, I bit the bullet and just built up the layout I had prepared. I did my best to make sure all the joins were as well aligned as they could be, and that the track was as straight as possible and not tweaked or stressed anywhere, and then I took a brand new craft knife (X-acto) blade and went at it. I used the sport track itself as a guide, and the sharp blade made short work of the EcoFoam, usually cutting through smoothly in one stroke. Once I had cut along both sides of all the track, I was able to pull out the parts under the track so that the track was on the wood table surface, with EcoFoam providing the border and "land" surfaces.

            The foam isn't fixed down in the above photo. Although I'm sure some would love to see some hills on this track, those were not in the plans for this project. Maybe a future track. The EcoFoam is the perfect thickness for the digital pieces, but the regular pieces sit a couple mm low.

            Originally, I used a DAP product that said it would strongly bond pretty much anything to anything else. I used it liberally to stick the EcoFoam down to the table. After a few days, I did a quick test by pulling up on a piece of the foam... and it came up and away from the table without much trouble at all. Well, that was a waste of money. Fortunately, I had some all purpose caulk leftover from some recent home improvements, and re-installed most of the foam using the caulk. I used some pieces of MDF I had on hand to hold the foam down while the caulk cured. Here's a photo of that process:

            With the foam all cut and glued in place, I was able to begin fixing the track to the tables. This was a no-brainer choice for this project. I needed to be able to remove the track easily for servicing, but have it held down well enough for transportation, while still allowing some movement from expansion. I chose Lex-Lox by Traxpert. Installation was easy, especially after the trick I learned from Kev. Just lay a small bit of tape down where the button is going to end up, and when you make the mark, it will be very easy to see. I didn't even bother pulling the tape up after installing the buttons.

            Here, you can see an installed button in the background, and a mark on the tape in the foreground.

            Before installing the buttons, I went around the entire layout, leaving the whole thing assembled, putting the tape down, and using the marker to make the mark. I did this for the entire layout before installing a single button. Here, you can see the track with the marker in the hole, a magnet on top holding the marker in place, and the tape on the table, ready for marking. I didn't need to tap or even press down hard, because the tape shows even the smallest mark very clearly. The black paint on my table probably helped that, but it's a great installation tip for Lex-Lox usage.

            After carefully choosing my button locations and marking every one of them around the entire layout, I proceeded to carefully take up track in large sections, and install the Lex-Lox buttons. The process went smoothly, and I was done after just a couple hours of work. This entire layout was secured using only two sets of Lex-Lox buttons.

            Before I stored away my tables for the season, I did one last thing to make the system work properly...

            I removed the locking tabs from all the tracks at the table joins. The last thing I wanted to have to do was go around unlocking and pulling apart track to dismantle the tables, especially since I'd have to move the TABLE while trying to unlock the track. No, each piece at the join lost it's locking tab. The latches I installed on the underside of the tables will have to suffice.

            It was now the Thanksgiving Eve, and the room needed to be cleared. Before carrying them through the house and into the garage for storage, I took a photo of all the pieces in their "storage" position.


            • #7
              Fire under my butt #2

              With the track languishing in the garage to be asked about every time I had the guys over to race, it seemed like I would never finish. After a year of work, I just didn't have the drive I needed to continue, especially knowing how much still needed to be done. A couple weeks ago, I came home to a new message on the machine from a student at the middle school I'd done so many tracks for. They wanted me back, but the date was a month away. A few seconds later, I realized there was no such day as February 30th, so she must have meant January, and I had one week to finish! I called the school to verify, and my guess was right. I was confident I would be able to finish, and I didn't want to let the kids down, so I committed to the event, and got cracking on the remaining work. In the back of my mind, I figured that even if I didn't finish, or something went horribly wrong, I could still bring my bin of spare track and set up something smaller, but I didn't let that slow me down.

              With the fire well stoked, I got to work. Some of this might be out of actual order, but it all happened so fast that it doesn't really matter anyway. So, first up, shimming the sport (non-digital) track! I dug through a small stack of art supplies and sorted the cardboard by thickness, choosing the thickness I thought would be the best match. I put the test piece on TOP of the track against the EcoFoam, and they were level, so I went with it. First step, cut a bunch of shims:

              I cut strips because my plan was to glue the shims to the wood, spanning most of the width of the track, and placing each one where the track had a rib, or other structure to rest on the shim for the most support I could get without laying down massive sheets of cardboard under all the track. I didn't take a lot of photos of this process, but here's a shot where you can see the shims that will support a standard straight (I started adding another piece in the center later on), and a lane changer which doesn't need any shims:

              I also put shims where the sport track would join another piece of sport track. Alas, this came back to bite me later... Here's another progress photo showing my process for the curved track. I usually started with an anchor piece, and then lined up the next piece, but upside down. I marked the table where the ribs were on both sides of the track, as well as where that piece ended. I then glued the shims in place, and laid that track down and connected it to the previous one. That process was repeated... a lot. For straight pieces, I could just lay the piece upside down next to it's final location, and eyeball the shim locations.

              Controller holders

              Maybe I'll make something a little fancier in the future, or change these out to something the kids can use more intuitively (the controllers need to go on sideways), but for now, I found some simple tool hooks that screw into the wall. A small hole pre-drilled, and they went in easily by hand. I planned out where each holder would go so that they were all evenly spaced along the front of the table. There were two on the center two pieces, and one on each end piece.

              Power and Timing

              I wanted to be able to unplug the power base from the track so that I could use whichever base I wanted to use, as well as reduce any possibility of damage in storage and transport. Of course, that meant splitting the base from the track, but also putting the connectors on the track with no cables coming out of it. Since I wanted a nice, clean table-top, that meant the connectors had to be UNDER the track.

              I really like using the Cat5e cable for the sensors, and had plenty of the heavy duty MOLEX connectors for power, so it was an easy choice to use those again, but how do I have the connectors coming out of the bottom without a pigtail, or too much sticking out? MajorMagless had done his APB split using the same connectors, but his was so small, I wondered how he did it. He told me he took apart the connector and soldered right to the pins. I might have gotten a different kind than him, but this is what mine looked like after I pried off the color coded piece:

              I took the photo for you guys, but also for me, so that I didn't lose track of which pin was for which wire! Those special wire tapping pins are in there pretty good, and I considered cutting them off, but when I saw that they were just in through-hole connections on the little PCB, I knew I wanted to solder my sensor wires directly to the board. It took a hot iron (couldn't pry them out) and some pressure, but I got each of those pins out of there:

              With some careful soldering, a little adjusting to prevent shorting, and a LOT of double-checking, I managed to get all 8 sensor wires to their appropriate locations.

              Sensor wires done, I still needed to bring power to the track. I mocked up where the sensor connector would go, and decided where the power connector would go. With the wire slightly long in the connector, I carefully arranged each wire to its correct rail, and prepared them all to the exact length they needed to be, tinned all the wires and rail tabs, and soldered it in place:

              I installed the sensor boards, and made sure all the wires would be channeled well, and not interfere with the cover when it was re-installed.

              After a successful test to ensure power was flowing properly, and all the sensors were working properly, I put way more ShoeGoo on than I needed, and put a weight on the connectors to let the glue set overnight:

              The next day, I cut a hole in the cover plate, added some more ShoeGoo, attached the plate, and finished it off with more ShoeGoo. At this point, I figured if I ever had to take this track apart, it would probably be because of some failure that required soldering new wires in several places anyway. I'd rather have it be as resilient as possible than to fail because I wanted to be able to repair it more easily.

              Now that the track was done, I had to install it. Fortunately, I had already determined that the connector would come through the table in a place that would not interfere at all with anything else (such as a screw for the table legs!). Starting with the largest paddle drill bit I had, then squaring off the hole with a keyhole saw, finally finishing it up with a rasp and a file, I managed to get the right size hole in the right place for the power track to sit nicely where it belonged:

              At this point, I was pretty much ready to go! I did have to build a power cable to connect between the base and the track, but that was a breeze, comparatively speaking. I had to make sure everything worked after it was installed, and it did. Although I couldn't put the entire track together in the time I had left, I did make sure the small section that the base was connected to worked. While testing that, I realized I hadn't accounted for where the APB tower would be. Fortunately, I had plenty of room just near the power track. I cut a + in the EcoFoam and used an old plastic container to hold the foam aside while a drilled a whole big enough for the tower connector to fit through. Fortunately, this also did not interfere with anything, and the cable pulls all the way down to get the mess of it out of sight, but still allowing the tower to be moved as needed, which I did a LOT while running the event.


              With the track ready to go, and working well (as far as I knew), I had the morning before the event to figure out how to get the pieces from my van to the room, as well as how they would be situated IN my van. I had a dolly with a folding arm that I was sure I could get all four pieces on when stood on one end. This would allow me to bring in all 4 pieces in one go, and it would fit more easily through doorways and such. Unfortunately, trying to get 4 of these things onto the dolly by myself was a bit too tricky for me, and I discovered that the tables are VERY sturdy, when one of them fell over right to the floor, rattling and bouncing a little when it landed. My heart sank as I watched it fall in slow motion. Before going to rescue it, I made sure to secure the other pieces to the dolly. I was happy to see that the only thing that happened was that the track all plopped onto the floor. Here's a photo after I lifted the table up and propped it. You can also see all the shims that went into this section.

              At that point, I decided that two pieces on the dolly would be enough, and I would just have to make an extra trip back to the van. I think I'll also look into a way to hold the pieces from falling over. Maybe some kind of simple wooden rack, or maybe a whole new dolly that has something on the sides. Even two pieces turned out to be a bit of a chore on this relatively small dolly with no side support for what was on it.

              But, I still had to figure out how to put it all in my van. I knew the pieces would fit. I could fit an entire sheet of 4x8 wood in there, if I needed. I took a couple seats out to get ready, and opened the back door... and realized that the opening was smaller than the space inside. That's silly, and annoying... because the opening is just a couple inches too small for my track pieces, since they have those heavy "fingers" sticking up along the edges where they join. A quick measurement verified what my eyes had told me. Fortunately, there are two other doors to the back of the van, and they're larger in height. I just needed to slide the pieces in at an angle through the side door. A quick eyeball of the inside space provided by removing one seat from the back and middle row told me that I could fit all 4 tables in there, and use the other seats as support to help keep them upright. This worked fairly well, so I tied a few bungee cords around them and put the rest of the stuff in the back:

              Setting up!

              Not having put the table completely together for a couple months, and knowing that Murphy likes to jump out when least expected, I decided to arrive at the school EXTRA early to set up. It's a good thing I did, too. As I mentioned earlier, the shims under the track joins came back to haunt me. In one location, I had a shim at the track join right at the table join, but I didn't realize that the piece to join to was a digital piece. When I attempted to put those tables together, they just did not want to go all the way together. I thought it was misalinged tabs, which it was at first, but once I got all the tabs lined up, it still wouldn't join completely. Once I realized what was wrong, I whipped out my trusty Leatherman tool, and cut away the part of the shim that was stopping the digital track from sliding up to the regular track.

              I thought ahead a little bit, and brought my Sony tablet, because it had a stop motion movie function. This was started after I brought in all the pieces, and includes the repair I had to make. The video was captured at 1fps, so each second of this video is half a minute of real time, putting the total set up time at about 23 minutes. Take away a couple minutes for the repair I made, and I'd say the first time set up was 20 minutes. Not too bad. Of course, this doesn't include bringing everything in, which would be different for every venue. I also talked to someone after the event, and next time I should be able to bring my van right up to one of the outside doors so that I can just bring each piece in by hand in a few minutes. If I don't get a better dolly solution, I'll definitely do that. Anyway, enjoy this little video:


              As you can see, I arrived so early that they were still cleaning up the room after lunch. Those messy kids!

              Here's a shot of the complete, set up table:

              And of the "control station" hidden underneath on the tote I used to bring it all in:

              I used the cheap controller extensions I got off ebay. I had put colored tape on each of them so that I could easily tell them apart when connecting them to the APB.

              And here's the power and timing cables connected up underneath:

              And finally, a short video of the kids playing. Not a single car met the floor this time, thought one of the kids liked my cheap fences from before better than the wood walls. :\



              • #8
                that is great you take the time to keep model slot cars in front of school kids.


                • #9
                  very nicely done.


                  • #10
                    very nice!!


                    • #11
                      Thanks, guys. While a big reason for this is to help get/keep slots in front of kids (and adults), I must admit that I wouldn't mind earning a little extra money, too.


                      • #12
                        Great! this is what i was looking for to build for my track... Thanks. I need to keep my track smaller than that but this is a great inspiration.


                        • #13
                          Thanks, Ramon. I'm glad that I've helped inspire you. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.


                          • #14
                            This is a great thing that you have done. You have given these kids an experience they may never forget. On behalf of slot car guys, thank you.


                            • #15
                              This was an awesome read. Glad to see that you are putting forth so much effort to keep the hobby alive in a new generations eyes!