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Successful track builds

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  • #16
    I would not recommend using material thinner than 3/8 inch (10mm). Thinner than that the web of material under the slots will be too thin and weak.

    Don't pay the rip-off prices from HD (Home Depot?) If you go to a local plastics supply house you may find they have left-over 'scraps' that are wide and long enough for you to use, and might sell you for cheap. Even if you buy virgin material they will give you much better pricing.

    Those folks will also cut material you buy to your specification. Very convenient.

    Look for a place that ONLY sells plastic. They mainly sell to industry, but they are also happy to sell to private individuals. At least that has been my experience.

    There are different grades of plastic you can use. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) isn't the best material for routing because it can release small quantities of chlorine gas when it is cut. Like World War I gas-attack gas. You'll notice that it corrodes the surface of a steel router bit. Like I said, small quantities. Still, not the stuff you want to huff.

    The cheapest plastics will be polyethylene, polypropylene, and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). I wouldn't recommend polyethylene and polypropylene for track material because they are inherently slippery. They are commonly used for milk bottles. They tend to be translucent, and do not take paint well. Not glue either. But they can be thermoformed and welded.

    ABS isn't commonly used for track material either, although I suppose it could be, especially if painted. It is a great material for things like retaining walls. It can be had in different colors, though most commonly it is available in white. It thermoforms easily, and can be both welded and glued.

    As far as MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) goes, I have only had one customer who experienced water damage, because an overhead pipe leaked directly onto his track. He was able to repair it with some advice from me.

    I have heard that there are grades of MDF that are supposed to be water-resistant. I have never used them, so I can't comment on just how water-resistant they are. You probably won't find them anywhere except a place that sells specialty lumber and sheet goods. And even then you will probably have to order it -- not something they'd normally stock.

    I have used MDF exclusively for my tracks. It is the material all large-scale commercial tracks have been made of, and those have lasted for decades. And that can be said of a couple of my tracks too.

    Ed Bianchi
    Last edited by HO RacePro; 02-02-2018, 06:03 AM.


    • #17
      Most of the aftermarket tracks like MaxTrax, TKO and Brad's Tracks are made of Sintra, which is expanded PVC. Ordinary PVC from Home Depot would probably not be the same thing. Sign shops often use Sintra, if you do not have a plastics supplier nearby there might be a sign shop with the right material in stock.


      • #18
        I have used HDF (High Density Fiberboard), also known as sign board. It used be the go to material for the highway signs (back in the day). It is extremely water resistant. We used to make things that would live underwater for marine research projects and had little problem with it. The only problem is it can be hard to find. Some lumber yards have it, but most do not. You can always ask around.