Model Railroad: What Is Flex Track?

The standard model railroad track comes in a variety of different sections.

These model railroad track sections could be straight or curved and come in full sections or half sections and other different configurations.

There is a huge selection and the right configuration of model railroad track sections will give you a great layout.

However, sometimes these track sections are not quite right to provide the layout you require. You might want a better flow of track or maybe you don’t want too many joiners and flex track provides the perfect solution.

Here’s what Ryan Kunkle had to say about flex track…

Working with individual track sections has its convenience, but for free-flowing original track designs, flex track is a better option. Working with flex track takes some care and practice but with a little patience and know-how, even a beginner can pick it up quickly. Flex track is a bendable track section that can be shaped to any radius. One rail is fixed while the other slides in the cradles. Sections come in 18 to 36 inch lengths in N, HO, and O scales. Narrow gauges are available too.
[full article here]

model railroad flex track

 

Are you using flex track on your model railroad?

Please tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

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About Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan is on a mission to encourage more people to give model railroading a go... There is just no better hobby in the world!

62 Responses to “Model Railroad: What Is Flex Track?”

  1. James Moe Reply Wed at 1:39 pm

    I would only use flex track, I would not even consider handlaying track, if handlaying track was the only way to have a model railroad, my models would just sit on a shelf. I have used good old atlas code 100 flex track for years with no problems. A yardstick laid beside the track when attaching it does a good job of keeping the flex straight where tangent track is desired. Model power flex track is also good for tangent track because it is more rigid than atlas. Jim 

  2. Rock Island Reply Mon at 1:27 am

    I have been using flex track for many years and have not experienced any problems. You need to solder the sections together so there are no dead spots on your layout. Since the flex track is three feet long, you can accomplish laying a lot of track in a working session.

  3. I have used flextrack before. You must remember flextrack cannot be bent to do radical turns.It is for smooth long distant curves to scale.If used properly,you will get the visuals you expect.Happy rails,Digger.I

  4. I have used flextrack in the past and I never had a problem. Some think it can solve your troubles to fit your layout, but remember, be realistic about your curves. Trains were not intended for ninety degree turns. Dont over do it! Happy Rails,Digger.

  5. Peachtreeone Reply Thu at 2:02 am

    I’d love to use flex track as I see it as a time saver and convenient. However, at present I’m using sectional track with plans to use flex track on my next layout.

  6. robert j holmes Reply Thu at 12:50 am

    i like flex track ware to send the pictures of the layout i am building  40×70 ho  robert jholmes 

  7. Thebeev2003 Reply Wed at 10:49 pm

    My biggest problem with flex track is not addressed here.  The problem is with cutting and aligning pieces together.  The track is just flimsy enough that after cutting to appropriate endings, a very minor bump or movement of the track re-aligns the ends differnet from what was intended (and also adjusts the radii you had intended too).  This is doubled when joining two flex tracks to each other.  Soldering together does fill in rail gaps, however, I really don’t like the idea of multiple 3′ lenghts of flex all soldered together

  8. I have used both FLEX TRACK and individual track sections like EZ track and ATLAS. I prefer FLEX because it is easier to work with, much more quiet and easier to ballast.

  9. I have been using flex track for some time.  I added a trolley system to the layout where the trolley goes below the table and then rises in two different areas.  With fewer joiners it reduces derailments under the table and I also do a bit of welding to join them.  Because of the length they can also be bent for a quicker descent when needed.  I utilise the brass flex track and find it easy to shape, trim and use.  Every once in a while you need the track to “bump” to one side or the other and flex track let’s you do that quite nicely.

  10. Richard Becker Reply Wed at 5:35 pm

    Once I mastered using it (which did not take long) I will never go back!

  11. Flex Track is one of the most ideal ways of laying track (unless you wish to hand lay track). I have been using Flex Track for nearly 40 years with great success. One tip I still use today is to actually layout large sections of track with actual pieces of fixed track to set the radius I wish, mark the location with marker, then replace with Flex Track.  A second tip is to buy a good set of rail nippers to make the cuts (it is worth its weight in gold). Always give your track a fair length of time while testing for derailing etc. before ballasting.
    Making sure to test with all types and lengths of cars and engines you will be operating,
    Model railroading should be fun not frustrating  !!!!!
             Bill Reschke  (billreschke438@aol.com)

  12. Wayne Michael Fordham Reply Wed at 12:54 pm

    Well I have been out of the model railroading business for many years, but have retained most of my equipment; however having said that, if and when I return to the hobby I will be using flextrack.  I started out using sectional track from Atlas, but I find that due to temperature and climatic changes, or just the usual hard knocks that layouts take from someone leaning over to repair a scene or structure, the sectional tracks may go out of line, (ballast or not).  The out-of-the-box sectional tracks are great for beginners, but as we move along in the hobby the ascetic characteristics of flex-track is more reminiscent of the prototype continuous laid rail of real railroads.

  13. Rossmaude Reply Wed at 1:51 pm

    I have used flex track & found it very convienient for longer streches of track, you do how ever have to watch the radius you put on the curves as you can sometimes make it a bit sharp for some wagons or locos

  14. Flex track has been becoming a better product for many years. Many people use flex track because it streamlines the process of developing long runs of trackage, much like ribbon rail does for the industry we model. When running over 30 feet of trackage in a moderate straight line or a moderate curve over and over again, planning to use straight and curved sections even 9 inches long is a seriously demented process. I realize that sounds inflammatory, but perfection is not found in the industry we model and has no real place in the models we create. The use of a particular type of track, just like the particular use of a type of car or motive power or DCC or DC. After all gentelmen, it your own dang railroad. Have you rpreferences and keep them to yourself. Employ your prerogative without thinking others must conform to your standards. the layout I am part of has over 1000 feet of flex track, laid with care it serves our club effectively and gives us all a sense of accomplishment and a wide range of use. I hope that younger modelers will not be persuaded to neglect the usefulness of flex track in the development of smaller layouts as welll as larger one.

    • Cheers to you!!  The train set I am putting together is in my house and MY room in the basement, therefore it is My World.  My eight year old grandson is helping and having a great time whilst learning a number of skills, along with patience.  So what if there is a lion eating a deer in the forest or a shark in the pond in the middle of the town’s park, my grandson is having fun, learning things and is walking away every time with a sense of accomplishment and not playing one video game.

  15. Richard Otte Reply Wed at 4:12 am

    You will find with Flex Track you can create your own curves radius which is a big plus because it will cut down on derailments which we all love. Flex is also very helpful when working inside tunnels where rail joiners can become a real pain. Speaking of rail joiners isn’t it fun when they just don’t join right and we have that little bump that will put your train off the track. In my book use Flex track where ever you can and enjoy more trouble free operating time watching your trains run and not having to make excuses to your fellow railroaders why you can’t run your trains.   

  16. Mikeyt6791 Reply Wed at 4:03 am

    I have used it in the past but don’t really care for it.

  17. John Carrillo Reply Wed at 3:28 am

    I am using flex track and had no problems with it. I don’t know what I am doing right, but I guess being a started person with little training as to how to use tracks, well I guess I just luck out in working with flex tracks. I hope everyone figure out the problem

    John Carrillo-Fountain, CO

  18. Flex track is good in tunnels or hard to reach points on a layout. Less rail joints, less derailments.                                

  19. i like for making big corners

  20. Hello Dan…
    I have used code 70 Shinohara flex track for years and find it to be quite reliable. One tip that I can pass along is not to bend the track any more often than necessary. Lay out the centerline of your track position and then bend the track to conform on a one time bend basis only. Repeated bending is not a good idea and it can lead to micro kinking…and out of gauge problems…that only show up when you attempt to run your inspection car along the finished rail.

  21. Molloy026 Reply Wed at 1:46 am

    This is a great article !!

  22. Flex track be it beginner or pro has its advantages. Just remember to or when you cut the ends of it, don’t cut no more than you have to so if you ever change it you will still have a pretty long piece. Close in town and close encounters around warehouses it will provide easyly a way to do it.  

  23. I have found flex track to be straight forward and easy to use  I’m hard core and interested in nail my rails just to say I did .  If I need to change a radius  unpin it and move were you will

  24. I gave up using sectional track over 30 years ago. The freedom to design whatever you want without having to make it “fit” to whatever pre-made pieces are available, is worth the extra effort. Other benefits include reducing the number of rail joints, joints tend to be the source of many problems.
    I have used flex track in HO, N and Large scale, although in large scale it should be called bendable track because it isn’t flexible. The modeler just has to be careful with curves, its easy to end up making a curve tighter then planned. Also the transitions between straight and curve need to be double checked for smoothness, no kinks nor jogs. With a little Patience, a very reliable set up can be made with flex track.
    Personally I don’t think I could ever go back to sectional track. I like the freedom and reliability that long sections of flex track gives me. As in everything in this hobby, its a personal choice, chose what you like, be precise and careful when laying track and it can all perform well.

  25. Other than being a bit more difficult to install, flex track is hands down the best. There are fewer connections hence fewer chances to lose current, it’s also better in that it has unlimited shape for whatever you need, fewer pieces for a given length means one piece instead of 3,4 or? Also it’s very flexible for those changes in elevation or dips and rises in the road. Fewer connections also look better, less like a toy train set, more like the full size railroad (hate the misuse of the word “prototypical”). Haven’t compared price but if it isn’t less costly it can’t cost more than 3,4 or more pieces of straight track. In addition it’s available in different “codes” (or rail height) to be more closely in scale, this also allow the use of several different codes on your layout (smaller code in yards or sidings, etc.). So if you want a model layout versus a toy train set, flex track is the track to use, (show me one layout in any magazine or club that doesn’t use flex track)!   

  26. Scottishwilliam Reply Tue at 10:38 pm

    I, personally, like flex track and mostly for what Ryan had to say.  It opens the door to creativity in the layout and it can, like he said, be “flexed” to whatever curve is needed.  Also like he said, the builder must take care in laying it.  The builder must remember to not over- or under-do the curves and other directional items.  The easiest way for me was to get pieces of the different gauged tracks.  As I laid the flex track, since I was using a real world railroad – Illinois Central, I could gauge my layout of the industrial section and the RR through the towns without having to move a section of track or even buildings to accomodate the positioning of both parts of the diorama.  For me, it was a better choice for the space I was working inside my basement.  I’ve moved twice since that layout and have to start all over again sometime in the near future and I will use Micro Engineering’s flex track.  Theirs is more realistic than other brands – like the ties are not “dress right, dress”.  They are staggered and not so perpendicular to the rails – just like my old “for real” subject, the ICRR.

  27. ERIC GEESIN Reply Tue at 10:29 pm

    HI THERE,I HAVE USED FLEXITRACK,OO GAUGE AND G SCALE ON MY MODEL RAILWAYS AND HAVE NO COMPLAINTS ON EITHER TYPE/I AM 86 YEARS AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT UNFORTUNATLY.HOWEVER I KEEP GOING, SOMETHING TO GET UP FOR IN THE MORNING.
          CHEERIO,
                   ERIC GEESIN

  28. Terry Helmrichs Reply Tue at 9:07 pm

    For ease of doing a layout we used Homasote (Recyled Newspapers) instead of cork for the road bed, doing a Cookie Cutter method for the individual track and larger sections for yards. It comes in 4 X 8 sheets, and avalable at most lumber yards.  Check the width of the track you are laying and cut the outer edges at 45 degrees.  For curves cut straight sections also and cut cross cuts up to the 45 degree to the far side, this will alow you to bend it around curves. We ysed this method for the Cedar Valley Railroad Modelers Association of which I am President Terry H

  29. Dave Wardell Reply Tue at 9:06 pm

    Our club uses flex track over our large layout. Fishplates reduce the current and over a long distance can drop the voltage significantly. Using flex track reduces the number of fishplates and thus reduces the amount of wiring required. Flex track is also much quicker to lay.

  30. Very well explained, Ryan.
    The Peco Streamline Flex Track is flexible on both sides of the rail, which makes it very difficult to lay down in curves. What I do is that I fasten (glue) the track from which the Flex is continuing into a curve, solder the rails together and then bend the track the way I want it. This prevents that one of the rails is always slipping out of the joiner. For pre-layouts (see how it works out etc.) I use thumbtacks instead of nails which nicely stick in the cork bedding. For the final installation, I use contact cement and use the center line of the bedding as a guideline.

    Cheers
    Mic
     

  31. I use both sectional and flex track.  Sectional, rigid, track is quick and easy, but I prefer flex track.  It allows easments when entering a curve and is the only way get large radius sweeping surves or S-curves which work well.

  32. I have used flex track on several layouts over the years and consider it superior to sectional track.  It is, however, a bit trickier to lay.  The tips in the article are good.  Two things I would emphasis are the importance of a good sub-roadbed, and good roadbed.  I have always favored cork roadbed on plywood.  You want to use good-one-side plywood with the smooth side up.  It is also very important to take that rasp to the cork to make sure it is perfectly flat and level.

    Don’t even think about using Oriented Strand Board (OSB) for sub-roadbed.  It simply is not flat enough.  One track laying tip … make sure there are no screws under your roadbed.  If the track alignment passes over a screw, move the screw. 

    I typically use contact cement to fasten the cork roadbed.  It installs fast and stays put once set.  I have used track nails, spikes and contact cement to fasten the track.  For someone new to flex track I would recommend the spikes.  I would NOT set the spikes with a tack hammer.  Drive the spikes with needle nose pliers and do the final cinch with the nose of the pliers. Just get the spikes in contact with the surface of the ties or rail web (depending on brand of the track).  The spikes may not seem very secure, but once the ballast is glued in place that track is not going anywhere.

    Another method I have seen used is to use white glue to fasten the track, holding it in place with tacks until the glue dries.  I haven’t tried that method.

    My favorite is to use contact cement.  But you really need to be well practiced in laying flex track before trying that method.  The track has to be shaped perfectly and once down it will stay down.  You get no second chances to re-align. 

  33. woody smith Reply Tue at 7:40 pm

    I use flex track almost exclusively and have had no problems with it.  My electrical conductivety is much better than with sectional track.  I also solder the joints to help keep track together.

  34. I USE A COMBINATION OF FLEX TRACK AND INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS AND ALSO USE CORK AS A BEDDING. THE ONLY MINOR ISSUES ARE GETTING THE CORK IN THE RIGHT PLACE ON THE CURVES AND PROPERLY SECURING THE FLEX TRACK

  35. Semcloughlin Reply Tue at 7:22 pm

    I like flex track, as you call it. It works for me.

  36. Michaelmcgibbon422 Reply Tue at 6:47 pm

    Hi Dan,

    Yes i have used flex track, i`m not going to tell you who it was made by, but when it came to using it on the bends the rail came out of the sleepers, so back to the shop and i was given all my money back.

    I`m working with Fleischmann Profi track,as i`m working with Fleischmann stock, but i`m thinking about using Roco flex  track if i can find out if it`s alright to use, if any one out there is using Roco flex could you let me know if it is ok to use.

                                            Michael

  37. I have only used flexi 100 and find it great,especially on sweeping curves. Try not to have joins on sharper curves though unless you take the time to well secure track to bed. Also you must have the appropiate rail cutting tool to ensure smooth cuts to track. Phil

  38. Londonxray Reply Tue at 6:26 pm

    I used Peco code 83 USA type flexible track for my Canadian layout. For me, flexible track was a must to achieve a realistic long sweeping curve. I found although the rail fixings ( spikes ) looked very realistic they were a flimsy fixing for the rail and this gave me a few problems. Sometimes I think reliability is more important than realism.
    John, London, UK

  39. Used it before I switched to Kato Track, It was use inlong offcenter runs.
    Allanj

  40. Docbob8341 Reply Tue at 4:27 pm

    I love flex track.  That said, the different brands vary widely.  Some are finished beautifully while others have all sorts of metal burrs at the ends and are crude.  Also, it is a bit of a pain to have to frequently cut both rails to different lengths because of curves, etc. when using sectional track pretty well presets all curves and dimensions.  Even so, the flexibility that flex track gives you is the best part.

  41. Peter Tassone Reply Tue at 3:16 pm

    I’ve been using flex-track for my n-scale layouts for years, and I do not consider sectional track to be of any value for anything serious. It obviously takes much more time and patience, but if you want a realistic look and smooth operation it is the only way to go. I use a styrofoam base, and the sections are installed in rough configuration first, and then each section is joined and soldered, then white glued to the base and held in place with toothpicks. On curves the track usually superelevates itself on the outside, but if you want some more you can add shims. Then each joint must be filed smooth with jewelers files.During the whole operation you must eyeball everything you do from track level to assure a smooth flow. The key to it all is patience and  keen eyesight. – PT

  42. Peter Lorton Reply Tue at 3:03 pm

    Flexible track has the advantage ofbeing able to gradually alter the radii of curves. I like it.

  43. Flex track definitely gives you more flexibility in your track-work design. It also avoids excessive joints improving electrical continuity. It’s important with flex track to be careful to layout your curves smoothly and be careful of not making radiuses too small.

  44. Mrautenenterprises Reply Tue at 2:39 pm

    I have used flex track for many years, depending on the look I want to have, older track from the fiftys or earlier, in a modern,2011, setting, flex track gives just the right amount of sway, bobble and uneven track levelness that looks good with slower trains, something not wanted with todays fast, sleek engines and cars. It is easy and fast to install, not having to contend with short sections and the problems with many track attach clips and associated electrical problems. You can also move the track around so looking along the track, it is not perfectly straight, but curves slightly left and right of track line, something hard to do with straight track and have it look good.

  45. using flex track with my experences is very frustrating to use
    there should be some tool that would help lay it in place
     I only have 2 hands and that is not enough
    also how can one see which is the one that slides in the cradles  
    flex track is NOT my choice to use only cost is cause me to use it due to it have considered giving up on this hobby

  46. Yes, I use flextrack. It’s great for gradual transitions into the curves. I do determine how many sections I’ll need for the curve and solder the joints BEFORE bending the track into the needed configuration. This helps keep the rails in line and only necessitates trimming one end.  (Read an article on this many years ago and it’s saved lots of headaches and frustration)

  47. Vulcan_Rider14723 Reply Tue at 2:13 pm

    I’ve used flex track in both in my HO & N gauge layouts and have no problem with it. When ballasted it looks real, I even ballast my switches very carefully so they still work without problems. Our N gauge club had both flex & section track until new officers were elected who have ripped it all out and replaced it with Kato track stating they think it’s better. Kato track to me doesn’t look real and if you ballast around switches and use any water/glue mixture be very careful not to get any near the switches as it will get into them and they won’t work. 

  48. Ottoventer Reply Tue at 2:11 pm

    Flex track is the BEST THING SINCE sliced bread!

  49. I don’t think I would use Flex Track.

  50. Edwardstauffer62 Reply Tue at 1:52 pm

    I have used FLEX track ever since it came out~!   The trick it: to not let it BOW or PINCH~!   Just like the welded rail on the BIG trains~!   It also works great on GRADES and for LONG runs~!   I tryed to put on a PHOTO; but I guess you didn’t get it~!

  51. Personally, I love flex track for the smooth curves and limited joints; it’s much like prototype railroading’s “ribbon rail” that’s welded into lengths up to a mile. However, flex track does have an annoyance factor for the novice–cutting it smoothly and accurately to join to the next track. I also have another problem with soldering lead wires to it without damaging the ties at the solder point. Not everybody has the best tools for the job and you again start getting into a more expensive part of the hobby as a novice.

  52. I have always preferred flex track for my HO trains but I am not so sure about it now that I plan to migrate to N gauge.  I have purchased some track and once we get moved I will attempt a layout in our new home.  I anticipate that a little extra care will be required but it was always very functional in my old layout.

  53. Cornell Carr Reply Tue at 11:34 am

    On my initial N scale layout I used flextrack.  I had problems that were normal for first time use of flextrack.  However, for my new layout, I am using the Kato Unitrack.  It’s much easier to install (although more expensive than flextrack) and trains run very smoothly with consistent electrical flow.  I am very happy I made the switch.

  54. Tom McHenry Reply Tue at 11:34 am

    Dan – Yes, I am using flex track in my S scale layout.  I’ve just recently begun laying track, and am finding that it’s relatively easy to install, and looks very realistic.

    Tom McHenry

  55. I have used it but always had trouble on curves when the rails wouldn’t align.

  56. Tommy Davies North Wales Reply Tue at 11:13 am

    Flexi track is nightmare, however semi flexible track with predrilled holes is delight!!! Tommy

  57. Roytom2003 Reply Tue at 11:08 am

    Hi Dan,flex track is ok in small doses, I always use  section of fixed now and again to prevent unwanted slide and if you are cutting to match a dimension , the slide must be watched carefully.In its place it is OK. Roy

  58. I would highly recommend Flex Track as it is so flexible and enables the railroader to have fewer joints and also to form various radius curves that are free flowing and thereforegive a much more reliable layout (less derailments, etc.).  The major requirement that a little more care is taken in laying the track and the modeller will be rewarded with a better layout with less problems in the future.

    Les

  59. I use flex track, and think it is far more realistic than the standard curved or straight track.  But I have had many problems with it as well. 

    I have found it difficult to adjust it to prevent derailments.  The problems often seem to be the result of the level of the two tracks.  Even though they are the standard guage (I measure them carefully), sometimes one is slightly higher than the other, a problem that is difficult to find. 

    If you can suggest a way to find and solve potential problems before they cause derailments I would appreciate it!

  60. Samuel Cooper Reply Tue at 10:39 am

    Hi Dan,
    I built my first model RR bach in 1985 with mostly flex track… It took some time to get it right but once you learn all the little quircks it works very well… I no longer have that RR it was N scale and I gave it to my son… Since that time I have retired and plan to start another soon…
    Thanks for all your ttips ant info…

    Reguards, Samuel Cooper..

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