Long story short . . . Fourth layout build in nine years. All previous were done with Lionel O27.  Done as small as 4x8 and as large as 6x22 in the past.  The new layout in our new house will be 30x11 approximate.  I've been using AnyRail 5 to design it.  After being unable to find an exact fit using a combination of Gargraves and Ross Track with Ross switches, I have been considering purchase of one of each radius curve that I need and using that as a guide exclusively with flextrack, knowing that I will have to cut it in spots.  I have experience cutting Lionel stainless O27, but no previous experience with flextrack.  My goal is to finally go from entry level items to a Top of the Line type, hi-rail set-up.  I am willing to make the financial commitment, but I am concerned that my inexperience may lead to a higher degree of waste than if I were to use pre-configured track pieces.  For those of you with experience in flextrack, what can you tell me to assist in either easing my fears about flex track use, or help me solidify a decision to stick with pre-engineered track pieces?  Thank you for your time.  

Original Post

Flex track planning.  I helped my friend Tom with his layout.   Click on the underline phrase to link a slideshow, (60 pictures). Note the large compass, we fabricated, to install the curves. Ball point pen is always on the center Rail. These curves are larger than O90.    As each piece is installed, requiring screws every two to three inches, the end has to be cut even with a dremel, before the next piece is added. 



Very wise move.

Being new with Ross/GG consider using GG flex on the tangent and cosmetic curves and Ross curved track sections for the fixed radius curves.

Get a rotary tool with flex drive or 90 degree head.

Watch the GG you tube on bending GG track.

There is a slight learning  curve but well worth the pursuit!


Eternity is a long time to have been wrong.

Our club has used at least 3000 feet of Gargraves flex track, likely much more. Lay it out as Mike suggests with a homemade compass, either a string or wooden stick. Then bend gradually to follow the curve. The waste generated by the inside rail having to be cut even with the outside rail won't come close to the cost of pre curved track. I believe Gargraves flex is about the most economical track you can buy.


Like Norton says, flextrack is more economical than the pre-shaped curves. I use a mixture, and one trick I use is to get a quarter circle of the pre-shaped, temporarily attach it, then trace around the ties. I then remove the curved track, and attach a piece of flex track to the attached straight portion of the main, and bend and fasten it alo g the trace marks.

I've had various degrees of success with this, and I have to be sure the bend is smooth, or I can get derailments even on 072. And I have to watch the inside rail and trim accordingly.

I could not have built my layout without using Gargraves flextrack. Many of the curves are bent in uncommon radius so bending them to fit was ideal. I started by making plywood bending jigs 032, 045, 072 and adjusted from there. The process was easy, fast and economical and after adding Midwest cork roadbed and ballasting all looks great. 

Builder of the Hill Lines ( New Delta Lines). Recreating history for the model RR community.

My experience with Gargraves is limited to S gauge, but for whatever it's worth:

1. I find it easy to work (cut and bend) with.

2. It conducts electricity REALLY well (no more wheel "sparking").

3. Looks good; has a certain "old school" charm to it.

4. Is made in the US (which is cool) and I've found the folks there to be extremely helpful, both via 'phone and email. 

My two cents.

Mark in Oregon

I have had very good results with Gargraves flex. A few reflections:

Get new track. Old stock does not bend so well and is more likely to kink. (The ties dry out, and won't slide down the rails properly.) Of course, you can always use old stock for straight sections, or places with poorly-laid track, where kinks might be expected.

A cut-off disc in a rotary tool is far and away the best method for cutting this stuff. Not optional in my opinion. Like others, I also highly recommend the 90-degree attachment. You can do without it, but it is so much nicer to be able to make the cut exactly where you want it the first time. (Without the attachment, your first cut will always be sloped, as the track you are cutting off gets in the way of the body of the tool and prevents you from holding the disc perpendicular to the table. Once you get the excess track out of the way, you have to make a second cut - which will still not be quite vertical. Annoying.)

Dewey Trogdon posted a nice description of how he bends Gargraves here: https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...198#5512461199712198  I would only add that, on tight radius curves, you need to drive the outer rails back home a little at a time as you go.

One of the great advantages of flex track is that you can include easements! Easements are easy to plan (at least on paper; no idea about software), and easy to plot on the layout. You just leave a gap (which differs depending on the radius of the curve) where the curved track meets the tangent. John Armstrong wrote up a detailed description in his book Track Planning for Realistic Operation, but here is a quick and dirty summary: https://mrr.trains.com/how-to/...or-model-train-track

Making joints on curves is something of an art, which I have yet to master (though I would call my efforts acceptable). One thing you could do to avoid this is to use Gargraves for the easement, and then run it into a piece of sectional track. I did this at one spot on my layout: This curve is actually O-36.


I hope you take the flextrack plunge. I could never have had the layout I wanted if I had to rely only on sectional track. Even with all the sizes they make now, sometimes you just need an oddball curve for the space you have. And everything looks so much better on eased curves that there's really no reason not to use them, and the only way to get a real easement (other than handlaying) is with flex.


Photos (1)

I have successfully bent old stock using a suggestion from this forum.  A light spray of wd 40, wait overnight, slide ties and proceed.  I needed a trolley return loop smaller than 027, the old stock was a test that worked so well it was installed an worked for years.  Use GG, you won't regret it.

I have successfully bent old stock using a suggestion from this forum.  A light spray of wd 40, wait overnight, slide ties and proceed.  I needed a trolley return loop smaller than 027, the old stock was a test that worked so well it was installed an worked for years.  Use GG, you won't regret it.

If you can cut Lionel or other sectional track successfully,   You can cut Gargraves Flex.    

I use an epoxy/fiberglass impregnated cutoff wheel on rail now.    They don't break nearly as easily as the older fine grit ones.     I learned the hard way to do it with a little hand saw.   

You can do it and you can lay curves anyway you want.

By the way consider building the layout around the perimeter with perhaps a peninsula if space enough rather than a big flat table.     Tables are nice big areas, but anything wider than 30 inches or so is very hard to reach.    Access to around the walls with 2-3 ft wide benchwork is much easier to work on.

My layout is now 32 years old. It is an open grid design with two per cent grades. I used Gargraves flex track and used my abdomen to bend it as needed. You can use a water heater to make the curves or even go to the trouble of cutting out plywood forms. I used Ross Custom switches with Tortoise switch machines. There is no better switch and they are guaranteed for life. The roadbed is Midwest Cork. One of the pics in the above entries shows a large compass used to make the initial curve drawings. This can be easily made by screwing together two wood yardsticks from the paint store and drilling holes every one or two inches. Before you start PLEASE read Linn Wescott's book on Model Railroad Benchwork. It fully describes "L" Girder construction which makes it easy to do grades and other neat features eg. hidden storage yards. Take your time. This phase is the best part of building a layout. I have enjoyed my "pike" for 32 years and I wouldn't change much if anything. It is easier to bend the flex track when it is new. Just reposition the ties wqually apart after each bend. Use a Dremel too with a fiberglass cut off wheel and be sure to wear safety glasses every time you pick up the Demel. Have Fun.



My opinion- and that's all it is... Unless you need some kind of smooth, variable-geometry S-curve, just use Ross sectional curves.  Note especially NickAIX's comment about making joints on curves.  With flex you might save a few bucks, but it will take 3x as long and the finished product may not work as well.  My $.02.

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

I somewhat ditto Ted S....

So, what's your time and patience worth?  

Just MHO, mind you, but I invested in RR-Track to guide my layout design...using Gargraves and Ross libraries.

To keep the mainline appearance consistent, I used Gargraves flex and sectional curves.  Plenty of radii to choose from.  The flex was fine for straights and transitions.  But, since Gargraves does not use the staple/spikes on their sectional curves, consistent mainline appearance was important to me.

In a like manner, the Ross switches are things of beauty and to be celebrated.   (Again, IMHO.)  Ergo, the use of staple/spikes in their construction was appropriate following prototypical practice of extra rail support hardware in their construction.   

Nonetheless, I had some areas where I needed to gently curve flex track to a unique curvature.  For this I made a jig of sorts which worked just dandy.

But, I certainly have no regrets using the sectional curves wherever possible.  Construction went quickly, it followed the RR-Track plan very accurately, and I'm more than pleased with the results/appearance.

In the end, though, it's another one of those 'TEHO' things about the hobby.

Hey, soft calming music, a glass of wine, a back/shoulder massage periodically from your wife, tolerance of early attempts, patience to do better, a sincere compliment from a friend/family.....it all helps.

FWIW, of course....


My dad and I built our layout with Gargraves and love it. It's been up and running since 2000. Dad did build a jig to help bend the curves but the track runs and looks great. I would not use anything else. 

"Whoever dies with the most trains, wins!"

-Ward Kimball


Cody D. Leavel 

TCA #08-63009 

BobRoyals posted:
clem k posted:

How big are your curves?

I am going to have a shortline loop of 42".  Then, the loop that runs the perimeter of the entire layout will be 72"

IMO  Best to use prefabricated pieces. Anything less than O90 is a difficult bend.  IMO.  

Mike CT posted:
BobRoyals posted:
clem k posted:

How big are your curves?

I am going to have a shortline loop of 42".  Then, the loop that runs the perimeter of the entire layout will be 72"

IMO  Best to use prefabricated pieces. Anything less than O90 is a difficult bend.  IMO.  

Mike, FYI I was able to do an 016 for a trolley line. Just takes patience. Under 054 best make a jig for the smoothest curve. The key is to bend a little at a time all around the curve, not try and bend it with one push.


I just worked through the same dilemma...that is, using flex, bending and shaping for the first time and making a jig (hoping each piece will come out right), or taking the "price hit" by buying sectional curves one time only.  I chose to take the hit and bought the sectional curves.  I purchased 12 pieces of 072 and 12 pieces of 063 Gargraves...the curves look great! 

In working on my projects, I prefer to get to the end game quicker without a long process.  As mentioned above, cutting the track to get the joints tight can be tricky.  I've cut plenty of track on my previous layout.  The system I developed is simply screwing down the track to a bench while leaving the area to be cut slightly overhanging the end of the bench...makes is easier to get a straight cut with the Dremel.


For the OP, unless you have odd size curves, why not just use Gargraves straights and pre-formed Gargraves curves.  This way there would be not concern of kinking the smaller curves. 

My old layout was Gargraves track with Ross turnouts (23 or them!).  No problems with any of it.

I think you will find that Gargraves is very easy to cut.  When I first did my layout, I cut the track with a Dremel.  As I changed things, I went to a cut-off tool with a larger cut-off disc.

As we are now in a rental house, I currently have Fastrack for a large carpet layout with O-84 and O-96 curves.  If I build a permanent layout in our retirement house, it will be all Ross.


Formerly Historic Frederick County, Maryland.  Now close to Baltimore.  Modeling both the Reading and B&O Railroads.


Caleb 10/14/15 - 10/19/19, I'll miss you buddy!

I see that you have a history with Lionel O27 track, here is something you may want to consider.

My WarrenvilleRailroad uses O27 gauge track but with O27 gauge O42 and O54 curves. K-Line made (for a 5 year period only, very hard to find) O72 curves in a O27 profile track - I use these mostly for when shifting a track over a little if needed. Lionel O42 switches are used, I've found these to be reliable. Always buy new though they are getting harder to find at fair prices.

Dressed up with balsawood ties painted brown and kitty litter ballast, IMHO results is a great combination toy/hi-rail look.

You can see pics at www.Warrenvillerailroad.com

On my layout, I used thevery broad selection of sectional GarGraves curves. To make the curves appear more realistic I transitioned from larger-smaller-larger. Example, 063, 072, 080, 089, 096, and 106 are all 12 sections per circle. A combination of 072-063-072 render a 90 degree turn. Mixing sizes break up the symmetrical circular look.

The flex is great when you are "here" and want to go "there".  Start at one end and just work your way down the length until to you've achieved the desired curve, offset, or whatever. The only "trick" is to cut the track ends square when you're done. You can also make a plywood template to make any alternate diameter you need to make things work, ex: 43.5". 

My advice, buy a piece of GarGraves flex and play with it. The worst you can do is trash one piece of track. I think you'll find it both useful and easy to work with.

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