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I have the opportunity to purchase some Gargraves track at an auction. I'm considering using it for my next layout (far down the road), but I had some questions about it:

-How can you tell if 3ft sections are just strait sections, or are flex track? 

-It is phantom rail. As I understand, that means the center rail is blacked out. Does this wear off in use? Is it removable if I decide I want to see the center rail? 

-How would my prewar trains run on this (and gargraves/RCS switches)? I plan to mainly run modern equipment, but want to be able to run my prewar (non gear over flange) equipment on it if the mood strikes me. 

Also, please let me know if there is any other information that I should know about this track system. I've been using tubular track all my life, but am not looking to get more prototypical looking track. Thanks!

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3' sections that are just straight have two metal tiny rails on the underside. They do make them but the flex type is very more common. 

I haven't had it wear off but yes if you want to take some sandpaper to it. 

I have only had on a few cars the flying shoe to hit on switches, otherwise, all has been fine

you will need to connect the two outside rails as they are separated electrically by the wood/plastic ties. you can run a wire from one to the other or as I do when setting up drops I wire one, oneway the next the other ( ie I will wire outside rail and middle then inside rail and middle )

Before you asked, I never even knew that Gargraves made 37” Straight rigid sections.  From their site, it looks like the rigid track has a plastic piece under and outside the outer rails to hold them straight.  If you cut the plastic, it could be curved.

I’ve been using Gargraves phantom line track it since the mid 80’s.  The black does not wear off.  You could remove the black by sanding with fine grit, but that would expose bare steel (not good unless it’s stainless).

Prewar may have a problem running over Gargraves or Ross switches if the pickups are not spaced widely.  On my 751E, I had to run a wire from a vestibule to the loco to make it over switches.

Don't buy old Gargraves track! As the track ages the wood ties dry out. This makes bending the track difficult as it becomes harder to slide and adjust the tie positions. The flex track has no struts on the underside to keep it straight. The blackened third rail does not wear off. My layout was built in 1987 with Gargraves flex phantom rail track,Midwest cork roadbed,  Ross Custom switches and Tortoise switch machines. No better combination has come along to beat it. Buy new flex track only. You will not be sorry. It's easy to bend and cut either with a Dremel cut off wheel (Always wear safety glasses), or a Zona fine tooth saw. 

@Dwayne B posted:

I was going to use Gargraves track on my layout......But after I put some tinplate trains from the 20s on the track I decided against it.....The flanges on the wheels hit on every tie. I would stick with tubular if your going to run tinplate.

Interesting. What in particular were you running? I tested a piece that I had (forgot I had it) with a Lionel 529 passenger car, and it was fine. That being said, my future layout has an 0-31 dogbone on a shelf above the layout that will be tubular track for prewar trains. It will be finished in a prewar style (right down to cloth wiring on accessory posts), then will transition down a hillside to the scale layout. This way, anything I can't run on the Gargraves, I could run there. I just wanted to make sure that at least some of it would be okay, in case I do an all Prewar operating session. 

Last edited by CarGuyZM10
@ADCX Rob posted:

Don't the wheelsets make the connection to the other rail through the axles?  A 12 car train would have at least 48 connections to the other rail.

Not always, what happens if you have a break in a block. ( ie wire comes loose. ) if you have both rails powered you don't have to worry about that, do you?

Switches and crossover can cause problems also

Bottom line what does it hurt to be safe. How much harder is it to do one lead outside rail and the next on the inside rail. 

Last edited by rtraincollector

My first layout used Gargraves track and Ross switches.  I run only prewar American Flyer O.  First issue that cropped up was the early electric engine wheels have wide/fat flanges that did not fit through the Ross switch frogs and derailed every time.  I tried to modify the frogs, but this did not help the issue, so I finally removed the Ross switches and later sold them.  

I have to say that I was generally displeased with the Gargraves track and the prewar trains.  About 5-6 years ago I had an issue with a dehumidifier in my basement and did not catch it, until the wood ties had mildew all over them.  That was reason enough for me to get rid of the Gargraves track.  Ran Lionel tubular track and am much happier with how the trains run.  Still don't have any switches on the layout and did not even consider adding them.  

@turbgine posted:

 It's easy to bend and cut either with a Dremel cut off wheel (Always wear safety glasses), or a Zona fine tooth saw. 

I bought this for $30 on sale at Harbor freight last year.  Turns out it works great with a cutoff wheel for cutting Flex Track.  I thought it might not produce clean edges, but way better than I expected, and the three rails are 100% parallel cuts.

Hit the ends with my little file to take off any flash and job done.  It's way faster and more precise than doing the rails individually with the Dremel.

6 in. 5.5 Amp Cut-Off Saw at Harbor Freight

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I'm with GRJ on the use of a mitre saw.  I absolutely love my DeWalt.  It's smooth, quiet, and does a great job of cutting everything (including GarGraves track) cleanly.  I've used a Zona or hack saw to cut track; this is easier.  I've not had good luck using a Dremel to cut track - too much bucking and bouncing for a clean cut.

George

I bought this for $30 on sale at Harbor freight last year.  Turns out it works great with a cutoff wheel for cutting Flex Track.  I thought it might not produce clean edges, but way better than I expected, and the three rails are 100% parallel cuts.

Hit the ends with my little file to take off any flash and job done.  It's way faster and more precise than doing the rails individually with the Dremel.

6 in. 5.5 Amp Cut-Off Saw at Harbor Freight

I second John’s recommendation on this harbor Freight cut off saw. Not a tool I use all the time but when I do it’s worth every penny!  

I second John’s recommendation on this harbor Freight cut off saw. Not a tool I use all the time but when I do it’s worth every penny!  

I third the recommendation on this saw. It's heavy, loud and a bit clunky, but it has an on-board, adjustable clamp to hold the track in place and it can be angled for cutting track across bridges, etc. I use the side of a Dremel cut-off wheel to clean any flash off and get a clean edge (I know, not recommended, but quicker than a file).

And the price is right.   

@Oman posted:

Working with Atlas track, I needed a chop saw that worked with the track in place. So, I made a jig for a Dremel Ultra-Saw. The only short coming; it doesn't include a spring. Dremel now has a proper blade for cutting metal, unlike what you see in this picture.       IMG_0687

Keith,

How do you cut curves with it?  Does it have some flexibility in the wood base?

While the miter saw looks the way to go making quick work of straight cuts. Most of my track laying happened 30 years ago. I always left a stagger in the rails and then slid the ties back in place. Especially on curves. All cuts were made with a Dremel. This was all new to me back then. I doubt I came up with this idea on my own. No Forum in those days. Must have read it somewhere in OGR.

55A42F37-EBA5-40E1-ADC7-D66CF1AE0A56AFE6524A-1071-490C-9E9A-61F0A23DE064

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Since we are on the subject, I have a few Gargraves questions, as I am switching to GG after using 0-27, 42" curves forever.  I was trying bending a piece of track yesterday using my 0-42 road bed template and it worked pretty good.  But I actually need to bend it further for it to stay at 0-42.  Questions: 1.) Does the track need to stay at that curve diameter or can you flex it a little more with your hands and screw it down?  2.) The DCS manual says somewhere that you need to remove some of the blackened center rail for better signal -- is this really needed?  3.) Does adding water/dish soap or WD40 to NEW track make it bend easier as some have suggested on used track? 4.)  Does this track solder well for hook up wire or should I buy the connecting wires from Gargraves?

GRJ,  love that Harbor Freight saw idea.  I've used my Dremel tool with the long extension to cut tubular track.  Do those fiber discs wear down quickly like the little Dremel ones and does HF sell replacement disc?

GG TRACK

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The GG track does spring back, I haven't tried bending it tighter than O72 as that's the minimum curve I have on the layout.  It does get more difficult the tighter you bend it, but Tom Tee recently posted an O27 curve with Gargraves flex, so it can be done!  However, once you've initially bent it to the curve desired, what I do is tack one end down and then using a traced line or a chunk of the proper radius sectional track as a template, screw it down along the desired radius to keep it at the bend radius I want it to end up with.

AFAIK, you do not have to remove the blackened rail coating, it works fine for me with the coating.  You do want to do a cleaning pass with something like mineral spirits to get the greasy residue off the rails.

As for the Harbor Freight cutoff wheel, I'm still using the original wheel, and I have cut a lot of flex with it so far, about 2/3 of the track on the layout is flex track.  I'm sure there are hundreds of cuts under it's belt, and it doesn't seem to have much wear at all, I'm sure it's good for hundreds more.  For the Dremel wheels, I've stopped buying the over-priced Dremel fiber wheels, I go to Widget Supply and buy their fiber cutoff disks by the hundred.

38.1mm - 1. 5 inch Reinforced Cutoff Wheels - 1/8 inch hole - 100pc, $12.97.  They work just fine and seem to last pretty much the same as the Dremel ones for many times the price!

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