Monday, January 17, 2011

The Straco layout: A worthwhile project?

Over the past year I've written off and on about the Straco Express, the Japanese toy electric train I picked up on a whim. When the video below was taken, I didn't have enough track to complete the circle (which is why the train only makes one pass by the camera -- which it then crashes into).


I thought that if I could find enough track, I'd be able to reshoot the video.

Well, I did.

But we're not there yet. Most of the track in question is tarnished, and some rails are actually rusted. This prevents good electrical contact between the track (through which the controller's mighty "D" cell batteries are pumping micro-watts of power) and the contacts in the engine.

I've done a basic cleaning -- which helped -- but soon discovered another problem.

The track is too flimsy. Most of the pieces are slightly bent, and when connected the entire loop doesn't lay flat. Some of the curved sections have a slight twist in them, and so the loop has little rises and falls as well as a slight tendency for the inside rail to be higher than the outside.

If the entire train was the same weight as the engine, that wouldn't really be a problem. As the engine rolls along, it pushes the track flat against the table. But the cars are far to light to that. So after the engine passes, the track springs up, and the cars jump the rails.

If I mount the track to a flat surface (such as a piece of plywood), then that should solve the problem.

But do I really want to invest the time? Because I already know that if I do, I won't want to just affix the track to a piece of unfinished wood. I'd like to prime it and paint the platform first. And to ensure that it remains flat, probably reinforce the back with some kind of bracing. And maybe build a bracket for the power pack. And...

Well, you get the idea.

I'm not sure if it would be worth it.

But I would like to reshoot that video...

What do you think?


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