Bending track or making your own flexible track

Standard track cramping your style? Don’t want to buy flexible track? Here’s how to make your track bend and go where you want it.

Brian F. wrote in with this handy but overlooked tip.

The standard model railway track (Peco Setrack for example) is rigid and fixed. It’ll be curved to a predefined radius or straight and doesn’t bend.

If you want your track to fit anything but a straight run or to a predetermined curvature the standard answer is to use Flexible track which is designed to be bent.

But what if you’ve already got the standard track and don’t want to spend more money on flexible track?

Well, reader, Brian F. has the answer and it’s a good one.

make your own flexitrack

Compare the underside of these two sections of track.

As he points out, there’s actually no difference between standard track and Flexitrack, they’ll bend equally.

What stops them, however, is the “webbing” under the rails that hold the rail in place.

Take a look the underside of the two OO gauge track types. The track on the left is Flexible track, the track on the right normal standard track.

The plastic under the rails and between the sleepers, the webbing, on the standard track is a solid piece of plastic and so prevents the rails from moving or being bent.

Flexitrack, by contrast, has gaps in the webbing (marked in red) that allows the track to be bent.

To bend standard track all you need do is snip gaps in this webbing.

Job done.

You now have DIY flexible track and can bend the track to the curvature you require (within reason – see point 1 below).

A couple of words of warning, however.

  1. Don’t bend Hornby Radius 1 or Peco No 1 curves any more than they already are. These are already the tightest curves (minimum radius) and going any further will cause problems for locomotives – derailments etc.
  2. Bent track it will naturally try to revert back to its original shape. When bending it you’ll need to fix it down with track pins or fast drying strong glue to hold it in shape.
  3. When bending track, remember that the outside rail of a curve will end up being shorter than the inside rail so don’t cut it to length before bending it.
  4. Watch the radius of your bends. Too tight and your locomotives won’t be able to get around the curve. Use a radius 2 or 4 as a template and don’t go tighter than this.
  5. When snipping gaps in the webbing, make sure you don’t damage the rails. You only want a tiny gap in the plastic between the sleepers.
  6. Just as with flexible track, offset the cut so the webbing isn’t completely separated at one point and can come apart.

Finally, this technique can also be used on points, as John Mellor explains below.

Brian sent this in but what track tips can you share? What’s your favourite time-saving track laying tip?

Leave yours in a comment below.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
  1. I have used your evergreen and excellent tip for bending fixed/standard track for about sixty years. It is an idea from Wren who produced a flexible track with a fibre web and sleepers in the late 1950’s (where the web was removed/cut away by the purchaser) between the sleepers on every other side.

    I don’t think their idea really took off because Peco soon produced their version of the same idea, but with the web pre-removed as it still is to this day.

    It’s a good thing you have reminded us of this hack because as old as the idea is, it is still very relevant and useful.

    • Thanks. It’s one of those good old tips that gets overlooked by many people, myself included. I’m glad Brian reminded me and I’m able to reproduce it here. Cheers, Andy

  2. Loads of all ages and types. I seem to inherit from members of the family as they grow out of model trains and discover girls, boys beer etc. I tend to chuck out points but keep the rest. Using the good stuff and using less good on sidings etc

    • Hey Martin, totally agree with you. Second-hand points are often more trouble than they’re worth although I take the occasional risk and use them. The exception is short crossings, no moving parts so not a lot to go wrong and I picked a second-hand one up today in fact. Andy

  3. How simple is that.  How come I never thought of it.  Now I can press into service all that old track I have lying in a draw.  Great idea

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