Big Track, Low Cost
Expanding Your Track Layout and Saving Money
by Arie Viewer
It’s the day after Christmas. You gave your kids a race set and ever since yesterday morning (at about 6 a.m.) they’ve been having a blast with it. And so have you when you can get one of the kids to turn loose a car and controller, which isn’t often. You need more lanes.
Or, two lanes are just fine but you have a 30 foot-long rec room and you have visions of a straightaway, your very own Mulsanne Straight, running the length of it with a twisty, challenging series of curves and short straights leading back. You need more track.
Or maybe you want four lanes and a Mulsanne Straight, and you can see the packages of components you need adding up fast. And, of course, the dollars start adding up fast, too. Being the frugal person you are, you wonder if there’s a cheaper way to build your dream layout. Fortunately, there is.
When you’re expanding any plastic sectional track layout, especially when going from two to four lanes, the most cost-effective way to get all the additional track, cars, controllers, and power system components you need is to buy one or more additional race sets. This is because race sets always sell for much less than the combined individual prices of the components in them. This is referred to as the sets’ breakup value, and it’s often around double the price of the set.
This happy circumstance occurs because race sets are much more cost-effective for the manufacturers to package, ship, and handle than a huge selection of individual components. Also, race sets are often priced more aggressively because they are the gateway into the hobby for the continuing flow of new customers needed to keep the business healthy.
There are several ways to use this to your advantage. If you’re expanding to four lanes a second set gives you more straight and curved track along with the additional terminal track section (often referred to as a power base or connection straight), cars, controllers, and power supply you will need.
Most race sets come with curves of only one radius, and that is usually the tightest or second-tightest one in the manufacturer’s track system. This is because race sets need to be as space-efficient as possible in order to appeal to the greatest number of purchasers, many of whom don’t have a great deal of room available. Keeping the curve radius tight helps with that. Of course, to build a 4-lane track you are going to need at least two different curve radii, and you will need three or four if you want some variety in the tightness of your turns.
Don’t let that stop you from picking up two or more sets with the same radius curves in them. You can still use them in your expansion plans. Use all the track sections to create a layout by placing the straights two abreast and using the curved sections to make up the inner half of the turns. You can lay out different configurations in this way to see which one will give you the best layout for the size and shape of the space you have. Then, once you have decided on a design, buy enough packages of the next larger-radius curves to complete the layout, and you’re racing on four lanes at a lower cost than starting with just one set and buying all the additional components separately.
If you are sticking with just two lanes you will still benefit from buying an additional set for expansion. The only part of the second set you won’t need in an expanded 2-lane layout is the terminal section, and it never hurts to have a spare one around. They do occasionally fail, and a spare will get you back to racing quickly. The extra power supply is just what you need to give your layout separate power for each lane, which makes the power more consistent and makes the cars easier to drive. The additional cars will let you give each family member his or her own car or just expand your own collection. Some race sets come with cars that aren’t available by themselves. Some people have bought a set with two collectible cars and sold the cars on eBay for a big part of the price of the set, making their layout expansion very inexpensive.
In general, you are better off buying another set for layout expansion as long as you can use all or most of the track components in it and the cars are ones you want, either to keep or sell. All the ideas in this article apply, with a few variations in detail, to any of the track systems we sell at Electric Dreams.
One manufacturer, Scalextric, has taken these ideas to their logical conclusion and produced race sets specifically designed to be used together in going to four lanes. Scalextric’s T2 and T3 sets are the inner and outer halves of a 4-lane layout. For $400 or less you can buy a T2 and a T3 and have everything you need to begin 4-lane racing right from the start. Here they are:
. The cars in this set are both long out of production and collectible.
Scalextric C1232T American Champions Race Set, T2. $189.99. The #76 Camaro is a model of the car driven by Joe Chamberlain, the only independent driver ever to win both a TransAm race and an SCCA A-Sedan national championship with the same car. This model has been long out of production as a separate item and has been brought back just for this set. It is highly popular and collectible.