After Glenn Holland showed the types of curved tracks that are currently available on the aftermarket and what can be expected, I thought it could be interesting as well to tell about the ways how to make your own track. Some if it is from before the ME Models era, some of it actually is a bit younger.
In any way, it shows our community is far more versatile and creative than one might sometimes think, even back in the days when the 9V system limited us to 1 radius, 1 type of switch and 1 type of straights.
Seeing how much there is out there nowadays, I’m sure this is not an exhaustive list. So, if you have any additions, feel free to add them in the comments.
First of all, let me start with the former holy grail of Lego tracks: The Flextrack. Before all us were buying our R88 and R104 tracks, we actually had the dream of introducing one of the most versatile types of track from the Model RR hobby: Flextrack. Nowadays, with Flextracks we mostly mean the cursed little brother of the straight and curved track which you find in every box of tracks that you buy, but before that, it was an actual dream for a lot of us Lego Train Heads. Lego in fact almost got it right in the prototype phase (unfortunately I wasn’t able to trace back those pictures), but due to some internal design changes, we ended up the version with the ugly check rails that we have now.
Around the same time (the 9v era was still in full swing) two builders were looking into possibilities to make actual flextrack. One from the US, one from the Netherlands. Both had a same type of approach but a different end result, due to different decisions within the design phase, they actually look pretty different.
Interesting enough, both of them use model railroad rails and both use sanded down plates for connection. Both of the also try to stay within the L-Gauge system, meaning sleepers of 2×8 spaced approximately 2 studs apart. Due to this being Flextrack, this is obviously slightly more and slightly less at some times.
First up is Kenn Rice, how, as far as I can remember, is the pioneer in Lego Flextrack. He posted a DIY tutorial in the begin of 2005. For this tutorial he used Atlas O-Gauge Flex track. The dimensions of O-Gauge track actually come pretty close to the dimensions of Lego Rails so it makes sense using them. I have never seen these tracks in action online, but since Kenn is part of WAMALUG, it could be that they were once shown at one of their WAMALUG or WAMALTC events.
The second one is Grunneger, a Dutch builder. For his flex track he was inspired (as far as I can remember) by Kenn Rice. However, he didn’t only build his own straight and curved track, but also had a go at building his own switches, which he designed himself. Nowadays he isn’t active anymore as far as we know, but his tracks were shown several times in 2007-2008. He has a short picture tutorial online which you can see at his Brickshelf.
Wooden and Plastic track
As always, there is the possibility to take it one step further. In this case, it means building tracks fully out of things that are not lego-related. The best examples come from Youtube, which more and more becomes a place to share your new Lego ideas outside of the “old” forums that most of us are used to. Since there seems to be some what of a division between the people using forums like Eurobricks and people using YouTube, some great ideas are able to come to fruition without us realizing it!
First up is a tutorial on how to build custom plastic rails that actually still look a bit like Lego. Come to think about it, it’s weird that after the introduction of the plastic track, nobody had this idea any time sooner and that still not a lot of people are talking about it. On the other hand, maybe this has something to do with the success of custom 3D printing.
Second is an idea that is a little bit more out-of-the-box; building your own tracks using plywood. The great advantage of this is the flexibility of shaping the tracks in all different forms of curves, since plywood is pretty flexible. The YouTuber that came up with this idea, Monty4s, has actually gone even further than just building his own Lego tracks. For the ones with a strong stomach, I welcome you to have a look at his channel and see for yourself.
The Didn’t-Reach-The-Aftermarket Track
Around the same time that ME Models launched their Kickstarter, Ben Fleskes of Big Ben Bricks looked into designing aftermarket tracks. His idea was, just as the Flextracks, build around the Model RR tracks. However, he had the idea for a fully Lego compatible system that was aimed more at Model RR L-gauge; for example, the sleepers would be 1×8 and spaced only 1 stud apart. Sadly, just before he decided to release it, he scrapped the idea since it would never meet the same high standards of Lego. He did however print some parts by using a 3D printing and should have them on sale in some way or another (his FAQ states that you should contact him directly about this). In any way, it wouldn’t be all to difficult to replicate this in some way or another; essentially it would require O-Gauge tracks and custom printed sleepers which would need to be compatible with regular bricks.
3D Printed Track
Next to the companies that sell 3D printed tracks (most notably 4DBrix and Trixbrix) there are also several Lego Train Heads who have themselves designed different types of tracks. Mostly this is done out of a household request; for example, to connect 12V with 9V-type rails. Or introducing straights for narrow gauge tracks, or even simpler: directly copying the official curves and straights. Several of them have uploaded their files on Thingverse (search for ‘Lego rails’ and ‘Lego track’) from where you can directly download these files to print at home, and on Shapeways where you can also directly buy the tracks if you don’t own a 3D printer yourself.
As said above, this is definitely not an exhaustive list. So, again, if you have any additions, feel free to add them in the comments! We will try our best to update the article accordingly.