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Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/20/21 8:26 p.m.

I've been writing for GRM and CMS for about 20 years and pretty much since the first year, David, Tim, and Margie send a nice little gift at Christmas.  About 10 years ago, when my kids were about the right age, they sent a Scalextric race track that we set up in the basement.

My two sons loved racing those GT40s and as the years went on, we added more cars.  We also bought a 2nd set on clearance at the local hobby shop when they got out of slot cars and were able to combine the sets to go to four lanes.

The layout was about 4x10' and we had about 10-15 cars and had a lot of fun racing after dinner a lot of nights.  It stopped after a kitchen fire (started by the dishwasher!) really messed up our house.  Not much was burned, but the whole house was badly water and smoke damaged so we had to move out, remodel, and move back 8 months later (note: fires really suck).  The slot cars were in the basement slightly offset from the kitchen and got a little water damaged, but pretty much survived.  When we moved back, we didn't set them up again as the boys were into other teenage distractions by then.

I own Eclectic Motorworks and a couple of years ago we bought a 2nd building to grow our slightly upscale storage business.  At 18,000 square feet, it holds about 70-80 cars neatly spaced and we've tried to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and presentation so customers can really enjoy visiting their cars.  

The building has a large office that I rented back to the previous owner since I didn't need it.  When he moved out, COVID had hit and commercial office space is not worth much anymore.  Plus, we had hatched another plan to make it a space for customer events and a classroom for our technical seminars.  

We realized that it would also be a great place to setup the Scalextric track and we started thinking about a layout.   Then one of the guys on the team suggested a layout like Road America.  We go to the BRIC/KIC/WIC every summer and the Runoffs or other national events whenever we can.  Plus, my dad grew up on a farm 20 miles away (but never went to the track).

A little google searching landed me at Eclectric Dreams website and they had a layout all figured out.

I built model cars as a kid and had a train set as well as HO slot cars, but I'm not a carpenter or a modeling expert.  The goal for this track is about having fun with friends and customers, not about making it into a highly realistic model.   We're going to build a lap timing system (likely with segment times) out of Arduino stuff, so I think the racing could get intense.   I know a lot of you on this forum have skills in these areas, so I thought I'd put this up as a build thread so I can get your suggestions and ideas. 

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/20/21 8:41 p.m.

Ok, this is awesome.

Make it as realistic as possible with a real concession stand. Might be hard to match the quality RA of food, but beer, munchies, and slot cars sounds like a good way to spend an evening or three!

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/20/21 8:54 p.m.

I hope that introduction wasn't too long...this 2nd long post gets to the current status of the track.  We laid out the track we had on the floor in the office to get an idea of how it would fit.  In the first iteration, we felt that the Electric Dreams layout needed a longer main straight and a more realistic Kink, so we ended up with a pretty large footprint.

While that was tempting, it really dominated the space.  We also realized that when a car flies off, it would be a fair amount of running around to put it back on track.  So we scaled back to the original size and moved it to the end of the space.  Even that seemed a little too big, so we scaled it back slightly for the final size.  I ordered up a little more track and supplies from Electric Dreams as I figured I owed them some business after using their design.  I've got to say they're great to work with and their prices are right on par or better with everyone else on the internet.  

The building had three wooden workbenches left behind from the previous owner so we repurposed them to hold the track.  The tops were bad laminated pressed wood, so we threw them away and got a few sheets of cheap 1/2" plywood.  Again, I'm not a carpenter, maybe we should have bought a little better grade of plywood.  Once we screwed them down and put some supports, they straightened up to a solid foundation.

Before trimming the plywood, we setup the track and tested it to make sure there weren't any issues and to get a idea of where to make the cuts.  Once trimmed, it was starting to look cool.  The last thing to figure out was how high to build some sides on some of the turns as the little guardrails aren't enough, especially after the main straight.

With all that figured out, we started trimming it out to make it look nicer in the room.  I didn't want to spend too much time or money on this, so we used some pre-painted beadboard paneling and some vinyl trim.  We've trimmed out the "front" side of it so it looks fairly attractive and will continue to trim out the rest.  

 And now we have a working track that will slowly get improved.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/20/21 8:55 p.m.

I love this!

I have some old HO slot cars that I've had forever and for a long time, I've been dreaming of building Tiny Lime Rock.

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/20/21 9:01 p.m.

Here's my first question for the experts out there.  I originally bought some rolls of model railroad grass from the local hobby shop, but it rubs off a bit.  I found some pretty decent grass-like outdoor carpet at Lowes and thought I'd use it for the higher-touch areas where the drivers will be standing.  

The red arrow shows the Lowes carpet and the plan is to put it on the bare plywood areas.  Does anyone have better ideas?   I know kazoospec is a big model RR guy and I hope he chimes in.


Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/20/21 9:14 p.m.

I initially was going to be lazy and just buy a lap timing system, but then I priced them and changed my mind.  I've been wanting to learn about Arduinos and I saw a lot of people on the internet building lap timers with them, so I jumped in the pool.  I ordered a starter kit for about $60 on Amazon and I'm amazed with how much you can do for so cheap.  I've got my prototype built.  It blinks the starting lights like an F1 race and then uses a photocell that I'll embed in each lane to pick up the lap times.  If it works well, I'll embed several more photocells in the track so we can get segment times and act like real racers.   I bought some extra photocells--I think I paid $4 for 30 of them.



Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/20/21 10:16 p.m.

This is super rad! I'm a big HO scale racer/collector and also have dreams of building something like this like Woody. I love it in the larger scale! You should get some of the Trans Am cars like the Javelin out on that track.

For our HO racetracks we use hobby game mat material that the tabletop wargamers use. It's kind of felt like. I imagine the indoor/outdoor carpet will probably hold up to wear better.

slowbird SuperDork
1/20/21 10:22 p.m.

Yes. Yessssssssssssssss! This rules.

I have plans to build a semi-accurate replica of a fantasy track called Chatham from a video game, with a banked half-oval leading into a drop in elevation and a short set of technical turns, then back up to the oval half.

First though, I have to stop using my racetrack table as a workbench, completely reorganize everything I own, confront the limitations of physical space, give up, cry, save up to buy a bigger house, shake off my obsession to buy more slot cars when I don't even have a track to race on, and decide whether or not to go digital. (Digital lets you change lanes at optional places around the track, so you can run more cars than the number of lanes on the track and still be able to make passes.) devil

Appleseed MegaDork
1/20/21 11:30 p.m.

Buy enough sheets of 2" foam insulation, pink, blue, whatever, to cover your intended area, and glue it down with construction adhesive.  Now you have your base.

Assemble the track and trace around it. Now you know what void areas you can detail. Knives, hacksaws, jigsaws or my personal favorite,  a hot wire knife made from a soldering gun and a length of metal coat hanger (make sure it's well ventilated if you go hotwire)  Carve pockets into the open areas. Left over foam can be carved into hills, cliffs, canyons,  ect...You dont have to go crazy,  just a little to break up the flatness. 

Hobby stores have stuff called ground foam. Online is a cheap way to get it. Pick a shade or two, and get corse, medium,  and fine. You can smooth the joints of any raised details with drywall compound,  or just leave it as is. Get a gallon of the cheapest flat house paint and have it tinted a dirt color.

Paint your foam. While it's still wet, sprinkle your foam on. Mix it up a bit to break up the texture. Let it dry. Then mix up some diluted white glue and water, 30-50% glue to water. Put it into a spray bottle and spray it on the foam to lock down any loose bits. 

Model railroaded use lichen to simulate trees. You can buy it in bags. You can make pine trees from tooth picks and green painted furnace filters. Hobbyshops sell pre-finished trees if you wish to go that route. Oil dry can be used for rocks, gravel, ect... you can use real dirt, and glue it down the same way we did the foam.

That's a basic way to have an interesting background to your racetrack without turning it into a year long project.  Obviously,  you can detail it to the Nth degree if you want to. Or just add a bit here and there. Kazoo's model railroad tread has a ton of good info, and inspiration. 

Good luck. It looks like fun.

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/21/21 8:50 a.m.
Javelin (Forum Supporter) said:

This is super rad! I'm a big HO scale racer/collector and also have dreams of building something like this like Woody. I love it in the larger scale! You should get some of the Trans Am cars like the Javelin out on that track.

For our HO racetracks we use hobby game mat material that the tabletop wargamers use. It's kind of felt like. I imagine the indoor/outdoor carpet will probably hold up to wear better.

Like these? I just got the two Donohue cars and the Tyrells with the track bits I needed.  

Thanks for the tip about the game mat, I'll check that out.

rico750sxi_2 Reader
1/21/21 5:23 p.m.

This is awesome!!! Can I come over to play after school if my mom says it's okay? 

TurnerX19 SuperDork
1/21/21 5:37 p.m.

I have 52' of 4 lane Scalextric sport with a lot of scenery. Bridgehampton at one end, Summit Point at the other. I have not done grass blade, but use painted artist's canvas and artist acrylic paints. Helps that I paint too....I reccomend you use clear polycarbonate for your table edges where cars are likely to exit painfully. Take the magnets out of the cars. lowering the corner speeds greatly reduces the damage incurred with a crash. I will post a few fresh photos of my track with some other pointers in a few minutes.

TurnerX19 SuperDork
1/21/21 8:37 p.m.

Here are a few other things to consider/my solutions. Place your driver stations around the track. I have 2 at each end. that way when racing with no one rotated out you have faster marshalling. Make sure every driver station has a track call (power kill) button too. It saves the cars. Over view photo of my track shows how I fit mine around the house furness, a problem you don't have.

Where the track is on the edge of the table but transparency is not required, artist canvas is a softer barrier shown in the next 2 pics.

The clear parts of the barrier help the drivers on the far side , a closer pic of one here.

Regular metal window screen is perfect 1/32 scale chain link fence, and it works very realistically too. The posts are 1/16"music wire glues into holes in the base.

Discarded rubber tires glued together for tire barier are a little too bouncy, but still keep the cars out of the bleachers. Super Tires work better than QuikSlicks on Scalextric track. Original rubber is immediate trash, or tire wall.

Have fun with it, that is house rule #1!


Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/22/21 7:29 a.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

Great track and great tips!  Thanks so much for sharing.  We learned about the driver stations when we first tested the track.  We did think ahead to separate them, but put two drivers in the middle area so they could easily put cars back on the track.  The problem was, they had to keep spinning around to watch the cars.  We now have the stations basically at the ends like you have.  The stop button sounds like a great idea--can you say more about the rules you have to use it?

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/22/21 7:50 a.m.
rico750sxi_2 said:

This is awesome!!! Can I come over to play after school if my mom says it's okay? 

You can, but my mom only gives us vegetables at snack time.

akylekoz SuperDork
1/22/21 7:55 a.m.

Don't forget to have some Brats burning on the grill out back and a bucket of steamed corn for authentic smells.  Oh, and burn a race fuel and rubber scented candle.

adam525i (Forum Supporter)
adam525i (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/22/21 10:15 a.m.
slowbird said:

Yes. Yessssssssssssssss! This rules.

I have plans to build a semi-accurate replica of a fantasy track called Chatham from a video game, with a banked half-oval leading into a drop in elevation and a short set of technical turns, then back up to the oval half.

I loved Sportscar GT back in the day, so much fun with the multi-class racing. 

The Road America layout is looking great! I wish I had the space to setup my Dad's 1/32 Strombecker set from his childhood.

TurnerX19 SuperDork
1/22/21 12:03 p.m.

In reply to Carl Heideman :

Basic call button rule is for a marshal (driver #5) to use the master button for any time 2 or more cars are off simultaineously. At his discretion for a single if it looks like it will get hit, or if it is un marshalable. Get a low rolling stool (Hammer store mechanic's stool) for the marshal in the middle to keep him mostly out of sight lines. My track anything on the back straight or in the tunnel is a call. With 4 or fewer drivers every off is a call. Drivers who seldom race 4 or less tend to be too slow on the call button. All of this remains just part of the fun so long as there are no prizes. Keep rule #1 in mind at all times "Have fun"

I have two monitors on my Trakmate scoring system so they are visible to all drivers. They hang from the ceiling. I also run the Trakmate 10 amp power supply and have never had a surge issue. Some of our WNR venues have separate power supplies for each lane. 

Your track is long enough you need to run jumper wires for every 10-12 pieces of track.

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/22/21 4:01 p.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

And this is why I put this up as a build thread.  I knew that I'd get great advice like this from this board.  Thanks for the help, please keep it coming!

stroker UberDork
1/22/21 6:29 p.m.

That's a bitchin' layout, but I miss the elevation changes...  :)

TurnerX19 SuperDork
1/22/21 7:26 p.m.

In reply to stroker :

Elevation changes are doable like on my track, but they need to be very gradual. The big difficulty is launching the cars. As far as the actual racing, what Carl has will be just as much fun, and easier to maintain too.

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/24/21 8:21 p.m.

I worked on the next iteration of the Arduino-based timing system and started testing it on one lane.

Cheap photo resisters were $4 for 30. 

I drilled a hole in the track and glued one in for this proof-of-concept prototype.  It worked well so I'll install one for each lane and it won't be proof-of-concept anymore. 

The five red LEDs come on one at a time, then shut off to start the race, emulating an F1-style start.  The buzzer buzzes as each light comes on for added effect.  The LCD shows the total time and the individual lap time for the last car through. 

I don't know how much I'll actually use the LCD as it's easy to log times to a PC. 


preach (fs)
preach (fs) GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
1/25/21 12:29 a.m.

Very cool.

TurnerX19 SuperDork
1/25/21 9:14 a.m.

In reply to Carl Heideman :

I have found narrow formula cars tend to not count with the sensors in the position we are both using. Particularly the Pendle Slot Lotus 18. Locating the sensors closer to the center of the lane is more than difficult with Scalex track, so a wide Avery label on the bottom of the car is a racing requirement. I tried sensors in the slot, but they are too shadowed down there.  

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
1/25/21 11:00 a.m.

In reply to TurnerX19 :

Thanks for the additional tips.  I am wondering how fussy the photo resisters are going to be. To get it reliable, it took a fair amount of experimentation with settings in two ways:

  1. They are analog, so they give different signals depending on lighting variations.  If the sun is shining and the blinds are open, I need to change the threshold for triggering in the Arduino code.  I hope I'll find something that doesn't take that kind of calibration in the longer term.
  2. The Arduino is sampling every millisecond, so when a car goes over it, it triggers the signal 2-6 and was creating that many data points.  I put a delay in the code to ignore signals after the first trigger.

I, too, stayed away from sensors in the slot and it just didn't look like it would work well.  I was concerned about the offset approach I'm using, but    so far this one working it reliably with all my cars.  I'll keep the lable tip in mind if I have trouble.

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