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MaxTrax build

MaxTrax build 2015-16
I loved the racing, but wasn't 100% satisfied with the Tyco track. I saw a long and enjoyable future racing on a bullring in my kitchen, so why mess around?  In the summer of 2015 I made up my mind to buy a routed track...

1. Armed with a few ideas and more than a few questions, I got in touch with MaxTrax Racing. We quickly got to the point of deciding on a plan and Paul agreed to make a custom piece for me to house reed switches halfway down a 3ft straight.

I paid via PayPal on 29 July, the track (including the custom piece) was shipped on 11 August and it finally cleared UK customs and arrived in Brighton on 2 September...


2. Inside there were two 36-inch straights - one with power connections soldered to the underside one with pockets for reed switches. Plus the two 11R 180-degree turns. There was also an instruction booklet and a greeting card with Paul's contact details for on-going support.


3.
What I wanted for the table was something light, rigid and the shape of the track with curved ends. Ultimately it came down to building something with materials I could easily source, using the limited skills I have.


Using a jigsaw, I cut some 4mm plywood the shape of the track - approximately 58 inches by 22.5 inches. I then cut out holes through which I could access the power wires and reed switches on the underside of the track. I then built a frame from 6/8" x 1 1/8" planed timber. The frame was centered around a 58-inch main brace. Each joint was secured with two 1 1/2" countersunk screws. It is pretty rigid and strong! I attached the plywood sheet to the frame using mostly 3/4" panel pins and some 1/2" screws that would sit in the centre hole of the layout. I didn't want any screws under the track pieces might lift the track.

4.
Now came the tricky bit... Or maybe the tricky bits.

First was to line up the pieces and screw them down. This meant drilling two holes in each track piece at each joint and countersinking them. I made up a simple jig so I didn't have to measure up with a ruler each time. The track material is soft, so I was very conscious of going gently with the drill and the countersink bit. After the first couple of holes, I'd got the knack. I now had four MaxTrax pieces ready for installation.

I had the instruction booklet and I had read it and digested it. Paul suggests to fix any 180-degree 11R pieces first. Good advice, although I had two joints and both involved separate 11R pieces. After about half an hour of playing around, I realized I needed to drill out some wider holes in the plywood to give me a little scope when I screwed down. This made things so much easier.

Paul also suggested having some paper handy in case the track thicknesses vary slightly. You can then simply slip a sheet under the thinner section to ensure the track surfaces meet perfectly. Fortunately this wasn't a problem for me. Everything looked pretty flat at this stage. So all I had to do now was to slip in the 1" stainless steel connector keys...


Oh brother! This was tough... at least until I figured out how to do it. The instructions told me to slip one end of the metal strip into one side on the joint and then gradually seesaw so it sat flat and then push with a small screwdriver so it sat below the rail height. Okay, so the first step was easy...

5.
But the second step wasn't. They just would not go down. Was I just a scrawny weakling in need of some help from Charlie Atlas? Or was I doing something wrong? Eventually, after many minutes of sweat and tears (no blood, but quite a lot of cursing) I found my way of doing it. Which was to introduce one end of the steel key into the pocket on one side on the join, seesaw it a bit, then take it out, followed by the same in the other pocket. The key would then work its way nicely across the join and could be pushed down the last fraction of an inch with a flat head screwdriver... Just like Paul said in the instructions...


6. After working methodically round all four joints, I had a track...


7.
Now it was time to wire it up and see if it worked. Although my electronics skills are not the best, they are probably marginally better than my woodworking abilities. I had wired up three home tracks and done work on the electrics at WHO Racing, so I've learned from successes and mistakes.

I wanted to keep this a portable modular design, so the drivers stations - standard 3-pin UK club boxes - would sit separately and would be attached by Cat 6 ethernet cable, as on the original Tyco oval.

First I did the soldering on the power circuit - the positive wire from the power supply into and out of the power relay and two wires from either end of the relay coil that would hook up with my Trackmate module. I had holes drilled in the timber frame to take the power supply cable and the relay to Trackmate wires.

Then it was a case of methodically screwing down wires to terminal strips ('choc blocks'). I eventually had this...


8.
Next up was wiring in the magnetic reed switches. I use reeds on my 2-lane AFX road course test track and on the original Rock County Raceway. They are rather old-hat, but I like them. They certainly work very well with the pancake cars, look better than a light bridge and are (I think) more practical on a tiny oval than a dead strip...


9. And from above...


10. For the first shakedown session on 15 June 2016, the oval still looked like a building site above and below...


... but it was a great success!

11. John made a wonderful mascot for the track - don't worry, it's made from foam rubber.


12. Over the summer, the electronics and aesthetics were refined and this is how the oval looked in August 2016...


Eleven racers enjoyed some tremendous racing over that first summer series and the MaxTrax bullring got a unanimous thumbs-up.