Build Journal: Bennett Crossing

Bossick Friday, 3/15/2024

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I've been reading a ton of the posts on here, watched so many videos on so many track builders with inspiration from all of you, and I joined on because I've hit a problem.

So, with your help, I can solve this problem and as myself, my brother and grown son move forward (mostly me - I've got the time), I'll post progress here like many others but on our track.

Here is my problem:

I'm limited in my space to a 4x8 sheet of plywood and I have 7 feet of clearance from the floor to the ceiling (working in the basement). I am working with NASCAR Crash Racers track mainly because of the width of many of the cars we have (more later). My main issue: What is the recommended angle of drop?

It doesn't seem like much from what I can see in the completed tracks, but I just can't seem to zero it in. I know the track is somewhat flexible, but moving from each of the open track curves is the part where I'm getting hung up where the track pieces are pulling themselves apart.

From all of the builds I've read into, it's this angle from one section of straight to the curve and then the straight isn't discussed in detail, and it's the area I'm struggling with the most.

Thanks for all of your help and responses.

Bennett Crossing

The name of the layout is from my maternal grandfather. He built some model buildings when he had a pigeon coop at his farm. He gave them to my brother before he died, and we're going to integrate them into the diorama.

Future plans

The plan is weave back and forth over the 4x8 sheet with overlap as we go up. We plan to eventually integrate an electric train set into the track/diorama. Exactly how is a bit up in the air because we want to get the racing on the track just right, first.

The train and the diorama will come into play later.

But before we get going on the diorama/as we get going on the diorama, we three -- and mostly my son -- have nearly 670 Hot Wheels, Matchbox, "Cars" and more to race down the track for a monster elimination tournament. Once the track and much of the diorama is done, we're holding on to cars in boxes so we can race each other.



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redlinederby 3/15/24
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That's a good question about the drop but I think the true answer is, make the angle what works best for you. There's no standard.

It's a lot of trial-and-error so you can see how fast cars go. Are they going too fast that they fly off the road or just crash? Are they too fast for the camera (assuming you're videoing)? Or is it too slow to be interesting? All sorts of factors so can't really normalize it.

And the angle impacts your space, right? So you need to find something that will still allow you to have a track layout you like within the space limits.

But it's great that you're thinking about it and it sounds pretty sweet if you're going to integrate a train too. I think your 4x8x7 limit will be a good thing in the long run...just prioritize good racing and everything else will be fine. And keep sharing your build!

  • Maybe part of my hang-up is I'm thinking of the long-term beyond getting the track squared away itself. It's how do I integrate a train? How do I integrate a diorama? At the same time, because of the space and the need to run track overtop of itself, it's giving me pause. — Bossick
  • Fair. But if racing is the priority for your project, figure that out and then work the train and extras into that. Otherwise you might to do the opposite, train first then fit the racing around that...? — redlinederby
  • I realized this morning that I was overcomplicating things with the train. I solved that issue (just have to sketch it out). — Bossick
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dr_dodge 3/15/24

I too have struggled with this, and also agree very few if any track tuning vids

That is why I built the temporary one out of pink foam structure.
So I could make small adjustments. I played for 3 months with 2 curves and 3 straights

This is what I seemed to see,
a varying angle thru the curve worked well for me,
making the corner approach level, and then lowering the corner exit
(diagram below)

I also used a number of flat levels before a curved section to peal off speed,
and also be miserly with how much drop I use to be able to add more linear distance of track.

I hope some other better track guys chime it, would love to hear what works for them


  • Thanks for the diagram. I can get three Crash Racers straights in before a 180-degree going from edge to edge on the plywood. I'm experimenting with making 90-degree turns and I believe 135s. I just have to crisscross the 4x8 area. As I go up, I'm thinking the train (and that could change) needs to be in. I'm also looking at some sort of major bridge over that, too. But I want to get this track up, tuned, etc., before I think diorama. — Bossick
  • when I build the new mt track, I am gonna avoid 90° and instead use 270°. To turn right 90, go left thru 270, over/under. Then the curve can get stuffed back more. — dr_dodge
  • That's a good idea on the 270 that I didn't think of before. — Bossick
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dr_dodge 3/16/24

a comparison of 90 vs 270
I am pretty confident the 270 will be less picky,
and will handle some good speed going in
all my 45° attempts have been a struggle to make work, and it varies huge with car weight.
the 180° + corners just "behave" better over all


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dr_dodge 3/16/24

what scale train are you planning?
I have HO (1/87) and it is probably the cheapest way to go.

get a box of flex track, practice soldering it (easy but hard)
I use cheapest floor underlayment plywood, saw the whole track base out of it,
attach the track to it, and support under.

Think I'll to do a basic train set build video

You have a challenge with that small area, 

Good Luck!


  • S. It's the right scale. We're debating between HO and S, but I think S is the way to go. I'm trying to tamp down the naysayers. I spent a lot of time last night looking for S gauge trains. Lionel makes American Flyer at that gauge. I've been watching Ebay and Craigslist. But that is so far down the road. — Bossick
  • I was thinking of buying the Lionel S gauge rail that is similar to the easy snap track. Although it is lifted up quite a bit, I was thinking of using styrofoam to lift up almost everything so it is level and even. — Bossick
  • HO looks good "in the distance" in 1/87 and there is way more track available for cheap. Flex track makes you a god. S doesn't offer that. You can kitbash cheap HO trains to 1/64 scale, and in 1/64, are HO is narrow gauge, so tighter corners (mine/logging) which works in a MT track — dr_dodge
  • When space is a concern, going true 1:64 for the train may not be the best investment. — StarCorps
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Bossick 3/16/24

Here are a few very early "let's see how this could lay out" photos.

The initial thought was to end with intersection (like 3DBotmaker), but that was scrapped because I couldn't get the cars through the final loop.

The cars would go down through the center and toward the intersection. The train was originally at that upper level (that is changing).

The track then was to curve 180 and head back uphill.

If it is confusing, we have been working from the bottom up.

I was thinking of either two 90s here along the edges. However, I got the idea of perhaps having either a large span bridge or a viaduct (like they have out east but for the cars). I had two potentials:

If we went with after the triangle, it gave me some more on the back half of the track. If I went with the diagonal, that is one huge bridge.

I was thinking the bridge section would be level just so we mitigate some of the speed.

I do like the 270 degree turn idea.

I will be sketching today on graph paper. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to start getting things figured out with actual pieces.

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Bossick 3/16/24

Dimension change. We're going with 5 feet. I need to lift it all up so I can hide the wiring for not only the finish line but also the train.

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AP3_Diecast 3/17/24

For the drop angle question. 3Dbotmaker mentioned in one of his behind the scenes videos his way to find the angle was set the car at the top of the straight/hill leading into a turn and see if the car could make it through just that one turn, then move down to the next straight/hill and test the next turn and so on.  The idea being in a race if a car slows or stalls on a turn, if it can get to the straight at the end of the turn it would be able to pick up enough momentum to make it through the next, or at least have a chance to.  I think this isn't a bad place to start.  Additionaly, in his early tracks I think his turns sat on a level surface, but you can also drop the turn exit to help with speed.  In other words the entry to the turn is higher than the exit.  I did this with my track and it does not require as much of and angle on the straights for cars to get through.  For me though, eventually I found using Crash Racers turns to be problematic, it's hard to get a true 180 to start with, you have to flex the track which can cause places at the joints for the cars to catch.  You also still have to have pretty steep straights to enter them because the banking is so high.  I eventually switched all my turns to a 3D printed true 180 that was not banked as high which allowed me to have shallower angled straights going into them.  It made for slower cars to stall and rollover less, increase their chance of finishing, less to catch on, and an overall lower start gate which my kids can reach with a small step.  You'll notice on 3Dbotmaker's current track he's done the same thing.  The turns just perform much better compared to the Crash Racers set.  I had trains plans as well, like many, but my small area just wouldn't allow it if I wanted a good track.

  • Thanks for the advice. I'm between jobs at the moment, and before I left my old one, I bought up a good number of Crash Racers track (and I can't really become members of channels either until the finances settle down once I have a new job). The thought of just ensuring the turns makes a lot of sense. The one thing I don't mind is that if my little nephew has to use a step stool to place cars, that's OK. Looking at the timing mechanisms and starters, getting something with a remote start so he can push a button and they go seems like the smart move. — Bossick
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JBlotner42 3/17/24

I also had this issue trying to figure out what angle to put my long straights at.

What I ended up with was a 10-degree downslope for the start gate that transitions to a 6-degree downslope with the turns being level front to back but with a 1 to 2-degree slope to the exit side. The rest varies between 4 and 6 degrees downslope to keep and build speed lost in the turns.

I am using a mix of Orange track and CrashRacer track along with 2 180 crossover turns from Spoolheads (Great decision if I do say so).

I started a the top and built and tested as I worked my way down.

I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do but nothing was set in stone and JUST changed again recently.
The bottom line is to have fun with it and enjoy the process. I know I am.
Check out my track Ozark Mountian Speedway for some Ideas.

  • Your build journal is one that I've kept my eye on. The blue lining that you used helped to eyeball the downslope for me, except I have a much smaller length I'm working with. Thanks for the advice — Bossick
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Bossick 3/19/24

I began to work on getting the 4x8 sheet of plywood braced and lifted, giving us 2 feet of clearance under it so we can wire things through (such as the timing system). Have to get more lumber and brackets, though. Once the table is set, then we'll get crazy on track design -- somewhat.

What I did, though, before the bracing was mark out the location of the finish line and final decline. The trick here is that the top of the final hill needed to be high enough to accomodate the train (likely its tunnel). 

From there, we can be as creative as we want.

  • I wonder if laying out the train first then adding the track is the way to go... the train track is much more constrained in its turn radious the the hot wheels? — Stoopid_Fish_Racing
  • For my layout I am considering a reverser on both end of a run instead of a loop... I have been watching for S scale lots and picking them up when I can afford it. — Stoopid_Fish_Racing
  • I think getting the racing right first makes the most sense. Plus, we get to have some fun before the train is put into place. I'll post my drawing here in a bit and explain further. — Bossick
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Bossick 3/20/24

Before I post the schematics of the ground floor/finish line of the tracks, I figured I would share a handful of links that I've been looking into when it comes to the S gauge train and the 1/64 scale dioramas material. It's what happens when I daydream a bit looking for potential things for the track we're building.

I've been looking close at many of the links already provided, too, such as Slanman Customs, Spoolheads, etc. If someone wants to lift this and put it elsewhere, too, then that's OK.

Diecast Direct seems to have a lot of 1/64 scale vehicles that could pick up some realness to the backgrounds of what we're doing.

Model Train Technology specializes in the two more popular scales in model railroading, O and HO. I emailed back and forth with the company and they recommended that we use the O gauge when it came to the "Crossing Signals In-a-Box" for our S gauge train. The product will definitely be in our diorama so we can get that great bell sound and the lights as the train approaches the crossing (see their video on YouTube).

Woodland Scenics has model railroad material for four scales (unfortunately not S gauge or 1/64), but if you're looking at integrating the O or HO into your diorama, this could work. I initially bought an HO crossing after watching a video on YouTube. It may still work with the S gauge or we're going to be cutting the Crash Racers track.

Magic City Products appears to be available at various online vendors and they're in 1/64 scale. I linked to a Google search I did so that way you can maybe find some buildings that work best for you (and maybe even some people).

Lionel's American Flyer is the S gauge train that it is producing. There are a few other makers of S gauge train (American Models is one), but considering the potential for impact between train and car, the lowest cost train makes the most sense. If I were simply operating a train, I'd definitely spend the cash (if I had it) on a steam locomotive with the rail line that runs through my town or its successors (Pere Marquette/C&O/Chessie). Fastrack might be the easiest and most simplified way to go. Fastrack is what I based my measurements for the schematic.

Midwest Model RR I came across thanks to the great search algorithms on social media. What caught my eye were the animated billboards. There are a few that are not kid appropriate, but there are several that would be a bit of fun. My grandfather, who we're building this in his name, worked for Oldsmobile, so that sign in particular is one that I've got my eye on.

Spencer 3D on Ebay is offering up several 3D printed scale models of viaducts. I don't own my own 3D printer, and that means I have to go shopping for items. I think if someone is looking for a flat straight section of their track that could ooze some bit of a different look, adding in a viaduct might be fun to see. We've gone in a different direction (obviously, look at I've posted previously), but there are several buildings, tunnels and bridges on Ebay.

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Bossick 3/20/24

Here is the end layout. I had the time to measure track and research the Fastrack by Lionel measurements to make it work.

It took a bit, but it appears as though I should need about at least 10 inches of clearance between the railroad track and the final curve of the road track. Before the research, I had the top of the hill at 16 inches. From there, we will see. Lots of options.

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Bossick 4/22/24

Still in the process of building the table. Just looking to get the legs on it.

But I did get the buildings from my brother that our late grandfather built. They're closer to HO/1:87 scale. But, we're going with it.

I'm attaching some photos of a proposed layout. The track layout through the center is when it comes down from above. It pushes the village out to the front. The track going through the village only represents where a road is likely to be plotted.

  • nice buildings, scratch built? the barn is great! — dr_dodge

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