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Fun - Add Switches to Embed in an Oval
on April 29, 2012
We started with a basic set that had an oval. At some point, the oval got boring so we added the figure 8. I don't know why, but it is fun to watch a train go around on a figure 8. The Fastrack criss cross track works well and trains do not derail when going across it. You get 4 curves, 4 five inch straights and the 90 degrees criss cross track. You can buy these separately for about the same cost so you are not really saving much in buying the track pack.
Around the same time that we bought the figure 8 track, we moved from having our set on the living room floor to putting it on a 4' x 8' plywood table in the basement. From there, we started adding switches to create an oval around the figure 8. To me, within the constraints of a 4 x 8 layout, a figure 8 embedded in an oval is about as good as it gets in terms of having an interesting layout.
My recommendation is to start with the figure 8 and then, as your finances allow, buy some switches and track to connect the sides of the figure 8 into an oval. There are two challenges with this. First, switches cost around $40 each. Second, the gap to close the side of the track by the switches is an odd length of 30.91 inches. What worked for me was to close each side of the loop with (2) 10 inch tracks + (1) 5 inch track + (3) 1.375 inch tracks + (1) 1.75 inch track. This leaves a gap of about 1/32" but there is enough flex in the track to make this work.
One last recommendation which has nothing to do with the figure 8 - to make your set more fun consider adding some 1:43 scale cars, fire engines, buses, trucks, etc. Just search Amazon for 1:43 diecast. This scale is about the same as O-gauge and you can find some fun items at a reasonable price.