Fleischmann's Flex Track?
My Kato Unitrack has been fantastic and I have no complaints, however, there does seem to be some items that I (and others) would really like to see Kato produce for its track system. Curved turnouts would be very nice to have, but even more useful would be flex track!
Since I'm not holding my breath waiting for Kato to produce flextrack (considering that Unitrack appears to have been a track system primarily designed for temporary layouts, where flex track is neither necessary or practical), I've been trying to find some solution, particularly for one area where I need the two parallel lines coming off of a double track bridge to separate about a half inch. The photo shown at right illustrates the poor looking 'angle' that the straight pieces' take to make the 1/2 inch or so diversion (there are not radii that would permit this). It may not look that bad in the photo, but when you see it in person, it looks terrible.
Atlas' flex track is ubiquitous, but wasn't my favorite option. I had noticed that Fleischmann makes a track with roadbed in it, which they call 'profi-track', which features a 777mm section of flex track (with roadbed)! The photo at the top of this post shows (from left to right) a typical Unitrack section, a Fleischmann straight section, the Fleischmann flex track, and then the underside of the flex track.
I took a short trip up to Canada this weekend, stopped in at Euro Rail Hobbies, and got a couple of sections of this track. The one thing that stands out about the Fleischmann profi track (as opposed to Kato, Bachmann Easy Track, and I think the new Atlas system with roadbed and even the Tomix system?) is that the roadbed feels more like 'rubber' than plastic. Not sure if its the same material in the standard rigid sections as it is in the flex track, but the flex track definitely has a very 'rubbery' feel to it.
This has the unusual (at least it seems to me) attribute for flex track in that it actually can hold a curve without having to be affixed to anything. See photo at right where I bent the track, set it down, and - wallah! - it nearly holds the curve I created. Very cool.
In profile against the Unitrack (again, see photo at right), their are some substantial differences. However, they are both code 80, so the differences can be 'covered up' with some creative scenery work so that the differences in the roadbed base can be covered up.
The only thing I had to do with the track to get a standard rail joiner (I used some surplus Atlas rail joiners and removed the Uni-joinders) is carefully cut the first set of 'spikes' on each end holding the rail to the ties. After that, the rail joiners were able to slide on. Note that the Atlas rail joiners slide onto Kato's rails a bit too easy, and little pressure with the pliers helps them to get a stronger contact.
Replacement of the section of Unitrack with the flex track was surprisingly easy. I'll need to do a little scenery and ballast work to complete the job, but all in all, this was about the best solution I've found for the gap in Kato's Unitrack library. I have to say, I have not read or heard much about this track system either online or in print, and if 'track is track' pretty much anywhere you look, this Fleischmann track is very nice, high quality product, that is not priced too badly!
Not sure if its obvious, but compare the photo at right with the new Fleischmann flex track, and its smooth curves, versus the rather unsightly angle that the Kato track made in the photo at the top.
One other very interesting thing about this track....it is QUIET! The density of the rubber roadbed really absorbs sound. If that's a consideration for you, this track system may be an interesting alternative to more popular choices.
UPDATED: Photo comparing Unitrack to ProfiTrack:
CaptOblivious from Akihabara Station wanted a bit more on the tie spacing on the Fleischmann Profi track. The differences are obvious, but with some creative ballast work, I think I'll get the distinctions to look less obvious once I've fully scenic-ed this section.