Flex vs sectional track

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Summary: Flex Track (aka Flextrack) is flexible track segment that can be shaped into any desired radius. "G" scale or #1 gauge track may be called flex track, but must be bent with a railbender. The alternative to flex track is sectional track which is pre-made track in sections of various lengths and radii (how sharp the curve would be). The advantage of flex track is the ability to smoothly transition into a curve using an easement, compared to section track with its immediate transition from tangent to curve, resulting in a toy–like appearance.


See the Video.

This article applies to every scale, but was originally written with Garden ("G" scale or #1 gauge) track in mind.

Despite the name, stainless steel flex track is very durable and should not be bent by just simply pushing on the rail or "belly bending". Code 332 track is substantial enough to require a special tool called a rail bender to bend the flex track. You should always use a rail bender to ensure smooth, controlled radii and to ensure the top and bottom portions of the rail bend together without causing the rails to twist.

For smaller scales such as HO or N, the track can be manipulated without tools to create sweeping curves.

Flex Track vs Sectional Track

It's been asked on nearly every forum on the intertubes: Flex or sectional? Most responses are for flex, and here is why. 

This article will break down why flex track is more cost effective, easier to use and provides the ability to make layouts more prototypical without extra effort or thought. Flex track allows track placement in the planned right of way with less frustration, better electrical conductivity, less derailments and is usually more attractive than sectional.

Be Creative

Flex track allows planning to be creative with virtually any layout one can think of with unlimited radius selections. No longer required to stay within the bounds of various sectional piece radii or adapt a layout to fit within the limits of a sectional track. Also, who hasn't used the wrong radius turn to complete "the last mile" of track just to run trains instead of buying another section of track.  With flex, just take a rail and bend it to fit.

Along with creating a unique layout, one can easily implement realistic track features without additional effort; such as creating easements going into and out of curves. Although this may be done for a more prototypical appearance, it also prevents the rolling stock from lurching into turns like a toy, placing additional stresses on the wheels and trucks of the rolling stock.  This results in additional wear and tear – ultimately more maintenance!

Fewer Joints

Longer lengths of flex track versus shorter sectional track pieces equals less joints. Each joint has potential for mis–alignment, leading to derailments and a chance for electric continuity issues. Using a quality rail clamp does mitigate, but not eliminate them. Using the longest flex track length means less track joiners for electrical loss with less chances for derailments. Using flex track avoids placing track joints in critical areas, such as grade changes or the steepest part of a curve - place the joint just before the turn. Try to buy the longest sections of track possible.

Lower Cost

Another great benefit is that one can actually buy less track (read: more rolling stock instead of track sitting in storage). No longer necessary to keep a wide array of track in various radius sizes. Whether building a first layout, adding on a section or modifying your track – stock one item as one can simply bend it into whatever is required. 

Quality track can be re-bent many times before showing signs of wear. Go ahead, lay it down, if doesn't look right, bend it again.

Ease of Installation

New to laying track? Flex track is actually easier than sectional track if using longer rail lengths – less pieces to deal with. Bending track is a topic of its own, but in short here are two quick methods to lay flex track:

  1. Lay out the track and use a rail bender on site. Simply lay the track down and use a dual rail bender to bend both rails simultaneously and form as needed.
  2. Roughly measure where the track has to be and roughly bend it elsewhere before bringing it to the layout, making the final adjustments for the perfect fit.

No matter the layout, cutting track is necessary, regardless of sectional or flex track so this aspect is a wash, unless to only make simple temporary holiday layouts.


Aristo-Craft has created a railbender that will bend both rails at the same time, while the both rails are in the plastic ties. Sure beats the old one, one rail at a time. Watch as Navin from Aristo-Craft shows you how easy it is to bend some Aristo-Craft track.

MRH columnist Charlie Comstock provides a number of great tips for laying MicroEngineering flex track. Part of the September 2014 issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine.

See Also

External Links