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Switching up Tracks


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Poll: How do you mix up your tracks? (30 member(s) have cast votes)

How many different types of train do you have on the same track?

  1. One Type (8 votes [26.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 26.67%

  2. Two Types (12 votes [40.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 40.00%

  3. Three Types (7 votes [23.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.33%

  4. Four Types (1 votes [3.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 3.33%

  5. Five Types (2 votes [6.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.67%

How many different types of track do you use?

  1. One Type (18 votes [60.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 60.00%

  2. Two Types (11 votes [36.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 36.67%

  3. Three Types (1 votes [3.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 3.33%

Which type of track do you prefer?

  1. 4.5V (0 votes [0.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 0.00%

  2. 12V (2 votes [6.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.67%

  3. 9V (19 votes [63.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 63.33%

  4. Remote Control (1 votes [3.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 3.33%

  5. Power Functions (8 votes [26.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 26.67%

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#1 Adam

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 01:39 AM

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I have a collection of 9V trains - and thus, I have a large array of 9V train track. 12V set 7813 Shell Tanker Wagon is arriving in the mail, and I plan on picking up both 7898 Cargo Train Deluxe and 10194 Emerald Night in the near future. As my collection of trains diversifies, no doubt will my collection of train track, and by the end of the year I speculate to have each different type of track before the year's end.
However, I'm growing curious - how will I mix 12V, 9V, Remote Control, and Power Functions? Will I have to buy different track for each type of train?

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The Different Tracks
  • 4.5V, the first "real" LEGO Train line if you don't count the 1965 push locomotive, used brick built track and is of course incompatible with all other types. A motor pushes the train along, like in 12V.
  • As I understand it, 12V incorporated a "third rail" which powered the trains - the same method used by most hobby trains. However, in this case, there were two rails running through the tracks.
  • With 9V, the "third rail" wasn't used, and had pretty much the same track as the new Power Functions. The 9V track moved power directly from the metal rails to the train's wheels.
  • I don't know much about Remote Control, but I believe the track doesn't conduct electricity and is therefore irreconcilable with 9V track. The trains are controlled by the remote and not the track.
  • I'm unaware about the "other" trains, such as the 10183 Hobby Trains and 4837 Mini Trains, but I'm relatively certain that they don't run on any track whatsoever, and are thus irrelevant.
Switching Train Wheels and Motors

I only have 9V trains, so I have never had any Remote Control, 12V, etc. trains to switch wheels and motors with. From information I have read on these boards, I can only assume that you can switch any train's wheels with any other type, and thus, any train could run on any track. Unfortunately, you'd need a heck of a lot of a certain type of wheel, the patience to remove the wheels from all of your other trains, and potentially a bunch of wasted track. Then again, I don't know if all types of wheels can be switched out - I've only read that 12V and 4.5V can be adapted to 9V. And perhaps you can't switch the motors between Remote Control, Power Functions, and other types. It would take someone with experience switching wheels and motors to give an accurate opinion.

Which Type of Track is Best?

If you decide upon switching train wheels and motors, then another question is posed: which type of track will you use? 4.5V and 12V use brick built track with bendable rails, which sound quite limited. How are you to create cross tracks or points? Both 9V and Remote Control operate on four kinds of track (Power Functions can go on either type of track, I think): straight, curve, points, and cross. There is also a third type of track, the flexible set which came with the Remote Control line - since this track doesn't have metal rails to conduct electricity, it appears not to be compatible with 9V. Remote Control seems to have the most varieties of track, but I, like most other builders, have more 9V track than Remote Control.

Which type track do you use? How do you mix them up? Can you fill in the blanks on switching wheels and motors? And how should I best go around bringing other types of train into my collection?

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#2 DaCheese

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:42 AM

9V track is most like today's "proper" model trains using the two rails for supplying power. RC and PF trains like the Cargo Train and EN should run with no problems on it, but I'll leave it to guys like TheBrickster to confirm this as I don't have any RC or 9V. All Lego trains use the same gauge so couplings aside pre-9V rolling stock should be fine on 9V track.

If you want to use locos with 12V motors, you have several options:

1. An issue of the online Lego Trains magazine RailBricks features a layout named "The Royal Train" that has gutted 9V motors wired up to supply power to 12V motors. Could prove tricky, and as both are discontinued and getting rarer perhaps not a wise move.

2. Convert 12V models to 9V using the 9V motor. This isn't going to look right for all models as the 9V motor is obviously in bogie form and doesn't allow coupling rods on small steam and diesel models. The 9V conversion of a six wheeled 12V diesel shunter that was posted here recently did look quite good however because the result looked a lot like four wheeled shunters that actually exist.

3. Unlikely to work but you never know! As far as I know the 12V range used a grey version of the original blue track with added power rails in the centre. I'm guessing that old three rail model railways use the centre rail as a common connection and swap between the two others to change direction, but 12V trains use plastic outer rails so in theory the power rails would have to do both connections. Getting to the point here, it might be that the curve radii for 12V and 9V are the same; if so, you could try fitting the power rails to 9V track (points will be tricky at best and impossible to use with both at worst). If not, I'm afraid you'll need seperate 12V track. Hopefully Mark B or Panda or someone else who knows about both systems will come along and say if this would work.

#3 TheBrickster

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 04:09 AM

Interesting topic Adam.  (see also Track Mix)

While I don't have any 12V track or 12V trains, I am running 9V, R/C, and Power Function trains on a 9V layout.

First, I like having the 9V layout because I can power it for my 9V trains (which also include a few 12V-designed MOCs with 9V engines), as well as the R/C trains. In fact, I have even ran two trains on the same track (the R/C Cargo Train Deluxe), followed by a 9V train, using the 9V transformer and R/C controller.  If you do this though, you just need to be careful to match speeds so that they don't eventually hit, which they will do sooner or later.

In my collection of track, I have more 9V than anything else, although I am starting to build a good collection of new R/C track.  I'm thinking about ordering one set per month to help build the collection gradually.  I would like to have a 2nd set of track to run two trains on the same table (not connected).  

I think 9V track will allow you the best use of different trains (except for 12V; which, as mentioned by DaCheese above, you can convert to 9V).  It would be much more difficult to convert 9V trains to P/F for use with new R/C or P/F track (with new motor and power supply).

You can always run a 9V and 12V track side-by-side if you don't want to modify your 12V engines.  You just need the space on your table or room floor.

In regard to 10183 Hobby Train, it doesn't include a motor, but it's most likely made for 9V which you can easily add.

#4 Davey

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 01:44 PM

View PostAdam, on Jul 26 2009, 07:39 PM, said:

As my collection of trains diversifies, no doubt will my collection of train track, and by the end of the year I speculate to have each different type of track before the year's end.  However, I'm growing curious - how will I mix 12V, 9V, Remote Control, and Power Functions? Will I have to buy different track for each type of train?
You wouldn't necessarily have to buy track for each type of train as the others have mentioned.  The 'gauge' of the rails (width between the rails) for all of the track types is the same.  The only real difference over the years is how the track was built and how power was supplied.  As such, you could run a Power Functions or RC train on the 4.5 volt track.  You could also run them on 12V track.  For 12V trains, you could covert them to PF or RC to run on the 'non-metalized' track.  9V trains could run on 12V track using a 12V motor or be converted to run on 'plastic track' with a PF or RC motor.  

So as you see, there are really a wealth of options and it's really up to how much you want to spend.  Since you seem to have a pretty diverse array of track, I would set up loops for the 12V, 9V, and PF/RC track.  Then you just decide what you want to run on those tracks and convert accordingly.  

View PostAdam, on Jul 26 2009, 07:39 PM, said:

[*]4.5V, the first "real" LEGO Train line if you don't count the 1965 push locomotive, used brick built track and is of course incompatible with all other types. A motor pushes the train along, like in 12V.
Not necessarily true.  The gauge is the same as the new PF/RC track.  I believe you can run PF or RC trains on this track with no issues.

View PostAdam, on Jul 26 2009, 07:39 PM, said:

[*]I don't know much about Remote Control, but I believe the track doesn't conduct electricity and is therefore irreconcilable with 9V track. The trains are controlled by the remote and not the track.
Again, not necessarily true.  While a 9V train cannot run on the PF/RC track using a 9V motor, a PF/RC train can run just fine on the 9V track.  You can also convert a 9V train to run on the PF/RC track by just switching out the 9V motor for the new PF train motor.  

View PostAdam, on Jul 26 2009, 07:39 PM, said:

[*]I'm unaware about the "other" trains, such as the 10183 Hobby Trains and 4837 Mini Trains, but I'm relatively certain that they don't run on any track whatsoever, and are thus irrelevant.
As The Brickster said, the 10183 was designed for the 9V system but could easily be used with the new PF train motor.  Most of the designs in the Hobby Train are very easy to motorize.  

View PostAdam, on Jul 26 2009, 07:39 PM, said:

Switching Train Wheels and Motors

I only have 9V trains, so I have never had any Remote Control, 12V, etc. trains to switch wheels and motors with. From information I have read on these boards, I can only assume that you can switch any train's wheels with any other type, and thus, any train could run on any track. Unfortunately, you'd need a heck of a lot of a certain type of wheel, the patience to remove the wheels from all of your other trains, and potentially a bunch of wasted track. Then again, I don't know if all types of wheels can be switched out - I've only read that 12V and 4.5V can be adapted to 9V. And perhaps you can't switch the motors between Remote Control, Power Functions, and other types. It would take someone with experience switching wheels and motors to give an accurate opinion.
Again, aside from the motors, the other 'non-driving' wheels are compatible across the board.  The rail gauge is what drives compatibility.  

View PostAdam, on Jul 26 2009, 07:39 PM, said:

Which type track do you use? How do you mix them up? Can you fill in the blanks on switching wheels and motors? And how should I best go around bringing other types of train into my collection?
Right now I use all 9V track, but I am going to be adding some 4.5V track to my layout as I have some from set #7720.  On that loop I will likely run PF versions of old 12V and 4.5V sets.  I also plan to add a PF/RC track loop to my setup once I get some of the PF train motors and rechargeable battery packs.  I like to mix it up as much as possible.

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#5 legotrainfan

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 03:55 PM

Even though I have 2 straight RC track pieces, I voted that I only have one type of track, which is 9V. I use the two RC straights for sidings only; or if I connect two circles with switches, I sometimes put an RC track between the connecting switches as as sort of security mechanism. In case the switches have not been set correctly, the RC track will prevent a disaster.... actually I don't know what happens if the electricity of one train moving forward on the outer circle gets into the inner circle where an engine is moving in the other direction, but I don't want to try.

However, I'm still a train nerd, so I'm very interested in PF trains. They'd run on 9V tracks, but 9V stuff is getting more and more expensive. Maybe sooner or later I'll start buying larger quantities of RC tracks. Especially 9V straights are already very expensive.  :sad:

Edited by legotrainfan, 27 July 2009 - 04:06 PM.

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#6 Adam

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 01:00 AM

Thanks to everyone for the helpful insight. :classic:
However, I have another question: why not use Remote Control track as default? I understand that most builders, including myself, have mostly 9V, but Remote Control has the flexible track in addition to the four standards.

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#7 AndyC

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 01:16 AM

PF/RC/4.5 trains are the most "track compatible", since they're all battery operated they'll happily run on any track type you put in front of them. The only issue you can possibly run into is trying to mix different types of track as the older 4.5/12V rail sections are connected together differently, there are solutions for that though. These are also the only trains that can run on the new PF flexi track.

9V trains are the least "track compatible", they will only ever run on 9V rails, because they get their power from the metal rails themselves. Some 9V trains could possibly be modified to use the PF train motor, as long as you can find somewhere to hide the PF battery box and probably an IR reciever too.

12V trains sit somewhere in the middle, since you presumably can lay the extra 12V middle rails on bits of 9V or RC track too (disclaimer: I've not got any 12V stuff to try with). Obviously that's really only going to work for simple straights/corners though so probably not really all that useful a combo.
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#8 Beej

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 01:53 AM

View PostAndyC, on Jul 28 2009, 10:16 AM, said:

12V trains sit somewhere in the middle, since you presumably can lay the extra 12V middle rails on bits of 9V or RC track too (disclaimer: I've not got any 12V stuff to try with). Obviously that's really only going to work for simple straights/corners though so probably not really all that useful a combo.
You can do a few things to mix the 12v and 9v track, but you probably wouldn't want to do any of them if you're a purist. :cry_sad:

As you said, you can run the 12v middle rail down the middle of 9v or RC track. Straights work fine, but 12v curves will need modification to accommodate the extra sleepers that the 9v/RC track has.

And you can run 9v trains on 12v track by painting the outside rails with conductive paint. :wink:

Points are another issue completely, and while you could probably get a 9v train to run on 12v points, the opposite would need some major modifications to the 9v points.

As far as running RC and PF trains on 12 volt track, most of them run just fine. The 7897 however hits the 12v point motors with it's nose, the only reason I don't have one. :hmpf_bad:

#9 TheBrickster

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 02:05 PM

View PostAdam, on Jul 27 2009, 05:00 PM, said:

why not use Remote Control track as default? I understand that most builders, including myself, have mostly 9V, but Remote Control has the flexible track in addition to the four standards.
Because all your 9V trains would need to be retro-fitted with PF motors and battery boxes (or huge R/C motors (not available in any set other than the two R/C train sets).  That would be pretty costly.  With 9V track, I can run my PF, R/C and 9V trains.  That's three out of four different systems.

#10 Richie

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 03:33 PM

^And 4,5V battery trains.  :classic:

I only use 9V. I don't have all what I need for the lay-out I'm planning, but I already know the trains will be 9V. Just because it's compact. What The Brickster says: it's possible to run different trains. The only trains you can't run are 12V trains. If I some day gonna buy the Emerald Night, I already have the track. The main disadvantage in my opinion is it's price and availability.

It's multifunctionomical.

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