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REVIEW: ME Models Metal 9V Rails


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#1 -R8-

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 02:54 AM

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Released only a few months ago on April Fools' Day, these metal rails produced by Mike Fetsko and Eric Olson over at ME Models have been a breakthrough in LEGO trains. Years ago when LEGO announced that 9V trains would be no more, we were left with a finite amount of resources on the market, such as electrified tracks. The metal rails produced by ME Models have offered us an excellent alternative to the otherwise dwindling supply of official LEGO 9V tracks. Lots of people in the train community have expressed their satisfaction with the product, but today I'll offer my own perspective.

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Name: Metal Rails - Gray (PolyBag) [ME900G-BAG]
Price: USD 4.99

Further References: flickr, ME Models, Eurobricks Discussion/Information Topic

ME Models sells a wide variety of rails. You can see them all here: Click me


The (USPS) Box

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The United States Postal Service is gracious enough to lend a box for the box picture of this review. Now let's open this up to see the goodies inside.


The Contents

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I ordered five of the polybagged rails in gray. Each polybag contains four rails and four dark bluish gray connectors, which allows two sixteen stud tracks to be created. What ME Models has done, and LEGO hasn't, is offer rails that come in different lengths, ranging from 8 studs long (half length) to a whopping 64 studs long (quad length). Furthermore, they even offer these in brown. In July, ME Models will be releasing curved tracks too, which will be real exciting to see.

They even throw in this neat little postcard/advertisement slip, with a montage of some of the other models they have for sale.


The Polybag

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The packaging is pretty much akin to products that you may find in a hobby store, and easy to open without mangling up anything. Through the transparent bag you can see all the contents inside. The backside has the general disclaimers stating that this is not a product released by LEGO. It's also says it's American-made.  :thumbup:


The Instructions

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Not really instructions, but basically a paper slip with tips on ensuring conductivity when the layout is operating. It's a tip from ME to YOU...  :grin:


The Pieces

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Inside are four aluminum alloy rails, four ABS connectors, as well as a packet of aluminum tape. Obviously the rails and connectors are used to make the tracks. What the aluminum tape does is that it provides an additional connection between the rails of connected tracks to ensure that the electricity is conducted. It is optional; more than likely the tracks will work correctly even without the tape.

Note that the ties (or sleepers) are not included with the polybagged tracks. They only come with the boxed rails. The ties are just 2x8 plates which are fairly common.


The Tracks

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They look beautiful when complete. Assembling them is fairly straightforward. Attaching some of the connectors and the ties to the metal rail required a lot of muscle, and I found that I had to press down with my hand and all of my body weight on the rail to get them to snap together. With others, it was much easier to snap together. Some of the plastic on the connectors and the ties shaved off a little bit as I was trying to attach them to the rail, but personally this doesn't matter much to me as they'll remain attached to it anyway. But regardless, this is only an assurance that these rails are strong and stable, and will not come apart unless you disassemble them.


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The tracks connect with each other perfectly, and aren't loose or anything.


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For some reason, in one of my polybags I found an extra connector, and it was just in that one too. Odd, but I'm not complaining. Always good to have an extra lying around!


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Of course, they are made to be compatible with official LEGO 9V tracks, and consequently the newer plastic tracks too. As of now, they are not compatible with the flex tracks, but according to the website there will be an adapter for them released soon.


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Here are the tracks installed in my small party table layout. I've only attached ties to some of the tracks, but they are not needed for the train to actually run.

At first when I turned on the electricity, the train didn't go. This is where the aluminum tape I mentioned before came in, and it was only one connection that was perhaps a little faulty. After that, everything worked out fine. Sometimes you don't even need to apply the tape, and for some reason just rearranging the tracks will create a better connection than before. But most of the time, the connection seems to be fine without any alterations.

This is also an incentive to get the longer pieces of track. If you have a display where there are long stretches of just straight track, it's best to get the double or quad length rails, as then you'll have fewer points of connection and the electricity is more likely to be conducted throughout the layout.




As you can see, my Railway Express runs just fine with the ME tracks.

When I decided that I needed more straight tracks, I was torn between buying official LEGO ones on Bricklink, or using a relatively new product by a third party. After reading some nice reviews on Railbricks and discussions on Train Tech, I eventually chose to buy the tracks from ME Models as that was cheaper and less of a hassle than going to many different sellers on Bricklink. Thank goodness for these, as the train community now has a source to buy 9V tracks, a source that will be continuously replenishing their supply too. I highly recommend them if you're looking for cost-effective and high quality tracks.

Thanks for reading!

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#2 mrblue

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 08:32 AM

very good and welcome addition to the lego world, but too expensive to be a non-lego brand product.
I'm also considering that even if the price is (imho) too high is a good option to expand the 9v system, but sooner or later, even the motors will break. ME should start to think about producing new 9v engine too and make their own line of train system compatible with lego bricks.

have a nice train lego day
mrBlue

#3 pinioncorp

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 11:42 AM

Great review, thanks.

While I don't use 9V, I can still see these being an invaluable resource. The cost for straight track, even the plastic PF track, is ridiculously expensive. And having to buy it with the next-to-useless flexible track is adding to the insult. The cost of this track is actually very reasonable, and gets better as the segments get longer. With the new radii curves coming they will definately be on my to buy list. I just hope they leave room to tile the sleepers on the curves, I like it smooth.

What I would like to see is the release of a power pickup wheelset, whereby one can power their PF motor of choice from the electrified rails, via either straight to the motor or through a RF receiver. Would definately be more achieveable for ME-Models than to create a whole new train motor.

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#4 Eric J. Olson

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 03:10 PM

Thanks for your honest assessment of our project that's been over 9 months in the making.  We really do appreciate the feedback and intend to make it better and better as we go along.

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ME should start to think about producing new 9v engine too and make their own line of train system compatible with lego bricks.

Our long-term goal is to bring the hobbyist a complete L-Gauge system.

#5 LEGO Train 12 Volts

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 03:32 PM

View Postmrblue, on 25 June 2011 - 08:32 AM, said:

very good and welcome addition to the lego world, but too expensive to be a non-lego brand product.
I'm also considering that even if the price is (imho) too high is a good option to expand the 9v system, but sooner or later, even the motors will break. ME should start to think about producing new 9v engine too and make their own line of train system compatible with lego bricks.

have a nice train lego day
mrBlue

I totally agree, it would be great have new motors!  :sadnew:
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#6 TheBrickster

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 03:47 PM

Thanks for taking the time to share this nice review R8.  I'm sure many LEGO Train fans are interested in taking a closer look at these custom track pieces. They certainly look much better than I initially thought and provide a good solution for the price of second hand 9V straight track.

#7 ZO6

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 03:51 PM

Fantastic review, R8!  Very informative!

I'd browsed through the ME site perhaps around a year ago; there was a lot that interested me, but I never got around to purchasing anything.  After reading this review though, now I definitely want to try out some of the track.  This seems like a great alternative for Train fans as the Lego solution simply is not as appealing.  Some of the models (houses and whatnot) on the site looked pretty neat too...

#8 kyphur

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 08:39 PM

View PostEric J. Olson, on 25 June 2011 - 03:10 PM, said:

Our long-term goal is to bring the hobbyist a complete L-Gauge system.

Could I ask if this includes just new 9v Train motors or is there a power pick-up system in the works to allow us to either directly power PF using the powered rails or to charge the LEGO Li-Po battery pack?

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#9 Toastie

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 12:15 AM

View PostEric J. Olson, on 25 June 2011 - 03:10 PM, said:

Our long-term goal is to bring the hobbyist a complete L-Gauge system.

Hi Eric,

got my ME rails in the mail today and - simply wonderful. I haven't tested them yet but just looking at the quality is telling me, they'll perfectly replace this all plastic crap.

Now, I agree with many others: Since you are pushing the L-Gauge electrified system (this is the LEGO train future, if you'd ask me), there should be some sort of power pickup system as well. The very moment we have that, we can run 4.5V, 9V, and 12V trains on this type of track. All what is really needed is a decent power pickup system and maybe something comparable to TLC's LiPo (should they discontinue that - they have done fairly stupid things in the past ...).

Oh well, has been said before, ...

All the best and thanks for making these wonderful metal rails!

Thorsten

#10 hoeij

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 11:20 PM

View PostToastie, on 26 June 2011 - 12:15 AM, said:

All what is really needed is a decent power pickup system and maybe something comparable to TLC's LiPo (should they discontinue that - they have done fairly stupid things in the past ...).

Thorsten,

Does the lego PF receiver have a rectifier, or does it only work when the polarity is correct?

#11 Eric J. Olson

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 12:18 AM

As we stated in both train forums at BrickMagic and BrickWorld, our eventual goal is to bring a complete L-Gauge system.  As you can see with aluminum rails, our starting point, the electrified hobby train is our intended route.  As a result, one can expect speed controllers, switches, motors, etc, to follow this path.  We are still in preliminary alpha when it comes to motors, but our current thoughts are to provide a system capable of working with existing layouts as well as a new system that will bring the trains up to a level in which most train hobbyists expect.

#12 mrblue

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 01:28 AM

View PostEric J. Olson, on 27 June 2011 - 12:18 AM, said:

... but our current thoughts are to provide a system capable of working with existing layouts as well as a new system that will bring the trains up to a level in which most train hobbyists expect.
I don't think I'll invest in a new 9v system or sort of, but nobody knows!
my hope is to see a modular system that will be able to control switch points in a way like our loved 12v system.

have a nice train lego day
mrBlue

#13 peterab

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 02:17 AM

Hi -R8-,

Thanks for your review, I have one further question.

Is the grey colour of the ME sleepers nearer to dark bluish grey or the old dark grey?

#14 -R8-

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 04:59 AM

View Postpeterab, on 27 June 2011 - 02:17 AM, said:

Hi -R8-,

Thanks for your review, I have one further question.

Is the grey colour of the ME sleepers nearer to dark bluish grey or the old dark grey?
Hi peterab,

The connectors that ME Models provides are the dark bluish grey variant, as well as the sleepers that they provide in the boxed kits.

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As we stated in both train forums at BrickMagic and BrickWorld, our eventual goal is to bring a complete L-Gauge system. As you can see with aluminum rails, our starting point, the electrified hobby train is our intended route. As a result, one can expect speed controllers, switches, motors, etc, to follow this path. We are still in preliminary alpha when it comes to motors, but our current thoughts are to provide a system capable of working with existing layouts as well as a new system that will bring the trains up to a level in which most train hobbyists expect.
Would it be possible for you to provide a rough timetable as to when these additional products will be released?

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#15 LEGO Guy Bri

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 05:30 AM

Great review 'R8', good insight on this great product. I plan to add these to my future layout. These seem to work flawlessly with 9V system. :classic:

Edited by Leg Godt Gud, 27 June 2011 - 05:31 AM.

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#16 Toastie

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 07:23 PM

View Posthoeij, on 26 June 2011 - 11:20 PM, said:

Does the lego PF receiver have a rectifier, or does it only work when the polarity is correct?

Hoeij,

the ones I have do only work when the polarity is correct. There was a schematics of the receiver posted in this forum, as far as I remember (I have copied the photograph of the hand written electronic circuit diagram, guess the signature is "Jeb" or something and dated 2/2010).

It appears as if there is just one 1N4001 diode which simply shortens the input voltage when the polarity is wrong. All my PF receivers do behave like that.

Best regards,
Thorsten

#17 Eric J. Olson

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 01:26 PM

By the way, thanks to all that have taken our survey...we are listening. :)

http://www.me-models...?newsdesk_id=23

#18 -R8-

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Posted 04 July 2011 - 05:25 AM

View PostEric J. Olson, on 03 July 2011 - 01:26 PM, said:

By the way, thanks to all that have taken our survey...we are listening. :)

http://www.me-models...?newsdesk_id=23
Thank you for the update, Eric. Great to hear that the second manufacturer will be up and running in due time!

I saw that ME Models will be attending BrickFair this upcoming August. Have you guys thought about doing a seminar there on the ME rails? It might be a viable option, in order to garner some more publicity and attention towards the product. Another idea could be to see if some of the train layouts could utilize ME track, to serve as some kind of 'demo' for people interested in the product.

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#19 Eric J. Olson

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Posted 07 July 2011 - 03:25 PM

View Post-R8-, on 04 July 2011 - 05:25 AM, said:

I saw that ME Models will be attending BrickFair this upcoming August. Have you guys thought about doing a seminar there on the ME rails?

If we were invited to do so, we would...that's how we ended up at BrickWorld in Chicago. :)

#20 -R8-

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 06:40 AM

Although this is my first BrickFair (so I am not 100% sure), by the looks of what the schedule says and from what people have said on the discussion board there, I think people are welcome to submit their ideas for a seminar to Todd Webb, as opposed to being through invite only.

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#21 Eric J. Olson

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Posted 18 July 2011 - 07:40 AM

View Post-R8-, on 08 July 2011 - 06:40 AM, said:

Although this is my first BrickFair (so I am not 100% sure), by the looks of what the schedule says and from what people have said on the discussion board there, I think people are welcome to submit their ideas for a seminar to Todd Webb, as opposed to being through invite only.
We will be there for the duration of the event, so even if we're not doing a full presentation, feel free to stop by our booth at any time during the event (preferably, non-public hours) and we'll be happy to sit down, let you play with the stuff, and Q&A. :)

#22 smith_sam88

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 09:14 PM

I see that the ME Models Metal Rails are now available on http://www.brickshop.nl/ for us European folk. The $20 Metal Rails Box costs EUR 25 though - that works out at $36!  :sad:

It also works out to costing over EUR 4 per piece of track - Lego 9V track sells for cheaper than that on Bricklink!

Looks like I'll be sticking to Lego 9V track...though I may well be tempted by the different radius curves when they become available!
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