DETAILING AND DECORATING A HOME OR CLUB TRACK TO MAKE IT MORE REALISTIC LOOKING
Commercial slot car tracks are a classic model of efficiency. Most have eight lanes routed from super-smooth, medium density fiberboard, painted, color-coded, and wired with massive amounts of power for the ultimate in speed and handling characteristics. As such there is little or no room to do anything else other than infield areas might be covered.
Some of those – even back in the "old days" were covered with fake green grass-type carpet. Occasionally you will see an Oval or Tri-Oval which has had a decorated infield added with parked cars, tiny figures working in the pit areas and sometimes even grandstands with spectators. Nice touch, but not necessary in a place that has to make lots of money to keep the doors open.
That’s not always the case with home or club tracks. Given a little time, thought and spare money, one of these layouts can be made truly spectacular. As a general rule we see decor much more often on HO layouts than on 32nd or 24th scale tracks. By the same token, many true "scale" enthusiasts who have an affinity for realism rather than blinding speed will go that extra mile and decorate the layout. It’s not difficult and here are a few ideas if you’d like to try adding more pizzazz to your track.
Some of the most fun I’ve had in the forty-plus years I’ve been playing with slot cars was had in the early-to-mid sixties on a two-lane club track named "Thunder Road," named after the movie which starred the late Robert Mitchum. (See the really OLD photographs!) I helped the owner build it and we installed two "mountains" made of chicken wire and fiberglass.
A waterfall cascaded down one side of a mountain, ran under one section of track and into a miniature "lake" - all powered by a small pump mounted under the track. The "over-and-under" part (what is called the "donut" today) went around the middle of one of the mountains and back down onto the main straight. This was a "table layout" and the elevated sections were made like interstate highway overpasses.
Everything that wasn’t racing surface was painted to look like grass and miniature trees were placed all over the layout. Around the racing portion were mounting miniature streetlights and we often had "night" races under the lights. One of our racers (who also happened to be a great model builder) constructed us a miniature moonshine still and there were also several "wrecked" cars in the bushes.
We began racing Strombecker 32nd scale cars, but quickly moved on to scratch-building our own. After two years we were racing 24th scale – the Cox Chaparral and other body styles. Sadly, that track - except for pictures in my old box of stuff - is nothing more than a memory, much like the wonderful old Mesac layout that was so popular about the same time in California.
We’ve also seen layouts that incorporated model train layouts, which ran through the scenery at the same time cars, were being raced. Who says all slot racing has to be bland and unrealistic? So…if you own a home or club track - or would even like to try something like this on a small scale in a commercial raceway, it’s neat and sure gets a lot of attention. Try it…you’ll enjoy the labor and everyone will truly like the results.
Everything you need is available through hobby and craft shops and you can always check publications like Hobby Merchandiser and Model Retailer for a variety of manufacturers of decorative scenery, etc.