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hexagonal toy train track

self-interlocking track pieces
 (+7) [vote for, against]

Well, I could try to describe this but it's probably easier if you go straight to the illustrations. If you can't for some reason: each piece of track is like a piece of jigsaw puzzle, each one has the same outline and they all fit together any way. Sort of like Escher's lizards. Each piece has a groove in the top surface, either a straight section or a 90 degree turn. There is a bit of slop in how they fit together so long sweeping turns are also possible. The locomotive and cars have a guide pin that follows the groovy track.

EDIT: updated (based on annotations), to make the track pieces on a hexagonal grid. This makes the turns wider, with a choice of 30 or 60 degree turns.

 — afinehowdoyoudo, Apr 28 2010

one piece of track http://howdymam.dev.../90-track-162218023
[afinehowdoyoudo, Apr 28 2010]

a bunch of pieces put together http://howdymam.dev...art/track-162223992
it's half baked [afinehowdoyoudo, Apr 28 2010]

Minimum Turning Radius http://modeltrains....tp/track_curves.htm
I'm no expert... [jurist, Apr 28 2010]

Interlocking Toy Train Tracks http://www.toottoot.../c464/p5254/summary
A more typical approach to toy trains... [Jinbish, Apr 28 2010]

Railroad Tycoon & Rails of Europe http://blog.cartoph...ailroad-tycoon.html
Illustrations of the hexagonal sort of track layouts. [jurist, May 01 2010]

hextrack50 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 on Shapeways http://www.shapeway...odel=117413&mode=3d
[afinehowdoyoudo, May 07 2010]

[link]

To be honest I think I saw this somewhere but could not find it on the internet, therefore it is unbaked?
 — afinehowdoyoudo, Apr 28 2010

That is very cool +
 — simonj, Apr 28 2010

 I like the concept, but the scale must be very much larger than your linked illustrations would indicate. Only the tiniest toy trains would be able to navigate a corner so tight as to be described on a single "puzzle" piece. Are these interlocking pieces actually large enough to be proportionate with the train equipment? Or should the described curves and corners be much more gently graduated than the illustrations suggest?

And, since jigsawed pieces of this type require a vertical installation, what sort of linking or bayonet design will you use to provide the electrical continuity between pieces (assuming these are the traditional electric toy trains)?
 — jurist, Apr 28 2010

This would be better with hexagons, like the Railroad Tycoon board game.
 — marklar, Apr 28 2010

 Ah, hexagons! I knew there was a reason to post this :)

Those 'square' pieces are on a 2 inch grid, so the running gear would be roughly HO-scale, but would be in a custom style having rubber tires and a single guide pin protruding from each undercarriage. The locomotives would be self-propelled, most likely by an electric motor, with batteries or photovoltaic panels.
 — afinehowdoyoudo, Apr 28 2010

I don't think HO scale could make a 90° turn in anything smaller than a 12 inch square because of the distance between the wheel carriages and their limited turning range, regardless of how the unit was powered. <edit: I stand corrected. Per the attached link the minimum turning radius for HO gauge would be 18 inches, and N gauge would be 11 inches.>
 — jurist, Apr 28 2010

Custom designed rolling stock can make turns as small as you like. Those recommended minima are for standard commercial scale models.
 — pocmloc, Apr 28 2010

 The turning radius was part of the reason I suggested hexagons, so you turn 60deg per hex with a radius of about 3/4 of a hex. It would also make having points easier.

 [Jurist] 18" and 11" are his recommendations. There is a table lower down with the minimums. Then there is a note about N-gauge track with a 4" radius.

I think a 4" hex layout would be ideal, like Settlers of Catan (which has nothing to do with trains).
 — marklar, Apr 28 2010

[+] for hexagons
 — FlyingToaster, Apr 28 2010

Hex is better, now who can figure out the least number of piece types needed to make common track layouts like an oval and a figure 8. I think it's 6.
 — MisterQED, Apr 28 2010

 If we use a notation describing track connecting to Hex sides that are numbered clockwise : 1-6

 Hex based oval: 4 pieces 2 pieces with curves going through adjacent sides: {1,2}+2 pieces with curves going through sides 1 side apart: {1,3}

Hex based 8: 7 pieces
4 pieces of {1,2}
2 pieces of {1,3}
1 crossroads {1,2,5,6}
 — Jinbish, Apr 28 2010

I'm off on a steamtrain ride on monday! woo woo! my stationmaster grandfather would be so proud.
 — po, Apr 28 2010

 [Jinbish] No, just no.

 Oval: 2 types. 6x curve (1,3), 2x straight (1,4).

Fig 8: 2 types. 10x curve (1,3), 1x crossover (1,2,4,5).
 — marklar, Apr 29 2010

baked in Japan
 — Voice, Apr 29 2010

 [marklar]: The plan that I've suggested is based on the assumption that a {1,2} turn is permitted. If that's the case then 7 hexes are all that are needed.

 In any case, your track plan is a much nicer layout.

{Just realised question was minimum number of *type* of pieces, not actual number of pieces. Ok - your suggestions are the classical answer to the figure of 8}
 — Jinbish, Apr 29 2010

 [marklar], nicely done, I was stuck on being able to create tracks that could make 90 degree turns. Included two kinds of straight track, one 1-4 and another 1-3. My T was 1-4/2-6 and then I got lost in the two different kinds of turns to interface between the centered and offset straight tracks.

[Jinbush] you lost me.
 — MisterQED, Apr 29 2010

 Ok - my figure-of-8 layout is only 7 jigsaw pieces in total, but there were three types of piece 4x{1,2}, 2x{1,3}, and 1x{1,2,5,6}. [marklar]'s is 11 jigsaw pieces in total, and is made from 10x{1,3} and 1x{1,2,5,6}

That make sense?
 — Jinbish, Apr 29 2010

The full selection of possible pieces is {1,2}, {1,3}, and {1,4}. However you can have a {1,4}{2,3}{5,6} on it. Thus two piece types would allow every non crossing track. Crosses would introduce two more, a {1,4}{2,5}{3,6} piece and a {1,4}{2,6}{3,5}. Pretty sure, therefore, that all possible static piece can be covered with only 4 pieces. One more if you want a switchable Y if you give it a 5 position switch (or 6 5 position switches if you want to get really complex).
 — MechE, Apr 29 2010

You could also, possibly, have some pieces with two or three curves on them:
{1,2;3,4;5,6} - three {1,2} curves<br {1,3;4,6} - two {1,3} curves
 — Jinbish, Apr 29 2010

{1,3;2,4;5,6}
 — pocmloc, Apr 29 2010

I didn't mention it specifically, but I figured the {1,3} curve would double up. But the 3x{1,2} curve I did miss, and the {1,3}{2,4}{5,6}, so we're up to 7 different pieces including the switch.
 — MechE, Apr 29 2010

//so we're up to 7 different pieces//
Did you remember terminus pieces ?
 — FlyingToaster, May 01 2010

 The edited idea states that you can have 30deg pieces, which you can't; you can only have 60 (1,3)or 120 (1,2) and I think a 120deg curve is too tight.

 I would suggest the 6 different types: curve(1,3), straight(1,4), 2-way cross (1,4 & 2,5), 3-way asterisk(1,4 & 2,5 & 3,6), right points (1,4 & 5), left points (1,4 & 3).

 Edit: just thought of Fleur de lys points(1,4 & 3 & 5).

 It would be nice to have specialist pieces, such as: turntable, bridge over river, tunnel, level crossing.

I really want to bake this. Get me China on the phone ... that's right, all the tea.
 — marklar, May 02 2010

 i have a toy car track that is much like the idea as originally posted. It works well.

I can't be arsed to find it or to look it up.
 — baconbrain, May 03 2010

I doodled a piece of hexagonal track sized to a 50mm inscribed circle and with tracks {1,2} {3,4} and {5,6}, and posted it to Shapeways (linky). \$12.71 delivered is cheep cheep for 3D printing but it would add up to an expensive toy train set!
 — afinehowdoyoudo, May 07 2010

[afinehowdoyoudo] ~ The Shapeways site that you linked to is very impressive. I'm planning to bookmark that one for future reference. Thanks!
 — jurist, May 07 2010

To keep the number of manufactured parts to a minimum, I would suggest only 2:
"Straight", with 3 straight tracks thru' the centre;
"Corner", with 3 60deg corners.
As mentioned (and I tend to agree), a 120deg corner will be too tight or make the unit too big.
Adding complications such as points takes it to the next level, but it could be done with just 1 more piece, combining all options: each edge of a hex unit has a 3-way point, allowing the train to go 60deg left, straight, or 60deg right. Because of the way the lines curve, the point (actual place where the direction is changed) will have to be at or near the initial edge. Of course, this this means each "points unit" will have 6 3-value inputs (and I'm naively assuming there is such a thing as a three-way point...), which could quickly get complicated for a control system.
 — neutrinos_shadow, May 07 2010

Thanks neutrinos, let me noodle on that. bigsleep, I did that piece in solidworks, which some might say is a cheating way to sketch, but I would maintain that it was done in a Doodlist style: fast and easy without ironing out all the details. Hopefully nobody actually pays to print it out :)
 — afinehowdoyoudo, May 19 2010

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