The Anoraks’ Guide to sts




Having played with sts, a few suggestions have occurred to me, which I hope may help others to get the most enjoyment from their sts circuits.


In sets, the obstacle tracks sometimes come as components requiring assembly. This is not difficult but the lugs on the polystyrene parts are a tight fit into the track section. The obstacle can be taken apart but this is a much harder operation needing some care to ensure the lugs don’t break. I suggest that once the obstacle has been put together, it is left assembled. This would probably require it to be stored somewhere other than in the set box. Someone else has suggested that smearing some silicone grease around the lugs before assembly would make it easier to take apart but I have not tried this.


New track sections can be hard to connect, requiring some strength. This is particularly so with the narrow ends of chicane track sections and the flexible tracks. It does become easier with use. Taking a circuit apart is easier but care should be taken as the lugs that hold the sections together can snap off quite easily. When a container of sts track is opened there is a discernible aroma. I don’t know what this is but an sts enthusiast who works in the materials science business has discussed this with colleagues. They suspect the plastic may be decaying.


The pegs that locate the small obstacles (logs, barrels and sacks) are necessarily a tight fit into the holes in the track. They are also made of fairly soft plastic so care should be taken fitting these obstacles and they should be left in the track rather than being removed and re-fitted. Some sts users have reported that driving cars over these small obstacles is very difficult. If they are placed so that only one side of the car is lifted, the guide (which pivots about a horizontal axis as well as the normal vertical) can be pushed out of the slot.


Getting the braids right is important. They should be in line with the length of the car and shaped around the stabiliser bar as shown in this illustration. The braid should be close to but clear of the bar. The little kink downwards about 1 or 2 mm from the ends of the braids is beneficial and the braid should be curved around the guide so that this end is in contact with the rail at all times.


I came across a problem once when I was testing some cars on a small oval test track. (Photo) I tested about 40 cars and not one single car fitted with a type 2 guide would go over the ramp jump; they would all jam towards the top of the ramps. Cars with type 1 guides had no problem. This took a little while to diagnose. The problem turned out to be with the ramp jump track. The holes in the track section, which held the three grey plastic ramps, had been cut slightly off true. This meant that one of the ramps was too near to the slot. The type 2 guide has wider mouldings to hold the larger (4mm) braids and this bigger moulding fouled on the ramp and pushed the guide blade onto the edge of the slot so jamming the car. (Photo) The smaller type 1 guide did not do this so ran freely. (Photo) Enlarging the hole in the track allowed the ramp to locate nearer its correct position so it did not foul and jam the type 2 guide. (Photo)


Finally, because the track surface is uneven, sometimes the plastic surface is higher than the adjacent conductor rail. The braid is normally wider than the conductor rail so, in these circumstances, the braid can lift away from the rail. This will cut the power to the cars and, as the worm drive means the cars will not free wheel, cause them to stop. A quick fix is to twist the tip of the braid so that the inner edges (nearest the guide) are lower than the outer edges of the braid. Longer term, I have found it fairly easy and effective to cut the high edge of the plastic off at 45° with a scalpel or other sharp knife. It is only necessary to cut a very thin (less than 1mm) edge off and only where the plastic is high, not along its entire length.


So, enough of writing and reading about sts, go and have some fun.


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