Graham, some experiences for you ... and for other wannabe track-hiring people
Everything has to be very robust.
Controllers: I have found out that Parma Economy controllers are very good for this use. If I attend the track myself, I will do some oiling with electronics cleaning oil at the beginning of the day. I have had no controller breakdown, and this is propably due to constant daily service. The controllers have 45ohm resistors which give very smooth control of the cars. 25ohm would be too sensitive for this kind of use in my opinion. The controllers will be dropped at some time so place a short cable to the controller or connect the controllers to a rubber wire which allows driving but prevents controller hitting the floor when dropped. Install a good handle to the controllers and provide clear hanging holder to the track. Otherwice people will place the controllers on the track and that is not good.
Voltage/Amps: It is a good idea to have an option to lower the voltage of each track separately to allow smaller children to drive safely. At the toy-fair I have a switch for each track which selects either full power or reduced power for smaller children. Lower voltage allows small drivers to cruise around the track trigger fully pressed. Full voltage approx 13V and reduced power is something like 7-9V. I have two power supplies set to different voltages. Amps-wise I provide 5A for 4 lanes which is plenty. The power supplies have to have short circuit protection.
Cars: Preparation, preparation, preparation. I have used NINCO BMW M3 cars many times and found them to be very reliable. But those have such problem that anglewinder tries to shift rear axle to the pinion side of the motor. You have to prepare NINCO BMW´s very carefully. Other problem with NINCO anglewinder is softness of the pinion. If a customer presses throttle and the car is inserted on the track there may be damage to the plastic pinion. The car will propably work, but create nasty sound as it goes. Recently I tested Carrera cars and those seem to be working very well too. For a trade-fair use I recommend using magnet cars. I usually shift the magnet to the front of the car. This way the front end keeps down and you get nice tail-sliding. Keep at least 4 cars as spares constantly. For analogue: Mark the cars clearly for each lane, best option is to use cars with different colours.
Track: I use NINCO and I have had zero problems so far. If you are using analogue, mark the different tracks carefully.
Scenery: Kids don´t care about the scenery. If you are hiring for childrens birthday-parties or to similar events, you don´t really need elaborate scenery. If you are aiming for professial trade-fairs, you will have to have some kind of scenery items to make your track more interesting. Grown ups will appreciate very well built scenery items and if your track looks really nice you can get some free word of mouth advertising.
Track borders: If you use track borders with fences, extra strength is needed at the end of each straight.
Timing/lapcounting/racing system: This you have to have! Timing gives track hirers an opportunity to organize races. They can have a billboard to hold fastest time of the day and they can give prizes for the best drivers. 1/10 sec timing is not accurate enough, not even 1/100 with short tracks. I have 1/1000 timing with my tracks. It makes things easier if the timing/lapcounting system works reliably.
Wiring: Solder track power wires directly to track pieces. Use fast press-to-connect connectors to connect track to controller panel. With NINCO track I need only one power feed and jumper cables to other track sections are unnecessary. Use standard plugs found in test cables to connect power.
Ease of use/Training: Sometimes you may be forced to leave your track to an operator who has not a slighest glue about slotracing. This is why your track has to be very easy to operate. With my track I usually have a one single power switch which starts everything. Some keyboard work is required to go to the racing mode at the timing program. The computer and program itself starts automatically. It is a good thing to have some kind of simple written instructions.
Losses/theft: I have had a good luck and I have not lost anything yet. All the bigger scenery items are connected to the track base plate so you cannot remove a scenery-car without removing a big section of the scenery. Include your possible losses to the hiring contract that you will be making. You can list and assign prices to all the scenery items at the contract. If something gets lost you can then just bill the customer after the fair.
Questions: Most frequently asked question from public is "how long is this track". Prepare a sheet with most important features of your track described. Length, track type, power supply, etc. You can laminate this data leaflet and place it somewhere the customers can see it. If you are seeking future contacts have pile of your business cards handy.
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