2018 Pinewood Derby Track – BestTrack with New Directions Starting Gate mods and Custom Track Storage Beast Box

History of the Pack 905 Track upgrade
StartGate Switch Settings

Here’s where the track build story begins…

09-01-2018 I was appointed PWD Chairman in our pack. The Cubmaster Patrick Rose came over and said, find us a new track and make it happen! 😁👍

In this situation the pack was upgrading from a Super Timer Super Track that was handed down to them in 2001. This plastic flexible track with edge guided lanes created numerous problems with cars flying off the track due to the 3 hump rollercoaster at the starting ramp. Being an edge guided track, the cars would then bounce side to side all the way down and potentially fly off the track. If the cars made it to the end, they would crash into the finish gate and bounce off into others lanes only to have other cars smash into them creating more damage to the cars. The original design of the wooden PWD tracks were always centered guided and that kept the cars on the track without excessive side to side movement as they traverse the track. The BSA cars are originally designed around a center strip guided track.

The track research began online with finding a variety of track types whether plastic or metal with optional accessories. Most tracks researched have a handle pull type hardware with other vendor options available for a solenoid start hardware attached to flip the handle that releases the cars. With those solenoid release designs, you would still have to flip the gate back up after each heat.

IMO, BestTrack is the best PWD track option with New Directions components attached at the starting gate! The BestTrack aluminum track with Grand Prix Race Manager is the standard in PWD races. A majority of the over 40,000 scout packs use them as well as the BSA Councils and District PWD races.

Pack Track Build Details

After searching around the web, the New Directions website popped up. John Shreffler has over 28 years in PWD and a website full of options for many Pinewood derby tracks. The idea behind a full motion start gate (GRB) looked promising. This option is the only design that opens the start gate triggered by Grand Prix Race Manager software using the (SCI) Serial Computer Interface option and then resets it back into position for the next race heat. The software in GPRM is already setup to work with the New Directions PWD accessories.

The BestTrack 42′ (4) lane aluminum track was purchased with the optional leveling kit. The track arrived with Grand Prix Race Manager v18(at the time). The New Directions options were added: GRB(Full Motion Starting Gate), LT4 (Staging Lights with IR Light Triggering), SCI(Serial Computer Interface for GPRM software race heat triggering), PB3(Push Button v3 for manual race heat triggering using green lit button). The integration of the components took a number of months of work tweaking the hardware setup to be super durable, look great, and allow several different race start options depending on the PWD Chairman. It’s now easy to operate with nothing to remove, un-tape or unbolt before or after the Scout Pinewood Derby Race. Simply setup and level the track, connect power and computer then race.

This GRB – Full Motion Starting Gate device is complimented by a Staging Lights system called the LT4 – Light Tree v4 with very bright, doubled sided, 1W un-diffused LEDS on a stick. Once triggered, the light sequence will countdown (5) seconds before the race heat starts. This helps the race audience see a race is about to begin and builds the anticipation plus looks like the staging light system at a drag strip. After the staging light countdown, the start gate is triggered, releasing the cars. Built into the LT4(staging lights) is an IR receiver that will also trigger the staging lights using any TV remote. I ended up creating a custom IR light triggering device by cutting down a TV remote circuit board to fit into white drain tube parts with a battery pack. It’s been called the P-905 Track Blaster. The Track Blaster lights have (7) IR LEDs(950uM) and (22) UV(A) LEDs for a cool blue effect when triggered.

This Track Blaster starting device is a fun interactive scout option used to start each race heat. For example, a race heat is up on the screen. The scout shown in the race heat coming up in Lane 1 or in our case the blue lane, is handed the Track Blaster at the finish end of the track. Once the race manager has triggered timer ready, the scout can press the Track Blaster remote to start the Staging Light countdown which then triggers the start gate to release the cars. Super Fun!

Pack Track Setup

The pack track build idea was to be able to easily setup and store the complete track with all of the New Directions options quickly and easily. Just unplug everything and roll up the serial, timer and power cables to store in the box. Out of the box, the New Direction products would bolt on and do the job fine but were a cumbersome amount of cables and connectors and batteries that would have added a lot of setup and storage time and instructions to pass along. I decided to take the new directions products to a new level with a complete integration at the track StartGate. When completed, this build made the setup and pack up very easy with as little effort as possible.

All of the New Directions hardware is now permanently bolted or tie-wrapped on with just a serial cable to the Race Manager Computer, a power cable and a few switches to change for selected Race modes.

The StartGate track section setup process involves opening the lower Beast Box, attach the legs to the StartGate stand, then setting it upright at the track layout starting position. Then, roll out the long multi-cable assembly down to the Champ finish gate, hookup power and attach the GPRM computer.

This (3) cable harness is tie wrapped together and hides under the elevated leveling feet under each track piece. The multi-cable harness includes the serial cable, 3.5mm start/reset cable, and a 12V extension cable to the timer. All that’s left is a power cord to the Grounded Power Strip mounted under the start gate.

Anyone else have any luck with using New Directions or other track equipment? Add a comment below.

Scroll down to see more pics and notes about the track build.

Even more project pics and videos from the build.

**UPDATED Jan 2021 The Jan 2021 Pack race had a solder joint break to the Staging Lights power switch. It was hold in place by the shrink tubing at the switch connection point. Everything worked at the pack setup and test the night before but failed on race day. The race went on setting the StartGate switches in start button mode to push the green lighted Start Button for each race heat. Each race heat was run with a click to Ready Timer in GPRM then a thumbs up from the track manager to push the green button.

**UPDATED 12-26-21 Finally completed all of the changes needed to the track for the Jan 2022 pack race. The fragile proto-type wires were replaced with 22 AWG heavy stranded wire. Shrink tubing was added to these connections. The wiring section has a cover plate so fingers won’t press on them during setup and takedown. The long timer cable had the finger busting tie-wraps removed and replaced with PVC cable wrap. Serial and Power cable mounts were added so the cables quickly wrap and unwrap then secured with velcro. A mounting point was added for the stand when folded down for secure storage. 2 of the track stand angle brackets were trimmed to allow unobstructed movement when folding and unfolding. One faulty switch was replaced. The control panel switch labels were replaced with a much simpler labeling. The Jan 2022 pack race worked great in GPRM Software mode.
Jump here to see some of the pics involved in the repair.

**UPDATED 02-01-24 Another problem for the Jan 2023 pack race. Same symptom as before! Staging lights would not turn on. The race went on setting the StartGate switches to Start Button for each race heat. Each race heat was run with a click to Ready Timer in GPRM then a thumbs up from the track manager to push the green lighted Start Button. I picked up the track in the fall of 2023 for repair. The problem was the (4) blue switches were failing. These were swapped out for better quality red switches. The StartGate is good for the upcoming Jan 2024 pack race. The Jan 2024 race went without any track tech problems using GPRM v21 in solenoid trigger mode. In this race mode GPRM software would trigger the StartGate solenoid to release the cars for each race heat. **GPRM v21 fixes the intermittent problem of “race heat completes and the heat results fail to show up in GPRM.**
A few pics were added at the end of the gallery.

The Track is stored in 2 boxes. One box would have been too heavy at 150lbs.

The final build result is awesome. It’s very flexible with many race modes for the Pack Race Chairman. The race can be run in manual mode with the PB3 green lit start switch starting each race heat. This can be used with the staging lights or without. Also, in this mode, the scout running in lane one can start each race heat using the IR Track Blaster. The scout can stand at the track end and start the heat when the race manager clicks Timer Ready.

The most common mode is using GPRM software to start each race heat. The settings in “hardware settings” has Solenoid Start Gate Light Tree enabled at 3 secs and with Auto Advance and Hands-Free Timing at 1 min in Racing Controls. If both are enabled, the track can continuously run in full auto mode as long as you can feed the track new cars and offload cars in time. The settings in GPRM software are flexible.

01-27-2019 Our pack race went perfectly. The pinewood derby cars were no longer ejected off the track and then blaming the scout team builders that they did something wrong in the build. After the race season, a box to hold all the track gear was made. The BestTrack Beast Box.

Anyone else have any luck with using New Directions equipment? Add a comment below.

Take a look at additional project pics and videos to see more details.

03-02-2021 Track issues. The start track had an issue with the exposed prototype wiring on race day in Jan 2021. The power connection to the Light Tree switch had a fracture in the solder joint. Since the wiring had no protection, maybe on setup and handling a wire solder joint fractured. Somehow the wire was barely attached under the shrink tubing, but did not make a good connection. So, the Staging Light Tree would not power on. The track switches were set to manual start gate using the green lit button and the 2021 pack race continued.

The reasoning behind this was I didn’t have enough time to finish all the details items like a switch cover, change the power and switch wiring to sturdy jacketed wiring, plus a few other tidy tidbits.

The prototype switch wiring was replaced with jacketed 22 AWG (2) strand braided wire. Then, the wires will be tie wrapped to a support bar across the back. For more protection, the wires will have a cover.

The exposed wires at the switch was a break waiting to happen. I ran out of time before the 2019 race day to finish the little details.

The (LT4) Staging Lights PCU (Power Control Unit) 4.5V (3) AA battery case was removed and wired direct to a 4.5V power pack. The (LT4) Staging Lights circuit board is mounted in a 3/4″ drain tube bolted underneath painted black. The SCI (serial control interface) connector is permanently mounted underneath so that the LEDs were visible. This DB9 connector taps into the serial cable pin 7 to trigger the (LT4) Staging Lights or GRB (Gate Release) directly via GPRM software. Then the PB3 (Push Button V3) button was removed from the small USB case and reconfigured in a separate black box. The green lighted Start Button is used to trigger the (PB3) that will trigger the Staging Lights to Start Gate Solenoid or direct to Start Gate Solenoid depending on right switches configuration. It is also powered by the 4.5V power pack removing the original 3.2V button cell battery. Again, no wires, batteries to fail and replace or store.

Then the far right red button is the Champ Timer – Reset / Test switch. This was moved to the back control panel to avoid shearing off from the side where it is originally installed. The standard 50′ Champ Timer – Reset / Test cable has a custom wired 3.5mm female stereo connector attached at the start and reset/test switches. It’s much easier to control from the back with a finger guard to prevent accidental resets.

Jan 2024 Starting Gate repairs
And another problem with the Jan 2023 pack race. Again, the staging lights would not turn on for the race. So the race leader used the track in button mode instead of triggering the staging lights with Grand Prix Race Manager software trigger. I arrived to help setup but to no avail, the staging lights would not turn on with the on/off switch. Crazy!! The final answer to this problem was the low quality switches originally used in the build failed after the solder reheat to change the failed wiring that shifted the contacts internally.

During the previous repair to swap out the thin wiring and add a metal protector over the wiring, the switch terminals were heated and the contact moved a micro millimeter. Toggling the switch just would not turn on the staging light. The track was tested thoroughly after swapping out the wiring. My theory is an oxidation layer buildup and repair and in storage. It refused to make contact on race day!

Swapping out the blue switches with better switches solved the problem and they were ready for Jan 2024 race. The switch on the Track Blaster was acting up as well. It was swapped out with a better switch also. All good, the race went without a technical issues! 🤙😉

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