Racing in the European Capital

Slotting into an existing project

I'd long been entertaining the idea of making a race track featuring Brussels. Not too long ago, I started spending some serious time on designing a slot car layout.
. My first idea was to include as many bridges and tunnels as possible. Brussels has long seen these as a solutions to traffic issues, so there's plenty to go around.
Then of course there were the most recognisible buildings. This led to some sketching, more sketching, and even more sketching. But in the end I had to admit defeat: though Brussels is full of great racing opportunities, they're more suited for a video game. A physical layout would take up far too much space- and too many square corners would make it a very difficult track

The tourist route.

My next idea was to use google maps to try and get a layout. I included my two favourite slopes; mont des arts that curves around a grand staircase, and sablon that races down a cobblestone square, into a narrow canyon and under a bridge.
There are some really nice buildings alongside the track; medievil houses along sablon, art nouveau musical instruments museum, the art deco royal library, the neoclassicist art museum, and the hypermodern mont des arts congress center (although I'd love to get the fifties style slot racing vibe) It'd be nice to have cardboard/plexi versions of this.

The first attempt was very squareish, by nature of the design process. But it soon became obvious to me that if I squashed the square into a parrallelogram, the racetrack could be made to fit 2 one meter square boards.
It took some attempts to get the perfect cirquit. I realised I had to lop of part of the cirquit; the loop underneath the boulevard de l'imperatrice. In the end I returned to the square cirquit, with suitably altered dimensions.


< img src="montdesarts.jpg">
The cars would start on the Blvd de'l Empereur in front of the scenic Mont des Arts stairs. Heading left onto the Cantersteen, they'd have to break for a sharp turn right and up. A wide right curve would take them up past the Shell building on the Ravenstein street, then a steep left up Koudenberg would deliver them on the Place Royale. A sharp right dodges the statue of the villainous Godfried of Bouillon. A straight downslope along the rue Royale until the Petit Sablon. Here there's a lot of options, but my track now takes a tight right down a very steep descent on the cobblestone Ruysbroekstraat. Halfway there's a slight turn, and then the cars dive into a tight gallery- only one at a time!
They emerge on the flag-pole covered place de la Justice underneath the Bld de Emperateur. Tight left and up the LEbeaustraat in a fast s curve that brings them to the Sablon. Up the cobblestoned Sablon, a right curve in frong of the church, and back down on the other side. A steep descent down the Rollebeek emits them on the Bld de Emp with a sharp right at the fifties style gas station/bowling alley. And on to the finish line!

Pit stop.

At this point two things happened about simultaneously. I fell out of love with the slot car idea (temporarily entertaining some ideas about mounting miniature cameras etc. to rekindle the fizzling passion) and my biggest boy got several handfuls of Matchbox cars for Sinterklaas.
So I decided to carry the work done so far over to a matchbox cars track. That was the start of this project.

And on again!

The first thought in my mind was to get the width of the tracks right. Another was that the matchbox cars wouldn't be bothered by right angle corners or tight curves.
After determining that a 4cm track width was plenty for single streets, and therefore 8 for double streets, it was time to return to the drawing board. The track would be kept a lot smaller this way- about half a meter by a meter. Of course I'd have to print it. So the question was wether I could get it printed on say thick vinyl, and if so on what sizes.

Once more into the breach

After a while- about spring 2013- I started thinking about this project again. What I hadn't put a lot of emphasis on is that the north side of the track (left) is completely hollow. There's a parking garage and congress center, a metro line and a train tunnnel underneath the whole cirquit. Wouldn't it be exiting to build up a 3d-structure incorporating all these?!
I also decided to use the roofs of the structures as roads. All in all, the cirquit would still be there, but random playing with cars could be done pretty much everywhere. It'd need some planning, though..


The first step would be to straighten out all bits of the route.


more is coming... when I get round to doing it!