I recently found my first starting gate. I made it out of leftovers laying around the house and to be honest, it worked pretty well. It helped birth Redline Derby by being the starting point of weekly races for many years. Oh how far we've come…
Having a remote starting gate was always on the wishlist but it's not something I could ever justify the effort to build (or the expense to buy). Attaching a string to my manual starting gate and pulling it from afar was as "remote" as I got. Having an electronic push button remote is certainly a luxury, but it's one of those luxuries you don't realize you really want/need until you have it (like heated seats in your car).
The eGate remote starting gate from JLH Krafts is one of those luxury accessories but if your track layout needs you to be hands-off while racing and filming, then this add-on will certainly make your life easier.
JLH Krafts 4-lane eGate remote starting gate
What I liked:
- Easy setup and installation
- Low, slim profile looks great
- Simple push button remote
- Rear extension connectors
- Screw holes for mounting
- Sturdy track connectors stay tight
- Available in various sizes (2,3,4,6 lanes)
What I noticed:
- It's pretty big, 9"x9" footprint
- Designed for notched/button orange track
- Distance between lanes is inconsistent
- Remote takes 2x9v batteries
- Release gate can cause cars to hop & bump on release
Where to buy it:
Taking a closer look
The first thing I noticed when I took the eGate remote starting gate out the box from Las Vegas-based JLH Krafts, was just how big it was. This starting gate is a beast. All said and done, the footprint for the 4-lane gate is 9" x 9" thanks mostly to the housing for the mechanics that handle the gate action. Even though it's big, I really love the low profile of the lanes. It looks nice and the whole unit can sit flat within your layout.
Adding the gate to my 10" wide downhill track wasn't difficult but it does hang off the side a bit thanks to how I built my support. If you're looking to replace your existing starting gate be aware that you might have to rejigger things to make it fit nicely. Ideally, you'd probably want to design your track with the gate in mind, whereas I'm just trying to swap one out.
Given that there is mechanical hardware in this gate, it's not surprising that the unit is heavier as well. Most of the weight sits to the side where the solenoid is so I'd advise making use of the holes provided to screw it down to your track support.
Each lane in the gate is about 4.25" long so it's a good size to stage one car, even if it's a custom extended chassis car. But wonderfully, the gate sports a rear connector for each lane so you can extend it if you want to stack up cars.
Dealing with track
The eGate is designed to work with the notched "button" orange track that is widely available in most retail stores. The connectors are sturdy and track slides on easy enough without worrying about it coming undone. However, if you're using the older, pre-notch track like I am, you'll have to cut a notch out for it to connect to the eGate. This isn't a deal breaker but it was something I was hoping I wouldn't have to do. The connectors on the gate are thick enough that they didn't need to include the notch filler and it would still hold.
However, one place where the eGate falls a little short is with the affordance given between each lane of track when all lanes are connected to the unit. As you can see in the photos above, the gap between the two middle lanes is not the same as with each pair of outer lanes. I thought this was an interesting design decision assuming it was intentional.
I'd like to have seen the distance between each lane be the same and consistent. When lanes are too close together the track walls start to push against each other, and when they start squeezing it can cause some weird warping that makes it hard for the track to stay straight. I found the squeezing happens with all ages of track but more so with the older track that has higher walls.
It would be nice to see a starting gate (and finish line) that considers this variance and finds a happy middleground that will support all ages of track, but I have yet to see an accessory (from any vendor) that handles this well.
Even with the lane issue, it doesn't stop the gate from working well. I use the older, seamless orange track that has higher track walls so the track squeeze really impacts stability. Your mileage may vary depending on which age of track you're using and if you're using all 4-lanes at once.
It's also worth noting that some orange track may also be too narrow for the eGate. Some track I tried had the end of the track wall exposed allowing cars to possibly bang into it (see below). I don't put this risk high on my list, but depending on the casting (or if a car is modded as such), it might get hung up on the end of the track wall on release.
Making George Jetson proud
The real draw of the eGate unit is the push button remote. It's a simple 2-button remote where one button lowers the gate, the other raises the gate for a reset. The remote works great and is easy to use without worry. My 8-year-old loves being the "button pusher" whereas before with a pull string I couldn't trust her not to yank a bit too hard. The response time between button push and gate drop is as instant as you could expect, and same on the reset. Nice and easy!
The remote comes as a separate unit and runs off two 9v batteries. It connects easily to the main unit with some simple push-on/pull-off connectors. And while it is recommended that you make sure the wires are connected tightly, I found that having them a little loose can be a saving grace.
While I was testing, the cord was laying on the ground when my dog walked by and got tangled up. Thankfully, the wires were connected loosely enough that instead of pulling down the whole track in a pile, it came apart at the connection point - whew!
A few bumps in the road
The release gate itself is a fall forward flap that is connected to the solenoid arm. However, because the gate flap is the full width of a lane, it also makes for unavoidable bumps during a car's drop.
This is something I visually noticed and could also hear. You can see the cars jump a bit and the distinct sound of a car bouncing is there too. I didn't think too much about it until I tried some small wheeled cars (like the Honda City Turbo) at which point the jump n' bump was even more noticeable. I think that was due in part to that car's light weight but also because the smaller wheels get easily caught up in the gate flap gaps.
I know it seems like a minor detail but after several runs with various cars, I couldn't not think about how those extra hops impact the car on its way out of the gate. Each lane in the eGate has two bumps created by the gate flap, and one where the track connects to the starting gate. This means your car has to pass over all those speed bumps before it hits the track.
As it is, I'm constantly fighting with my drag strip track to make lanes as fair and even as possible. One lane is usually a little faster and that's worry enough when I'm running races. If the eGate adds extra bumps, hops, and wobbles at release then that's just one more thing for me to question during any given race. That last thing I want is to see a car not perform because it got thrown off by the starting gate. Of course, all of this is less of a worry if your track layout flows into an open track, but if you're running a fully laned track or drag strip, it might be something to think about.
This is a starting gate that will up your game
There's no question the JLH Krafts eGate remote starting gate is a great plug-n-play track accessory that will make you feel like your track has reached the next level. You'll be up and racing in minutes, and you'll be doing so from afar with the handy push button remote. The eGate even comes in a few different flavors to fit your track needs - there's 2, 3, 4, and even 6 lane versions.
And if the few nit picky-ish concerns I mentioned didn't raise any flags, then the JLH Krafts eGate will certainly up your track game and make track operation more efficient overall. It's easy to use, it's more reliable than a piece of string, it makes filming easier, and it's just fun to press a button and watch cars go.
You can order your own remote eGate from the JLH Krafts web site along with other track accessories, like banked curves, connectors, and finish lines.
The 4-lane eGate remote starting gate was provided to Redline Derby Racing for the purpose of review. Big thanks to Jason at JLHK for his support and great customer service.