code 55 options

bremner Jan 22, 2017

  1. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    I am about to start building a FreeMoN module. I am down to using either Atlas or Micro Engineering code 55 track. I personally have only used Atlas code 80.

    What are the pros and cons of each?
  2. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

    Have you searched the archives? There have been more than one thread on code 55 in the past.
  3. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    I have used both Atlas and ME. I use all Atlas 55 now, except for a couple ME Code 40 sidings. The Atlas is easy to work with and it looks more prototypical for my line than ME Code 55 would.
  4. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

  5. Boilerman

    Boilerman TrainBoard Supporter

    Check the Is the Atlas code 55 any good thread above.
  6. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I used all ME-55 on my modules, of course I built them during the Atlas drought. Both are perfectly fine products, but each have their pros and cons.

    Atlas -- major "pro" is the way it bends. You can automatically get smooth curve transitions. Major "con" is if anyone tries to run a high-profile wheel set, you can hear it 3 displays away (and the car/loco will most likely derail at the module interface).

    ME -- no issues with wheel flange size. You can "shape" the track to exactly how you want it, and it will stay that way, but the "con" is that it is easy to but a "kink" in the track if you aren't careful. Personally, I like the look of ME better (but that is opinion, not fact).

    In either case, use Atlas rail joiners. ME joiners are a PITA.
  7. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    Thanks for the real answer. My main concern are the switches, Atlas has a #5, #7 and a #10, while Micro Engineering only has a #6. From what I have seen, cost isn't much of a difference any more.

    I have seen people complain about the Atlas switches self destructing and Micro Engineering switches not being DCC friendly. All of these threads mentioned are a few years old, and I would like to hear more modern responses to what they are like NOW.
  8. RBrodzinsky

    RBrodzinsky Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Well.... most of the switches on the SVFMN modules are handlaid (following FastTracks templates). I used the FT #8 jigs (for normal L/R switches as well as Y) on the SV Station module. Almost all the switches in Effit Yard are Atlas, and they have held up remarkably well, though we did start having problems on a couple this past show.

    My first couple of Fast Track switches took a long time, and didn't work (really didn't expect them to). But the rest go faster, and tend to work well. Biggest trick is getting the point rails to fit snugly against the stock rail. Worth it to learn, but, for construction speed if you've never done it before, go Atlas. The coolest thing about the roll your own... easy to custom build exactly what you want, where you want.
  9. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    I have laid hundreds of feet of ME code 55 and code 40 track. And I also did the Fast-Tracks hand-laid turnouts. And as Rick said, the first couple are not very good and can be used on deserted track so as not to be wasted...... But depending how many you need, it may be worthwhile to go that route. And the best part is that their are literally 100 different combinations of turnouts and wyes, so you can have some real diversity there. I have both #10 and #12 turnouts on my mains, and they are so smooth that they can be taken at speed with no issues and no derailments. If it is not cost effective then the Atlas solution is still a good one as well.
  10. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

    I have about 80 Atlas #7 and 15 or so Atlas #5 switches on my layout, going on 6 years now. One of them self-destructed (the right point rail came loose - the washer that holds it from the bottom came off) and had to be replaced. Several had issues with gauge (too narrow) through the points on one or the other leg of the turnout, fixed with a bit of judicious filing. They all work fine now. The only other annoyance is that the points and frog of the Atlas turnouts are not 100% nickel silver, but rather some sort of alloy covered with a thin coat of nickel silver, which will wear off if you use abrasive cleaners (e.g., a Bright Boy) on your track. It doesn't affect the electrical operation, but it looks weird to see the copper underlayment show through.

    Having said that, there is no question in my mind that if I had it all to do over again, I'd buy the Fast Tracks tools and jigs necessary to roll my own. I have a half-dozen Fast Tracks turnouts that I built to complete the layout during the great Atlas track shortage, and they are superior to commercial versions in every way - cars and locos track through them without even a semblance of wobble; the points are solid rail, and they even look better. As others have pointed out, be prepared to "waste" two or three early efforts, but once you get the hang of it, you can build one in an hour. You CAN build them with just the templates, but I'd get at least one jig to help learn the overall technique. After you've built a half-dozen with the jig, using paper templates would be feasible - and once you do that, you are no longer limited to the commercially-available geometry. Build 'em any size (number) you want; build curves, straights, Y's, etc. I might not attempt a double-slip, but even that is theoretically possible. And you can build your own crossings, too, with tracks meeting at any angle.

    It's time-consuming, yes, but if I ever build another layout, this is the way I will go.

    John C.
  11. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    I have 10 Atlas #10 turnouts and 20 #7 Atlas turnouts. They all survived a move from Minnesota to Nevada and some have been pulled up moved and I have had no major issues with any of them. The ME ones come spring thrown. Atlas can be converted to spring thrown and ME can be converted to non-spring thrown. I prefer the #7 and #10 to the ME #6 (realism for my prototype again). I operate regularly on a layout that is all ME and there have been to major issues with any of those in the 8 years I've been operating there. The whole layout is DCC with no issues because of the turnouts. Either brand is good on that account.

    I do find the stiffness of the ME flex to be frustrating, the Atlas is easier to make smooth corners and easements with. The ME Code 40 takes more time to get tweaked to smooth. It takes a lot of eye-balling. For some prototypes, the ME spacing is more accurate, it really does depend on what and when you are modeling.

    John C., David and Rick all make great points when it comes to hand-laid turnouts. I think when my Atlas start to reach the end of their life I will also start to build my own turnouts.
  12. CraigN

    CraigN TrainBoard Supporter

    I have had a few issues with the Atlas turnouts. I have over 50 on my layout mostly #7's and about a dozen #10's.

    A couple # 10's that are still on the layout have no power to the point rail unless I press on them a certain way. One of them in the pictures is like that , the other has the missing washer holding the point rail in place.

    The # 7's in the pics all have broken point rails . These were found when trains derailed . I don't know why they broke but they were all Right Hand Turnouts.

    I had gone a couple of years without running my trains and a couple of these were found when I was vacuuming the layout before I cleaned the rails.

    I have had no problems with the Atlas Flex Track but if I was just starting a layout , I would use Fast Tracks and build my own turnouts.

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