Code 80 vs Code 55... Why?

Primavw Aug 15, 2013

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Primavw

    Primavw TrainBoard Member

    Hey folks. As I recently decided I am starting a new layout, I am curious about Code 55. I understand Atlas had a shortage of track lately, so I am wondering... Why go for code 55 over code 80? What's the big deal? I wonder because this seems to be a good time to decide what track to use. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both? I can work with flex so that is not an issue either. Anyone?
  2. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

    code 80 rail is tall, too tall to be a realistic representation. that said I used it for my first layout, it was pretty good I just wish I was better at laying track. it also allows pizza cutter wheels.

    Code 55 rail is more realistic, nice and low. I plan on using this for my next layout, I really like the stuff. pizza cutters will not work very well with atlas code 55 because the flanges will bounce on the spike heads.
  3. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Pretty much what SP&S said. Plus C80 is more readily available. If you believe the hype about Atlas C55 being available soon....make sure ya dont turn blue holding your breath !!! The height of C80 is NOT that noticable once its ballasted and scenery is down JMHO YMMV.
  4. omatrack

    omatrack TrainBoard Member

    The other thing is that code 55 switches come in different varieties than code 80...longer radius options that can be more realistic than code 80 IMO. I use code 80 as that is what I started with, but sometimes I wish I had the switch selections as 55.
  5. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    I have used Peco C55 for at least 20 years and very pleased with it. I agree that Atlas C55 more closely conforms to the American prototype, but I have too much invested in Peco. Other folks may enjoy counting rivets, but I'm definitely not one of them. Besides, Peco's C55 design does not interfere with Pizza Cutter wheels.
  6. mu26aeh

    mu26aeh TrainBoard Member

    Funny about the availability question. I stopped by LHS to get some C80 flex and the drawer was empty, though had quite a handful of C55
  7. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    I have too many of the older locomotives to trouble with trying to turn wheels down. So I will stay with my Atlas code 80 and my Peco code 55 that lets me run all of my equipment.
  8. DrMb

    DrMb TrainBoard Member

    Of course, even though code 80 is not that realistic, you can actually enhance the appearance of your layout by having your mainline code 80 and every other track code 55.
  9. LOU D

    LOU D TrainBoard Member

    I'll tell you one thing no one else has..No matter what track you use,if you don't have powered metal frogs,you might as well be running wind up tinplate.For that reason alone,I would NEVER build another railroad with Atlas C80.You can't imagine the feeling of satisfaction you get watching something like a Bachmann Dockside just glide over a switch with no hesitation.All your locomotives will instantly run better..Atlas C55 or whatever,I'd go for the non North American looking Peco before I'd EVER waste my time with another plastic frog.By the way,my railroad is all Micro Engineering track.HORRIBLE to work with,but worth the trouble.If you've never tried a powered frog,you don't know what you're missing..
  10. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    It still amazes me that some modelers think N gauge Atlas 80 or Peco 80/55 looks okay. Here are the facts (1) The rail is not just a little too high, it's way too high, too wide and the wrong profile (2) The ties are too short (3) the ties are too wide (4) the ties are too tall (5) the ties are too far apart (6) the thingies that are supposed to represent spikehead/tieplate details look like nothing I've ever seen on any track anywhere and are way too big (6) Atlas "floppy flex" is more subject to "popping" due to temperature spikes than stiffer Micro Engineering flex.

    Here's a myth... "Atlas track looks pretty good if you cover the ties up with ballast" No...the track still looks bad, but you've just covered it up and can't see it. If you ballast it like most North American railroads do, the tie proportions jump out at you like a big hairy wart on your girlfriend's nose, even painted, ballasted and weathered.

    Atlas 80 and Peco 80/55 turnouts suffer from the same problems the flex suffers from...their proportions and details are way off, and they're pretty fragile at the points.

    Where Atlas 80 and Peco 80/55 track looks best is for being used as HOn2 1/2, where the tie proportions are pretty close...but still too short and the rail height is at least possible (although still too big for most 2 1/2' roads).

    Atlas 55 is a giant leap ahead of Atlas 80 and Peco 80/55 as far as looks are concerned, but still suffers from some of the flaws of its older, bigger sibling. The ties are pretty much correctly proportioned, but the spacing is off a bit...just a few thousandths, so it's not something I'd worry about. However, the thingies on it that represent spikeheads and tieplates are still way too big and don't look like anything prototypical I've ever seen either.

    Atlas 55 turnouts suffer from a few flaws such as the plated and cast pot-metal frogs and closure points. The bright plating wears off after a while if you clean your rails with a Bright Boy. Also, there are some gauge problems that are simply bad quality control at the factory. Also, the proportions of all of the turnouts are wrong with distance between headblocks and frog points being way too short...which causes the effective radius of the diverging rails to be smaller than it should be.

    But, all that being said, Atlas 55 sure looks a helluva lot better under your nice, increasingly detailed and accurate RTR model trains than Atlas 80, Kato Unitrack, or Peco 80/55.

    However, the availability problem is a big problem. If you can't get it, then how it looks is totally irrelevant.

    If you're not concerned about appearance (translation: bad looking track) then by all means, go with Atlas 80 or Peco 80/55. Some really great N-scale model railroaders have made that choice.

    If you're concerned about appearance, then the solution is to go with a different solution than not-available-Atlas-Code-55. Buy and use Micro Engineering code 55 flex, which looks exponentially better than any other RTR flextrack out there, and pizza-cutters runs on it perfectly. Buy and use Micro Engineering #6 turnouts in as many places as you can. They are "real" #6's and their proportions are very close to prototype. Their closure points are machined Nickel Silver rail and the frog is cast NS. Previous "frog-hump" problems with some of them have been resolved and both flex and turnouts are available and made in the US of A. You can also get code 40 for sidings and branchlines (no turnouts however) or code 55 concrete-tied track for modern roads.

    For other turnout needs, buy (if you can find them) Atlas 55 turnouts. The overly large and tall thingies that hold the rails to the ties can be either sanded down a bit or simply mashed down (so I've heard) to clear pizza cutters if that's important for you. Using Atlas 55 turnouts with Micro Engineering flex doesn't pose an operational problem, and after your track is painted, ballasted and weathered to disguise the difference in plastic tie colors, they look okay too, especially if you mash down or sand the thingies on them that hold the rails to the ties.

    If you can't find any Atlas turnouts or diamonds that you might need, learn how to build your own, which is what many modelers are doing since Atlas turnouts are very difficult to find. If you've got the money, about 250 bucks will give you a complete set of Fast Tracks jigs and fixtures and the raw materials for building five #6 turnouts. This will teach you how to make turnouts and you'll find out that it's not that difficult, and the rest of your turnouts you can build on paper templates rather than buying expensive jigs and fixtures. You'll also be able to build smooth, realistic code 40 turnouts for your sidings and branchlines too. After a while, you'll start saving money to compensate for that 250 bucks you shelled out at first for Fast Tracks jigs and fixtures and you'll impress the hell out of your model railroad friends.

    One thing is certain, you don't have to be a "rivet counter" (a derogatory term) to see the clear and obvious differences between inferior appearing code 80 and superior appearing code 55 trackage.

    Both will function okay with N-scale models made in the last 15 years or so, with the caveat being that Atlas 55 works great except for cars and engines with old, obsolete pizza cutters...and ME track, turnouts along with slightly modified Atlas turnouts works great too...and looks really good at the same time...even with pizza cutters.

    The "big deal" is that code 80 looks very toy-like and un-prototypical, whereas code 55 (both Atlas and Micro Engineering) looks MUCH more prototypical.

    Bob Gilmore
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2013
    bjanzen likes this.
  11. garethashenden

    garethashenden TrainBoard Member

    Strictly speaking, for anything other than the heaviest rail, code 40 is the closest match.
  12. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman TrainBoard Member

    Code 55 of any type, including Peco, looks better and more to scale than code 80. IMHO.
  13. 4-4-0

    4-4-0 TrainBoard Member

    full ack

    that´t the way to go for a scaler

    but for me as a toyplayer peco is allright.
  14. TrainboySD40

    TrainboySD40 TrainBoard Member

    In a lot of cases, you may think something looks good, but subconsciously you know that it's not right. Track size falls into this, and I am of the opinion that code 80 rail is only acceptable on layouts that one could class as 'toy trains' rather than 'model railroads'.

    I would elaborate, but alas, work calls.
  15. jpwisc

    jpwisc TrainBoard Member

    I'll echo some of the other comments. Code 80 looks like Lionel 3 rail to me, it is just wrong.

    I like code 55 mains and code 40 on my lighter sidings. I use Atlas code 55 and have had good luck so far, the tie spacing also matches the protoype I model. I like the ME code 40 as the ties are spaced a little further out so it looks like older track.
  16. montanan

    montanan TrainBoard Member

    The over size rail and ties is one of the reasons I got out of N scale and changed to HO, beside the fact that when I did in the late 70's, the available locomotives for the most part were quite primitive and didn't run worth a darn, not like they are now. When I changed scales, I went to code 70 in HO scale, which is a lower profile than the code 80 N scale. N scale back then is not any where like it is now. The great looking and running locomotives that are available now were a pipe dream then. For me looks are everything, and the lower profile track will look so much better.
  17. bumthum

    bumthum TrainBoard Member

    Well, if I were to throw in two cents here it would be that I simply don't care how tall, wide, etc. the rails are. C80 works fine for my purposes as operating a layout is my primary concern and everything being exactly scale is secondary. I use Caboose Hobbies ground throws that are oversize, C80 rail, N "scale" knuckle couplers from several manufacturers that are way too big to be scale, I still run Rapido equipment on certain trains, I run my old vintage N scale stuff (which more or less requires C80), I don't super detail my locomotives, and my scratch built structures have a lot of corners cut because I want something representative rather than exact... and I bet I enjoy the hobby as much as the next guy. If I have something that turns out so good that a photo could be mistaken for the real thing then so be it. I am not a rivet counter and I really couldn't financially afford to be if I wanted to.
  18. Seated Viper

    Seated Viper TrainBoard Member

    Regardless of any other considerations about rail height and the ease or otherwise of getting "pizza cutters" along it, Peco track in either 55 or 80 is designed for use over here in UK. I'm glad that model railroaders in other countries use it, as it helps ease our national debt, but it isn't and never will be "American" to look at. The only concession Peco have made to the American market seems to be the HO Code 83. I've never seen or tried it, so I can't say how well they've done . . .

    Yes, use electric frogs. The different wiring arrangement takes getting used to but, as others have said above, it works better!


    Pete Davies
  19. Joe D'Amato

    Joe D'Amato TrainBoard Member

    I second this. Purists will go with code 55 for mains and code 40 for secondary, but you have to be on your game with your engines and rolling stock...and be really good at ballasting. I understand there's been a pretty firm release schedule for the code 55 product and by the end of the year we should be able to restock with those missing components. I have been able to go on line and find switches and flex pretty easily. The good thing about this dry spell is that I have focused on developing my modules and detailing those and not getting crazy and putting down miles of rail.



  20. dave n

    dave n TrainBoard Supporter

    I guess I'll go home and play with my toy trains tonight. Shoot, I was thinking all along that I had a 'model railroad' :)



    I have Atlas code 80 on my layout - I built the benchwork & laid the track over 10 years ago and this was/is my first real layout so I didn't have any experience with anything other than code 80. It is forgiving, which I like as I do a fair amount of running. My next layout I'll probably go with something closer to prototypical. But I don't think code 80 is as horrible as others portray it, once you paint it, ballast it, and surround it with scenery....
    Mudkip Orange likes this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page