'Shall we rip up track?'

MVP Nov 7, 2018

  1. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    I've reached the point in my layout (my first *real* layout, with scenery, etc.) where the track has given me two problems. 1) It's just not prototypical at all, especially the tie spacing. If they made Code 80 with closer ties, I'd just look into that. The rail height doesn't bother me too much. But Code 55 is so enticing for both reasons. 2) The sectional track I used was because I didn't have enough flex track and flex was so difficult for me to get right (cutting, holding in place, etc.) as a relative newbie. So the sectional track was more convenient and plentiful. It's also really old, so it's full of dents, nicks and other things I'm having to constantly contend with, especially running the limited-pickup Atlas 4-4-0s.

    It's just a 3x3 layout with one main line around the edges, one short siding, and one small branch line. Maybe 16-17 feet of track at most.

    Would buying and installing new flex track give me better results over the old sectional track? I know it'll look better (ME track is the front runner right now) but I don't want to go through all this for barely noticeable improvement. I also figure that if I need to solder the track together, I might as well do it fewer times with flex track.

    I know I'm kind of asking for it from the "do what works best for you, there is no correct answer" crowd, but I'm looking for sincere opinions on this matter. I may not get to build my dream layout any time soon, so this is likely going to be my only one for now. I want to make it as good as can be.
     
  2. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    If the old track has to go, it has to go.

    Flex has an advantage there in the curves. Bend it one way and the ties get closer together; turn the section around before bending and they get farther apart. Using it to replace sectional is easier because your roadbed acts as your template. Otherwise, if you're good at nipping the inside rail you'll prefer laying flex track, and vice versa.
     
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  3. nscalestation

    nscalestation TrainBoard Supporter

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    Sounds like you are really ready to move on from sectional track. When you do start using the flex track you will learn and build your skills as you gain experience with it.

    Over the past 25+ years I have used Peco code 80 and 55, Atlas code 80, Kato Unitrack (code 80), and Micro Engineering code 55. Here is my take on each.

    Kato Unitrack - Have made many temporary setups with this and have known of many who have done more permanent layouts with it. It has a great "instant satisfaction" factor as you can get something set up quickly and I've had a lot of fun with it. The turnouts have always been very reliable for me. The thing I don't like is that it is still sectional track and I find it harder to keep clean because of this. The bright boy and rail clean cars miss a bit on the lower rail where the rails don't line up exactly. But I always keep some around and will continue to use it in experiments and temporary setups.

    Atlas & Peco code 80 - I put these together as in Ntrak we tend to use Atlas flex track with Peco turnouts. All very reliable but as you said the tie spacing is not very prototypical for North America.

    Peco code 55 - I did one small home layout with this and it worked out fine but again as I got more particular about things I did not like the look of the tie spacing. I also have modules for an Asian prototype sectional layout that uses Peco code 55 as a standard for both track and turnouts. With the code 80 rail being embedded into the ties the track is quite sturdy and we are able to have our track run right up to the edge of the modules and not use any connecting tracks the way we have to with Ntrak.

    Micro Engineering code 55 - This is what I am using on my current home layout in combination with Atlas code 80 in the staging yards and helix and Kato Unitrak on a temporary section. It is a bit trickier to work with but I really like the way it looks. The Tracksetta tools have been a big help working with this track.

    In your era rail was lighter so makes sense to use as small a rail as you can work with.
     
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  4. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    Like others have said, I use ME Code 55 flex track and Fast Tracks turnouts on my main line on my layout, and I also use ME Code 40 flex track on my industry and branch lines. It was a real pain to get it all working correctly. But once I got the hang of it, it went much easier.

    Prior to that I did use Peco Code 80 and Code 55 because it was much sturdier than Atlas Code 80 track and also Code 55 Peco did not have the issues with the larger flange wheel sets.

    And as been said before, I have a bunch of Kato UniTrak that I use to play with ideas and setup a quick layout for my daughters and her cousins to run trains.

    I tried one layout using Atlas sectional track, my very first one, and I did not care for the results and quickly abandoned it.
     
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  5. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

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    Congratulations! You're turning into a modeler!

    Wanting the layout to run properly is most desirable. I'm another in the ME camp. It is a bit fiddley to work with but very much worth the effort.

    Good Luck!
     
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  6. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    I used Atlas Code 80 because I had it on hand, if I didn't, I would have looked at Micro Engineering code 55...
     
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  7. tonkphilip

    tonkphilip TrainBoard Member

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    I have used ME code55 flex track for several years. It is fiddly to use initially but is well made, reliable, well gauged and really beautiful to look at. However, you need to be very careful with the ME switches. The newer ME DCC compatible switches can be bear be work with and for me are not as reliable as the previous non-DCC-compatible switches. You may find the Atlas switches easier to work with. Also, with both manufacturer's switches, it is best to leave a four inch piece of straight track before the switch points to help prevent picking of the switch blades. This particularly applies if you run longer trains. I like the ME switches and have 25 installed, adjusted and working. But, out of the box, you will find the Peco Code55 switches to be more reliable. I would recommend using the same manufacturer for flex and switches. One other tip, I use the Atlas Code55 rail joiners with the ME switches as they slip on to the delicate ME switch rails more easily.
     
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  8. tonkphilip

    tonkphilip TrainBoard Member

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    One last point, the ME switches are difficult to find at the moment. The ME flex track is still readily available. The Atlas C55 is easy to find but I prefer the ME55 appearance. The tie spacing is different between Atlas and ME.
     
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  9. Jim Reising

    Jim Reising TrainBoard Member

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    It should be pointed out that Atlas switches and ME track work well together - you do need to shim the switches slightly but that's easy enough. Mine have worked well now for over ten years...
     
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  10. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    This is all great stuff. Thanks for the input. I may go to DCC on this layout (was going to save DCC for the dream layout, but may not want to wait) within the next year, so I'd want to get switches that are DCC compatible.
     
  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Flex, yes, regardless of code. The fewer joints, the better power feeding and fewer opportunities for flaws/derailments.
     
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  12. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    It's your layout and you make the rules and set the standard. It's not about building to please someone else. You do it for you.
    So go ahead and make it happen.
     
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  13. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    I'm happy to see others sold on ME track. Usually this devolves into a discussion on how difficult it is to use compared to Atlas, but I must disagree. With atlas, it is indeed easier to bend, but once bent, it springs back to straight as soon as you let go, whereas ME once bent stays just as you have bent it. It's not really harder, if you do this: start your bends from the center of the stick.

    When I do my next layout I may well use ME code 40. I like the option to use 55 on mains and 40 on sidings for appearances, but code 40 looks a much more realistic.
     
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  14. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

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    Peco flextrack and insulfrog turnouts are bombproof, and widely available here in Europe. I wish I could get ME track, but I'd have to pay VAT plus import fees, plus shipping. Bah.
     
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  15. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    Opinions on Atlas code 65 true track?
     
  16. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

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    I wish that the had street track on an ultra tight 4 inch radius
     
  17. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    What little info. I have been able to obtain is it looks like 11 inches is the minimum radius and set into a grey roadbed similar to Bachmann or Kato. Turnouts are 12.5

    I currently use Atlas code 80 flex because of its ability to be flexed into the tight radiuses I have and Peco turnouts again for their tight radius of the ST5 and 6s. I am looking at possibly using several sections of Kato's street tracks in a dual track set for my port docks.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  18. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    On Atlas code 65 True Track, It's as realistic as Lionel track, but a tiny bit better looking than Kato Unitrack. Atlas Code 55 looks good, and Micro Engineering Code 40 looks the very best. But if you're not as committed to prototype fidelity as I, they'll all do.
     
  19. MVP

    MVP TrainBoard Member

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    How difficult, or what are the biggest drawbacks to Code 40? Is it more difficult to keep the trains on the rails, or maintain good pickup? I'm curious because with the era I'm doing, Code 40 would be the closest.
     
  20. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    The height of the rail has little effect on reliability of running. The top of the rails is similar in xize to 55, and I've had no problems. One of the last things I did to my Cajon layout was to relay several sidings in code 40, which I had to hand lay, as ME was having mold problems. Guess they've got that cured now.
    Of course, you will have to use only LP wheels...
     

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