Switching Gauges of Rail

Tim Holmes Jun 4, 2018

  1. Tim Holmes

    Tim Holmes TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Folks:

    I am considering switching from MicroEngineering code 55 flextrack to atlas code 80 flex. couple reasons.

    IM VERY unhappy with the quality (kept having shorts in the turnouts) and difficulty of obtaining code 55 turnouts (also price)

    I like the prices and availability of code 80, although it looks heavy compared to the code 55

    Biggest thing to me is the look of code 80. I would assume that i can paint the rail and ties of the atlas flextrack.

    Thankfully I have very little track laid, and can remove it without sacrificing much

    I would be interested in your input, and suggestions for painting etc

    TIM
     
  2. Boilerman

    Boilerman TrainBoard Supporter

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    I use Atlas Code 55 track on my layout and have not had any issues and have moved the layout a couple of times, plus Atlas has a vast array of components that the other companies do not have.
     
  3. Tim Holmes

    Tim Holmes TrainBoard Member

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    do you think stay with code 55 rather than go to the code 80?
     
  4. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    If you don’t like ME code 55 track, you should look carefully at Peco Code 55. It is widely available, robust (nearly indestructible is more accurate), and has a wide range of excellent turnouts in various sizes and configurations - everything from a very sharp “small radius” for industrial switching to an amazing double slip. And because of its unique design, even old large-flange equipment will run on it. The only downsides are higher initial cost than Atlas Code 80 and European tie spacing (which frankly isn’t all that much different from Atlas Code 80). We have Peco track and turnouts on our Ntrak modules that are still going strong after 30 years of abuse.

    Excellent track with the advantage of Code 55 visible profile and a far better choice than Atlas Code 80, IMHO.

    John C.
     
  5. Tim Holmes

    Tim Holmes TrainBoard Member

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    well, im not opposed to the idea, because I really like the ME Code 55 track, its the turnouts I have a real problem with, I kept getting shorts in them when thrown to the diverging route, and when I tried to work on them (Ie to drill out the throwbar to accept my turnout motor) they did not handle it well, also the rails kept wanting to come loose at the ends etc. what do you make of the peco code 55 turnouts?

    Tim
    San Luis and Rio Grande
     
  6. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

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    I use Atlas flex track track with almost 90% Peco turnouts and I am happy with them especially the power routing which I use instead of blocks.
     
  7. Traindork

    Traindork TrainBoard Member

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    I use Atlas code 80 with Peco switches. Works well for me. Takes paint very well, I use a boxcar brown. If your trains don't run well on your track, you will never be happy. I don't like spending a lot of time working on track, and I might even use Unitrak next time.
     
  8. jdcolombo

    jdcolombo TrainBoard Member

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    As I noted above, Peco Code 55 turnouts are excellent. However, mating them to ME Code 55 is problematic because of the Peco design. Peco’s Code 55 is really a Code 80 rail that is buried in thicker ties so that only the Code 55 profile shows. This is why Peco’s code55 track can run older large-flange equipment: because of its design, the spike heads are fake (not actually holding the rail) and are tiny in height, so larger flanges can clear them. But the design means that Peco Code 55 track is thicker than ME or Atlas Code 55. Which means in turn that the rail head heights of the two will not match up unless you shim the Atlas or ME track. On the other hand, it also means that Peco Code 55 switches mate just fine with Atlas Code 80 track, and also mates fine with Peco’s own Code 80. If you are building a layout from scratch, I’d go with all Peco Code 55 instead of trying a mix. Yes, it’s more expensive, but 25 years from now, when Atlas stuff is falling apart, the Peco stuff will work like new.

    Peco Code 55 turnouts also have powered frogs, which means small-wheelbase locos (e.g., switchers, small steam) are far less likely to stall. And they are power-routing, which can be helpful on a DC (rather than DCC) layout. Like ME switches, Peco uses an over spring to throw the points, which means you don’t need an external linkage to do that. But if you want to use a switch machine, no problem: the throw bar is robust and already has an .032 hole (though if you want to use a Tortoise or similar machine, you would eith need to remove the Peco’s spring, or use a much stiffer throw wire on the Tortoise).

    Downsides:
    1. Because the points are used to feed power to the frog, you need to keep the ends of the points clean. This means that after ballasting, you’ll need to tediously clean the points by rubbing sandpaper between the point and stock rails, or using a solvent (something plastic-friendly!) or both to get power restored to the frog and frog approach and exit rails.

    2. Sometimes, the flangeways are a tad too wide, allowing properly-gauged wheel to slide too far over and pick the frog point. Easy fix by gluing an .010 styrene shim to the guardrail (which is actually plastic). Buy a pack of .010 x .060 styrene strip, cut to length, hold in place with two toothpicks, use a drop or two of liquid plastic cement, and you are done. Five minutes at most, and this flaw is less common on Peco Code 55 (which are supposed to be manufactured to NMRA standards) than on its Code 80 turnouts (which are manufactured to European clearances).

    There is no perfect factory-made turnout. My own view is that Peco is the best of the lot if you can live with the tie spacing, but if you want perfection, the only way to get that is build your own turnouts from scratch.

    John C.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2018
  9. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    John C. is correct. You will have problems with any brand of turnout. You must make your own, not that hard to do and will saave you money too.

    Regarding Atlas code 80, please don't. When building my layout I got cheap and use it for hidden running, where the appearance didn't matter. I found that it was not in gauge sometimes. Perhaps a worn out piece of tooling, could be fixed by now, but why chance it.

    Also, I prefer ME track. Yes, it's harder to form curves (like anything else, it's a aquired skill, just work at it.), but when curved that stay that way till glued down. I find it much easier to lay, as I don't have to fight it all the way.
     
  10. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

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    I have a different opinion on Atlas Code 80. Ignoring it's appearance, it is bullet proof and that seems to be the consensus on the various forums (check around). Bill, you must have gotten a bad batch. On my home layout it's all Atlas Code 80, including turnouts, and I can run long trains for hours with no incident.
     
  11. Tim Holmes

    Tim Holmes TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Bill:

    Ive looked at it and would kinda like to try, but the price of the fixture to make your own is just way out of my range right -- I just checked the site, and just the jig alone is 125 dollars, all total, for one direction/one size turnout, 273.43 -- i can buy a lot of atlas turnouts for that amount. if there were a cheaper way to do it, I'd be really interested. I used to be a ham, and am decent with soldering, so im not intimidated of that at all, and the design looks awesome

    TIM
     
  12. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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  13. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    No, no, you absolutely don't need the jig. It is nice and makes it a bit easier, but you can build them over a paper xerox copy of a turnout and do just fine. I would recommend you use a resistance soldering machine with the tweezer tool, that will pay off. I saved more than the cost of the machine by building my own, and the machine has many other uses.

    There have been articles published on this much less expensive tehcnique. One ow which was written by me, but I'm not sure where it was published. It was likely been in Railmodel Journal, but might have been in MR.

    The turnouts you make will be much more reliable and will last longer, and cost much much less.
     
  14. Joe Lovett

    Joe Lovett TrainBoard Member

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    On my layout I'm going to use Peco code 80 track and a few turnouts. Most of the turnouts will be hand built because I need about 25 in total. A Fast Track turnout jig would more than pay for itself and will use Peco code 80 rail for assembly. I like to stay with the same brand name on track and turnouts and not mix them if possible.

    Joe
     
  15. Tim Holmes

    Tim Holmes TrainBoard Member

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    Cool -- i like the sound of that -- I did a bit of quick reading on the resistance soldering rig, I already have an MFJ 30 amp power supply left over from when I was a ham operator, so thats done, now to assemble the other parts -- shouldnt be hard - -- This might be a really fun project

    TIM
     
  16. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

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    The real beauty of building your own turnouts is that you can get things like a mainline #12 turnout, that no one makes. I use these on my crossovers so the train really does not have to slow down changing tracks.
     
  17. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    I found the templates online, but don't remember where. It was a website for someone that sold stuff you'll need, PC board ties and such.

    Getting old sucks.
     
  18. SP-Wolf

    SP-Wolf TrainBoard Supporter

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    Perhaps - here:

    http://www.handlaidtrack.com/track-templates-n

    Wolf
     
  19. Tim Holmes

    Tim Holmes TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Folks:

    I had found that site, and am going to try it - - I seem to remember an article in MRR a few years back about it, and as soon as they get the archive up again, I'll go back and see if I can find it to go along with the stuff I downloaded from the handlaidtrack.com site

    thanks for all the great input

    TIM
     
  20. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

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    Wolf,

    Jackpot. That's it. Use it for planning, use it to build.

    Bill
     

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