Track options

Discussion in 'General' started by Iantha_Branch, Mar 30, 2022.

  1. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    For the last couple years I've been working off and on designing a layout for my future home that will be built next year. Out of habit I default to using Atlas Code 83 components in my plans. It has occurred to me that maybe there are better options out there.

    So, for HO scale, what components does everyone recommend for building a layout these days?

    Would I be better of hand laying turnouts and diamonds vs buying premade? If so, does someone have a link to a good instructional video for hand laying turnouts?
  2. mark

    mark Member

  3. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

  4. mark

    mark Member


    Per your original request did you also miss the extensive instructional videos on the site?

    Yes, well constructed self built turnouts are the way to go.

    I like working with Atlas code 83 flex track. It is easy to work with and form to help visualize an installation. It easily forms natural transition curves.

    Micro Engineering is stiff and less friendly for planning. The company is for sale so questionable about long term supply and ongoing quality.

    Peco is similar to Atlas in flexibility. At most hobby shops it is not as common an in stock item as is Atlas.

    I have not had the opportunity to work with Walthers' new line of track that replaced the old Shinohara line.

    Hope this helps.


    geep07 likes this.
  5. gstout

    gstout Member Supporter

    I have a medium-to-large home layout built entirely with Atlas Code 83. It works fine.

    geep07 likes this.
  6. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    If you're setting out in your mind to build a world beater layout and you want the track to look and perform the best it can, provided you can acquire the skills to do so, then go for it if that's what you want by using Fast Tracks or scratching.

    If you're more interested in solid and reliable track with more emphasis on getting up and running in a timely manner, then Atlas code 83 products, or out of production Walther's (Shinohara) 83, or if you can find what you need, Peco's US-type code 83 products.

    I've used code 70 Shinohara switches exclusively in conjunction with ME code 70 flex track on my "Ozark Sub" layout, and as has been the case on past layouts, I have very good results. However, be advised that Shinohara is retiring, or now retired, so their switches are going to get harder to come by.

    If I build the smaller shelf-type "Riverfront District" switching layout, I will use the Peco code 83 I have on hand, along with the Peco 83 "Electrofrog" switches that I also have on hand, and I won't look back. It will look fine to my eyes and will perform well. As was the case with the Ozark Sub, I aim at getting it 100% functional ASAP, because operations gives me my biggest kick within the hobby.

    To me, model railroading has become learning to determine where to invest my time into the aspect(s) that returns the most.

    Over the decades I've hand laid several code 70/55 layouts, and no longer have any desire to tie up that much time in the track laying portion of layout construction. Getting the layout 100% functional was my priority with the Ozark Sub. (And it was 100% functional within 6 months of starting it.) Accomplishing that has allowed me to operationally enjoy the layout personally, as well as sharing it with my friends. I will now bring along the other aspects of the theme and layout as mood and motivation inclines.

    Model railroading is all in what you want to do within it, and where you want to invest your time, money, and energy. Only you can decide those aspects.

    Best of luck whatever you decide, Ethan!

    modeltruckshop and geep07 like this.
  7. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    Thank you for finding that. I don't know why I can't find anything on their website, normally I don't struggle this much. I'll go watch their videos when I get a chance.
  8. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    This is very true, and this my internal debate with track. Is the time investment of hand laid turnouts worth it? If I went with pre-built to save time and effort, would I regret it later if I had to tear them out due to performance issues?
  9. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    I understand completely.

    One thing to remember about building switches: They're only as good as the skills of the builder can allow.

    Even using Fast Track jigs ($$), skills will need to be developed. I'm not trying to sound discouraging, just trying to offer candid input for consideration.

    All the products I mentioned are solid products. Now, I did shy away from Micro Engineering code 70 switches account of the throws being flimsy on the ones I had. (I've also read that some have had trouble with them once in place.) Besides, ME is up for sale, so who knows what will become of them and their products? (Oh, and be aware that it's my understanding that Fast Track jigs are designed to use ME rail.)

    Lastly, keep in mind that any switch may need a bit of "tuning" to make it the best it can be. Typically, this is often only something minor like filing a slight taper to the closing points. (To help gather the wheel flange and avoid "picking" the points.) BUT the need to "tune" is a possibility with essentially all switches.

    As is the case with all my posts, all of the above is definitely from the "for what it's worth" department.
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  10. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Jason, when you look at what commercially sourced switches sell for now, the investment in FastTracks jigs scaled out over just a few more than 10 switches negates any reason not to build your own.

    Atlas flex is fine.
    Iantha_Branch likes this.
  11. Iantha_Branch

    Iantha_Branch Member

    Sorry about the slow response time, I've been busy with moving.

    My future layout might have over 200 total turnouts, so price point is definitely a factor. I'm thinking later this summer I may get a couple Atlas and Peco turnouts to play with, as well as all the stuff from fast tracks for hand building turnouts and see if I can figure that out. That would give me a chance to compare options well before I have to commit to one.

    I'll be sure to come back and update this thread with findings.
    Coonskin likes this.
  12. klrwhizkid

    klrwhizkid Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporter

    Add to the factors I gave above, the superiority of construction and function of FastTracks switches and you have a winning combination.
  13. Coonskin

    Coonskin Member

    Whew... 200 hundred switches. Ah, to be young again.

    200 switches would be a ton of money if using prefab switches. ($25 per would be $5,000.)

    If you can build 'em using Fast Tracks, I'll bet Keith is right: No doubt the jigs will amortize before you're finished building that many switches.

    The layout I have, and the one I intend to build, would not have paid-out for me to use Fast Track jigs. Not enough switches.

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