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Atlas Track vs. Other Track Manufacturers

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JPD
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Atlas Track vs. Other Track Manufacturers
Posted by JPD on Thursday, October 10, 2019 5:02 PM

To build my 2’x 14’ switching layout I decided to use Atlas code 83 track. It is easy to find and work with and I am pleased enough with the result. Soon I will be extending my layout to go around the room. I will be plugging my switching layout into the round the room layout as a peninsula.  

I am considering switching to another track manufacturer with more realistic track. I was looking at Walthers code 83 track, but I notice that a lot of it is not in stock at Walthers. Is there a problem with the supply flow of Walthers track? I have also looked at Peco and Micro Engineering track. Are Walthers, Peco, and Micro Engineering turnouts all equally easy or difficult to wire for DCC? I am wondering if I should stick with Atlas track since I already have experience with it. 

I welcome any suggestions or advice. 

 

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, October 10, 2019 5:18 PM

Walthers used to get their track from Shinohara and the owner of Shinohara abbruptly retired and went out of business.  Walthers has found a new manufacturer but does not yet have the variety they used to have with Shinohara.

ME flex track is more sticky to curve and while it can be done, a lot of people don't like it.  I have no experience with their turnouts.

Peco code 100 does not have prototypical shape of their turnouts, although the turnouts are shorter in length than Atlas, which can be an advantage. Peco used to have insulfrog, and electrofrog turnouts.  They are moving toward Unifrog turnouts.

While you don't need insulated rail joiners for Atlas, you will for Peco.  I don't want to put wrong information in this post, so I don't know if it's for all versions of their turnouts or not.

Henry

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Posted by mobilman44 on Thursday, October 10, 2019 5:22 PM

You already have the Atlas, which is a quality product.  You can weather the rails and ties (snipping ends off here and there) and it will look great.

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

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Posted by cuyama on Thursday, October 10, 2019 5:37 PM

BigDaddy
Peco does not have prototypical shape of their turnouts

That statement is not correct for PECO's Code 83, which looks and works great. Not quite as compact as the PECO C75 and C100.

Byron

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, October 10, 2019 5:44 PM

Correction noted and appreciated.Yes

Henry

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, October 10, 2019 5:50 PM

When I returned to the hobby, this time in HO I went to the train shop where they had about six different brands all next to each other on a piece of plywood and you could compare them all. Some do look better than others and it comes down to how much of a details man you are. Beauty is also in the eye of the beholder. 

I kind of like the track that stays where you have laid it down over the springy stuff, but I am fine with either. How it looks is more important to me.

I notice there is still Rapido bendy track around in some stores. I have not seen it in person but people really like how it looks, plus it comes with joiners.

If you are happy with Atlas, stick with that, at least you know there will be no filing or other work involved to get it to go together and once painted and ballasted you need to pull out the magnifying glass to notice a difference anyway.

Brent

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Posted by RR_Mel on Thursday, October 10, 2019 6:07 PM

JPD

I am considering switching to another track manufacturer with more realistic track. I was looking at Walthers code 83 track, but I notice that a lot of it is not in stock at Walthers. Is there a problem with the supply flow of Walthers track? I have also looked at Peco and Micro Engineering track. Are Walthers, Peco, and Micro Engineering turnouts all equally easy or difficult to wire for DCC? I am wondering if I should stick with Atlas track since I already have experience with it. 

I welcome any suggestions or advice. 

 

 

Just curious, what is it about Atlas Code 83 track that doesn’t meet your realistic track.  A standard North American Rail is 6” ±½” high depending on the railroad.  Atlas Code 83 rails are .083” or a scale 6”.  The Atlas Code 83 ties are .096” = 8⅜” square.  The Atlas Code 83 ties are spaced at .152” or 1’ 1¼”.
 
With a little ballast and a felt tip paint pen along the rail sides my Atlas Code 83 Flex track looks pretty realistic to me.
 
If you don’t like the Atlas brown ties a paint pen of your choice would take care of the color.
 
 
Mel
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
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Posted by jjdamnit on Thursday, October 10, 2019 7:06 PM

Hello All,

On my 4'x8' pike I use Atlas sectional track with Atlas and PECO turnouts- -all code 100.

For flex track I DIY.

I am not concerned with the appearance of the track I just want trains to run reliably.

One item PECO has over the other manufacturers is track with concrete ties (sleepers in the U.K.).

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by peahrens on Thursday, October 10, 2019 7:20 PM

Several aspects come to mind:

1.  From an appearance standpoint, I painted my Atlas code 83 and will (at some point) ballast, etc.  So my take is whether I or those looking at it scrutinize the details or just see the overall effect.  The painting has a significant effect.  I imagine for photos to send to MR the accuracy of detail could matter, for visiting modellers the differences might(?) matter, but for most purposes, including your own view, painted & ballasted Atlas code 83 is pretty darn satisfying.  (I used code 83 Atlas flex and like it just fine.)

2. When it comes to turnouts there are many factors.  I chose (in 2012) Walthers-Shinohara code 83, partly due to the variety of items, I liked the DCC aspects (I conservatively wired the metal frogs) and it looks just fine connected to Atlas code 83 flex when both painted the same color.  But there are many turnout aspects (beyond appearance) to consider.  I think perhaps the W-S offerings may be gone, so today I would weigh the Atlas, Peco & ME, considering all factors.

I'd probably focus on the turnout decision first, then the remaining (flex, etc.) track aspects.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by wp8thsub on Thursday, October 10, 2019 7:26 PM

JPD
I am considering switching to another track manufacturer with more realistic track.

Whether a track product is sufficiently realistic is in the eye of the beholder. 

747 JC 1

by wp8thsub, on Flickr

The track above is Atlas 83...

DSC02139

by wp8thsub, on Flickr

...while this is a combination of Micro Engineering and Shinohara/Walthers.

I thought the spike and frog shapes on the Atlas track would bother me a lot more than they do after weathering and ballast.  

Are Walthers, Peco, and Micro Engineering turnouts all equally easy or difficult to wire for DCC?

Walthers and ME turnouts are DCC-friendly, so they work the same as Atlas from a wiring standpoint.  Micro Engineering doesn't include jumpers from the closure rails to the rails beyond the frog, so you have to add your own feeders or ensure there's a good joint with the next rail (i.e. a soldered joiner).

Note that tie thickness and rail cross section vary by brand.  If you aren't experienced in tracklaying, minimizing the places where different brands have to interface is a good idea. 

Rob Spangler

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Posted by jjdamnit on Thursday, October 10, 2019 7:57 PM

Hello All,

wp8thsub
Walthers and ME turnouts are DCC-friendly, so they work the same as Atlas from a wiring standpoint.

As always there are exceptions to the rule...

Snap Switches by Atlas do not have powered frogs. The Custom-Line turnouts do,

"Custom-Line Turnouts have metal frogs that can be powered if necessary. NOTE: A Snap-Switch and a #4 Custom-line Turnout are not interchangeable in Atlas layout plans."

This can be critical when choosing turnouts with powered versus non-powered frogs. 

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, October 10, 2019 9:26 PM

Nice track work Rob!

Our club used Atlas Code 83 track and Customline turnouts with a few Peco curved turnouts thrown in. I think it looks pretty good, although we could have used Code 70 track on some of the spurs. Recently we ran out of Code 83 track so I put a piece of Code 100 in one spot to see how it looked. It looked ridiculous next to the Code 83.

Dave

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Posted by railandsail on Friday, October 11, 2019 7:09 AM

Tillige track and turnouts.....German quality

I would suggest you have a serious look at Tillige product,..

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Elite_Gleissysteme.html

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Standardgleissysteme.html



Last week I visited a LARGE layout being constructed utilizing code 83 of this track and turnouts. It really does appear to be excellent quality product.

Also built in live frog if desired, and the track is pre-weathered, rust color.

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, October 11, 2019 7:28 AM

 Atlas has concrete tie track in Code 83, so Peco is far from the only one.

Peco 83 is north american style track, not British style like their Code 100 and 75. And they now have code 70 to go with the code 83, so you can use lighter rail for sidings and stick with the Peco line.

                            --Randy

 


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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, October 11, 2019 8:15 AM

railandsail

Tillige track and turnouts.....German quality

I would suggest you have a serious look at Tillige product,..

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Elite_Gleissysteme.html

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Standardgleissysteme.html



Last week I visited a LARGE layout being constructed utilizing code 83 of this track and turnouts. It really does appear to be excellent quality product.

Also built in live frog if desired, and the track is pre-weathered, rust color.

 

Yes, very nice product, at more than twice the price of Atlas.

I'm still more than happy with Atlas, and I have the skills to hand lay my own if I need something special.

I don't see any $50 turnouts in my future......

Are you not the same guy who spent countless hours trying to use multiple brands of old outdated stuff you bought cheap?

Which is it, economy or quality?

In my business, construction, we have a saying: You can have your choice of two: quality, price or speedy completion, you don't get all three.

The Tillig #6 and #8 turnouts are close enough to north American geometry, but I would still question any track designed for both RP25 and NEM wheels......

Sheldon

    

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, October 11, 2019 8:19 AM

I gotta weigh in here.

I have used Atlas flex track for 15 years while building 3 different layouts.

Atlas flex track is superior in every which way. 

Rich

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Posted by CGW121 on Friday, October 11, 2019 8:33 AM

Out of all the visitors to my layout, most of them are not model railroaders, the only comment I have ever heard about the track (all Atlas ) is "How did u get it so smooth?"

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, October 11, 2019 8:35 AM

richhotrain

I gotta weigh in here.

I have used Atlas flex track for 15 years while building 3 different layouts.

Atlas flex track is superior in every which way. 

Rich

 

Agreed.

I started in this hobby in 1968, my first layout was TruScale wood roadbed track, some their "ready track", some their kit form.

I worked in this business starting in 1971, I was taught how to hand lay track and build turnouts by the master craftsmen at the Severna Park Model Club at the tender age of 14.

I have seen, touched, used or otherwise experienced most every track product in this hobby that has been manufactured in the last 50 or 60 years.

On balance, the Atlas Custom Line system is hard to beat for value and performance.

The fact that the Custom Line turnouts make crossovers and yard ladders without cutting is a feature I like. I also prefer their wiring approach. 

And like Rich said, the flex track is the best in terms of ease of use and quality of result, not to mention price.

Unless someone updated and reintroduced the TruScale wood roadbed line, I'm staying with Atlas.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Doughless on Friday, October 11, 2019 8:59 AM

Sticking with Atlas is probably the way to go.

As background:  I build around the room switching layouts.  I've used Atlas nearly exclusively in the past.  This time I'm going with Peco 83.  

The main reason is that after reusing the Atlas track from 2 previous layouts, its got enough dings and loose rails that I need to buy new stuff anyway.  I thought that I would try PECO simply because I haven't before, and I feel like learning what its about.

The other reason is that PECO switches stay put as you change the route with your finger.  Atlas' throwbars are loose to where its best to use switch machines or some device to keep the point rails stuck to the stock rails.  Too much work to install them on a layout where I'll be inches from each turnout.  PECO turnouts also tend to be more compact from point to frog, saving a bit of space if your layout has a cluster of turnouts in a confined area.

Having said that, I think their flex track is a bit more difficult to work with.

Also, Atlas makes sectional track.  Some people laugh at using it, but I sometimes find it useful that with switching layouts, getting a short perfectly straight or curved portion made from sectional track is much easier than trying to produce the same few inches of track from a long piece of flex track.

Pick your poison, but really, neither is a real poison.  These differences are just nitpicky things really. 

- Douglas

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Posted by Doughless on Friday, October 11, 2019 9:10 AM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

 

railandsail

Tillige track and turnouts.....German quality

I would suggest you have a serious look at Tillige product,..

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Elite_Gleissysteme.html

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Standardgleissysteme.html



Last week I visited a LARGE layout being constructed utilizing code 83 of this track and turnouts. It really does appear to be excellent quality product.

Also built in live frog if desired, and the track is pre-weathered, rust color.

 

I don't see any $50 turnouts in my future......

Are you not the same guy who spent countless hours trying to use multiple brands of old outdated stuff you bought cheap?

 

Sheldon

 

 
Big SmileBig SmileBig SmileWhistling
 
(sorry Brian)

- Douglas

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, October 11, 2019 9:16 AM

For  ISLs I never liked C100 or C83 since it looked like main line track.. This time I'm using Peco C70 which has the right look for a industrial lead serving a older idustrial area.

Larry

SSRy

Conductor

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JPD
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Posted by JPD on Friday, October 11, 2019 9:46 AM
I want to thank all of you for your comments. After considering your comments and checking out a few more things, I have decided that I will stick with Atlas tracks for the following reasons: (1) I am already familiar with it; (2) the painted and ballasted Atlas track on my switching layout looks pretty good to me and none of my visitors have commented negatively about it; (3) I am not really a rivet counter; and (4) cost and availability.
 
The main thing I did not like about Atlas turnouts, the #6 (nos. 505 and 506), is that you cannot directly solder to the frog. I had to tap an existing small hole near the frog and install a brass screw underneath that I was then able to solder to. Not really much of a challenge, just something I found odd.
 
When I started to design the around the room layout, I thought I would need some of the fancier curved turnouts offered by other companies, but my design only uses #6 and #8 turnouts. Besides, Atlas now offers a curved turnout. And if I do need anything else, like bridge track, I can just order it and work it into the Atlas track.
 
Ultimately, it was not until I started to look at costs yesterday that I confirmed my decision to stick with Atlas. I will save several hundreds of dollars going with Atlas.
 
Now I have to go back to Anyrail and redo my layout design because I used the Walthers tracks on my first attempt. Oh well, a lot easier changing a track design on the computer than on the actual layout.
 
Thanks again for your comments.
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, October 11, 2019 9:58 AM

I have used... and will use on the next layout... Shinohara switches with Atlas sectional and flexible track.

.

This combination has looked good, performed well, and been as rugged as I would expect.

.

I wish Kadee made track.

.

-Kevin

.

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by kasskaboose on Friday, October 11, 2019 10:40 AM

I swear by ME track.  While more expensive, I like that the track stays curved and not return to an original form.  I remove the "V" made by the ties coming together with a hobby knife. 

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Posted by railandsail on Friday, October 11, 2019 11:29 AM

Doughless

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL

 

railandsail

Tillige track and turnouts.....German quality

I would suggest you have a serious look at Tillige product,..

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Elite_Gleissysteme.html

https://www.tillig.com/eng/Standardgleissysteme.html



Last week I visited a LARGE layout being constructed utilizing code 83 of this track and turnouts. It really does appear to be excellent quality product.

Also built in live frog if desired, and the track is pre-weathered, rust color.

 

I don't see any $50 turnouts in my future......

Are you not the same guy who spent countless hours trying to use multiple brands of old outdated stuff you bought cheap?

 

Sheldon

 

 

 
Big SmileBig SmileBig SmileWhistling
 
(sorry Brian)
 

You are correct Douglas, I did spend a LOT of time trying to utilize equipment I got on sale, etc.

In the scheme of things when I look back on it, I wonder just what I did save in the overall project of building a new layout. What if I could have had less problems of incompatibility, and more running realiabilty, and eaiser construction if I had been willing to spend a few hundred dollars more on track and turnouts? ...the cost of one really nice brass engine??

So here is one older discussion I ran into while looking for additional comments on Tillige,..
http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/88/t/104432.aspx?page=1

I didn't find much on the Tillige equipemnt but I did find these images. Notice that the tillige turnouts have solid continous rail rather than separate point rails and clousure rails

electrolove

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, October 11, 2019 11:31 AM

The first phase of my layout was all Atlas code 100, with a few Peco turnouts added.  After that, I switched to code 83 and WS turnouts.  I like the code 83 stuff much better.  I also switched to Tortoise machines, and these were all improvements.

The Atlas flex 83 looks much better than code 100 and works fine with the WS turnouts.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by railandsail on Friday, October 11, 2019 11:32 AM

BTW, the Tillige flex track also seemed to hold its curve rather than spring back like atlas. I think it was because the tie voids are NO all on one side, but distributed onto both.

And it was much nicer to handle than the ME flex track

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, October 11, 2019 12:38 PM

kasskaboose

I swear by ME track.  While more expensive, I like that the track stays curved and not return to an original form.  I remove the "V" made by the ties coming together with a hobby knife. 

 

I agree. I used weathered ME flex with Peco switches on my last ISL and never again will I use the wimpy Atlas flex. I can curve the ME flex and it stays in place unlike Atlas flex which springs back in place.  

 

Larry

SSRy

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Posted by Doughless on Friday, October 11, 2019 12:56 PM

railandsail

 

 

You are correct Douglas, I did spend a LOT of time trying to utilize equipment I got on sale, etc.

In the scheme of things when I look back on it, I wonder just what I did save in the overall project of building a new layout. What if I could have had less problems of incompatibility, and more running realiabilty, and eaiser construction if I had been willing to spend a few hundred dollars more on track and turnouts? ...the cost of one really nice brass engine??

Actually, it was Sheldon's idea.....I was just having some fun. Most of us have been there.  Nice to see you're a good sport.  Good luck with your layout.

- Douglas

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, October 11, 2019 1:52 PM

I like Atlas code 83 track for its affordability and its flexibility, the latter especially for easily creating easements.
Micro Engineering track may have slightly more realistically-sized spike heads, but its lack of flexibilty and higher price makes it a non-starter for me, and likewise for Shinohara.       

I do, however, use turnouts from Atlas, Peco, Micro Engineering, and Shinohara, along with a few scratchbuilt ones. 

Once the rails are painted and the track ballasted, it becomes simply part of the scenery to most observers, with most non-prototypical features no longer so readily apparent.

I also have some track built using Central Valley tie strips and M.E. rail (would have preferred Atlas rail, just for the price, but it wasn't available). 
I think that the track looks as good or better than any of the others mentioned, but, like those other brands, once painted and ballasted, it too simply becomes part of the scenery.
 
I doubt that most observers would notice what track and turnouts were used unless they were specifically searching for such things.

Wayne

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