Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

what is the best track to use for ho scale

12 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • 1 posts
what is the best track to use for ho scale
Posted by jc7606 on Sunday, August 29, 2010 6:15 PM

 Just wondering but I am starting out in this hobby and wondering who makes the best track and most realistic for ho scale?

  • Member since
    November, 2008
  • 1,205 posts
Posted by grizlump9 on Sunday, August 29, 2010 7:28 PM

 you are going to get a bunch of input on this one, so, let me talk to you like a dutch uncle before it all starts.

  "best" means different things to different people.   i have learned a lot over the years by visiting other layouts at club open houses and through friends i have made in this hobby, and i have always learned more by looking at their work and asking questions than i ever would have by reading internet postings or magazines.

  when you see something that looks good to you, inquire about the pros and cons. and remember that life is a series of compromises.   the best looking track and switches may not be the most reliable for operation or maybe the costs might be excessive for your budget.  smaller profile rail may be more realistic but can you really tell that much difference?  etc. etc.

often your efforts at detailing, painting and ballasting the track will make just about any brand look better.

  there is a lot of good advice to be had on this forum but first hand observation is your best way to learn. ask to see photos.  by the way, a lot of the pictures in magazines have a train covering up the frog and points of the turnouts to hide their unrealistic look.

  as for me, i am a dinosaur who uses atlas code 100 track with peco and shinohara switches.  not always the absolute highest quality and certainly not the most realistic but i had a bunch of it, i can afford it, and by golly it works for me.


  • Member since
    February, 2007
  • From: Shenandoah Valley The Home Of Patsy Cline
  • 1,842 posts
Posted by superbe on Sunday, August 29, 2010 7:38 PM

I'll second grizlump's choice of Atlas code 100 track and Peco turnouts.

This has worked well for me.

Happy Railroading


  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 17,772 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Sunday, August 29, 2010 7:46 PM

I built Phase 1 of my layout with Atlas code 100 track and mostly Atlas turnouts, with a few Peco's thrown in.  Everything has been very solid and reliable.  For Phase 2, I've switched to code 83.  Again, I'm using Atlas track.  Where I have tight space constraints, I'm using Atlas snap-switches, but out in the open I designed the layout using #6 turnouts.  For these, I am using Walters-Shinohara turnouts driven by Tortoise machines.  Having done this, I would never go back.

I like the appearance of the code 83 track better than code 100.  The ties look better, and I prefer the brown ties to the black ones of code 100.  I'm careful with my trackwork anyway, but I don't notice that the code 83 is any less reliable or more fussy than code 100.

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

  • Member since
    March, 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 9,417 posts
Posted by dknelson on Sunday, August 29, 2010 8:54 PM

Asking who has the best track is almost as provocative a question as who had the prettiest wife.  

Atlas and Peco have the advantage of having extensive lines in both Code 100 and Code 83.  Code 100 is reliable and durable and easy to find, but is oversize.  Code 83 represents rather large rail in HO but is significantly more realistic in appearance.  Some of us with older equipment need Code 100 due to extremely deep flanges on some European imports of the 1960s-70s. 

Atlas turnouts/switches have certain electrical aspects to them which can be learned about by searching on these forums.  Peco turnout/switches are Insulfrog or Electrofrog and again, the internet or these forms have the underlying information on what it all means.

There are lines of track such as Micro Engineering which look very realistic, more so than Atlas or Peco, and come in a variety of Codes - although not with turnouts in all cases. 

For all practical purposes anything you can buy today will run just great on Code 83.  So my own advice to a newcomer would be

1) to go with Code 83 - Atlas or Peco flextrack

2) Peco switches.  I like Insulfrog

3) try some Micro Engineering flex track on the parts of the layout that might be the most closely viewed by visitors.

4) weather/paint the sides of all rail if you can.  Only the tops should be shiney.

Dave Nelson


  • Member since
    May, 2008
  • 4,612 posts
Posted by Hamltnblue on Sunday, August 29, 2010 9:04 PM

I'm running Atlas Code 83 and it works great.  If you have a nearby LHS, see what they have in stock. Most these days carry both code 100 and 83.  I prefer the 83 because of the brown ties as well.  If you go Atlas the Code 83 switch machines are much smaller and better looking than the Code 100. 

Springfield PA

  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • From: Martinez, CA
  • 5,440 posts
Posted by markpierce on Sunday, August 29, 2010 9:05 PM

The best track would be hand-made, custom-built to fit the situation.  It is also the least expensive but takes a bit of skill/practice/patience.



(Not my layout)


  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • 63 posts
Posted by nssd70m on Sunday, August 29, 2010 9:51 PM


I'll second grizlump's choice of Atlas code 100 track and Peco turnouts.

This has worked well for me.

Happy Railroading


I'll third grizlumps's choice of Atlas code 100 track, Peco turnouts and Shinohara turnouts. Earl...
Modeling the Southern, Norfolk & Western and Norfolk Southern in HO scale.
  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: S.E. Adirondacks, NY
  • 3,246 posts
Posted by modelmaker51 on Monday, August 30, 2010 4:11 AM

I built most of my layout with ModelPower code 100 flex track. I like the look of it better than the Atlas and it's the least expensive. It's a little more fragile to handle, very much like the code 83 stuff, but once it's down, it holds up just as well as any other track, some of mine has been down for 20 years and looks and works just as well as did when I first put it down. I don't even remember what color the ties were as I paint both the ties and the rails for a more realistic look (at least to my eyes).

Model Power Track

Atlas Track


C-415 Build: 

Other builds: 

  • Member since
    April, 2003
  • From: Clinton, MO, US
  • 3,860 posts
Posted by Medina1128 on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 12:53 PM

Except for a couple of exceptions, I've used Atlas code 83 track and turnouts. In one location, I used a Peco  curved turnout, and on a scratchbuilt trestle, I used Micro Engineering trestle track.

  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Dayton, OH
  • 268 posts
Posted by stilson4283 on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:48 PM

I like the CVT tie strips the 8'-6" ones with Micro Engineering track, I used code 83 and 70 track with it so far.  Check out the link here for some pictures:


Warner Robins, GA

Check out my railroad at: Buffalo and Southwestern

Photos at:Flicker account

YouTube:StellarMRR YouTube account

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • From: Southeast Texas
  • 4,866 posts
Posted by mobilman44 on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 3:21 PM


Welcome to the new and improved forum!

As indicated, your question has a lot of opinions from different folks, and I have mine - which of course I'll gladly share with you.

I've been into HO since the early '60s, and have used Atlas flex track and turnouts almost exclusively.  My reasons are simple........  It is a quality product, readily available, and the price is relatively inexpensive (shop around on the net for significantly better prices than you might find otherwise).

I'm currently building a new HO layout, and am using Atlas products.  FYI, I used them on my last layout (11x15 two level), and once correctly mounted I never had a track/turnout or switch machine failure in the entire life of the layout - 1993 thru 2008.

I've always used code 100, but if I were 20 years younger (I'm 66) with comensurate eyesight and manual dexterity, I would use code 83.

Now please understand, I am not saying Atlas is the "best" per se, for other brands are more realistic and there are even higher quality products out there.  But they are more expensive, and can be difficult to obtain.   So if money is not a consideration, and you do want a "better" product, then I would look at the Peco / Walthers / Micro Engineering, etc.






Living in southeast Texas, modeling the "postwar" Santa Fe and Illinois Central 

  • Member since
    September, 2002
  • From: North Carolina
  • 1,503 posts
Posted by csxns on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 3:39 PM

Can the code 83 switch machine work on code 100  ?


Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!