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Atlas code 83 and code 100

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Atlas code 83 and code 100
Posted by 1arfarf3 on Thursday, November 29, 2012 6:45 PM

What are the advantages of each, disadvantages of each, why use one over the other? May want to add on to layout using code 100 ns. How can code 100 be adapted on tocode 83?

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Posted by JoeinPA on Thursday, November 29, 2012 6:56 PM

I'm not sure that there are any clear advantages between them other than you can run older equipment with deep flanges on code 100 while there will be some difficulty with code 83. However, code 83 is preferred by most as being more prototypical in size. Depending on the brand of track you have connecting code 83 to code 100 can require some shimming and joiner work or in the case of Atlas code 100 to code 83 just the use of transition joiners.


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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Thursday, November 29, 2012 7:02 PM

Code 100 is frequently cheaper than Code 83 for a given manufacturer.

Code 100 is sturdier.

Code 100 is needed for old equipment with large flanges.

Code 100 is oversized. Over 155 lb.

Code 83 is closer to scale size - about 136 lb rail depending on whose chart you look at.

For a lot of people the height difference is not really noticeable.  If it is for you, consider using code 70 on branchlines and other secondary trackage with code 83 for mainlines.

You can get code 83/100 transition rail joiners to make it easier, but make sure there are no bumps on the top and inside of the railheads at the joint.



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Posted by maxman on Thursday, November 29, 2012 7:10 PM

If you wish to join Atlas code 83 to Atlas code 100 all you really need are the transition rail joiners which Atlas sells. (or you can make your own)  In their infinite wisdom (unless they've changed something recently) Atlas made the ties thicker on their code 83 track to bring the top of the ties to the same elevation as their code 100.

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, November 29, 2012 8:40 PM

I think Atlas Code 83 is much better looking than Code 100.  I built the first section of my layout with Code 100 because I was familiar with it and I had a lot of old rolling stock.  When I built Phase 2, I used Code 83 and found everything ran fine on it.  At the two points where the different tracks come together, I used Walthers adapter track sections, but I could have done the job with shims to match the railhead heights.

If you are using Atlas turnouts, the Atlas switch machines for Code 83 are much smaller and less obvious than the Code 100 models, for some reason.

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Posted by wp8thsub on Thursday, November 29, 2012 9:03 PM

To me the major aesthetic reasons to use 83 over 100 (at least with the commonly available Atlas brand) are the shapes of the rails, and the size and detail of the ties.  Atlas code 100 uses a cross section that doesn't approximate real rail very well, and this stands out for me more than its sheer size.  Another issue is how the ties on Atlas code 100 have dimensions unlike those of most other track products.  They are about 8 scale feet long, shorter than the 8'6" common to most brands of scale track (including Atlas 83).  This may not sound like much, but makes a big difference visually as the shorter ties make the extra rail thickness and height more noticeable.  The tie and spike detail is also much coarser, expecially on the turnouts.

So...if you want your track to look more like prototype track, choosing a code 83 product can give you finer looking rail, ties AND spikes, so the whole of the track looks better.  Rail height isn't the only thing to consider.

However, another  problem with Atlas code 100 has to do with gauge.  Their turnouts typically are very wide in gauge at the points, to the extent that equipment with "semi scale" code 88 wheelsets can drop off the rails as they negotiate the points.  They can be modified to correct the gauge somewhat, or you can make sure only to use the more typical code 110 tread width wheelsets.

Some other brands of code 100 have better looking rail and ties, or have closer tolerances with the turnouts, so both the aesthetic and operational concerns with Atlas can be mitigated. 

Rob Spangler

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Posted by 1arfarf3 on Thursday, November 29, 2012 9:27 PM

Thanks for the great info. Question I just thought of, will Code 100 Remote Switch Machines connect and work with Code 83 switches? Or do I need to buy Code 83 Remote Switch Machines?

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Friday, November 30, 2012 11:13 AM

The switch machines should be all the same, and in any event, the LION uses TORTOISE switch machines.

LION uses code 100 rail. What can I say: Him is cheap. but once you have painted it and get rid of the shiny web it looks ok. And OK is good enough, Really good is a pain in the tail and is far too expensive anyway.

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Posted by jbu50 on Friday, November 30, 2012 1:53 PM

I handlaid my code 83 on wooden ties. But had a ready supply of code 100 turnouts already. I saw a neat trick in MR one time for joining the two different codes. Take a code 100 rail joiner and squeeze one end down very flat. Then lay the code 83 rail ON TOP of the flattened portion. A drop of solder will hold it firm and brings the code 83 rail right up flush with the code 100. Connect the other end of the rail joiner to the code 100 rail and, voila, a nice smooth transition. Once everything is weathered and ballasted its virtually impossible to tell one from the other.


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Posted by Milepost 266.2 on Saturday, December 01, 2012 12:56 PM

The biggest selling point for code 83 for me is the larger variety of switches available, both from Atlas and other manufacturers.  When you consider that, code 100 is a non-starter. 

The better looking ties are a plus too.  Was never overly concerned about the slightly larger rail. 

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Saturday, December 01, 2012 3:44 PM

Briefly, code 100 is heavier than any mainline rail ever laid, anywhere.  That famous PRR 152 and 155 pound rail would be code 93 if anybody ever made any.  Code 83 is a good approximation of heavy mainline rail - used by Northeastern lines and coal haulers since the 1920s, and by almost all the Class I roads today  (There's an industrial area near my home that was laid with 132 pound rail dated 2000...)

Except for those unmodified NEM flanges on some older European-made cars, code 83 will handle anything you run on it.  Even most of the NEM flanges will work.

In (somewhat) defense of Code 100, it is cheaper than code 83, and works just fine where the sun will never shine.  That's where my original stock of Code 100 flex went, laid in the netherworld along with some stick rail, sectional track and other odd ends.

I experimentally laid one length of Atlas Code 83 in the Netherworld and discovered that Atlas universal rail joiners will connect it to Atlas code 100 without any special modifications or conniptions.  These aren't transition joiners, just the regular kind.  I did weigh down the freshly-caulked rail with a flat-bottomed weight to assure level rail ends - but I do that for every length of rail I lay.

Availability of specialwork is one thing that has zero influence on my rail height decisions - I can hand-lay mine with any height of rail, down to and including code 25 (mine car tracks.)

Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)

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Posted by dstarr on Sunday, December 02, 2012 12:54 PM


What are the advantages of each, disadvantages of each, why use one over the other? May want to add on to layout using code 100 ns. How can code 100 be adapted on to code 83?

Code 83 is smaller and closer to scale size.  It looks better to the trained eye.  However you can paint the sides of the shiny Code 100 rail and that improves the looks a lot.  If you eye isn't trained, the two sizes look pretty much the same. All but really ancient rolling stock will run just fine on Code 83. 

Code 100 is usually cheaper and more available.  Lots and lots of layouts are laid in code 100.  My layout is code 100 cause I could get used code 100 track for free.  I painted all the rail with a brush in a single evening and with ballast it looks just fine to my eye.

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