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Help with choosing brands/Mfrs for HO model train, locomotive purchases

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Posted by peahrens on Saturday, March 28, 2020 4:25 PM

Welcome to the Forum.  If not pointed out above, your posts are moderated for a while, so there is a delay for any replies you make.

I got back to the hobby after decades away.  I will share some of my opinions.

On HO vs. other scales, that is the sweet spot for me.  My space is limited so N scale would give me more features in my space, but I did not want to work on the smaller rolling stock and track.  There are pros, cons, tradeoffs.

I did go past 4'x8', to about 5-1/2' x 9-1/2'.  That let me build a 1-1/2 level layout with typically 25" curves.  That was important to me.

I also recommend a few key books, though you eventually can find just about anything on the web as far as info.  I liked the Kalmbach:  DCC Guide, Basic Trackwork for Model Railroading, How to Build Realistic Reliable Track.  Many recommend Armstrong's Track Planning for Realistic Operation.

You can find track plans via this site or buy books.  With my basic rectangle space, I designed my own plan with free software (XTrackCAD in my case).

I built my layout with a 1x4 frame, plus 5/8" plywood.  I used a "cookie cutter" approach to create slopes and an upper level on one end.  I found that idea in a Kalmbach book: Basic Model Railroad Benchwork.

I decided on DCC, as I was intrigued by the sound idea and the easy method of controlling several trains at once.  I am happy with that decision, as a later became enthused about converting DC locos I would find to DCC.  More to enhance my selection of (UP, in my case) engine types I would enjoy, not to save money.

I settled on a DCC system and purchased that, plus one loco.  No additional rolling stock at that point.  In my case I bought a new Athearn Genesis DCC w/sound GP9, which was about $150 in 2011.  At that point I simultaneously set up my DCC electronics, including 3 secondary circuit breaker / reverser boards that would manage my 3 sections.  I got to where I could run the loco on a 3' piece of flex track.  

In the same time frame, I decided on turnouts brand (Walthers / Shinohara available in 2012) and ordered those, plus switch motors (Tortoise).  I used a small piece of plywood to set up a turnout on cork roadbed and installed a Tortoise so that I understood how to handle that setup. 

Then(!) I built the layout benchwork and started track laying.  I used Atlas flex track (happy with that) and 3 90-degree crossings (unhappy with those, as they took some adjustment).  I worked really hard to understand how to install track for reliable operation, as my 1980 layout attempt had terrible derailment issues.  Test your track as you progress!

Along the way, I built most of my freight cars from kits, as I enjoy doing that.  Old Athearn kits, newer Accurail, older Proto 2000 and others.  For passenger cars, Walthers RTR streamliners plus Athearn Blue Box heavyweights, the latter stripped and repainted as a project.

Once up and running, I acquired (too many) locos over time.  The steamers included BLI and Genesis mostly.  The diesels include Kato and many older Life Like.  Not the detail of today's, but I could find an unused UP DC loco on EBay and have the fun of converting it to DCC.  There is no need to get ahead of any curve on those purchases.  Today's offerings include nice models from Scale Trains as well.

You will find tons of info on key subjects in prior threads; e.g, which DCC system, which turnout type, which track type, reversing loops, freight car wheels, etc.  Note that the "Search the Community" box on the right works poorly, at best.  For a search of Forum threads on a subject of interest, you are much better off with a Google search; e.g., "site: cs.trains.com (your subject)".

You did not comment on budget.  That's another story, but part of that is controllable by stretching things out.  At the beginning, you need lumber, electronics, track and a loco.  Eight years in, I have a few too many locos so I probably need to take the approach I use with T-shirts...when on a trip, if I buy another, I must demote one when I get home.

Remember to have fun!

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

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Posted by BigDaddy on Saturday, March 28, 2020 5:46 PM

peahrens
3 90-degree crossings (unhappy with those, as they took some adjustment).

Paul I see a lot of plans with crossings and feel I should have one.  Can you explain your unhappiness?

Bachmann, I have a couple.  A 45 tonner, which runs OK, but has long term memory problems, and 2 steamers with a TCS decoders.  The sound value is definitely a compromise in terms of cheap.  Bachmann loco list price is very optimistic compared to the street price.

Oscilloscope?  A couple of the Cognescenti in the forum use them and speak in tongues, if not ecstasy about what they see.  Last time I saw an oscilloscope was Physics 101 in 1970. 

I did need to ask a question on a Loksound forum once, but all other problems have been driver error or solved in this forum.

Henry

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Posted by peahrens on Saturday, March 28, 2020 9:41 PM

BigDaddy
peahrens3 90-degree crossings (unhappy with those, as they took some adjustment). Paul I see a lot of plans with crossings and feel I should have one. Can you explain your unhappiness?

These were (are) 2011 Atlas code 83 90-degree crossings.  I have 3 close coupled on the mainline.  There was an issue with insufficient clearance (depth, IIRC) between the main rails and guardrails, such that some bumping occurred as trucks crossed over.  I checked with NMRA gage and did some filing of the plastic guard rail channels, which improved the clearance (depth) and solved the problem. 

It could have been the batch, or characteristic of that component back then.  Whether improved, I would not know.  If I had known, I probably would have used Walthers-Shinohara crossings, though mating those to my preferred Atlas flex track suggests a 0.015" shim due to a mismatch of the ties thickness.  I made that adjustment easily where the Atlas flex mates to my W-S turnouts.

Paul

Modeling HO with a transition era UP bent

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Saturday, March 28, 2020 10:05 PM

David, Bachman is already on my short list of trains to see and consider...This virus situation is slowing down my visits to hobby shops. Thanks. I agree

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Posted by jjo on Saturday, March 28, 2020 10:13 PM
Welcome to the Forum. If not pointed out above, your posts are moderated for a while, so there is a delay for any replies you make. Paul, I noticed that...Anxious to hear the responses but understand that may be necessary...Thanks for your valuable advice on all ..I'll use it as I try to make my decisions.
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Posted by jjo on Sunday, March 29, 2020 1:35 PM

Have several "used" HO options in front of me.. Considering it as a reasonable way to get in, "test the waters" and learn..Then buy right stuff later.

One gentleman is offering me at reasonable price a large assortment of mostly BACHMAN locos and cars, a Troller Auto plus Twin Amp 1-2 controller, 60 curved and 70 straight sections of ATLAS  snap track (?), several Bachman and Atlas buildings kits. He said these were purchased in the 80s and 90s.  Dont know the Troller, Atlas, Tyco brands...Don't want to make offer till I hear your advice.

2nd offering is for about 30 cars and a few Locomotives all MARKLIN (!?) brand,,,No power or track...He admits some will need repair..I am dubious on this one but probably good value..Your advice will help me decide.

Thank you in advance...Appreciate your guidance.

Jerry

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Posted by dstarr on Sunday, March 29, 2020 2:20 PM

jjo

Have several "used" HO options in front of me.. Considering it as a reasonable way to get in, "test the waters" and learn..Then buy right stuff later.

One gentleman is offering me at reasonable price a large assortment of mostly BACHMAN locos and cars, a Troller Auto plus Twin Amp 1-2 controller, 60 curved and 70 straight sections of ATLAS  snap track (?), several Bachman and Atlas buildings kits. He said these were purchased in the 80s and 90s.  Dont know the Troller, Atlas, Tyco brands...Don't want to make offer till I hear your advice.

2nd offering is for about 30 cars and a few Locomotives all MARKLIN (!?) brand,,,No power or track...He admits some will need repair..I am dubious on this one but probably good value..Your advice will help me decide.

Thank you in advance...Appreciate your guidance.

Jerry

 

Bachmann suffers from a long history.  Thirty years ago Bachmann was a train set brand, cheap, unreliable, and that bad rep has stuck.  Then Bachmann introduced its Consolidation steamer sometime in the 1990's if memory serves.  Everyone fell in love with the Consolidation, it looked good, it ran good, the price was reasonable.  There was a time down at the club that we had 10 or 12 of them all running at once.  I still have mine and it still runs good after 25-30 years.  Bachmann pulled up their socks and pretty much anything they made in the last 25 years is decent.  Troller was a perfectly good name for power packs.  Atlas is first rate, always has been first rate.  Tyco started out as the ready-to-run version of Mantua.  A fair amount of the stuff out there marked Tyco, is actually Mantua, which is  good name that goes way way back before WWII.  In later years Tyco got into the trainset business and it's reputation suffered.  I have some Tyco cars on the layout, with some cleaning up, Kadee couplers, and perhaps a shot of DullCote to flatten out the glossy shiny paint scheme they look just fine.  Marklin is a European brand, well thought of in Europe.  It is not really compatable with American HO.  Marklin runs on third rail, where as American HO is all two rail. I don't believe that Marklin car wheels are insulated for two rail operation.  American two rail locomotives won't run on Marklin three rail track.  Myself I wouldn't get into Marklin because I would have to buy a bunch of real Marklin stuff and it is expensive. 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, March 29, 2020 2:59 PM

dstarr
Everyone fell in love with the Consolidation, it looked good, it ran good, the price was reasonable.

I am one of those people. The Bachmann/Spectrum consolidation 2-8-0 is one of the reasons the STRATTON AND GILLETTE backdated from 1968 to 1954 in the mid 1990s.

-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 jjdamnit on Sunday, March 29, 2020 3:33 PM

Hello All,

jjo
Have several "used" HO options in front of me. Considering it as a reasonable way to get in, "test the waters" and learn.

I totally agree with buying used at this point, with a few caveats...

Buying a used "package" has it's downfalls. It's like buying that "all in one" mechanics toolset. Yes, you get the stuff you want but most of it you may never use.

I recommend not buying used track. Newer track has rails made of Nickle-silver. This conducts power/signal well and does not oxidize like older brass railed track.

jjo
Then buy right stuff later.

A couple of points on that train of thought...see what I did there?

That will leave you with equipment that is useless and monies that could have been better spent on the "right stuff" initially.

SeeYou190
I always suggest to new people to JUST BUILD SOMETHING! Accept that your first layout is best used as a learning experience, build it and see what you do and do not like. Find out what you enjoy and what you find tedious.

I concur. Also...

John Allen on planning:
"A model railroad should probably start with a concept. Why? Because much knowledge about railroading, experience in model railroading, and thought are required before a proper concept for a model railroad can be formed. These requirements are seldom possible on a first pike. Mine was no exception."
- -John Allen; Gorre & Daphetid Railroad.

Many fine folks have suggested picking a time period (era) and a location. This is known as "prototypical" modeling.

Some go so far as to model a specific day and time along with a location: September 21, 1973, at 3:10 pm, between Chicago, Illinois and Cheyanne, Wyoming (as an example).

Others model a made-up scenario known as "freelancing". This gives you the freedom of modeling anything you want. You can run things that prototypically wouldn't exist. Pulling 40-foot wooden boxcars with a modern diesel engine.

While others combine imagination with a basis in reality- -"proto-freelance". The "what if" railroad.

"What if" the Denver & Southpark, narrow gage, lasted into the 1990s, was bought by the Denver & Rio Grande and modernized with standard gauge trackage while retaining both steam and diesel while allowing the Southern Pacific, Missouri Pacific and BNSF- -with older Santa Fe- -motive power?

While others don't give a hoot and just make a track plan and run trains, regardless of criticism from others.

Before buying any locomotive or track I choose a location- -I live in the Rocky mountains so I wanted to model something familiar.

From there I choose an industry- -the two main choices were logging and mining.

Then I looked at the available motive power (locomotives). As a kid, in the 1970s, I had a pike that had a steam loco. This steam loco was so finicky it put me off of steam even to this day. Diesel was the way for me.

So, my pike is a coal branch loop set between the early 1970s to the late 1980s in western Colorado.

From there I took a pad of graph paper, a mechanical pencil and a LARGE eraser.

The first iteration of my pike was literally conceived on a bar napkin over beers. 

I am still limited to a 4'x8' space. I couldn't go out so I went up. My track plan includes a 3% grade to a coal loading/unloading shed and a historic spiral trestle (helix) back down to the main.

As you will discover, a pike is never fully "finished". I am still tweaking my trackage for more reliable operations. 

Keep in mind it's not necessarily the destination but the journey that makes it worthwhile.

Hope this helps.

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

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Sunday, March 29, 2020 7:11 PM

Paul or David: Is ATLAS snap track nickel/silver or brass? Thanks

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Sunday, March 29, 2020 7:20 PM

jjo

Paul or David: Is ATLAS snap track nickel/silver or brass? Thanks

 

Many years ago it was brass, then both were available, now it is nickle silver.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by BRAKIE on Sunday, March 29, 2020 8:01 PM

For my diesel needs I buy Atlas/China (Classic line) used Atlas/Kato, and the older Proto 2K from Life Like. Ihave 4 Atlas/Roco Alco S-4 switchers as well. I also have Athearn Blue Box and RTR,a Scale Trains "operator" SD40-2, a Intermountain GP10,a Bachmann DCC/Sound Alco S-4 and a Broadway Limited DCC/Sound SW7..

My point? To have a rounded locomotive fleet one needs to buy different brands. As far as steam locomotives the newer Bachmann steam engines is a good route to take.

 

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Your first mistake may be your last!" Safety First!

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Sunday, March 29, 2020 8:05 PM
thanks sheldon...
jjo
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Posted by jjo on Sunday, March 29, 2020 8:35 PM

I'm afraid this track is brass....Is that a major negative for a trial/starter use?

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Posted by BigDaddy on Sunday, March 29, 2020 9:05 PM

jjo
I'm afraid this track is brass....Is that a major negative for a trial/starter use?

The problem with brass, is it looks like brass.  It also tarnishes.  If this is a throw away starter layout and the price is dirt cheap, maybe.  My first layout was an oval 4x8 that my father built.  The next layout I built and was fairly decent for my needs.  Divorce rather than layout inadequacy ended that layout and model railroading for the next 20 years.

I'm on my third and final layout and I mislaid a track that not only creates an S curve, it creates a very small radius S curve.  My rolling stock and locos handle it, but it looks awful and I have taken it out.  My point is just because you are a newbie doesn't mean you can't build a decent layout. 

Track laying isn't brain surgery but it's not something that should be done sloppy.  There shouldn't be kinks, either vertical or horizontal.  There needs to be transitions on grades.  Bigger radii are better and ever newbie, and the Atlas track plan books want to pack too much in too little space.

 

As stated above, Marklin is it's own separate thing.  Unless your desire is to model European railroads, don't touch it, because of the third rail.

Henry

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Posted by mbinsewi on Sunday, March 29, 2020 9:23 PM

jjo
I'm afraid this track is brass....Is that a major negative for a trial/starter use?

No, as Henry says, it looks like brass, it's a yellow color, and not like shiny steel that real well used railroad track look like, and it may need cleaning more often, but it works fine.

Nickel silver is the track of choice.  

Mike.

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Monday, March 30, 2020 10:10 AM

This is probably my error, but I am not receiving any Email notifications on the postings in this forum...I've tried resetting the settings several times with no luck..again, I am new to this forum but I'm unable to get this notifications part to function properly.  Thanks in advance for your help on this...

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, March 30, 2020 10:23 AM

jjo

I'm afraid this track is brass....Is that a major negative for a trial/starter use?

 

Depends on who you ask.. I used brass track from the 60s until the early 80s and had no issues but,my switching layout was in a spare bedroom so there was no real issues.

About S curves.. Those are beautiful curves if they are build correctly. IMHO two or three long car lenghts between curves should work quite well.

 

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Your first mistake may be your last!" Safety First!

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Posted by UNCLEBUTCH on Monday, March 30, 2020 2:58 PM

 New or Used ?

 A lot of years ago I became interested in MR. At the time I came across a guy willing to sell a large box of used HO stuff. I tought the price was good and bought it.

Got home to find; of the 4 engines only one ran and very badly at that. All the rolling stock was damaged, missing wheels coulpers ect. Most of the track was bad, some bent and kinked, many didn't line up with others. The power pack became too hot to touch. I soon loss interest and tossed the whole works.

 Years later I wanted to try again. This time I went to the local[60 mi.] hobby shop. Told the guy what I wanted to do and explaned that I knew Nothing.

 He sold me an SW? 40% off cause no one wanted that road name, 4 BB car kits, some used turn outs and track. A used but good power pack. And show me how to put it together.

 I was runing trains,engine anyway that nite. The cost was but 20$ more then the box of junk.

My point or advice; when starting out, keep it small, simple, but dependable.

 Once you get your feet wet, so to speak, then explore the bargen boxes, could verv well be a gem or two in it. IF you know what your lokking at

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Posted by BigDaddy on Monday, March 30, 2020 3:35 PM

jjo
I am not receiving any Email notifications

Sigh

There is nothing you can do to make it work.  The software that forum uses is obsolete and there are multiple things that don't work anymore.  MR promises new software sometime this year.

A thread like this is going to get a lot of responses, so as we say in Baltimore about going to the polls one election day:  "Come early, come often"

Henry

COB Potomac & Northern

By the Chesapeake Bay

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Monday, March 30, 2020 7:39 PM
Thanks Big Daddy..I thought it was me (user error)
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Posted by emdmike on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 2:19 PM

When I was a boy/young teen model railroader, what caught my eye was the ads on the back of Model Railroader for the beautiful Overland Models brass trains, especially the diesels and cabooses.  Could not afford them back then for obvious reasons.  But as a middle age adult, I now can in moderation.  Back then I was going for quantity of models.  I had a slug of Athearn Blue Box  BN diesels, along with Atlas.  But now, mostly modeling on my own instead of at the large club(which is gone now). I have changed to quality and now that I can afford those beautiful brass diesels, thats what I buy.  Obviously the new stuff from Scale Trains ect is stunning.  But with most stuff from the PRC, I dont trust the quality of the diecast in the chassis and such.  I do trust my brass models, which I can easily work on, add DCC/Sound if I so desire.   For the steam buff, its hard to beat models from PFM/United for layout runners.  Only needing the open frame motor replaced with a can motor such as one from Canon.  Brass isnt for everybody.  Many have been stung by buying a dud as there are many.  But there are also lots of great models out there.  One has to own and hold their first brass model to truely "get it"    Most importantly, buy what you like and enjoy, try to have a focus and not a shot gun approach...have fun!     Mike the Aspie

Silly NT's, I have Asperger's Syndrome

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 2:30 PM

jjdamnit
I recommend not buying used track. Newer track has rails made of Nickle-silver. This conducts power/signal well and does not oxidize like older brass railed track.

There is a way to stop that oxidation of brass track..  We simply painted it and like painted Nickel Silver it looked more realistic.

I have bought used Atlas Nickel Silver flex track on the cheap at the Marion (Oh) Train Show.

Larry

Conductor.

Summerset Ry.


"Your first mistake may be your last!" Safety First!

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 2:52 PM

Brass track works fine.  I have some in the yard on my lay out.  I don't do switching as much as I use to, so I give it a cleaning before hand.

Mike.

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Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 7:41 PM

I prefer the Kato HO track.

It does require more planning (is not flextrack like some of the other guys) as the sections snap together very tightly, and the track is snapped into the very nice looking plastic ballasted base (it comes that way).  It can be put together and taken apart, and will still make good electrical contact even after multiple layout arrangments.  There are manual switch turnouts, and electrified ones.  Kato costs more and has less options (it comes in metric sizes but can easily be converted to English measurements).  There are at least 5 or 6 different radius curves provided that you can use.

A couple years ago, I took out some Kato track to put in the British Peco turnouts (which themselves are really outstanding) with Walthers/Shinohara 30" and 32" or 33" radius sectional curved track and also Atlas nickel silver flex track.  The reason I did this was to modify my track plan to allow larger equipment.

Honestly, I should have gone with Kato track for any changes I made.  The only downside is the Kato turnouts, if you get them wet with the white glue scenic cement during scenery work did not always conduct electricity well or operate well after my scenery work (again I got them wet with the white glue/water mix, which is NOT advisable to do).  The little brass? electrical contact strips apparently corroded underneath the turnouts when they got wet.

So I have a layout that is partly Kato track, glued down to foam insulation board using Liquid Nails--fast, easy install, and has never had a problem in 15 years of use.  You have to glue it down at least in curve areas or it will float on the table surface as the trains run.  Tangents don't necessarily have to be glued down.  The curves hold them in place, and not gluing tangents everywhere allows for a little bit of expansion/contraction as temperatures change.

The other half of my layout has the Atlas flex track, mixed with Walthers/Shinohara sectional curved track.

Why do I regret changing out the Kato track for Atlas/Walthers with Peco turnouts? 

1.  The Atlas track seems to be noisier than the Kato, even when glued down to the Woodland Scenics foam base with white glue.

2.  The Walthers/Shinohara track is even noisier than the Atlas track.

3.  The soft Woodland Scenics foam roadbed is great but the ballasting is more difficult as the miniature gravel tends to run off it when glue is applied.  With Kato, you don't have to ballast it because it already looks great.

I did not polish or "gleam" any of the track as some people like to do to prevent oxidation and dirt build up.  Kato specifically recommends against doing anything to their rail surface.  After about 15 years of use, the Kato track for me tends to remain cleaner, with relatively less crud buildup on the rails, than the Atlas or the Walthers/Shinohara.  I actually contemplate ripping out the more recent track (in place for 4 years or so) and replacing it with Kato.  The only thing stopping me is funding right now...and the fact that the Peco turnouts are fantastic in quality.  Also, achieving the same track arrangment with Kato track would be more challenging.

Finally, with the kato 28.75" equivalent radius curve "easements" into the 26.375" radius curves, most large equipment including even many brass steam engines still operate very well.  At the end of the day, I didn't really need to go up to 30" and 33" radius curves.  I didn't gain that much for operation.

John

P.S. Now Kato offers both "concrete tie" track and superelevated track sections including the transition sections from normal track to superelevated.  For operation of big stuff--full length passenger equipment, and anybody's large drivered 4-8-4's, I would use the superelevated track.  It will keep the big 4-8-4's on the layout more effectively.  If you run big MTH, BLI or other steam power, the large front drivers will tend to lift on entry into a horizontal curve, if the curve is on or at the bottom of a downgrade.  That is where the superelevated track earns its money.

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Thursday, April 2, 2020 10:32 PM

Still negotiating on a couple intro/used offers. And the current CoronaVirus  slows everything down,,,

Had a few new offerings of used cars, locos, buildings, track etc and the brand TYCO is appearing in a few. Are they generally reputable and of decent quality or not up to others?   Thanks for your continued guidance

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, April 2, 2020 11:20 PM

Tyco was the train set of the late 50's early 60's.  I had a garish yellow cattle car and a gondola that whose walls were close to 6" scale inches thick. 

It ran OK into the 80's but if that is what you are looking at, I think you are wasting your money.  And I'm not a rivet counter, but it is on the toy end of the curve.

Henry

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, April 3, 2020 4:24 AM

tstage
 
BigDaddy
Keeps the spam totatlly out of the forum. 

Wish that were true...but it's not.  Seems there's always a new "member" popping up in the Users Online area; usually with a cute women for an avatar.  If you click the avatar it's someone promoting their b&m business or website with "0" posts.  Those mostly show up in the later hours. 

So much for registering and having your first five posts moderated. Hmm

Rich

Alton Junction

jjo
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Posted by jjo on Friday, April 3, 2020 10:08 AM

Thanks Big Daddy...What I suspected,,,,Thanks

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Posted by bagal on Saturday, April 4, 2020 4:18 AM

I don't really think a newby needs to be concerned about era or concept or what ever - that can all come later. What I think is most important is that he purchases a good new loco. There are plenty available $40 - $80 from Athearn, Bachmann or Walthers. Freight cars also, plenty available $12 - $20. Why would you bother with used unless you know exactly what you are buying?

Second hand, especially Tyco is a sure fire way to lose interest fast. I've seen it happen.

Bagal

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