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atlas track vs peco track vs other ho (code 83)

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atlas track vs peco track vs other ho (code 83)
Posted by Traincraft199 on Friday, September 4, 2020 11:05 AM

which is better or easier to use for a beginner and can you mix the two brands?

edit: just remembered I have 28 feet of peco track from god knows where/when so I think i'll use that

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, September 4, 2020 11:48 AM

I have intermixed Peco, Precision Scale, Shinohara, Walthers (also Sinhohara), Micro Engineering, and Atlas track. It can work just fine.

The important part is that the tops of the rails and inside rail edges must be smooth at the track joints. This sometimes involves soldering the joints and finishing them with files at differing brands track joints.

For a beginner, Atlas offers a good variety of trackage components, and their turnouts are easy to wire, so that is a good choice.

Feel free to ask any other questions.

-Kevin

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, September 4, 2020 12:29 PM

I guess that you've sorta already answered most of your question.  I've always used Atlas flex track, right from my first layout, with code 100 brass rail in fibre tie strips, and likewise for their turnouts, which were kits at that time.

I've not used Peco flex track, but do have a number of their Code 83 turnouts, and have no issues connecting them to the code 83 Atlas flex track.  I've also used Shinohara, and Micro Engineering turnouts with Atlas flex, along with Central Valley's kit-type turnouts.

Even when different brands have different tie thickness, simply solder the rail joiners in place, and let the end of the track with thinner ties "float" above the roadbed.  Once the track is ballasted, it will be unnoticeable.

Wayne

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, September 4, 2020 12:47 PM

You dated your self Wayne with the stapled brass rails to fiber tie strip.  Remember the fiber tie strip before brass rails?


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Posted by riogrande5761 on Friday, September 4, 2020 3:09 PM

Mem-ries ...

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, September 4, 2020 3:15 PM

 Heck I had some of that stapled brass rail flex track laying around. My parents first had a layout sometime in the mid 50's. Had some Mantua couplers, too.

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, September 4, 2020 3:56 PM

Lastspikemike

I found Peco frustrating to bend at the ends because the rail would pop out of the spike heads. Atlas doesn't do that... 

Wrongo!

I prefer Atlas flex track to Peco flex track, but if you are not extremely careful, the rail will pop out of the spikes. Atlas Custom Line turnouts are even more susceptible to pop out.

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Posted by richhotrain on Friday, September 4, 2020 4:07 PM

Lastspikemike
 
richhotrain
 
Lastspikemike

I found Peco frustrating to bend at the ends because the rail would pop out of the spike heads. Atlas doesn't do that...  

Wrongo! 

I prefer Atlas flex track to Peco flex track, but if you are not extremely careful, the rail will pop out of the spikes. Atlas Custom Line turnouts are even more susceptible to pop out. 

I must be more highly skilled then, I guess. 

Not necessarily. You could just be extremely careful.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, September 4, 2020 5:51 PM

RR_Mel
You dated your self Wayne with the stapled brass rails to fiber tie strip....

Hey, Mel, at my age, that's likely the closest I'll get to dating anyone. Stick out tongue

RR_Mel
Remember the fiber tie strip before brass rails?

Do you mean the tie strips were available without rails?  I don't recall seeing it, and am pretty sure that my first layout was done with brass rails already affixed in the fibre tie strip.  It was flexible, but not as flexible as the stuff offered nowadays by Atlas.  This would have been mid-'50s.

Wayne

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, September 4, 2020 6:09 PM

Yes, Atlas made the fiber ties in a 25’ roll for $1.25 and I bought 36” iron rails a nickel each or three for 10¢.  Don’t remember how much a bag of spikes cost. (1951)


I was at war with my Dad, he said the tiny trains would never stay on the track.  He was a Lionel 027 guy all the way.  He did buy me my first nice pair of long noise pliers for spiking the rails.


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Posted by rrinker on Friday, September 4, 2020 8:35 PM

 Didn't have any of that, but since I have the MR 75 year DVD, I remember seeing Atlas fiber tie strip in the old Atlas ads.

 I only recently started using Peco flex and have not had any issues witht he rail popping out of the spikes. I find it a good medium between Atlas - super flexible but doesn't hold a curve, and ME, hard to smoothly bend but but stays bent. At least, the Code 83 stuff, never touched Peco Code 100.

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Saturday, September 5, 2020 12:01 PM

I use Micro Engineering flex track unweathered, and find it very pleasant to work with.  I am given to understand the weathered track is less so.

Disclaimer:  This post may contain humor, sarcasm, and/or flatulence.

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Posted by mikeGTW on Saturday, September 5, 2020 2:23 PM

Mel how about these 

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, September 5, 2020 2:24 PM

Bayfield Transfer Railway
I use Micro Engineering flex track unweathered, and find it very pleasant to work with.  I am given to understand the weathered track is less so.

The only Micro Engineering track I have used is there HO scale code 55 weathered track. It is not pleasent to work with, but if you want code 55 HO track, it is the only game in town.

I am not sure if the unpleasentness comes from it being weathered or code 55. Maybe a combination of both.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, September 5, 2020 3:19 PM

SeeYou190
I am not sure if the unpleasentness comes from it being weathered or code 55. Maybe a combination of both.

Kevin, can you be more specific about all the ways it is 'unpleasant'?

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, September 5, 2020 4:17 PM

Overmod
Kevin, can you be more specific about all the ways it is 'unpleasant'?

Not really, I just have a harder time working with it than my old standby Atlas Code 83 flex. My issue is probably just inexperience with Micro Engineering/Weathered Rail/Code 55 all rolled into one.

I do not like to post bad things about a manufacturers/products that are opinions, personal taste, or user error. This might be all three.

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Posted by RR_Mel on Saturday, September 5, 2020 6:30 PM

Yes Mike, very familiar.  When I was building my first layout I used the Fiber Turnout Ties but in 1951 the only rail stocked at H&H Hobby Shop in El Paso was Iron rail.  By the time brass rail was available in the mid 50s I was working for a chain of drive-in theaters repairing speakers and the old tube amps for 60¢ per hour and could afford the buy ready to go Atlas turnouts and flex track with brass rails.  No more spiking hand laid track from that point on.

A 36” section of brass flex was 45¢ in 1955.    


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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Saturday, September 5, 2020 8:42 PM

The weathering on ME track makes it more difficult to bend.  I got non weathered on purpose after trying a piece or two.

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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, September 6, 2020 9:43 AM

Stiff flex track holds the curve much better for laying track, but you have to be way more careful.

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 6:51 AM

I used Atlas code 83 flex track for years.  Switched to Peco because it mates to the Peco turnouts a bit better.  A few observations:

I like the way Peco holds its curve, rather than the springy nature of Atlas.  With the Atlas, the last few inches are harder to bend, and doing so forcfully could result in the track popping out of the ties. Soldering two sections together avoids that, then it also forms a natural easment at each end, but there needs to be a strong anchor at one end as you bend two sections around.  That doesn't work well with the way I lay track.  Haven't had any issues with Peco popping out.

Any kink that's formed in the Atlas track makes it almost impossible to return it back to straight.  Since Peco track molds easily, I just lay it on its edge on a table and form it back straight very quickly.

Both the ME code 83 joiners and the Atlas N gauge code 80 joiners work well with Peco 83, but are harder to fit onto Atlas 83.  Those joiners both shorter and smaller, so they look better, IMO, then the Atlas code 100/83 joiners which were the standard joiner I used on Atlas 83. 

Both tracks are both good products.  Preferences differ.  

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 7:21 AM

Overmod
 
SeeYou190
I am not sure if the unpleasentness comes from it being weathered or code 55. Maybe a combination of both. 

Kevin, can you be more specific about all the ways it is 'unpleasant'? 

I also find stiff brands of flex track unpleasant to work with such as MicroEngineering or Walthers/Shinohara.  The why is you have to wrestle with it and massage it over and over, and move the ties around to get it to conform to a center-line.  

I've seen comments elsewhere suggesting that ME flex track is even stiffer than Atlas.

Even stiffer?  ME and Atlas are basically at opposite ends of the stiffness scale.  ME is very stiff where as Atlas bends very easily and conforms very easy to a centerline.  

Doughless
I used Atlas code 83 flex track for years.  Switched to Peco because it mates to the Peco turnouts a bit better.  A few observations: I like the way Peco holds its curve, rather than the springy nature of Atlas.  With the Atlas, the last few inches are harder to bend, and doing so forcfully could result in the track popping out of the ties.

I've used both Atlas code 100 and 83 on layouts and the springy nature is what makes it so easy to conform to any center-line I draw.  Just tack it down bit by bit and you have a nice smooth flowing curve with little effort and no wrestling.

Easements are a snap because the Atlas flex track "becomes" the bent stick in the bent stick method in John Armstrongs Track Planning book.

I've never had any trouble with the last few inches being hard to bend.  The whole piece of flex track all bends easily and I've laid lots of curves on 3 good sized layouts so far.  What I do is tack down each end while soldering so the track ends are nearly straight.  After soldering they spring back to form a long even flowing curve.  No kinking issues.  But maybe I just have the Atlas track "gene"?

Soldering two sections together avoids that, then it also forms a natural easment at each end, but there needs to be a strong anchor at one end as you bend two sections around.  That doesn't work well with the way I lay track.  Haven't had any issues with Peco popping out. Any kink that's formed in the Atlas track makes it almost impossible to return it back to straight.  Since Peco track molds easily, I just lay it on its edge on a table and form it back straight very quickly. Both the ME code 83 joiners and the Atlas N gauge code 80 joiners work well with Peco 83, but are harder to fit onto Atlas 83.  Those joiners both shorter and smaller, so they look better, IMO, then the Atlas code 100/83 joiners which were the standard joiner I used on Atlas 83.  Both tracks are both good products.  Preferences differ.  

Speaking of joiners, back when Atlas discontinued their code 83 joiners, which I like, I bought them whenever I saw any at train shows and stockpiled them.  I still have quite a few and saved them when I dismantled past layouts.  If I run out of them, I'll look into the alternatives.  The old Atlas code83 joiners are very hard to see vs. the "universal" type, and practically disappear after you paint and weather the track.

Track preferences do differ.  That said, I've always felt that Atlas track didn't look very fine from above.  The code 83 track has a wide surface profile and doesn't look any better than the code 100 looking down from above.  I still have a lot of it left over from previous layouts but have bought a bundle of Peco code 83 to start with.

As you can see above, the Atlas code 83 rail is wider, hence it looking less fine than it ought to.  The Peco OTOH, has a rail profile much closer to real rail scaled down.  

BTW, I did buy some Atlas code 100 flex track a few months ago for the first time in years to use in staging and add to what I already had saved from past layouts.  When I went to connect a new piece to the old, I noticed the rail profile was thinner and looked more fine.  In fact I wondered if I had been given code 83 at first instead of code 100.  But when I compared the height to an existing piece of code 83 I had, it was taller and same height as my old code 100, just thinner in provile.  So it appears Atlas has quietly refined their code 100 line.  In addition, the spike detail is finer too - it mimics the code 83 spike detail only a bit thicker.  

I wonder if Atlas has also improved the rail used in it's code 83 line.  I haven't bought any Atlas code 83 for about 6 years, but assuming the rail was still the same, I bought a bundle of 25 Peco code 83 for the current layout build.

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 12:18 PM

riogrande5761

 

 
 
Doughless
I used Atlas code 83 flex track for years.  Switched to Peco because it mates to the Peco turnouts a bit better.  A few observations: I like the way Peco holds its curve, rather than the springy nature of Atlas.  With the Atlas, the last few inches are harder to bend, and doing so forcfully could result in the track popping out of the ties.

 

I've used both Atlas code 100 and 83 on layouts and the springy nature is what makes it so easy to conform to any center-line I draw.  Just tack it down bit by bit and you have a nice smooth flowing curve with little effort and no wrestling.

Easements are a snap because the Atlas flex track "becomes" the bent stick in the bent stick method in John Armstrongs Track Planning book.

I've never had any trouble with the last few inches being hard to bend.  The whole piece of flex track all bends easily and I've laid lots of curves on 3 good sized layouts so far.  What I do is tack down each end while soldering so the track ends are nearly straight.  After soldering they spring back to form a long even flowing curve.  No kinking issues.  But maybe I just have the Atlas track "gene"?

 

 
 

I doubt much about model railroading has to do with genes.  Wink

Forming sidings can be a problem, since you need a short straight coming off the turnout then a rather severe short curve to get back to parallel.  I've always had to kink the Atlas.  I wouldn't use a strong anchor to form that short sharp curve.

In switching districts or places that have a nest of turnouts, a short piece of flex track is often times needed.  Two feet long, eighteen inches, maybe shorter.  The shorter the track, the easier it is to use track that holds its curve from tip to tip (although Peco is not perfect there either). 

Atlas doesn't flex at the ends...always wants to make an easement...and kinking it is the only way to get a consistent curve in a short distance, then the pop outs. 

I could see where if a person was building 200 feet of sweeping mainline, Atlas would have the advantage, IMO.  

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 12:27 PM

Huh.  I guess it really is a case of "your mileage may vary.". I never had any problem with ME code 83 unweathered.

 

i don't pre form curves, I curve the track as I go.  30" min mainline radius, down to as tight as 16" on industrial trackage.

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 1:18 PM

Bayfield Transfer Railway

 

i don't pre form curves, I curve the track as I go.  30" min mainline radius, down to as tight as 16" on industrial trackage.

 

Just curious, what do you mean "lay as you go" when it comes to industrial trackage?  Maybe plan the area precisely, draw all of the center lines on the bench work with mathematical precision, then lay once and secure?  

When building switching layouts or industrial areas, I'm always laying, taking it up, adjusting, laying again, repeating several times. In order for flex track to fit into a small area, it needs to be cut, pruned, snipped; and the springy Atlas needs some pre bending in order to fit into a small area.

I can't imagine taking a 14.375 inch of straight Atlas flex and anchoring one end to the fixed track and bending it onsite then anchoring the other end..then being done with that piece of track forever.   

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Posted by rrinker on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 3:23 PM

 This "popping out of the ties" thing seems to be the general effect of curving any flex track, the outer rail pulls back fromt he tie strip. Just start with BOTH rails extended on the end you are connecting first, then bend the track into place, and cut as needed at the opposite end.

 Atlas track kinks at the ends?

 There's no kink between the turnout and the right most track. ANd the joint at the turnout is NOT soldered.

 ANd for putting the track down - yes, I draw the centerlines, not to some super precise level, if I wanted that I would just print full size from my CAD plan. Just fit in the turnouts mostly, so that things fit. Then fill in the track. And once it's down, it's usually done, I'm not constantly ripping up and changing things. Because I've already done a decent amount of planning on 'paper' (well, CAD) so I know what will fit.

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 5:56 PM

rrinker

 

 Atlas track kinks at the ends?

 There's no kink between the turnout and the right most track. ANd the joint at the turnout is NOT soldered.

 ANd for putting the track down - yes, I draw the centerlines, not to some super precise level, if I wanted that I would just print full size from my CAD plan. Just fit in the turnouts mostly, so that things fit. Then fill in the track. And once it's down, it's usually done, I'm not constantly ripping up and changing things. Because I've already done a decent amount of planning on 'paper' (well, CAD) so I know what will fit.

                                           --Randy

 

 

Thanks for the picture of a siding.  Kink is a word I was repeating and wouldn't choose myself. 

That sharp curve you have in the siding requires the track to be curved right at the end where it meets the turnout then straight again as it runs parallel to the main. 

The springy Atlas track wants to curve along its entire length, not just the last six inches.  I always needed some sort of anchor mid curve from which to pivot around to then form the straight section. 

It became easier to just prebend it.  In doing so, the force required sometimes caused the rails to pop up...not slide along...out of the ties.  Shears off the spike heads when it pops out, because the ends want to stay straight.

 

After your siding track has been sitting there for years, I suspect that it has formed a little permanent bend in it if you took it up.  The track would no longer be perfectly straight, and getting it back straight again if you wanted to would be difficult.    Unlike Peco where I just lay it on a table and re form it. 

That's why Atlas makes for great mainlines with sweeping curves, but not so much for making sharp curves and straights with the same piece of track, IMO.  Needs anchoring along the way...or some prebending. 

As far as roadbed.  I use foam roadbed.  Can't use a centerline since it comes in one piece, not two like cork.   

With cork, just run the far half of the roadbed along the centerline, then butt the close half up against the far half.  The centerline is a useful guide, and there is a line down the middle of the roadbed where the two halves butt, acting as a guide for the track.  That's probably why some people prefer using cork roadbed.  Since I don't plan my bedroom sized or single garage sized swiching layouts that precisely, a centerline is pointless. 

And I'm picky about my industrial trackage.  Maybe shift it half an inch one way or the next to fit a structure, or a scenic element; or allow three cars to be spotted instead of just two.  So I take up runarounds and sidings a lot when I build, but hardly ever after its been caulked down.  Takes me a while to get to the caulking stage. 

If I was to build a club style basement layout with hundreds of feet of mainline and staging, I might use Atlas track on cork roadbed and do the centerline thingy.  

 

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 6:12 PM

Well, I don't use caulk, I use spikes into Homasote.  And I start at the switch and move on, adjusting as I go.

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 6:34 PM

Lastspikemike

 

 
 

Even so, you are better advised to bend the end of a longer piece of flex track to the shape of the short piece you need and then cut that useable curved piece off. For short radius pieces that are also short in length it is easiest to shape the piece you need some distance in from one end and cut off both of the ends that are too straight.

 

That's exactly what I did on my last layout.  This is the first layout where I'm using Peco, but the previous layout had Atlas...which is fine.

To make an 11 inch long 26.5 inch radius curve, or whatever was needed in the space provided, the preferred method was to prebend the Atlas track, then snip off the part that wasn't 26.5 inch radius.

That left me with a fair amount of scrap track pieces, which I straightend best I could and soldered together to make some wiggly nonuniform industrial spur tracks.

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Posted by Doughless on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 6:39 PM

Bayfield Transfer Railway

Well, I don't use caulk, I use spikes into Homasote.  And I start at the switch and move on, adjusting as I go.

 

Yes, that would have to be the way.  Anchor it down as you go.  

Its all good in model railroading.  Different preferences beget different approaches.

- Douglas

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 7:00 PM

Lastspikemike

If you just bend Atlas flextrack as you nail it down to hold it in place it will always exert a sideways force  and will spring back to some extent if the nails are pulled or work loose.

I prefer to pre bend the flextrack  to the exact required alignment before fixing it down, especially when making connections to turnouts.

If you do not then you will see little "kinks" at joiners, especially if you use those plastic isolating joiners. Those little kinks never go away.

Just BTW, it is physically impossible to bend one section of unconnected flextrack to the same radius for its entire length. You cannot exert the same leverage on the end as you can on the middle of a section of flextrack, a major drawback. It is true the sections are self easing in that way but only in less than 3' sections of curve (you lose a bit of length with every curve).

 

I have been making perfect curves, perfect easements and lazer perfect straight track with Atlas flex track for the last five decades, it's easy. I have no kinks at my rail joints. Of course I don't waste my time with track nails or cork roadbed.

Sheldon

    

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