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Track and Turnouts

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  • Member since
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Track and Turnouts
Posted by MSM on Thursday, August 12, 2021 3:33 PM


Building a new HO scale layout and would like to know people’s thoughts on what track and turnouts they would recommend.

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  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, August 12, 2021 3:39 PM

I use C83 Walthers because I liked the look of it and they had a selection of curved turnouts that I bought a few of. Some flex track springs back straight and some will stay where you bend it. Either is fine with me but that will be another thing for you to consider.


It's not the age honey, it's the mileage. 

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Posted by selector on Thursday, August 12, 2021 4:25 PM

The hobby is blessed with several really good, pretty much great, brands of tracks across several codes.  You can't go wrong with the Big Four (Atlas, Peco, Walthers, Micro Engineering).  So, get your cursor over images of those tracks and get a close-up.  If you like the looks, and the price seems right, go for it.  Be sure to purchase all that you'll need per your carefully considered scale track plan Wink 10% for some inevitable and occasional changes or mishaps.

Turnouts?  Same thing.  They all work well.  Some look 'better' than others, but it's always your call as to what that means.  The odd sample, the odd item, might need some needle file work, or a pair of fine needle nosed pliers to get them to work well, but that's somewhat rare these days.  The trade is so refined and has enough good engineering and quality these days that you should expect to get good use out of any choices....meaning mix 'em up if you like.

You would want to give some consideration as to whether you want powered frogs in your turnouts, power routing, 'DCC friendly', and so on.  If you don't already know what those entail, please put some reading time in and then make a choice.

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Posted by BigDaddy on Thursday, August 12, 2021 5:55 PM

I think code 83 looks better than code 100, for any manufacturer and I agree with Selector, there are no dogs out there.

The new Walthers and Peco have springs in the throwbar.  If you are not inclined to have switch machines, that is an advantage.  (Not sure if Microengineering does or not) 

Atlas flex track flexes easily, ME you have to coax and cajole into forming a curve but it is doable. No experience with the new Walthers or Peco.

Atlas is the least expensive, but are the longest turnouts for any given turnout #.  Peco are the shortest, but the most expensive. 

Shinohara is no longer in business.  Their turnouts were not DCC friendly.  See if you need to know more.  They used to make Walthers track and from the 1980's it was not DCC friendly.  At some point they changed the design for Walthers, but I don't know when. 

If you think you might need to power frogs, avoid Atlas snap track and Peco Insulfrogs.   Peco used to have insulfrogs and electrofrogs and are now moving to a unifrog design.  Having never used it, I cannot keep all the nuances straight.

One last thing.  Turnouts and flex track periodically is unavailable for extended periods.  When you decide what you need, buy it, don't expect it will be readily available 6 month from now.


COB Potomac & Northern

Shenandoah Valley

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Posted by kasskaboose on Thursday, August 12, 2021 5:58 PM

What a fun discusion/debate topic!

I use Micro Engineering (ME) weathered code 83 with code 83 Atlas turnouts.  While the former is more expensive, I like that it keeps it shape when curved.  You just have to cut off the ties that form a "V" shape.

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, August 12, 2021 9:48 PM


I would offer one small caution if you are considering Peco turnouts. Peco Electrofrog Code 100 turnout designs have changed over the years but Peco never changed the part numbers. You can find several different wiring setups in what is supposedly the same turnout. (I'm not sure if this applies to Peco Code 83). The simplest way around that would be to buy the new Unifrog turnouts exclusively, but if you are trying to save some money by buying older turnouts, you will need to spend some time figuring out the differences between the various designs. Once you are familiar with them the differences are easily dealt with.

My layout will use mostly Code 100 track simply because I bought tons of it years ago. If I were buying it today I would definitely go with Code 83. It has a much nicer look IMHO.


I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by Pruitt on Thursday, August 12, 2021 10:18 PM

I use Atlas code 83 for mainline tracks. Once ballasted it looks fine.

For most secondary tracks like yards and sidings I did use ME Code 70, which looks great, but it's a bear to form into really smooth curves, so I tried a few sticks of Peco Code 70. It can be curved much easier than ME. I like it a lot better, so I'll be using it from now on.

On a light-duty line where I use Code 70 as the main, I've started experimenting a bit with ME code 55 for sidings and such. The difference is kinda subtle, but I think that small rail will add authenticity to the appearance. 

For turnouts I build my own using Fast Tracks jigs. They're more robust than most of the commercial turnouts I used to use, and even using Fast Tracks' tie strips and other materials, they cost well under half what commercial turnouts do (not counting the cost of the jigs, which are a bit pricey. But if you've got over about ten of the same turnouts in your plan, they pay for themselves), and they function better than any commercial turnouts I ever tried. I build code 70 and 83 turnouts as needed with the same code 83 jig (ME code 70 rail base is all of .001" narrower than code 83 rail base - well within trackwork tolerance).

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, August 12, 2021 10:51 PM

Only Atlas turnouts have no throwbar springs, of the four main brands. If the turnouts have springs you can remove them if you wish. You can't add easily springs to Atlas turnouts. 

I rate Peco as best made turnouts, Walthers next and Atlas Customline last. Walthers ties are thinner so you'll need to shim them if you use them with other brands of flex track.

ME turnouts look great but are very dodgy quality. You either really like them or really don't. Hard to assess quality because they are really nice turnouts or really awful depending on your perspective. ME Nickel silver must be different to other brands because the rail bends so easily and does not spring back much. Really noticeable in the turnouts which bend too easily. But they look good. 

Of the flex track I really like Walthers new track best. Nice thin ties which make it easy to ballast. Walthers ties need shimming up to match anyone else's flex track. 

Atlas is very robust. Harder to shape but hard to break.

Peco is very well made but not robust.

ME is the most different. Very easy to bend but very hard to shape. Looks really good. You either really like it or really don't. 

Alyth Yard


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Posted by cuyama on Friday, August 13, 2021 1:59 PM

Note: If you choose a different manufacturer and line for your turnouts than you used in your original complex yard CAD design, it may no longer fit as drawn. Even though the same frog number, turnouts from different manufacturers (and even sometimes within lines from the same manufacturer) vary substantially in overall size, placement of frog relative to overall length, etc.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Friday, August 13, 2021 3:59 PM

I like Atlas code 100.  But I have some old locomotives with deep flanges that I like to run.


If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, August 13, 2021 4:52 PM

I use Atlas code 83 flex track, and their Custom Line turnouts and crossings. I also use Walthers code 83 for slip switches.

ME or Walthers bridge track when needed.

Anything not covered by those products I scratch build - or - I have developed a method for bending Atlas turnouts into large radius curved turnouts.



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Posted by richhotrain on Saturday, August 14, 2021 7:30 AM


I use Atlas code 83 flex track, and their Custom Line turnouts and crossings. 

I also use Atlas Code 83 flextrack, exclusively. During the infamous Atlas track shortage a few years back, I installed some Peco Code 83 flextrack. As soon as I could, I pulled out the Peco flextrack and replaced it with Atlas flextrack. The Peco flextrack was impossible to work with. I couldn't keep it straight, whereas the Atlas flextrack always springs back to straight.

As for turnouts, for many years, I used Atlas Code 83 Custom Line turnouts, exclusively, and I powered these turnouts with Tortoises. On my new layout, I decided to simplify things and install Peco Code 83 turnouts. I use the spring loaded throw to flick the Peco point rails with my finger. I sold off most of my Atlas turnouts and Tortoises, keeping only enough Atlas turnouts to cover hard to reach areas of the layout.

Incidentally, the Peco turnouts work just fine when connected to Atlas flextrack.


Alton Junction

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Saturday, August 14, 2021 10:33 AM

The advantages and disadvantages of each brand are complementary which may not be accidental. I recommend you buy at least one piece of each brand and work it into an S curve to see which suits you best.

Only Atlas remains the only turnout maker not fitting throwbar springs.

Atlas is the most robust flex track and has a different bottom flange to the other brands. There is no difficulty joining Atlas to other brands except for the rail joiners. The Atlas rail bottom flange is fatter vertically. The Atlas joiners need squeezing down to fit other of brand rails tightly. Actually, recently I've found Atlas rail joiners are loose on their own rail profile so every darned joiner gets a squeeze from flat nose pliers before installation.  

Walthers chose thinner profile ties for some reason, maybe Shinohara did before them. The thickness difference is significant so you will have to shim up any brand change joint. Anyway, Walthers joiners fit perfectly right out of the package every time. Ditto Peco joiners. ME joiners fit perfectly if you can push them on!! Man those ME joiners fit tightly. 

Alyth Yard


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