Atlas Code 83 Flextrack, modifications?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Gary S., Jan 3, 2007.

  1. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    I was sitting here removing some random ties and changing the tie spacing on some flex track just to see what it looked like when I noticed a thread in the On30 forum asking the same question I am about to ask. Do any of you change the tie spacing on your flex track? Put a few ties at a slight angle every so often? Cut a bit off the end of a tie here and there?

    For industry spurs, the ties would be a little less evenly spaced and maybe a bit more distance here and there?
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member


    Micro Engineering flex track is made with non-perfect alignment of ties for even more realism. You need to use some sort of templates to get a smooth curve, but once it's bent to the desired curve, ME track holds its shape. There is no need to pin it in place while gluing. ME is probably the best looking flex track on the market, and is better than most handlaid track in appearance. From all the pictures I have seen, the only competition to the ME track for looks is the Central Valley tie strips.

    My biggest concern for looks using any brand of flex track is how much the track joints stand out due to the obvious misalignment of the ties at the joints. Very few folks insert enough ties or align them closely enough that the track joint can't be spotted from 6 ft away without even looking. This is most true where flex track joins to turnouts, and is aggravated by the differences in tie lengths, spacing, coloring, and cross section when turnouts are not matched to the flex track.

    The last is one of big reasons for hand-laying track - my turnouts appear as a part of the track, not a distinctly separate piece.

    my thoughts, your choices
  3. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    Noob Alert!!!

    ...and how does one go about hand laying track?
  4. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    I discovered the ME flex track after I had stock-piled my Atlas code 83. If I would have known sooner, I would have gone with ME even though it is a bit more expensive.

    While properly installed hand-laid track is by far above and beyond the best looking track, I just can't see myself doing that on my first layout. The flex track will get me up and running quicker than learning how to hand-lay. But now that you mention it, and I am not at all happy about it, I am getting these funny feelings in my gut that are saying "you should at least try it, it can't be that hard."

    Darn you!:curse:
  5. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    Well, I'll be glad to take some of that ATLAS Cods 83 track off your hand$$$ ! ;)

    I think it would be a worthy to handlay....on you next layout! :thumb: ORjust work backwards, and re-lay the track later, after you;ve had your fun with this Atlas track! :)
  6. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    I have seen the ties removed on code 100 Atlas, on a module, and it looked great. It is great for branchlines and such. Flex-track is much more practical for most users, as it is quick to install. I like the sound of the ME flextrack. I have been using Atlas Superflex, and it is SO much better than the junk the hobby store sells for $3/ peice, and is only about 20% more $$$. It actually flexes, instead of taking a Hurculean effort like the other stuff!
  7. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The short answer is with rail, ties, spikes, files, pliers, track gauges, and the patience to keep at it until it is right.

    In 1975, when fresh out of college, married, and serving on a Coast Guard ship home-ported in Coos Bay, OR (until joining the CG I had never been west of the Mississippi), I had a $5/week model railroading budget. It's about the same as that today after adjusting for inflation.

    The first two months' budget had already been blown on lumber, plywood, a sheet of Homasote (I had already learned frustration with cork roadbed), and screws for the benchwork. I wasn't going to get very far with the then very expensive nickel silver flex track and Atlas turnouts on my 4x8 layout on that amount of money. And I didn't want to use brass track after my experiences with it as a teenager. I read a Jack Work article on hand laying turnouts in the April 1963 Model Railroader that convinced me even a person of my limited skills could lay their own track. So I bought a pack of Timberline redwood ties, about 10 pieces of code 70 NS rail, some small Kemtron spikes, a pack of Campbell ballast, and 2 Kemtron 3 point gauges.

    I laid the completed oval with no turnouts, and was surprised at how easy it was. I simply followed the order of construction in the article - gluing the ties and ballast first, painting the rail, sanding the tie tops, and then spiking the inner rail, and then the outer rail. The only difficulty I had was getting smooth joints on the curves, as I did not use rail joiners (as per the article), and bending the very end of the rail in a smooth curve proved very difficult. Now I would use a rail bender, and cut off the small unbent section of rail that is left. The result looked far better than the code 100 flex track of the time.

    I had to move after six months in the duplex to a place where the rent was cheaper, but the second bedroom wasn't big enough to hold a 4x8. My 4x8 became a 4x6, and it was time to lay my first turnouts. Again, I followed the article, and despite my limited skills, the turnout looked far better than the Atlas CustomLine, and had no derailments either. My pride bursteth over watching my MDC Climax and six cars roll through that turnout with nary a hiccup.

    Because I've always had small layouts and small budgets, the time taken to hand lay track is not a factor. I can do a complete oval with no turnouts on a 4x8 in 5 nights of 2 hour sessions, and a turnout every 2 nights. And this is completed, ballasted track with painted rail and feeders on every rail section. I am not a fast worker either. The drawback to my track's looks were no tie plates, the oversize spikes, and spikes only every 5th tie. But ties and rail were in scale unlike the Atlas code 100 flex.

    Since then, I have shifted to modeling shortlines in 1900 instead of the '20s. Tie plates are not needed, and some ties could easily be rough hewn instead of sawn. Ties would not be creosoted in the Pacific NW on short lines in 1900, and code 55 rail is about right. Ballast may be dirt, rock was often limited to critical areas only. Available commercial flex track does not really duplicate this look well. I will have to use scale size spikes from Proto87, with 4 spikes per tie where it can be seen to satisfy the rivet counter in me.

    On the other hand, the better looking commercial flex track does look very good if representing mainstream track practices of the 1920s and onward. It needs to be weathered. As Gary mentioned, ties should be in less than perfect alignment and length, and the gaps at joints should be filled in with correctly spaced ties. It takes a little extra effort, but consider that our track is a model, too! A model that we look at pretty close up even when the trains are not rolling over them! There are also some good looking turnouts available from Walters/Shinohara and ME that have all rail frogs, and not so obvious point hinges. Peco US code 83 may look just as good - I have not seen it myself.

    Enough of my rambling. These are my thoughts, you choose what you want for your railroad.
  8. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Fred, thank you for that interesting view back in your history and the comments on hand-laying track. And I want you to know that you always make me smile with your final thought to each of your posts, for example:


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