HELP with track systems

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by ejwesty, Feb 26, 2007.

  1. ejwesty

    ejwesty New Member

    I'm new to model railroading and need some advice regarding the pros and cons of the various N gauge track systems. Building an elevated round-the-room layout and would like to get the best track available in an attempt to minimize problems.

    Would appeciate any feedback regarding your experiences.

    Thanks you.

  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Hi westy, and welcome.
    There are 2 divisions of ready made track: sectional and flexible.
    Sectional is the type that comes in train sets -- short pieces of track that are fairly rigid. Some of them come with roadbed attached (the gravel bit that makes it sit higher.) Most of them connect together execpt the roadbed tracks where every manufacturer has his own idea of how it should be done. Sectional has fixed geometry -- limited number of radii and limited variety of switches and the switches all are part of a circle. It also means there are lots of joints which become problems eventually.
    Flexible track come in yard-long pieces. The switches (called turnouts) are straight through the frog which is more realistic. It takes a little more effort to put down, but you can choose your own radii and shapes. You can also create problems by bending it too sharply.
    If you start with sectional track, it can be expanded using the flexible track as they're compatible.
    There is also a finer track (called Code 55 in N). This is closer to scale, but harder to find and not as sturdy.
    I know I've talked in generalities, but you should have an idea of this first.
  3. ejwesty

    ejwesty New Member


    Thank so much for your input. I originally purchased a N scale Bachman Train set with x pieces of straight track and x of curved. Also, have another Bachman HO set, but find both have a problem with de-railing. Have to assume is has something to do with alignment of the track sections, but thought perhaps another manufactuer might have a better system. The longer sections of flexible sound like they might reduce the alignment issue. Any particular manufacuter and/or source you could recommend?

    Thanks again!!

  4. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    The chances are that the straight and curved track pieces themselves are not causing your derailments (unless the track pieces are damaged).

    Most derailments come from one or more of the following sources:

    - trying to run trains around too sharp a curve. This happens not infrequently when you buy more engines or cars and try to run them on train set track. Bigger engines and cars often need curves that have a bigger radius than the train set track.

    - kinks at track joints. Put you eyeball as close as possible to the rail and sight down the rail. Are the joints perfectly matched? Another check is to run your finger nail along the top inside edge of the rail head (where the wheels roll). If you feel or see a kink, bump, or a snag, the joint needs to be adjusted until it is smooth.

    - dips in the rail (especially on curves). Again, put your eye as close as possible to track level and look across the track. Do you see any dips or rises? These are likely sites of derailments.

    - wheels out of gauge. Train set cars are very cheaply made, and may not roll correctly. You need an NMRA gauge to check that the wheels are correctly spaced. While you are checking the wheel spacing, check to see that the wheels line up in a straight line, and that they roll smoothly (no wobble or out of round) in their bearings. Replace any wheel sets that don't roll correctly.

    - couplers out of adjustment. If using knuckle couplers, get a Kadee (HO) or MicroTrains (N) coupler height gauge. Make sure couplers are at the right height, and in particular, that the trip pins are above rail height.

    - turnouts (switches) Many commercial turnouts need slight adjustments out of the box to work well and comply with the NMRA gauge. Bachmann roadbed-mounted turnouts in particular have a reputation for needing adjustment for derailment-free operation.

    Seems like a lot of work for derailment-free operation! The good thing is that once you get everything working correctly, it tends to stay that way. And running trains is so much more enjoyable when the trains stay on the track.

    just my thoughts, your choices
  5. Meiriongwril

    Meiriongwril Member

    David 60103 has very clearly set out your options. Maybe a couple of things to add. First, many people swear by (rather than at!) Kato Unitrack. It's sectional but sturdy and runs well (I hear), and has a mock ballasted trackbed built in. It is expensive however. Second, Code 55 (at least the Atlas version) is now well equipped with both sectional and flexitrack, there are several types of turnouts and crossings available, and it is now pretty easy to get from most online sites (I can't speak about Local Hobby Shops - LHS - as we don't have one here!!) It certainly looks better than equivalent code 80 track by Atlas and others, but if you have older vehicles with deep flanges you may need to change out some wheel sets (easy enough to do).

    from reading entries on the Gauge, I would say that most people recommend Atlas, Kato Unitrack, Peco and some others, but avoid the track that comes with sets.
    Good luck!
  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Jim: there is another problem that happens with track -- it gets fastened down too far. If you screw or nail the track too far, you put a dip in the ties and the rails come too close together. You can get similar effects by walking on it!.
    My track of choice is Peco, but that's not available everywhere.

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