NS or Brass track?

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by MontanaHOKid, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. MontanaHOKid

    MontanaHOKid New Member

    Thank you for this information. I am very excited about looking into DCC. I have a background in wiring and low voltage and would love to get into DCC. Right now I don't have the funds, but plan to get into it with my 8 year old as soon as possible. He is very excited as well. Can you convert any type of engine? And what does it cost for a good setup?
    Thanks again for all your help,
  2. caellis

    caellis Member


    1) Can you convert any type engine?

    Generally speaking you can convert any engine.

    In some cases the motor brushes must be isolated from the frame. Some of the older loco's do have one of their motor brushes connected to the frame. There are also cases of current loco's that must be isolated. Some newer Atlas S-1 thru S-4 come to mind.

    Sometimes it is nearly impossible to accomplish this task and in others it is rather easy.

    So the answer to your first question is... it depends.

    A typical decoder will cost from $15.00 to $30.00 depending on number of functions desired and it's physical size. Physical size is usually a consideration when converting a diesel loco to DCC. There usually isn't much available space in a diesel.

    Steam loco's that have a tender are easier to find enough space for a decoder since the tender itself is usually empty. However wiring is more involved between the engine and tender.

    2). What does it cost for a good setup?

    As to cost of a good setup. That is like asking how much does a good car cost.

    You need to know what your layout is going to look like, era and scale.

    How many engines and type. How much rolling stock. Number of turnouts. Method of controlling the turnouts (ie Switch machines vs manual throws). Which DCC system. Scenery, buildings, etc.

    So a lot of research and reading should precede the answer to this question.

    I hope this helps you. But do your home work in regards to readind, reading and then more reading. Most of your questions can be answered by good use of the internet search engines and visiting Model Railroad form archives.
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    You can take a look through our DCC forum for more info on systems.

    The baisc question for choosing a DCC system (at least initially) is how many engines will run simultaneously (and in what scale)? Then you can get into things like sound/no sound, accessory control (like turnouts and signals), train detection, computer control, etc, etc.

  4. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    O.k. here is something i'm having trouble with I picked up a bunch of track from various places. Now i am having a hard time telling what track is what material. Brass is pretty easy to figure out it is golden in color, but how do i tell the difference between ns and steel?
  5. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Nickel Silver does have a bit of yellow shine in it... Steel on the other hand is just plain grey silver with no hint of yellow in it at all.

    Hope this helps!
  6. zedob

    zedob Member

    Use a magnet. It will stick to steel, but not the NS.
  7. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    :) thanks!!! Great idea!
  8. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Does brass oxidize blackish?
  9. zedob

    zedob Member

    Not evenly all over and it's more crusty brown looking. Is there any green chalky corrosion like on copper. Brass has alot of copper in it. That's why a magnet won't stick. It's non-ferrous.

    Brass can be blackened chemically, but I don't know of any manufactureres that blacken snap track. Steel track manufacturers may have blackened thier track to prevent corrosion, but I've never owned any, so I could be lying.:D

    Try the magnet if you are worried about it being steel.
  10. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Weeeeeeeell :oops: i bought a bunch of track from ebay that was supposed to be ns but as it turns out there is a mix of ns, brass and steel. I think that was my 2nd to last ebay purchase. Getting a little turned off w/ not getting what i thought i was getting :curse:. Althought i did win a brand new athearn engine :).
  11. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    EBay strikes again. Caveat Emptor(buyer beware)
  12. zedob

    zedob Member

    More like " A Jerk on ebay strikes again. All of the people I've dealt with on ebay have been fine, but there is always those few that screw it up for the rest.

    granted, some people have no clue as to what they are selling and most state that, but as Jim stated, Caveat Emptor. Do your homework, observe every picture closely (don't bid on fuzzy ones) and feel free to email the seller. The more emails you send to discuss your future buy, the better off you are if the deal ends up smelly.

    Always check the sellers feedback. If they have a low number of bids, like zero (same goes for buyers if you are selling) beware. Most of the people who give bad feedback about sellers usually have (0), or no more than 5 previous bids and that's probably because they have been kicked off ebay before and have re-registered under a different name.
  13. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    I took those precautions, and i even emailed the guy after i got the stuff and sifted it out, he seems up front and said he didn't think it mattered that much :). It was cheap enough where i'm not suuuuper upset but it did sting me a little becuase i planned the track usage on my layout based on that purchase.

    Oh well, se-la-vi :) we'll be downstairs taking stuff apart and buying foam today.
  14. zedob

    zedob Member

    It doesn't sound like he was trying to screw you over. Like I said, some people really don't know what they have or its signifigance. Lucky it wasn't too costly.

    If it's any consolation, I just bought a peice of equipment off of ebay that was a bit more worse for wear than what I assumed from the pic and the price. I had no problem bringing the machine up to running order, I figured I was going to have to do some work on it anyways, but by the time I bought all of the parts it ended up costing about the same as one of the higher priced ones in other auctions.

    Oh yeah, this was all after the guy shipped the wrong peice of equipment to me and mine to another lady, which ended up pushing my plans back about 3 weeks by the time everyone had returned/ recieved their purchases. It was still nerve racking because I was getting worried I was going to get screwed, but I gave the guy the benefit of the doubt and he came through.
  15. YmeBP

    YmeBP Member

    Yessssss!! I know just what you mean from both sides!! hhahaha. I shipped the wrong r/c car i was selling AUSTRAILIA!!! The guy got the car and emailed me thinking it was a bad joke or something, i managed to straighten it out but boy oh boy was that an expensive mistake. Not to mention i was concerned i wasn't going to get my car back.

    I sell stuff on ebay pretty regularly but i go to such great pains to make sure i don't miss a blemish, people seem to appreciate it when one is honest and up front. I've noticed that for every good deal i get on ebay i get about 1.5 so so deals and 1 could have done w/o deal. I'm glad some other forum memebers turned me on to a couple of online stores. I picked up some tracks and cleaner and stuff at better than ebay prices. I even got an engine brand new 15 bux cheaper than ebay for the same exact engine.
  16. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    I would be a lot more than "a little turned off...". Especially when the seller says afterward he didn't think it mattered that much. Assuming the seller did not state that the lot was a mixed lot, and you couldn't tell in the pictures, negative feedback is in order, and a partial refund should (in my thinking) be part of the package. If I screw up on my eBay sales (one buyer thought I under-estimated the wheel wear on a used engine), I instantly offer a full refund including return shipping (buyer in this case did not want to return engine).

    That said, the rate of oxidation of brass (and steel, aka "rust") track varies tremendously depending on the climate you live in. In humid climates, especially if there is any salt in the air, oxidation happens in a matter of a couple of days. The oxidation on both brass and steel does not conduct electricity, meaning your trains barely run. But steel normally doesn't oxidize in use on a layout - there is enough oil on our mechanisms, and it doesn't sit that long between uses.

    I once had a brass track layout in Northern Virginia. I would clean the track and wheels, and then after about 10 loops around the layout with a train at moderate speed, everything would run fine. If I ran the trains a couple of times a week, I wouldn't even have to clean the track between operating sessions. My lesson is that if you are going to use brass track, put it where it will see the most use, and put it where you can access it for occasional cleaning.

    Steel rail may be more difficult to solder to than brass or nickel silver, and will likely rust when stored or left unused for months. Aside from those issues, steel rail would be my preference instead of nickel silver. It looks more like the real thing, and steel rail offers better traction than nickel silver. Finally, it actually conducts better than nickel silver. But it has not been made in sizes smaller than code 100, which is too large for my uses.

    Nickel silver also oxidizes, but the oxide is somewhat conductive. And it oxidizes at a slower rate than brass. So you can normally bypass the cleaning step - a few passes with a train at moderate speed will wear any oxidation.

    There is a group that swears by "gleaming" nickel silver rail to get rid of/severely reduce cleaning chores. Basically the process involves burnishing (rubbing) the rail using a metal washer to make it as smooth a finish as possible, then "waxing" using a metal polish. The polish is lightly applied with a piece of cork roadbed, and then "wax off" with a clean piece of cork roadbed.

    Bottom line: I would use your brass and steel track on your main line until such time as you can afford to replace it.

    my thoughts, your choices
  17. NYNH&H

    NYNH&H Member

    Brass track conducts electicity very well, as there is a lot of copper in there. I cleaned some old brass track off that had been in a mildly humid basement for 30 years, and it worked fine, but I subsequently switched to NS flex track. If you want code 100, the Atlas superflex is awesome and a whole lot better than the generic brand. It is only a tiny bit more expensive than the generic stuff. Many modelers seem to like Peco turnouts and track, code 83. It looks more realistic for most lines, and the Peco turnouts are supposed to be very reliable. Just make sure you get insulfrog, as electrofrogs are a nightmare to wire and short-protect. If you want to use non- NS track, put it in a place that is easy to get to, and easy to replace (open staging yard w/o ballast?), so you can put in NS track if needed.

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