Quality of track between the different companies

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by railBuilderdhd, Dec 26, 2007.

  1. I would like to know if the quality of the track you buy from one company is better than the next. I’m looking at the cost of the code 83 nickel silver rail between companies like Peco, BK Enterprises, and Atlas and can’t believe the differences in cost. Why would I but the one over the other. I ask this since I’m shopping on the internet and can’t see a difference in the rails as I may be able to notice in the LHS. I understand the cost of something special like a wye turnout or special numbered turnout.
  2. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    There are several considerations when buying track. I assume that you are talking about flex track. Is this correct?
    Since you are looking at code 83, I won't delve into other rail sizes. There are two versions of PECO track. The older stuff has somewhat oversize ties and spacing for US standards. There is a new version made especially for the US market. PECO switches seem to be much better built than Atlas. I'm only marginally familiar with Atlas code 83 but their flex track and components seem to be better than some of their older code 100 stuff. BK Enterprises I'm not familiar with. Micro engineering and Precision Scale both produce excellent flex track but have less to offer in the way of components. Shinohara (Walthers) is great and has a mulititude of components but is pricey.
    I guess the bottom line is, your budget and what you want to accomplish in the way of prototypical appearance.
    Be aware that there is a lot of past generation stuff lurking on the internet. You may also run into some old brass track if you aren't careful. Stick with nickel silver rail.
  3. Jim -
    Would you suggest I use something other than code 83?
  4. PWRR-2207

    PWRR-2207 Rogue Islander


    I have some Shinohara (Walther's) Code 83 Flex from 10 years ago and 4 pieces I bought this year for a spur line. The new stuff needed the sprue cut off/sanded flush, rail ends nipped flush and a serious washing. I will not be buying Shinohara again but not just because of the quality drop. The other reasons are :

    - Shinohara ties are 1/16" to 1/8" shorter than Peco and Atlas (means you have to sand the bottoms off other stuff or shim it to get the rail tops to line up).
    - Shinohara's new rails are 1/64" to 1/32" shorter than their old rails as well as Peco and Atlas rails (more filing joints).
    - Shinohara NR4 and 5 turnouts have been in a backorder status since Oct (I gave up last week and switched out my NR5's for Peco when the date changed to Jul 2008 [Walthers was quick and helpful in changing my order and getting the Peco turnouts to me]).

    The Peco turnouts are a work of art compared to the Shinohara. It made me feel ill sanding the bottoms to get them to fit where the Shinohara turnouts were supposed to go. The Peco's even have thicker and tougher plastic ties with molded in metal straps plus 'two' versus 'one' spike holding the rail down to each tie. The Peco and Atlas turnouts match up height wise too with the few Atlas Code 83 Flex-Track pieces I have.

    I would have gone with Atlas Code 83 stuff when I started my layout rebuild/full DCC conversion earlier this year if I had not had forty two 39" Shinohara Flex-Track pieces I got for free 10 years ago.

    "A penny saved is a penny earned." - That was my attitude before the delays and until I saw the Peco's. My next layout/rebuild will probably be Peco (and maybe some Micro Engineering NR6's like the ones I saw at a Open House) once I have received 1 turnout and 1 piece of Flex-Track to make sure quality did not nose dive like Shinohara.

    Tip - Make sure you have the turnouts in hand before you lay roadbed so you are not locked in to the turnout geometry like I was. The Peco NR5 is 2.5" shorter than the Shinohara NR5 but has the same end radius curve on the turn portion of the turnout hence the swap when I refused to wait indefinitely.

    ------- Added -------
    If you have older Engines that have large flanges (like early Fleischmann's), you may want to consider going with Code 100. (My three Fleischmann engines from the early 60's have been retired to the shelf until I decide to build some Code 100 track sections.)
  5. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member


    For a Pennsy fan...that is a very interesting question...because the answer is different for you than for anyone else.

    Real railroads have (and do) use different rail sizes. For instance...132lb rail is common for modern mainlines. 110lb rail was common for transition era mainlines. 90lb rail would be fine for turn-of-the century mainline rail.

    In HO scale...Code 100 represents 155lb rail. Code 83 scales down to 132lb rail. Code 70 scales to around 110lb rail.

    There was only one railroad that used 155lb rail extensively...the Pennsy. So for your mainline...I'd recommend code 100. For your docklands...I'd either use Code 100 or something smaller such as code 83 or code 70. For my planned HO NKP empire...I'll be using Code 70...just as I'll be using Code 70 for my future narrow gauge O-scale empire.

    For Code 100...Atlas flex track doesn't look very good (the ties don't look right)...but in Code 83...their track looks fine. Their custom-line turnouts work just fine...but their snap-switch line are junk (for both code 100 & code 83).

    The other common lines are Shinohara and Peco. For Code 100...Peco's flex track doesn't quite look right...because it is intended for British railroads (which used a different method of attaching the rail to the ties or "sleepers"). Peco's turnouts are probably the best of the three. Shinoharas are quite nice too.

    BK enterprises sells theirs in kit form. They require the purchase of wood ties to attach them to and are designed more for hand laying. They are quite nice...and quite different from the above.

    There are a few other options...Micro-engineering specifically. Micro-Engineering makes really nice track...my choice if money was no object and I wasn't hand laying it.

    I'd use Code 100 if I was you. Probably with a mix of ME, Peco, atlas custom line, and Shinohara turnouts...to see what you like best. You could also get a BK enterprises turnout and try your hand at hand laying...it can be very enjoyable to...and it is 10x more enjoyable to look at hand laid track than commercial stuff.
  6. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    railbuilder: I would suggest that you use whatever size rail that fits into your plan for your railroad empire. On some layouts you will find at least two rail sizes, larger for mainlines and smaller for sidings and branch lines, as would be done in the real world. As noted above, the various rail sizes are miniturized versions of the real thing. As train size and weight increased, it was necessary to make the rail larger. Consequently, if you are modeling the earlier era's of railroading, code 55 or code 70 rail looks more appropriate with the smaller equipment. If you model the modern era, code 83,will be appropriate and even code 100, in some cases is prototypical. Code 100 was the standard for many years because it was difficult to make smaller rail and tie assemblies. Earlier modelers were not as concerned about the minor details, so long as the train stayed on the track. I hope this helps. Jim
  7. Thanks everyone for the help. I know I have a fondness for the Pennsy but I'm not sure my layout will be a true Pennsy line. I'm thinking I want my empire to be more of a creation of my own since I'm not starting out to recreate a true model of the PRR. I do want the model to be as real as possible and I do like the idea of 100 for the main line and 83 for small sidings and branch lines. I do have a question on the change from code 100 to code 83: Where do you make the rail change, after the switch making all the switches used code 100?
  8. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    After the switch...because if the switch was of the smaller size...the trains on the mainline would go from large to small to large rail.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I'm only going to comment on the Peco track.
    I think Peco only makes one range of code 83; the American range.
    Peco code 100 and code 75 look nothing at all like British track. To me the code 100 looks most like Snap Track from the 1950s. Somebody said it might be European. The code 75 looks finer, but doesn't have the tie spacing or dimensions of British track.

    PWRR: If your rail height (excluding ties) is different, one of the rails is not code 83. Tie thickness, however, is not part of the code, which only covers rails.
  10. PWRR-2207

    PWRR-2207 Rogue Islander

    Aye but the package and bottoms of the Flex-Track and turnouts all say Code 83. So much for labeling :confused: The whole point railBuilderdhd is that you should be careful about mixing manufacturers or be prepared to file, sand and shim things to get them aligned.

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