Rail Sizes in HO

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by tai_pan1, Jan 1, 2001.

  1. tai_pan1

    tai_pan1 New Member

    I understand the difference between code 100, code 83 and code 70, but am unsure which of these to use. Is there a difference in the # of derailments with one over the other? What was the size that "real" railroads used. Does any of this matter?
  2. What really matters is whether your locos and cars have the RP-25 contour rather than the deep cookie-cutter flanges of some of the older cars and locos from Tyco and Rivarossi and others. That is where code 100 (HO Scale) really shines. Otherwise, use code 83.

    For example, code 100 is about the equivalent of 155 pound rail on the Prototype. That's BIG rail. Code 83 on the other hand is about 132 pound rail which is about what is being used on heavily traveled Class 1 mainlines today.

    Myself, I use code 100 for mainline and code 83 for sidings. By painting the sides of the rail and ballasting, it really looks pretty good. But then, I do run some older equipment.

    BTW - You can find out more about rail size by reading NMRA RP-15.1 Rail. You can get to it by going to http://www.nmra.org and take the Standards & RP link under the Technical Department.


    Roger Hensley - rhensley@anderson.cioe.com
    === The Signal's yours. High Ball! ===
  3. George

    George Member

    Your decision is based on what you're running, how good your eyesight is and how picky you and your friends are.

    Code 100.
    If you're collecting European gear, those cars have the deepest flange running. Go with code 100 because you have to. If you're new to the hobby and learning how to lay track, you might want to go with 100. I have stuck with 100 through several railroads to reduce derailments. I'm happy with it. Read on and you will see the pluses and minuses of the others...

    If you're under 40, you can easily see the difference between the rail heights. Go with your gut.

    If you're over 40 and your vision isn't what it used to be, chances are you won't see the difference very readily between 100 and 83 unless your nose is close enough to smell the plastic ties. The look between 100 & 70 is very noticeable regardless of your vision. 83 to 70 is somewhat noticeable, but marginal.

    If you're over 50, go with 100 to reduce the headaches of derailment and re-railing little wheels. Hell, if you have that problem regardless of age, switch to "S" or "O" scale and give your eyes a break!

    Code 83.
    This is what the industry is pushing now to simulate the most prototypical looking rail currently available. If you're dedicated enough to squint and paint the sides of the rail some metallic-rust shade, go for it. What I find annoying is that if you purchase a Micro Engineering bridge or trestle kit, they include ONLY code 83 track for their bridge decks. Nice detailing, but frustrating for code 100 users. Nonetheless, a plus for code 83 users. Also, shamelessly the industry is only offering flex track w/concrete ties in code 83, and at a TOTALLY unreasonable price. Atlas used to market concrete ties in code 100, but they were importing it to the United States from ROCO in Austria.

    Code 70.
    Unless you're an obsessed MMR, forget it. However, I do recommend using code 70 for simulating overgrown sidings and abandoned lines, as the look is quite convincing. Also, if you're doing mid 1800 dioramas, this would be the correct track to use.

    When purchasing track, I recommend using ONLY ATLAS flex. I did a large job using Model Power flex to lower the cost and it's not made very well. On three foot sections, all the cuts from the factory were very sloppy, and needed time consuming filing.

    if you have the money, Shinohara and Peco look great, and a train will never leave the track on a PECO switch. There's nothing wrong with Atlas either, except that they don't make anything larger than a #6 turnout. Just last night I noticed that some manufacturer has released #10 switches in "N" scale. "HO" #10 switches can't be far behind.

    Choose wisely and never live with mistakes.


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