The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Bikerdad, Oct 17, 2003.

  1. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    Okay, I'm getting into this hobby because I think trains are cool, and I think bridges are cool, and this will give me a focus for doing bridges. I'll be building my own bridges, by and large (mostly large), but I won't be building my own trains, nor am I a prototyper by any stretch of the imagination. Nor am I inclined to restrict myself to any given era.

    As a longtime cyclist, and a woodworker, I know that all man made products, including model railroading stuff, comes in three grades. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (Ugly, in my assessment, is just that: functions fine, but is ugly.)

    I want to avoid the Bad, be they companies, or simply elements of a company's product line. Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of information on what out there is schlock, junk, POS, etc, aside from the "don't buy a trainset at Toys R Us".

    That said, I'm planning on going with Code 55 (unless the arguments against C55 are pretty compelling), and no, I won't be handlaying anytime soon.

    I'd appreciate some insight on the pros and cons of the different tracks, AS well as their interoperability and any difficulties I'm likely to encounter with locos and rolling stock. Backward compatibility is NOT a concern, since, aside from a single Atlas Warren Truss Bridge I picked up yesterday, I have zilch, zip, nada. No locomotives, rolling stock, track, nuttin'. And yes, I will be implementing DCC down the road.

    Knowing what you know now, what would you do if you were starting from scratch with a modest budget? (Fret not about space, as that goes to layout.)

    Grace and peace, BD
  2. rcwatkins

    rcwatkins Member

    First of all, welcome to The Gauge.

    What kind of space do you have? I'm new to MRR'ing as well.

    The best locos come from Atlas & Kato. Some of the newer Life-Like is ok as well, but unless you know what you're buying, you may wind up with a lemon. Steam locos to buy are newer Model Power, Kato Mikados, & Bachmann SPECTRUM series. Atlas is coming out with a steamer as well. Intermountain should have good locomotives coming out soon.

    The best RR cars come from LBF, Micro-Trains, Red Caboose, Atlas, Intermountain, & MDC/Roundhouse. Avoid Model Power, Life-Like, Indust. Rail, & Bachmann.

    Avoid train sets at all costs. Sure, Kato may have a few sets, but they put lowest end locos they have into their sets.

    Code 55: pros: Better DCC perfomance, prototypical look
    Cons: wheel flanges (this will really start a flame war)
    cons: not as well dcc performance.
    You should also try Peco. They cost twice as much but people here prefer it better.

    If you cant handle buying 5cent pieces or soldering, try Kato unitrack. It doesn't look as good & costs more, but its still good.
    Avoid Bachmann EZ Track & Life Like track.
  3. Arlaghan

    Arlaghan Member

    The only thing there is to add to the response you've gotten is this:

    Atlas code 55 track is very limited as far as what's available: #5 and #7 turnouts, 11.25-degree and 90-degree crossings, and various straight and curved sectional track, plus flex track. This track doesn't merge well with other tracks out there.

    Atlas code 80 track has a LOT more variety, but largest turnout is a #6. However, it merges well with Peco track, broadening your selection. The downside is, if it were life-sized, the top of the rail would come up to your thigh! (Measuring from the bottom of the tie as compared next to a Preiser figure.)
  4. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    I'll add one more thing regarding track...
    Peco code 55 IS sompatable with code 80 track & components. The Peco code55 is actually code 80 rail with .025" embedded in the tie strip.
    Here's spme other "00good" stuff...(IMHO)

    Locomotives -
    Bachman Spectrum Series
    Life Like Proto Series

    Rolling Stock -
    Micro Trains

    (*passenger cars)
  5. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    I use Peco 55 as talked about above. The major negative of it is that the ties are slightly to wide apart (not that big a deal). The track I would love to buy, but doesn't exist is Peco Code 55 set to North American standards.

    Peco 55 turnouts are the best turnouts available in N scale.

    Atlas 55 is a good track and I wouldn't hesitate to use it now.

    The book to buy and read about 20 times is one written by John Armstrong called "Track Planning for Realistic Operations." (Third Edition - available at your LHS).
  6. txcavgr

    txcavgr Member

    I am using Atlas code 55 on my new layout.

    Couple of things-

    Older stuff will not run on Atlas code 55 - MT pizza cutter wheels do not. MT is now including a set of lo-pro wheels with their cars, and now Atlas, MT and IM all offer lo pro wheels. NWSL also I think. If you have non Atlas or Kato locos, you will want to check them first.

    Atlas has an undertable switch machine for their c55 line that is huge! like gigantic. tight parallel tracks such as in a yard throat are going to be tough. They also need something solid to mount to so if you use all foam, that may require using luan squares or something like that. Finally, there is no way to use them without a throwing mechanism. So you either need ground throws or motors of some sort, unlike the Peco and ME turnouts that have a built in snap action.

    DCC - they are super DCC friendly if that helps you!
    It looks great, is easy to use, and if you can wait will certainly be expanded in the future. Most of the gang I hang with has ditched everything else for the Atlas c55.

    Hopefully you can find a place to do a side by side comparison of a couple of brands.
  7. Drew1125

    Drew1125 Active Member

    Here's a shot of the Peco track on my industrial branchline...
    The 30 degree crossing is code 80, while all the other track is code 55...there is no problem mating the two types of track.

    I didn't ballast this track as much as just kind of extend the scenery over it...mostly dirt & cinders. I was trying to get a kind of trashy, industrial type of look.

    Attached Files:

  8. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way


    You certainly succeeded. :) I think I'm heading for code 55 track as soon as I get my feet wet a bit more and feel more comfortable with what I'm doing now. I'm assuming it's going to be tougher working with code 55 as far as level and alignment.

  9. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    What's the deal with the coupling...

    Okay, what's the deal with the variety of couplers? Again, I have nuttin', nada, so there are no backward compatibility issues to worry about. Should I stick with the factory couplers, or should I go with somebody elses, and if so, who, and why?

    So far, y'all have been enlightening. Atlas and Kato locos seem to be held in high regard by everybody. Still a little unclear on mixing Peco 55 and Atlas 55.
  10. rcwatkins

    rcwatkins Member

    As long as you stick with my frieght car list for the most part you wont have a problem with couplers. Use Micro trains Couplers. Accumates are good as well & so are Kato's newer Semi-Automatics, which are compatible with the MT's. Avoid the rapidos. They cause derailments on long trains. They are found on older Atlas, Red Caboose, all MDC,Concor,& Walthers & all cheapy cars. If you get one of those cars, make sure you buy the right MT trucks with them. If you plan to use both knuckle & rapidos then use a conversion car.

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