Track and stuff

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Agatheron, Nov 11, 2003.

  1. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    Hey all,

    Being the newbie that I am, I've been fooling around with pulling together small N-scale layouts using Atlas' RTS software. While it's been fun and all, RTS is a nice marketing scheme to get me to buy Atlas track. ;)

    I've downloaded a demo version of 3rdPlanIt, but haven't really taken time to play with it yet... but it allows for different variants, including Peco and other track manufacturers.

    Question #1:
    Any suggestions when it comes to track? I think I'll stick with Code 80 for the time being, but I wanted to know how compatible using Atlas with Peco track is... although the latter may be a bit too expensive.

    Question #2:
    When it comes to turnouts, Atlas suggests using the remote turnouts that have the mechanism located on the side of the track. I'm guessing that I'd be better off learning how to do under-the track switches from the get go, since I'd be drilling holes in the board anyway. Is this wise?

    Question #3:
    Cost being a factor, setting up a bank of Tortoises might look nice, but pricey. What switch mechanism am I best to run with?

    Question #4:
    Am I missing something really basic?
  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I'm not completely up to date on N scale since I upsized myself 20 years ago, but I'll make some suggestions.
    November Model railroader had article on N gauge track, comparing brands.
    I used mostly Peco, still do in HO. Various brands of track should work together if you have the same code (code is rail height in .001"). Peco fine scale is same height as regular on the inside but the ties come up higher on the outside.
    I try to avoid switch machines on top of the layout, but sometimes it can't be avoided. You can move them away behind buildings and use a stiff wire to connect to the turnouts. Peco machines can be mounted either right on the turnout or under the roadbed -- there is a version with a long wire.
  3. billk

    billk Active Member

    Agatheron, you can, in a lot of cases, forego using any switch machines at all:
    1 - If the turnout is reachable, and it is spring loaded so that the points are held in place, you can just reach out and set them by hand.
    2 - You can use ground throws of some sort right next to reachable turnouts.
    3 - Some sort of of linkage can be rigged up from the turnout to levers or push-pulls on the layout's fascia.
  4. Lighthorseman

    Lighthorseman Active Member

    While not an N scale expert, I do have and run some. My nickel's worth of "free" advice is with regard to turnouts.

    I would HIGHLY reccommend starting with Peco turnouts, and not the cheaper Atlas ones. The Peco code 80 track matches up nicely with the Atlas flex and sectional track, and the turnouts are beautiful, reliable units. The Peco turnouts that I have give me no trouble whatsoever, and I get nothing but headaches from the Atlas ones.

    Some other N scale folks might have more input here than me... :)
  5. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    I've heard good things about the peco turnouts, so it may be a good idea pretty much right off the bat. In terms of my track-planning software, is a peco turnout the about the same size and length as their atlas counterparts? Can I simply substitute peco turnouts for the atlas ones on my plan with no difficulties?
  6. billk

    billk Active Member

    If you're using the Atlas RTS software, the answer is a conditional no. I say conditional because I wouldn't trust RTS even if you're using Atlas turnouts if your plan call for pretty tight tolerances.

    For Peco dimensions, you might try here:

  7. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    My suggestion (and what I'm doing on my layout) is to go with Peco Code 55 turnouts and Peco Code 55 flextrack. I did a lot of research when trying to decide what track and turnouts to go with. I really wanted to use Atlas Code 55 flextrack because I think it's very realistic and it's VERY easy to work with. However....everyone I talked to told me the same thing you just more money and get the Peco turnouts up front (you'll put them in eventually is what everyone told me).

    Well, having decided I wanted to use Peco turnouts and having decided I wanted to use Code 55 track, the easiest choice was for me to be consistent and go with Peco Code 55 flextrack. Peco Code 55 and Atlas Code 55 will not mate up without some serious filing. I had a LOT of turnouts on my layout and I didn't want to spend three years filing them down to make them Peco it was. Also...the crossties are spaced differently between the too (a minor thing to me but to some people it matters).

    You could also go with Micro Engineering track and turnouts....but it's more expensive and I've heard that the turnouts aren't as reliable and trouble free as Peco.

    I'm happy with Peco so far, but I must confess that I haven't gotten far enough in my layout to lay any track yet. I will say this though...Peco flextrack is kind of stiff compared to the Atlas. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing....but it's the way it is.
  8. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    And by the way....Peco turnouts and Atlas turnouts are NOT the same length.

    AND....if using Atlas Code 55 you have to take into consideration that on many pieces of rolling stock (mainly Micro-Trains) you may have to change the wheels out to low profile wheels or they'll hit the crossties. Many MT cars are coming with the low profile wheels now, but not all of them.
  9. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    I appreciate the advice... On one hand it's good to know ahead of time that spending the extra $$$ on Peco track. On the other hand, it is more $$$ for someone like me on a budget. However, if it is worth doing well...

    The flip side to this is that since all turnouts are not created equal, it may well be back to the drawing board for my track plan. I had developed one with the Atlas RTS software that called for up to 20 standard turnouts in a 30"x80" door layout. The standard turnouts from atlas seem to be a 19" continuous radius, while with Peco they're 18" With the difference in turning radii and the like, the layout plan will certainly need a revamp.

    I guess the other question that I have is sectional vs. flextrack. Am I better off to dive right in an plan on using flextrack from the get go with no sectional bits at all?
  10. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    I definitely think it's worth the extra money to buy the Peco turnouts. AND....if you're using Code 80 track then Peco turnouts will mate up just fine with Atlas track (or any other Code 80 track). So....if using Code could use both. Unfortunately, Code 55 Peco turnouts don't mate with Code 55 Atlas track (or any other Code 55 track that isn't Peco). That's because of the way the Peco track is made. You can do some filing and such and make it work, but it seems like a lot of work to me.

    If you're doing Code 80, I would go with Peco turnouts and Atlas track. If you're doing Code 55, I would go with Peco turnouts and Peco track. That's just me though. :)

    Not necessarily. I think you will find that once you actually start laying track out that it's very easy to make minor adjustments. I developed my track plan(s) using Atlas RTS, but I'm not using any Atlas track products at all. I realize there will be slight differences, but it won't affect the look of the layout. Chances are you will be making adjustments to the track plan as you lay it out anyway. I think most everyone does.

    This is really a matter of preference, but to me flextrack is much more realistic. It IS more difficult to put down, but I think it's well worth the effort. It also gives you a lot more wiggle room (for times when the turnout isn't the exact size it was on RTS). Having said that, there may be times when it's very handy to have a 6" straight track section on hand so you don't have to mess with cutting the flextrack to fit. If you go with Peco track though, it only comes in flextrack so you won't have an option. Atlas comes in both flex and fixed.

    Goodness...I'm awfully wordy today. :rolleyes:
  11. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    I just noticed back at the top that you're planning to use Code 80 track. If this is the case, then Peco, Atlas, ME, etc. are all compatible and you won't have a problem. Using Code 80 I'd use Peco turnouts and Atlas Flextrack. Hope that helps.
  12. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    I know Peco is considered to be the top of the line... However it does represent a doubling of costs when it comes to turnouts and such. As well, what is the best way to do powered turnouts and the like? I'm looking at approximately $30 per turnout in my layout at the moment, and even with around 20 that's $600 in turnouts alone... :eek: (Canadian prices)

    In some ways, there's also the "get a layout up and running argument" and ways to approach track planning. We'll have to see. Anyway, I have a lengthy meeting tonight so I'll be back later to contemplate track stuff.

    Thanks for the help!
  13. Hoss

    Hoss Member

    Turnouts are probably the most expensive part of the track itself. I believe Peco turnouts generally cost between $13 and $15, depending on where you buy them. I believe Atlas turnouts are somewhere in the neighborhood of $10. So, if you have a lot of turnouts (like I do), then you will spend a lot of money on them.

    Personally, I don't do powered turnouts. I may some day, but for now I feel I can better spend my money elsewhere. The nice thing about the Peco turnouts is they snap into place. It's not necessary to have a switch machine to hold them where you want them. With Atlas or ME turnouts you almost have to have a switch machine to prevent derailments over turnouts (not necessarily, but it's better if you do).

    I went through the same thing you're going through back when I was purchasing all of my track and such. I opted for the cheap way out and bought a BUNCH of Atlas turnouts. After doing more research I decided that it would be money well spent to go ahead and upgrade to the Peco. The general consensus when I was looking was "eventually you'll get tired of having problems with the turnouts and you'll rip them all out and put Peco in." I decided I'd rather just avoid that and start off right, so I exchanged the Atlas for Peco. The guy at my LHS told me I was making the right decision.

    Really though, it's a personal preference. Some people love the Atlas turnouts. :) The bottom line is, you know what's best for you. If getting Atlas turnouts will get you up and running on your layout faster then go for it. :)
  14. pomperaugrr

    pomperaugrr Member

    I'll throw in my $.02 here as well. I am starting my new layout now. I am staying with the tried and true combination of Atlas code 80 flex track and PECO code 80 turnouts. I have used this combination on my last layout and was very happy with it.

    I do like the look of the new Atlas Code 55, but, I've not always been happy with Atlas turnouts, in the past, plus I still have a stockpile of Atlas flex and Peco turnouts. The PECO turnouts are more expensive, up front, and I'm going to be using many, many of these. My budget is also limited, but I've been picking up a few at my LHS every so often, so it doesn't hurt as much. They are worth every penny. I will be re-using many PECO turnouts from the last layout. They are very durable and the spring action can't be beat! I do not intend to put in any powered switch machines except in my staging yard, which will be in an adjacent room.

    Go with what you feel meets your needs the best. My opinion is that the operational reliability of the PECO is worth the cost. That's just my opinion though. Try picking up a one of each of the brands you are considering. A side by side comparison is what sold me.

  15. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    Hmmm. I just bought 6 Atlas turnouts last night. :eek:
    I guess I'll find out soon enough if it's true or not. However, I'm willing to mess around with the Atlas ones and try to make them work vs. the much higher cost of the (admittedly better) Peco ones.
    I still need 2 more for a hidden staging yard, so maybe I will spring for Peco on those as a comparison.
    Atlas was $9 each for me.
  16. Cinnibar

    Cinnibar Member


    Please look at your track will never fit Atlas above board switch machines into that plan, they are just too large. If you buy some with either the manual or coil (both the same externally) you will see what I mean. There is no way those machines are NOT going to bump into each other...........been there..........done the T-shirt. In my yard when I have back to back switches (Peco 55's) next to other switches I even have to trim one side of the throw bar off so it doesn't interfere with adjacent switches. Keep in mind there are many ways to throw switches from under the table with stiff wire and tubing rigs extending out to knobs on your fascia.....CHEAP!
  17. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    Thanks... you've raised a VERY good point.

    I wonder if I can still use this basic layout design substituting Peco medium radius turnouts. It means that the overall radius of the turnouts is reduced by 1"...

    I need a different piece of track planning software... Any suggestions...
  18. Cinnibar

    Cinnibar Member


    I don’t think you can go wrong with code 80 Peco’s. Their “snap action” will keep it simple and if you want to go under table later you always can do that. Even at that you will find you will be cutting ties and throw rods to fit things in the allotted space. One thing I have always found is that track components have a way of enlarging themselves when they are transferred from a drawing to the real thing on the board. One hint that has been around a long time is to buy one left and one right hand switch of your choice then copy them on a copier (as many as you need). After you cut them out you can do some real size, on-the-board planning and see what will REALLY work. I think John Olsen’s book “A Railroad With Personality - The Jerome & Southwestern” was where I first saw that and I’ve used that system on my last two works. It’s a darn cheap planning tool!:)
  19. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    I downloaded Xtrkcad and did a comparison of Peco medium radius turnouts vs. the Atlas Standard remote ones... Interesting...

    They're almost the same size. The Atlas is slightly bigger, being almost exactly 5 inches long, where the Peco is about 1/8th of an inch shorter. The turnout distance on the Atlas is sharper, being about 2 inches wide at the open end (far rail to far rail), vs. again about 1/8th of an inch narrower for the Peco...

    I could almost use my existing plan with Atlas Sectional and Flextrack, and Peco turnouts... Although I'd probably want to keep a good supply of flextrack nearby to make sure that things do work out appropriately. My only concern is that the slightly shorter turnout length might increase the chance of trains bashing into each other on parallel track... Any suggestions? Or are they okay to run this close together?
  20. Arlaghan

    Arlaghan Member


    Take a look at what I did in Photoshop: I scanned some Peco Large Radius turnouts, and extended the rails to make a cross over. I wanted to know how much space was required. Here's the original thread:

    Don't see why you couldn't do the same thing. Even though the length of the turnout is 1/4" longer than a #6 Atlas turnout, the angle is way more acute and requires a lot more separation... glad I found it out sooner than later! Better to be safe than sorry and see for yourself. I don't think it should be hard to find top-down pictures of both of your turnouts for comparison.

Share This Page