What Brand Track Do You Recommend?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Tuned MP5T, Mar 17, 2005.

  1. Tuned MP5T

    Tuned MP5T New Member

    I like the details and quality of the Mirco Train Line, but don't know what brand of track to use with MTL models. Also what coupler should I use?

  2. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Don't know if I'll "recommend" any track manufacturer, but I use Atlas mainly because it's better than some and cheaper than others. A good middle-of-the-road choice.

    As for couplers, I doubt that you can go wrong with Micro Train. I started to convert everything I had but then I bought an older collection and now I'm lucky to have 10% of my stuff with MT. I have a few of "transition" cars and locos that have one of each type until I hit the lottery and can afford to convert what's left. :D:D
  3. engineshop

    engineshop Member

    I am using Peco tracks, wooden and concrete ties code 80. I just like there looks although they represent European and not American ties.
    For switches, I would not use anything else.
    This is just my opinion and I am happy with my choice.
  4. Livesteam

    Livesteam Member

    I am useing atlas track, i havent tried anything eles.
  5. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Well, I tried Life Like switches when I first started in MRR and replaced every one of them before I had a chance to be sorry. I brought back some LL that were still in the package and you could see they were falling apart. I upgraded to Atlas only because that's the only other thing the LHS carried and they would only give me store credit since they kinda tried to blame me.:mad: I never got along with those people anyway.:p:p:p:p
  6. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    Track can be evaluated on the basis of 5 categories.

    Cost, Reliability, Appearance, Availability, Ease of Installation

    The easiest to install and most reliable track is Kato Unitrack. It is also the most expensive and lacks flextrack.

    Life-Like, Model Power, and Bachmann track score poorly on most or all counts, only use it if you live on an island under embargo that can get nothing else.

    Atlas Code 80 scores well in all categories, as does Peco Code 80. Atlas is a little less expensive and more widely available in North America than Peco.

    The best appearance is MicroEngineering C40 and C55, and they're fairly reliable. Availability is poor, price is high, and ease of installation is very bad, as you have to make your own turnouts.

    Finally, there is Atlas and Peco Code 55. Atlas looks better, and runs better with MODERN equipment. In the C55 realm, the Atlas holds the same advantages of Peco as it does in C80, i.e., lower cost and better availability. However, if you have older locomotive models, Peco is a better choice.

    In closing, given that you're new, I would recommend that you start with Kato Unitrack. The ease of installation means that you can get to running trains immediately with a minimum of troubles.

    As "Uncle" would say, "One more thing..." : You can mix and match between brands of the same rail code, and with transition joiners, you can even mix different Code rails. (Btw, Code 40/C40, Code 55/C55 and Code 80/C80 refer to the height of the rail itself, with smaller number representing a shorter, more prototypical rail.)
  7. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    I agree mostly with Bikerdad, with a couple of exceptions...

    Atlas code 80 and Peco code 80 are very similar, in that they both have UK-style wide tie spacing. US-based railfans call this 'toy-like', non-US railfans call this 'realistic'. They're both right, of course. The Atlas, however, has a 'plain' rail profile -- the rail is simply a vertical bit of metal, without the widening at the railhead. I personally think that this makes it look more out-of-scale-height than it really is. I've also heard of a lot more problems with turnouts with Atlas than Peco (although I haven't had personal experience with the Atlas -- I took the experience of the internet for my own uses).

    If you feel you want the added 'realism' (or nit-picking accuracy, depending upon your point of view) of code 55 rail -- i.e. the lower profile rail more closely approximating real rail sizes, then the game changes a bit. Atlas code 55 and M-E code 55 both have US-style closer tie spacing. Peco has wider UK-style spacing. For some people this is enough to make the decision alone (i.e. it depends upon where you're modelling). Peco also offers a concrete-tie style. I have to assume that this is unusual in the US -- it exists in more modern (and particularly passenger) lines in the UK.

    On the other hand, Atlas code 55 has a widely-discussed 'problem', in that it's spikes are higher than the M-E and Peco track, which means that older locos may not run reliably on it. And older rolling stock, but you can change the wheels quite easily on rolling stock to solve the problem.

    Again, I've heard bad things about Atlas 55 turnouts. Many people mix Atlas code 55 with Peco turnouts. M-E doesn't make any turnouts at all, so you have to choose between Atlas and Peco. It's possible that the best 'US' compromise is M-E track and Peco turnouts (best look combined with best reliability). But there's a big visual difference as you go from one to the other.

    I personally chose Peco because of the much larger range of turnouts and wyes available, and that they were available in electrofrog variants. Atlas has only just brought out a wye, for example, and still doesn't have curved turnouts or as wide a selection of types of turnout.

    You can mix and match most types of track, but the easiest matches are code 55 to code 55 (same height), or between any code 80 rail and Peco code 55 rail (because of its build style).

    Code 40 is probably not suitable for a first-timer -- it's much more limited in availability, and you will have to pay for hand-laid turnouts or make them yourself.

    There is also a US-based issue in that since the collapse in the US dollar the Atlas (although it's made in China) is certainly cheaper than Peco. This won't necessarily be the case outside the US.

    I fully agree with Bikerdad in that nothing else (with the exception of Unitrak) should be considered at all.

    Your mileage may vary. I've stated my personal preference. Please don't cross-post to the 'other' forum otherwise a flame-war is likely :wave::curse::eek::D

  8. Tuned MP5T

    Tuned MP5T New Member

    When it comes to Quality and Details - who's better Kato or Micro Train?
  9. 13Mtrainer

    13Mtrainer Member

    i only use atlas flex track code 100 i am new though so it works for me it is very cheap and is widly avalibal too i also use kadee couplers
  10. seanm

    seanm Member

    I have just started rebuilding my layout. (Starting over... new plan and everything).. I was using Atlas code 80 and now am using Atlas code 55 exclusivly. I had heard of proiblems with the track and turnouts. I have found no problems with the turnouts as long as my wheels are in gauge. The MT BIG flange wheels DO rub the ties. I have been converting my cars to low profile Atlas metal wheel sets and like them very much. Aver all, after 100 sections of flex and 40 turnouts in both #5 and #7, I have had only one switch which seemed to be a problem... I did a little filing (2 minutes) and it was fixed.....

    I can only reccomend what I am using as I have no experience with other then the above. your milage may vary.
  11. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    Quality and details of what? Kato's locomotives are generally considered to be the best running of all N scale locos, with Atlas nipping at K's heels. The situation is flipped on detail, Atlas having the best with K just behind. MT has only released one loco (actually, 2, the EMD FT-A and EMD FT-B) of their own in N scale, so they don't have enough of a track record to really evaluate.

    Kato has excellent passenger cars, MT has none. Kato has released a very limited selection of freight cars in North American, whereas until recently freight cars were all that MT makes. So what we're left with is apples and oranges.

    The only direct comparison that can be made is between the Kato F3 and the MT FT locomotives. The MT looks a little better, already has MT couplers, but costs more and is reputed to be a notch below on performance. Not a good thing, since the MT is new last year whereas the Kato has been out for a few years now.

    The other comparison can be made using the Kato PS-2 covered hoppers vs. the MT hoppers, pretty much a toss up. You can't go wrong with either.

    Back to the issue of track: If you intend to go DCC, then stick with either the Unitrack or Atlas. Peco switches "have issues" with DCC.

    One problem with a question like this is that many of the answers are going to be based on experiences with old product that has since been improved and/or updated. Atlas switches, once upon a time, weren't as reliable as Peco. Today, that has changed, as the Atlas switches have been improved, whereas Peco has concentrated its efforts in HO. Slightly different design goals also play into it. Peco track is designed for European modelling, where a different wheel profile is used, which results in the turnouts having different reliability characteristics.

    Bottom line: until you're more experienced in the hobby, don't purchase any old (5 years+) locomotives. ALMOST everything of quality being produced today will run on any of the quality (Atlas, Peco, Micro-Engineering, Kato) track. (The exceptions are some LL diesels that still have pizza cutters) With rolling stock, its not such a big deal, as you can usually switch the wheels out if necessary.

    It should be noted that there are talented, experienced modellers who will swear by, or swear at, each of the different quality track brands. From this, we can conclude that all of them work well, and all have shortcomings. "Best" in a case like this is a subjective matter. Just buy some and experiment. A loop of track with a pair of switches for a siding can give you an idea of which track you're most comfortable with, and don't forget, you can mix 'em. A lot of people do that, using Atlas flextrack with Peco switches, or ME Code 55 with Atlas C55 switches, or Kato Unitrack with somebody's flextrack, etc...

  12. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    With respect, Bikerdad, that's not only misleading -- it's plain wrong. The Peco code 55 electrofrogs are not only the nearest thing you can buy 'out of the box' to true DCC-friendly switches, they're also the easiest of all makes to convert to fully DCC-friendly.

    What 'issues' are you referring to?

  13. Tuned MP5T

    Tuned MP5T New Member

    Sorry I've got another question. Which track most represent America's real tracks?
  14. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Easy. ME code 40. But to be more sensible, Atlas code 55 or ME code 55. Now all you have to do is choose your turnouts. ME does have the advantage of offering ready-weathered rail, but doesn't offer turnouts. Isn't life always like that?

  15. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    I am using Kato Unitrack on a table top layout. It is realistic but the ballast base is a little high. Otherwise, it is very reliable track and easy to assemble. It is really a plug and play system. Unitrack is difficult when it comes to transition curves and cutting special pieces. Switches are limited to #4 and #6.

    My permanent layout will be Atlas code 80 flex and switches (turnouts). It's cheaper and better looking when ballasted and the variety of switches, crossings, etc. is much greater than Kato.

    Knuckle couplers are the cat's meow. Especially when it comes to switching or spotting cars with a magnetic uncoupler. They are easier to couple together and your cars look better coupled closer together. Rapido style couplers cause a big gap between cars and they make themselves noticed because they are so large. Either Atlas or Micro trains work well. Micro Trains is a tad better of the two in my opinion.

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