Whats wrong with Atlas Turnouts¿

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Harold Cole, Nov 5, 2008.

  1. Harold Cole

    Harold Cole Member

    Hi Everyone,i've been wondering why lately i have seen a lot of bad comments about Atlas Turnouts.I have 52 Atlas turnouts on my layout and have never had any problems with any of the Atlas Turnouts.Could someone tell me exactly what problems they are having with them,or is it just Personal Choice. Harold Cole
  2. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Hi Harold. You didn't say what number Atlas turnouts you have. The bigger turnouts seem to cause less problems. I use #4 CL's on my layouts ( that's all I have room for ). I had 2 that no matter what I did, trains always derailed. Once replaced, everything was fine. The others, my trains would always clank, bang and jump going through the turnouts. Once I started building my own turnouts, that went away. I quess you would say it was a personal choice because I worried the train would derail the way it acted going through the turnouts.

  3. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    I think the problem breaks down to several points, but most of them can be tied to inexperience. A lot of posters who complain about the Atlas turnouts are new modellers. To my curmudgeonly mind, that means that a) their track-laying skills are suspect and b) they don't know where to look for what's causing the problems.

    The main points I see for problems with Atlas turnouts:

    2) tracklaying skills. There may be dips, bumps or twists to the turnout that cause it to create problems, that the inexperienced eye can't catch. Turnouts don't like being bent in the middle... they like a nice flat surface to lay on. Also, a lot of problems with the Atlas turnouts can be solved by chamfering the points so that the tip of the point rail is not square, which eases wheels up onto the point.

    3) equipment. Kinda the yin to #1's yang, and again, sometimes related to experience. Out of gauge wheels or toy trainset rolling stock with huge flanges don't like the Atlas frogs. Long wheelbase locos (steam and diesel) really aren't happy on 15-18" curves, Snap and #4 turnouts.

    3) equipment. On a different note, newer, better rolling stock with RP25 flanges and shallower wheel treads sometimes don't like those Atlas Code 100 frogs.

    4) the turnout. This is usually the last case, but sometimes the turnouts themselves are bad. The rivets that hold the points may be loose or tight, the point rails may be loose or bent at the throwbar, and so not close properly with the stock rail, or may protrude above the stock rail. There may be some flash in a flangeway or the frog, or the rails may not be seated properly at the frog.

    Personally, I'm not a big fan of the Atlas code 100 turnouts, Custom Line or otherwise. I think the ties and "spikes" look big and clunky, and I'm not a fan of the rivets that hold the points (and why I'm also not a fan of Walthers/Shinohara). The Atlas code 83 turnouts look a little better, seem to run well (my LHS has them on their store layout, and they've been trouble-free for 4 years of steady use).
  4. Harold Cole

    Harold Cole Member

    Thanks for the replies,most of my turnouts are #6's and a few #4's and i forgot to mention they are all code 100's.I also see a lot of modelers that have many years in the hobby that don't like Atlas Turnouts.This leads me to believe that it is personal choice and not that atlas turnouts are bad at all.I don't have many steam engines,but all i have take the turnouts fine.When i got started with this layout i didn't have a whole lot of cash so i bought the Atlas for the price.And after 10 years plus still have the same turnouts without a hitch.I was just wondering about he question because i see more and more questions about turnouts and the same people say Atlas is crap.Well i disagree.
  5. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    I'm one of them. The trash turnouts Atlas was putting out in the early 80's burned me on ever using Atlas turnouts again and I haven't to this day.
  6. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I've never had too many issues with the custom line turnouts, but the snap switches aren't very reliable. Many "turnout" issues I have had usually turn out to be wheelsets out of gauge and not the turnout itself.
  7. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

    Ive been advised that even the Custom-Line turnouts are crap, but i personally dont have anything against them. But for my Free-Mo modules im building for the M&ET, ive been advised that absolutely no Atlas Track is permitted on the modules and that i should stay away from the stuff. So with that said, i will be using the Cental Valley Line of Turnouts and Flex-Track.....
  8. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    Harold, I'm pretty much like you as for the code 100 track and Atlas turnouts:winki: .

    i have no problem with code 100, it just doesn't seem like that big a deal to me, and i use Atlas custom line turnouts. keeping #4's just for inside yards, where big engines wouldn't be switching anyways, and using #6's for mainline running and as turnouts for sidings, i have very few problems at all:thumb: .
  9. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I have used Atlas turnouts on my last 2 layouts, and they needed a bit of tweaking to permit reliable operation. Nothing a bit of filing couldn't straighten out. Since they were tweaked, they have been flawless operators. I use the custom line, code 100 #4's and #6's.
    I will probably use a few on my next alyout, but I really want to handlay this one. For no other reason than to say that I did it.

  10. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I have had no problems with the functioning of the Atlas turnouts. no problems with derailing they are fine in those 2 aspects. The problem I am having is electrical failure. I have had to solder jumper wires on almost all of mine. It is a pain in the oops. For that reason only I will not buy anymore Atlas. I have several Peco and no problem so far. Some of them are older than some of the Atlas.
  11. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I had problems with Atlas turnouts on my 4x6' HO layout. Basically, they weren't the correct gauge, usually too wide which caused derailments. I've replaced all of these with either Peco or Hornby turnouts which seem to be more precise.

    I'm sure that a large number of Atlas turnouts are OK but I have enough finnicky stock (a mixture of old stuff from the '60s & '70s as well as brand new rolling stock) that they caused problems for me.

    I used to go to an LHS (called Railview Trains, which is now owned by George's Trains). The owner of Railview (who has now sadly passed away) told me bluntly that Altas switches weren't good and that I should use Peco.

    But I also admit that questionable track-laying skills and being new could have been the source of many of my problems. This was my first layout and I started building it 4-5 years ago. It was a real botched-up job which I've been gradually improving and correcting ever since! Having said that, I still think Peco and Hornby turnouts are the best! :mrgreen:

    Cheers, Rob
  12. John Hanske

    John Hanske New Member

    I believe that all turnouts need a little tweaking before installing. Atlas just needs a bit more.
  13. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    I think that summarizes it perfectly. When I started with my layout, I simply didn't know how to tweak the turnouts. Actually, I'm still not 100% sure how to tweak them other than perhaps do some filing?

    BTW, I've especially had problems with curved turnouts, even Peco ones. I used to have a passing siding that was created (on my 4x6 layout) by using two curved switches. I had so much trouble with one of the curved turnouts that I reworked the layout so that I needed only one of them. Even that one still causes me some grief -- either derailments or locos stalling as they pass through the turnout (probably because its gauge is too narrow).

    Even worse, I've had current problems with it. Sometimes I have to fiddle the rails (of the turnout) because one of the rails will suddenly not make contact with the other rail, therefore stopping the current. Once I've moved the switch back and forth a few times, the current's connection is made again. I also try to clean them with rubbing alcohol. I'm wondering if I've "worn out" this remaining curved turnout and should replace it with a new one.

  14. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    I've never tweaked my atlas turnouts and had 20 years of trouble free operation. The lone exception was a snap switch which I had to replace (probably ballast related). I have both Code 83 and Code 100. I do think Peco turnouts are nice, but the added cost is no where close to worth it for me (so far). Additionally, almost all of mine are #4s...and the snap switch line of #4s don't quite agree with 4-8-4s...the custom line ones have been fine.

    It never ceases to amaze me how much lead gets fired in the direction of the manufacturers...especially over stupid stuff like wheel sets falling out of the trucks on RTR equipment and some fluke thing. I've had two separate Bachmann locomotives not function directly out of the box...so what!..the replaced them for free as any good manufacturer should. I suspect that there are many more issues that just the turnouts for the people whom think they are junk (I do think the others are better...just not worth the added cost...I don't buy Monster Cables for my guitars because I don't need the extra $100 worth of durability on a $30 cord.).

    I stand firmly in the camp with squidbait.
  15. Foum58

    Foum58 New Member

    Hello. First post.

    Found this thread Googling for Atlas turnout information. I've got 12, new out of box, #4 code 83 custom line turnouts here. These were purchased few months ago in provision for the layout build. They where for a 9 track yard lead and the price was within my budget.

    Not one of them is strait. The all have an obvious curve or bend in them.
    When I line them up with joinners, the cars waddle along from side to side as if a drunk driver is at the wheel.

    So I'm not impressed but stuck with these. I could nail or spike them strait but I do not want to deal with derailments on a continual basis. I've also got a bunch of Shinohara turnouts I modified to be DCC ready so I maybe new but no dope when it comes to this stuff.

    This was not a good buy and I don't recommend them to anyone.

    25 years ago I had brass Atlas #4 turnouts code 100 in the same yard. I had no problem with those. They were strait and did not cause issues or derailments.

    Guess the quality is history compliments of China.

    Pic are worth what, they say.


    So now I write Atlas and see if they stand behind there product or not.

  16. Foum58

    Foum58 New Member

    New member here, first post.

    I came her via a Google search on Atlas track issues. I've got 12 code 83 #4 custom line turnouts that show a clear bend/kink/curve in the strait section. The diverging track is not an issue. If I line up 9 #4 for a yard, a car will waddle left to right as it travels the lengh of the lead. Unable to remove the bend without force and nail or spike the track down. I was planning to glue, that I fear will not hold it strait.

    I've writen Atlas regarding the issue.


    Marc F.
  17. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Just an ongoing/amusing comment ...

    After I've sort of trashed Atlas turnouts (on this thread), I just recently bought two. :eek:

    The reasons being: I may have been too "harsh" on Atlas and realize that while their products are inferior to Peco, they still should work OK but with a little more tweaking (also mentioned on this thread). Also, my boys & I are working on a very small HO layout and I'm trying to keep costs down!

    The worse that can happen is that I might have to replace them later with Peco turnouts, but we'll see.

  18. VunderBob

    VunderBob Member

    I built my first layout in the early 70s as a tween, using Atlas brass flextrack and Snap switches. I'm now in my late forties, with layout #8 in early benchwork, and I'll still be using Atlas switches, albeit the higher end stuff.

    I've never had a problem with any of them that was not of my making.

    - Keep them flat.

    - Keep the ballast and paint out of the points.

    - Buy a set of files, and a NMRA track gauge. Use files and shims as appropriate to adjust gauge. The check gauge between the frog point and the guard rails will be the biggest problem.

    - Snap switches are made for train set wheels, not semi-scale or Proto:87. In their intended context, they work great. Custom Line is aimed at the shake-the-box kit builder crowd, and work well for that audience.

    My only real gripe with Atlas switches is that they're ugly and unrealistic, but ultimately I don't care provided they work as intended.
  19. jlg759

    jlg759 Member

    I have some atlas turnouts and find the frog to be too high.Causing loss of power and tenders on staem locos to lift up. I use code 83 track and will be changing to walthers or microscale turnouts
  20. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    It sounds more like you have older steam equipment (Rivarossi, AHM) with very large flanges than the frog sitting too high. Especially if it's only the steam locos experiencing this problem over the frogs.

    You could file the flanges on the drivers and replace the tender wheelsets, or go to code 100 track. I don't think switching to Walthers or Peco Code 83 track will give you any appreciable difference.

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