Discussion in 'N Scale' started by NorfolkSouthern9708, Aug 20, 2009.
I am looking for some of the most realistic N scale track out there. Can anybody help me?
Here is "my" list ranked according to realism. Some of the commercial stuff is hard to obtain but may still be found. Some folks mix and match like using ME track and Atlas code 55 turnouts. Shinohara can still show up on e-bay and I occasionally run across it at obscure hobby shops. On my NTRAK modules I have been using Atlas code 80 with Peco turnouts. On my home layout I have been hand laying my track.
1. Hand laid code 40 track with hand laid turnouts.
2. Micro Engineering code 55 track and turnouts.
3. Atlas code 55 track and turnouts.
4. Peco code 55 track and turnouts.
5. Kato Unitrak
6. Shinohara code 65 track and turnouts.
7. Peco code 80 track and turnouts.
8. Atlas code 80 track and turnouts.
I wish they made that fast and easy proto 87 flextrack in n scale. But I am looking for something like handlaid, but with ready to run turnouts, I don't know if I want to handlay yet. Whats cheaper?
For the best overall value, looks, availability and the ease of working with, I personally would go with the Atlas code 55.
In the end, they are all about even in overall cost. There is an economy of scale with hand laid track, but that comes with the increased price of time. Also, depending on how many turnouts you are going to have, it may be more cost effective to use existing turnouts, or buy the hand laid turnouts from one of the really good builders.
When it comes to all of the flex track, the decision has to be made based on the rolling stock and the wheel flange height. If you have the old pizza cutter wheels for Micro-Trains and do not want to spend the money to change the wheels, then all of the Atlas Code 55 track is off the table and you are back to Peco Code 55, not American proto track, or Code 80 track.
So you see it is not all about the cost of the track, but of the ancillary costs of implementing the track. Both hand laid Code 55 or Code 40 track will look really good and neither suffers the problems with wheel flanges like the Atlas track. But the really overlooked cost is your time. It may take 2 hours to layout and install a 6 foot Ntrak module using any of the flex track systems, but that same amount of track hand laid, could take 3 or 4 times as long depending on your skill or comfort level.
And then there are the different flavors of hand laid track either using spikes to hold the rail in place, or newer methods using bonding adhesives and tooling from Fast Tracks. This is everything from turnout fixtures to straight and curved track fixtures. Each of these fixtures etc come with tooling costs and other support costs like the rail bender or the stock rail tool. So after looking at all of the costs to get setup with hand laid, the flex track may start looking like the better solution.
So it all boils down to the total economy of the solution, not just the cost of the track and turnouts.
Atlas Code 55 flex would look great on industrial spurs, with ME code 55 flextrack on mainlines. Because of the wider ties on ME track.
If done right, I think flex track can look as good or better than handlaid.
Micro engineering c55 is my #1 choice for flex track. It is difficult to find ME switches however, so I use Atlas ones.
I tried handlaying c40 a couple years ago but found it just a bit to much trouble.
I, too, seconds (third?) ME flextrack and Atlas turnouts in code 55. Plus, at least for my needs, ME offers flextrack with concrete ties AND all their flex track in pre-weathered or non-weathered versions.
The ME flextrack is also better than the Atlas flextrack because it retains its form after you bend it. The Atlas springs back straight unless it's fastened down.
The ME turnouts are great, but I've heard of reliability problems, as well as general lack of availability. the Atlas C55 turnouts are everywhere. I even saw them at my local 7-11! (j/k)
A sample of hand laid track
Here is a sample of hand laid track that is not repeatable using off the shelf pieces. It is another endorsement of hand laid if you have the time and desire.
If I were starting to build my own layout right now, I would probably use ME flextrack. I would probably use Atlas turnouts where they offer the size desired (#s 5,7 and 10) but also handlay a lot of turnouts of different sizes and configurations. I might even handlay code 40 on some sidings or spurs.
(In hidden areas I might use something else entirely, like Peco or Unitrack.)
I think Micro Engineering code 55 flex track and Atlas code 55 turnouts are the ideal combination right now in N-scale for both realism and performance. I like the Atlas code 55 flex track also, but I now prefer working with the "non-springy" flex track like ME. One drawback to the ME flex is that occasionally they go long times between production runs and the stuff can be impossible to find for a few months at a time. Jamie
Even though I don't use it, Atlas and ME Code 55 track is clearly the most realistic stuff available. A friend in my N-Trak club has a home layout done with Atlas and ME track, and it simply looks fantastic. Don't overlook the option of getting custom-made switches from folks who advertise on E-bay that use ME code 55 rail and the Fast Tracks jigs (e.g. eBay Store - JSW custom trains: Micro Trains Cars, N scale code 55 Micro-Eng rail). Somewhat expensive, but those that have used them swear they are light-years better than Atlas commercial code 55 turnouts.
Dang I forgot to post my comparison photos in my above post...you can REALLY see the difference. Here they are:
These pics were taken before I switched to ME for my flextrack, but it looks very similar to the Atlas code 55.
Oh yeah! That's the beauty of hand laying.
I'd add that Peco Code 55 looks a LOT better than either Peco Code 80 or Atlas Code 80, and literally everything I have runs on it, including two old Arnold S-2 switchers that have flanges as deep as the Grand Canyon. But Peco Code 55 is nowhere near as realistic-looking for N.A. prototype as either the Atlas or ME Code 55; Peco's biggest advantage is its virtual indestructibility and the fact that I like the spring-action turnouts that don't need switch machines or some kind of throw linkage. But if I were doing a layout from scratch today, I'd use Atlas Code 55 with their #7 and #10 turnouts, supplemented as necessary with custom Fast Tracks turnouts.
Jaime, and everybody else, I am no way going with any code 80 track. But right now I am stuck on some ME track if you like say HAY!
I used some ME code 55 flex years ago but am interested in their flex with concrete ties. One of the pains of concrete-tied track is painting the rails. I remember stories floating around that the weathered rail was almost impossible to solder feeder wires to because of the weathering.
For those who have used the ME weathered, concrete-tied flex, is there any problem or is this just a myth?
I do solder mine from the bottom, but I also have soldered rail joints and feeders to the side of the rail with no problem (sorry no pics). All you have to do is remove the weathering from the rail where you want to solder. This is very easy to do, and as an added bonus the solder will not stick where you don't want it. I have some more pics and information on my blog. FYI the same steps apply to the weathered rail on the ME track with wooden ties as well. Jamie
Is Micro Engineering cheaper than atlas flex?
Atlas 29" Code 55 flex retails at $4.25 or about 15 cents per inch
ME 36" Code 55 flex retails at $4.92 or about 14 cents per inch
So it is cheaper by about a penny per inch. While that does not sound like much, it all adds up over time. But these are the retail prices, and you can probably get discounts online that skew the numbers.
FYI - 30" of hand laid track would cost about $3 per section plus the time. So unless you need something in particular, go with the track you can get the easiest. I say that because sometimes it is very difficult to get ME track.
Most of all get what you like and like what you get and just have some fun!