Code 80 vs Code 55... Why?

Primavw Aug 15, 2013

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  1. Bill_H

    Bill_H TrainBoard Member

    FWIW, the Atlas rep at the National Train Show said in an interview that the code 55 supply problem was being solved, that bunches of N code 55 were arriving monthly but there was not enough stock in the pipeline to completely fill all back orders. That same info was repeated by the Atlas rep in an interview on MR video.

  2. bremner

    bremner Staff Member

    ok, my take, I have been bashed on my track choice, but I really don't care. I have Atlas code 80 flex track and number 6 switches. I put wires between the frogs. My 4 axle locos have no issue with plastic frogs. I used Code 80 for only 1 reason, I had it, did not have to go out and buy it, and it works great. I don't have the issues that people rant about on Atlas code 55 switches, or how hard it is to use Micro-Engineering stuff. Code 80 Atlas track is RELIABLE.

    I panted mine with Krylon Camo Brown and used Woodland Scenics fine gray ballast. I don't think that it looks too bad.
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Not too long ago, Paul Graf had also posted a similar message here.
  4. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter


    I use code 80 for similar reasons as do you. One that's what I had when I built the layout 20 years ago. Although, yes! I would like to convert to code 55............. It isn't going to happen. As far as I'm concerned it's a nit pick thing and only nuts, bolts and rivet counters are going to notice. Happy with my code 80. Who knows maybe if I win the lottery, I might be able to build that dream layout with everything running on it as primo as I can make it.

    Painted yours Code 80 look great. And I'm not selling Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

    Your silo's and the adjacent plant looks darn amazing.
  5. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

    Exactly...which is what I said the first time...before you went on the bash me spree. And my PERSONAL home layout doesn't have to be, why, because it is mine. If you came over with older equipment, don't expect to run it on my layout. But as my personal home layout, I don't need to appease everyone, I just need my equipment to run on it.

    As for dumping MT, never said that, I said. Truck mounted couplers, some cars will probably stay that way for a bit...only because they are more difficult to body mount currently. And body mounts, well they are more realistic, allow cars to ride lower to prototype heights, and well never seen a real car with truck mounted couplers.

    I'm not ignoring or have no appreciation of the "past" of NTrak history. But again, I have no idea what 40 years of NTrak and my choice to use code 55 and body mounted couplers has to do with that. You seem to make that a reason to bash me, because I am younger than you...well as you mentioned in the post about Rapido cars and how the baby boomers are dying off, well when you bash the younger generation, many feel that they are not welcomed to the hobby, and if that is the case, there are plenty out there that will welcome me.

    As for layouts being temporary, not always the case, the group here in Spokane set up the layout in a member's basement and leave the layout up between shows. However we also have modules from 30+ years ago...however they act like 30+ year old modules, they sag, they droop, its almost impossible to run on them. For shows and club meets, I only bring my Kato passenger cars as they run on the layout reliably, and they aren't super detailed.

    I never disparaged the code 80 crowd...not sure where you are reading all of this...

    It is amazing all the choices we have that we can make isn't it, so don't bash me that my choice for my home layout, which is still in the mental design stage...Are you gonna bash it if I chose to use HO code 83 rail and hand lay it?
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    This is contributing nothing useful to an otherwise constructive thread. It only pours fuel on an ember!

    Let's EVERYONE get back on the topic at hand, and leave the personal stuff alone.
  7. elbaldwino

    elbaldwino TrainBoard Member


    My layout is c55 flex w/c80 turnouts...does it look strange? Yes but it will let me run trains...also once it is ballasted the difference will be less obvious.
    mdw likes this.
  8. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Everyone hold your breath now...lets see who passes out first...LOL
  9. traintodd

    traintodd TrainBoard Member

    Primavw, to answer your question about powered frogs, Atlas and ME code 55 turnouts electrically isolated frogs that can be powered to the polarity of the adjoining rails by soldering a wire to the tab either on the side of the atlas turnout or on the bottom of the ME turnout and attaching that wire some kind of switch, either on Tortoise switch motor, a Caboose ground throw or an electronic polarity reverser. As far as DCC goes, you have to have either a dead frog or an isolated frog, that is what is referred to as a "DCC ready" turnout. There is no requirement to power an isolated frog, but the conventional wisdom is that it helps short wheelbase locomotives through the turnouts. I think it also may help if the track is dirty or if the locomotive truck is a bit sticky in that it does give the maximum amount of powered track under the locomotive, which to my thinking, can't hurt. But I know that there plenty of folks out there who don't power their frogs and have no problems. I did simply because the feature exists on the Atlas C55 and I figured I might as well use it. The trick, like someone else mentioned, is to make sure the polarity is correct, or you will get the dead layout buzz for sure.

    As far as the other things, as you can tell, track system selection seems to be a pretty personal thing. I picked Atlas code 55 because I liked the way it looks, not only the rail height and shape, but also the tie spacing and height. I also like the turnout selection, three different sizes and a curved, and since I really try and avoid a lot of super complicated track work, the lack of double slip or double crossover didn't really bother me too much. And I had to search and scrounge like Indiana Jones to find what I needed to get started on my layout. I know Atlas has made lots of promises, and I really don't trust them to stick to any of them (latest word on the Atlas website is August for flex and November for turnouts....??? It's mid August, anyone seen any flex lately?), but I expect that they will have the product in sufficient quantity at some point in the future. Track system selection is important, because unless you are going to switch around mid-layout or mix and match product on your layout, what you pick to start is what you will be living with, so I would choose for the long term, not for the immediate future. There is Atlas code 55 around, you just have to put on your fedora and get after it, at least for a few more months.

    I tend to judge the appearance of things on my layout by the "300 foot test", which is basically the minimum scale distance my eyes are from anything on my layout. What I've basically decided, if it looks good from a scale 300 feet, then its good enough for me, and to me, Atlas C55, especially after painting and ballasting, looks pretty darned good. I have worked with Atlas code 80, Peco code 80, Kato Unitrack and have even did a pretty good sized layout in Z scale with Microtrains Flex and Marklin turnouts, and in my experience Atlas code 55 is at least as high quality and as easy to work with as any of those products, and not any easier or harder to work with. They all have their quirks, and you just have to learn to work with them. According to the table someone else posted, C55 is equal to about 180# rail, if that even exists, so it isn't totally scale, but it passes my 300 ft. test just fine. Here is a just ballasted bit of track I just did just to give you an idea. Good luck and have fun, whatever you decide to do will be great, I'm sure. DSCN0762.JPG
  10. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman TrainBoard Member

    Wow! That's a lot of ballast!
  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Yeah. He must have his own private ballast pit!
  12. mmagliaro

    mmagliaro TrainBoard Member

    Unfortunately, you have hit upon one of the most hot-blooded and time-honored argument points of N Scale that has ever darkened the doorways of the internet train forums.

    Most of the important points have already been argued in here. So I'l try to be brief

    To me, the difference in appearance is obvious.
    The beautiful layout photos posted in this thread (and believe me, guys, they are all EXCELLENT layouts and scenes), are not taken at the angles that expose the wide tie spacing and the chunky width of the ties. The rail height is only part of the problem, and it probably is the easiest thing to disguise with ballast. But those ties are spaced far apart, and to me, it is obvious. If I stand next to a layout done with code 80 and look down, it is obvious.
    From the side, not so much.

    On mechanical performance, code 55 works better for me than the code 80 I used to use. The turnouts, while
    they have their mechanical and gauge issues, once corrected, are better than the code 80 I had before.
    It means that wheel flanges must be fine and wheelsets must be in gauge. But once I did it all
    (finer wheels, in gauge, adjust any gauge issues in the code 55 turnouts) they worked better than the code 80
    ever did.

    My suggestion is that you do what I did. Go buy a section of each.
    Put them down on a board. Ballast them. Look at them. Then ask yourself which you'd rather have.

    And to correct a few things that have drifted through this entire thread.

    1. The track is scarce, but not impossible to find. I just bought a bunch of it a few weeks ago.
    My advice is to dig dig dig on the internet. Call lots of shops that say they have it.
    You will find one that has a stash sitting on their shelf. It took me a few hours.

    2. The difference in rail height between code 80 and code 55 is not 2.5%. It is 2.5% OF AN INCH
    (which, to be fair, is the way the original poster phrased it). It is .025"
    But the difference between code 80 and code 55 is 25/55 = .45 Code 80 is 45% higher than code 55.
    It's a matter of proportion. If you had a loco that was only .025" too long, you'd never notice it.
    But if the handrails were .025" thicker, it would stick out like a sore thumb.
    The photo posted in here from further back so it displays at 9mm between the rails... I'm sorry, but yes,
    I do see a big difference between the code 80 and the code 55.

    Only you can decide if the looks are important enough of a factor.
  13. bman

    bman TrainBoard Member

    Made the switch from Atlas code 80 to code 55 when building a new layout. I am happy with the switch, it works for me and what I am trying to model. Bartered the old pizza cutter wheels to club members in exchange for the low profile ones no one wanted. Code 55 is closer to the rail the PRR used for mainlines. The challenge of the hobby for me is to try to re-create a scene or slice of the real thing. But that's what I enjoy, the challenge. I personally do not care(no offense intended) what track others use. It's their layout. It's their choice. Who am I to say it's wrong? I am a member of an N-Track club and I even built a module using (gasp) code 80. It looks good, just ask me. I think it would look better with code 55. But that's not what the standards say. So I built it anyway. The question was asked what was the difference between code 80 vs 55. The answer is appearance and broader selection. Code 55 has more radius and turnout options for sectional track over code 80. Code 55's appearance is closer to prototype rail than code 80. Is the difference in appearance that big a deal. To some it is, to some it isn't. Which works better? Take your time and lay good track work, and no matter what brand or type you use, you will have little to no problems. As for code 55 being scarce, code 80 is just as scarce around here anyways. Enjoy the hobby. That's what a hobby is for.
  14. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Thats what I say...ITS JUST A HOBBY for cryin out loud !! :cool:
  15. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

    Yeah yeah..."it's just a hobby for cryin out loud!!", "The Three Foot Rule", "Just run trains and have FUN!" nauseum stuff spouted by the rivet ignorers. Just what does that mean anyway eh? That model railroaders who have passion about the hobby aren't enjoying it as a hobby?...Or perhaps, guys and gals who like details are rivet-counting obsessive-compulsive elitist snobs???

    If you don't already know it, you should, that some model railroaders here actually make either all or a good part of their income in this "hobby". It's not only a passion with them, it's also a job. Manufacturers who develop products for model railroading don't look at it as a's an industry, and your dollars (your hobbyists' dollars) determine in large part what the manufacturers' continue to produce and what they have planned.

    Better get used to it, the trend is slanted strongly towards more scale products and processes like metal lo-pro wheel sets, separate cast and etched details on cars and engines, road-specific details on those same cars and engines, structure kits and RTR models based on actual prototypes, digitized actual sound in sound DCC, fancy and complex scenic components for much more realistic ground cover. Rapid prototyping 3D printing for small parts is making huge strides and on-demand production with extremely small start-up costs so those of us who want esoteric models of specific prototypes will be blessed with a low cost-high detail option of creating them ourselves. There's more pressure (can't you feel it?) for a scale-sized/appearing true N-scale coupler and recently, self-attaching flexible N-scale brake hoses were introduced. You've just had an introduction of highly accurate target signals with relay cabinets that have details on the INSIDE for hell's sake, and doors that can be positioned either closed or open to see that detail along with fine etched SS details...and, I hope Peco will do the same thing in N-scale as they did in HO and introduce a North American prototype line of N-scale track that's code 45 and branchline track that's code 35 with properly rounded railheads and petite rail-furniture details.

    Atlas introduces two runs of boxcars with road specific details and paint along with separate details on the sides and ends, correct ride height, correct trucks, metal lo-pro wheel sets, body mounted couplers and etched running boards, and I'm not even going to mention Trainworx's products other than to say they are EXCELLENT...

    I could go on and on, but it's clear the rivet-ignorers are losing ground (thank goodness!).

    The rivet-counting obsessive-compulsive elitist snobs are taking over...because many of us look at model railroading as much more than just a "hobby"'s a passion...and whether you like it or not, everybody benefits...even you.

    Bob Gilmore
  16. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Geeezzzzzzzz BoB....back away from the're gonna hyperventilate !!!! * said tongue in cheek* ;) LMAO !!!

    No one said anything about rivet counters ...blah...blah...blah...etc...etc...etc. Everyone enjoys the hobby in there own way and thats a good thing.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 17, 2013
  17. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

    Or maybe some of us don't enjoy the hobby because we're crushed under two factions who believe that they should have all say on what we can and can't do. Wheres my exact down to the last bolt BN SD40-2s? how far will rule #1 actually go before some one feels the need to infringe upon it? no offense but the more I notice it, the more it bugs me. Hypocrites are everywhere in this hobby, doesn't matter which side they're on. I could ask it for every piece of my rolling stock and locomotives, is it correct down to the very last detail? so what if it's not correct why can't I run it? I could go on and on and on and on, and not receive an answer I see fit. The problem is that everybody looks at it differently and they think that their view is right.

    I want to know, am I less of a model railroader than any of the other participants because I don't have DCC, a massive layout, I'm a younger member who just started, because I don't run any of the popular major roads like Pennsy, UP, ATSF, etc., because I run foobie locomotives and cars on CTS code 55 track. According to some people I am, according to others I'm not.
    As long as I can get my personal model railroading goals finished, learn something along the way, and be able to help other members of the hobby. I'd feel I did a good job.

    the only benefits I've gotten is the ability to paint my own fleet of SP&S locomotives because the big names won't release squat in SP&S unless it's a special run or an oddball release. Until we can all learn to play nice, respect others opinions and personal modeling goals nobodies going to benefited by anything.

    I keep my stuff separated by era unless otherwise noted, I will be modeling a strange real where the BN never merged with ATSF.
  18. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    At some point this was a civil conversation about the differences in the track sizes, and maybe brands, and the reasons some folks liked one over the other. By the 2nd page it was sliding downhill with tempers and egos rearing their ugly heads. There are a few of us calmer and more reasonable folks who realize that this is a hobby and that the concept of a hobby can mean different things to different folks. Some folks find their relaxation and stress relief in creating the most detailed copy of something that without a size perspective it is hard to tell from the real thing. Others just enjoy the miniature world for what it is without caring, or even noticing, that every nut, bolt, rivet, or tie plate and spike is exact and precision made. Both sides of the spectrum find equal enjoyment out of the hobby and it doesn't make one side any more superior to the other. The common bond is the enjoyment of the miniature world of railroading whether one enjoys logging with its patchwork of track of different sizes and decrepit looking equipment or the modern world of computer run behemoths.

    The other thing I have seen in this and other similar threads is that some folks just seem to have no concept that there are folks out there who have a limit to their disposable income that they can go out and spend on newer equipment, tools, and track. You make do with what you have and be creative with what you have, the enjoyment factor and the relaxation is the same whether you have a 3X6 layout or a roomful of tracks, and whether you have code 55 or code 80. Like a lot of older folks I am now retired and other than some modest cost of living increases my income is now fixed. And after I pay the bills, which did not go away magically when I retired, I work within a modest budget. I also have a decent collection of older locomotives that were made back before folks even knew what code 55 was and a fair number still run just fine. Maybe someday when the old locos finally give up the ghost to the point of being un-repairable I can think about using a code 55 other than some Peco. I am not going through the trouble to even try to turn down wheel flanges on a small fleet of Pacifics, which would require all wheels to be turned, and other steam and diesels along with them. Which with my advancing age and dimming eyesight is a task I have no desire to undertake. So for me right now the continued use of code 80 makes both practical and economic sense. And the eventual retirement layout, if it ever gets beyond the planning stages, will have the mainline and yards done in code 80 which has looked just fine to my eyes all these years. Maybe, and just a maybe the branch line might get code 55. That is because all the small locos that will run there are newer, or have newer power chassis under them with smaller flanges, that will work with code 55. But then again maybe not since my wallet and credit card will have the final say as to where I will get the most bang for the buck. I have never bothered to notice the ties on the track, just not something that blows my dress up for me. When I look at another person's layout I look at the structures and scenery, ties on the track and rail height are the last things I see if at all. If the overall effect is good I like it regardless of what track they use.

    And a parting shot at all those super details. Experience has taught me that they aren't worth the trouble for any model that is going to get handled frequently. Nice for something in a display case or that never gets removed from the layout. I would rather save my super detailing for the structures.
  19. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    One more observation I'll make that hasn't already been beaten to death here...

    If you're going as far as ballasting... pay particular note of both tie color and rail color before you get there. That may affect your decision.

    Out of the box C80 with black plastic ties against a white limestone ballast can look pretty rough. But if you're actually paying attention to what's out there you'll find out that the overall track scene is highly varied. On most railroads, the tie color is anything but black, and except for some pretty high-quality main lines, ballast isn't usually 100% clean either.

    I'm running both C80 and C55 on the same layout and have them side-by-side in a couple places. My prototype was know, during this era, for using a dark red/brown/black volcanic basalt ballast that didn't work all that well and got ground up to dust fairly easily under traffic. Ties got covered with it, along with a lot of rolling stock. To get 'the look' I want, the ties are effectively the same color as the roadbed.

    Can I get 'the look' I want with C80? Ballasted and painted, yes, and the ties are blended in anyway. Side photos show the height problem, and I'm replacing certain areas. But the end result isn't stunning enough different to warrant a lot of extra work. What I focus on is color and impact.
  20. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I guess the now labelled "rivet ignorers" have no "passion"? We ALL have the same passion. We just express it in differing ways, and that is what makes up the whole of a hobby.
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