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Discussion Starter #1
I'm trying to get up to speed on O scale stuff, looking at track choices, and looking to the future when I may want several switches.

My understanding is that old school O-27 Lionel 3 rail tubular track has O-27 switches, and I think that means a nominal 27 inch diameter curve to the switch, correct? So joining O-27 curve sections to two of these switches (LH & RH) gives you a 27" semi-circle is that correct?

Looking at other brands, Fastrack has O-31 switches, MTH has O-31, Atlas O-36, and Gargraves O-42. Joining 2 switches LH & RH to same radius curve sections gives you a semi-circle of 31", 36", or 42" nominal diameter, is that correct?
 

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I'm trying to get up to speed on O scale stuff, looking at track choices, and looking to the future when I may want several switches.

My understanding is that old school O-27 Lionel 3 rail tubular track has O-27 switches, and I think that means a nominal 27 inch diameter curve to the switch, correct? So joining O-27 curve sections to two of these switches (LH & RH) gives you a 27" semi-circle is that correct?

Looking at other brands, Fastrack has O-31 switches, MTH has O-31, Atlas O-36, and Gargraves O-42. Joining 2 switches LH & RH to same radius curve sections gives you a semi-circle of 31", 36", or 42" nominal diameter, is that correct?
In general, yes. But you can't use those designations to determine actual track space usage on a layout. The track designations are "nominal" dimensions.

For example, A Lionel O-27 circle measures 27" across the farthest ends of opposite rail ties. That is, a Lionel O-27 circle of track would fit in a 27" circle (or so).

But a Gargraves O-32 circle is larger than 32" across. The far end of a rail tie to the far end of the opposite rail tie is ~36".

For planning a layout in a given space I'd recommend track planning S/W. Google SCARM - MS-Windows based track planning S/W. The first 100 pieces of track are included in the free S/W license. No adverse malware or ads. Just a simple reminder when closing down a SCARM S/W session.
 

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Hobo for Life
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027, and 0 tubular track are old schol and diffrent. The 0 tubular track has larger diameter curves. The 027 is shorter to the ground. In both types you can larger curves and switches. The other stuff is newer and depending on the track and brand can have diffrent curve radius also. Some switches are better then others. So take that into consideration when making a track choice. Some is more costly then others. And some is more realistic looking then others. So much to think on. I would make sure the stuff you want to run will work on the radius track you want.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
thanks, I do know to check prices, appearance, and equipment fitting each type, what I do not know is which brands of switches to buy.

I've heard that the Gargraves switches are the best. And I've heard Atlas switches are not so good. I know nothing about the other brands. When I ask the question at my local dealer he of course wants to sell what he has on hand. He sells MTH and Lionel, and said there is no real difference between those 2 brands.

Are Atlas switches to be avoided?

And what about the reliability of old 3 rail Lionel O-27 switches?
 

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I wanted to keep the traditional look and feel of my grandfather's old trains and save money so I went with O27 and Marx switches, they need a little mod to have lionel engines run smoothly on them (by adding the guiderail).
I was able to get them for a lot less $$. I can't run many of the newer engines (especially scale) because of the tight radius turns and lack of space. But these are things I went into my layout understanding. The point is go with what works best for you. I'm at the very early stages of my build planning for something fun for the family.

Sent from my SM-G892A using Tapatalk
 

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thanks, I do know to check prices, appearance, and equipment fitting each type, what I do not know is which brands of switches to buy.

I've heard that the Gargraves switches are the best. And I've heard Atlas switches are not so good. I know nothing about the other brands. When I ask the question at my local dealer he of course wants to sell what he has on hand. He sells MTH and Lionel, and said there is no real difference between those 2 brands.

Are Atlas switches to be avoided?

And what about the reliability of old 3 rail Lionel O-27 switches?
I run O27 3 rail track and too many Lionel switches to remember and they work great. I got them all off eBay and they all worked when I got them.
 

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Railroad Tycoon
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thanks, I do know to check prices, appearance, and equipment fitting each type, what I do not know is which brands of switches to buy.

I've heard that the Gargraves switches are the best. And I've heard Atlas switches are not so good. I know nothing about the other brands. When I ask the question at my local dealer he of course wants to sell what he has on hand. He sells MTH and Lionel, and said there is no real difference between those 2 brands.

Are Atlas switches to be avoided?

And what about the reliability of old 3 rail Lionel O-27 switches?

A lot go with Ross switches mated to the Gargrave's track.

I never had either, I am old school and have Lionel tube track.
 

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I started out with O27 track and a few O27 switches. I added some Gargraves switches. Gargraves makes mating pins (O27 to Gargraves or Ross). I eventually switched to Gargraves track and switches. Gargraves track was quite a bit less expensive at the time (maybe still is). I have a few Ross switches and a little Ross track. Gargraves switches are good. Ross switches are the best, but also cost more. The downside about mixing O27 track and Gargraves/Ross switches is they differ in appearance.

There is certainly a difference between Lionel and MTH track. Not sure why your dealer would say otherwise. O gauge 3 rail trains can be run on any of the O gauge 3 rail track types that MTH, Lionel or other vendors make. But other than that, there is a world of difference. MTH alone makes two types of track (ScaleTrax and RealTrax). Can’t tell you much about them since I don’t use either, but they are certainly different.
 

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Most of my O track is Menards. I like it and it works. The only problem I have had is
sometimes the rails slip on the ties when connecting 2 pieces. Sometimes it pushes
a rail. The ties were not crimped to rails good enough. Always worked through it. I like
they have many radius of track. And cheaper than any other track I have found. Go
to Menards.com to see it and get prices. They will ship to a local store for free or to
your house for a cost.

If money was no problem I would have Gargraves. Nice track. Looks great.
 

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To be honest, tou should check out diffrent track and stuff on you tube. Designing the latout, starts with the track. Find something you like can afford then ask questions here. I had 027 yrack and switches, but moved to the 0 tubler track and switches. A little more money but for me liked the switches better. Take your time on this, better to get it right for you the dorst time.
 

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Most of my O track is Menards. I like it and it works. The only problem I have had is
sometimes the rails slip on the ties when connecting 2 pieces. Sometimes it pushes
a rail. The ties were not crimped to rails good enough. Always worked through it. I like
they have many radius of track. And cheaper than any other track I have found. Go
to Menards.com to see it and get prices. They will ship to a local store for free or to
your house for a cost.

If money was no problem I would have Gargraves. Nice track. Looks great.
I looked at Menards track and read some about it here on the forum. If you want new tubular with a nice assortment of radii as well as the longer 35" straights, that is the way to go - if - your handy. Mopac's comment on the ties resonates with another comment I've read here about the pins. You have to check the track when you get it to insure all the crimps are tight.

Not a big issues if you want a retro look or if it saves 50% of the cost of modern track offerings. But new, matching switches seem near the price of the Gargrave switches. And you have to account for the number of track pieces that make up a curve in the cost analysis. For example, Gargraves uses 8 pieces for a 54" circle while Menards requires 16 pieces for a circle. That narrows the cost difference to a few percent.
 

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Part of your decision will be based on looks and part will be based on utility. Utility-wise (and partly looks-wise) many people swear by Ross switches and Gargraves track which seem to work well and look OK together. Others will swear by Atlas track & switches which look pretty realistic and work fairly well (the newer switches) but are considered expensive. Still others will swear by MTH Fastrack or Scaletrax, but often complain about the lack of track options. Finally, there are those who are satisfied using tubular (not the best looking, but obviously the cheapest and with the most brand options) track and switches.

Most any brand of track can be made to work (sometimes with special mating pieces) with any other brand. For example, a bridge with built in Fastrack can still be mated to an Atlas track layout if you really like that particular bridge. Many others here, and on other O gauge fora, will offer their opinions about which track and switches are best to use, but only you (after some research) can determine what will work best in your current situation.

Chuck
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Chuck, thanks, how is the quality of Lionel Fastrack switches? My local dealers always have a pile of lightly used Fastrack for sale.
 

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All I can say is what I've read over the past years. FasTrack is generally considered loud but relatively trouble free. If you use it for a carpeted floor layout, the noise will not be too loud, and the same goes if you use enough sound-deadening material under it on a table-top layout. Another FasTrack complaint seen often is the difficulty in assembling and disassembling because of tight electrical connections. A FasTrack switch "plus" is that the remote control versions (not the manual options) can also be controlled by a hand-held command controller should you choose to operate engines via command control (TMCC, Legacy or MTH DCS).

Finally, something else you may want to consider about switches. Any switch with a decent curve through it, even a large O72 or O96 curve, will not look or operate like a prototypical switch. They will be fine at slow speeds where you really want to start a long curve with a switch, but for yard ladder use, crossing between parallel tracks, or starting a passing siding, I would highly recommend what are called "numbered" switches. Two examples are Ross #4s or #6s and Atlas #5s or #7.5s.

I don't want to go too far afield with this post, but you might look at "Track Planning for Realistic Operations" by John Armstrong, or just search "model railroad switch varieties" to get some ideas of what I'm talking about. Or, just look at published trackplans and compare O gauge plans (mostly using Oxx switches) with O scale plans (using numbered switches) to get an idea of the differences.

Chuck
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I like the Atlas track, and would like to use their switches, just keep reading they have issues, and I'm not sure if the info relates to older Atlas switches.

I saw the 3 rail layout at San Diego 3 railers last weekend and looks like they run Atlas switches and track there.

Are present day Atlas switches ok?
 

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I like the Atlas track, and would like to use their switches, just keep reading they have issues, and I'm not sure if the info relates to older Atlas switches.

I saw the 3 rail layout at San Diego 3 railers last weekend and looks like they run Atlas switches and track there.

Are present day Atlas switches ok?
yes the 3 railers run atlas track and have been since 2002. with no main line track replaced unless something was remodeled.

they have replaced about half of the old atlas switches with the 2018 atlas version which work way better then the older version.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
ok ok your are giving me new into here, and hope :)

so since 2018 the switches are improved? so maybe I could use Atlas.

The Fastrack will cost less, since we can get used Fastrack, but I like the curve choices with Atlas.
 

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Again, search this forum and other model railroad fora for discussions about Atlas switches. Many do not like their switch machines (too easy to burn out), some complain of engines stalling while going through a switch and some complain about constant derailments. Most problems (excluding switch machine burnout) can be fixed with a little work, if they occur for you.

I have not seen many complaints about Atlas track itself.

Chuck
 

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spacomp92653,
What do you think will be your tightest curve? A couple of your questions referred to switches like O27 and O31. Are those the types of switches you anticipate having?
 
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