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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I started this obsession last winter, when there was no yard work to do, and it was difficult to do anything socially. It started with a suggestion from my wife: "Why don't you get out your old train set?"

The fuse was lit... there's no stopping the rocket until the fuel burns out, LOL!

Anyway, I am to the point where I've finalized my plan, and will start building in about 3-4 weeks, so I'm planning the final stages of acquiring supplies for the build

I am committed to using Peco code 80 turnouts (already bought 15 of them), and now I need to get some bulk N gauge Code 80 flex track. I have also acquired several pieces of Atlas Code 80 sectional track for key pieces, like 90 degree crossings, short straight pieces (for use near turnouts) and rerailers (using for road crossings). I'm leaning toward Atlas Flex track, as it seems to be the most available. I already have 15 or so pieces from back in the 90's... some of which are a bit buggered up, but, from which some shorter sections are salvageable. And I will also use some of theses buggered-up pieces to practice soldering leads.

Would any of you choose a code 80 N gauge flex track OTHER THAN Atlas? And if so, why? I'm quite intrigued by Micro Engineering since their flex track holds a curve, but I don't see anything from them in Code 80.

Also, it seems that the price is pretty consistent at around $4.50 (give or take) no matter if buying a single piece or a pack of 25. I have found a supply at less than $4.00 each when buying 100 pieces or more. But that's about twice the quantity I will need.

Do any of you have a source for Atlas Code 80 flex track in bulk for less than $4.50 per piece?

Any other suggestions for a guy about to begin a winter build?
 

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I started this obsession last winter, when there was no yard work to do, and it was difficult to do anything socially. It started with a suggestion from my wife: "Why don't you get out your old train set?"

The fuse was lit... there's no stopping the rocket until the fuel burns out, LOL!

Anyway, I am to the point where I've finalized my plan, and will start building in about 3-4 weeks, so I'm planning the final stages of acquiring supplies for the build

I am committed to using Peco code 80 turnouts (already bought 15 of them), and now I need to get some bulk N gauge Code 80 flex track. I have also acquired several pieces of Atlas Code 80 sectional track for key pieces, like 90 degree crossings, short straight pieces (for use near turnouts) and rerailers (using for road crossings). I'm leaning toward Atlas Flex track, as it seems to be the most available. I already have 15 or so pieces from back in the 90's... some of which are a bit buggered up, but, from which some shorter sections are salvageable. And I will also use some of theses buggered-up pieces to practice soldering leads.

Would any of you choose a code 80 N gauge flex track OTHER THAN Atlas? And if so, why? I'm quite intrigued by Micro Engineering since their flex track holds a curve, but I don't see anything from them in Code 80.

Also, it seems that the price is pretty consistent at around $4.50 (give or take) no matter if buying a single piece or a pack of 25. I have found a supply at less than $4.00 each when buying 100 pieces or more. But that's about twice the quantity I will need.

Do any of you have a source for Atlas Code 80 flex track in bulk for less than $4.50 per piece?

Any other suggestions for a guy about to begin a winter build?
Jeff;

Since you are using code 80 turnouts & track, the Peco turnouts are an excellent choice,& the Atlas track is mechanically quite reliable. Its big drawback is appearance, not function.
Code 80 scales up to rail a foot high in real life. That's much higher than any rail ever used on a real railroad. The other appearance issue with Atlas code 80 is the ties. They are too short, and spaced too far apart.
I use Micro Engineering code 55 flex for all visible track, because it looks so much more realistic. However, in my hidden staging yard, I use Atlas code 80. I had a bunch sitting around, and its cheaper than Micro Engineering track. Looks don't matter if you can't see it. 馃槃

Recently Atlas has improved the looks of their code 55 flex track considerably. Atlas code 55 always looked better than their code 80. The brown ties on older Atlas code 55 were longer, and the tie spacing was reduced, both making it look a bit more realistic. One issue with the Atlas code 55 track was the oversized spikes, which deep, "pizza cutter" wheels would hit. This caused those wheels to rattle along the track on top of the spikes. Shallow flanged wheels did not have this problem.
The new Atlas code 55 flex looks great, close to Micro Engineering's excellent appearance. The giant spikes are gone from the flex track too. Deep flanged wheels just barely clear the smaller spikes on the new Atlas code 55 flex track. Oddly, the current production Atlas code 55 sectional track has spikes that deep flanged wheels do still hit and rattle, rattle, rattle. Go figure.

I think your price of $4.50 ea. is normal. Other than buying twice what you need, you're not likely to find it cheaper, at least not new. Used track, deep in the wilds of E-bay is a whole other thing. Personally, I stay away from "the bay." The attached file has more info on track and track laying.
Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 馃檪
 

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Hey Jeff,

I'd stick with Atlas code 80 flex track. It's almost always readily available, and it mates with your Peco code 80 switches just fine. That's the standard that we, along with a lot of other clubs, run on our N-Trak modular layouts. And it's easy to work with. Since it's "springy", it also makes it really easy to lay nice, smooth curves.

I have Atlas code 55 on my home layout. It is very good looking track. But at the same time, if you paint, ballast, and weather your code 80 track, it can look pretty decent too. Plus you can run anything on code 80 track. Atlas code 55 track needs low profile wheels for everything to run properly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
OK, so if the price was the same between Peco Code 80 and Atlas Code 80, which is better?

Peco is 36" while Atlas is 30"

Using Anyrail, I designed my layout with Peco track so I could create the design using the Peco turnouts. This way, the geometry would be correct. Unfortunately, AnyRail does not allow you to connect a piece of Atlas track to Peco track, even though in real life you can. So I had to create the whole layout using Peco Code 80.

The plan I created calls for 50 pieces of Peco flex track. Peco flex track is 20% longer than Atlas, So I will need 60 pieces of Atlas, give or take minor differences in scrap as I trim pieces to length.

I really wish I could see the 2 side by side.. I don't mind spending a little more on the flex track if Peco is just a better product. On the other hand, I already have a few pieces of Atlas dimensional track such as 90 degree crossings and short straight sections for use with turnouts.

As usual, I'm over-thinking things... I get stuck in analysis paralysis...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
OK, never mind... I found Atlas Code 80 flex track for $4.00 per piece at Tony's Train Xchange. Just ordered 60 pieces and a couple more Peco turnouts.
 

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OK, so if the price was the same between Peco Code 80 and Atlas Code 80, which is better?

Peco is 36" while Atlas is 30"

Using Anyrail, I designed my layout with Peco track so I could create the design using the Peco turnouts. This way, the geometry would be correct. Unfortunately, AnyRail does not allow you to connect a piece of Atlas track to Peco track, even though in real life you can. So I had to create the whole layout using Peco Code 80.

The plan I created calls for 50 pieces of Peco flex track. Peco flex track is 20% longer than Atlas, So I will need 60 pieces of Atlas, give or take minor differences in scrap as I trim pieces to length.

I really wish I could see the 2 side by side.. I don't mind spending a little more on the flex track if Peco is just a better product. On the other hand, I already have a few pieces of Atlas dimensional track such as 90 degree crossings and short straight sections for use with turnouts.

As usual, I'm over-thinking things... I get stuck in analysis paralysis...
Jeff;

Either Peco, or Atlas, flex track will work fine. In general, Peco is known as a high quality brand, and Atlas is more "the cheap stuff." in the particular case of flex track though it would at best be an improvement in looks to use the Peco. Atlas flex track works just as well as anybody's flex track, Atlas code 80 flex just looks unrealistic. If they are actually the same price per section* and Peco gives you an extra 6" per section then that will save you a little money. Also, I suspect the Peco track will look a bit better than the Atlas code 80. The tie length, and spacing, may be better on the Peco. Another trick I found out that Peco uses on their "code 55" N-scale turnouts is using code 80 rail, but with all but .055" of it buried in a thick plastic tie strip. This makes the bond between rail and ties exceptionally strong.
I doubt that this trick is used, or even necessary, on Peco's code 80 track, but I don't know since I have not used it.
One "downside" of Peco track, occasionally complained about here, is that the Peco track (and turnouts) are based on British prototypes, not American, so the appearance is a little off. Since your happy with code 80 Atlas flex, I doubt that appearance is a big issue for you. I have not used Peco track, though I do have some of their turnouts on my layout. I don't feel the "British look" is an issue. Painted and ballasted, its not obvious at all.

Traction Fan 馃檪

* Are you sure about the pricing of Peco and Atlas flex track being the same? That seems odd to me, since Atlas products tend to be less expensive than their competitors, including Peco.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
TF, I found a source for Peco Code 80 at $3.80 per piece, but when I researched the seller, I saw all sorts of bad reviews... So I figured if it's too good to be true, it probably is, LOL.

I ended up ordering 60 pieces of Atlas flex track from Tony's Train Exchange. They have it listed for $4.00 per piece, which is the least expensive I could find from a reputable source.

Thank you all for your guidance!
 

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TF, I found a source for Peco Code 80 at $3.80 per piece, but when I researched the seller, I saw all sorts of bad reviews... So I figured if it's too good to be true, it probably is, LOL.

I ended up ordering 60 pieces of Atlas flex track from Tony's Train Exchange. They have it listed for $4.00 per piece, which is the least expensive I could find from a reputable source.

Thank you all for your guidance!
Jeff;

It sounds like you made the right choice. Tony's train exchange is a reputable dealer. It sounds like the "Peco for $3.80 ea." guy is not! Good call. (y)

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Tony's came through! The Flex Track and a couple more Peco turnouts arrived this past weekend. Pretty quick turnaround, and excellent prices!!!

Next up on the agenda is foam board insulation... Looks like Menards has the best prices.

I spent a few hours yesterday contemplating how to layer the boards so that all my bridges will be at the right elevation for smooth operations as a train enters and exits each bridge. I think I have a plan that will accomplish that, and will also allow for removable pieces of the tops of mountains for access to the tunnels that will run beneath.

I'm getting excited to enter into the first stages of actually building the layout I have been planning for about 9 months now.
 

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Tony's came through! The Flex Track and a couple more Peco turnouts arrived this past weekend. Pretty quick turnaround, and excellent prices!!!

Next up on the agenda is foam board insulation... Looks like Menards has the best prices.

I spent a few hours yesterday contemplating how to layer the boards so that all my bridges will be at the right elevation for smooth operations as a train enters and exits each bridge. I think I have a plan that will accomplish that, and will also allow for removable pieces of the tops of mountains for access to the tunnels that will run beneath.

I'm getting excited to enter into the first stages of actually building the layout I have been planning for about 9 months now.
Jeff;

For permanent bonding of those foam sheets you might consider using latex calk, white glue, (Elmer's) or hot glue, or double-sided tape. The first two have slow (overnight) curing times to get the strongest bond these adhesives can produce. The second two are just the opposite, they bond instantly. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. The slow adhesives give you lots of working time. You can move the foam around as needed. The downside is that getting a bond all the way across a 4 x 8 sheet can be difficult/impossible. Some of the adhesive in the middle may never cure, since it can't get air.

On the other hand hot glue bonds very quickly, a couple of seconds is typical. Double -sided tape is even faster, in fact it is instantaneous, and very permanent. You have to be sure exactly where you want the second layer to go onto the first one. The tape grips aggressively on contact, and there is no moving that sheet if you're a little off. This shouldn't be a serious problem when you're simply layering the sheets. If they don't line up exactly, so what. They don't really need to be prefect, just reasonably close. Later, when attaching smaller pieces, say to build a hill, you might opt for a slower glue, since you may want to move pieces around to et the best look.

To fasten entire sheets with white glue, I would:

1) Buy a gallon of the stuff.

2) Use a paint roller to spread a thin, even, layer across the entire surface of both sheets to be bonded, and let the glue dry overnight, with the two sheets of foam still separated. Next day, roll another thin coat on one sheet and lay the two sheets on top of each other. Put weights on the top sheet. (Bricks, or those 12" square concrete paver blocks, work well.) Then let it dry overnight.
This method sort of mimics the operation of contact cement. However unlike many contact cements, the white glue won't attack the foam. Also unlike contact cement, white glue doesn't grab instantly and forevermore. You have some working time to line the sheets up.



If you decide to use hot glue, here are some things I've learned by experience. (Sometimes bitter experience! :confused: )

1) Have a large, wide, bowl, or cake pan, filled half way with ice water near your hot glue working area. Hot glue is (Duh! ) HOT! Plenty hot enough to burn your fingers when (notice that I said not "if" but when) you get some bit of screaming hot glue on them. Plunge your hand into the ice water quickly and you can usually prevent burned skin.

2) Use a "Low Temp" glue gun. Many have a switch to select High, or Low, temperature. For both your skin, and the foam, Low is better. Its still hot enough to bond the foam, but not hot enough to melt all the way through a 1/2" thick sheet of foam.

3) Use a "cordless"
glue gun. I don't mean one with a battery, like cordless drills have. There is a type that plugs into its holding base, which in turn is plugged into the wall. You plug the gun into the base, wait for it to heat up enough to melt the glue stick, unplug it and go do your gluing. The heat in the unplugged gun lasts for a few minutes, and then you plug it back into the base. Re-heating time is pretty short. The cordless gun makes life easier. Otherwise, the cord is often dragged into your way.

4) Hot glue will work anywhere, including the center area. Later, when you're carving some scenery and you run into some cured glue, you can simply cut through it.


Double-sided tape is different. If you run into a strip of tape when carving scenery, you can cut through it, but it will leave an obvious seam line. One trick I've used when hot gluing the pieces of tree bark in the photos of the cliff, was to stagger, and slope, the pieces. You can do the same with foam, and the seam lines will look more natural that way. After all. you can see such seams in natural rock formations, or even a deep hole in the ground. Goggle the Grand Canyon, and you'll see a spectacular example of this "layered look."

For those removeable tunnel tops, you might use dowels to make alignment pegs. Gravity will hold the top down reasonably well, but nothing prevents it from moving horizontally, unless you add something into your mountain. Magnet tape, or Velcro, are other possibilities. I use alignment pegs to get my removable "city blocks" lined up when I put them back over my concealed staging yard, under "Seattle." Magnets hold the various blocks to each other, end-to-end.

One further recommendation about tunnel access. Make the opening, and removable top, as large as possible. Larger than you think it needs to be. Heck, make the whole mountain removeable, if you can. The reason is access. Most newbies, and a lot of not-so-newbies, don't make good arrangements for enough access to hidden track. Hidden track will get dirty, and have trains derail, just as much as non-hidden track. The best access possible is to remove all of whatever is hiding the track. I do this with my lightweight removeable city blocks. This makes hidden track into exposed track, with the same degree of access.
Shoving a stick into a tunnel portal isn't good access. Neither is a small opening in a long tunnel, where if you bend your head down, and use a flashlight, you can maybe, sort of, see the track out to both ends of the tunnel. You might be surprised at the number of experienced modelers who have such lame arrangements on their layouts.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 馃檪
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I already have a few tubes of liquid nails for projects, and was planning to use that to lay down the foam unless that's not a good idea. I seem to remember it being one of the recommended adhesives.
 

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I already have a few tubes of liquid nails for projects, and was planning to use that to lay down the foam unless that's not a good idea. I seem to remember it being one of the recommended adhesives.
[/QUOTE

Jeff;

Yes, "Liquid Nails For Projects" will work fine. It's the regular Liquid Nails that has a solvent base which attacks foam. The "For Projects" type does not have that solvent, and is safe to use on foam.

Good Luck & Have Fun;

Traction Fan 馃檪
 

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Do you type 1000 words a minute?
More? :p
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for the advice, TF!

My layout has a few miles of track at "ground level" which will also have a couple sidings, and a small yard and a couple of spurs to service industries. There will also be an elevated level that will be 2.5" higher. This elevated track will mostly be a "run around" track with only a couple spurs. This way, I can let the upper train run while I operate the lower level with more "jobs" to do. For the upper level, I plan to use a layer of 2" foam with another 1/2" layer on top of that. The top of the 1/2" sheet will be the surface that the elevated sections will run on. The ground level track will tunnel underneath the upper level in a few places. I figure the 2" layer will have voids for the tunnels, and the 1/2" layer will be the top of the tunnels and the surface for the elevated sections. The longest tunnel will be about 18", so I plan to have the cover for that particular tunnel to be a 12" x 6" rectangle that will overlap the void beneath by a couple inches on every side.... I think that will allow sufficient access, what do you think? The removable top will not have any track on it... just scenery and maybe a structure or 2. I was thinking about having a couple of tree stumps or telephone poles to use for "handles" so I can lift the cover up and away for tunnel access.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
OK, so I just got handed a dose of "trying to save money sometimes costs more in the end." Haha!

I came across a guy selling 3 sheets of Owens Corning 1.5" foam board for $10 each, and I thought "Perfect for my base layer, to set the "ground level" for the lower track. This would be thick enough to bury the Peco electric switches under each turnout!" But I didn't think about how much clearance I would want under the bridges that go over the river for the barge traffic... Thurns out 2" is necessary. So now I'm planning to add a 1/2" to build up the "ground level" to 2" above the river. In N scale, that's about 27 feet, which is still low for prototypical clearance for barge traffic, but... I'll employ Rule 1 and say "it's OK for my railroad!

So I'll be heading to Menards to get a few 1/2" sheets tomorrow morning. Would have been cheaper to just buy 2" foam board to begin with.

Also, I really underestimated the amount of Liquid Nails for Projects it would take to lay down a layer of foam... So I'll be buying a few more tubes of that too!
 

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OK, so I just got handed a dose of "trying to save money sometimes costs more in the end." Haha!

I came across a guy selling 3 sheets of Owens Corning 1.5" foam board for $10 each, and I thought "Perfect for my base layer, to set the "ground level" for the lower track. This would be thick enough to bury the Peco electric switches under each turnout!" But I didn't think about how much clearance I would want under the bridges that go over the river for the barge traffic... Thurns out 2" is necessary. So now I'm planning to add a 1/2" to build up the "ground level" to 2" above the river. In N scale, that's about 27 feet, which is still low for prototypical clearance for barge traffic, but... I'll employ Rule 1 and say "it's OK for my railroad!

So I'll be heading to Menards to get a few 1/2" sheets tomorrow morning. Would have been cheaper to just buy 2" foam board to begin with.

Also, I really underestimated the amount of Liquid Nails for Projects it would take to lay down a layer of foam... So I'll be buying a few more tubes of that too!
Jeff;

We all learn from experience, often by mistakes. You're not alone. Been there, done that, in one way or another!

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Added a half inch to bring ground level up to 2" so the bridges can sit at a more appropriate level.

Starting to visualize track layout V2.1
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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Tracing the centerline of the lower level track, and starting to shape the foam for the upper level. In this first picture, you can see the void in the upper layer of foamboard where the lower track will go through a tunnel. I'm getting close to having the bridges in their place... just need to be sure the track will go over the bridge without any humps in the line. The upper level will have another 1/2" layer of foam on top. This 1/2" layer will cover the tunnels, but I will have a rectangular section above the tunnel that is removable for access below. I'm leaving a gap about 6" wide for the tunnel, and the removable section will overlap that by 2-3" on each side. I will lay the lower level track and run trains for several days (to be sure the lower level runs well) before moving on to the upper level. The upper level will be separate from the lower level. I had though about having inclines to connect the lower to upper, but decided against that.

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But before I do that, I need to come up with a base layer for the riverbed... something that will hold its place and be really thin. The plan is to coat the riverbed with paintable caulking, then paint it, then cover it with Envirotex. So before I set the bridges, I need to lay down something thin (to not raise the level of the waterline too much), set the bridges, then coat the riverbed in caulk so the Envirotex won't drip through the seems in the table. The pieces of foam that are holding up the bridges are just there to get a feel for the height of the bridges. I'll either shape these into something that resembles a pier, or will buy some piers... not sure yet.
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The Elevated viaduct style bridge is a kit from Faller. Leading to that bridge on either side is a kit-bashed double bridge made form 2 Atlas girder bridges. I used a hobby mitre saw to remove teh girder on one bridge so that when combined, the width would be correct so that the tracks will line up.

This last pic is just showing me playing around with some scrap pieces of foam to represent how I plan to build up the hill on the upper level.
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