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Discussion Starter #1
I have looked at how Kato N scale track has plenty or options including an adapter to go to

code 80 Atlas track, according to my local dealer. When adapting from Kato with roadbed to code 80

without roadbed, what is a good material to use to keep the right height? Does cork roadbed end up being

correct? Any serious difference between Kato and Atlas turnouts re function, quality, etc?

Should I go with Kato and forget about flex track? or go all Atlas?
 

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I've never used roadbed track, but have read lots of opinions on it. The Kato track is most likely the best that has roadbed molded on. The problem is that you're limited to what shape their track is. Curve radii are factory made, so there's not a lot of flexibility in there. But, if you have the room for it, it's great stuff. Plus, roadbed track is substantially more expensive.

Flex track along with regular sectional track allows you to design whatever shape you want, within reason and physical limits of the locos and rolling stock. You do have to pay attention to joiners...the joints have to be smooth and tight. Cutting flex is a bit discouraging at the start, but you would quickly get the feel for it.

Since you have a local dealer, buy a bit of each and see which you prefer. I think it'd be money well-spent on learning what you need to know. Good luck!!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
thanks Fire. I have worked with HO flex and became 'ok' at joint soldering. I've worked with Kato track too. Not so sure about my

ability to solder code 55 or 80 flex but am willing to give it a go. Does N scale flex need to be soldered? or if joined tightly can we skip the soldering?
 

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It's my belief, and that of many others, that as many joints as possible should be soldered when using sectional and flex track. The individual joiners can loosen a bit with use, thereby making electrical contact issues. I think it's always good to leave a few unsoldered so you can "get into the track" if needed in the future. But those openings should be on straightaways where track movement is least likely.

I think most people here would suggest Pico turnouts as first choice. Atlas turnouts don't have a very good reputation among the members here. I've never used Kato ones, but if they're of the same quality as their locos and Unitrack, they've got to be good.

The thing to remember about soldering track joints, as well as wiring, is to use a low temperature solder and a small soldering iron. In other words, don't use too much heat. If you get the track rails aligned well, then just a touch of solder will do the job. Yes, with N track the joints are smaller and easier to overheat, thus melting a tie or two, but a bit of practice with the smaller size will get you doing them well.
 

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and the quality of the turnouts is important to me as to which is nicer, Kato or Atlas
spacomp;

The only Atlas turnouts available in N-scale are the lower-quality "Snap Switch" type. Atlas "Custom Line" turnouts, which are Atlas's better-quality turnouts, are available in HO-scale, but not in N-scale.
The answer to your original question, "Which is better, Atlas or Kato? would be Kato. However, there are turnouts that are better than either, If you want to use flex, or sectional, track. They are Peco, and Micro Engineering.
If you want to use roadbed track, then stick to Kato unitrack and Kato turnouts.
Strongly NOT Recommended would be Bachmann's roadbed track called "EZ-Track" The actual track is OK, though not as good as Kato, and with fewer curve options, but the real killer would be the Bachmann EZ-Track turnouts. They are simply the very worst on the market!
Atlas Snap Switch turnouts, out of the box, are not so hot, but they can be easily modified to be fairly reliable turnouts. I'm doing this now on 10 Atlas Snap Switch turnouts for my grandson's first layout.

The file "Improving Atlas Turnouts" discusses the problems inherent in the Snap Switch design, and the fixes for most of them. A lot of the first seven pages relates somewhat more to the HO-scale version, but some is also applicable to the N-scale one. The second file, "Improving Atlas Turnouts II" deals more specifically with the N-scale Snap Switch turnout. The file "All about Turnouts" is a long, and thorough, explanation of turnouts in general. At the end are my personal quality ratings of seven popular brands of commercial turnouts. Bachmann is dead last, and if you read the feedback from some Bachmann EZ-Track turnout owners, I think you'll see why.

Track choice, and soldering.

Code 80 track is only .003" shorter rail height than the code 83 track you may have seen, or used, when you were modeling in HO-scale. In N-scale, it also scales up to real rail about a foot high, which is way bigger than any rail ever used by a real railroad. The Atlas code 80 track also has ties that are too short, and too far apart. All these are appearance issues. Functionally Atlas code 80 is fine, it just looks ugly.
What doesn't look ugly at all is Micro Engineering code 55 flex track. It is the most realistic looking track I have ever seen. I use it for all the visible track on my own railroad. I use the ugly Atlas code 80 in my hidden staging yard.

Micro Engineering "flex" track is different from most other flex track. It is quite stiff, and requires effort to form into a smooth curve, but once formed, it holds that curve. Atlas makes code 55 flex track that is very flexible, so much so that the second you let go of it, it snaps back to straight. Either will work, both look good, it's just a matter of which type you like.
Peco "code 55" track is good quality, but very weird. The rail used is actually code 78, with part of the rail buried in the thick plastic tie strip. The Peco rail also has two flared bases. One at the normal bottom position, and another about .058" from the top of the rail. I think the plan was to let the upper base be joined to other brands of track that have actual code 55 rail. One big problem with that. For reasons surpassing logical understanding the good folks at peco neglected to make a slot directly below this upper base for a rail joiner to be inserted. Perhaps they forgot that joining the rails on pieces of track requires the use of rail joiners? That's very odd, since, among other things, Peco manufactures rail joiners. The result of this blunder is that Peco's "code 55" track & turnouts will not easily* connect to any other brand of code 55 track. It will connect easily to more Peco track, or to anybody's code 80 track by putting a rail joiner on the bottom base.

( * it is possible to connect Peco "code 55" rail to actual code 55 rail, but it requires major Dremel surgery, and soldering the resulting mess together. I don't recommend it. If you decide to use the otherwise excellent Peco code 55 Unifrog turnouts, use Peco flex track, or Atlas code 80 flex track.)

Does N-scale track need to be soldered? Yes. Didn't you solder your HO track? Track is track. The N-scale track is smaller, and the HO-scale track is bigger, but that's the only difference. Using a 30-watt pencil soldering iron, some water-based flux from Home Depot, and heat sinks, soldering N-scale track is pretty much the same as soldering HO-scale track.

Traction Fan 🙂
 

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