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I used to do some HO scale model railroading way back when. Lately I really want to get back to it. I am not looking to spend a lot in the start but at the same time do not want to waste my money.

I see much has changed:

Track:

There are manufacturers now offering their own types of Snap Fit track. For instance the Tyco looks incompatible with LifeLike but looks very similar to the Bachmann track. I see one set advertising "Power Lock Track" which I see no manufacturer on . Some of these seem it would be difficult or impossible to connect to standard track


Train Couplers:

I see Marklin HO trains that seem to have different couplers for the cars.

As I want to leave my options open I have no desire to get into proprietary track or couplers, etc to only throw it away later. Is there anywhere that I can get a run-down of HO track comptability or how it connects to "legacy" track? What about the Marklin couplers?


Thanks

Mark
 

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Welcome aboard!

I used to do some HO scale model railroading way back when. Lately I really want to get back to it. I am not looking to spend a lot in the start but at the same time do not want to waste my money.

I see much has changed:

Track:

There are manufacturers now offering their own types of Snap Fit track. For instance the Tyco looks incompatible with LifeLike but looks very similar to the Bachmann track. I see one set advertising "Power Lock Track" which I see no manufacturer on . Some of these seem it would be difficult or impossible to connect to standard track


Train Couplers:

I see Marklin HO trains that seem to have different couplers for the cars.

As I want to leave my options open I have no desire to get into proprietary track or couplers, etc to only throw it away later. Is there anywhere that I can get a run-down of HO track comptability or how it connects to "legacy" track? What about the Marklin couplers?


Thanks

Mark
Mark;

Welcome to the forum!

I think most of the track you mentioned is what we call "roadbed track." It has a rigid gray, or black, plastic piece attached to the bottom of each track section, and the sections do snap together firmly. The roadbed piece is supposed to simulate the crushed-rock "ballast" found under real track.
Bachmann "EZ-Track" and Kato "Unitrack," are two popular brands.
I'm not familiar with either Tyco, or Life Like, track, but if they have the plastic roadbed piece attached, they are probably similar to Bachmann EZ-Track, or may even be Bachmann track sold under a different name. Among brands of roadbed track, Kato is the best quality and offers a wider selection of curve radii and other sections.

There are two other types of track that don't have a roadbed piece under them, and may be more familiar to you from "way back when" They are sectional track, and flex track. These are probably what you meant by "standard track." Sectional track is basically roadbed track, without the roadbed piece. Atlas is a very popular brand of sectional (and flex) track. It is possible to adapt roadbed track to mate with flex, or sectional track, though I don't know why anyone would want to use more than one of the three general types.
HO Flex track comes in 36" long pieces and can be bent to any curvature, or used as straight track. Flex track is also cheaper than sectional or roadbed track. It's the track of choice for most experienced model railroaders. Unlike roadbed track, which is proprietary, Sectional and flex track are compatible between brands. Micro Engineering, and Peco, are two other popular brands of flex track.

The coupler of choice, and the one nearly every modeler ends up with, is Kadee. Today most cars and locomotives come with some form of knuckle coupler, The copies look like Kadees, and are supposedly compatible with Kadees, but Kadee is the best, and most popular. I don't know what coupler Marklin uses, but MichaelE, one of our members knows more about Marklin, and may be able to help you.

To learn more about track and coupler types, and current model railroading in general, you may want to look at the attached files. I wrote them to help new, or returning, modelers.

Again welcome;

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:

View attachment WHERE DO I START rev 4.pdf

View attachment 1 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 2 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 3 & 4 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 5 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment 6 How to build a better first layout.pdf

View attachment All AboutTurnouts rev 5.pdf

View attachment MODEL RAILROADING ON A BUDGET.pdf

View attachment Model Railroad Terminology 3.pdf
 

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Mark

You are right...there have been many 'changes' in
the HO scale...mostly very desirable upgrades.

Your choice of track is important for the success
of your layout.

There are several makes of sectional 'track on
road bed'...they are not readily compatible with
each other...for the most part if you select make 'A'
you must use turnouts and other track fittings
made only by make 'A'. Further, your turn radiii
is limited to those offered and may not be wide
enough to run large steamers or the new 6 wheel
truck diesels.

There are very strong fans of these 'track on roadbed'
systems and you surely will hear from them. They
claim them to be simple to install and attractive.

However, for the above reasons, many of us recommend using
flex track which is readily available at hobby shops or
on line and is fully compatible with turnouts and other
track accessories. It is available in various designs
depending on your preference for realism. It comes
in 3 foot sections that you can cut or bend to match
your layout plans.

Also the good news is that today's HO locos and cars
are better than ever before. Regardless of brand, you
can expect to get a quality product. Today's prices are
mainly based on the degree of detail...the innards
are basically the same.

The most important 'improvement' is the development
and success of DCC...Digital Command and Control.
It has simplifed the wiring, you basically have two
wires to the track. No isolated sections, no panel
of switches, not rats nest of wiring. Yet, your one
controller can run 2, 3 or more trains at the same
time, some going one way, another going the other way.

The Forum members are here to answer any of your
questions and help you when it comes to construction.

Don
 

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Train Couplers:

I see Marklin HO trains that seem to have different couplers for the cars.

As I want to leave my options open I have no desire to get into proprietary track or couplers, etc to only throw it away later. Is there anywhere that I can get a run-down of HO track comptability or how it connects to "legacy" track? What about the Marklin couplers?
Marklin is European. If your main bent is North American railroading, ignore Marklin, Hornby, etc. equipment.
 

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Atlas True Track (track & plastic roadbed) has the advantage of reusing the snap track without the plastic roadbed, the track just pops out. I mention this because that's the direction I've recently went, 1st it worked well on the carpet, now its going on a foam board for a modular build. I'm not ready to dedicate a room for a permanent layout, but if I do then I can reuse some of the snap track, and maybe add some flex, etc.
 

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Unfortunately, one of the new developments in track is the use of a nickel-silver copper alloy, which performs much better than the older brass. It doesn't corrode as fast, and when it does, the oxide is still conductive. You can still use your old stuff, but it won't compare favorably with the new. You can mix, but I'd recommend that all your new track purchases be nickel silver. Avoid anything with steel rails. They work for real railroads, but they're a maintenance nightmare for hobbyists.

PowerLoc track is Life Like track (now owned / sold by Walthers). The connectors on this are proprietary, just like many other brands of roadbed track. You can mix these with difficulty. Some brands sell adapters to mate with other brands, but most of the time you have to perform surgery to do it. For my money, not a good use of scarce hobby time.

The exception, as DCwom noted, is Atlas True Track, which is just their standard non-roadbed Snap Track press-fit into plastic roadbed. It takes standard joiners.

Flex track and standard turnouts seems daunting to the beginner, but it really is the best method of getting exactly what you want without the constraints of sectional track geometry.

Couplers: the US standard is the Kadee knuckle coupler and the various knock-offs. All of these will work together, but only the Kadees and Walthers Protomax are made of metal and can take the long term abuse of repeated coupling and uncoupling.

One other huge change that you didn't mention is Digital Command Control (or DCC). Basically, instead of controlling your train by varying track voltage, DCC puts a constant voltage in the rails and uses a small circuit card (called a decoder) inside the locomotive to send the appropriate power to the motor, lights and sound board (if installed). Because the control comes from the locomotive, not the trails, it is possible to run multiple trains simultaneously without complicated wiring. Any old locos you have would require some modifications to run on this system, but it's nothing someone of ordinary skills can't handle.

Welcome back, and don't hesitate to ask any other questions that come up.
 

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Discussion Starter #7

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The Marklin couplers are a very old type from the 1950s or earlier. They are solely model couplers and have no resemblance to their prototype Euro (German)couplers..Of course same with their HO trains.. If you are planning a US themed MRR, do not purchase Marklin. Also, Marklin is AC current as the center track studs, electronically are same as US Lionel O gauge where a shoe under the locos rides on top of them, (+), 2 outer rails (-) .
If you plan on DCC control, this is another reason not to go Marklin. OR, if you lean toward Marklin anyway, then you will have to go ALL Marklin, everything...their track, engines, and cars...But you will not be modeling US prototype; all German or French.
 

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Unfortunately, one of the new developments in track is the use of a nickel-silver copper alloy, which performs much better than the older brass
Just a quick question.....why is the development of a superior type of track "unfortunate"? I am confused.....:confused:
 

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Consider sharing more details as to what you want to accomplish and how much room/dollar you are working with.

If it's a temporary setup on the floor then track with plastic ballast is the way to go.
If you planning on something more permant like a 4x8 sheet, then ordinary sections and flex track is the way to go.

Good luck
 

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Just a quick question.....why is the development of a superior type of track "unfortunate"? I am confused.....:confused:
He probably meant Fortunately, not Unfort.....
I don't completely agree with his "Avoid steel rail". I have visited the Highland Park Society of Model Engineers in San Gabriel, Ca. outside Los Angeles some 30ish times over 41 years here.
It's a medium-large club layout which I believe is the oldest one in L.A...It's all steel rail. I've ran mine or others' trains there and they run flawlessly ..I've asked them about the rust question and they say it's no problem. Like any layout, we have to clean the tracks time to time anyway..But I'm sure steel rail is hard to come by today, and of course it has to be hand laid. One thing I like when I see steel rail; it doesn't have so glossy a rail surface. For some reason it works well for the 1:1 scale, but not on the 1:87 scale :laugh: M
 

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OP wrote:
"I see Marklin HO trains that seem to have different couplers for the cars."

Isn't Marklin HO kind of a variation of "3-rail a.c." ?
As such, it would be completely incompatible with other HO gauge d.c. trains.

If you want access to the largest variety of HO stuff, I think it would be best to AVOID Marklin...
 

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Fortunately, one of the new developments in track is the use of a nickel-silver copper alloy, which performs much better than the older brass. It doesn't corrode as fast, and when it does, the oxide is still conductive. You can still use your old stuff, but it won't compare favorably with the new. You can mix, but I'd recommend that all your new track purchases be nickel silver. Avoid anything with steel rails. They work for real railroads, but they're a maintenance nightmare for hobbyists.

PowerLoc track is Life Like track (now owned / sold by Walthers). The connectors on this are proprietary, just like many other brands of roadbed track. You can mix these with difficulty. Some brands sell adapters to mate with other brands, but most of the time you have to perform surgery to do it. For my money, not a good use of scarce hobby time.

The exception, as DCwom noted, is Atlas True Track, which is just their standard non-roadbed Snap Track press-fit into plastic roadbed. It takes standard joiners.

Flex track and standard turnouts seems daunting to the beginner, but it really is the best method of getting exactly what you want without the constraints of sectional track geometry.

Couplers: the US standard is the Kadee knuckle coupler and the various knock-offs. All of these will work together, but only the Kadees and Walthers Protomax are made of metal and can take the long term abuse of repeated coupling and uncoupling.

One other huge change that you didn't mention is Digital Command Control (or DCC). Basically, instead of controlling your train by varying track voltage, DCC puts a constant voltage in the rails and uses a small circuit card (called a decoder) inside the locomotive to send the appropriate power to the motor, lights and sound board (if installed). Because the control comes from the locomotive, not the rails, it is possible to run multiple trains simultaneously without complicated wiring. Any old locos you have would require some modifications to run on this system, but it's nothing someone of ordinary skills can't handle.

Welcome back, and don't hesitate to ask any other questions that come up.

I think CTValley meant to say "rails", not "trails" too. However, its still an excellent reply to the OP's questions. Minor typos corrected by Traction Fan :D
 

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OP wrote:
"I see Marklin HO trains that seem to have different couplers for the cars."

Isn't Marklin HO kind of a variation of "3-rail a.c." ?
As such, it would be completely incompatible with other HO gauge d.c. trains.

If you want access to the largest variety of HO stuff, I think it would be best to AVOID Marklin...
That too.
 

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1 to 1 scale

telltale;

Good joke! :laugh:
As you must know, most 1:1 scale locomotives don't need to pick up electricity from the rails they run on.
They either make their own electricity, (diesel electrics) don't need electricity to move, (steam), or get their electricity from overhead wires, or a separate third rail.
In the case of "straight electrics" the running rails do serve as a return current path, but a 200 ton locomotive rolling steel wheels over steel rails does a great job as a "track cleaning car!" (We modelers should be so lucky!) The overhead wires and third rails are normally rubbed clear of rust by the pantographs, or pickup shoes that slide along them. Overhead catenary also gets greased a bit by the graphite grease put on the pantographs. That may retard rust a bit. Also the high voltages used by electric locomotives can easily blast their way through a little rust.


regards;

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

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True

Signal systems (including for grade crossing signals) on real railroads work using an low power electric current through the rails.
cv_acr;

That's very true, but that current doesn't drive the locomotives like our model ones, or real electric locomotives.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Märklin is a proprietary AC model railroad system. It is not interchangeable with DC or DCC model railroads, although Märklin can be DCC and most of it today is, the same as other European DCC equipment.

Their couplers are often current-carrying and is used for lighting coaches and other electrically operated accesories on the coaches such as music, operating pans on restaurant coaches, and other lighting effects.

There is no standard coupler in Europe for use on models; the prototype coupler would be quite impossible to use for HO modeling although rivet counter model builders have replicated these, mostly for display purposes.

There are several popular couplers in use though and some are compatible with others and some are not.

Close-couplers used on Fleischmann, Roco, Pico, and other manufacturers are mostly used on passenger wagons and the coupling is bellows to bellows close. You can barely see light through some of these cars coupled together.

Ironically enough, these same manufacturers use the Roco type hook-and-loop type coupler on their locomotives. Don't ask me why. It's one of the mysteries of European model railroading. Locomotives from most major brands include a pair of both types of couplers.

TRIX also uses a universal coupler in that it mates with the Roco hook-and-loop type coupler very reliably, but it does not work with the Fleischman close-coupler. TRIX also includes a pair of different couplers with their locomotives and passenger wagons.

A.C.M.E. uses yet a third design which may be due to being an Italian made product. They are not compatible with anything and must be changed out to one of the above types. They too include Roco style hook-and-loop type couplers.

Most European model railroaders opt for one of the two pictured, however, I use both depending upon what works better with the locomotive/ first car combination. All of my passenger coaches use the Fleischmann close coupler throughout the train. The one exception in my TRIX Era III/IV coaches and they use the TRIX universal coupler. It's only universal in that it will couple with Roco hook-and-loop type.

There are several other types available I won't go into here. These are the most common.

Prototype couplers available from Märklin. Cumbersome and difficult to couple cars together without small hand toolsÖ



Roco type coupler made by Fleischmann:



Fleishmann close-coupler for passenger coaches:

 
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