Model Train Forum banner

1 - 9 of 9 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
As a newcomer to N scale (had an HO layout years ago). I went out and bought $ 400 of Atlas Code 80 track for a larger tabletop layout. Started laying track and the turnouts are a disaster – I get derailments about every third time the train goes through them. A couple of Bachman diesels and Bachman cars - nothing weird about them, so I assume it’s the turnout’s fault. You can actually see the cars jostling up and down and side to side as they go over the plastic parts of the turnout before they derail. A few questions and observations:
- The turnouts are all standard #4. Do other people have luck with #4’s or is it just me? Should I scrap my track plan and redo it with #6 or #8 turnouts? Would that help?
- Some of the turnouts work O.K. The problem seems to be mostly in the right turnouts – is it possible I just got a bad batch of right hand-turnouts?
- Should I cut my losses and scrap everything and go with another brand of track?
- Tom
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,233 Posts
It is possible to get a bad one or even two. I got a bad one when building my railroad and replaced it with the same. The second one was fine. Never a problem with the replacement.

Sounds like either the frog or the guard rails are high on your problem children.

Take a straight edge across them and see if you can see any light under the edge. If so, you have found your trouble.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,626 Posts
In addition to what MichaelE suggests, you will also want to check wheels, flangeways, etc, with an NMRA Standards Guage. You can tweak the performance of the turnouts somewhat, but sometimes you just get a bad one.

It also helps to ensure that your rolling stock is heavy enough. This may keep it on the rails even through a substandard turnout.

Atlas track isn't BAD, but it's not top of the line, either. I wouldn't throw $400 down the drain, but work with what you have.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
337 Posts
How old are the trains you are using??Some of the older cars do not work well on the newer track and switches.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,964 Posts
Atlas turnouts

As a newcomer to N scale (had an HO layout years ago). I went out and bought $ 400 of Atlas Code 80 track for a larger tabletop layout. Started laying track and the turnouts are a disaster – I get derailments about every third time the train goes through them. A couple of Bachman diesels and Bachman cars - nothing weird about them, so I assume it’s the turnout’s fault. You can actually see the cars jostling up and down and side to side as they go over the plastic parts of the turnout before they derail. A few questions and observations:
- The turnouts are all standard #4. Do other people have luck with #4’s or is it just me? Should I scrap my track plan and redo it with #6 or #8 turnouts? Would that help?
- Some of the turnouts work O.K. The problem seems to be mostly in the right turnouts – is it possible I just got a bad batch of right hand-turnouts?
- Should I cut my losses and scrap everything and go with another brand of track?
- Tom

Tom;

Unfortunately you are not the first, and won't be the last, to have serious problems with Atlas turnouts. They are at the low end of the quality scale.
That said, there are things you can do to make them work better. The advice you have already gotten is very good. I agree with MichaelE's suggestion that you may have gotten some turnouts that were downright defective. That's perfectly possible. However, I doubt Michael's suggestion that a frog, or guardrail, is too high. While anything is possible, frogs are usually too low on nearly all commercial turnouts, not too high. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen, just that it's unlikely.
Guard rails are typically either even with, or slightly below, the height of the running rails. Their flangeways though, are typically too deep, and too wide. I suspect that is more likely to be the cause of the problem than too high frogs, or guard rails, but I can't rule those possibilities out either. The straightedge test he recommended should tell if they actually are high, or not.

As CTValley recommends, you definitely should invest in an NMRA track/standards gauge. They only cost about $12 and you can order one at www.modeltrainstuff.com With the gauge, you will be able to check about six different critical areas on the turnout, and fix any that need it. The same gauge will also let you measure the "gauge" of (distance between) each set of wheels, and also the flange depth of the wheels.

As bewhole says, some older N-scale cars, and locomotives, came with deep, oversize, wheel flanges which N-scale modelers nicknamed "pizza cutters." They are a problem on Atlas code 55 track, where they hit the oversize spikes Atlas uses on their code 55 track. However, even if you do have those, deep-flanged wheels, it shouldn't matter on your code 80 track and turnouts. The code 80 rails are high enough to work with either the older, deep-flanged, wheels, or the newer, shallow-flanged, type.

Most commercial turnouts come with flangeways that are both too wide, and too deep, to meet the specs in the NMRA gage.*
The excess width can cause derailments, and the excess depth lets wheels fall into the too-deep frog flangeway, and then be pulled back up when they hit the frog point. This may account for some of the "jostling up and down and side to side" your cars are doing. Adding weight, as CTValley suggested, might help, but setting everything, including the depth of the frog's floor, to meet the NMRA gauge's specs, will likely eliminate the actual cause of the jostling altogether.
More seriously, the wheels, or the turnout, or both, may be out-of-gauge, which can cause the wheels to climb up the rails and derail. These are two of many critical things you can check with aN NMRA gauge.

The file"Improving Atlas Turnouts" attached below, explains some of the problems inherent in the Atlas "Snap Track" turnouts. Some of the early pages are aimed at the HO-scale version which has a very tight (for HO) 18" radius curve built in. We N-scalers have a nice broad (for N) 19" radius curve so you can skip those first pages if you like. Starting on page 8, you will see photos showing how the NMRA gage is used to find problems and what you can do to correct them.These same problems and fixes apply to N-scale Atlas turnouts as well as the HO-scale ones.

While a number 4 turnout is a fairly sharp one, I don't think switching to # 6 or #8 turnouts is itself a direct fix. Somewhat coincidentally, it would work, but only because you would probably be buying a different brand of turnout, which was better made, not directly because of the change in frog# alone.
A larger frog# is still a good thing however. Some longer cars and locomotives may have trouble going through a #4 turnout. (Due to the much gentler curve in the Atlas N-scale turnouts, this is less likely on an N-scale Atlas turnout than on the HO-scale version, with it's sharp turn.) Micro Engineering's excellent turnouts, for example, only come in #6 right, and #6 left. If you were to switch to them, the biggest improvement would be the change to a better brand, not just the increase in frog number.

The file "All about turnouts" gives a lot of information on different brands of turnouts. If you decide it's not worth your time and effort to fix your Atlas turnouts, you other option would be to replace them with Peco, or Micro Engineering turnouts, both of which are much better quality than Atlas, and work reliably right out of the box. (The only thing I have ever had to fix on a Micro Engineering turnout was to slightly widen the guard rail flangeways to match the NMRA gauge. This only took a minute, and the turnout has worked flawlessly ever since.)
The downside of course is the high cost of "cutting your losses" and having to pay for the new, better quality, turnouts.
That's up to you, but I agree with CTValley's suggestion that you try fixing (at least one of) your problematic Atlas turnouts before investing a lot more money in replacing all of them. You may find that the fixes aren't all that hard, and they will certainly save you some money.
By the way, Atlas "Snap Switch" turnouts have a unique geometry. No other brand, or even Atlas's own "Custom Line" ** turnouts, will be an exact fit. You will need to remove some track near each turnout and install short pieces of flex track. That's easy enough to do, but it may be a factor in your "fix, or replace" decision.

*So why do commercial turnouts come with flangeways that are too wide and too deep? My guess, (and it's only that) is that the manufacturers want to accommodate slightly out-of-gauge wheels, and deep flanges. That makes things sloppy. I build my own N-scale turnouts with frogs that meet NMRA standards for flangeway width and depth. This makes for very smooth, reliable, tracking through the turnouts.

** I don't think Atlas offers custom line turnouts in N-scale. It is an option in HO-scale though.


good luck;

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:

View attachment Improving Atlas turnouts pdf version.pdf

View attachment All AboutTurnouts rev 4.pdf

View attachment How I scratch build turnouts new(8).pdf
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
N scale Atlas turnouts

As a newcomer to N scale (had an HO layout years ago). I went out and bought $ 400 of Atlas Code 80 track for a larger tabletop layout. Started laying track and the turnouts are a disaster – I get derailments about every third time the train goes through them. A couple of Bachman diesels and Bachman cars - nothing weird about them, so I assume it’s the turnout’s fault. You can actually see the cars jostling up and down and side to side as they go over the plastic parts of the turnout before they derail. A few questions and observations:
- The turnouts are all standard #4. Do other people have luck with #4’s or is it just me? Should I scrap my track plan and redo it with #6 or #8 turnouts? Would that help?
- Some of the turnouts work O.K. The problem seems to be mostly in the right turnouts – is it possible I just got a bad batch of right hand-turnouts?
- Should I cut my losses and scrap everything and go with another brand of track?
- Tom
Very poorly made. I switched to using Peco track and turnouts and have zero problems. Can back 30 or more cars through a peco turnout without any trouble.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8 Posts
As a newcomer to N scale (had an HO layout years ago). I went out and bought $ 400 of Atlas Code 80 track for a larger tabletop layout. Started laying track and the turnouts are a disaster – I get derailments about every third time the train goes through them. A couple of Bachman diesels and Bachman cars - nothing weird about them, so I assume it’s the turnout’s fault. You can actually see the cars jostling up and down and side to side as they go over the plastic parts of the turnout before they derail. A few questions and observations:
- The turnouts are all standard #4. Do other people have luck with #4’s or is it just me? Should I scrap my track plan and redo it with #6 or #8 turnouts? Would that help?
- Some of the turnouts work O.K. The problem seems to be mostly in the right turnouts – is it possible I just got a bad batch of right hand-turnouts?
- Should I cut my losses and scrap everything and go with another brand of track?
- Tom
Chances are extremely good that most of the problem lies with your Bachmann equipment. All Bachmann track is under-gauged, and to run properly on it, all Bachmann locos and cars are under-gauged to match. And to compound matters even worse, Bachmann quality control on their N-scale wheel gauges ain't all that whippy to begin with.

I work on N-scale locos and cars for my local hobby shop, and one of the biggest problems I run across is Bachmann stuff constantly derailing on Atlas track. It's ALWAYS because the Bachmann stuff is under-gauged. Whenever I re-gauge wheel sets on their locos and/or cars, it eliminates all problems rolling through Atlas switches.

Like a few others have said, get yourself an NMRA track & wheel gauge, and start checking and adjusting wheel sets on everything. You'd be surprised in what a difference that having the proper wheel gauge can make!:thumbsup:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,626 Posts
Chances are extremely good that most of the problem lies with your Bachmann equipment. All Bachmann track is under-gauged, and to run properly on it, all Bachmann locos and cars are under-gauged to match. And to compound matters even worse, Bachmann quality control on their N-scale wheel gauges ain't all that whippy to begin with.

I work on N-scale locos and cars for my local hobby shop, and one of the biggest problems I run across is Bachmann stuff constantly derailing on Atlas track. It's ALWAYS because the Bachmann stuff is under-gauged. Whenever I re-gauge wheel sets on their locos and/or cars, it eliminates all problems rolling through Atlas switches.

Like a few others have said, get yourself an NMRA track & wheel gauge, and start checking and adjusting wheel sets on everything. You'd be surprised in what a difference that having the proper wheel gauge can make!:thumbsup:
Interesting. That must be an N scale problem, because I have a lot of (HO scale) Bachmann rolling stock and locos and they're fine. Or maybe it's their older stuff, because they have really improved their quality in the last decade.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8 Posts
Interesting. That must be an N scale problem, because I have a lot of HO-scale Bachmann rolling stock and locos and they're fine. Or maybe it's their older stuff, because they have really improved their quality in the last decade.
N-scale problem? Yup - you betcha'. Because I not only own Bachmann N-scale stuff, I also work on a lot of it. Trust me, they have a real conundrum going on with their N-scale stuff. It would no doubt cost WAY too much to change all their track molds to comply with NMRA standards, so they just plain don't do it. Their Spectrum N-scale models have a choice - either run good on virtually every other manufacturer's N-scale track, or run good on their own track. Fortunately, most all of their N-scale Spectrum models (that I'm aware of) seem to run good on all other manufacturer's track because they're usually properly gauged. But if any of their stuff doesn't say "Spectrum" on it, forget it. It's probably gonna' be under-gauged.

HO-scale problems? Never hear of any. Their HO-scale stuff must be fine, because I never hear of any problems with it.
 
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
Top