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I'm newbie and want to use the prebuilt track with ballast. I've seen mostly Bachmann and have heard of Atlas. My question is, what is the most reliable and easiest to use of these things.
 

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Don't overlook other brands, one of which is the rather nice Kato Unitrak. I have only ever used EZ-Track, but soon got rid of the illusion as to it's utility in enjoying toy trains. Still, every post I have seen about this topic where people with experience say they have decided, it's Unitrack that gets the enthusiasm.

First, though, while it's all 'easy' to use, it's limited in geometry and it doesn't look...ummm...right...or realistic.

Secondly, and remember that I'm talking about what I know, and that's EZ-Track, the plastic base has a tendency to warp or to bend a bit, making joining it and running in smooth vertical lines difficult if not impossible. This isn't so bad in the 9" sections, but if you purchase the 3' lengths (if they're still selling them), they DO sag or bend.

You know, if you could steel yourself to just do it, I would really recommend that you purchase five or six lengths of flex track and start putting it together in an oval, and then branch out and learn what it takes to make other layout shapes. You'll need some #5 or #6 turnouts in the same code of rails to make a siding or an industrial spur. You'll also need sharp track cutters, smallish side cutters, to nip off the excesses in rail length of the sliding rail when you create any curves. Lots of tutorials on line to see what I mean.

Oh, and that plastic ballasted track? It's $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ in comparison, and chances are excellent that you'll ditch it for flex track within a few months. Maybe you can sell the plastic stuff on line and recover some of your costs.
 

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Mesenteria speaks truth. I have ez-track right now, and while there's nothing particularly wrong with it, the turnouts are, er, crap.

As said, Unitrack seems to get the best overall reviews for roadbed track, but there was a recent thread here where the person was having troubles getting the joints to lay flat, even when connected correctly. It required taking a small flat blade screwdriver or something similar and pushing the track down until the rails lined up. Not the end of the world, but, yeah.

I'm only running a holiday layout so the ez-track is fine, but when we retire and move soon and I create a new layout I'll switch over to peco... I run On30 and there is now On30 track (HO scale track) that has more realistic tie sized to better match the O scale trains.
 

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I only have experience with the Bachmann, But I'll tell you to stay away from the steel track. It usually has black roadbed. It demands constant cleaning. I've used brass in layouts, but use the EZ track under the Christmas tree.
 

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I have to agree with with mesenteria on this. Don't just assume you want to use roadbed track just because it seems easier to a newbie. Yes, it goes together easily, and is sturdy, but it's advantages end there.

Cost, limited geometry, and poor quality turnouts are the drawbacks. Kate's Unitrack is the only brand that has decent turnouts, and it's also far and away the most expensive. Atlas Truetrack would be the second choice, because it's just their tried and true Snap Track line press fit into plastic roadbed... although Snap Switches (the turnouts in that set) are pretty lame.

If you're going to be doing anything more complicated than a variation on a simple loop with some sidings, you will rapidly run up against the geometric limitations of roadbed track. I personally recommend it only when you will be taking the layout apart frequently (like a holiday display).

And by all means, avoid steel track.
 

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Another new guy breaking into thread. Some of the things I have read in answers to the original post I have not seen before. I have a question.
Is nickle silver track to be avoided?
Thanks, Andy
 

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Another new guy breaking into thread. Some of the things I have read in answers to the original post I have not seen before. I have a question.
Is nickle silver track to be avoided?
Thanks, Andy
Nope. N/S track is the one you want to use. Brass and steel are the ones to avoid.
 

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Nope. N/S track is the one you want to use. Brass and steel are the ones to avoid.
Thank you.
I had spent a lot of time pricing out my layout on different types of track and nickle silver is the one I chose. Have not bought yet.
I don't much care for the look of track that comes with its own ballast, or its cost.
 

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I wasn't sure if the OP meant he was going to add ballast, or if he just mean 'roadbed' track.
 

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For "integrated track and ballast", Kato Unitrack is the best.
I use it myself.

Although it doesn't look quite as authentic as trackwork built with more "hand-intensive" processes, it still looks remarkably good for what it is -- sectional track.

For modestly-sized layouts, the power feeder accessories and switch machine levers work well, too.

The Kato track gives you an easy way to get up-and-running quickly, yet with the option to "break it down" and re-arrange your track as you learn and grow.

The price can be "brought down into the reasonable range" by buying online. Try modeltrainstuff.com...
 

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Welcome aboard!

I'm newbie and want to use the prebuilt track with ballast. I've seen mostly Bachmann and have heard of Atlas. My question is, what is the most reliable and easiest to use of these things.
bobbalinks;

Welcome to the forum!

I'll add another vote for starting out with flex track, and staying with flex track. Not only is it much less expensive than roadbed track, it is also (Drum roll please, followed by a rousing "Duh!") flexible. That eliminates any limitations on curved, or straight sections of track, with or without plastic roadbed underneath. I also agree with TomC's assessment of Bachmann EZ-Track "turnouts" (track switches) They are indeed "fertilizer", to put it politely. Roadbed track is basically a marketing ploy by the companies that sell it. It's a mild form of the sales strategy employed by drug dealers. Their idea is to get the consumer "hooked" on the manufacturer's track by including it in the "train sets" that newbies tend to buy. Soon, the newbie will want more track, and probably turnouts. He will then think he needs to buy more of only that brand of track and turnouts, resulting in more sales & profit for the manufacturer. Each brand of roadbed track is designed to mate only with itself. Bachmann track doesn't hook readily to Kato track, or to flex track, or sectional track. In fact, the flex track, or sectional track can be connected to roadbed track with some modification of the roadbed track. However, the manufacturers of roadbed track are not going to mention that little fact to their customers.

The files below are filled with information about track types, turnout brands, layout planning choices, and lots of other model railroad subjects. Read them if you want, they may help you decide what you want to build, and get you started. That's why I wrote them.

Good luck, & Have fun!

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:

View attachment WHERE DO I START rev 4.pdf

View attachment Choosing a Scale.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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As far as cost goes, if you added up cost of foam or cork roadbed, flex track, caulk, ballast and glue plus the TIME it takes to construct the traditional model rr track work, I bet roadbed track is less expensive.
That is really not the gist of the choice, however. Many people feel that that process is the heart of the hobby, and I get that. It requires a varied skill set that can’t be mastered in an afternoon.

There’s no question that the end result of a properly laid and ballasted flex (or regular sectional) track is far superior to any roadbed system.

The ‘constraint of geometry’ myth about roadbed track is usually advanced by folks who have never built a layout with it. This may be true with EZ Track but it is certainly not with Kato. In HO, Unitrack offers 8 different curve radii from 14 9/16” to 31 1/8”. There’s 9 different tangential (straight) sections.
In HO there are limited turnout and crossing offerings, I will concede that.

Kato is easily adaptable to HO flex track if you use standard cork roadbed 3/16” thick with a small code 70 or 75 joiner. N Unitrack offers an adapter piece for flex track.

The suggestion that roadbed track is marketed to “hook” people into using it (what, like Meth?) is nothing short of ludicrous.
Bachmann EZ track is far simpler to use than the old train set sectional track was.
Kato track was developed in Japan for use in large, temporary model railroad club layouts.
https://www.japanrailmodelers.org/pages/modelingjapan/ajmrg.html

Everyone has their own reasons for using whatever system they use but please let’s stick to facts.
 

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Everyone has their own reasons for using whatever system they use but please let’s stick to facts
What you're saying is far from factual. You can believe that the drawbacks are overemphasized, but you can't change the facts.

As far as cost goes, if you added up cost of foam or cork roadbed, flex track, caulk, ballast and glue plus the TIME it takes to construct the traditional model rr track work, I bet roadbed track is less expensive.
You'd lose your bet. 36" of straight Bachmann NS EZ Track, at MSRP, is $17.50. 36" of Atlas Code 100 Superflex is $6.59, WS foam roadbed, $1.75, and WS fine ballast, at 1/8" depth, $1.31. Total $9.65. Adhesive caulk and matte medium have a cost, but the purchase price buys so much compared to what you use for 36" of track that it's hardly worth measuring. Same holds for track nails. But let's round up to $10. Compare that to $17.50 (and that's assuming you don't want to glue the EZ track down or and you can't possible say "cheaper", based solely on things that can be measured. But wait! You said time, too. But the value of time is relative. Most of the time difference in the two methods is idle time waiting for things to dry, so that doesn't really count. Soldering flex definitely adds time, but it also adds reliability, so how do you measure that? For my money, I'd rather spend a little more time and get a better product. And no one is going to compare the appearance of EZ Track to ballasted flex track, either. What value do you place on that?

The ‘constraint of geometry’ myth about roadbed track is usually advanced by folks who have never built a layout with it. This may be true with EZ Track but it is certainly not with Kato. In HO, Unitrack offers 8 different curve radii from 14 9/16” to 31 1/8”. There’s 9 different tangential (straight) sections.
In HO there are limited turnout and crossing offerings, I will concede that.
So 8 different FIXED curve radii is equivalent to an infinite number of possible radii, including the ability to have smoothly varying radii within a continuous piece of track? And the ability to cut track to EXACTLY the length needed is equivalent to fixed length segments (even allowing for the variable length piece in Unitrack's inventory). Come on. If that's what you call factual, I have a bridge to sell you. Fact of the matter is, I HAVE designed layouts using both Unitrack and flex, and I can assure you that there is no comparison. Now, how limiting is that? Again, we have now entered the realm of opinion. The more complex the layout, the more of a headache it is to fiddle with fixed geometric pieces. Whether that bothers the individual user is a matter of OPINION.

The suggestion that roadbed track is marketed to “hook” people into using it (what, like Meth?) is nothing short of ludicrous.
That's either wrongheaded or a deliberate misinterpretation. What is meant by that is that joining different brands of roadbed track (or roadbed to non-roadbed track) is difficult, and requires a lot of fiddling, cutting, and fitting, so people tend to stay with what they already have, making it more likely that they will purchase more of the same rather than switching. In marketing terms, that's a hook.

So let's be careful throwing around accusations of inaccuracy. We can have an honest debate over how much these advantages matter, especially to a beginner creating a simple layout, but to say they aren't factual isn't true.
 

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Everyone has their own reasons for using whatever system they use but please let’s stick to facts
What you're saying is far from factual. You can believe that the drawbacks are overemphasized, but you can't change the facts.

As far as cost goes, if you added up cost of foam or cork roadbed, flex track, caulk, ballast and glue plus the TIME it takes to construct the traditional model rr track work, I bet roadbed track is less expensive.
You'd lose your bet. 36" of straight Bachmann NS EZ Track, at MSRP, is $17.50. 36" of Atlas Code 100 Superflex is $6.59, WS foam roadbed, $1.75, and WS fine ballast, at 1/8" depth, $1.31. Total $9.65. Adhesive caulk and matte medium have a cost, but the purchase price buys so much compared to what you use for 36" of track that it's hardly worth measuring. Same holds for track nails. But let's round up to $10. Compare that to $17.50 (and that's assuming you don't want to glue the EZ track down or and you can't possible say "cheaper", based solely on things that can be measured. But wait! You said time, too. But the value of time is relative. Most of the time difference in the two methods is idle time waiting for things to dry, so that doesn't really count. Soldering flex definitely adds time, but it also adds reliability, so how do you measure that? For my money, I'd rather spend a little more time and get a better product. And no one is going to compare the appearance of EZ Track to ballasted flex track, either. What value do you place on that?

Well, you do have to place some value on time, do you not? We always say “ It depends on how you want to SPEND your hobby time, so therefore it has definite value. None of us can calculate it for anyone else. For arguments sake let’s say $30/hour. Now you could do calculations from there.

The ‘constraint of geometry’ myth about roadbed track is usually advanced by folks who have never built a layout with it. This may be true with EZ Track but it is certainly not with Kato. In HO, Unitrack offers 8 different curve radii from 14 9/16” to 31 1/8”. There’s 9 different tangential (straight) sections.
In HO there are limited turnout and crossing offerings, I will concede that.
So 8 different FIXED curve radii is equivalent to an infinite number of possible radii, including the ability to have smoothly varying radii within a continuous piece of track? And the ability to cut track to EXACTLY the length needed is equivalent to fixed length segments (even allowing for the variable length piece in Unitrack's inventory). Come on. If that's what you call factual, I have a bridge to sell you. Fact of the matter is, I HAVE designed layouts using both Unitrack and flex, and I can assure you that there is no comparison. Now, how limiting is that? Again, we have now entered the realm of opinion. The more complex the layout, the more of a headache it is to fiddle with fixed geometric pieces. Whether that bothers the individual user is a matter of OPINION.

The actual fact is Unitrack is pretty easy to use. You may call that opinion, but it’s just snap together track. No, the fixed radii sections are not the same as the infinite number of flex curves. But does it really matter that much? Truthfully?
And what about these complex layouts? It was said that Unitrack is only good for simple loops and a few sidings. That’s not accurate, if you look at a Kato plan book.
Then the irony is that a lot of times in the layout forum we see a guy presenting a complex layout and the criticism from us is “spaghetti bowl”. Not enough room for buildings. So is simplicity good, or not?

The suggestion that roadbed track is marketed to “hook” people into using it (what, like Meth?) is nothing short of ludicrous.
That's either wrongheaded or a deliberate misinterpretation. What is meant by that is that joining different brands of roadbed track (or roadbed to non-roadbed track) is difficult, and requires a lot of fiddling, cutting, and fitting, so people tend to stay with what they already have, making it more likely that they will purchase more of the same rather than switching. In marketing terms, that's a hook.

It’s not a deliberate misinterpretation, it’s what was stated in an earlier post by another member.

So let's be careful throwing around accusations of inaccuracy. We can have an honest debate over how much these advantages matter, especially to a beginner creating a simple layout, but to say they aren't factual isn't true.
Here’s my bottom line to this whole thing: The debate about cost, layout building, etc can go on forever. It’s like Gunrunnerjohn says about political discussions on here:
“You’re not gonna change anyone’s mind...”
I don’t want to change anyone’s mind. I want newcomers to the hobby to feel like they have options and not feel they don’t fit in because of the methods they may choose to use to build a layout.

There was a guy on here who quit the forum because he felt we were too dogmatic over things like flex vs. roadbed track, DC vs. DCC and so on. He aired a whole laundry list. That was his choice.

We may forget sometimes that the skills that are required to build these scratch layouts are intimidating to some people. How many times do we have to encourage people to just try something instead of worrying about it? “Well, we did it so you can too.”
Not always. That might be the biggest inaccuracy of all. It’s an assumption, and we know what assume stands for. I don’t want to see anyone not pursue the hobby because of it.
I didn’t mean to accuse anyone of anything.
To the OP: sorry, we do this every once in a while. You’ll get used to it. This is actually kind of a boring one. Sometimes they get popcorn worthy. All have a good night.
Dan
 

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I've built my layouts with sectional track tacked down to homosote. I've never had any issues. I use Atlas code 100 nickel silver track. Make sure the rail joiners that fit snug. It has also allowed me to make changes easily. I started with putting up different layouts each Christmas. I set them up on a 4x8 sheet and have a lot in that space. I'm not much of a landscape person - a bit of a downtown, a couple of industrial area with sidings. I have fun with it.

As a newbie, sectional track is an easy way to get started. Non roadbed track is less expensive than roadbed track and offers more possibilities.
 

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I agree wholeheartedly with CTValley !
But I want to point out one aspect about flex for those choosing it:

When one needs 2 or more sections to make a curve, you need to solder the 4 opposing rail heads together along with the rail joiners while track pieces are laid out straight before bending it. And thus you will now have 1, 6' or 9' section. Why?
If you don't you will never get a smooth curve when you do bend it. You will instead wind up with a kink where you only used rail joiners midway in curve.
The bestest way to continue with the ensuing straight trackage is to buy Xuron Rail Nippers ($6)..Why? Because at two ends of the curve you will now have the inside rail of the 2 sections allot longer than the outside rails. The nippers are used to even up the two rails for the continuance of straight trackage.
When you use the nippers you cut top to bottom of rail (not side to side !). And, the flat side of the jaws is the rail you're keeping. The remains put aside for making short filler rails when there is too wide a gap in railheads somewhere. :cool: M
 

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HO Track

I started with Atlas sectional track and moved to flex track. Tried Peco, Atlas, etc. I am not overly patient nor am I particularly skillful. I was disappointed with both. I came across Bachman EZ track and used that and still use it, but the best I have found is Kato Unitrack. The good thing about Kato Unitrack is that we have both HO and N scale layouts. The track joiners on the Unitrack both HO and N scale are interchangeable. I am a huge fan of Unitrack. I wish they would make O gauge track.
 

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I don't ever recall using sectional or roadbed track. That said I can see good reasons for using roadbed or sectional track over flex track, which I also rarely used over the 65+ years I've been doing this hobby. If your just starting out, jumping into flex track means that you already know what radius curves are correct for you engines, I consider this unlikely. You would need to know how to make the flex track conform to the desired radius, again unlikely. How would you handle the extra rail length you get when you bend flex track. All these are significant issues that roadbed or sectional track avoid. So while I never used it, I think there is a need for sectional and roadbed track to get people started in the hobby without all the frustrations of using flex track.
 

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I was the first to reply in this thread. I indicated that I do have experience with sectional track elements, but only with EZ-Track.

I enjoyed my use of it. It was fun. I didn't know that there was anything else because the fellow at the hobby shop 'saw me coming' (he was the owner), and sold me a bunch of EZ-Track. Good profit for him.

Then, I began to read and to participate on fora on the internet. I learned. I learned that there might be a more productive and cost-effective way to build larger track systems. I had to buy some flex and feel it, find out what happened when I flexed it. I learned.

And, I haven't looked back. I really do wish I had found a forum and asked for some advice BEFORE I had purchased about $200 in EZ-Track. Funny thing, though, is that our OP HAS DONE THAT. Darned if I'm gonna tell him to fill his boots. It's unethical. It's not what I know to be true. It's NOT a fact for me. If I could charitably describe myself as 'typical' for men in the hobby, I expect that he will come to at least somewhat regret his choice to purchase rails that he will eventually come to realize constrain his creativity, and perhaps even his enjoyment. It will constrain his development if he wishes to gain skill and competence. To be balanced, those who never lay their own tracks by hand are also missing something. It's a continuum of reality and experience in this hobby.

My message to our friend is that he'll have a really great time with ballasted track. It's just that he'll almost inevitably discard it in due course if he wishes to pursue the ultimate dream of designing a custom layout with customized curves. No, not by any means certainly. But.....probably...….if he's typical.

The decision is strictly his. I offer only some acquired knowledge and experience. Call it wisdom, call it preference...whatever it is, it's his to do with what he wishes. Freely offered in good will.
 

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lemonhawk (above). What are you talking about !? You've 2 things wrong..
1) There are no radii "correct" for any engine ! The only thing is knowing (really just eyeballing at the planning stage) the tightest radius you'll be making will still allow all locos to traverse it. And in HO that can go as low as 16" but perfectly safe at 18". IE. All one has to know is to not make any curve less than 18". There's no fear at wider radii.
2) You know exactly what diameter (+-) the flex has to be, anyway, because you already have the sub-roadbed and cork glued, sitting waiting for it to be installed on it. You simply attach it to one end of existing straight track and slowly bend it into place.. Yes, at the other end the flex inside rail is longer than rail than its outside rail. You still lay it in, snip off the the inside rail to be flush with the outside rail using a 6$ Xuron Rail Nipper or Dremel saw, add 2 rail Joiners, plug/solder it in, then glue, spike, or nail it down..
It's a downright cinch of an operation. In fact it's 'roadbed track' which can cause lots of 'will it fit here ?' headaches, just because it is rigid.
I fully respect your method/s. But it's actually cheaper and easier to make things come together with flex.
Flex and hand laid track will flow like the 1:1 scale does. Sorry, 'road bed' track just can't.
If you're not fixed on becoming a model railroader and only wish to see trains choo-chooing round and round, then roadbed track is absolutely fine. But I can't see it for anything more serious than that... M :sly:

PS. Another aspect of flex is that yards don't have/need roadbed past the yard throat. With RB track,.......Uh, .......Well... you get it...
 
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