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Discussion Starter #1
I'm about to purchase some N-scale track for my first railroad and I'm reading up on the huge number of styles/manufacturers available. I've decided to start with track that doesn't have built in road bed because it seems more customizable later.

But I'm seeing that there are different heights available, Code 80, 70, and 55.

My question is, how bad is it to have part of your track one height, and another part a different height? I'm guessing it will work but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it creates a risk of derailing, or noise, or some other issue.

If it does matter I suppose everyone decides early on what height track to go with and that's all they ever buy.
 

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It's not unusual at all. Different rail codes were used on the real railroads too. Lighter rail typically was used in yards and heavier rail on branch lines, and heavier still on high speed mainline rail.

I use code 83 for the entire layout and that is all it will ever have. Realistically, the RhB line should have lighter rail, but it was already a done deal when I decided to model that railroad.
 

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Just have to be sure to keep the tops of the rails even......I do believe there are special track joiners to accomplish that.....
 

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...

My question is, how bad is it to have part of your track one height, and another part a different height? I'm guessing it will work but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it creates a risk of derailing, or noise, or some other issue.

...
It isn't bad, but it means more finesse to get everything to run smoothly at the joints. More time, more experience (or learning if it's new to you), more skill, more patience, more attention to detail.

What can often be the stumbling block is how well the joiners keep the rail heights at grade. They probably won't, so you'll need special adapter joiners, or bend the joiners you're using, or use sloppy joiners, soldered, but you lever up the low rail as the solder gets hot, weeps, and cools. I believe Atlas, or somebody (see the Walther's Catalog, or search their website) makes an adapter rail about five or six inches in length to go between Code 100 and Code 83, or maybe it's Code 83 and Code 70...not sure.

Again, there's nothing 'wrong' or 'bad' about using different rail stock. It's just that it takes more work to make it look reasonable and work well.
 

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As others have said, mixing codes isn't an issue. But the transition between them certainly is. You need to make sure it is a smooth transition, and I would not rely on any rail joiner to do that. Shim the shorter rail up to the height of the taller. Remember, that 0.01" difference between Code 80 and Code 70 rail scales up to a 1.5" bump for your tiny train, and that's a bump that a real railroad would never tolerate.
 

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I've used a file and/or Dremel tool to grind down some bumps. But with the Dremel you have to be VERY careful to not grind in uneven surfaces that would make the train unstable.

Just my opinion, code 55 track is more realistic-appearing than taller codes. But I have lots of older rolling stock with the higher flange (pizza cutter) wheels that don't ride well on code 55...the flanges touch the ties. I use code 80 on most of my lines and things roll along well.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
You need to make sure it is a smooth transition, and I would not rely on any rail joiner to do that.
So this would be done without joiners at all, and just solder the connection after making sure the tops are aligned?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
And can anyone recommend the best place (cheapest, but still good enough quality to be worth owning) to buy large amounts of track online?

Local hobby stores have prices jacked up higher than I want to pay. I'm all about supporting local businesses but these places have made it impossible for me to do so responsibly.
 

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So this would be done without joiners at all, and just solder the connection after making sure the tops are aligned?
I don't solder rails directly together. I use the joiner. The idea is to slide the rail ends until they get close, joiner in place. Place ballast grains under the lower rail to pry it up to grade to meet the higher bearing surface on the rail head, or use a toothpick...something to lever it up a bit, and then fill the joiner with solder. When it cools, it will hold the two rails at the heights you have pried them to.

While you're going to all this trouble, why not pound flat a 22 gauge feeder wire's bared end, slide it into the joiner somewhere, and THEN solder it? Now you have a fed joint, stiffened and energized, and you're going to get power flowing for the total length of the two rail lengths.
 

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So this would be done without joiners at all, and just solder the connection after making sure the tops are aligned?
As mesenteria said, I would put a joiner on it, but shim it with something (I use basswood sheets). The rail joiner by itself doesn't have the strength to hold it in place permanently. A solder butt joint is also hard to do well, so you're better off soldering the joiner to the rails on either side. Solder only on the outside of the rail, to avoid interference with the wheel flanges of your rolling stock.

As far as buying track, Trainworld, MB Klein (dba ModelTrainStuff.com), MicroMark, or even Walthers are all good online sources. Walthers is a wholesaler, and so always sells for MSRP, but it's a good benchmark: never pay more than that, ever. Any brand will do, so long as it's nickel-silver. I personally prefer MicroEngineering flex track and Walthers turnouts. You may be surprised, though. Not too many hobby shops mark up above MSRP; a good quality turnout goes for about $30.
 
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I usually buy from either Model Train Stuff or Trainworld. Depends upon who has what in stock. Prices are about the same.
 
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Take a rail joiner and put it on the larger rail. Crimp or flatten the other half, then place the smaller rail on top and solder together. Make sure there are no bumps. Small hobby files work good for cleaning up any excess solder.


I use a variety of rail sizes on my 35n2 layout. Code 100, 83, 80, and 70.
 
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