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Discussion Starter #1
I just replaced my HO Atlas Code 83 track with new Kato Unitrack. I did not use cork roadbed, and laid it down on very smooth, flat 3/4" birch plywood. The joints snap together nicely, but I find that one rail will be perfectly mated up and the other rail will create a vertical 'step' with the mating rail. Out of 18 joints, not one is perfectly smooth, the step is only about 0.015-0.025" but it is there.

I've tried different combinations of various track pieces, and even laid them out on a granite surface plate at work, and there is always some degree of mismatch. So, my questions, how much mismatch is acceptable?

Is it a good idea to sand down each joint til it is smooth?

The track is nice, the rails butt up nicely, no gap between the rails, and not too much lateral mismatch side to side, the only real mismatch is vertical. Can you tell I'm a rookie?
 

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I don't have unitrack, but it sounds to me that the joiners aren't connected properly and one rail is sitting on top of the joiner, not within it.

What ever I do I would not sand or grind them off, I'd figure out why they aren't seating properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No they are definitely snapped together properly. I tried swapping around different sections, but there is still some small degree of vertical mismatch. My guess is that it's not critical, that wheels run over it fine. My concern is running lighted coach cars, I find black residue from electrical arcing at each joint that has some mismatch. So I did away with my soldered Atlas track and decided to give the Kato track a try.

I do notice that looking at many professional layouts in different scales, I see a lot of flex track used, and not too often do the pros seem to use 'snap track' like Kato, at least not in N and HO.
 

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Something isn't right. I can't tell you you're wrong since I'm not there, but if they aren't lined up I'd throw the crap in the garbage and use something else.... But, I'm pretty sure unitrack is a pretty good product, so.... :dunno:

Post a nice clear closeup on the joint and lets have a look.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
thanks Tom. can you check this link you sent I can't seem to get it to work. And I'll do photos tonight. If you run your fingernail along the rail, it's really obvious when 2 rails line up vertically, and when they do not, you can feel the mismatch snag your fingernail. I'm probably worried about nothing, but...... I'm aiming for as perfect a track layout as I can get.
 

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It works for me, but do a google search for "smooth Unitrack Joint" and it's the first link on the search. It's another train forum thread from 10 years ago talking about this very subject, and some of things to do to fix it.

Here's another forum from 5 years ago... it's a few links down from the top doing the google search above:

https://www.nscale.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-36880.html

ADDED: And no, you are definitely not worried about nothing. I wouldn't run my trains like that, if for no other reason than the noise. I use ez-track (similar roadbed track) and if the joiners aren't fit properly the rails will be out of alighment like you describe. The jest of the various threads I point you to is that you need to tweak the unitrack joiners to level out the track.

Any of the same manufacturers track will (should) line up vertically. If it doesn't there is a problem, and sanding it flat isn't the answer.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks Tom, your 2 links work perfect, and I read it all, so I am not alone in having this vertical mismatch issue.

So...... I am going to go work with each section and see if some of these suggestions work for me. I'm intent on getting the track laid down nicely and not rushing past this key step. Thanks!
 

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Spacomp: Have you run trains on it yet and if so have you noticed a problem?
The reason I ask is that I have noticed this same thing ( I think everyone who uses Kato Unitrack has).

For me, and I think many others, it doesn’t usually cause operational problems. I think mostly it’s just something that we can drive ourselves nuts with and at the end of the day find out it makes little, if any difference.
Do follow the guidelines and suggestions in that linked article. And in particular read where it says “Kato track is not bulletproof.” I have been saying that for years. Great product, but it’s not perfect so don’t expect it to be.

I occasionally will have a Unijoiner “go bad”. How so? No idea, but I’ll identify a joint that is causing a derailment. If I determine that it was connected properly, I will run another pass. If derailment occurs again, I throw out that Unijoiner and install a new one. Seldom happens but that always fixes it.
Some folks like to do a lot of technical diagnostics, and that’s fine. I like to run trains. Hope you can find an easy solution and just have fun.
Dan
 

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It -is- possible to get Unitrack joints "wrong".

One has to pay attention that the joiner (which is small for HO scale) properly fits the end of the rail.

If an individual joint isn't right, it can be popped out of the track and replaced, or sometimes "reversing" it works. Best to do this with a VERY small flat-blade screwdriver or the Kato Unijoiner remover tool.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
ok, so I spent time on this last night, examined joints under magnification, etc. I do not believe the metal joiner inside each Unijoiner exerts any upward pressure, the 'floor' of each metal joiner has clearance under the rail.

I found that applying light pressure to the rail which is sitting high works pretty well. I took the tip of a flat bladed screwdriver, and pushed down on the top of the rail, and made most of the joints near perfect. I found you can overdo it though, it is actually bending the rail a bit so light pressure is all that is required.

I'm awaiting arrival on a new ON30 railbus and will test the track this weekend.

I found something else under magnification, you can see the rail ends are sawn by Kato, there looks to be tool marks, and on most rail ends there is a distinct burr at the end going vertically. I deburred a few sections using a stone and the joined joint is smoother. It does not take care of vertical mismatch, but it eliminates the burr.
 

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OT. If you are interested I have made a few threads related to the railbus. A few years ago I started a thread about adding sound, and through the course of the thread detail the decoder and speaker I added, along with programming the sounds per my liking. I think I saw you are doing a holiday layout (me too) so it may be of some value... or, may be not. :)
 
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