Trains4Africa
Because all Boys (and some girls) love Trains

N SCALE TRACK

Almost every manufacturer of model trains have their own track systems, with some designs dating back to the early days of N-scale prior to the establishment of the n-scale NMRA standard.

By “track system” I refer to all track components available from a particular manufacturer/supplier- be it a single sectional track, switch point, or a wide variety track in varying sizes, shapes, options..

track1

Code Numbers:

The code numbers as used by many track manufacturers relate to the height of the rail in the imperial measurement of thousandths of an inch, i.e. Code 100 represents 100 thousandths of an inch, i.e. 1/10th of an inch. Code 80 rail as used in N gauge represents 80 thousandths of an inch. (For N-Scale, Code 80 is also referred to as the “standard gauge” track)

Keep in mind..

  • Most track systems are reasonably compatible with commercial rolling stock, there are however known issues when you try to combine track systems from different manufacturers.
  • In this article I focus on N scale track, I have compiled other articles that in turn focuses on HO/OO, G scale as well as some others.
  • This article is not intended to give or force an opinion on which track is the Best , as “best” means different things to different people!
  • I always say that when you see something that looks good to you, inquire about the pros and cons. and remember that life is a series of compromises..  The best looking track and switches may not be the most reliable for operation and maybe the costs might be excessive for your budget.  So too will smaller profile rail probably be more realistic but do you really require more realism in a scale that is already difficult to see (your eye sight may be perfect today, but it will most certainly deteriorate as you age..)

Most often a little bit of effort at Detailing, Painting and Ballasting the track will make just about any brand look better!

The most popular brands / Track systems include:

  • Peco
  • Atlas
  • Hornby
  • Bachman
  • Fleischmann
  • Others: Minitrix /Roco / Kato

 

PECO

peco_logo

PECO is one of the most popular brands world-wide and produces a wide selection of N-scale track and turnouts in codes 80 and 55.

Modelers have reported that in some batches, the track does not match NMRA Standards – This however does NOT mean that the track is incompatible with commercially available N-scale locomotives and rolling stock – in fact PECO’s popularity is probably due to the fact that the track is quite forgiving and very compatible with almost all manufacturers rolling stock.

Many modelers (world wide), consider the broad range of turnouts and the appearance of the track, together with the overall quality and availability of greater importance, (in many countries PECO has become the preferred track due to availability, performance and cost) as apposed to “just” seeking compliance with the North American NMRA standard. Note: compliance with NMRA standards is a GOOD thing, it is however not the only consideration for many..

Switch-points have a spring lock with snap action; the spring can be removed if a switch machine is used.

PECO

 

PECO STREAMLINE (Code 80)

Profile  t4a_t_peco80
Construction -Rail sections made of nickel silver .
-26.5 mm parallel distance (at double crossover)
Code 80
Track Options Flexitrack
Advantages -Availability
-Durability
-Competitively priced
-Very wide selection of Track + Flextrack
Disadvantages -Overall, the appearance may not be as prototypical
-switch points have a strong and positive throw-this may cause problems with point decoders that cannot supply sufficient power.

PECO FINESCALE (CODE 55)

Profile t4a_t_peco55
Construction -Rail sections made of nickel silver
-26.5 mm parallel distance (at double crossover)
-Guard rails are plastic
-Switch points appear to be formed sheet metal, which give them an unusual appearance
-Space between open switch-point and stock rail is wider than necessary
Code 55
Track Options Mainly Flex track
Advantages -The lower profile is more prototypical
Disadvantages 1

 

arnold

HORNBY (Arnold)

Founded in 1906, Arnold started producing model trains in post-war Germany. A pioneer of new model railway gauges, alongside Tri-ang, Arnold worked on each new “small” scale over the years. From 0 scale, to H0/00 and into TT gauge, Arnold was always striving to make model railways more accessible.

In the 1960s Arnold created their ‘Rapido’ range, the first N gauge model railway products to be produced. In the following decades Arnold would develop this range, offering more and more products in N gauge. In 2004, Hornby acquired the Arnold brand and has increased the range and availability through its Chinese manufacturing partner.

Track is available in standard gauge (1:160 Europe/US), while in the UK it is available in 1:148 scale

Arnold-Self-Clean-Rail

 Profile  t4a_t_arnold
 Construction Rails made of round , dark steel
30 mm parallel distance
Transition couplings available to profile rails
 Code  80
Track Options  Sectional + Flexi
Advantages -Round rail profile , thus less dirt deposits
-Dark rail profile , does not need to be aged
Disadvantages  -Not prototypical rail profile
– Sidings cannot be soldered (stainless steel )
– Poorer conductivity of the stainless steel rails

 

FLEISCHMANN

Fleischmann-logo

Fleischmann, the German based manufacturer, has been producing model railways since 1938.

In 2008 Fleischmann was sold to Franz Josef Haslberger and becomes part of the Modelleisenbahn Holding GmbH (together with Roco).

 

FLEISCHMANN – WITH BALLAST

Profile t4a_t_fleischmann
Construction -Rail sections made of nickel silver
-33.6 mm parallel distance
-Similar to Minitrix (former Roco track)
Code 80
Track Options Sectional + Flexi
Advantages -No ballasting of track required
Disadvantages -Ballast is integrated, cannot be seperated
-More expensive option

 

FLEISCHMANN – WITHOUT BALLAST

Profile t4a_t_fleischmann
Construction -Rail sections made of nickel silver
-33.6 mm parallel distance
-Rails with molded gray ballast
Code 80
Track Options Sectional + Flexi
Advantages -Wide range of Sectional track available
-Relatively cost effective/competitively priced
Disadvantages -No isolated turnouts (only conductive plate)
-Limited switch motor options

 

 

Minitrix

Trix_Minitrix_logo

Profile t4a_t_roco
Construction -Rail sections made of nickel silver .
-33.6 mm parallel distance .
-very similar from the track symmetry the Roco system .
Code 80
Track Options 1ombined Wide range of radii , with Roco System
Advantages reliable
Disadvantages Limited production. limited options. cost

 

 

Model Power (GT – track Italy)

gt-track

The Italian manufacturer GT, has since 2008 manufactured a limited range of flexible track and simple pieces of track in both N-scale and OO/HO.

The company only manufactures the track and does not market the track but supplies it to other distributors, notably Model Power.  The track is also available from http://www.flexibletracks.com

The Flex tracks are simple , inexpensive and fit the profile and track height well to the rails of Roco and Trix.

Profile  t4a_t_roco2
Construction -The rail sections are made of nickel – silver .
Code 80
Track Options Felxtrack and limited , but selection is growing
Advantages -Low cost
Disadvantages – Something coarse detail than the ” conventional ” manufacturer
– Difficult to obtain in the commercial
-known quality issues

 

Kato (Unitrack)

kato_logo

The Tokyo-based company has since 1957 manufactured models based on Japanese prototypes (such as the Shinkansen bullet train) for the Japanese market, North American prototypes for the North American market and European high-speed trains for European market. The design and distribution of models for the North Armerican market are handled by their U.S. subsidiary, Kato USA, located in Schaumburg, Illinois.

The Kato (pronounced kah-toe) model railroad companies were founded by Yuji Kato, father of current president Hiroshi Kato, of the parent company Sekisui Kinzoku Co., Ltd.

Kato manufactures an integrated roadbed model railroad track brand named Unitrack. What distinguishes Unitrack from other brands of integrated roadbed track is Kato’s Unijoiner. This unique track joiner is also used by Tillig in their TT scale integrated roadbed Bedding Track products.

Profile t4a_t_kato
Construction -Rail sections made of nickel silver .
-33 mm parallel distance .
-Tracks with ballast , which has an additional connector and the integrated point machines .
Code 80
Track Options starter sets, expansion sets, selection of acessories and unitram modular system
Advantages -Good selection of track
Disadvantages -Only available with track bed
-availability can be a problem
-Cost is higher than similar products