Trackwork Handbook


[Appendix 2: End Plates]    [Contents]     [Appendix 4: Shandin]

Note: These comments are mine alone. Other comments are welcome and will  be placed here. No matter what track is used, thorough inspection of all aspects of track and turnouts with a Mark IV NMRA gauge is essential.

Regarding the comments below, Walthers shows HO track back in stock in November, 2019. I'll update the comments below when that track is available for review.

Track I recommend avoiding:

·     Precision Scale: Out of gauge, does not work with semi-fine scale (0.088”) wheels. I would also add that the track is also poorly made and unattractive.

Track that I'm not familiar with:

 ·    Peco: There are many that consider Peco track to be the best available. I'm unable to comment because I haven't ever seen it in person. I am concerned by the temptation this track offers to have unpowered turnout frogs.

Flex track that has been acceptable on modules I’ve observed:

·     Walthers/Shinohara: Flex track, code 83 and code 70. Preferred by some for durability, the rail cross section is not as fine as Micro Engineering

·     Micro Engineering: Flex track, code 83, code 70 and code 55. Preferred by some for appearance, the rail cross section is more delicate than Walthers.

·     Atlas: Flex track, code 83. Like Walthers flex track, the rail cross section is not as fine as Micro Engineering.

Track that requires care with installation:

·    Central Valley track is a craftsman product that requires careful assembly. The rail is glued to well detailed tie strips. Since the glue bond can weaken at high temperatures, keep Central Valley trackwork out of direct sun and away from extreme ranges of temperature to avoid loosening of the rails. Also, the rail to tie glue joint can be fragile and subject to damage with handling.


 ·   Central Valley turnouts (#5, 6, 7, 8, 9) are craftsman kits that require very careful assembly.  When used with Details West frog castings, the appearance of Central Valley turnouts can be very good. Care must be taken to make sure that rail alignment (height and side-to-side) of the rail segments are perfect, especially those adjacent to the frog casting and the switch rails. My observation is that it is not uncommon for CV turnouts to exhibit misalignment or height differences in these locations. Switch rails can be somewhat loose unless fine stabilizing wire is soldered across the outside joint of the closure rail and the switch rail. Switch rail points are blunt and need to be carefully dressed so that they nestle right against the running rails. Note that detail cast into the gauge side of switch rails does not meet the flangeway requirements of the NMRA Mark IV gauge. The cautions about Central Valley track apply here as well.

·    Fast Tracks turnouts (#4, 4.5, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and many others) are also craftsman kits that require very careful assembly. They are economical only if a number of the same size turnout are required. When well made and installed, they are extremely smooth running and reliable.

·    Atlas produces DCC friendly turnouts (Wye, #4, 6, 8) that are better looking than earlier versions.

·    Micro Engineering turnouts are good looking but limited to #6 only. In a few instances they have proved to be a bit fragile.

·    Old Walthers and all Shinohara turnouts require modification to make them DCC friendly.  Unfortunately, the newer DCC friendly Walthers turnouts (#5, 6, 8, 10) are not as good looking as they could have been. While I use these turnouts because I appreciate their robustness, I replace the throwbar with a PCB throwbar and spread the switch rails a bit to reduce the "shark jaw" appearance. I also fill the frogs so that dropping of semi-scale wheels is minimized. The very small jumpers on the bottom of the turnout are fragile and should not be depended upon.  Careful inspection with a NMRA Mark IV gauge is required to insure that all aspects of the turnout are correct.


·     Details West rail bars can be used to improve the appearance of track. I advise against using code 83 rail bars with code 83 track since the railbars fill the flangeway and result in bouncing of rolling stock. On code 83 track, use code 70 railbars instead.  They nestle nicely against the web of code 83 rail.

·     Careful attention to right of way details and a good ballast job help to “make” a module. I use Walthers and Shinohara flex track and Arizona Rock and Mineral ballast. After ballasting, I weather and blend colors with an airbrush to adjust the overall appearance. I have often been asked at shows if my Walthers and Shinohara flex track is hand laid. I think this indicates that a good job of installing, ballasting and painting/weathering the track makes it very hard to determine what brand of track is used.


[Appendix 2: End Plates]    [Contents]     [Appendix 4: Shandin]

Gary M. Green