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Thread: Code 55 confusion

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    Default Code 55 confusion

    I'm just starting out with a FreemoN module, and want to use code 55 track. The three brands considered are Atlas, Micro Engineering, and Peco.

    I've heard that some rolling stock and locomotives have issues running on Atlas code 55 track. Some blame the track, some blame equipment flanges. I've also read that Atlas turnouts have issues coming right out of the package with distorted rails.

    Micro Engineering seems to be in short supply, and they only make a #6 turnout. Powering the frog can be challenging as well, from what I've read.

    Peco seems to have the least number of complaints about it, but the tie spacing.....

    I'm open for suggestions.

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    Pizza-cutter flanges of older wheelsets will cause noise on Atlas track. The problem is not with the track; it's the out-of-scale flanges. Low-profile wheelsets cure this. Almost all locomotives released in the past 15-20 years have low-profile wheels.

    My concern with Atlas turnouts has been with electrical continuity and reliability. I have had to add jumpers between the points and closure rails, and between points and stock rails, just like the prototype. Don't rely on the point hinge contact for conductivity.

    Powering the frog of ME turnouts is no more challenging than any other turnout. Use a Frog Juicer, Blue Point, or some similar homemade device to change the frog polarity depending on the position of the points.

    Peco's stuff is reliable, but the tradeoff is the less-than-realistic tie size and spacing. Add jumpers between the points and stock rails for improved conductivity; don't rely solely on the points contacting the stock rails.

    The above suggestions require some basic soldering skills, which will take a little time and patience to acquire. Soldering is pretty straightforward with a clean hot tip, a little flux, and the proper technique.

    I use ME products almost exclusively. I will use Atlas in a pinch.

    Some mighty fine layouts have been built by N scalers using any of the above products.
    Paul Schmidt

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    Free-moN actually requires code 55 track.

    For Free-moN, Peco is not allowed. In addition to the tie spacing, Peco’s code 55 track is really code 80 Rail with the ties partly buried in the rails.

    As far as equipment hitting the flanges, Free-moN also requires that all equipment running on the layout meet the NMRA standards, and the old pizza cutter wheels that cause noise when rolling on Atlas code 55 flextrack do not meet the NMRA standard for flange depth. In this case, it really is the equipment that is the problem.

    I have not had any issues with Atlas code 55 turnouts.

    The only Micro Engineering turnouts I have are not DCC friendly, but I understand Micro Engineering has redesigned them since I last purchased ME turnouts.

    Paul
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Pizza-cutter flanges of older wheelsets will cause noise on Atlas track. The problem is not with the track; it's the out-of-scale flanges. Low-profile wheelsets cure this. Almost all locomotives released in the past 15-20 years have low-profile wheels.

    My concern with Atlas turnouts has been with electrical continuity and reliability. I have had to add jumpers between the points and closure rails, and between points and stock rails, just like the prototype. Don't rely on the point hinge contact for conductivity.

    Powering the frog of ME turnouts is no more challenging than any other turnout. Use a Frog Juicer, Blue Point, or some similar homemade device to change the frog polarity depending on the position of the points.

    Peco's stuff is reliable, but the tradeoff is the less-than-realistic tie size and spacing. Add jumpers between the points and stock rails for improved conductivity; don't rely solely on the points contacting the stock rails.

    The above suggestions require some basic soldering skills, which will take a little time and patience to acquire. Soldering is pretty straightforward with a clean hot tip, a little flux, and the proper technique.

    I use ME products almost exclusively. I will use Atlas in a pinch.

    Some mighty fine layouts have been built by N scalers using any of the above products.
    Quote Originally Posted by pbender View Post
    Free-moN actually requires code 55 track.

    For Free-moN, Peco is not allowed. In addition to the tie spacing, Peco’s code 55 track is really code 80 Rail with the ties partly buried in the rails.

    As far as equipment hitting the flanges, Free-moN also requires that all equipment running on the layout meet the NMRA standards, and the old pizza cutter wheels that cause noise when rolling on Atlas code 55 flextrack do not meet the NMRA standard for flange depth. In this case, it really is the equipment that is the problem.

    I have not had any issues with Atlas code 55 turnouts.

    The only Micro Engineering turnouts I have are not DCC friendly, but I understand Micro Engineering has redesigned them since I last purchased ME turnouts.

    Paul
    Well, I guess Peco is out of the question if I'm going to stay with FreemoN standards.

    I've been trying to get a definitive answer as to the ME turnouts being DCC friendly. Some of the research I've done on them yields some fairly old responses, and I've wondered if they have been redesigned, given the popularity of DCC now. The actual switching of the polarity isn't the issue I was referring to, however. I've read that soldering to the frog itself can be troublesome.

    It sounds like the reliability of Atlas turnouts is hit or miss. Unfortunately, I have no brick and mortar shops locally where I can inspect them before purchase. Everything will have to be mail order, so either you accept what you get, or spend a lot of time returning things.

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    I have 12 FreemoN modules (they are also my home layout). I use a mix of Atlas and ME track (I use mostly code 55, but I do have some code 40 sidings). I run all Atlas switches, #10s and #7s, and I have powered about half my frogs. Some of my modules have been in use for 7 years and have logged well over 3000 miles of travel with zero issues. Some switches have required some basic tuning. Usually nothing more than filing a point or shimming a throwbar. Regardless of the type of track you use, it will take some tuning for ideal appearance and performance. If I ever do upgrade switches, it would be to hand laid. But I haven’t had to replace one yet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by P. Lyn deWall View Post
    I've read that soldering to the frog itself can be troublesome.
    The new versions are DCC friendly out of the package; soldering a jumper wire to the hole in the bottom of the frog is not difficult. Perhaps for those who lack decent soldering skills though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    The new versions are DCC friendly out of the package; soldering a jumper wire to the hole in the bottom of the frog is not difficult. Perhaps for those who lack decent soldering skills though.
    Paul, thank you! That's the updated information I was hoping for. Soldering is not a problem for me (once I put on my glasses so I can see what I'm doing, and stop burning holes in the table....)

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    Yes, Peco is not real Code 55 track. I don't care what the Peco apologists say, it's not compatible with any other Code 55 track (without whipping out the Dremel tool), therefore it's not actual Code 55 track.
    Aside from handlaying your own turnouts, Atlas is the only real choice here. The main problem with it is that it needs to be attached to a switch machine to keep the points solid, as without a machine they easily float either way, causing problems (you can use an .020" styrene strip under the throwbar to make it more "stiff" if you don't have any switch machines yet). Then there are other issues that some (but not all) turnouts have regarding flangeway issues or point rails not making full contact.

    It's really a shame that Micro Engineering doesn't care to expand their turnout line to more sizes or that no other company besides Atlas and ME has released their own RTR code 55 turnouts.

    Metro Red Ln (Metro Red Line)
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    building turnouts is not too hard for some one with a soldering iron.
    that said, I understand it is a surprisingly hard item to create on a commercial basis.

    it has a lot of fussy pieces to set into a mold... or hand assemble
    and a metal frog is hard to cast... I am told they like to warp.
    While CNC machine time costs are going down, it will take a bit of time to cut out frogs...

    I wonder if one can 3d print turnouts? and slide in the rails?

    victor

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    Quote Originally Posted by P. Lyn deWall View Post
    It sounds like the reliability of Atlas turnouts is hit or miss.
    Out of the more then 70 turnouts I have used so far from Atlas , I have had problems with 2, both were easily fixed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MetroRedLn View Post
    Atlas is the only real choice here.
    Not certain how you draw that conclusion, unless the context is ME's miserly, stunted, extremely limited range of code 55 (edit: turnout) products. In that case I'm 100 percent in agreement.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Not certain how you draw that conclusion, unless the context is ME's miserly, stunted, extremely limited range of code 55 products. In that case I'm 100 percent in agreement.
    Ironically, ME has a WONDERFUL line of Code 55 flextrack: wooden tie, concrete tie, bridge tie, and with pre-weathered and unweathered versions of each of those.
    But in terms of turnouts, who was the product development genius at Micro Engineering that said at a company meeting, "Okay folks, we're going to make a #6 turnout, and THAT'S ALL!"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MetroRedLn View Post
    "Okay folks, we're going to make a #6 turnout, and THAT'S ALL!"?
    Exactly! That was my reference -- the turnout selection.

    Gosh, at least make the #6s in code 40 to complement that line of flex track.

    But do us all a solid, ME, and come out with some #8s in code 55 And how about an equilateral in a #8 or #10?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Gosh, at least make the #6s in code 40 to complement that line of flex track.

    But do us all a solid, ME, and come out with some #8s in code 55 And how about an equilateral in a #8 or #10?
    At one point in time, there were rumors that ME was going to make #8 turnouts, but that obviously hasn’t happened yet.

    No turnouts in code 40 is one of the reasons I invested in Fasttracks jigs. I only have a little code 40 on my Free-moN modules, but I needed a turnout for that trackage. ( I actually bought code 55 jigs, and took extra care in building the code 40 turnout. )

    Except for the one code 40 turnout, all the turnouts I have on modules today are either ME OR Atlas, and #6 or larger. I may eventually invest in a larger turnout jig ( I have a #8 and a #10 ) but I need to get more use out of the ones I have first.
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    To add to the statistics... I have 53 Atlas C55 turnouts on my layout, of pretty much all types (#5, #7, #10 and curved) in both RH and LH configuration.

    So far, only one has failed. The through-route frog rail lost contact and I had to solder a jumper to the bus. Of course, I got my right/left rails mixed up and hooked it to the wrong bus, creating a short, but that was an entirely different matter.

    I've probably just jinxed myself.
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    I have been using ME flex track and been very happy with it. For turnouts, I was making my own using the Fasttrack's fixtures. I have the fixtures for the #5 and #7 turnouts. Lately though, I've been using Atlas turnouts, which are also #5 and #7 (plus #10s). This is because I haven't found all of my Fastracks fixtures (I've only been here 1-1/2 years and haven't finished unpacking ) and I want to get things running. I've had one Atlas turnout fall apart while installing it, point joint broken, but have been otherwise happy with them.
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    Just got back in N scale railroading last fall, after nearly 40 years away. After looking thru what was available last fall, I settled on Atlas code 55 flex track and turnouts for my 9.5' x 3.5' layout. The track plan is an ~35' twice around mainline (~17" min radius), with 2 track stub passenger terminal, small stub freight yard, and a small engine facility inside the loop. A reverse loop "cut-off" passes over the yard leads on a truss bridge. The era will be end of steam... so far running a KATO FEF-3 and Athearn UP challenger (when it comes back from warranty service). I am waiting for Bachmann's 2-8-0, which I hope to get to switch the yards and run local freights.

    I've got 10 C55 #7 turnout on the main line and passenger stub, and more than a dozen #5s, a couple 2.5Ys and 3.5Ys in the yards. I've got most of my track installed now (just realigned part of my main this week, to relocate the turnout to the passenger terminal)...

    I chose the Atlas C55 because of availability and appearance... tho' I have hand built turnouts in C55 and C40 for HOn3 and Nn3, I knew that building that many turnouts would just bog me down. So far I have not really had any electrical issues (maybe down the road), but I have run into some structural issues (all solvable) that are worth mentioning... mostly with the #5s and 2.5Ys.

    (1) The point rail for the diverging route is too straight (it doesn't follow the curve of the diverging stock rail) on about half of the #5s and a couple of the 2.5 Ys. The result is the track gauge narrows thru the points on the diverging route, forcing the engine or tender wheels to derail. This issue can be fairly easily corrected... I use a jewelers screwdriver and an old carpenters divider to gently bend a little more curve into the diverging point rail... place the two points of the divider behind the point rail, and apply pressure on the inside with the screw driver... work a little at a time until an NMRA gauge passes freely thru the points without binding.

    (2) The guard rail is set too close to the stock rails on one or both routes on about 1/3 of the #5s and a couple of the #7s... the flange ways themselves are wide enough for the flanges, but the "gauge" (distance between the flangeways of the guard rails and frog) is too great for the wheel gauge (can be checked with an NMRA gauge). As the locos pass thu the switch, the wheels ride up on the guard rail or frog and derail. So far I have been able to remedy this situation relatively easily by using a small soldering iron to "gently" heat the guard rail (softening the plastic ties) and forceps to pull the guard rail slightly further from the stock rail, until an NMRA flangeway gauge can easily pass thru both the flangeway and frog. This has to be done carefully... the guard rail (which might be a cast part) has two small "pegs" the fit into wholes in the plastic ties... and I while doing the adjustment, I have "popped" a few guardrails out. I freaked the first time I did this (there goes a $20 turnout)... but all is not lost... the pegs will allow you to reinsert the guard rail into the correct position, and a little CA will hold it in place.

    Be careful that while you are making the guard rail adjustment that you don't push DOWN on the hot guard rail too hard... or it might end up melting farther INTO the plastic ties and end up too low to engage the wheels as they pass thru the turnout... which also causes a derail (ask me how I know). If this happens, it is pretty easy to fix...I lay my NMRA gauge or a metal ruler across the turnout over the guard rail, and gently pull up on the guard rail until it just touches the gauge or ruler. This will put the guard rail at the correct height... and a little CA seems to hold it in place.

    (3) The notches cut to recess the point rails into the stock rails have rather abrupt edges... a couple of my turnouts lead straight into curves (not good, I know... but that's what I had to do), and as the outside wheel hits the edge of the recess in the stock rail, it sometimes derails. A little rounding of the edge with a file seems to resolve this problem.

    Anyway... those are the issues I have encountered with Atlas C55 turnouts. As of now, I have my FEF-3 passing through all turnout (#7s, #5s, #3.5Ys, and #2.5Ys) without derailing. The #7s and 3.5Ys on the main have been tested at road speeds up to 50 smph, forward and backward. The #5s are in the yards... they're a little tight for the FEF-3, but it handles them OK at yard speeds (<10 smph). The challenger negotiated everything that was in place before it got sent off for service... but I might need to make a few adjustments to the realigned trackwork when it comes back from Athearn.

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    I should add that most of my rolling stock has come from eBay... nearly all MTL. A lot of it has come with the older "pizza cutter" wheels... and they do hit the molded heads of the spikes, making for a rough ride. I replace all the wheels with the newer, lower profile flanges, and have not had a problem. Neither of my two locos hit the spike heads on the Atlas C55 track (flex or turnouts).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    Pizza-cutter flanges of older wheelsets will cause noise on Atlas track. The problem is not with the track; it's the out-of-scale flanges. Low-profile wheelsets cure this. Almost all locomotives released in the past 15-20 years have low-profile wheels.

    My concern with Atlas turnouts has been with electrical continuity and reliability. I have had to add jumpers between the points and closure rails, and between points and stock rails, just like the prototype. Don't rely on the point hinge contact for conductivity.

    Powering the frog of ME turnouts is no more challenging than any other turnout. Use a Frog Juicer, Blue Point, or some similar homemade device to change the frog polarity depending on the position of the points.

    Peco's stuff is reliable, but the tradeoff is the less-than-realistic tie size and spacing. Add jumpers between the points and stock rails for improved conductivity; don't rely solely on the points contacting the stock rails.

    The above suggestions require some basic soldering skills, which will take a little time and patience to acquire. Soldering is pretty straightforward with a clean hot tip, a little flux, and the proper technique.

    I use ME products almost exclusively. I will use Atlas in a pinch.

    Some mighty fine layouts have been built by N scalers using any of the above products.
    P.Lynn deWall,

    This is personally the best and to the point answer here, and given without bias for any of the three products mentioned in your original post.

    Unfortunately when you/we start talking about which is the best of something to buy or use, people are going to have their preferences and it will be that preference that they will put forward as being the best.

    Putting personal preference aside and going by what Paul has mentioned above, it is the Peco track that has the fewest reported issues. I would think that it would be prudent to go with the track that does have the fewer issues and put aesthetics second to what is going to be more reliable in the long run.
    Cheers Tony

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    Quote Originally Posted by wombat457 View Post
    I would think that it would be prudent to go with the track that does have the fewer issues and put aesthetics second to what is going to be more reliable in the long run.
    Seems to me Peco does have an issue , and that issue is for me the reason to not go the Peco way , it looks horrible. What I am saying is it all depends on someones preference , and what issues are going to be decisive. If having trouble with 2% of your turnouts is a problem by all means don't go Atlas code 55 even if the problems are easy to solve. If having only one choice in # of turnouts is a problem don't go for ME , if code 80 made to look like code 55 with too wide tie spacing is a problem don't go the Peco way. All I would like to add is that the problems with Atlas and in certain ways the ME track and turnouts are solvable , the problem with the Peco track will always be a problem.
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