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Thread: What's the size difference between code 55 and code 80 track?

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    Question What's the size difference between code 55 and code 80 track?

    I know one is more realalistic in size, but what is the exact size difference? I assume the two cannot be interchanged without some fileing. Thanks

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    Code 55 rail is .055" high from bottom of the base to top of the ball. Code 80 is .080" high with a considerably thicker cross-section.
    Last edited by Paul Schmidt; 14th Jul 2019 at 11:05 AM.

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    My layout was mostly built back in the late 1980's, and C55 didn't exist - it was all C80. But any major realignments or rebuildings since have been done with Peco C55 (which is really a two-step C80 rail with the bottom embedded in the tie). But the debate remains of how much difference it really makes after rail painting and ballasting. It does make a difference, but my decision has been 'not enough to justify tearing out a perfectly functioning main line' to do it.

    So here's a direct comparison - the SD45-2 is setting on C80, the next track in is C80, and the spur closest to the camera is Peco C55. It definitely looks better, particularly because the rail head and web are properly extruded instead of the flat-sided C80. But painting and ballasting takes out much of the difference. If you aren't planning on painting and ballasting, it's much more visible for sure. But I paint ties, rail, the works, and my darker cinder ballast tends to lessen the contrasts as well. Personally I find the gloss-black molded ties just as objectionable as the railhead size; paint that and bury it and you're pretty much there. I tend to follow Pete Seeborg's track painting methods. I can't stand silver rail sides in any code.

    The kicker for me was that the electrofrogs offered much better electrical pickup on short-wheelbase locomotives, and this is a district where my 4-wheel critters roam freely moving at slow speed. That was more important to me than the rail height, so an entire industrial area was torn up and relaid to do it.



    I'm now doing some experimental work with Code 40 in Nn3, and that's really shocking - even to lay that beside C55 is rather stunning, and for lighter 90-lb rail or so with a prototype 6" head = .038 so that is getting really down there.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by randgust View Post
    My layout was mostly built back in the late 1980's, and C55 didn't exist - it was all C80
    I had so much left over from previous builds that I just used what I had.

    Quote Originally Posted by randgust View Post
    But painting and ballasting takes out much of the difference. If you aren't planning on painting and ballasting, it's much more visible for sure. But I paint ties, rail, the works, and my darker cinder ballast tends to lessen the contrasts as well. Personally I find the gloss-black molded ties just as objectionable as the railhead size; paint that and bury it and you're pretty much there. I tend to follow Pete Seeborg's track painting methods. I can't stand silver rail sides in any code.
    Yup, after painting and ballasting it, it's not near as noticable.
    I got a kick out of some guys on another forum who was really advocating how much better C55 was to use and how much better it looked, then a short while later, someone posted about Mike Danneman's Rio Grande layout and how awesome it looked. But no one seemed to notice that his layout is done with mostly C80,
    or if they did, they didn't mention it.

    Here's video of his layout. https://vimeo.com/26657459

    Don't focus on just one thing, try to look at things as a whole.
    If you have a chance to start with C55, use it.
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    I used code 80 Atlas, which is a blessing since my Tomix chassis in my interurbans have pizza cutter flanges. I shot the rails with camouflage brown.

    Modeling the Pacific Electric Playa Desnuda Branch in N Scale

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    One of the reasons I'm a Peco C55 fan is because of that. I can turn flanges, I've done it, but I'd still rather not - particularly on legacy steam. If you're a fan of old stuff (and I am) it's a great compromise.

    I have seen beautiful layouts in Atlas C55, and also the 'horror' of Mike Britton's PRR layout when the first-run C55 switches started to fall apart. The only thing I've seen like that before was when a friends old layout used AMI instant roadbed under his C80 flextrack and it started to shrink....a lot...and started moving curves around. Both resulted in scrapped layouts.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    But no one seemed to notice that his layout is done with mostly C80, or if they did, they didn't mention it.
    I've noticed it on Danneman's and other well-done N scale layouts and, yes, to me code 55 rail and realistically spaced ties just look better. That's why I jumped into code 55 in 1996 with Micro Engineering products; if they'd offered code 40 turnouts, I would have gone that route. I couldn't square the circle with code 80: what I saw in the real world wasn't what Atlas or Peco looked like, painted or not. And Peco code 55 is a poor compromise.

    That's not to say the quality of modeling done by those who prefer those products is of a lesser standard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schmidt View Post
    And Peco code 55 is a poor compromise.
    I keep wishing that Peco would make code 55 with North American tie spacing - like they did in Ho scale. Just the flex track to start - how difficult would that be?

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    Agreed. The only way you can make it look 'good' is to have tie color that doesn't contrast much at all with the ballast color. The Seeborg method is to spray ties flat gray and then weather them darker, I love that approach. By the time you add ballast the ties somewhat blend in. All depends on your prototype. On my ATSF layout (70's) the basalt ballast was having real dust issues under load - so everything in that region took on a brown/black/reddish haze and the ties picked up the dust to the point that everything was the same color from about the frame down. So my track was sprayed 'leather brown' rail, ties and all, then ballasted, then weathered. You'll see that brownish dust in 70's shots of F-units, intermodal cars, anything moving at speed. The ballast degredation led to a wholesale change over to gray granite and after that, concrete ties by the 90's.

    On the model shots you'll notice that not all the rail is the same color. That's very deliberate. The main (also at a higher level with roadbed) gets the dust impact in the reddish basalt, the lower passing siding is a more rusty brown with completely buried ties in darker cinders, and the relaid piggyback track is newer rail on granite ballast.

    This is an absolutely fantastic shot of that track at that exact spot in that era showing that really 'red-brown' ballast that came from the volcanic basalt pits at Darling, and ultimately was entirely replaced on virtually the entire main line due to the degredation and dust issues. Ties? What ties? It's all one color.
    https://arizonalorne.slickpic.com/al.../1972/?squared
    So the bottom line here is to really look at your prototype and decide what's really going to show up .... and what isn't.


    If you have a prototype where the tie color is darker against a light stone ballast color, yeah, the proper C55 tie spacing is going to make a lot bigger difference.

    I'm doing a Ttrak module right now and the Peco rail is just raw on cork roadbed, and yeeesshhh. It looks pretty bad compared to final painted and ballasted results.
    Randgust N scale kits web page at www.randgust.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scotian_Huntress View Post
    I keep wishing that Peco would make code 55 with North American tie spacing - like they did in Ho scale. Just the flex track to start - how difficult would that be?
    There are plenty of choices for code 55 North American track. But right now Peco is almost the only manufacturer making N scale concrete tie Euro track. Please don't mess with it!

    I just wish Peco would offer concrete tie turnouts.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
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    http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    Quote Originally Posted by el Gato Gordo View Post
    I just wish Peco would offer concrete tie turnouts.
    Perhaps this might help, although you might want to be careful
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmTmGtXT05o

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    Returning briefly to OP's comment "I know one is more realistic in size..." :

    Code 55 is 8.8 scale inches high. Code 80 is 12.8 scale inches high.

    Real-world 150+ pound rail stands 8 inches high. 130-pound is about 7 inches, 90-pound about 5 1/2.

    Even Code 55 is a bit tall to be a scale representation of any but the heaviest modern mainline rails. Though very few of us have eyes so attuned as it look at an N scale rail and say its an inch or two too tall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Siegmund View Post
    Though very few of us have eyes so attuned as it look at an N scale rail and say its an inch or two too tall.
    I can. My eyeballs were genetically calibrated to differentiate within a micron.

    Yeah, right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Siegmund View Post
    Though very few of us have eyes so attuned as it look at an N scale rail and say its an inch or two too tall.
    It's not so much about actual decimal measurement as it is about proportion. As an architect, I can readily see that a given model is N-scale, due solely to the relative rail height in proportion to other things, like the distance between the rails. Code 80 sticks out like a sore thumb in that respect. HO modelers like to use code 83 and code 70... and their rails are roughly twice as far apart!

    But even if one's eyes aren't able to pick this up in person, it does show up when we take good close-up photos. If you want to strive for photos that could pass for real (or at least not be obviously N-scale) then rail height is one common giveaway (another would be couplers).

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    Each of us builds to his or her own standards. Code 55 for some, code 80 for others, and so long as trains run and we enjoy them, nothing else matters.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
    http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...4-x-9-5-layout

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    Quote Originally Posted by WP&P View Post
    But even if one's eyes aren't able to pick this up in person, it does show up when we take good close-up photos. If you want to strive for photos that could pass for real (or at least not be obviously N-scale) then rail height is one common giveaway (another would be couplers).
    Yep, those two -- rail height and couplers -- are where N scale falls apart in front of the camera. You can diminish and downplay, but the camera sees all. Thankfully the human eye is not as fussy.

    I don't think I'll ever see commercially available code 40 pre-fab switches for N scale, but I can hope. Given a choice between that or a properly operating scale coupler -- one but not the other -- I'll take the coupler.

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    My issue remains that properly painted, weathered, and ballasted C80 still looks far better than raw C55 with visible silver rail sides and shiny brown ties.

    It's a general philosophy with me in N that color, texture, lighting are more noticeable than infinite detail. Not that I don't go there, but only after the overall 'feel' of the scene is plausible.

    And properly painted and weathered C55 is simply awesome; I've done it on my Ttrak PRR modules.

    And while I'm struggling with Code 40, if you meet Mark "Narrowminded" Graulty, you'll become a believer on how this could actually work, he's getting me to experiment, see the experiment at Altoona in a couple weeks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by randgust View Post
    My issue remains that properly painted, weathered, and ballasted C80 still looks far better than raw C55 with visible silver rail sides and shiny brown ties.
    Absolutely!

    I don't know how or why -- other than that perhaps the shelves might be pretty bare -- but last year MR featured a layout with unpainted rail and ties. Oh, and lichen. No, it was not a 1960's retro motif, either.

    I almost cancelled my sub right then and there. Did so later.

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    Another point not mentioned yet;
    This is technically “N Gauge”... N being for nine millimeters, the distance between the rails (the gauge).
    N Scale (the ratio between real and model) varies between the US (1:160), Japan (1:150), & the UK (1:148).
    So in the case of PECO, the tie (sleeper) size and spacing is larger due to the scale difference, and the prototype difference between UK and US.
    Bryan
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    It is amazing how a thread assumes a life of its own. After all, Paul completely answered the question in the original post in the very first reply.
    Cheers!
    Gordon
    Rheinland Bayern Bahn
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