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Thread: Kato Unitrack for a large layout

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    Default Kato Unitrack for a large layout

    Hello all, thanks for having me! I've been dabbling in N scale for number of years and finely got to a point were I even had finished scenery and now have to sell the house. My last endevour used Atlas code 55 track and turnouts, the #5 turnouts were from many years ago and caused me many derailments. I trimmed and filed and bent to no avail and then later read that the plating was too thick on the frogs on the old runs and would cause trouble even with low profile wheels. Since the turnouts are all I have left from previous layouts and I won't be using them I'm starting fresh. Living in Canada and only having over priced Peco and really over priced Atlas code 80 components locally I've been pricing things out from the US, Japan and other Canadian stores. It happens to work out that 3' of Kato Unitrack works out to about the same price or cheaper than others, with Peco being about on par in pricing (the track is a little cheaper but by the time roadbed and shipping is added into the cost it's about the same). ME was just a little more but turnouts seem to be made of unobtainium and Atlas doesn't seem much better (but not really wanting to try them again anyway). I've read a lot of posts from people stating that they love their Unitrack but the biggest complaint seems to be the price. If pricing was the same as the cheapest other option out there would you use it on a fairly large basement layout? I know it doesn't look exactly prototypical but I've been playing with a few pieces and can get it ballasted (with a little more time consuming effort) and painted pretty good. My other option would probably be Peco code 55 and their unifrog turnouts but I like the idea of being able to lay things out and change it around before committing. I've never actually used sectional track before on a layout so opinions would be greatly appreciated!

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    Kato is the way to go , as for long runs , I would say use flex track . And are you going the Dcc way? If so you'll need to drop feeders every so often depending on the size of your layout. Kato is nice track and does go together quickly. And be aware that 4 axle truck diesels handle #4'and # 6!turnouts well. But 6 axle trucks can be finicky on #4's sometimes. Mike fifer has a lot of YouTube videos up for your viewing pleasure. Hope this helps.

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    This is a question of opinion, not of fact, so don't take this personal, please: I prefer the optics of Code 55 American tie spacing track like Atlas or ME make. If you don't or don't care, Kato will give you a quicker reliable result. With the caveat mentioned by @Viperjim1: #4 turnouts from Kato are really, really tight. Tighter than your Atlas #5s. Can be problematic with longer locos and cars.

    And I suggest to solder or feed every piece of track. Yes, on sectional track that means you'll have a lot of feeders compared to long flex track runs, that is a disadvantage Kato track shares with every sectional track out there. But in the long run it will be worth the amount of feeders - glue and paint will creep even into Kato Unijoiners.

    Hope this helps,
    Heiko

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    Quote Originally Posted by Intarsiabox View Post
    I've read a lot of posts from people stating that they love their Unitrack but the biggest complaint seems to be the price.
    This is a subject that there is no correct answer to. I can speak for Unitrack as that is what we are using for our modules. We wanted something that could handle being moved around to shows which it has held up pretty well so far. Plus, their expandable track sections are PERFECT for going across Modular Divides.

    As far as price, I always buy my track second hand which helps reduce the cost.
    I don't get too excited about incorrect tie spacing or the appearance of track work like some (to each their own). I just like to run trains, which Unitrack allows me to do right out of the package.
    Bo D.
    B&O Keyridge Subdivision
    I'm not allowed to run the train, the whistle I can't blow. I'm not allowed to say how fast the Railroad Train can go.
    I'm not allowed to shoot off steam, nor even clang the bell. But let the damned Train jump the track, and see who catches hell!


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    I'm not into KATO track. I want to design a layout that goes where I want, not use small, #4 #5, turnouts. I run BIG engines, 2-8-8-2, 2-6-6-4, 4-6-6-4, 2-10-2, 2-8-2, etc etc and NONE of them run worth a D@%$ on small turnouts. And the same goes for Diesels, long wheelbases and 3 axle trucks don't do well with small number turnouts. Always use the largest frog number turnout you can. And you won't get big large number turnouts in KATO turnouts. You will stuck with a given curve radius not a nice large radius curve that you set yourself. And you can not have EASEMENTS that lead into curves. Easements help your trains run smoother into curves from tangent track. All KATO track is SECTIONAL track, too many rail joints for me.
    If you are worried about cost, HANDLAY trackage. The costs can and will drop. You don't need all the fancy jigs and fixtures. Rail, ties, turnout layout drawings, and tools, which any modeler should have anyway, are all you need. There are plenty of YOUTUBE videos, showing how to build turnouts, are out there.
    DIESELS ?!?!?! We Don't Need NO Stinkin' DIESELS!!!

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    I will only add this . Peco is way way cheaper if you order it from Hattons in the UK . I have been pricing itfor my new layout , and it is cheap , even with the shipping .

    Hattons.co.uk

    I'm not trying to sway your choice , just let you know about the option of Peco

    Steve

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    Fully agree with Steve regards Peco and buying from Hattons in the UK - you can't go wrong at all in so far as the service and cost is concerned. By the way, my last order from Hattons got to me in exactly 3 days from placing the order.

    Like others have said, I'm not a fan of sectional track of any type due to the amount of joins that is required when using it not to mention the limitations that sectional track inherently causes. Given a choice, I would go with Flex Track to allow you the freedom to create your own track plan without being restricted to set radii, reduce (dramatically) the number of joins you will have with Flex Track as well as the number of feeders as well as being (possibly) cheaper if you go with Peco from Hattons. I place a set of feeders for each piece of flex.

    If you do decide to go with sectional track though, then from all accounts Kato Unitrak is probably one of the best sectional track options.
    Cheers Tony

    "Knowing what to do is one thing ... being able to do it is another"
    "It is easy to criticize ... a lot harder when you have to justify it"

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    Only thing I'll add about a plus for PECO.
    It would allow a bit more flexibility to the track plan.
    You have several choices of turnout sizes; small, medium and large and large curved in C55.
    The flex is flexible, KATO is rigid.

    Both could work.
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    I did go the unitrack route after years of Peco and to be honest, if you are willing to take the compromise on looks, its amazing stuff. track laying was never my forte so I didn't get that far with previous layouts, but I ran more trains in the first 6 months of going over to unitrack than I ran in over 20 years of using Peco.

    Personally I love the stuff, but geometry limitations does bother some people. Also, the number 4 switch issue is both totally real and a red herring (don't use them), I just don't use them, always get the larger radius switches and have never had a problem.

    G.

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    Thanks, yes I started moving over to DCC on my lasy layout before tearing it down. #6's will be the only turnouts I would use. Mike Fifer's videos are actually why Kato even crossed my mind!

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    I will check out Hattons! $5.75 is the best price in Canada I have found so far, plus $20 shipping but that's for quite a few sticks at a time and some turnouts. Thank-you for everyone's replies, you all gave me lots to ponder. I don't mind soldering all the joints and lots of feeder wires, reliability is important to me. My favorite aspect is actually the model and scenery building, I just don't want the trains derailing whenever I want to run them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen H. View Post
    Only thing I'll add about a plus for PECO.
    It would allow a bit more flexibility to the track plan.
    You have several choices of turnout sizes; small, medium and large and large curved in C55.
    The flex is flexible, KATO is rigid.

    Both could work.
    I bought a piece of Peco code 55 to play with. I found the higher ties made for really quick and easy ballasting, the Atlas stuff was hard to get good coverage and still keep a nice slope that stayed below the ties. Ballasting the Kato unitrack to my liking was more effort. I tried Mike Fifer's suggestion of not ballasting in between the ties but didn't like it, my best results were from airbrushing the rails and then applying full strength glue between each tie and the ballasting outside the rails as per normal flex track. It looks good in the end but will be time consuming. The rigid aspect of Kato is what I don't like so much, mainly because if I don't have the right pieces I have to wait until I can order more but with flex track I'll never be stuck for a curve. I can also get Peco locally in a pinch if I just need a piece or two at ridiculous prices.

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    I just ordered my track from Hattons . 1 box (25) of Peco C80 concrete tie track and 5 packs of joiners . With shipping $157 Canadian

    Steve

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    Don't think you'll be sorry Steve. The last "major order of track" I bought from Hatton's saved me around $170 US.
    Cheers Tony

    "Knowing what to do is one thing ... being able to do it is another"
    "It is easy to criticize ... a lot harder when you have to justify it"

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    Oh I won't be Tony . I priced it out at MB Klein , Hattons was close to $90 CAN cheaper for the same goods

    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by aflica View Post
    I just ordered my track from Hattons . 1 box (25) of Peco C80 concrete tie track and 5 packs of joiners . With shipping $157 Canadian

    Steve
    Were you dinged for any duties or brokerage fees?

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    Nope - none with my order. My order was shipped DHL and (from memory) the shipping worked out at around $17 or $20 US. Now, that is in the US, Canada "may be" different. Also, one other thing to note - you wont pay VAT (Tax) on your order either as it is being shipped outside of the UK.
    Cheers Tony

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    Quote Originally Posted by Intarsiabox View Post
    Were you dinged for any duties or brokerage fees?
    I won't know till the order arrives , but I can say this . If I had ordered it from MB Klein in the US , I would have been . So it's a wash on that point to me . And the duties would be less as the order price is less

    Steve

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    I had code 55 which I had gotten from a friend about 10 years back that was moving out of N scale and going over to HO. After wasting a lot of time with mixed results I decided to make the move over to Kato Unitrack. I am very happy with the results. I am spreading my cost out buy only buying a little a time. Best part is it will hook up with code 80 flex for those areas where Kato track does not have the correct size.

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    josef86 makes a good point re compatibility. If you do go with a mix of Flex and Unitrak then go with Peco Code 80.
    Cheers Tony

    "Knowing what to do is one thing ... being able to do it is another"
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