@Ted S posted:
@Mike CT thanks for the recap. I had heard about most of those issues. You didn't mention the tendency of rails to come loose from a switch, requiring them to be re-glued or re-staked.
I also understand that most of these problems have been addressed by Atlas in subsequent releases. Unfortunately, as I posted on another thread, Atlas didn't update the product number or packaging to differentiate the "new and improved" product from the old. (I'm guessing, to protect their dealers' and distributors' inventory value!)
@Greg Houser How did you know what you were getting? Are there any "spotting features" that I can use to avoid the trouble-prone first generation track & switches? I need a LOT of track, and especially O36 switches. Given the vagaries of supply, I'll probably have to buy some used :-(
To me the track connectors were always a non-issue - just buy a pack of joiners. As for the switches - ask for a picture of the back and you can see the jumper wires. If not, they are not difficult to add yourself. The best deals in switches are the ones who's motor doesn't work. You can fined replacement motors for under $10.
I also never used the Atlas push-button controllers to throw my switches. They were wired to an AIU. You can buy any of the numerous push-button switches on the market to throw the switches - you aren't limited to the Atlas ones.
Another way to save money is if you have tunnels on your layout. The track under the tunnel can be far from pristine as it can't be seen - ie: missing ties, scenic elements attached, etc. These you can get dirt cheap at train shows.