Skip to main content

So I am in the final planning stages of my 1st O gauge switching layout.  It is a small shelf layout to test concepts before embarking on a multi-level 24'x24' around the room boondoggle.  Here is one view of the track plan:Phase 3 and as a schematic: Capture

Of course any criticism of the track plan is welcome.  Red is Gargraves flex track, Yellow is RCS, Green is Gargraves turnouts, and White is Atlas Uncouplers.  The tightest radius is 31 heading down to the "dock".  I anticipate 40ft rolling stock and small switching locomotives. (I have a 0-31 semi-permanent display layout that I have confirmed operations on).  It will support both TMCC and DCS control.

The meat of the question is, why would I choose Atlas over Gargraves and RCS.  Assuming MSRP Atlas is about 70% more expensive than the Gargraves/RCS option.  Here is the parts list for the Atlas Option:

Layout Design Shelf Layout        
SegmentNo.Manufacturer Part#DescriptionScaleManufacturerPcs.On HandReq.UnitExtended
  6025RT #5OAtlas505144.95724.75
  6046O‑45 1/4OAtlas1014.694.69
  605640" Flex/WoodOAtlas1301329.50383.50
  6070LT O‑54OAtlas303116.95350.85
  6071RT O‑54OAtlas202116.95233.90
  6075LT O‑36OAtlas101116.95116.95
  6085LT O‑45OAtlas101116.95116.95
  6086RT O‑45OAtlas303116.95350.85
Total         3,188.39


Here is my Gargraves/RCS BOM:

SegmentNo.Manufacturer Part#DescriptionScaleManufacturerPcs.On HandReq.UnitExtended
Phase 1 101Flex/WoodOGarGraves1301310.95142.35
Phase 1 113RH O‑42OGarGraves10149.9549.95
Phase 1 114LH O‑42OGarGraves10149.9549.95
Phase 1 200RH #4ORoss Custom Switches30374.95224.85
Phase 1 6059Uncoupling TrackOAtlas30324.2572.75
Phase 2 101Flex/WoodOGarGraves1201210.95131.40
Phase 2 113RH O‑42OGarGraves20249.9599.90
Phase 2 114LH O‑42OGarGraves10149.9549.95
Phase 2 200RH #4ORoss Custom Switches20274.95149.90
Phase 2 201LH #4ORoss Custom Switches10174.9574.95
Phase 2 6059Uncoupling TrackOAtlas1201224.25291.00
Phase 3 101Flex/WoodOGarGraves1201210.95131.40
Phase 3 170M4‑way YSORoss Custom Switches101299.95299.95
Phase 3 200RH #4ORoss Custom Switches10174.9574.95
Phase 3 201LH #4ORoss Custom Switches10174.9574.95
Phase 3 60591.75" UTOAtlas80824.25194.00
Phase 3 TR35TR35ORoss Custom Switches1018.998.99
Total         2,121.19


And it doesn't help the Atlas price case given that I have about $250.00 worth og Gargraves O42 switches on hand.



Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

First Rule of Layout Building:  NEVER pay list price!

I did a quick check at Trainworld/Trainland.  A quick check shows that #5s are a$100 and 40" straight are $20.  It is worth spending a little time browsing the advertisers on the Forum and in OGR and other sources.

The last #5s I bought I got on sale for $60 each.  Recently I bought two of their plate girder bridges -- $30 different.


PS.  TW/TL has sales over every holiday and reasonable shipping.

PPS.  Like your inclusion of a ferry.

Last edited by Jan

This same topic comes up every 2 to 3 months....for me....Gargraves and ROSS. Layout size is 25'x35'. I have been using this combination for a LONG time. Back in the day it was Curtis switches and Gargraves. Ease of construction with the Gargraves and bullet proof design and construction of the ROSS. If a switch ever breaks, Steve will take care of it for you. I doubt you will find that level of service from Atlas. 

I have some Atlas 40" rigid that I use and also have (3) Atlas bridges with their track. I make my own transition rail joiners to mate the Atlas to Gargraves.

Just my opinion.


We used Ross/Gargraves on the club modular layout and I use Atlas on my home layout.   Ross turnouts are very reliable.  Atlas, of course, is more realistic with scale width ties.   The biggest factor for me is that Atlas is much quieter due to its solid rails.  I bought my Atlas track used at a low price, so cost was not a factor.  My only regret was using their Flextrack.   It is a big PITA to bend and create smooth joints on the curves.  Sectional track is much faster and easier to use.  The new, improved Atlas turnouts are very smooth and they are electrically reliable.  Some older versions had undersized jumper wires that failed. I took the belt and suspenders approach and added feeders to each center rail before installing them. I also replaced any older flimsy Atlas rail joiners with the new, heftier ones.



Did that years back for a Christmas display layout.  I used old Lionel O27 tubular, Gargraves, Atlas and RealTrax. It also had Bachmann HO for an ON30 loop, Atlas HO for a trolley back and forth and Kato N for a park ride.    It was a series of loops that did not have turn outs.Christmas train.2008 050-2Christmas train.2008 052Christmas train.2008 068-2-2Christmas train.2008 069-2-2Christmas train.2008 071-2-2Christmas train.2008 082-2-2Christmas train.2008 095-2-2

6 O gauge, 2 On30, and 1 N gauge.  Stopped putting it up when we redecorated the kitchen.

While size has its own quality, hopefully my scenicing skills have improved. 


Images (7)
  • Christmas train.2008 068-2-2
  • Christmas train.2008 069-2-2
  • Christmas train.2008 071-2-2
  • Christmas train.2008 082-2-2
  • Christmas train.2008 095-2-2
  • Christmas train.2008 050-2
  • Christmas train.2008 052

As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder with this issue. Atlas looks more prototypical, the solid rail is nice (and it is nickel-silver, which doesn't tarnish, but also won't work with magna traction if you care). Atlas at times has had supply problems and they have the typical supply chain with China. Gargraves and Ross are made here and haven't had supply problems. Ross has one big advantage over Atlas, they offer a lot more varieties of switches and give you all kinds of options in terms of switch machines, wired/pre wired, curve versus straight switches, crossovers, yard switches, etc. 

RJ, you said "And it doesn't help the Atlas price case given that I have about $250.00 worth of Gargraves O42 switches on hand."

So, I must ask how did that happen?  And did you have any track with all of those switches?

As for your initial question, my last layout of consequence was done with GG Phantom tinplate flex and Ross turnouts (incl. double-crossover; 3-way; and 4-way).  I have done Christmas layouts, but no switches and only curved sectional track by GG and Ross--I've bent my last flex track.

I recommend Atlas O track, Ross Custom Switches, however I think Atlas O has refined their switches. Solid rail, many curve radii to choose from, and they are mixable, as you’ll see on my outside curves, 090 inside 099 connected on the outside. If I were to do this again, I would probably choose DZ2500 switch motors, but am now using DZ1000’s and utilizing the Non-Derail option. Now, the Atlas O switches are not wired for automatic non-derailing do to their switch motors. Their frogs actually work easily for non derailing because the spring can be adjusted.  It is possible to make them non-derailing but it’s lots of wiring. Ross pre-curves are great, rails sitting on top of the ties, and their switches are great. My issue with Gargraves and Ross trackage is hollow rail, easily dented if you drop a heavy car or Locomotive on the track. Therefore, you buy track Once, I feel it’s worth the extra funds for your next 20 plus years of model railroad enjoyment. My layouts 21 or more years old, so far no problems that couldn’t be overcome. I did have to retire the older Atlas O switches, but, there’s always something to fix. You’ll also find that many Engines, diesels and steamers have their own issues on certain trackage. Wow, the fun never ends. (I am not an authority on Lionel Fastrack, or MTH Scaletrack, they may be ideal) My layout is 34 by 17 and 5 levels. Good Luck, Happy Railroading B92CB2F1-BE03-459B-8247-E752339FAE8738A2D514-5F15-4BFE-AA43-4023B3A179942199DD31-7EAC-4BF6-A904-940397C60C971BE03ED0-A469-4C3A-A269-5A141143A861313CC867-674F-4E32-8AE9-49A791FC2846625ABD9E-C5EF-4164-B90D-04DC8CCD3B275DD14784-B498-45B6-9F39-4C3F2D113A35DFDB4774-930B-44CF-ABDD-2CF3813F762E46C09D60-E563-43BF-A4F9-FE1CC4929EBF


Images (9)
  • B92CB2F1-BE03-459B-8247-E752339FAE87
  • 38A2D514-5F15-4BFE-AA43-4023B3A17994
  • 2199DD31-7EAC-4BF6-A904-940397C60C97
  • 1BE03ED0-A469-4C3A-A269-5A141143A861
  • 313CC867-674F-4E32-8AE9-49A791FC2846
  • 625ABD9E-C5EF-4164-B90D-04DC8CCD3B27
  • 5DD14784-B498-45B6-9F39-4C3F2D113A35
  • DFDB4774-930B-44CF-ABDD-2CF3813F762E
  • 46C09D60-E563-43BF-A4F9-FE1CC4929EBF


I have not installed turnouts after laying track, but I have installed Gargraves uncouplers.  Cutting Gargraves track is fairly easy when it is down, a razor saw or Dremmel tool goes thur the tinplate without much drama.  It does present the same challenge as any other track in making the cuts to length, square and true.  After the cut is made, it is easy to fair the ends by hand with a file.  I have not worked with the stainless steel Gragraves, only the tinplate.

I have ross track/ switches. I looked at the atlas track and it looks more realistic to the eye I think. Atlas as others have said have had supply issues but that seems to be over. One thing with Atlas is you may be able to get it at a discount since dealers sell it& may offer it on sale, Gargraves and Ross are fixed price ( Ross IME has the best price on GG flex track).

Ross offers great customer service and as people have said, they will fix their products. The only negative with Ross is they build it to order, so it isn't something that will come fast ( I can't speak to let's say ordering 1 switch, talking track and switches in number, not individual pieces).

Obe thing about the look, having seen both Atlas and  Ross/GG, when you ballast it&do things like paint the rails, to me the difference isn't all that striking ( and folks, that is my impression, beauty is in the eye).

@bigkid posted:

Gargraves and Ross are fixed price ( Ross IME has the best price on GG flex track).

In my experience:

Ross is fixed price.  You get it from Ross.  Period.

Gargraves is not fixed price.  You can get it at a number of dealers for quite a bit less than if you buy it direct from Gargraves. And some will have your order drop shipped from Gargraves.

I have used Gargraves on my entire layout and it has been functioning for over 35 years. Gargraves because it is flexible gave me a way to bend all my curves without regard to a radius requirement. Gargraves can be flexed to meet what your turn requirements are and cutting the track is relatively easy. Additionally, I think the connecting pins between rails is a better way to assure conductivity rather than rail joiners. I have not had rail issues period. I have a number of Gargraves switches and they are of different vintages. Some have worked flawlessly and others have been troublesome. The ones that gave me any trouble I replaced with Ross units and the problems were eliminated.

There are 'deals' out there on Atlas if you decide to use it. From time to time someone takes down a layout and you can pick up a lot of it at once at great prices. As mentioned, the later turnouts are pretty trouble free and Ross switches blend in easily for any sizes that Atlas doesn't offer. Personally, Atlas seems more quiet and 'solid' although the rail itself is still too tall and bulky to look prototypical, the ties really stand out for their scale size. I had a Scaletrax layout that I really enjoyed as the track appeared most prototypical for the most part due to the lower profile rail, thin center blade, and the flex was a joy to work with. It hasn't been produced in several years now and it's future is uncertain at this writing so Atlas would be my choice.

Issues, from the initial offering, were:

(1.) track-joiners that were too weak.  Atlas replaced my track joiners, with a much better product.  Those buying new Atlas, would find the track joiners, a bit difficult to work-with.  If you purchased (Used Atlas track) you may want to change the joiners. Joiners are sold separately.

(2.)  Through-continuity of switches, was corrected.

(3.) Switch motor burnout was corrected with the 6924 relay board.   6924 boards, also corrected the spring-loaded non-derail feature.

(4.) IMO.  Note:  When you attempt more complex switching, with Gargraves, and Ross,  there are, additional wiring, and functions,  using relays, similar to the Atlas relay board.

(5.) I like the Atlas track screws.

(6.) A search of the Atlas track site would yeild an interesting set of track end pieces for making custom-cut pieces.

(7.) Atlas flex track is a bit more rigid than I expected.  Difficult to work. 

Trying to figure out how to add to the discussion. We all have personal preferences and likes and dislikes, you will have to establish your own. Track and switches tend to be an investment people start with and stick with.  Me, I did not do that and continue to look for a favorite.  I am building a new layout using Ross track and switches, Gargraves flex and Atlas track and switches and flex.  My comments are directed at 3Rail systems. 

How have my preferences changed?  I started with Lionel 027, never did like the larger profile O track. After running found I did not like the look nor operation of the track and switches. Sold those and bought Gargraves new and used. That worked OK until I decided to expand the layout and bought used Atlas and Ross track and switches (taking advice from this forum). Sold off all my Gargraves switches - nothing really wrong with them, but I preferred to have my switches match the track. I have had no issues with either Ross or Atlas switches. I see no need for anti-derailing switch wiring and view it as a residual necessity of the old Lionel style solenoid switches. The Atlas switch machines have adjustable point spring pressure eliminating the need for the wiring. The DZ1000 and DZ2500 machines have springs which provide a bit of point flex, but can cause derailments for lighter cars.  I found both switch machines to reliably fully close the points about 80 to 90 percent of the time. That means 1 out of 10 switching maneuvers results in a derailment and the resulting arcs and sparks. I am installing Tortoise machines to see if they are bullet proof both for applied point pressure and full point throw.  Of course the manual Caboose Industries throws work reliably as well.

There are differences (pros and cons) between solid rail and tubular, but given the distribution of supporters of both, it suggests both are reliable for layouts particularly for High Rail 3 rail modelers.  Should you ever decide to like the look of fixed pilots on your diesels and get your hands on a 2R/3R MTH diesel with scale wheels, you may find the flatter profile of the solid track performs better. I have a couple of scale wheel 3R engines which do not like to run on either Ross or Gargraves track nor switches. Could be a result of my less than perfect track laying, but the deeper flanges of high rail is one reason to model in it - just more forgiving than scale wheels. One reason I am using both Ross and Atlas on the new layout is to see which works better for me.   Hope this helps.

@Mike CT I think the 6924 relay board is one of the components that's usually out of stock.  Offhand, do you know how many switches a single board can support?  I've been on the fence between Atlas and Ross for a few years now.  O36 is hands-down the best diameter for my space.  If Ross made their excellent switches in O36, I'm pretty sure that would have bought the track already!

We use Ross track and turnouts with a few pieces of Gargraves flex track where needed. We use Tortoise switch machines.

Results have been very satisfactory. 38 X 18 and 40+ turnouts.

We bought all new and were able to get a lower price with a dealer. There is not a lot of  margin.

Jeff Tortoise should end your problems. If you use DCS, you may need to use relays with the AIUs. It was easy to do.

Add Reply

The Track Planning and Layout Design Forum is sponsored by

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.