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I own some tracks (mainly curves and straights, no switches yet) from S-Helper and MTH, but they are hard to find when I want to expand my 1:64 layout. I understood that Lionel AF FasTrak concept is not compatible. What do the experts recommend? Should I trash the current trackage material and invest in Gargraves tracks. But then again which ones? Tinplated or Stainless flextracks when I want to run both hi-rail and scale wheels? Which are easier to cut and to solder for laying tracks and wiring them on a modular or segmented layout?  Is there any chance that the S-Helper/MTH S-Trax might be produced again by another successor company? Any opinion appreciated.

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You are in the same position I believe a lot of others are in and there isn’t an easy answer. The first problem is running scale and hi-rail together, some say they don’t mix well together and others will say you can do it but it needs a bit of work on the turnouts to achieve it. I guess the simple answer is choose one of the options that you prefer and see what is available with regards to track. For the scale side you are going to be limited to some extent on rolling stock/motive power unless you become inventive to overcome the associated problems.

I’m sure others will chip in and provide more detail than I can which will be more constructive.

With the track that you have started with, you might look at the idea of making transition tracks and going with the Fast track. I assume from what you've stated that your track is with roadbed attached. I have seen S Helper and Fast track soldered with roadbed of each cemented together. The problem of running both scale and highrail on the same trackage is mainly at the turnouts. I do not believe that you can run scale successfully on the Gargraves track, it leans to the high rail/toy train sector. There has been l believe a thread on the forum for modifying highrail turnouts to work with scale wheels.

Ray

Gargraves is not compatible with scale wheels.

The cross section of the rail is nearly identical among SHS/MTH, Fox Valley Models and Lionel FasTrack.  They are compatible is the sense that they butt together and you can use rail joiners from any of these brands interchangeably.   But if you are using sectional track  rather than flex, then you need to modify as Ray mentioned above because SHS/MTH and FasTrack do not click together.  Fox Valley Models does not make sectional track.

My recommendation is to use flex track from SHS, MTH and/or Fox Valley models.  They are compatible with each other, and you can use rail-joiners from any of them to connect to whichever brand of turnouts you select.

@Chuck K posted:

Gargraves is not compatible with scale wheels.

The cross section of the rail is nearly identical among SHS/MTH, Fox Valley Models and Lionel FasTrack.  They are compatible is the sense that they butt together and you can use rail joiners from any of these brands interchangeably.   But if you are using sectional track  rather than flex, then you need to modify as Ray mentioned above because SHS/MTH and FasTrack do not click together.  Fox Valley Models does not make sectional track.

My recommendation is to use flex track from SHS, MTH and/or Fox Valley models.  They are compatible with each other, and you can use rail-joiners from any of them to connect to whichever brand of turnouts you select.

Thanks, Chuck for the detailed explanation. I guess, if I want to run DC/DCC motive power and rolling stock with scale wheels parallel to the hi-rail trains on the same layout, then I have to set up a separate track geometry made of  AM trackage material .

Thanks, Chuck for the detailed explanation. I guess, if I want to run DC/DCC motive power and rolling stock with scale wheels parallel to the hi-rail trains on the same layout, then I have to set up a separate track geometry made of  AM trackage material .

AM track offers the same feature of accommodating both scale and high rail wheels as SHS/MTH, FasTrack and FVM do, but the AM rail is larger.  Also their turnouts are either scale or high-rail whereas the FasTrack and SHS/MTH turnouts have a closed-frog design that accommodates both scale and high-rail. FVM turnouts can be pretty easily modified to accommodate both scale and high rail (I have the instructions to do this from the inventor of this method and have done it myself).  When I expand mine, I will be using all FVM turnouts and adding switch motors.

Another key for you will be radius. If you are going to run scale wheels, stay away from the 20" sectional track curves and 20" turnouts. You'll want the 27" or #5 turnouts offered from the above mentioned brands. And beware that even the 27" curves/turnouts do not accommodate  large scale wheeled steam engines from the brass fine scale manufacturers like River Raisin.

@Chuck K posted:

Another key for you will be radius. If you are going to run scale wheels, stay away from the 20" sectional track curves and 20" turnouts. You'll want the 27" or #5 turnouts offered from the above mentioned brands. And beware that even the 27" curves/turnouts do not accommodate  large scale wheeled steam engines from the brass fine scale manufacturers like River Raisin.

Usually I run mainly vintage and modern diesels pulling freight cars, no steam and no passenger coaches. Probably I have to avoid narrow curves and tight turnouts. Thanks, Chuck, for the useful explanation about the recommended track geometry.

Before I jumped into O gauge trains about 20 years ago, I looked seriously at S gauge (previously I did HO, then N, then G trains).  I researched the track systems, and learned about the Scale/Highrail/traditional considerations, and I saw some confusion and lack of standards.  I wanted something easy, so I went with Lionel O FasTrack.

I just recently decided to try an S layout, and chose Lionel's S FasTrack for a variety of reasons.  I hoped that the S turnout reliability and operating issues would be simplified with S Fastrack.   You can look at my experience with S FasTrack on my build threadIt has not been "clear sailing" as I hoped, but I am proceeding.  Go to the third page of the thread for my layout build experiences.

Last edited by Ken-Oscale

Be aware that American Models turnouts are designed for Flyer/HiRail flanges only.  To adapt them for scale flanges requires modification to the frog and guardrails.

Rusty

For $8.00, AM will convert their high-rail turnouts to scale, so their turnouts are either scale or high-rail whereas the FasTrack and SHS/MTH turnouts have a closed-frog design that accommodates both scale and high-rail.

I am not aware of any cases of someone modifying them to where they can accommodate both scale and high-rail, but it may be possible to do it in a similar way as I have done to FVM turnouts thanks to a design from Roger Zuerlein.  

@Chuck K posted:

For $8.00, AM will convert their high-rail turnouts to scale, so their turnouts are either scale or high-rail whereas the FasTrack and SHS/MTH turnouts have a closed-frog design that accommodates both scale and high-rail.

I am not aware of any cases of someone modifying them to where they can accommodate both scale and high-rail, but it may be possible to do it in a similar way as I have done to FVM turnouts thanks to a design from Roger Zuerlein.  

Hey Chuck, can you post a link to Roger's design or show what you have done?    Are you saying both scale and Hi-rail can run through them?  Kinda curious.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

@Tom Stoltz posted:

Hey Chuck, can you post a link to Roger's design or show what you have done?    Are you saying both scale and Hi-rail can run through them?  Kinda curious.

Tom Stoltz

in Maine

Here it is:

When using the FV turnouts with more scale flanged wheelsets there are two areas of concern:

  1. The cast frog assembly will not allow these wheelsets to run through the turnout.  The wheelsets will drop into the space between the points and the closure rails.  To address this issue, I added 0.020 X 0.60" spacers attached with JB Weld.  This allowed the scale wheelsets to ride over the space in the cast frog assembly (see Illustration).
  2. The guard rails allowed the tread of the scale wheelsets (Code 110 and 125) to be misdirected through the turnout causing them to derail.  To address this issue, I decreased the width of the guard rail opening by attaching a 0.030 X 0.100 spacer to the original guard rail.  I roughed up the guard rail with 100 grit sandpaper to increase the bite for the adhesive (I used Eileen's "The Ultimate" ).  I painted the spacer with American Accents by Rust-oleum.  Color: Espresso, a perfect match for the original FV guard rail.  The spacer is difficult to see in the illustration as it has already been painted.

Haven't had any problems in the two years I have had over 20 turnouts on the layout.

Roger Zuerlein

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I’m confused now, if  Roger is modifying an FVM hi-rail turnout to accept scale rolling stock by raising the depth of the frog assembly by 20 though, won’t this then be a problem to run hi-rail stuff as the hi-rail flanges will ride up on the added spacer causing problems? Also if the guard rail distance is decreased from the running rail won’t this also cause problems for hi-rail as well?

@Ukaflyer posted:

I’m confused now, if  Roger is modifying an FVM hi-rail turnout to accept scale rolling stock by raising the depth of the frog assembly by 20 though, won’t this then be a problem to run hi-rail stuff as the hi-rail flanges will ride up on the added spacer causing problems? Also if the guard rail distance is decreased from the running rail won’t this also cause problems for hi-rail as well?

The high rail wheels do fine.  I tested it with several high rail locos including a Gilbert AF steam engine. And as Roger states, he has 20 turnouts modified in this way and he hasn't had any problems in 2 years.

@Chuck K posted:

The high rail wheels do fine.  I tested it with several high rail locos including a Gilbert AF steam engine. And as Roger states, he has 20 turnouts modified in this way and he hasn't had any problems in 2 years.

So this modified turnout sits somewhere between FVM’s hi-rail and scale units. It would be interesting to see if FVM modify what they have and just make one version which would suit both camps.

@Ukaflyer posted:

So this modified turnout sits somewhere between FVM’s hi-rail and scale units. It would be interesting to see if FVM modify what they have and just make one version which would suit both camps.

It's the Flyer wheels that have problems with a tighter guard rail clearance.  If you allow .125", Flyer will do fine.  Tighter and you limit it to scale and Hi-rail.

I am a touch surprised that Chuck's Flyer steamer's tender made it though.

Tom Stoltz

Tom:

I did not test the Gilbert S or the non-Gilbert S in my design as I incorrectly assumed the high rail sets made by SHS, MTH and AM were gauged similarly to the GAF sets.  I do not run any GAF or early non-Gilbert designs but do have some in my collection and have tested several this evening.  You are correct on the Gilbert AF and non-Gilbert  AF S wheel sets that I have access to, they will not run through the modified FVM turnouts without derailing.   I also tested the newly designed LAF wheelsets on the wood side reefers, the new 3 bay cylindrical hoppers (with redesigned trucks) and the waffle sided box cars.  These (at least the ones I have access to) run through the modified FVM turnouts.   Sorry for the misinformation with my original posts.  Thanks Tom, it's always nice to have independent verification on any design or formulation.

Roger

 

My layout allows running all Gilbert, SHS, AM and AF by Lionel equipment flawlessly. It works with scale or high rail wheel sets, I have both in use. The track is MTH (former SHS) flex track, the turnouts were hand laid with the SHS rail using FasTrack jigs slightly modified to accept the .138 rail. The turnouts are identical to the ones Tom Stoltz made and tested with one exception. Mine have hinged turnout points, Tom’s used one piece point rails that were flexed by the force of the turnout motors. Below is a picture of a turnout and of a 22.5deg crossing on the layout. 

The problem with the Fox Valley Turnouts is they only make #5’s and I needed a lot of #6 and #8 turnouts. 

It can be done, but is is not an off the shelf solution. The Lionel S gauge FasTrack should work with both scale and high rail wheels but I have not tested it.A6383092-2045-46EA-AE92-88804CB3B3E9B9BA6F9D-C7AD-4BE3-B83C-AA1A81D20B38

 

 

 

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Very nice Tom and the crossing is most impressive. And thank you for including a picture of my turnouts. I have no idea why open frog turnouts that can run Flyer, Hi-rail, and scale are not an off the shelf solution. Why turnout manufacturers are not interested pursuing it is a mystery to me. As you say, it can be done.

The Lionel rail is identical to SHS and MTH, so all three types of wheelsets will operate on it. I like to differentiate between Flyer and Hi-rail wheelsets because they are not even close to being similar. I think people get confused by the use of Hi-rail to include Flyer – when it comes to wheelsets and track standards, they are miles apart.

Tom Stoltz

Thanks! Great to hear from you Tom. In my opinion it is unfortunate that FV chose to use cast frogs. The .138 rail FV uses seems to have better metallurgy than the MTH and Lionel rail. Were I building the layout today I would use the FV flex with handlaid turnouts but when my layout was built FV had not yet introduced their track products, the only immediate source of .138 flex track in quantity (750') was MTH.

The crossing is an interesting part of the layout. It allows engines to move from the TT/roundhouse area to the back of the freight yard without using the main line. All the cut gaps are visible in the picture. Because it is a shallow angle, all metal crossing the diamonds must be powered through a PSX-AR-AC auto reversing board.

Tom, if you had not done all the hard work on scale and high rail wheels and posted the videos I would not have considered making these turnouts. I have spent many hours regauging wheels on Gilbert and AF by Lionel rolling stock to get them perfect. The turnouts are not tolerant of mis gauged wheels. All AM, SHS and MTH are perfect right out of the box. The engines Lionel makes are perfect but most of their rolling stock was made .1" narrow. I finally found the right size of snap ring pliers that has speeded up spreading the wheels on the axles.

@AmFlyer posted:

All of my Gilbert engines run through my turnouts with no issue. No reason a FV turnout cannot do the same if a high rail version is used and then shimmed slightly for scale wheels.

The secret to making this work is to shim the guard rail enough to pull the scale wheel away from the frog point.  That’s easy enough.  The hard part is having enough space between the guard rail and stock rail to allow a Flyer wheel to pass through and still pull the scale wheel away from the point.

It’s that simple.  It has been done.  Adding shims to keep the scale wheel from dropping too much into the frog hole is icing on the cake, but actually not necessary.

Tom Stoltz

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