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I've gutted a couple of Williams 3 rail steamers (because I don't need the "bells and whistles") and am running them on DC with GarGraves track. Everything is fine, but since these are such nice looking locos, it seems the track should "match".

Using a bunch of the old Atlas 2rail sectional stuff from the '70s, I thought I would play around a bit and see if I can come up with a more scale looking track. I took some HO scale code 83 rail and using 2-sided tape have run a center rail on a couple of pieces of track.

Here is how it looks:

3 rail 1

A close up:

3 rail 2

...and a comparison with GarGraves:

comparison

Probably of little interest and possibly not at all practical, but I thought I would show it just the same... 

Mark in (rainy today) Oregon

PS: There's someone on this site who has done a similar thing (HO rail down the center) and that's probably what got me thinking of this approach...

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Last edited by Strummer
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That's Ron H who has a run of 2 rail Atlas with an N gauge rail down the middle. He may catch this and chime in with some photos. Some years ago he and I experimented with a couple of ideas like you have here. My 'solution' was to take 3R Atlas and pull the center rail and replace it with the center 'blade' from ScaleTrax which was a vast improvement visually over the bulky Atlas 3R by a large amount. I had a layout using ScaleTrax for several years and the smaller outside rail (code 225?) helped to give our equipment a much more massive appearance with good effect. Example is photo below. The tie spacing of ScaleTrax is poor however...

DSC02099

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Last edited by c.sam

That is so much better than the large center rail, which is always a distraction from realism - at least in my eye. Not quite as good looking as 2-rail trackage but way better than the usual 3-rail.

How would one secure the HO code 83 rail to the ties for reliable running? 2-sided tape would not likely stand the test of time.

Interestingly, the cost of a 40" Atlas 3-rail track (flex or straight) is $34.95 on their website compared to $26.25 for the 40" Atlas 2-rail track.

You can buy a 36" length of MicroEngineering Code 83 rail for $3 on one website I checked. So for $29.25, if you don't count your time and effort to install the code 83 center rail, you could save nearly $6 per 36" length compared to the usual Atlas 3-rail price. Not a trivial sum for several hundred feet of layout.

Code 148 would be just about right, spiked down. The O scale rail well placed should be reachable consistently via loco roller.

i used solid rail, Micro Engineering code 100 Nickel Silver rail , inverted( head of  rail side down) on my catenary. The loose rail comes in packages of 10, silver or weathered, 36 inches per rail.  Good stuff, Great electrical conductivity. You would need to get whatever code you use rail joiners as well.  One has to make sure you don’t make bigger than necessary  spaces between the hand laid rail or rollers might complain!  I tied mine electrically from rail to rail with just enough space to deal with shrinkage and expansion.
Making a curved center rail one could use a rail bender. There is a video on YouTube that shows how to make a home made rail bender. Works like a charm.

Btw, spiking tools for O scale rail are readily available Xuron makes one, a needle nose small plier will to the job. There are some commercial rail spikers, Old Pullman my favorite if you can find one! I had some luck finding  a vintage one with a wooden handle!

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many decades ago, I remember doing the same experiment! I made a complete small oval! Fun seeing your post! Reminded me of some good experimentation!

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Last edited by Leroof

What you have done with a section of straight track looks almost as good as track with the center rail blackened. But some center rail pickups don't go down low enough to make contact with a low center rail. Even if that ia not a problem, what happens to a low pickup when it contacts a switch or crossover? Super O resolvd that with special ties that were high in the middle. Have you considered an outside third rail system or a rechargable battery system controlled with bluetooth?

Last edited by John in California

What you have done with a section of straight track looks almost as good as track with the center rail blackened.

1. But some center rail pickups don't go down low enough to make contact with a low center rail.

2.  Have you considered an outside third rail system or a rechargable battery system controlled with bluetooth?

1. Funny you should mention that, as I was going to point out that on certain engines (like Weaver diesels) the center pickup is not low enough to contact that small center rail, so this is not really a viable option.

2. Actually, I was simply messing around with this, just to see for myself...

Mark in Oregon

I have been thinking about this further and want to update my original comment on spiking the center rail in place.

The way I would do this is using Code 83 or Code 100 track, I would cut a rail joiner in half.  Drill a small hole through the center of this joiner piece, then slip a track nail through it.  Then I would drill a slightly undersized hole in the tie were this was going.  Next apply some double sided mounting tape (serves two purposes, glues in place, plus shims the center rail up.  Now just install joiner with nail onto the tie.  Not sure but might slip the joiner onto the rail first (would try it both ways).  I don't have the track to try, it but this would be a little more secure than just the tape or joiner method alone.  If someone tries this let me know how it works.

Thanks!

Awhile back I experimented with replacing the center rail on gargraves track with inverted code 100 HO track inserted into the slot. This required ramping the center rail up to negotiate turnouts.  Most engines ran well on it. Lighted cars with their vertical pickups not so much.  It was an easy fix and could be done on existing track.

A quick update...in case there's any interest.

1. Dennis: Ha, ha! 

2. I've done about 8 pieces now; each one takes about a half hour, as I'm trying to get the center rail as even with the outside ones as I can. Am notching the outer ties a bit to allow for the joiners on that center rail.

3. Here are a few more pix:

image000000 [2)

image000002

Thus far, these pieces (sectional track) show they are able to be "broken up" and re-attached just fine, so will continue on with this little experiment, as I have lots of this older Austrian-made track and plenty of the ME code 83 HO rail... ...will be attempting a curved piece  later today...

Mark in Oregon

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...just finished the first (and probably last!) curved section:

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(it looks better in person than it does in the photo...)

Took almost an hour; had to use some old HO scale spikes to help it along. A 24"R in O scale is pretty tight.

Although this has been fun to mess around with (and it does "work"), this is proving to be more work than it's probably worth. The good news is, nothing has been done to this stuff that I can't reverse, so the original 2 rail track is still completely usable, should I drop the entire idea. 

Mark in (windy today) Oregon

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@Strummer posted:

Final post, I promise!

Here is how the track looks with the Williams E6...

Another E6...

Mark in Oregon

Mark this looks fantastic!  So much more Prototypical with scale size track and ties.

Please don't let this be your last post, I have been very anxious to read about your experience.  If you operate some trains on it, let us know if it works well, or any problems you encounter.  Thanks!

Last edited by MainLine Steam

1. Mark this looks fantastic!  So much more Prototypical with scale size track and ties.

2. Please don't let this be your last post, I have been very anxious to read about your experience.

3. If you operate some trains on it, let us know if it works well, or any problems you encounter.  Thanks!

Jim, et al.

1. Thank you.

2. Because you asked, here are some additional photos and captions. I appreciate your comments; again, I'm simply fooling around with this stuff, so I don't expect it to have much interest, generally speaking. 

I went ahead and added a center rail to a piece of the newer, brown tie Chinese made 36R track. Because of the gentle(r) curve, it was much easier to do, and I used only some of those HO scale spikes on this...no tape:

image000000



Here is a close up of the older '70s track (left) and that curved piece mated together:

image000002

This worked out really well; I had fashioned a shorter drawbar for the E6 (set for GarGraves O63), and although it "worked" on the 24R (O48) track, the handrail on the cab did contact the front of the tender; not enough to cause any problems, but you could hear it.  On this larger curve (O72), there's plenty of space between the cab and tender, so it's all good.

..and just for laughs, here is a comparison of an unaltered 4 1/2" piece of the newer stuff next to a 6" piece (cut down from the original 12") of the old Austrian-made with the center rail added:

image000001

3. Because of the code 148 rail, there doesn't appear to be any issues with running large-flanged wheels; and of course, scale sized wheels (such as Intermountain, etc.) work fine as well. Electrical contact has proven to be good throughout all the pieces...I've purposely been swapping pieces around, checking for fit and electrical.

If I decide to continue with this experiment, I will post further, but for now I think we're good.

Thanks again for hanging with me on this...

Mark in Oregon

PS: a picture of a stock (except for scale couplers) similar vintage Atlas F9, running on the outside rails...

image000000

......

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Last edited by Strummer
@Strummer posted:

Jim, et al.

1. Thank you.

2. Because you asked, here are some additional photos and captions. I appreciate your comments; again, I'm simply fooling around with this stuff, so I don't expect it to have much interest, generally speaking. 

I went ahead and added a center rail to a piece of the newer, brown tie Chinese made 36R track. Because of the gentle(r) curve, it was much easier to do, and I used only some of those HO scale spikes on this...no tape:



Because of the code 148 rail, there doesn't appear to be any issues with running large-flanged wheels; and of course, scale sized wheels (such as Intermountain, etc.) work fine as well. Electrical contact has proven to be good throughout all the pieces...I've purposely been swapping pieces around, checking for fit and electrical.

If I decide to continue with this experiment, I will post further, but for now I think we're good.

Thanks again for hanging with me on this...

Mark in Oregon

PS: a picture of a stock (except for scale couplers) similar vintage Atlas F9, running on the outside rails...

image000000

......

Thank You for the update!  Glad you got one of those F9's that works.  Yours looks great, the front decal is even intact.  I bought a couple off eBay, turned out the gears were broken (cracked), need to fix them.

Thank You for the update!  Glad you got one of those F9's that works.  Yours looks great, the front decal is even intact.  I bought a couple off eBay, turned out the gears were broken (cracked), need to fix them.

Yeah...I've got (4) F9s and (2) Red Caboose GP9s (built on the same platform); each and every one of them had split gears, so it's been NWSL to the rescue, every time.

It occurred to me that I should probably check a Lionel engine, (just to be sure it also works on the shorter code 83 rail), so I hooked up an MRC AC power source and put on a UP 2-8-0 (#6-28039): it works fine as well...

Mark in Oregon

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