I belong to an HO club. We have built a nice modular layout that we take to train shows in the upper mid-west. Almost every show we're at someone will come by and ask, "Where are the O gauge layouts?" I doubt they're asking about 2-rail scale. To that end, I'm thinking of building a small portable (modular?) O Gauge 3-rail layout to take to shows. But I want to use a style of track that Billy and his Dad can go to their LHS and easily purchase. Around here (SE Mich.) that's almost always going to be Lionel tubular or Fastrack. Note that I'm not after "best looking" or "cheapest" or "quietest", just most popular.

Your advice is appreciated.

Dan

Original Post

I have been in the three rail hobby seriously since 1966 and I prefer tubular track. I do have some Fastrack that I use to build a Christmas layout with. It has two pairs of switches and it works pretty well. Some people think Fastrack is noisier, but I have not noticed that. The tubular track is easier to work with, in my view. I can route wires under it easier and, if I have voltage drop problems, but I can easily overcome that with extra lockons and feeders. Also, insulated outside rail sections, again with lockons, can be used to activate accessories such as the #45 Gateman.

The main advantages of Fastrack are the ability to easily assemble and disassemble layouts and the built-in roadbed.   Much better for temporary layouts and carpeting, as mentioned.  A bit less likely to develop continuity problems in some people's hands.  It's also better looking to some. 

One of the main advantages to me is you are much less likely to slice open a finger assembling and disassembling Fastrack than tubular track. I use work gloves when I work with tubular for this reason.  Fastrack is more expensive, and can be noisier.  But the safety issues when dealing with children in particular, and the ease of assembly and disassembly have me sold, despite the cost.

Also of interest is the availability of command control ready switches, which minimize wiring and facilitate walk around remote control with Fastrack.

As a result of the length of time tubular and Gargraves track have been around, I would assume that they are the most popular (most widely used) track systems.

Fastrack is quickly coming up, most likely because it is all that is being offered by Lionel in starter sets, as well as their discontinuance of tubular.  Hobby newbies that begin with Lionel starter sets would probably continue with Fastrack because that is what they already have. Noise, cutting to length and using with many vintage Lionel accessories (without track modification) are issues. The plastic roadbed on these tracks does not look realistic (IMHO).  Gargraves, Ross, etc looks the most realistic when ballasted. Cost is an issue as is deciding which of many pieces are needed to make a layout plan work. Most, if not all of this also applies to MTH's track system.

60 years using tubular and I've never sliced a finger with it, nor do I know of anyone who has. Plusses include the ability to cut to length, cost, magne-traction friendly, the nostalgic look,  quietness (as compared to plastic based track such as Fastrack), and the fact that both outside rails are connected (but can also easily be isolated to make control track sections). Negatives include the unrealistic look but that can be improved somewhat by adding ties and ballasting. 

Personally I prefer tubular over Fastrack. But for your display/getting interest idea how about a loop of each. Something to explain and talk about. If some of your viewers have dad's old trains in the attic its probably tubular.

Regarding most popular I'd have to say Fastrack because that is what any new hobbyist is going to see in any Lionel starter set.

Having said that I would use Gargraves/Ross for any public display layout because when properly painted and ballasted it has the best appearance; looking most like real railroad track. Yes, the rail is oversized, the ties are oversized and spaced wrong and there is always that third rail but the mind, (especially an uninitiated mind not knowledgeable on track details) glosses over those details when the track LOOKS right.

Lew

 

Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

Speaking on behalf of a S.E. Michigan LHS...

I'd strongly recommend Lionel's FasTrack.  It's very available, here for the long haul, ...it's the 'newbular' standard...reflecting all the advantages mentioned in the previous comments.

It's true that tubular track has been the standard-bearer for decades.  But I'd be concerned that a newbie would find old tubular especially attractive at flea market, train show....trash pile...pricing.  Since much of secondary market tubular has issues of corrosion, misshapen tubes, missing pins, etc., etc., a newbie could find themselves in track troubles, diminishing their newfound enthusiasm for the hobby.  There's too much else to learn and find enjoyment in when starting out to spend an inordinate amount of time resurrecting old tubular track.....if it's even prudent.  And new tubular....Lionel, Menards, WBB, etc....is not always available.  Some mfrs of the same don't even offer all the traditional components...like switches.

But, consider all the input, make a choice, and build that O3R layout!  You're to be commended for stepping up to the need and helping grow the hobby interest!

KD

I think that it's great that you want to set up a small O gauge layout.  But, as you are finding out, the responses you get are colored by personal preference.  I would like to suggest that, if it's feasible, you set up a small display board with a sample of all the different types and styles of track (i.e., Lionel Fastrack, MTH's Realtrax, and the different brands of tubular track).  Perhaps you could get some information from your LHS about the different brands and types post it on the sample board. 

Chuck, MSG, US Army Ret, TCA, MTHRRC, Atlas GSC (Charter Member), Member B&O RR Museum, MD O Gaugers.

TrainPop posted:

I think that it's great that you want to set up a small O gauge layout.  But, as you are finding out, the responses you get are colored by personal preference.  I would like to suggest that, if it's feasible, you set up a small display board with a sample of all the different types and styles of track (i.e., Lionel Fastrack, MTH's Realtrax, and the different brands of tubular track).  Perhaps you could get some information from your LHS about the different brands and types post it on the sample board. 

I really like this idea. It would be some extra work but well worth the effort to showcase what newbies might not otherwise see for some time.

Lew

 

Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

Growing old is so much more fun than the only alternative.

dkdkrd posted:

Speaking on behalf of a S.E. Michigan LHS...

  But I'd be concerned that a newbie would find old tubular especially attractive at flea market, train show....trash pile...pricing.  Since much of secondary market tubular has issues of corrosion, misshapen tubes, missing pins, etc., etc., a newbie could find themselves in track troubles, diminishing their newfound enthusiasm for the hobby.

KD

I would not recommend buying used tubular for the reasons stated.

New tubular is readily available in the market, Menards sell O gauge tubular with many radius sizes at more than fair prices. You can also still find new Lionel track (K-line too) in the marketplace, pleantiful

I have worked with both Atlas, and Ross switch/Gargraves.  Each required different tools and mind set to do custom work.  Often depends on what you want to do.  For both, I use a relatively inexpensive (Midwest) cork road bed to raise the track off the table. 

Slideshow of Atlas track layout.   Click on the underlined phrase to access. 

My friend Tom's Ross/Gargraves layout.   Click on the underlined phrase.  This layout was done with all used components.  Some of the switches are Gargraves. 

How big is the layout going to be? Is it going to be a perfect oval or have extra curves and bends for a more realistic look. Fastrack is not user freindly if you need to make custom lengths. Fastrack is expensive and can not be easily custom fit. Is it going to be a permanent layout or does it need to be dis-assembled between showings. Gargraves make sectional curves that you do not need to custom bend. Gargraves, Atlas O and Lionel sectional track can be cut to fit. Not so easy with Fastrack. Gargraves on cork roadbed with ballast looks great.  I myself love the looks of Atlas O track. A little pricey but has worked on my home layout without issues. Atlas does not work well with magnatraction. Atlas switches can be troublesome. Had to rework mine on home layout for reliable use.  Are you going to run older Lionel with train with the slide shoes for the couplers. They will uncouple going over Ross Switches. Ross Switches are a direct fit with Gargraves track. Not sure about slide shoes over Atlas O switches. Haven't tried to run them for quite a while. Good luck and most of all have fun with it.

People are inspired by nice looking layouts irregardless of their ability to achieve or mimic them.  I would go with what looks best, probably Gargraves or Atlas ballasted.  I like the idea of a display of track options.

Brendan 

@forest - you said: Are you going to run older Lionel with train with the slide shoes for the couplers. They will uncouple going over Ross Switches.

I cannot rule out this type of coupler. I did not know this - is this going to uncouple every time or every so often?

------------------------------

Anyhow, I want to thank everybody for their very helpful replies. There's a lot to think about here.

I'm very proud of our traveling HO scale modular layout. I'm with a group who models Europe - The European Train Enthusiasts - and our layout is highly detailed. So detailed, in fact, that I get the feeling that some (most?) of our spectators are overwhelmed by all the detail and walk away thinking they could never do that. They're wrong, of course, there's no magic here but the impression lingers.

I want to encourage people - Billy or Susie and his/her Dad - to get into the hobby. I've heard a Fastrack layout in action at a show and while it was noisy so was the show so I don't really know how noisy a small layout would be. I want to be able to talk to people without yelling. Am I overreacting here?

I like the idea of a board with many types of 3-rail track on it for the sake of discussion and education. Maybe I'll go with a solid track for the layout but have the board for show-N-tell.

Thanks again for your time and help.

Dan

 I would like to suggest that, if it's feasible, you set up a small display board with a sample of all the different types and styles of track (i.e., Lionel Fastrack, MTH's Realtrax, and the different brands of tubular track).  Perhaps you could get some information from your LHS about the different brands and types post it on the sample board. 

Well, a couple thoughts come to mind...

Your original premise was..."But I want to use a style of track that Billy and his Dad can go to their LHS and easily purchase."  I suggest that not all of the track choices are stocked/sold by their LHS.  Due to the plethora of choices, the limitations of store space, the cost of inventory, the widely variable turnover rates of certain track brands, etc., etc., we (LHS) have been forced to limit our floor stock to those few brands having the strongest regular sales appeal.  We can most certainly obtain/special order most any brand/style (Except Menards' exclusive), but that doesn't fit the "easily" criteria.

Secondly, if you're doing this to attract new Billys & Dads, I would think the display board of all brands of O3R track will be rather confusing and, well, premature.  Entry level hobbyists typically will start with a set.  I would think their interest in, say, a Lionel starter set featuring FasTrack, would set up a confusing purchasing decision after a Track Choices 101 review/discussion might leave them preferring a different selection.   While dealers may give a price credit for eliminating the set track, this goes back to the question of "easily" obtaining their preferred alternative.

Most of the track choice discussions on this forum really end up being a 'TEHO' issue.  And that's after some deeper experience into the hobby, seeing other layouts, understanding through experiential discussions the pros/cons.  Some of the issues are budgetary.  Others can be that issue you brought up....what's "easily" available to purchase....locally, if possible.  

But, your choice......of course.

KD

Had to look up TEHO but otherwise you make some very good points. I'm leaning towards a simple double track display loop with me sitting in the  middle. This will offer no great operational potential but will serve to show Billy and his Dad what can be done with a little more than set track. Throw in a little scenery - I love doing scenery - use O-72 and O-80 corners to run the big stuff if needed/wanted -  design it so I can easily transport it and I'm in business. I might even consider using Lionel's modular system.

Thanks to all again,

Dan

I've been happy with tubular 027 and then Ross / Gargraves on my layouts, both on particle board rather than plywood. It's really quiet, so you don't need trackbed and it's also the right height for cattle car, etc. accessories, in case you want to do more than just watch em go round and round.

geepboy posted:

@forest - you said: Are you going to run older Lionel with train with the slide shoes for the couplers. They will uncouple going over Ross Switches.

I cannot rule out this type of coupler. I did not know this - is this going to uncouple every time or every so often?

 

Dan

They uncouple almost every time at our model rr club.

Add Reply

Post
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

www.ogaugerr.com
×
×
×
×
×