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I had the opportunity to pick up a couple of straight sections of Lionel's new S gauge Fastrack last night, so I thought I do a brief comparison with S Helper Services S-Tracks.

 

Well start with the similarities:

Both have plastic molded and textured roadbed,

Both have solid rail,

Both have an integral, molded locking system to keep the track together,

Both are a well made track product.

 

MSRP for 10" straight:

S-Trax        $34.95 per package of 6 ($5.83 per section)

FasTrack     $4.79 per section

 

Track 031012 01r

S-Trax Front, FasTrack back  (Code 100 scale track on Homabed in background...)

 

 

Track 031012 02r

S-Trax left, FasTrack right

 

S-Trax:

Weathered rail,

Painted roadbed,

Nail/screw hole for mounting may be drilled out if needed,

Separate, inserted Delrin tie strip, except for 3 molded ties at the ends,

Large integral interlocking clip with rail joiner,

Metal tab at rail joiner (one end only on straight) for power connection.

 

FastTrack:

Shiny rail,

Unpainted roadbed,

Available hole for nail/screw mounting,

All ties molded in and painted,

Small integral interlocking clip with rail joiner

No provision for power connection, separate terminal track needed.

 

Track 031012 03r

Underside:  S-Trax front, FastTrack back

 

Track 031012 04r

Top side separated.  S-Trax front, FasTrack back

 

Now, one of the questions that crops up is: Can S-Trax and FasTrak be joined together?

 

The answer isprobably.

 

While I haven't tried it, the easiest method seems to after removing the molded in clip from S-Trax and the two track systems look like they'll join together with maybe a little work to the rail joiners.

 

Track 031012 06r

 

The differences in rail height appear to be minimal, perhaps corrected with a little filing.

 

Track 031012 05r

 

The individual would have to make up his own mind as to which track system to use.  While S-Trax system is better visually detailed than the FasTrack, both should perform equally.

 

Rusty

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  • Track 031012 04r
  • Track 031012 05r
Original Post

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While I like the SHS look better, there isn't much choice here IMHO. With no disrespect to Don Thompson or SHS, they aren't going to be producing any new track anytime soon. The prices for SHS track are through the roof right now. You can't get close to paying retail. I don't have much faith that we will see any new sized turnouts anytime soon from SHS. Lionel has said that they are planning on many new pieces of new Fastrack in the near future. At this point I'm going to put my bet on Lionel being the company to offer the most complete track system in the shortest amount of time. I am planning on experimenting with some weathering techniques on Fastrack. I'll bet it can be made to look pretty decent. So while I prefer the look and feel of SHS track, price and availability pretty much dictates that my new S layout will be built with Fastrack.

Originally Posted by jonnyspeed:

While I like the SHS look better, there isn't much choice here IMHO. With no disrespect to Don Thompson or SHS, they aren't going to be producing any new track anytime soon. The prices for SHS track are through the roof right now. You can't get close to paying retail. I don't have much faith that we will see any new sized turnouts anytime soon from SHS. Lionel has said that they are planning on many new pieces of new Fastrack in the near future. At this point I'm going to put my bet on Lionel being the company to offer the most complete track system in the shortest amount of time. I am planning on experimenting with some weathering techniques on Fastrack. I'll bet it can be made to look pretty decent. So while I prefer the look and feel of SHS track, price and availability pretty much dictates that my new S layout will be built with Fastrack.

I wouldn't disagree with your observations.

 

Rusty

Rusty, Can you tell us what the rail is made of for the FasTrack? I have seen a couple of places offer the FasTrack for less than $4 and I would think that if you placed a largish order you may even get a bit more off as well. Like johnyspeed, I reckon if you applied some form of 'wash' over the grey you will end up with a more realistic looking ballast with just the tops of the grey showing. Could well be worth it just based on a cost factor. I am waiting to see if they offer a 27" radius switch before I consider using it as I just don't understand the need for producing 20" radius ones which are old hat now. Regards, Neil

Rusty, thanks for taking the time to post this and make your reccomendations.  I've been looking into both track systems for a small, portable layout I'm starting.  Has anyone tried to source out even a small layout with S-trax lately!!!  I've seen powered turnouts go on the bay for over $125 and 6-packs of straits go for over $60!!!  If I had my pick, I like the S-trax much better, but after getting some quality running time over my fastrack loop, I think it is a very good option. given the price difference. 

 

This also opens up another concern of mine and it is simply that I am not sure how much more product we are going to see from SHS,AM or S Scale America....at all.  I've seen all the forum posts and whatnot staing the contrary, but they simply are not very motivated to bring out new stuff.  I think this track is a very good example of that fact.  There is currently a strong debate over on the Yahoo forum about how Lionel is moving S away from the small-close knit community it has always been and towards a more informal, product driven market. I think their concerns have merit and I too enjoy being able to talk with manufacturers personally, but at the end of the day, Lionel is the only one standing here with something new actually on the shelf.  Personally, I think it will be a small miracle if we see the SCA SD45 or the SHS E7 at all, while Lionel seems willing to offer at least 2 new locos a year for the time being.

Originally Posted by CSX Troy:

 

This also opens up another concern of mine and it is simply that I am not sure how much more product we are going to see from SHS,AM or S Scale America....at all.  I've seen all the forum posts and whatnot staing the contrary, but they simply are not very motivated to bring out new stuff.  I think this track is a very good example of that fact.  There is currently a strong debate over on the Yahoo forum about how Lionel is moving S away from the small-close knit community it has always been and towards a more informal, product driven market. I think their concerns have merit and I too enjoy being able to talk with manufacturers personally, but at the end of the day, Lionel is the only one standing here with something new actually on the shelf.  Personally, I think it will be a small miracle if we see the SCA SD45 or the SHS E7 at all, while Lionel seems willing to offer at least 2 new locos a year for the time being.

If you're talking about the bloodbath on S Scale last weekend, I know, I was there in the middle of it.

 

Actually, the SHS E7 was put on hold because of the 2-8-0 project "sucking up all air" so to speak, then Sanda Kan happened.

 

Last I heard was AM has their tooling back in Michigan and SHS has theirs finally at another builder.  SSA is still progressing on their SD45, although slowly.  All three have been hurt by the Sanda Kan shuffle.  It will still take time.

 

I'm pretty sure all are motivated to bring out new product, but it ain't easy makin' trains.  We must remember AM SHS or SSA have the resources of Lionel.  All three are practically "cottage industries" by comparison.

 

I think our patience will be rewarded.

 

Rusty

Originally Posted by Rusty Traque:
Originally Posted by CSX Troy:
If you're talking about the bloodbath on S Scale last weekend, I know, I was there in the middle of it.

 

Actually, the SHS E7 was put on hold because of the 2-8-0 project "sucking up all air" so to speak, then Sanda Kan happened.

 

Last I heard was AM has their tooling back in Michigan and SHS has theirs finally at another builder.  SSA is still progressing on their SD45, although slowly.  All three have been hurt by the Sanda Kan shuffle.  It will still take time.

 

I'm pretty sure all are motivated to bring out new product, but it ain't easy makin' trains.  We must remember AM SHS or SSA have the resources of Lionel.  All three are practically "cottage industries" by comparison.

 

I think our patience will be rewarded.

 

Rusty

Rusty, yes I was refering to the bloodbath on Yahoo last week.  My condolences for enduring that debacle and if it is any consolation, I think you came out better than Jonnyspeed, who required a blood donor and a transfusion, just to maintain consciousness.  I appreciate your optimistic outlook and I also believe you know the guys at SHS, AM and SSA much better than I do.  It seems to me that as difficult as the Sanda Kan issue is, I truly do not see an imperative from these manufactures to make a come back.  You make a good point that AM, SSA and SHS are exponentialy smaller than Lionel, but economies aside, I think Lionel has a greater zeal to enter this market than they do to maintain it. To be fair,I am not criticizing any of them for the choices they have made, as we all have a great many priorities in life and are free to act on them as each of us deems important, but I think SHS, AM and SCA could "take-it" or "leave-it" at this point.  

Originally Posted by CSX Troy:
 
 

It seems to me that as difficult as the Sanda Kan issue is, I truly do not see an imperative from these manufactures to make a come back.  You make a good point that AM, SSA and SHS are exponentialy smaller than Lionel, but economies aside, I think Lionel has a greater zeal to enter this market than they do to maintain it. To be fair,I am not criticizing any of them for the choices they have made, as we all have a great many priorities in life and are free to act on them as each of us deems important, but I think SHS, AM and SCA could "take-it" or "leave-it" at this point.  

Please consider this:  It's difficult to stage a comeback when your tooling is being held hostage and/or Sanda Kan doesn't even honor its commitments to complete what has been contracted for.  This is the situation AM, SHS and SSA were in and it's taken the past year plus to remedy.  There still may be some unresolved issues rattling around.

 

I'll admit, even at their peaks before the S/K debacle, they weren't the fireball that Lionel/Flyer is.  But, they weren't in stasis, either.

 

I'm pretty sure AM and SHS are in S for the long haul, they don't have any other scales they're working in and these companies are their owners lively-hood.  SSA's owner has the hobby shop, plus offers products in other scales to cover the dry spell, but Ron would have ditched S Scale a long time ago if he didn't think it was worth the effort.

 

It will still take time for AM, SHS and SSA to get sorted out and that puts Lionel in a position to take advantage of the situation.  Plus, Lionel DOES have the technical and financial advantage. 

 

Everything Lionel's introducing so far, the plans and technical files already exist, it's just a matter of recalculating the dimensions for S and getting the dies cut.  A somewhat over simplification perhaps, but a lot of the legwork is already done at Lionel. 

 

AM, SHS and SSA have to start form scratch with every new product, gathering the data, draw the plans, etc.  Plus, there's considerably less staff to do all this work.

 

No doubt about it, Lionel's bringing good things to S.  Their zeal and name recognition will benefit S in general, but let's not write off the others.

 

Rusty

 

Originally Posted by Rusty Traque:
Originally Posted by CSX Troy:
  

Please consider this:  It's difficult to stage a comeback when your tooling is being held hostage and/or Sanda Kan doesn't even honor its commitments to complete what has been contracted for.  This is the situation AM, SHS and SSA were in and it's taken the past year plus to remedy.  There still may be some unresolved issues rattling around.

 

I'll admit, even at their peaks before the S/K debacle, they weren't the fireball that Lionel/Flyer is.  But, they weren't in stasis, either.

 

I'm pretty sure AM and SHS are in S for the long haul, they don't have any other scales they're working in and these companies are their owners lively-hood.  SSA's owner has the hobby shop, plus offers products in other scales to cover the dry spell, but Ron would have ditched S Scale a long time ago if he didn't think it was worth the effort.

 

It will still take time for AM, SHS and SSA to get sorted out and that puts Lionel in a position to take advantage of the situation.  Plus, Lionel DOES have the technical and financial advantage. 

 

Everything Lionel's introducing so far, the plans and technical files already exist, it's just a matter of recalculating the dimensions for S and getting the dies cut.  A somewhat over simplification perhaps, but a lot of the legwork is already done at Lionel. 

 

AM, SHS and SSA have to start form scratch with every new product, gathering the data, draw the plans, etc.  Plus, there's considerably less staff to do all this work.

 

No doubt about it, Lionel's bringing good things to S.  Their zeal and name recognition will benefit S in general, but let's not write off the others.

 

Rusty

 


Rusty,  Granted on all counts, except I get the feeling that it requires more effort on Lionel's part to make new stuff.  At least that is the impression I got from Jon's post regarding the development of the U33C, which also existed in 3 rail before comming to S.  That being said, I wonder if S may see its own unique ideas come out regardless if Lionel has made it in O before or not. You are also correct in that I am tending to write off the others. I will try to keep your level of optimism about this. I just hope the circumstances are different at this time next year for them.  

In my case being new to S in the last year I am looking for product. Somehow that makes me anti- S according to some people. I have totally written off the Yahoo group. I have better things than to read to all that garbage.  I have made several new friends in S and I enjoy discussing S with them, but I just get a headache reading the Yahoo group. Contrary to some opinions, the Facebook group members are quickly becoming my friends as well and are not "fake friends" in any way. I sincerely hope we see all S companies back better than ever. I will not be apologizing to anyone for wanting to see S be more product driven. I find it odd that some people feel they have some inherant right to speak for the entire scale just because they have seniority. I am an ex O gauger and life long Lionel fan, so I am very excited about their new found love of S. I need to standardize on a track and command system so logic dictates that Lionel is the way to go as they are the only company able to bring new product to market right now. Plus I just flat out like their products. They are everything I love about O gauge without the 3rd rail. This hobby is primarily about trains and sharing trains with family and friends. I enjoy talking trains, but if there aren't any trains there is nothing to talk about... 

I have S-Helper track with a pair of remote switches on an 8' x 6' layout in my apartment . I use Gilbert A. F. Trains. They go through the switches smoothly. I have fast track, but don't use them due to the stalling Lionel has done on switches and other track pieces. I did convert a # 00671 5" accessory track to accommodate a mail bag post. The only thing I don't like is having to use hot glue to secure track to table. The track is simply laid down without gluing in case I have to move. It is also very easy to adapt flyer track to S-Helper. 

If you don't have one of the power prewired track sections you could try an item like this:

Click for larger picture

 

and substitute these track terminal joiners for the factory installed joiners.

I'm not really sure if this Atlas O gauge joiner would fit the Fastrack rail profile but American Models does sell rail joiners that do fit the Fastrack rail as I had to use one for a factory defect Fastrack curve section.

The prewired sections are by far the preferred solution.

Originally Posted by banjoflyer: these appear to join the track together, not underneath  
 

If you don't have one of the power prewired track sections you could try an item like this:

Click for larger picture

 

and substitute these track terminal joiners for the factory installed joiners.

I'm not really sure if this Atlas O gauge joiner would fit the Fastrack rail profile but American Models does sell rail joiners that do fit the Fastrack rail as I had to use one for a factory defect Fastrack curve section.

The prewired sections are by far the preferred solution.

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