Skip to main content

@c.sam posted:

Hey Jim,  it's interesting that only Marty E responded with a simple 'NO' per your original request for a Yes/No answer.  I tried but bit my lip anyway with my initial reply of "Gargraves Rail is too big".  Lol!

I had a nice layout using ScaleTrax and found that our trains appeared to be much more massive because of the visible smaller outside rails and the center blade was significantly less obtrusive. I actually pulled the center rail of a piece of Atlas and replaced it with the MTH blade and it was a huge improvement visually even with the larger oversized Atlas rails.

Here are some photos of my old layout showing how nice ScaleTrax looks and the effect it creates for enhancing our models. It was very easy to work with as well - very similar to HO flex.

DSC02099

Wow the ScaleTrax looks nice.  I didn't even mention in my initial post, because of the issue of availability and some very troubling reports of its reliability to deliver power through its connectors.

The Yes or NO was my attempt to get input from members that don't usually post, just read the topics.  The more input I can get on this, the better for making an informed decision.

Thanks for your posts.

Last edited by MainLine Steam

I want to again thank all who have posted!  This topic contains a lot of good information, due to the collective knowledge and experiences of the members of this forum.  That is the reason I am here, a lot of good people, with a lot of good knowledge and insight!

BTW I don't mean to imply this subject is closed, the more relevant information in a topic the better.  If you are seeing this and haven't posted yet please do.  Thank you!

It seems to me that a stud system, like Marklin's, would make sense as the center conductor for 3-rail track. I suppose it has not become popular because (among other problems) adopting it it would mean having to replace existing pick-up rollers with new "skates," which most people probably would not be willing to do. I haven't had any 3-rail trains since I was a kid and had some Lionel equipment. My father decided that American Flyer was the way to go because of its 2-rail track and because its size was "perfect" (he said). He helped me build a Flyer layout that was a lot of fun. Then I tried HO scale, but it was too small to be satisfying. Eventually, I found my way into 2-rail O-scale and I have been very happy with that choice, even though it is a minority endeavor. A stud system for the 3-rail market would appeal to the "scale" crowd in O-gauge and might attract others over time: but as others have pointed in several posts, the cost of tooling, manufacturing, advertising, and distribution for a whole new track system is probably prohibitive at this point in the 3-rail section of the hobby. Atlas track would look pretty nice with studs and the basic tooling is in place for switches!

Scale Trax had a problem with tie-spacing, though I could have lived with it. The center blade had an unexpected appearance problem for me, too: it looked better from above, but when viewed pretty much from the side, the "blade" was flat, of course, and this made it stand out more slab-like than a rail-shaped center conductor.

I spray paint my GG, of course, so this gives it a very different look. Getting rid of the black center rail makes it blend in better; the blackening really only makes it stand out once you eliminate the 50's auto chrome-bumper rails.

Atlas with a blade-type center conductor, lower than the running-rail height, would probably be the winner of track currently made, except for this: GG/Ross looks very good (properly dressed) and is always available, reliable and has few surprises. I personally will never build another layout, so I would not be a customer for a new track, but, if so, it would have to at least closely approximate GG/Ross availability. I won't wait for China.

Still - hope you try and succeed.

Somehow I missed the experiments with the 'stud rail' in the early 2000's as I was out of the hobby until 2009. It would definitely seem to be a good idea considering how well it worked for Marklin. A 'snap-on' skid for existing 3R equipment sounds like a viable solution as well.  Does anyone have any photos or literature from whoever was marketing it initially?

Too bad someone couldn't try to resurrect and expand on MTH's ScaleTrax. It was an excellent product and very easy to use as the flex track was just as easy to maneuver as HO flex. You could create ANY size curve needed and it was quiet and  much less expensive than Atlas due to the material costs of the rail being much smaller and lighter. Only 2 were nickel silver compared to Atlas's 3. I never experienced any connectivity issues on our layout that was 24'x 16' in an 'L' pattern. The tie spacing was more like a short line or siding but I used a dremel and cut short gaps in the roadbed and slid the ties closer together for a much more prototype look like Atlas with good effect in some spots.

I wonder what became of the tools to produce it?DSC05897

Attachments

Images (1)
  • DSC05897

A stud system would be awesome but that train has left the station.  There are too many legacy engines out there to convert.  I think that very few people would purchase a stud track system and then convert their trains.

Probably the best looking 3-rail track would be 2-rail track running battery powered 3-rail engines.  A modeler could pull the middle rail out of any manufacturers 3-rail track system or they could just buy 2-rail track.  Pulling the center rail and converting a few engines to battery power would be much easier than converting an entire layout to a smaller middle rail.  

I have converted several 3-rail engines to battery power with radio or cell phone (Bluetooth) control.  All of them run much better than they did on track power.  I use a battery powered engine to pull my track cleaning train these days.  It works better than any track powered track cleaning train.  

Most new Lionel engines come with Bluetooth.  I haven't done it yet.  However, I think that these engines could be converted to battery and run using the built-in Bluetooth.  I have converted Lion Chief engines to battery and I use the controller that is supplied with the engine to run it.  It works great.  NH Joe

Probably the best looking 3-rail track would be 2-rail track running battery powered 3-rail engines.  A modeler could pull the middle rail out of any manufacturers 3-rail track system or they could just buy 2-rail track.  Pulling the center rail and converting a few engines to battery power would be much easier than converting an entire layout to a smaller middle rail.

Folks interested in Dead Rail (running with Power on Board the locomotive via batteries) will likely want to follow Darrell Lamm's series on that specific topic that is appearing in the magazine. His detailed discussion of all aspects of batteries themselves and their application to O scale begins in RUN 336, our June/July 2024 issue, which I am working on now. Will likely be a three-part series. With Dead Rail, it makes no difference if you have 2-rail or 3-rail track so far as the locomotive power is concerned.

With batteries quickly becoming smaller, more powerful, and holding long-lasting charges, this is a viable solution for many operators.

Last edited by Allan Miller

Folks interested in Dead Rail (running with Power on Board the locomotive via batteries) will likely want to follow Darrell Lamm's series on that specific topic that is appearing in the magazine. His detailed discussion of all aspects of batteries themselves and their application to O scale begins in RUN 336, our June/July 2024 issue, which I am working on now. Will likely be a three-part series. With Dead Rail, it makes no difference if you have 2-rail or 3-rail track so far as the locomotive power is concerned.

With batteries quickly becoming smaller, more powerful, and holding long-lasting charges, this is a viable solution for many operators.

Alan . Is there any updates on the fourm for Deadrail/Battery Power to be inserted in the fourm  directory that was discussed at the end of last year.

Read this whole dissertation, and of the one fellow noting the stud center rail, which Marklin still produces for HO.  The switches and crossings seem to be a mass of insulated sections though.  To me this argument is the classic lipstick on a pig, folks want and hope to hide that third rail without accepting that is just what it is.  For most of us, we have been staring at that third rail since we were children.   The old Atlas HO track planning book had a picture of a man looking at his 3 rail rectangular sharp curves with two dead end spurs rail layout and saying to himself, this is not what he had in mind, where in his minds eye he saw 2 rail empire with realistic 2 rail broad curve trackage.  We who love 3 rail do not see that third rail, it is like our brain has a third rail filter.  We can enjoy the relative reliable function of our trains instead of what can be hit and miss with smaller scales, and when the cat jumps up on the layout, you know his shedding fur will not bring your consist to a screeching halt.  Don't get me wrong, I love both O and HO and have layouts for both, the HO layout I have cut up and moved 3 times in 45 years so it has an excuse to be iffy at times. I am still trying to get my golden spike driven on my new O gauge, bound and determined to get a 2 track arch bridge in front of a window that the survey crew is having a hard time laying it out.

Last edited by CALNNC

This was an add in the early 90’s run in OGR. Many options for rail choices. Different rail heights. I saw this displayed at the Amherst show. The designer had a background in manufacturing and had  developed many plastic kits over the years. He was taking orders. Probably ahead of it’s time and really not sure what became of it.

61757F5C-317D-42A9-8739-9E5E3BADFDC8

Attachments

Images (1)
  • 61757F5C-317D-42A9-8739-9E5E3BADFDC8
@Dave_C posted:

This was an add in the early 90’s run in OGR. Many options for rail choices. Different rail heights. I saw this displayed at the Amherst show. The designer had a background in manufacturing and had  developed many plastic kits over the years. He was taking orders. Probably ahead of it’s time and really not sure what became of it.

61757F5C-317D-42A9-8739-9E5E3BADFDC8

Thanks for posting.  This is a really neat concept.  Wondering what others think of this Track?

BTW Curtis has been mentioned a few times in this topic (including in this ad).  How did their track compare to Gargraves?  Was it very similar or what made it unique?  Thanks.

Last edited by MainLine Steam

The 172 code rail seems like a good compromise. Kind of right in the middle of high rail and 2 rail. It was only available though in aluminum. I’m guessing you would use it outdoors. But this was way before battery power. Not sure how that would have  worked.  The steel was offered I’m sure for those that favored magnetraction. This is at a time many were still heavilly into postwar. It did look good all ballasted up. Better than Gargraves in my opinion with the solid rails and tie plates. At this time I believe Ross didn’t offer sectional track nor did Gargraves. By then all my track was pretty much in place. I might have considered it. But back then Gargraves was less than $4.00 for flex track. I only remember it that one time at the Amherst show. Don’t know if it ever made it’s way to York.
I’m assuming if you bought the 30 inch rail and laid your own track. The ties would be laid out on a curve and then you would bend and add the rails and secure them with the tie plates.

I started out with ROW switches. Then started using Ross and then for a few years it became Ross-Curtis. Then they became 2 seperate companies. Both based in Connecticut. I have a few and I believe the big difference was the Curtis switches used an aluminum frog. Other than that they feature pretty much the same construction.

Thanks Dave for the information on Curtis.

After reading the responses to this topic and doing a little thinking I realize what a great product GarGraves track is.  It has been around for 84 years!  A lot of people, companies and products have changed in 3R over that time, but GarGraves (2 family owned) and track continues on.  Point is there is no way it would have survived that long if it wasn't a great product.  There have been attempts over the years to improve upon it, or compete with it (ie Super O), but they have "come and gone".

So bottom line; Yeah, I can come up with a way to make it look a little more prototypical, but hate to end up like the other "competitors".  One of my credos; Those that don't know history are doomed to repeat it.  So in fact the "Perfect" 3R track may already exist.

Thanks to all that have contributed to this topic!

Here is an idea for you "Cottage Industry" types:

Plastic Tie Plates w/spikes for Gar Graves track. These could be glued to the outside and/or inside of the rails on top of the ties. It would sure improve the look! Injection molding should make them cost effective, especially if the use of them went "viral"!

As I try to decide what 3R track type is best for me I am drawn many different ways.  I want reliable operation, the thought  of a Brass Steam Loco de-railing and taking a dive gives me cold sweats.  But I would like it to look scale.  Since I don't (presently?) plan to run tinplate, probably don't need to accommodate super big flanges.  Although all my items are about 35-15 years old, I noticed, just like everything else in 3R, there is no standardization.  By this I mean the wheel profile on K-Line Passenger cars is different than Weaver Brass Steam Engines.  For that matter the Drivers have a different Profile than the tender wheelsets.

< snip >

Reading lots of posts and talking to others Gargraves seems to be the choice.  The good, practical, reliable, relatively cost effective solution.  I am a car guy, and at one point owned a Chrysler Minivan.  However like that, though it got the job done, the look just doesn't get me excited.  Unlike other cars I have owned, never had anyone come up and say cool car!



I have a few comments and photos regarding your post's first and seventh paragraphs.  (I snipped out the other paragraphs to condense this reply a little bit.)

I was a project manager for 40 years, so I'm used to looking at "needs" and trying to reach an attainable solution.  Your first paragraph's "needs" for "reliable operation", avoiding derailments and looking "scale" are a bit tough considering 3-rail's center rail and the small market of track manufacturers in 3-rail.  You may want to consider what gets you to what I used to call "an 80% solution".

Regarding "reliable operation" and avoiding derailments, my last layout (2007 - 2019) used Ross sectional track and switches and a few long Gargraves straight and uncoupling/unloading tracks.  All those items were embedded in Ross Roadbed which provides for countersinking about half the tie's height.

  • In the 12 years of that layout, I never had a derailment with my mix of Lionel post-war locomotives, post-war/MPC/modern Lionel, Weaver, MTH, RMT and Atlas rolling stock or PS/2 MTH locomotives.
  • One piece of rolling stock, a Lionel "BNSF Icicle" reefer, had a shoe on one truck that liked to split a switch, so it became a "shelf queen after the second time that problem occurred.

Regarding looking "scale", by painting the roadbed gray before installing the track and ballasting later, I achieved what I wanted--a 90% solution.  (A 100% solution would have been no center rail at all, but then that would meant abandoning 3R and my legacy locomotives and rolling stock.)

Ross track and spraypainted roadbed0705101419

Regarding the O-gauge track market size, economics and small number of manufacturers, I would be shocked if any of those manufacturers would consider creating another track line beyond what's available today.

I hope this info is helpful.

Attachments

Images (2)
  • Ross track and spraypainted roadbed
  • 0705101419
Last edited by Pat Shediack

No, because no matter what you do to 3-rail track, it will still be 3-rail track--even with N or HO scale center rail or a blade for center rail.  I struggled with this issue for several years before deciding to go to 2-rail for appearance reasons, but 2-rail has its own set of issues (larger required curves, lack of availability of equipment, time involved to convert equipment, etc.).

I was close to going with MTH ScaleTrax, but I could not get past the fact that the ties are not correctly spaced.  Other 3-rail track systems are also a compromise:  Ross and Gargraves have rail and ties that are too big; Atlas has rail that is too big; other 3-rail track systems (K-Line, Lionel T-rail, Lionel Super O) are harder to find and are also too big; stud rail, if I recall, has issues with switches since the studs have to increase in height to get the slider over the outside rail.

If there was a new 3-rail track system, I think these attributes would be necessary:  1. Code 172 solid rail (big, but not Atlas/Ross/Gargraves code 215 big, yet big enough for most 3-rail flanges); 2. correctly sized and spaced ties; 3. less obtrusive center rail (blade or smaller rail); 4. reliable switches offered in many sizes; and 5. durable.

I have a 2-rail layout built with MicroEngineering code 148 track and switches from Signature Switch Company. Operation is absolutely reliable, and I have never had a derailment that wasn't my own fault in some way. I know this discussion is focused on improving 3-rail track, but in my humble opinion the best way to improve 3-rail track is to drop the center rail and go to 2-rail!   There is actually a lot of equipment available for 2-rail O-gauge (I'm not talking about Proto 48), from Big Boys and Alleghenys that demand a large-radius down to F-3s/7s that operate nicely on smaller curves. I am only bringing this up in an attempt to gently push some current 3-rail modelers into 2 rail. Also, as the Baby-Boomers like me die off, there will be a lot of 2-rail equipment coming up for sale at good prices. Just saying ...

This post takes me back to my youth. Always debating Lionel and American Flyer. If you really hate 3 rail then run American Flyer. Except for a few years in HO & N I've been using 3 rail. Tubular, Super O, Gargraves, Atlas ect. I'm so used to it that when I see real RR Tracks they don't look prototypical LOL.

@B Smith posted:

I have a 2-rail layout built with MicroEngineering code 148 track and switches from Signature Switch Company.  I know this discussion is focused on improving 3-rail track, but in my humble opinion the best way to improve 3-rail track is to drop the center rail and go to 2-rail!  

I think you have hit the spike ...er, the nail on the head here sir!  I longed for better 3R track for several years when my ScaleTrax layout had to come down due to a move and I agonized over the decision to continue in 3R or not. I have a good supply of Atlas 3R on hand but my future availability of a place to rebuild is uncertain at this point and I'm in my 80th year. 

Thanks c. sam -- I'm 78, so I don't envision building another layout at this point. I am very happy with my 2-rail system and the availability of ready-to-use track and switches is actually better than when I first got started in O-scale back in 1973, when I bought some CLW AlCo kits.  Good track, Athearn trucks, Intermountain wheel sets, KDs, and high-quality plastic cars and diesels -- Pittman remotored Atlas F-3s in my case, which perform dual duty on the California Zephyr and some freight trains-- have yielded a trouble-free model railroad.

@Dave_C posted:

This was an add in the early 90’s run in OGR. Many options for rail choices. Different rail heights. I saw this displayed at the Amherst show. The designer had a background in manufacturing and had  developed many plastic kits over the years. He was taking orders. Probably ahead of it’s time and really not sure what became of it.

61757F5C-317D-42A9-8739-9E5E3BADFDC8

I believe that was Rod Guthrie.  I think he also tooled the OGR buildings.

Lou N



Regarding "reliable operation" and avoiding derailments, my last layout (2007 - 2019) used Ross sectional track and switches and a few long Gargraves straight and uncoupling/unloading tracks.  All those items were embedded in Ross Roadbed which provides for countersinking about half the tie's height.

Regarding looking "scale", by painting the roadbed gray before installing the track and ballasting later, I achieved what I wanted--a 90% solution.  (A 100% solution would have been no center rail at all, but then that would meant abandoning 3R and my legacy locomotives and rolling stock.)

Ross track and spraypainted roadbed

I hope this info is helpful.

Thank you Pat this is indeed helpful.  I was not aware of Ross Roadbed.  To me it definitely improves the appearance.

Does it also help to quiet the track?  Please let me know.  Thanks!

Last edited by MainLine Steam

Lou, that’s correct. I have a NH Buzzards Bay tower he produced under the  Railway Design brand. Cast in heavy resin.  I think when Myron Biggar ended up with the Korber line. He started Buildings Unlimited. I’m pretty sure some of the plastic kits offered were designed by Rod Guthrie. I believe one was the Flagstop Station and there was a store that was done in stone.

One good thing of being a Digital Subscriber. You can go back through time searching out products and adds in the older issues. You sort of remember things. But it’s nice you can confirm it.

Thanks for posting.  This is a really neat concept.  Wondering what others think of this Track?

BTW Curtis has been mentioned a few times in this topic (including in this ad).  How did their track compare to Gargraves?  Was it very similar or what made it unique?  Thanks.

Back in 2005 when I started Panhandle 1, I had 15 of Frank Curtis' switches, including a double cross-over.  They were gorgeous, trouble-free, and a bit less expensive than the comparable Ross offerings at the time.  It was my impression that Curtis HiRail was a 1-man show.  Eventually, Frank retired and Curtis HiRail ceased operations in 2007 or 2008.

I believe I still have a few of them which I will eventually put up on the For Sale sub-forum.

George

@Surefire posted:

I would be all over some track with a Super O type center rail. My biggest gripe with 3 rail is the huge center rail versus something thinner.

Thanks, I feel the same way, part of the reason I started this topic.  Although due to consensus of comments, I have decided this is NOT a venture I am going to pursue.

Lots of great info here!  Thanks to all.

@Pup posted:

This post takes me back to my youth. Always debating Lionel and American Flyer. If you really hate 3 rail then run American Flyer. Except for a few years in HO & N I've been using 3 rail. Tubular, Super O, Gargraves, Atlas ect. I'm so used to it that when I see real RR Tracks they don't look prototypical LOL.

Probably a lot of us have thought that same thing, especially when looking at 3 rail layouts like Norm's, Dave's etc.

O (1/48) is really the only size/scale where this even comes into play, so I guess my response here would be: maybe there is no "Perfect" 3R track...the closest might be the "original" outside 3rd rail used back in the day...(?)

Mark in Oregon

@Strummer posted:

Probably a lot of us have thought that same thing, especially when looking at 3 rail layouts like Norm's, Dave's etc.

O (1/48) is really the only size/scale where this even comes into play, so I guess my response here would be: maybe there is no "Perfect" 3R track...the closest might be the "original" outside 3rd rail used back in the day...(?)

Mark in Oregon

Living near NY City, can definitely say, outside 3rd rail is Prototypical.  Not just on Light Rail, it is used on the "Hudson Line" (former NYC).

Last edited by MainLine Steam

Looking back, the reason I replaced the old Lionel track with Gargraves was the incredible variety of Ross Switch designs. I know I am not alone in this.

To switch again, would take a lot more than a nicer straight or curved track design.  So maybe having battery-powered trains would do that, but a mere track-upgrade would not!

Last edited by AlanRail

Add Reply

Post

OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
800-980-OGRR (6477)
www.ogaugerr.com

×
×
×
×
Link copied to your clipboard.
×
×