To FasTrack or Not to FasTrack

My permanent layout is still on the drawing table.  I have read quite a few pros and cons on Lionel FasTrack.  My permanent layout will have operating accessories.  Most of them will be trackside.  Given the ballast profile of FasTrack, how well to post-war accessories play with it ?

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Original Post

Dan, just say no to Fastrack. It's so expensive on a per foot basis. There are so many other better choices. If you still feel like spending the money go Atlas. If you are budget minded GarGraves is the answer. Just my opinion.

I would look at GarGraves track.   I have Lionel Fastrack layout and some of the post war accessories will work but the track blast will creat problems.  If planning on using a lot of the post war accessories GraGraves my be your best choice.

The cons outweigh the pros for me with FasTrack, but I only have a couple of set loops and can’t speak for their switches. Overpriced it seems, and a real drop in production cost over metal/tubular I’d imagine. Also, the rail profile is rectangular not rail-shaped, and I’m not sure how they came up with the tie size/spacing. I’m building with 0-27 profile so I’m not a stickler by any means. FasTrack just rubs me the wrong way. Just my $0.02 or less.

Firewood

 

"Nice try, Lao Che!"

I agree with "go with your gut" and get what appeals and you like.  FastTrack is an easy system to use, it's generally reliable, it's readily available and it has an OK look (compared to comparable track).

For my permanent layout, I use Atlas track & switches and have for 18 years.  No problems.  At all.

I do have many feet of FasTrack for easy set-up at Christmas and quick living room layouts.  UNBEATABLE for those applications.

 

 

RT   

Dan,

I admit it.  I use FasTrack.  However, I don't use trackside postwar accessories (yet) so I can't speak to that part of your question. 

I do want to step in and say something positive about FasTrack though.  I started in this hobby a year ago and I wanted some kind of layout immediately.  My layout had to be built in our basement storage room with the area underneath still used for household storage (not trains).  And we're going to move sometime in the next couple years.  So I didn't want to get too committed to a scale-type layout with ballasted track, etc.  Therefore, FasTrack really works for me for now.  I needed to get in the game! 

That said, here are the pros to FasTrack as I see them:

  • ease of use
  • ubiquitous
  • good conductivity (I have 150+ feet and 11 switches all under track power from a single terminal)
  • stable - my track isn't fastened anywhere (not one screw or nail holding it down)
  • easy to break down and move eventually
  • I have 11 switches and they're bulletproof, never an issue

Cons

  • expensive- but if your layout isn't huge, I don't see this being a big deal
  • noise can be an issue- I have carpet pad underneath turf-carpeting so there's very little noise for me but it is a concern
  • appearances - if you ever want a scale type layout, it's not going to give you that look

 

That's FasTrack for me.  It does the job.  It got me going with an O layout quick.

IMG_5273snapshot

MikeH (formerly "beachhead2")

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Dan Padova posted:

My permanent layout is still on the drawing table.  I have read quite a few pros and cons on Lionel FasTrack.  My permanent layout will have operating accessories.  Most of them will be trackside.  Given the ballast profile of FasTrack, how well to post-war accessories play with it ?

The FasTrack plays well with PW accessories. For the few that need close to the rail spacing, the activator track has removable roadbed.

Having said that and looking at the "big layout" track plan from 11/17, I would say use the traditional O or Ross for the fancier look and both with Midwest cork roadbed.

The Ross will be a direct replacement in the plan.

The O27 plan doesn't have a switch replacement in any other system.

Carl

Arctic Railroad

Fastrack has done well for me on my small operating layout.  The Operating Track sides can be removed which is beneficial for some trackside accessories.  Another option is to use a tubular/Fastrack transition piece where a tubular track is a necessity.

 

 

LIONEL FASTRACK TRANSITION O GAUGE TRAIN TRACK ADAPTER fast 3 rail 6-12040 NEW

 

 

Pros are it's easy and widely available. There's a large secondary market. Switches are solid. There's some wide curves, not so wide curves but only o72 is the most lax switch. The connection points wear over time, the became weak with repeated disassembly. It's easy to break the metal tines on the ends, especially the longer 30" track. There's lots of little straight pieces. But favor the 30" if possible. The track looks meh to me.  And  it's noisy.  I sold all mine off because of the noise. But this was not something I noticed right away.

I switched principally at first to atlas. There was a dramatic improvement in the noise level. Then I switched all my straights and kept the curves and switches fastrack. This was a huge pain in the butt and I do not recommend it. The conversion piece doesn't work well.

I then replaced the curves and finally switches but went mainly with Ross.  There's some gargraves and some atlas. 

Mixing them is also a pain. Apparently I did not learn my lesson. The Ross and gargraves use end pin connectors. The atlas the more traditional joiner. They can be made to interconnect.

I'm underwhelmed by the z stuff switch motors and atlas motors are large.  I haven't had any specific problems yet but people post issue with atlas all the time.

It's on my list to add command control to it all but that's not there yet. The used market is smaller for these others than fastrack.

 

beachhead2 posted:
  • ease of use
  • ubiquitous
  • good conductivity (I have 150+ feet and 11 switches all under track power from a single terminal)
  • stable - my track isn't fastened anywhere (not one screw or nail holding it down)
  • easy to break down and move eventually
  • I have 11 switches and they're bulletproof, never an issue

Cons

  • expensive- but if your layout isn't huge, I don't see this being a big deal
  • noise can be an issue- I have carpet pad underneath turf-carpeting so there's very little noise for me but it is a concern
  • appearances - if you ever want a scale type layout, it's not going to give you that look

 

That's FasTrack for me.  It does the job.  It got me going with an O layout quick.

IMG_5273

Nice layout - by the way, I have been using sill sealer from home construction. About $ 8 for a 75 foot roll. It's a bit wider than fastrack but easily be trimmed.041343007721

Sean

 

TCA 14-6985#

 

Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight


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I've used FasTrack for 14 years, but my layout is only 5x8, with 2 loops and a siding. My operating freight cars use 2 different "operating" sections, and other things (crossing gates, signals, crossing shack operating) use two Lionel 153IR infrared controllers. There is NOTHING on my layout that is attached to the base, so I can move things around, or pack up the entire layout within 12 hours.

I think the operational or installation issues can b e overcome for the most part.  I tried it out a few years ago, but I bought some used lots off fleabay to save costs.  There was no issue with the used, it did save me a ton.  I did notice there were a few design iterations and as you would expect the design changes were to improve the product.  My main annoyances at the time were noise and the looming cost of new switches since I was not seeing any or many used switches.  I had a boat load of 711's and 022's so that salted it for me, I stayed tubular and sold most of the Fastrack.  I kept some that came in  few sets for under the tree.

One other comment I would remind you of is that it is stiff enough that you don't have any wiggle or  stretch room.  You will have to cut to fit exact versus just about with tube or Gargraves. 

Still a great system, I have no issues with it.  For me it was Noise, cost, and I guess really a bit of nostalga in how I wanted my layout to look as well since I run a LOT of prewar tinplate.

If cost is not an issue, and you like it, I would not hesitate to say go Fastrack.  I'd think a grimy wash on the ballast would make it look really good too.

Dennis Holler If its old and broke, I like it

To answer the original question.  There is no issue with PW accessories and Fastrack.  They have sections that have removable sides and also it is plastic and you can trim anything you want if needed.

I don't buy the cost argument.  Ross switches are not cheap and do not include the switch motors or remote control that you then have to add and also wire up.  Fastrack switches are all in one and Command control for a very good price when you compare total costs to do the same with other manufacturers.

You can ballast and weather Fastrack and it will look great.  

I like it because it keeps everything in one ecosystem.  Everything is command, LCS system, sensor tracks, etc.  It is all just easy and works together.

Here is my video of just accessories running, all with Fastrack.  Notice many are PW.

https://youtu.be/vxc-PycmYps

 

Sean

The one thing I've not seen mentioned yet in this thread is the geometry situation.  It's different than the way tubular was designed. 

Specifically, a turnout is not a "geometrically pure" replacement for a curve section labeled as the same diameter curve.  If your layout is large enough that you have some play in the alignment, it might be OK, but it can be an issue.  The turnouts have a small "fitter" section (with ballast removed for one edge where it mates to the turnout) that is required on the diverging ends, unless you surgically modify a full size mating curve track to remove some ballast (thereby making the fitter piece that comes with the turnout unnecessary).

This becomes obvious if you do a simple setup like a circle to start and try to drop in a turnout for a simple spur track.  The circle won't really be a circle anymore, while it would for tubular.  Another example, if you have an oval and try to add turnouts in the straight sections to create an interior  passing siding, you will not have a simple drop in solution of all the same curves and straights as those that make up the exterior of the oval. At the least you will need some different fitter sections for the length, and the angle really isn't correct either.

I found an old thread here.  It started with someone asking if an O72 wye was a drop in for a curve (it's not), and we went in a bit of a deeper discussion later on in the thread (I didn't want to re-type a lot of it here )

-Dave

A lot of good info here.  I have always used tubular track and as so, I have a boat load of it, including O22 and O72 switch tracks, both remote and manual.  

So it boils down to cost.  When the time comes for me to build my permanent layout, if I come into a windfall of cash, maybe I'll consider FasTrack, Atlas or Gargraves which I have used in the distant past.  

One other issue with non-tubular track is Lionel's sliding shoes.  I had a few K-Line O72 switches where the sliding shoes kept getting hung up.  I can't recall if Gargraves switches have the same issue.  

On a similar note to this subject are the Williams by Bachmann operating cars.  They need no remote track sections to operate.  I wrote to Bachmann and asked if more of these type cars are being considered.  Unfortunately, "Not at this time" was the response.

Think how easy it would be to have your operating milk car, cattle car or any of the remotely controlled cars, operate anywhere on your layout.  On straight as well as curved track.  No exact positioning required !

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Dan Padova posted:

My permanent layout is still on the drawing table.  I have read quite a few pros and cons on Lionel FasTrack.  My permanent layout will have operating accessories.  Most of them will be trackside.  Given the ballast profile of FasTrack, how well to post-war accessories play with it ?

Personally,  I regret using FasTrack. And a I regret using MTH's product. Were I to do it over, and I will someday, I will go with either Gargraves or Atlas (probably Atlas). Agnostic as to accessories, the quality of either Atlas or Gargraves outweighs the convenience of the modular systems such as FasTrack. 

My two cents. 

---------

Dr. Joseph V Russo

josephvrusso@outlook.com 

Dave45681 posted:

The one thing I've not seen mentioned yet in this thread is the geometry situation.  It's different than the way tubular was designed. 

Specifically, a turnout is not a "geometrically pure" replacement for a curve section labeled as the same diameter curve.  If your layout is large enough that you have some play in the alignment, it might be OK, but it can be an issue.  The turnouts have a small "fitter" section (with ballast removed for one edge where it mates to the turnout) that is required on the diverging ends, unless you surgically modify a full size mating curve track to remove some ballast (thereby making the fitter piece that comes with the turnout unnecessary).

This becomes obvious if you do a simple setup like a circle to start and try to drop in a turnout for a simple spur track.  The circle won't really be a circle anymore, while it would for tubular.  Another example, if you have an oval and try to add turnouts in the straight sections to create an interior  passing siding, you will not have a simple drop in solution of all the same curves and straights as those that make up the exterior of the oval. At the least you will need some different fitter sections for the length, and the angle really isn't correct either.

I found an old thread here.  It started with someone asking if an O72 wye was a drop in for a curve (it's not), and we went in a bit of a deeper discussion later on in the thread (I didn't want to re-type a lot of it here )

-Dave

"This becomes obvious if you do a simple setup like a circle to start and try to drop in a turnout for a simple spur track.  The circle won't really be a circle anymore, while it would for tubular."

This is not completely true for FasTrack. The only orphan is O60. O84 & O96 do not have switches, so, yes those do not have a drop in switch.

Another example, if you have an oval and try to add turnouts in the straight sections to create an interior  passing siding, you will not have a simple drop in solution of all the same curves and straights as those that make up the exterior of the oval. At the least you will need some different fitter sections for the length, and the angle really isn't correcteither.

Any track system requires fitting a passing siding. It is obvious the the divergent track of the turnout and the curve to bring it parallel have length that the reduce the passing siding length from the adjoining straight.

The wye geometry would not work in any track system. Again, fitment is needed.

The one point you made is true ,"It's different than the way tubular was designed". I don't think that you understand the difference. Which track systems use center rail and which use "a nominal circle of ___ diameter" ?

Carl

Arctic Railroad

Moonman posted:
Any track system requires fitting a passing siding. It is obvious the the divergent track of the turnout and the curve to bring it parallel have length that the reduce the passing siding length from the adjoining straight...

 When done in "O" or O-27, however, that distance is in exact increments of one piece of straight track, and no fitter pieces are needed. Can't do that in FasTrack.

Rob

Carl,

I understand the differences quite well, thank you!    I may have erred in my description of what I was trying to use as an example as a true "passing siding".  I probably should have called it a layout with a common circle within an oval or something like that.  My geometry/math skills are pretty decent.

My examples were relating specifically to O72, so O60 is not the "only" orphan.  I am well aware there are no turnouts for O84 and O96, I assumed it would be understood I was talking about a same diameter (named) curve and turnout.  I'll admit it's possible O36 or O48 turnouts do not suffer from this problem, as I do not have experience with those.  (edit: now that I played with it in RR Track, I see O36 is not the same situation(no short fitters with removed ballast), but does require you to add a 11.25 degree curve to each turnout to make it a "drop in" for a curve since the turnout is only 33.75 degrees, instead of the 45 degrees of an O36 curve)

Here are some RR Track sketches.  Note the gaps in the FasTrack for trying to make either the "circle within an oval" layout, or the gap caused by "dropping in" an O72 turnout in place of a curve.  This is due to the little fitter pieces required on the end of the turnout, if you don't modify the track you want to connect to the turnout.  The gap is approximately an inch.  These are standard O72 curves and turnouts(with a single 10" straight on each side in the rightmost picture), with the fitter pieces to go with the turnouts.  I didn't bother to show the left half of the oval so we could focus on the area of interest here(the same gap would exist there for the left drawing).

The following pic shows the same track arrangement for traditional tubular.  Standard O72 curves and turnouts, again with a single 10" straight in the right hand pic (obviously no fitters).  There is no overlap, nor any gaps.

This last sketch is comparing O36 FasTrack to O31 tubular.  So the O36 is not as bad a situation as the O72, but you do need to add either the (2) 11.25 degree sections (or a half O36, since a regular O36 is 45 degrees).  If one is just building this simple example, the single half curve would be fine(one less track joint), but if you wanted to expand on it, the (2) 11.25 degree sections might be a better option, as otherwise the track joints would be at different angles than the outer part of the track.

To your last point, while I didn't explicitly state it, yes, that is supposedly the whole issue to be aware of.  Traditional Lionel O Tubular was based on "nominal circle of  X diameter", while FasTrack was designed to instead result in a certain spacing between parallel lines once you go through the turnout.

-Dave

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What sold me on Fastrack was the operation of the turnouts.  I can't speak for the command controlled versions, but all of my remote turnouts have performed flawlessly.  I've never had a derailment because of a turnout.

My only criticism is the design of the 084 and 096 sections.  I understand that they were made in 11.25 degree sections for size considerations, but the cost is high for a complete circle (32 sections).

I’ve never been a fan of Fast Track, it rusts too easily in Florida’s humidity, it’s noisy, it looks bad, and the die cast joiners are too easily broken and not replaceable. MTH Track is also noisy and looks bad, but at least it’s Nickel Silver and won’t rust. The rails on Atlas Track break loose from the ties/roadbed too easily, and the rails are solid making them hard to solder. I never did like The oversized ties & rails of Gargraves and Ross Track. After working for many years in a hobby shop, the only pre-made track that I liked was LGB, and even then I wasn’t fond of it being brass. Why is it so hard for the manufacturers (in all scales) to make decent track, especially switches?

Bill in FtL

I mostly agree with Bill Nielsen.  I would never build a layout with fasttrack.  I can forgive the oversized appearance of Gargraves and Ross.  (It's certainly no worse than Lionel Tubular.)  Probably my favorite track system, but I really do wish they would make O36 switches.  O36 is the new O31.  If the geometry was right, Ross would sell a hunk of them, to replace all those Fasttrack switches!!

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

Dan Padova posted:

My permanent layout is still on the drawing table.  I have read quite a few pros and cons on Lionel FasTrack.  My permanent layout will have operating accessories.  Most of them will be trackside.  Given the ballast profile of FasTrack, how well to post-war accessories play with it ?

Hey Dan,

Permanent?  Guess it all depends - do you lean more towards a toy-train layout?  If so, then ANY track is probably okay.  FasTrack?  I'd cut the darned plastic roadbed if need be, to get operating accessories closer.  You're only talking a section or two or three at the most per close-fitting accessory, right?

On the other hand, if you lean more towards a little more realistic-looking side of 3-rail, I would think that GarGraves track and/or Ross switches would give you the best bang for the buck.  That's the route I plan on taking in the future.  Atlas and MTH Scale Trax look pretty darned good to me too, but possibly at a higher price/decreased availability?

As a relative newcomer to O-gauge, just my opinion.  Yours may vary. 

Paul  

Ship Rock Island ROCKET FREIGHT

 

2 Rails?  3 Rails?  Doesn't matter, I can't count that high anyway.

I love the smell of fresh-brewed creosote first thing in the morning.

I'm very happy with Fastrack. 22 switches and a couple scale miles of lines on ceiling tile. Noise is not a problem. I have had to change some switch stand leds and tweak a couple of points, but the switches are almost trouble free. And just for the record, the O36 switches will replace a 10" section.

John

Located in the real Upstate NY

John H posted:

I'm very happy with Fastrack. 22 switches and a couple scale miles of lines on ceiling tile. Noise is not a problem. I have had to change some switch stand leds and tweak a couple of points, but the switches are almost trouble free. And just for the record, the O36 switches will replace a 10" section.

That's a good point.  While I was only focusing on the curve aspects in my comparison above, for the O72, there is also not a single FasTrack piece that is equivalent to an O72 turnout straight part of the route.  But it is possible to come up with one that is very close with just a single fitter and a 10" straight, I believe.

Of course the same can be said for for O gauge tubular, there is no (edit: currently, at least- see Rob's post below) O72 turnout equivalent straight piece. It's of course much simpler to just take a razor saw or hack saw to make one that is that exact length (from a 40" straight), even if it's not a piece they sell.  (maybe there was such a thing during post-war years?  I seem to recall an entry on that infamous CTT track planning template that actually had an "O72 straight" item that was the right length to match an O72 turnout - but I truly don't know the history on why it was included)

-Dave

There are pro's and con's to every system so just get what appeals to you.  My only stay away would be MTH because the spring pins are such garbage.  I have junked so much of it when buying collections.  Someone mentioned that fast tracks pins will sometimes break.  They can but it seems to only happen with repeated connecting and disconnecting of aging track.  You can replace the pins though.  You can bend the tabs and pop the rail up, replace the pin, lay the rail back down, and bend back the pins.  Someone else mentioned you can't make custom piece which is also not correct.  I have been making them for different seasonal layouts since the system was introduced.

MCKCONRR posted:

There are pro's and con's to every system so just get what appeals to you.  My only stay away would be MTH because the spring pins are such garbage.  I have junked so much of it when buying collections.  Someone mentioned that fast tracks pins will sometimes break.  They can but it seems to only happen with repeated connecting and disconnecting of aging track.  You can replace the pins though.  You can bend the tabs and pop the rail up, replace the pin, lay the rail back down, and bend back the pins.  Someone else mentioned you can't make custom piece which is also not correct.  I have been making them for different seasonal layouts since the system was introduced.

It's certainly possible, it's just a bit more work to it than cutting a piece of tubular and replacing the pins.

-Dave

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