I have been out of the train layout building for over 20 years.  My trains are crying in my attic for me to set up a new layout.  A lot of new track types are now available.  I am looking for the pros / cons for the different new track styles like; Lionel Fast track, MTH RealTrax, Atlas Track, etc.   In the past, I have had a lot of issues with the traditional Lionel O and O27 track with pins not connecting , rusting, and current dropping over the layout. 



Original Post

Super O is a LOT less expensive than FasTrack and better looking, building in "O" or "O-27" profile is even more economical and is available in curve radius from 12.37" to 35.88"(O-27) and 14.14" to 60"("O") in sectional track. Going to flex track in GarGraves(which is approximately  O-27 profile - since 1940's) with GarGraves and/or Ross switches leaves almost infinite possibilities for layout construction.


I agree with Rob on the Gargraves/Ross as long as you are building a platform.  I’ve used Gargraves since the mid 80s and I use Ross switches where there is no Gargraves switch that does what I want.

 If you are building a carpet central, Fastrack might be better.  I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard it can be loud and that some folks have had problems with electrical connectivity.


It all depends on what you want to achieve. If you are looking to build a layout with odd size curves, track that appears more prototypical, install track road ballast, and detail the layout to look more realistic, I would suggest Gargraves track and Ross switches.

If you are not going to do a lot of detail on the layout, then Lionel's Fastrack would be a good option, IMO.

I original used Real Trax on my layout. I found it very difficult to work with, and didn't like the switches.

I helped build a couple very large layouts with Fastrack and found it much easier to work with, better connections and the switches were much nicer looking,  smoother operation and quitter. 


I built my layout 33 years ago using Gargraves Phantom Rail track, Ross Custom switches and Midwest cork roadbed. All are durable, trouble free products. I use both Tortoise and DZ1000 switch machines. You cannot go wrong using these products. Atlas track is very attractive but their switches have been problematic and availability has been as issue as Atlas has had to seek new sources in China from time to time. All of the products I mentioned above are made and serviced in America. In fact, Ross switches carry a lifetime warranty. You only have to pay for shipping. Tough to beat that. The tortoise switch machines allow you to create a route diagram on your control pane using bicolor LED's. If I were starting over again I would use the same products.

A friends layout done with Used Gargraves track, Gargraves switches, Ross Switches.    Click on the underlined phrase to link a 60 picture slideshow of the build.   Road bed is Midwest cork.  

Thanks for the information.  Some responses were asking about my build.  I am planning a new build on a platform.

Any suggestions for layout designs ? 

Thanks for the information.  Some responses were asking about my build.  I am planning a new build on a platform.

Any suggestions on a layout plan or source for layout plans ?

Personally, I like tinplate track that has close ties like prewar 072 did. I use K-Line 042 curves and their 3' straights, and Williams 031 curves. They're all easy to cut due to the extra ties that prevent a lot of flexing while sawing. There's plenty available at shows "under the table", and it's cheaper than all the other brands.

I know you're looking for a more modern track, but there's still something that's emotionally appealing about a "retro" look.

Good luck with the new layout.

"You have to grow old. You don't have to grow up". Ray Bradbury

There are many options if you want realistic operations. However, if you want quiet operations, nothing beats tubular track. Menards has a great selection and there are some good switch options such as Ross and Merkur. You can adapt most switches to tubular track, too. Placing foam, padding or felt under the track really reduces the noise.  And don't try to screw every section down as tight as possible. That will just transfer the noise to the table.


I used Fastrack because I knew I'd be tweaking the track-plan a lot as I learned what Operating parameters were important to me. I have settled on a largely switching Pike and now I want ballast. I am starting to consider Ross track and switches with DZ2500 above-the-table switch machines. I don't want to have to tear up ballasted&scenic-ed track or switches for any future maintenance. Also, I drifting from preferring the prototype tie-spacing&tie-width of Fastrack to preferring the better looking "T" rail of Ross/Gargraves.

It is all about your particular wants&preferences.



All photos are mine unless specifically noted otherwise.


Operator of the Plywood Empire Route in the Beautiful Berkshires

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

I have a ton of Fastrack; a lot of it is O72. I am going to sell it at some point. I can hear every tie when I run an older train on it. Also, since it is hollow underneath, it's like a drum. It's a great option on carpet though. It keeps the carpet fibers out of the train. If anyone needs any, contact me at my email address. I have mostly curves available right now. I haven't done an inventory yet.


Like other elder hobbyists, I created a home layout with a retro look -- an affirmation of my boyhood involvement with toy trains in the 1950s. I used Lionel O gauge tubular track with O42 curves and K-Line O42 low-profile switches. Perfect, and affordable.

Although I was "overruled" by other members who opted for more realistic Atlas O track and switches for a large club-sponsored layout, during operations we had continual trouble with the switches; a small track piece in the ground rail at the "entry" of switches often came loose. We glued them back in place, but that "fix" didn't hold for long.  Also, some overzealous track installers bore down too forcefully with a power screwdriver when placing track screws in the cross ties. They broke off  some of the very small track spikes away from the rails at cross ties. Caution -- drive the track screws most of the way, then hand-torque the screws "home." Later, the club removed much of the Atlas O track and switches and replaced them with Lionel Fastrack. Some operators complain about the noise of Fastrack, but IMHO trains (like the prototypes) aren't supposed to be quiet.

Many hi-railers install Gargraves track - it looks and works great. Its performance can be improved by soldering short joiner wires to connect the outer (ground) rails to each other. Ross switches are "bulletproof."

You'll live with an initial decision about a track brand for the life of the layout, so get it right the first time.

Mike Mottler   LCCA 12394

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