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Can you all give me an updated 2022 suggestion on which type of track and switches to use? I have become so frustrated with my lot of MTH Real trax. I am convinced my track signal issues are coming from poor connections as I have tested all other possibilities. If I bite the bullet and change my track, what is the best to use today? I have researched Gargraves. It seems it has a nice following. expensive but I only have a 10x12 layout. I have a lot of switches so wondering what switches mate well with other track systems, Gargraves included. Thanks in advance.

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Ross switches with Ross track or Ross switches with GarGraves track. Ross track is more exacting when it comes to sectional track specs whereas there can be variances with GarGraves, especially with curves. All that really means is you have to be a little more careful when installing GarGraves. You won’t find better switches than those from Ross. And they’re both made in the USA, so there are fewer chances for shortages. GarGraves flex is arguably the easiest to bend and a lot of folks use it instead of section straight tracks.

Atlas is also good, but at times in short supply. They’ve also had past problems with their switches, but they made changes and I haven’t heard complaints lately. It also tends to be expensive.

If you want track with roadbed, like RealTrax, then a better bet is FasTrack.

I went with Gargraves and Ross. I used Atlas on my little 4x8 layout and it's good! But Ross has awesome switches so that made me decide to use Gargraves and Ross since they're look similar. Atlas is a little different.

You can't make a wrong choice with those three. I recommend you look for lots of pictures and videos here and on the internet of all three tracks on layouts to get an idea of what you like. Seeing all three in real life would also be a good move if you can do it.

@Jan posted:

There have been comments on the Forum about conductivity issues of MTH's RealTrax.  The causes and fixes were discussed.  MTH did an "improved" design bit there have not been any comments that I have seen.

Jan

In light of these conductivity issues which some have reported I would not recommend taking the time to solder your connections - switch to another system.

-Greg

Sorry to hear that you are having so much trouble.  Considering you have already put the capital into this track and I am assuming that this track is what you wanted originally, then soldering the track together from the bottom side would be the best way to go.  Yes, I can tell you from personal experience, it is a laborious task to take up all of the track and solder jumpers from section to section, but the end result will be very satisfying.  Considering I am a conventional guy, I cannot speak to how well the signal strength will be, but I can say you will not find any voltage drops throughout your layout.  My experience comes from soldering Lionel Fastrack.  The project, a 32’ x 16’ layout, has every single joint soldered via jumpers from the bottom.   I probably did not have to do it this way, but since I had the track on my bench, I soldered 3 jumpers to the bottom of each piece of track.  2 for the common rails and 1 for the hot rail.  I was surprised the new Fastrack is not built anything like the original Fastrack when it first came out.  The strap on each section of the track for the common rails was loose on most pieces so I soldered it also.  Did I go a little crazy?  Yeah, I probably did.  But you know what, I feel, I will not have to worry about power problems ever again on the track unless that cheap plating comes off over the years from use.  I do agree with the others.  Gargraves track and Ross switches is a super combination with very reliable results.  However, that means quite the monetary outlay of cash.  For shi*s and grins, take up a small area of your track and solder it up.  Test it out and see if it fixes your problem.  If so, the money you save from not buying all new track can be put to purchasing that special train you want but have not pulled the trigger on yet.  Good luck and let us know how this works out for you.

I have 3 loops on the layout, 2 on elevated bridge and 1 main loop. The main loop has 10 switches on it for various yards and a large internal alternate loop. My DCS signal has been perfect for the elevated loops, each with its own TIU channel. THe DCS signal is erratic on the mail loop. I have switched out TIU channels thinking signal generators were the problem, no change. I have run more drops, made sure the blocks are of proper size.  no change. The main line will work really well one day then fail to find engines or control all engine functions the next. I have NOT soldered the track. I may consider it. I thank you for all suggestions.

Rather than trying to solder the rails together. Solder some jumper wires . 18 gauge should be sufficient.

I know DCS can be finicky at times. I’d still try to resolve the issues and only jumper the rails as a last resort. By over wiring the loop you may create more problems. You can check track voltage using DCS. I would think if the connections were that suspect you would see a voltage drop. It seems most of your issues are on the loop with a lot of turnouts. Are you powering them from a separate supply or track voltage ?  
You still have 1 channel left in the TIU. Maybe you could divide the lower loop in half and see if that helps.

My voltage is consistent on the main (problem) line. IT is the DCS signal that is the problem. I have areas where the signal is 7/10 and I have areas that it drops to 2/10. I have issues loading engines at times and at times it is fine, For example, the last two evenings I have run trains with zero DCS issues. Signal test still says a lower reading than the other smaller loops, but no issues running and loading engines. IF I attach the engine yard to a separate TIU channel, how does that affect train operation? I am not familiar with separating a loop into two channels of TIU. Thanks for all suggestions. FYI, I am running star pattern power distribution as outlined in Barry's book.

You mention adding engines. Are you always adding them in the same spot on the layout ?  You can have a well wired layout with squeaky clean track and still have issues. Dirty pickup rollers and wheels can attribute to the bad signal as much as anything. I would get one reliable working engine that delivers solid 9’s and 10’s on one of your upper loops and test using only that engine on the lower one. It should find your bad spots. Remove any passenger cars or lighted cabooses as some can effect your signal check. If things are checking out good. Add things back one at a time and see what changes.
It sounds like you rotate stuff on and off the layout. It works for a few nights and then not. The variable may be what your running. Not your layout. To divide the lower level. Either add insulating pins to the center rails or simply cut them. You could put all your yard and sidings on one channel. Or just disconnect them if possible for the time being. Even though physically connected as one large run. You can run 1/2 off one channel and the other off your remaining one. Engines will seemlessly  travel from one to the next. Whatever your using as a power supply can be daisy chained to run both. Without  seeing what you have. You could just have to much going on for one channel.
Track isn’t cheap. Some change out for appearance reasons or just more choices such as Ross offers. If the only negative you have is the track signal. I would work with what you have and at least exhaust every avenue before ripping it up. I have a large layout 30+ years old with Gargrave’s and Ross. I’ve always thought it was a good choice. You mentioned numerous numerous turnouts. It’s not a foolproof solution. It still needs to be wired and problems still may arise.

Last edited by Dave_C

Much appreciated Dave C. A bit more info...The engine yard is on a relay that I can shut all power down to it so the engines dont sit with the chronos running etc. When I shut the engine yard off and check the DCS signal, there is no change from when the engine yard is on. I also have a second smaller inner loop on the main loop. Do you think it is better to place the smaller inner loop on its own TIU channel or the engine yard? I have cleaned the track and have used a good PS3 engine from the upper loops to test track. same readings. However, I have not cleaned the engine or rolling stock wheels in some time. So I will do that this weekend. My loops are all broken down into track blocks with center rail insulated. I have some outside rail insulated sections to activate some lighted switches and crossing gates etc. This would not affect the DCS signal or would it? I also have these outside insulated sections on the upper loops for signal activation with no affect on the DCS signal readings. I have switched out TIU channels thinking an ACT 244 chip was going bad, no change on the main loop DCS signal readings.

Last edited by LT1Poncho

By all means take the inner loop out of the equation. Even though your layout size seems small at 10X12. You have a lot going on for one channel. The relay was a good move. Certain Toggles have been known not to pass the signal well.

Years ago. I had a issue that took a couple of nights to figure out. At some point I blew a fuse knocking out one of my channels. What I hadn’t realized that with the weather changing. My lift out bridge which separated 2 blocks or TIU channels now had the center rails touching as the wood crept a bit.  I run a large power supply and both were on the same input. TMCC engines never new the difference. The signal meant nothing to them. My few DCS engines ran erratic in the yard area doing switching moves. Track signal went from what was always a 10 to a 2. Finally figured out the problem. One channel was now feeding both blocks with way to much trackage to put out a good signal.

Last edited by Dave_C

One thought, might not look great but use temporary jumpers between track sections of some sort before trying soldering and see if it helps (and I am a complete novice with DCS, ie only know basics from what I have read). If you are getting poor signal strength in an area, add jumpers and see if the signal strength improves if you jump a particular section (and again, just spitballing). The other thing is I seem to recall that dcs uses both the outside and middle rails so connectivity, I am guessing, might be a problem on the common rail as well.

1) yes I have legacy base hooked up as per Barry’s book. I have unplugged the base and totally removed it from the equation, but no difference to DCS signal.

2) yes, I have wired the 2 upper loops TIU channels to the main line and no difference in DCS signal is produced. All TIU channels are working fine. I have used GRJ’s signal checker as well on the channels.

3) I do not know what a physical obstruction would be of the elevated loops. The elevated loops run over top the lower main line only in one 8 foot section of the layout. It is my understanding that the DCS signal is propagated through the rails and not through the air as is Legacy signals.

Last edited by LT1Poncho

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