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Well, I really do like Atlas track, but I really don't like Atlas switches.  Also, Atlas track is way overpriced and hard to get nowadays.  Next on my list is Ross track and switches, and I combined it with Gargraves flex track.

Ross switches are the top of the heap, and their sectional track is excellent as well.  Gargraves works seamlessly with Ross track and switches, and Gargraves offers flex track, which I used extensively.

@Craftech posted:


Are you using the Gargraves flex track as straights as well?


Yep, they work just fine as straight track.  I used guide boards to keep them reasonably straight and then screwed them down.

As you can see, not a whole lot of long straight runs on my layout other than the yards, so flex track hit the spot for me.

Click to expand.
JWA Full Layout 2022-01-30


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  • mceclip0
  • JWA Full Layout 2022-01-30
Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

+1 for GarGraves flex and Ross switches. I do have a couple of the Ross transition curves and about 150' of Atlas flex and 081 and 072 sectional pieces. I like the look of Atlas but after using it for a while it just isn't worth extra expense in my opinion and hard to find at times.

The real advantage with GG flex and the variety of Ross switches is the additional freedom it brings to building a layout.

Interesting that this topic comes up every now and then. As a smaller operator with 2 4 x 8 and 1 4 x 6 tables put together in a backward "J" arrangement and 2 independent loops, I used Lionel Fastrack. I found it to be easy to install, liked the way the sections lock tight together, and the built-in roadbed. The layout has been up and running for over 10 years now and I have never had any problems with it. It's also easy to keep clean, although I probably don't clean it as much as I should. Fastrack has been very durable and dependable for me.

If I were to build a bigger and better layout, I think I'd go with Gar Graves track and Ross switches. However, in my old age, I've become less ambitious, so will settle with what I have.

Can only give perspective on the 2 brands of track I've used - Lionel FasTrack and Atlas 21st Century track. My preference is the Atlas track for its looks and solid rails which reduce the noise level when running the trains. I've read a lot of threads about older Atlas switches not being the best but all mine are older and not hooked up electronically (manual push), so not a problem for me.

When using FasTrack I did find the switches to be bullet proof and the newer command control switches were great to work with. Thought about using FasTrack switches with my Atlas track and bought some transition pieces, but decided I didn't like the mixed look. One of the things I really liked about FasTrack was the ease in plopping it down on a big table and playing with the layout design. Kind of like putting together puzzle pieces. Great for Christmas layout.

As to availability and cost, I did have to hunt for Atlas track and bought 80% of it used. Even at used prices it was more expensive than FasTrack. Most of the pieces bought were in good shape, but some were broken. Lots of FasTrack out there and used prices much more attractive. Can't say I ever got a broken piece of FasTrack as it's one molded piece so not much to break.

All that said, I'm happy with Atlas for a permanent solution, but wouldn't hesitate to use FasTrack for seasonal or temporary layout. If there are any budget concerns, FasTrack is more affordable than Atlas.

I'm all in on Ross switches. Atlas supply has me leaning toward going Gargraves. The photos on the Gargraves and Ross website are tiny though. So I'm going to the local hobby shop to get some Gargraves and Ross in hand and see what I think. I need to start a topic to have people post photos of their weathered Gargraves. I've seen a few examples and it blew me away. Looked outstanding!

Ross and Gargraves go together very well appearance wise.  Mixing Ross and Atlas, while workable, doesn't look as "seamless.  The ties are different size and different spacing.  While the Atlas ties are more prototypically sized, the mix doesn't look nearly as nice as sticking with Ross or Gargraves track if you're going to use Ross switches.

Click on graphic to enlarge

Ross, Gargraves, Atlas Track Comparison


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  • Ross, Gargraves, Atlas Track Comparison
Last edited by gunrunnerjohn

I prefer Gargraves and Ross. The ties are oversized. But given the height of the rail. It looks right. Yes the rails are hollow. But I believe the track pins provide the best electrical connection of the rails.

After the track is decided upon and your starting to lay it out. You have to wire it. I believe the Gargraves Ross excepts a larger gauge wire the best. Such as 14 gauge. My latest wiring. I use a spade connecter inserted between the rails and then soldered in place including the wire to the crimp. No chance of melting any ties with it. Once ballasted you will never see it or worry about it.

Tortoise switch machines and Ross can’t be beat. Although you can add them to Atlas. Numerous threads on problems with DZ switch machines. I’ve been on this Forum for 20 years. Don’t believe I’ve ever read about a failed Tortoise motor.

Both Gargraves and Ross are made in the U.S. . No supply issues. Ross may be a few weeks out on delivery. But at least you know you will get it. You can call Steve direct with any questions on his products. Try doing that with the others.

Last edited by Dave_C
@William 1 posted:

Also, Ross makes 35" straights, if you don't want to bother with flex track and trying to make it straight.  I used all Ross switches, sectional curves & 35" straights cut to fit and couldn't have been more happy with it.

Gargraves flex comes out of the box straight, you just don't bend it.   You can also get the 37" length of Gargraves non-flex.

Be honest I bought a couple Gargraves flex for one section and I found once you bent it, if you didn't get it right the first time it was hard to get it back where you wanted it.  The ties got all askew and I couldn't make it look right once I goofed it up the first time.  Of course, like anything, experience makes you better at things, but learning on the fly can get expensive.  Also, the Gargraves ties were much more brown than the Ross and they kinda stuck out, not a panic, a little wash of the right color would've fixed it, just noteworthy perhaps.  I'm very much brand loyal once I find something that works for me, so I was happy going 100% Ross. Everyone is different in their priorities, likes or dislikes, nothing wrong with that.

Since all sectional track was way more limiting, at least for me, I was happy that Gargraves flex matched the Ross track and switches.

As you can see, it's actually a pretty close match, if I were a real stickler, I might try to perfectly match the color of the ties.  However, if I were a real stickler, I'd be looking on getting rid of that rail in the middle.

If you're using new Gargraves flex, it's easy to move the ties, I had no problem with that.  Old flex, OTOH, is much harder to work with.  Once the ties dry out, it's considerably more difficult to match them up.

@PRR8976 posted:

In theory, I like/love/am (financially and otherwise) committed to Lionel's prewar T-Rail track...I've been stockpiling pieces for the day I can build my next layout, for the first time using  Lionel T-Rail.


I have a couple friends with T-tail layouts Tom.

Here is one of them: "Friend's Layouts" Installment#4, Plus a Lionel T-Rail Track Primer Bonus! (

I think Gargraves with Ross switches looks the best and are well proven.

T-rail is VERY cool but crazy expensive and curve radius is limited.

I use tubular O27 height track, wide radius curves (O42, O54 and O72), mostly for nostalgic reasons. Easily cut to fit too.

I don't care for the look of the plastic roadbed on FasTrack and RealTrax, also, too many pieces for many needed curves. Is anyone even making RealTrax anymore? Potential inventory issues in the future

Last edited by Lionelski

I have helped install Ross switches on a friend's layout, they take some work to install but are pretty nice once they're in place. I use "Standard O" tubular and a mixture of tubular and Lionel Fastrack switches on my layout. I've thought about putting a Ross double crossover in the spot you see here but I'm not sure if my MTH tinplate would agree with it.

Switches on my layout Apr22

Tubular is very economical, sturdy and easy to put together, but tubular switches can be temperamental. The Ross switches are very nice for modern trains but not very good for tinplate. O72 Fastrack switches are similar in cost to Ross and offer a balance of performance for the mixture of modern and vintage trains that I run.


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  • Switches on my layout Apr22

I've used ATLAS track + switches over the past 20 years for two major layouts. Great track - and more quiet and effortless as any other.

On the second layout, now four years old, I dumped the Atlas switch machines and used Z-Stuff.  I'm happy.

Having stated that, though, if I were beginning again right now with no track, I would use Ross.  It's almost as solid as Atlas and almost as quiet ... but it's cheaper and AVAILABLE (and the switches seem to be better). So, there's no question:  Ross right now. 

Last edited by rthomps

The track I like best is not available in O (but I wish it were) and that is Märklin's stud contact track in HO.  It is not just that it looks more realistic, but the shoes sliding on the studs make better electrical contact than a roller on rail.  And the studs never need to be cleaned.  If I have to pick from what is currently available, then it would be Atlas O.

@William 1 posted:

Also, Ross makes 35" straights, if you don't want to bother with flex track and trying to make it straight.  I used all Ross switches, sectional curves & 35" straights cut to fit and couldn't have been more happy with it.

Atlas... 39" straights in Flex & Rigid.. the Flex gets a little tough to bend/hold (solid rail) below O81.  81 and up easy peasy.

Last edited by Dennis-LaRock

I have had layouts with GG (including GG switches, which I had Zero problems with, even using the diverging leg as the mainline) and (currently) with Atlas.  I give Atlas the edge for realism--if that is a consideration--but GG for economy and flexibility.  Atlas switch machines don't bother me because I don't use them:  I have ground throws on all my switches--which is perfectly prototypical for my region and era.  I do have one Atlas switch of an older variety whose connectivity gives me fits; I plan to replace it with a later version.

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