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Author Topic: Heads or tails - Steel alloy or Nickel silver?  (Read 10900 times)
ChugaChoo

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« on: June 23, 2011, 12:06:54 AM »

Just recently gotten back into ho trains - grandkids are my motivation.  For a 5'X 8' oval, I'm trying to understand which would be a better choice - steel alloy or nickel silver.  I understand the cleaning aspects of one over the other.  But for a small 5' X 8' oval track, would steel alloy conduct electricity as good as nickel silver.  In other words, is the increased performance of nickel silver worth the investment?  Thanks!
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jward


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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2011, 12:29:28 AM »

yes. the slight increase in cost of nickle silver over steel track is well worth the investment. although steel alloy track has been around forever, nickle silver is the standard. just a quick look at the available pieces of track bachmann makes with nickle silver vs those with steel should tell you all you need to know. the available steel  sections are all basic train set track. the sections available in nickle silver are much more varied, and geared towards the more serious model rail, in addition to all the pieces available in steel.

having to clean the track more often may not seem like a big deal to a beginner, but consider the following: do you want a tunnel? if so, you won't want to have to reach inside to clean track, or push stalled locomotives any more than you have to.

also consider this: is there steel track in N scale? the smaller scales like N and Z are notorious for having contact problems. in these scales, clean track is a must, so you won't find steel rail there. HO and larger scales, the contact problems are less severe, so steel is sometimes used.

one last point: do you wish to run dcc, now or in the future? dcc uses signals in the rails, rather than variable voltage, to control train speed and direction. poor contact can lead to loss of control of a train, as the locomotive continues to operate on the last readable command it received, regardless of what commands are being sent. for this reason i would strongly advise against steel if you ever plan to run dcc.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
NarrowMinded


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« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2011, 12:49:36 AM »

I agree with everything jward wrote.

I'll just add that I built a Christmas layout using a mix of EZ track, I clean the track every year and apply a very light coating of oil, this layout runs 18hrs a day for about a month, I run my trains very slow (switching speed or a tad faster) all though I don't get many stalls, they almost always happen on the steel sections or right after it.

I would go with nickle silver, as jward said it's worth the extra cost.

NM-Jeff
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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2011, 11:16:11 AM »

Plus, of course, if you're going to use EZ-track and not ballast it, the gray roadbed of the nickel silver track looks better than the black roadbed of the steel track.
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Doneldon

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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2011, 05:50:41 PM »

Chug-

Nickel-Silver. No contest. The only advantage to steel is that it looks like the real thing when it rusts. And it runs just like the 12 inches to the foot trains. That is, it's great for locomotives which have an internal power source. Not so if they're trying to get electricity out of the track. Just think about the real railroads. They used steel for its strength but they used copper wire to carry signals, telgraph, etc. Plus, the steel track is a lot more work if you don't want your roadbed to look like it's made out of coal. Just my opinion but I'll bet I have lots of company.
                                                                                                            -- D
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poliss

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« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2011, 09:10:37 PM »

I'm mildly surprised you can still buy steel track in the USA. Don't think it's been sold over here in the UK for thirty years.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2011, 10:36:01 AM by poliss » Logged
jward


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« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2011, 10:43:31 PM »

sometime around 1980 most of the train set manufacturers went to steel in their train sets. it replaced brass for the most part. it is definitely a low end product. atlas, for one, never marketed steel track in the past 40 years.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Joe323

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« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2011, 03:01:01 PM »

Actually the steel properly maintained never caused any problems when I buillt my first layout out of Life-Like Power Loc but I required more feeders than nickle silver so when I decided to upgrade to DCC I replaced the steel with NS EZ- track.

On the plus side I sold my original Life Like equiptment Track and all for $50 at a yard sale.
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jward


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« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2011, 08:30:54 PM »

having to add extra feeders on dc was the first sign of a problem. it indicated that you were having extra resistance with that track. remember, little problems you don't think about on dc can become major hassles with dcc. a case in point is power routing switches, particularly with metal wheels. with these switches, both switchpoints are the same polarity. if the gap between the poiints and stockrail is narrow enough, metal wheels can bridge the gap causing a momentary short. you don't notice it on dc, but with dcc it trips the circuit breakers.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
arose

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« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2011, 01:07:51 PM »

My husband wants to mix the EZ tracks, the gray and black?  Will it create problems?
« Last Edit: July 17, 2011, 01:09:22 PM by arose » Logged
NarrowMinded


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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2011, 08:17:43 PM »

It wont harm the train it is more a maintenance/reliability issue

NM-Jeff
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Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.


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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2011, 01:13:28 AM »

Use some conductive oil from time to time and it won't matter what kind of rails you use.  Bachmann makes an excellent conductive oil, E-Z Lube Conductive Contact Lube.  Click the link below for details:
http://www.bachmanntrains.com/home-usa/products.php?act=viewProd&productId=1086

This stuff isn't cheap but a bottle will last about a lifetime.  When a locomotive starts to hesitate or its headlight starts to flicker, it is time to put a tiny drop of conductive oil on each pickup wheel, including on tender wheels if the locomotive is a steamer with tender pickup.  If a particular spot on the track is causing stalls or flickering lights, put a tiny drop of conductive oil on each rail near the bad spot, preferably on the side where the train will carry the oil on to the bad spot.

As an example of what this stuff can do, last weekend I took my portable 0n30 layout (0-scale trains running on H0-gauge track) to a show.  It had been in storage and the track had not been cleaned since March 2010.  One tiny drop of conductive oil on each of the six drivers and my little 2-6-0 pulled its coaches up hill and down for two days straight with never a stall and never a flicker.  What makes this outstanding is that my track is a mixture of nickel-silver (gray roadbed) E-Z Track, plated steel (black roadbed) E-Z Track, and hand laid brass track.  I cannot say which required more and which required less maintenance - they all required NO maintenance.

As a side note, I only wish my experimental electronics had worked as well.  The layout is basically a single track loop-to-loop setup with an auto reverser on each loop.  When the reverser flips track phase (this is DCC) it also triggers a switch machine operator to reverse the loop's switch.  Every once in a while, this would trip twice, first setting the switch correctly and then setting it back the wrong way.  Instant derailment.  Next attempt will be magnets under the tenders and cabooses with reed switches under the track, a system that has worked flawlessly on our museum layout for almost 20 years.

Jim

p.s.  Did I mention that only a tiny drop of conductive oil is necessary?  With a tiny drop of extremely thin oil, there is virtually no loss of traction.  Slather it on and your train will be slip sliding away in no time.
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Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.
rogertra


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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2011, 02:03:51 AM »

If you buy nicklesilver track you will never wish you'd bought steel.

If you buy steel track you'll always wish you'd bought nicklesilver.

Simple as that.
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cats2287

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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2011, 03:55:32 PM »

I use Nickel Silver. It's great. Use it!!!!!
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poliss

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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2011, 08:17:29 PM »

When a locomotive starts to hesitate or its headlight starts to flicker, it is time to clean the track and wheels.
The air is full of tiny particles of dust that will settle on any liquid that's on the track. What oil does the largest model railway in the world, Miniatur Wunderland, put on their track? None.
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