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Author Topic: EZ Track vs. old style track (HO)  (Read 26096 times)
passenger 17

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« on: January 21, 2013, 03:52:39 PM »

I am just getting started in Bachmann trains.  I bought an older set with regular track. Is the EZ track interchangable with the old style?

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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 05:22:48 PM »


Any track will mate with any other track. The only thing which varies is how hard or easy it is to make the connection; however, there are more considerations than just whether you can attach piece "A" to piece "B."

I'll assume that by "regular track" you mean sectional track without attached roadbed. That will work fine with the newer track by which I assume you mean with roadbed attached. Just trim off the protruding plastic clip on the new track and bring the older track up to the same level as the bottom of the rails on the newer track. There are several products which will help you do this; the most common and readily-available is flexible (while it's still comparatively new) cork.

The other factors to which I alluded in my first paragraph are rail material, whether roadbed is attached to the track and rail size (height).

HO rail (I do hope this is about HO) is easily available in steel alloy, brass and so-called nickel-silver. Steel alloy, which you'll see on Bachmann's newer track with black plastic roadbed, looks the most realistic to my eye. That's not too surprising since it is more or less the same material as what the twelve-inches-to-the-foot railroads use. Part of what makes it look so realistic is that it rusts. That's great except it rusts all over, including the top and gauge (inside) face of the railhead. Rust is a lousy electrical conductor (steel actually isn't all that great, either) so you can expect lots of operational problems with steel rail and a need for frequent cleanings, which you will learn to hate within two minutes of starting the chore. So ... I suggest that you avoid steel rail.

Brass is still very common and I suspect your older track has this material. It looks horrid when new, but it is the best conductor of the three materials and it doesn't look too bad once it ages in (i.e., oxidizes). Like steel rail, brass rusts (oxidizes) all over and its corrosion is a poor electrical conductor. That means regularly cleaning track which you will learn to hate as much as you hate cleaning steel rail. And just as quickly.

Nickel-silver, is the third metal used for HO rails. (Large scale also uses aluminum and stainless steel). It is mostly copper, with nickel and (usually) zinc added to the mix. But no silver. N-S isn't as good a conductor as brass but it is better than steel alloy. It oxidizes slowly but track crud will build up on it, especially if the modeler uses plastic wheels. So N-S does need cleaning, but not as often as brass or steel. It's also harder than either alternative so it stands up better to use and cleaning. Nevertheless, DO NOT use abbrasives to clean any rail and, should you decide that it won't hurt just this once because I'm in a hurry, NEVER under any circumstances use steel wool. Tiny bits will come off and be attracted to the magnets in your motors and gears, eventually wrecking them.

So far, then, I'm suggesting that you stick to nickel-silver rail. Now let's talk about the other factors, size and roadbed attached.

Track with attached rail is very convenient and the overwhelmingly best best choice for pikes which must be disassembled between railroading sessions or which are set up on the floor. It connects far more securely than any alternative except soldering rail ends. It will hold its shape better than any other product which is not permanently attached to its supporting layout and it will be more durable than track (sectional or flex) which does not have its roadbed attached. However, this durability and ease comes at a high price compared to flex track. And that high price is price. It also means that you will only have oversized rail and a somewhat limited selection of track lengths and curvatures to choose from. This can generally be worked around except that you will not be able to use genuine transition curves which are prototypical and easier for trains to negotiate. For all of these reasons, I suggest that you consider track which doesn't have roadbed attached unless you will be assembling and disassembling your model railroad or using it at floor level (storing it under the bed, for example). (NB: another alternative is hand-laid rail; I won't get into that now because it is an art which newbies don't typically prefer and which even serious modelers usually eschew.)

Last issue: Rail height. Most ready-built ("RTR") track comes in what is called "Code 100" rail. That means it is 100/1000ths of an inch high. This correlates to the absolutely heaviest rail used on mainlines by the biggest, heaviest freight haulers. Because heavier track is much more expensive to buy and install, real railroads use track designed for the loads the railroad expects to haul. That's why so few railroads used the heaviest rails. It is fair to point out that, generally speaking, rail size has increased over the years because locos and rolling stock have grown exponentially since the early days of railroading. As modelers, we don't need to be concerned with the cost of rails (in most cases lighter model rail is actually more than the heavier rail because it doesn't sell as well) but appearance is an issue. Code 100 was the only rail available for the first several decades of HO railroading. At that time, the wheel flanges on locomotives and rolling stock were supersized to help hold the trains on the rails and those larger flanges needed more clearance to avoid bumping over the ties. Nowadays, flanges are considerably smaller than in the early years, and a few modelers actually run with true scale-sized flanges. Smaller flanges (you'll find them on anything built in the last 30-40 years) need less clearance so we can use more prototypically-sized rails. Code 83 (83/1000" high) is widely available and a good choice. Code 70 is lighter still, and a fine stand-in for all but the heaviest real rails. You can also find smaller sizes; I've seen Code 65, 60, 50, 40 and 30 but anything smaller than Code 50 is really specialty rail for specific purposes.

Twelve-inches-to-the-foot railroads use a variety of rail sizes. Their heaviest rails are used on busy mainlines which carry large loads and speeding trains. Sidings, where the rail won't be pounded by fast trains, is smaller and yards, where trains move at a snail's pace, are generally smaller still. Sidings also tend to have comparatively little ballast (rock) in their roadbeds so they are also a little lower than mainlines, and yards frequently look like they have no ballast at all. There is no reason why we cannot mimic the big railroads by using lighter track for our model sidings and yards. You may be surprised, but a Code 70 siding with half-height roadbed running next to Code 83 mainline at full ballast height just looks a whole lot more realistic.

So. Rail height? I suggest either Code 83 or Code 70 for mainlines with smaller sizes for other trackage. Be wary of truly small rail because regular wheels may not be able to traverse it. Recognize that it takes a little work to adapt different rail heights to one another but there are transition tracks and transition rail joiners to help with the job.

To summarize, I encourage you to consider nickel-silver rail no larger than Code 83 for your mainlines, with other tracks appropriately smaller. I also encourage you to use flex track and high-quality turnouts (switches) from the major manufacturers (no one manufacturer makes every size), with turnouts from Kato or Shinohara, on cork or another pre-fab roadbed. The exception to this would be a railroad which must be repeatedly disassembled or stored and used at floor level.

Good luck with your railroad and welcome to the hobby and this board. Please keep us up to date on your plans and progress.

                                                                                                                                -- D

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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 07:51:32 PM »

most  HO train sets came with code 100 track. ez track is also code 100. so yes, they are compatable. as doneldon said, underlay your track with cork roadbed or another material such as 1/4" pine moulding strip to bring it up to the height of ez track. if you'd prefer to stick with not roadbed type track, look at what atlas has to offer. HO track is made to a univeral standard.

if your train set is N scale (you didn't s[ecify which scale it is) then you'll run into a similar situation. ez track will work with your track but be aware that unlike in HO the geometry of the pieces will be different. the 5" straights and 19"r curves are the same but all other pieces are different. a standard switch had a 19"r curved side, the curves were usually 9 3/4"r, with ez track the switches curved side and the standard  curve are 11 1/4"r.    you'll need to raise the older track on n scale (1/8") roadbed.     once again, atlas offers the older standard non roadbed track as "code 80".....

Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA

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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2013, 02:02:18 AM »

Do not invest in ez track.  Do homework, take it from those that learned a hard lesson and buy Kato track.  Pm me if you want true educated opinion.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 02:06:17 AM by Trainz » Logged
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