HO Track and HO transformers?

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#1
Sooooo I've just started building an HO layout. By start, I mean I just finished the construction of the table! I need to know what you guys out there recommend for HO track? I currently own Bachmann E-Z Track, and Life-Like Power-Loc track. Both of these tracks have their own, non-detachable road bed. People seem to not like tracks that have their own roadbed. Regardless, I kind of like the Power-Loc track, but have not run any trains on it. Is it reliable? Will it rust? I don't think it's made of Nickel-Silver, which seems to be the most conductive rail material.
Should I look into Code 83 or Code 100 track? What company is most reliable? How do I connect Code track? I can't solder the rails together, I'm not savvy enough with tools to pull that off. I don't want to burn anything down :p
So what track do you recommend? The layout is supposedly going to be permanent. I intend it to. What track is reliable, cheap, works well, looks awesome, and doesn't need to be SOLDERED or nailed down? Any ideas?
I don't like the Bachmann E-Z track too much cause the tracks don't stay together, so already I can't trust these tracks.
Thanks for the help, I'm super stumped.
ALSO I'm not using DCC or anything like that, just a regular transformer. Any transformer/power pack recommendations while we're at it??? Must obviously be compatible with whatever track you recommend :p
Thanks everyone!!!!!
 

HOexplorer

Well-Known Member
#2
TG, You've asked many questions. Unfortunately on this or any other model railroad website you will get nearly as many answers to what is best, for example, as there are respondents. You mentioned table. This would lead us all to believe you may have build an 4'x8' piece of plywood on some legs. Some folks only have that much room and that is ok. Plenty of layout plans for that size. Many modelers have "moved on" and now build at least a U shape around some walls if they have a room. Some build very nice shelf layouts. Each of these two examples have much more 'possibilities for scenery and enjoyment in the long run over the 4'x8' table top.

Track doesn't rust anymore. It can tarnish. There are many ways to clean track and keep it nice. While I don't have a use for any track with molded on ballast I don't get excited about someone who uses it. It is quite reliable. For realism many would use virtually any of the major brands of track made today. Atlas, Peco, Walthers come to mind, there may be one or two I've forgotten. Again, if realism is your thing you will most likely choose one of these. Overall Atlas, especially for a beginner makes a good product. Your local hobby shop can provide you with powerpack recommendations. Transformers are basically a thing of the past these days. As for code I again would have you weigh realism. Most realistic would be to use Code 83. There is a Code 70, but it is seldom recommended to beginner level modelers. Code 100 is larger and gives a "look" many are not happy with. (realism again) I would say that it is reliable and easier to work with than the smaller codes.

Lastly, I may refer you to the 'Building the Pinnacle Creek Mining & Timber Company' thread at the top of this HO Forum page. You will find many tips and ideas therein. Jim:)
 
#3
TG, You've asked many questions. Unfortunately on this or any other model railroad website you will get nearly as many answers to what is best, for example, as there are respondents. You mentioned table. This would lead us all to believe you may have build an 4'x8' piece of plywood on some legs. Some folks only have that much room and that is ok. Plenty of layout plans for that size. Many modelers have "moved on" and now build at least a U shape around some walls if they have a room. Some build very nice shelf layouts. Each of these two examples have much more 'possibilities for scenery and enjoyment in the long run over the 4'x8' table top.

Track doesn't rust anymore. It can tarnish. There are many ways to clean track and keep it nice. While I don't have a use for any track with molded on ballast I don't get excited about someone who uses it. It is quite reliable. For realism many would use virtually any of the major brands of track made today. Atlas, Peco, Walthers come to mind, there may be one or two I've forgotten. Again, if realism is your thing you will most likely choose one of these. Overall Atlas, especially for a beginner makes a good product. Your local hobby shop can provide you with powerpack recommendations. Transformers are basically a thing of the past these days. As for code I again would have you weigh realism. Most realistic would be to use Code 83. There is a Code 70, but it is seldom recommended to beginner level modelers. Code 100 is larger and gives a "look" many are not happy with. (realism again) I would say that it is reliable and easier to work with than the smaller codes.

Lastly, I may refer you to the 'Building the Pinnacle Creek Mining & Timber Company' thread at the top of this HO Forum page. You will find many tips and ideas therein. Jim:)
Thank you for the help, you've definetely sent me in the right direction :) I'll stick to Code 83. I'm a novice at HO stuff but I've had my fair share of O scale.
 

railfan

junk collector
#4
There are a bunch of these very popular MRC brand powerpacks on ebay for around $25 to $60. Brand new ones in a store are more like $60-$100. The digitrax unit in the center is digital DCC. The other three I was refering to are normal analog DC power.


 
#5
Thanks for the help Railfan. Are those power packs generally compatible with any track?
I think I'm going to stick with the Life-Like Power Loc track, so I hope one of those power packs is compatible. Also, how much power to they give? Around how much power is a good amount for a powerpack? For example, I use two O scale controllers: A Z-1000, which is 100 watts, and can handle any train with accurate speed control; and a ZW-80, which is only 80 watts and can only handle very small engines.
I want a controller that performs well!
Thanks for the help!
Does anyone out there have anything to say about the Power Loc track by Life-Like?
 

santafewillie

Well-Known Member
#6
There are no compatibility issues between track and power packs. All brands work with all other brands. Power packs simply supply power and track provides a place to run. The same is true of non-molded ballast track, they are generally compatible with each other. Atlas , Peco etc will work with each other. There are some differences between each brands profiles, but not enough to make a difference. At least in my experience there isn't.
willie
 

railfan

junk collector
#7
I have ran up to seven N scale locomotives lashed together at once just to test the powerpack and it seemed to have no problem but got a bit warmer than usual. That was a tech-2 2500 like the one on the right of the digitrax unit. So it should be plenty of power for two or three HO engines I would guess. It gives a rating in terms of VA. It says total output 16VA (volt-amps). It has outputs for layout accessories as well.

The life-like power lock track is from what I've noticed......rarely seen, rarely used by anyone, not popular, not much available, some on ebay perhaps. I use atlas and peco code 80 flex track and sectional. I've never seen or handled any power lock in person. It may be fine.
 
#8
I use atlas and peco code 80 flex track and sectional. I've never seen or handled any power lock in person. It may be fine.

You can not believe the day I've just been through! Literally 4 hours on my computer, researching track. At first, I thought I was going to choose the life like power loc. Then I thought I'd use the Kato track. Now I'm stuck on using atlas code 80 track. I won't use the flex track, because it seems like atlas flex track doesn't like to hold it's shape. I don't know how to go about gluing the track down. Maybe i'll figure it out, but if I don't, it'd be a lot of money wasted.
Regardless, how to I connect the atlas code 80 track?! Do they have clips? Do I have to solder EVERY SINGLE track to one another???
 

logandsawman

Well-Known Member
#9
I used the Bachman power lock (ballasted) track on my old 4x8 and couldn't really complain. I had six turnouts and one required some tiny shims for the wheels to track, came a touch defective out of the package. Generally, all the trains ran smoothly when the track was clean.

It seemed like I had to frequently clean the track, like it would get a buildup of tarnish on it. I used a liquid product for cleaning and maybe that was part of the problem. When I used my heavier locomotive, it didn't seem like the dirty track mattered as much. With the little 0-6-0, it had to be really clean to run smoothly around the track.

For my new layout I am using Atlas code 100. Mainly, because it will not be seen because it will be suspended and because it is the most inexpensive; only about $89 for 25 3' sections of flex. I am going to use very small nails or screws to fasten the track down, because I anticipate taking the whole layout apart at some future date.

logandsawman
 

railfan

junk collector
#10
Then I thought I'd use the Kato track. Now I'm stuck on using atlas code 80 track. I won't use the flex track, because it seems like atlas flex track doesn't like to hold it's shape. I don't know how to go about gluing the track down. Maybe i'll figure it out, but if I don't, it'd be a lot of money wasted.
Regardless, how to I connect the atlas code 80 track?! Do they have clips? Do I have to solder EVERY SINGLE track to one another???
People who use kato uni-track really love it.....but it's more expensive then atlas sectional or flex. The built-in roadbed on kato and bachmann track does not look realisitic.......but it's easy to put together. I'd recommend kato over bachmann from what I've heard. It has a greater selection of curve radius, and turnouts.

Using latex painters caulk (get the kind WITHOUT silicone) to hold track is recommended by many modelers here. Using a moderate amount should hold the track and allow it to be pulled up later. I haven't glued my track down yet, but I have the latex caulk ready to do it. Unless applied very carefully, the track will need to be ballasted to hide the white caulk.

Sectional and flex track uses metal rail joiners to connect the sections together and hold them in alignment. You don't need to solder any at all if you don't want to. Your trains will still run. But it would help reliability and performance to solder some of them eventually. Having feeder wires soldered to the track every 2-3 feet is probably more important than soldering rail joiners. There are numerous different opinions on soldering rail joiners and how many feeders to use. You can find other threads on these here using the search feature.

Right now my layout is 96 pieces of atlas sectional track with only four feeders at evenly spaced intervals. The train runs fine. The only soldered rail joiners are where those feeders are soldered to the bottoms of the rail joiners. Eventually I plan to have feeders about every three feet. This keeps the voltage consistent everywhere around the track.

**Flex track requires more time and expertise. You would be wise to begin with sectional. Later you might want flex track as you advance in the hobby.
 
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#11
People who use kato uni-track really love it.....but it's more expensive then atlas sectional or flex. The built-in roadbed on kato and bachmann track does not look realisitic.......but it's easy to put together. I'd recommend kato over bachmann from what I've heard. It has a greater selection of curve radius, and turnouts.
Thanks, this is the info I really needed. I've only ever used HO trains when I was younger (6, 7, 8 years old), and the track and trains always proved unreliable. I may not have taken the best care of the tracks (he he), but I simply don't want to put the time and money into a layout just for the track to get dirty. ONE LAST QUESTION:
Does the Kato track come with nickel silver rails? I hear they produce the most conductivity. That always helps :)
Should I buy Kato track from Trainworldonline.com (I live in NY)? Or straight from Kato's website? Or is there another website out there that is better stocked with Kato track than trainworld?
Thank you all so much for the help! I really appreciate, and I'll make sure to post some pictures of my layout in progress :)
 

trailrider

Well-Known Member
#12
You do NOT need to glue flex track down to have it work. I simply use track nails, which go through holes in the middle of the ties spaced every so often (about 6-inches apart). I use cork roadbed under flex and sectional track, nailing the ties into the cork. These nails are slightly longer than the cork plus the plastic ties, and I will push it into the plywood sub-roadbed underneath. Gluing the cork to the sub-roadbed isn't a bad idea. I've generally used an industrial stapler with 5/8" long legs to staple the cork to the plywood. That way I can move the roadbed as necessary while laying out the track. You can mark the plywood along side the cork and then glue the cork to the sub-roadbed using a number of different calks, glues, etc.

For tight curves, Atlas sectional track comes in 18", 22" and even down to 15" radius curves. Shinohara (sold by Walthers) also makes other radii curved sections. I use Code 100 (.100" high) track for better reliability with a bunch of old rolling stock I've collected over the past 60 years. Nowadays, many folks starting out will go with Code 85 (.85" high rails), which is slightly closer to the heaviest prototype size rail. There is also Code 75, and even some Code 55 track, but for main line Code 85 or Code 100 is the most reliable. Code 100 may be more readily available and possibly a bit less expensive than Code 85. All this rail nowadays is made from nickel-silver, which is less prone to oxidize than the old copper rail stuff.
 

railfan

junk collector
#13
Does the Kato track come with nickel silver rails? I hear they produce the most conductivity. That always helps :)
Should I buy Kato track from Trainworldonline.com (I live in NY)? Or straight from Kato's website? Or is there another website out there that is better stocked with Kato track than trainworld?
:)
Yes Kato is nickel silver and a fine choice! Here is another source to consider for kato HO uni-track.....I use this one often with great results:

http://www.modeltrainstuff.com/HO-S...tm?searching=Y&sort=3&cat=1966&show=30&page=1
 
#14
Thank you all once again for the help! My knowledge is slowly growing! One clarifying question: For the atlas track, do I have to solder wires to it in order to connect the transformer to the track? Or does the atlas code 83 track come with a little connector track, similar to Bachmann E-Z track, that has a socket for a wire that goes to the transformer?
That's all I need to know! I think I may end up with the Atlas code 83 track. I'll get some roadbed for it, nail it down, it all sounds pretty easy. As long as it looks good, I plan for my layout to be permanent.
Thanks to everyone for the help, I REALLY appreciate it!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

railfan

junk collector
#16
in order to connect the transformer to the track? ... a socket for a wire that goes to the transformer?
By transformer, I mean controller. I know "transformers" are outdated, and controller is a more modern term. I mean a modern controller :)
You can buy these ready to use rail joiners with wires pre-soldered onto them. If you can solder, it's easy to make them out of two different colors of wire like red and white, to help maintain correct polarity. It's good to have several pairs of these and use them as feeders spread out evenly around your layout. You connect a trunk line (minimum 14 gauge wire) to the controller outputs. Then the feeders branch off the trunk to several points around the loop of track.

The trunk lines should be 12 or 14 gauge. The feeders 18 or 20 gauge. DON'T WORRY! You can get by with one simple pair of wires on a smaller loop of track until you understand the trunk and feeder system. :D:D




Also......if you can solder, you can just solder the wires onto the sides of the track instead of the rail joiners. Either way is fine.


Then there's these with screw terminals or some kind of connectors:
 
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#17
It's good to have several pairs of these and use them as feeders spread out evenly around your layout. You connect a trunk line (minimum 14 gauge wire) to the controller outputs. Then the feeders branch off the trunk to several points around the loop of track.

The trunk lines should be 12 or 14 gauge. The feeders 18 or 20 gauge. DON'T WORRY! You can get by with one simple pair of wires on a smaller loop of track until you understand the trunk and feeder system. :D:D




Also......if you can solder, you can just solder the wires onto the sides of the track instead of the rail joiners. Either way is fine.


Then there's these with screw terminals or some kind of connectors:
This is also very helpful, and you've pretty much sold me on the Atlas code 83 track! However, can you explain what I just quoted? "The trunk lines should be 12 or 14 gauge. The feeders 18 or 20 gauge. DON'T WORRY! You can get by with one simple pair of wires on a smaller loop of track until you understand the trunk and feeder system". If this isn't important unless I have a huge layout, well I don't have a large layout and never will. I literally have a 4 x 8 table with 4 ovals on it, one inside another. That's all. Will I be good with just one of these little clips per oval?
 

railfan

junk collector
#18
This is also very helpful, and you've pretty much sold me on the Atlas code 83 track! However, can you explain what I just quoted? "The trunk lines should be 12 or 14 gauge. The feeders 18 or 20 gauge. DON'T WORRY! You can get by with one simple pair of wires on a smaller loop of track until you understand the trunk and feeder system". If this isn't important unless I have a huge layout, well I don't have a large layout and never will. I literally have a 4 x 8 table with 4 ovals on it, one inside another. That's all. Will I be good with just one of these little clips per oval?
Do you already own locomotives and railcars? Are they older? In N scale there is an issue with older rolling stock having larger wheel flanges that won't work with lower profile rail. In N scale that means code 55. You should probably try to find out if the difference between HO code 83 and code 100 has a similar effect with older HO wheel flanges. I don't want to be talking you into anything.......just passing on the information I have. Code 100 rail has a taller cross section than code 83. It may work better if you have older rolling stock with larger wheel flanges.

Once you have your track setup, you could use a digital multi-tester at a few spots around your layout to test for voltage drops. It might be good to at least have a few feeders on each loop.
 
#19
Do you already own locomotives and railcars? Are they older? In N scale there is an issue with older rolling stock having larger wheel flanges that won't work with lower profile rail. In N scale that means code 55. You should probably try to find out if the difference between HO code 83 and code 100 has a similar effect with older HO wheel flanges. I don't want to be talking you into anything.......just passing on the information I have. Code 100 rail has a taller cross section than code 83. It may work better if you have older rolling stock with larger wheel flanges.

Once you have your track setup, you could use a digital multi-tester at a few spots around your layout to test for voltage drops. It might be good to at least have a few feeders on each loop.
Thanks, that's a good idea (the digital multi-tester)! I'll look into that. I don't really have my engines yet, I plan to buy them in the near-far future, so I don't think that'll be a problem. I decided on the Kato uni track for my outer oval, and the Atlas code 83 track for the inner oval. I did this because I only need to ballast the outside track, and I've been able to sort of ballast Lionel Fastrack, which is O scale track with a road bed. The road bed helps with the ballasting, and Kato makes ballast that matches the uni track road bed. I think my layout will look great! Thanks folks for all the help.
- TG
 





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