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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Greetings everyone! I’m planning a large layout in the Pacific Northwest (WA) this summer. After designing the layout on SCARM and working thru power needs (I’ll be running track power for the most part, but i do have a few battery powered locos), I was looking for some experience and expertise with the various track brands available now to help me with the building of my layout. I need 1000’ of track, and as much as I would like to go stainless steel, it’s pretty scarce in availability and pricey. I bought some items from a dealer who told me USAT brass track is the best. Not sure about that, that’s why I’m doing my homework. I joined a local club, but all of the members use battery power and were not able to shed any light as most of them use code 250 Sunset Valley or something very similar. My plan is to use a rail bender (Train-Li) and make large radius curves to minimize the number of joints / connection between sections. Thanks to Greg Elmassian’s website, I feel pretty comfortable with my plan and have done a few things to make sure I don’t have any major regrets. I model more modern era (1980’s and more recent) trains and use RailPro in all of my locos. I’m not looking for the most prototypical tracks, but I need something sturdy and weather proof. I’ll deal with cleaning brass for now, and may eventually switch completely over to battery power, but one thing at time for now. If you have any recommendations for brass track, i would really appreciate reading your experiences. Thanks in advance for your assistance.
 

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You did not indicate where in the Puget area you are located or your local club. I recommend that you contact Puget Sound Garden Railway Society ([email protected]) Mark Howe for assistance. PSGRS has a large membership from all around the Puget Sound area, members are very knowledgeable as a group, and can provide information specific to local conditions both weather and geographic plus they have great variety of skills.

Mike Paterson
BSRR
 

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There's no reason you cannot mix and match.

The concern is not more of the quality of the brass track, but the ties. Also the most obvious thing mixing and matching will be the different tie colors and spacing. USAT is very black, Aristo dark brown and LGB a lighter brown.

In my opinion, once ballasted, the difference is really not noticable unless you bring attention to it.

Code 250 looks more realistic, but once you have stepped on it, or had deer or other animals step on it, you see why most people stay with code 332.

I'd buy used stainless, just keep looking and do it bit by bit. If you buy 1000' of brass, you won't want to buy another 1000' of stainless.

Design your layout so you can start it and run trains with a small amount, and build as you go, then the cost of stainless won't matter.

Greg
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for your assistance. Your website has been very beneficial to me as I started in this hobby in 2018. I was told by a someone who sells a lot of USAT stuff that their brass quality is better than the rest. I didn’t buy into that statement, but thought I’d ask around. I have a mix match of LGB, Piko, and USAT track now. I find the Piko maintains its cleanliness the best, but it’s also my newest track (as of 10/21). It’s been outside the entire time, and I’m currently 3 miles east of the water line in Redondo Beach. Before I make a huge purchase, I wanted to see if anyone had any experience and offer some insight to the pro’s and cons of one brand over another. I like your idea, so I’ll keep looking for stainless steel track. I do plan on laying down a large oval once I get started. I agree, I want to have at least 1 train up and running. I can take my time and build the inner tracks and scene over time. Again, thanks you so much for your insight. I really appreciate it. Just so you know, your website has given me the knowledge to install my own decoders (even though I switched to RailPro last year) and between you and Ted, all of my USAT diesels have CamPac boxes installed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
There's no reason you cannot mix and match.

The concern is not more of the quality of the brass track, but the ties. Also the most obvious thing mixing and matching will be the different tie colors and spacing. USAT is very black, Aristo dark brown and LGB a lighter brown.

In my opinion, once ballasted, the difference is really not noticable unless you bring attention to it.

Code 250 looks more realistic, but once you have stepped on it, or had deer or other animals step on it, you see why most people stay with code 332.

I'd buy used stainless, just keep looking and do it bit by bit. If you buy 1000' of brass, you won't want to buy another 1000' of stainless.

Design your layout so you can start it and run trains with a small amount, and build as you go, then the cost of stainless won't matter.

Greg
Trainli sells brass track with the same colors as LGB for the ties and rail. Bachmann now sells brass track also. These are code 332 as is the USA and Piko..
Thanks, I’ll check them out as well
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
There's no reason you cannot mix and match.

The concern is not more of the quality of the brass track, but the ties. Also the most obvious thing mixing and matching will be the different tie colors and spacing. USAT is very black, Aristo dark brown and LGB a lighter brown.

In my opinion, once ballasted, the difference is really not noticable unless you bring attention to it.

Code 250 looks more realistic, but once you have stepped on it, or had deer or other animals step on it, you see why most people stay with code 332.

I'd buy used stainless, just keep looking and do it bit by bit. If you buy 1000' of brass, you won't want to buy another 1000' of stainless.

Design your layout so you can start it and run trains with a small amount, and build as you go, then the cost of stainless won't matter.

Greg
Thanks for your assistance. Your website has been very beneficial to me as I started in this hobby in 2018. I was told by a someone who sells a lot of USAT stuff that their brass quality is better than the rest. I didn’t buy into that statement, but thought I’d ask around. I have a mix match of LGB, Piko, and USAT track now. I find the Piko maintains its cleanliness the best, but it’s also my newest track (as of 10/21). It’s been outside the entire time, and I’m currently 3 miles east of the water line in Redondo Beach. Before I make a huge purchase, I wanted to see if anyone had any experience and offer some insight to the pro’s and cons of one brand over another. I like your idea, so I’ll keep looking for stainless steel track. I do plan on laying down a large oval once I get started. I agree, I want to have at least 1 train up and running. I can take my time and build the inner tracks and scene over time. Again, thanks you so much for your insight. I really appreciate it. Just so you know, your website has given me the knowledge to install my own decoders (even though I switched to RailPro last year) and between you and Ted, all of my USAT diesels have CamPac boxes installed.

Mike
 

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Greetings everyone! I’m planning a large layout in the Pacific Northwest (WA) this summer. After designing the layout on SCARM and working thru power needs (I’ll be running track power for the most part, but i do have a few battery powered locos), I was looking for some experience and expertise with the various track brands available now to help me with the building of my layout. I need 1000’ of track, and as much as I would like to go stainless steel, it’s pretty scarce in availability and pricey. I bought some items from a dealer who told me USAT brass track is the best. Not sure about that, that’s why I’m doing my homework. I joined a local club, but all of the members use battery power and were not able to shed any light as most of them use code 250 Sunset Valley or something very similar. My plan is to use a rail bender (Train-Li) and make large radius curves to minimize the number of joints / connection between sections. Thanks to Greg Elmassian’s website, I feel pretty comfortable with my plan and have done a few things to make sure I don’t have any major regrets. I model more modern era (1980’s and more recent) trains and use RailPro in all of my locos. I’m not looking for the most prototypical tracks, but I need something sturdy and weather proof. I’ll deal with cleaning brass for now, and may eventually switch completely over to battery power, but one thing at time for now. If you have any recommendations for brass track, i would really appreciate reading your experiences. Thanks in advance for your assistance.
Hi, this is Pete from Sunset Valley Railroad. If you are still looking for stainless then I have about 3000 feet of track in stock. Give me a call at 253 862 6748 and we can discuss your needs and discount. I am in the Seattle area if it is convenient for you to pick up.
 

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I was told by a someone who sells a lot of USAT stuff that their brass quality is better than the rest. I didn’t buy into that statement, but thought I’d ask around. I have a mix match of LGB, Piko, and USAT track now.
That is called being a salesman! I would disagree and hear me out.

I just started up in 2020 after being bored as **** stuck at home during Covid. However, I did have LGB as a kid growing up in the 80's and that is all I have ever known. Which to this day I find really strange since I grew up in New Jersey, My dad was always working in Irvington where Aristocraft was headquartered at.

In 2020 I went to a couple dozen trains shows and bought a mix of everything used and new. All code 332 but both brass and some stainless steel. USA and European ties (omg how dare I!). New and used LGB and Aristocraft. New Piko and USA Trains. USA Trains definitely feels the cheapest/thinnest brass compared to all the others. However, in my rail yard I have a dozen USA Trains switches in both 8 foot and 10 foot diameters. I have two #6's I am still trying finding a fit for. I got them much cheaper than the $200 I have seen for the Aristocraft #6.

I'm doing an outdoor track that is not on a flat surface . It's shaped like a big U. I have given up on buying curve track from all the manufacturers. I'm selling most of it and bending the rest. There's just too many trees and grades so I got a Train-Li double rail bender a few months ago.

I also bought 5 foot flex track from LGB and American Mainline. AML came pre-assembled which was nice. LGB came in a long poster tub with all the rails. Then separate boxes with the ties. It took some time to assemble them. However, I ordered the AML in September 2021 and it did not arrive until February 2022! They claimed it was stuck in a container on a cargo ship.

If I had to rank them it would be:

#1 - LGB
Come on, they're the GOAT!

#2 - PIKO
A close second though. Love their new curved switches! It's a pretty close clone of the LGB.

#3 - Aristocraft
Solely based on the high prices. I'm going to sell all I have to help fund buying more flex track.

#4 - USA Trains
Definitely feels the cheapest/thinnest brass compared to all the others.

TBD - American Mainline

N/A - Bachmann
This is based on my N scale experience with them. Their E-Z Track is not easy. It in no way snaps together as easily as Kato's Unitrack. But now I've gone with code 55 Peco flex track and some Atlas curved switches. All the Bachmann E-Z Track is getting sold and I have way too much of it.

N/A - Lionel
If I wanted Lionel I would be doing O gauge!
 

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You missed trainli track. This track when connected to each other does not leave a big space between track sections. Plus their switches when placed as parallel tracks mate perfectly without using special sections. Also flex track comes in 6 foot sections, and rails are same color as LGB as are the ties.
 

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You should rank your own top ten list. I'm sure Setscout would be interested in other peoples opinions, I know that I am.

I did not forget Train-Li - It was an option when I was looking at the flex track but they priced themselves out.

I did not forget Sunset Valley - it's Code 215/250 and too expensive for me to consider as an option.

I did not forget New Bright - It's a kids toy and made too cheaply to consider.

I have to cut costs somewhere and used track saves a ton of money. I rather spend that dough on locomotives and rolling stock anyways. Whatever l have planned for the earth moving/landscaping is already in the 5 figure range. I was not anticipating that when I started going to all those trains shows and getting hooked.

I haven't even brought up the rail clamp options or the most frustrating part so far for me - the couplers. I'm still in shock that the couplers are not universal. This is so simple with N scale, there is the old Rapido ones and now everything is prototypical knuckle couplers with magnets. I absolutely hate the LGB hook and eye. The knuckle couplers by every manufacturer is different and really not that compatible. They eventually become uncoupled when running a train for a little while. That's another suprise expense due to my ignorance. If I started over I would have just stuck with only USA Trains for all the locos and rolling stock and still do what I'm doing with the track.
 

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I’m a firm believer in LGB track and switch’s. My garden railroad is 19 years old. The only problems I have had are deer 🦌 stepping on the track and the frog on one switch separating. I believe that the switch problem is my fault. I wasn’t careful using a scotchbright pad and caught the point and pulled it loose.
 

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I have found that for open house runs that the double hook and loops are the most forgiving and trains run all day with no issues. Other than that I use the Kadees as they make many different combinations for many locos and most are under $10.00 US for a pair. I also add a chain to engine Kadees and tie the chain to a servo which my decoder can activate and give me remote uncoupling anywhere on my layout. I use the larger G for outdoors, and #1 smaller indoors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I really appreciate all of the input. For now, it looks like I'll have a mix of different track, and I'm ok with that. I like the minimal maintenance associated with stainless steel, especially for the environment where I'm moving. I learned thru trial and error to use kadees for all of my trains. When using SD70's to pull, I always make sure the first freight car attached to the loco has body mounted kadee couplers. I only have 8' curves now, and I don't run into any coupling issues when my consists are set up that way. The other cars can have truck mounted kadees and everything is fine. My longest consist so far has been 52 freight cars being pulled by 3 USAT SD70's. I can't go much longer than that on a 250' layout, but I can't wait to see what i can do on the new layout (once it's complete). Here's a random question for those of you who have deer in your environment. Do deer generally climb onto or into raised garden beds (about 30" high)? There's no vegetation in it, but there is a water feature (man made waterfall).
 

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For a new guy, you have figured a lot of stuff out already. Not many people "get" that you need a car with a body mount coupled to an SD70 (same for Dash 9). Great.

On the Kadees, you will be more successful on body mount as you get longer trains, as the truck mounts require offset couplers, and tension on the couplers naturally bends them down and puts you at risk for catching the uncoupling "rod" on a magnet or switch. Just change over bit by bit. Leave everything with stock couplers, and change to body mount kadees and have a "conversion" car with stock coupler on one end and kadee on the other.

No clue on the deer, sorry, we only have coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions and they go where they damn please.

greg
 

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1000 feet?! Perhaps you shall be off to market for some power feeders at once.

Seriously though this sounds like a great project. Lots of fun. Because you are already so invested in this, and you will be using very wide curve radii for your track, you ought to consider refitting your locomotive with some kind of super powerful motor, and get this train up to really high speeds. I would imagine that with wide curves and a well-designed locomotive, your situation could possibly support speeds over 100 inches per second?

I have LGB. I note that the LGB rolling stock that came with my set has plastic wheels. You should consider getting rid of plastic wheels, especially if you want faster speeds but in general, because it leaves a plastic residue on the rail that has to be removed with mineral spirits or some kind of buffing action you may or may not find in a track cleaning locomotive.

But since you are already making a massive layout, definitely a chance for you to do some cool things with this project.
 
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