Off The Shelf Track Compatibility

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Time to lay some track.  After reading through the forums and a few trial runs, I've decided to use Atlas code 83 flex and Walthers code 83 turnouts.  It will be my first room sized layout and I feel these are good choices for my budget and free time.

But before I place my order, I still have a few questions:  Can I neglect the difference in tie sizes between the Atlas flex and Walthers turnouts and is there a compatible low profile rail joiner for these products?

From my test mock-ups, I'm tempted to not shim the turnouts feeling that once joined and ballasted that the difference won't be noticable.

As for rail joiners, I was settled on Micro Engineering joiners but then noticed one catalog stating that these are not for use with Atlas code 83 flex track.  Unfortunately, my local hobby shop doesn't stock any Micro Engineering products and I'd rather not mail order a bag just for testing.

Just a few details to settle, hopefully some good discussion will help get the track gang to work soon.

Thanks in advance - Jeff, Proto-Freelancing the L&NE in HO.

 




Track Compatibility

You can join the two without shimming, but you will have noticable dips where the turnouts are located. Shimming is not hard at all and really requires little effort. The results are worth it. Also, Walthers 83 rail has a fairly wide base, wider than ME rail and wider I think than Atlas. Standard Atlas #170 joiners will obviously work, but as for low pro you can try the Peco 83 joiners. You will have to spread them a bit but they should work.

Donnell

Rio Grande Dan's picture

Code 83 is code 83 or .83

Code 83 is code 83 or .83 thousands if you measure it with a micrometer top of rail to bottom of rail it is an NMRA standard so if one rail is taller than the other you bought the wrong size or it was mis-marked.

As far as rail joiners you can just use Atlas code 83 rail joiners. I would make sure the rails are snug and solder every joint to keep the electrical contact constant.

The one difference between Code 83 Walters and code 83 Atlas may be the width of the rails on the bottom where they connect with the rail joiners. The Atlas may be slightly wider but the height of both will be .83 or code 83.

Dan

Rio Grande Dan

You can also get away with

You can also get away with Atlas N gauge joiners for code 83, and they are much less expensive than ME's.

Steve

Jamnest's picture

Atlas Code 83

I use Atlas Code 83 flex track with Atlas Code 83 turnouts and Walthers Code 83 turnouts with no problems.  I use walthers Code 83 rail joiners.

Jim

Modeling the Kansas City Southern (fall 1981 - spring 1982) HO scale

 

wp8thsub's picture

Re: Off The Shelf Track Compatibility

Unless something has changed very recently, Atlas and Walthers/Shinohara use somewhat different thickness ties.  One of the layouts in my weekly work group has Atlas 83 on the mains, with Walthers 83 turnouts, and we had to shim all the turnouts to ensure proper alignment between the two.  The difference WAS enough to be an issue - about the thickness of cardstock from Walthers Cornerstone structure kit boxes which we cut apart for the purpose.  This was too much to ignore for reliability's sake while having the thinner turnouts float between the flex track sections.

In addition, the rails are of different shapes.  Micro Engineering code 83 joiners don't like the Walthers rail, and definitely don't like Atlas, to the point of being essentially unusable.  The Atlas N scale code 80 joiners will work if you pry them a bit before sliding onto the rail (they work OK as-is on Micro Engineering code 83).  You may encounter some misalignment between the different shape railheads, but this can be mitigated with careful work and some filing.

Frankly, as someone who has installed a lot of HO flex track and turnouts, I would strongly consider using Micro Engineering or Walthers code 83 flex track if you're going with the Walthers turnouts.  Micro Engineering dealers will often give a good discount that brings ME track in line with Atlas on price (but also note that ME rail still doesn't match the cross section of Walthers 83 - this is the combination I'm using though).  Sure, you can make Atlas and Walthers work together, but it's extra work to get the installation really perfect.

Rob Spangler  MRH Blog

Rio Grande Dan's picture

I may be wrong but from what

I may be wrong but from what I understand Shinohara quit making model railroad track in 2000 so who is making Walters track now?

I did hear the Satsuma or something like that bought out the model railroad part of Shinohara steel but that was by word of mouth. Any body know for sure?

Dan

Rio Grande Dan

+ +

Dan,

They where still making track for Walthers in 2004 when they came out with the DCC friendly turnouts.  They make  and sell  the  code 100 and code 70 under the Shinohara name, The code 83 was made exclusively for Walthers by Shinohara.  This still applies to this day as per the Walthers web site.  Shinohara is 669 in the Walthers manufacturer list, Walthers/Shinohara is 948.  One sells code 70, code 100, the later code 83. 

It is correct to state the tie height is different and would require shimming.  Not shimming is asking for fun down the road. If the turnout dips (by no fault of your own)  you will have erratic contact between rail and tire when passing frog or anywhere on the turnout. I too assumed it would be a non issue with glue and ballast, but do we really want to chance it ?...

 

I would strongly consider

I would strongly consider using Micro Engineering or Walthers code 83 flex track if you're going with the Walthers turnouts.

Does the overall height of the ME flex track match Walther's code 83? 

Frankly, Atlas code 83 has attractive pricing when purchased in bulk.  I will check a few ME dealers and see how they compare.  I would be nice if ME was close to Atlas. 

Walther's code 83 flex runs almost double the price of Atlas and I haven't noticed bulk pricing either.

 

Jeff Pfeiffer

wp8thsub's picture

Walthers/ME matching

"Does the overall height of the ME flex track match Walther's code 83?" 

Yes, it's very close.  I don't have to shim when mixing these two.  A couple local ME dealers will give 20% off, maybe more on big orders, which keeps ME track very competetive with Atlas, especially considering how well ME works with Walthers 83 turnouts.  Pricing on Walthers/Shinohara flex rules it out for me.  The minor differences in rail cross section vs. the Walthers 83 don't significanly alter the value proposition for using ME instead.  Note that even if you do go with ME flex, I still wouln't necessarily recommend ME's code 83 rail joiners to connect it with the Walthers 83 - the fit is VERY tight on the Walthers rail.

If you don't have an ME dealer close by, they seem pretty easy for the shops to work with.  My nearest hobby shop became a dealer when I needed a large-ish order.

Rob Spangler  MRH Blog

cv_acr's picture

Level Track

It is correct to state the tie height is different and would require shimming.  Not shimming is asking for fun down the road. If the turnout dips (by no fault of your own)  you will have erratic contact between rail and tire when passing frog or anywhere on the turnout. I too assumed it would be a non issue with glue and ballast, but do we really want to chance it ?...

Any roughness or dips in the track is also derailment and reliability problems.

Shim the ties so the rails are nice and level. Get your trackwork perfect before ballasting and finishing it. Extra time getting things right will pay off later. Cutting corners on trackwork will not make you happy in the future. You can't just roughly slap track together and expect reliable operation down the road; you're just creating potential future frustrations.


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