I haven't seen anything identical to Gargraves track in HO scale. In your collective opinion, what would be the highest quality HO scale track?
I currently have an oval of Bachmann Easy Track - kind of like HO scale FasTrack. K-Line also makes a similar track with a somewhat better looking roadbed, IMO. But what if track without the roadbed. What is the best stuff?
Well, you wouldn't see anything like Gargraves in HO. Gargraves is three-rail track. Except for Marklin, all HO track is two-rail.
There is no significant difference among brands of standard sectional track (without the plastic ballast+tie base). So long as the rail size is the same, they are interchangeable. They differ in tie colour (black, and various shades of dark brown), and in range of radii, straight track lengths, turnouts, crossings, and accessories with built-in track. Flex track to match is available from several makers as well.
In my experience, they are no significant differences among the ballasted section brands of track. They are of course not interchangeable.
What exactly are you trying to do/build?
You will find most available brands listed on Walthers website. Or buy one of their catalogs.
Oh, I see, the 5-rail track is a control section. Not exactly what I would call "5-rail track".... :-)
FWIW, for O scale I prefer Atlas O scale 2-rail track. But GarGraves's use of wood ties is good. The closest thing in HO was Truscale, which had a solid milled wood base with ties milled into the top, and the rails spiked to it. Truscale also offered the base alone, and the base without the milled ties.
Sorry I wasn't clear. I was speaking of the way the track is made. Natural wood ties. GarGraves, BTW, isn't just three-rail track. They also make two-rail (O Guage) track, as well as four and five rail track for special purposes.
Then your best bet in HO is hand-laid track: you glue down the ties, and spike the rail to it. It's slightly more complicated in practice, but it can look good. Almost as good as painted and weathered plastic tie track, actually. :-)
Seriously, there is no wood-tie based sectional or flex track available in HO. The main reason is purely mechanical: wood just doesn't have the strength in such small sizes-- it too easily splits along the grain lines. (Note that both ties and rail are oversize in GarGraves track.) You might be able to use resin-impregnated wood, but that would raise the cost considerably. Also, wood grain doesn't scale down. If you can see the wood grain effect in a 1:87 scale model, it's too large.
Have a look at MicroEngineering weathered rail flex track in code 70 (0.070" high rail.) It's about as realistic as ready-to-use track can get. A little judicious air-brushing, suitably coloured ballast, and you have the most realistic track available in any scale. They also make a very nice concrete tie track in a light grey plastic. Looks just like freshly laid track.
I have the gray EZ Track now. The problem I have found with such tracks is that there are always manufacturing variations in the plastic ballast that cause the track sections not to line up well. I've never had a Lionel train car derail on FasTrack. But I have had plenty of derailments on the Bachmann EZ Track (and random uncouplings, damnit...)
Luckily the last two cars are Army troop carriers filled with guys ready to help. The last car is a troop carrier/hospital car (Model Power). It was tragic when a random uncoupling caused it to fall off the back only to be rear-ended and knocked off the track by the loco on the next pass.
Unfortunately the hospital car had been carrying the only medical personnel and they were all killed.
And here I had them looking in the wrong place. My explanation to visitors as to my somewhat eclectic choice of cars (including a searchlight car and two Army troop carriers, along with a Coca-Cola tank car - because Army guys get thirsty...) was that the train was searching for Osama bin Laden in the Christmas tree. (Well, they haven't found him yet, so he could be there. Just think of the layout I could create with the 25 million dollar reward.)
It hadn't occurred to me that Al-Qaeda may have had an agent on the train.
Am I the only one who invents stories to go with the trains?
But realistically, the Model Power cars came with the hook couplers. I installed the Bachmann style couplers on them. But I have run into trouble based on the order in which the trains are coupled. All other cars (Bachmann and Athearn) had Bachmann style couplers, but the couplers don't always line up correctly due to variations in the height of the cars. One little bump, and the cars can become uncoupled.
I like the Bachmann style couplers. They look more realistic (like the real ones that guaranteed that most yard men eventually lost a thumb.)
Of course the layout is still on carpeting. About the lowest pile carpeting there is, but that is the most likely culprit for the bumps.
No. One club railroad had an elaborate history of the railroad, including mergers and acquisitions, old paint schemes and new paint schemes. During operations each train had a schedule, a name or number, and a purpose (express passenger, way freight, coal drag, etc) For that matter John Armstrong always had a lot of back story for his Canadeiga Southern railroad.
The knuckle couplers MUST all be at the same height, otherwise you get random uncoupling. You can see couple height mismatches by eye, either by placing the eye way down on the carpet, or placing a bit of test track up on the table. A small washer under the trucks will raise the low couplers. Athearn cars are often low. Just remove the truck screw, slip a washer under the truck, and replace the screw. Washers can be obtained from your local hardware store. Ask for number 6 flat washers. Coupler height gages are available, but in a burst of economy and do-it-yourself I made one from a block of pine, with a coupler secured to the top with a wood screw. The NMRA gage also has a coupler height hole in it.
The Janney automatic coupler was considered a great safety improvement over the link and pin couplers it replaced in the 1880's. Link and pin couplers required the brakeman to step inbetween the cars to couple and uncouple. One mistake on the engineer's part would ram the cars together and crush the unlucky brakeman to death. At least the Janney could be uncoupled from the side, and usually would couple by just pushing the cars together.
The benefit to carpet running is you get to change the track layout as often as you like with out doing carpentry or even pulling up track nails.