My son is going to be 4 years old in January. He wants his first
"real" train for Christmas. I was going to buy him an "O" scale
Lionel train but, I hate the look of both their regular and FasTrack
track. I found some Atlas O track that I liked but when I called the
store, they indicated that it would be a bad investment because
everyone is switching the the FasTrack. Is this true?
Frank T. Lee
I would differ from the above comments. Lionel Fastrack is well designed and is
great for a layout around the tree or for a permanent layout. The minimum
diameter is 036 and allows you to run most of the current offerings in O three
rail with the exception of the some of the scale engines. It is easy to put
together and we have been using it at TMCC demos around the country for the
past year. We have never had a problem. It has excellent electrical
conductivity. Lionel is also expanding the offerings to enclude a number of
remote switches and additional curve diameters. The only complaint might be
that when operating a layout there is noise generated because of the hollow
plastic base. This track is not prototypical but then most three rail track is
Atlas track and switches are also great if you are planning a permanent layout.
Since they do not have a road bed if operated directly on carpet around the
tree you run the risk of fibers from the carpet getting into the gears.
MTH RealTrax is also good for a layout around the tree but my experience has
been that sometimes the rigid design of the rail tends to stick up at the
joints making operation of the trains difficult. I know a lot of people are
using this track but that has been my experience. It is also noisy because of
the plastic road bed.
On my permanent layout I use Curtis custom track and switches along with
Vinylbed for the road bed.
Thanks for the reply. Yes, my son likes to have many different
layouts on his Thomas trains so, I would bet he would like the same
for the "real" train set. Atlas-O track is not good for this?
For a 4 year old, much of the fun of trains is putting the track
together and taking it apart and then putting it together again.
Creating a new track plan is great fun. Turnouts and crossovers are
very satisfying track pieces for children. There is a lot of play value
in sectional track.
People who operate on the floor using traditional tubular track
are making the switch in droves. That doesn't mean it's right for
Let me ask a three basic questions you're store (I will not call
them a train shop if they didn't ask these questions) should have
1. Will you be operating trains a) primarily on the floor, or b)
on a permanent table?
If the answer is 'a' then FasTrack*, with it's plastic roadbed,
is the way to go.
The roadbed will keep dust and carpet fibers out of your loco
(always a bad mix). And more importantly, if you want to keep
running trains on the floor, it keeps oil from the loco off the
2. If the answer to question 1 was 'b', will the track a) be
getting reconfigured into new layouts regularly, or b) will it be
fastened down in a more-or-less permanent configuration?
If the answer is 'a', then once again FasTrack is your answer.
While the ends have a lock fastener of sorts, the rail joiners on
Atlas-O track do not hold up well to repeated (as in several
times a week) assembly/disassembly.
On the other hand, if the track will be fastened down, Atlas-O on
cork is the way to go. Both from a looks perspective and, more
importantly, a noise perspecitive. When fastened directly to a
plywood table, or around the room shelf, FasTrack is unbelievably
3. You say, "I hate the look of both their regular and FasTrack
track." Which begs the question, is this actually for a) your
son, or b) yourself?
If 'a', and the answers to questions 1 and 2 were 'a', then go
with the FasTrack.
If 'b', save yourself a lot of frustration and go with the
table/shelf and Atlas-O from the git-go.
Then get a transformer that lets you set a top speed to keep the
loco on the track, then watch your son let 'em rip. Under your
supervision of course.
Head Rust Scraper
KL&B Eastern Lines RR Museum
* Some folks may suggest MTH RealTrax, which also has a built in
roadbed. If your 4 year old is the "hands on" type, FasTrack is
easier for young hands to assemble and disassemble. Also, for
whatever reason, my personal experience has been RealTrax wears
loco wheel flanges down to a knife edge over time. No other track
I've used seems to do this.
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