Author Topic: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?  (Read 2881 times)

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Maletrain

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Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« on: December 30, 2016, 08:14:08 PM »
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It seems that we can easily get Code 40 rail in N scale and even larger scale track, but the smallest rail in Z scale track that I can find is code 55.  Does somebody know of a source for Z scale track with code 40 rail?  Hand laying it seems like a substantial PITA/fingers.

Chris333

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2016, 09:15:45 PM »
+1
Preach on brother Beavis.

jmlaboda

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2016, 10:06:11 PM »
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You might be able to get code 40 rail easily but manufacturers of Z track likely can not.  Tooling up for such would be costly and without proof that such would sell well... (a lot of modelers still are using code 70 in N...)

peteski

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2016, 10:27:08 PM »
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You might be able to get code 40 rail easily but manufacturers of Z track likely can not.  Tooling up for such would be costly and without proof that such would sell well... (a lot of modelers still are using code 70 in N...)

You mean code 80, right? Shinohara used code 70 and it was a big improvement over code 80 already.
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robert3985

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2016, 05:07:48 AM »
+1
It seems that we can easily get Code 40 rail in N scale and even larger scale track, but the smallest rail in Z scale track that I can find is code 55.  Does somebody know of a source for Z scale track with code 40 rail?  Hand laying it seems like a substantial PITA/fingers.

I agree that it doesn't make a lot of sense to manufacture Z scale track using anything but code 40 rails, unfortunately, the companies who DO make it continue to produce it in grossly oversized rail sizes for whatever mysterious reason.  Truth is, even code 40 is grossly oversized, but it's the smallest rail (with a rail-like cross section) that's available.

A couple of other problems with the appearance of code 40 rail is that it's HO scale rail, so the rail head and foot are much bigger (broader) than either N-scale or Z-scale rail should be.  Once again, it's the best that's available, so I'll stop pointing out its faults since there's nothing I can do about it, unless I wanted to grind the railhead down like Ed Nadolski does.

Truth is, maybe hand-laying is not "a PITA/fingers".  Haha...funny  :trollface:, and this talking point is pretty common, but until you give it a try, you really don't know. Yes, it is more work than RTR track, but the results are well worth the extra time and effort, especially if you are initially complaining about available Z-scale track's poor appearance already. What is a PITA to others, may not be that for you.

I don't have any experience hand-laying Z-scale track, but I have decades of experience hand-laying N-scale track...code 70, code 55 and code 40...and it appears to me that the only difference between laying N-scale track and Z-scale track are (1) tie density, and (2) track clearances.

There are a couple of things as far as expenses are concerned you need to know right off the bat.  (1) Hand-laying turnouts saves you a sh*t-load of money, and (2) Hand-laying track costs a LOT more than commercial RTR track...unless you have the equipment, patience and skills to cut your own PCB and wooden Z-scale ties.  Rail isn't that expensive.

Also, as most model railroaders know nowadays, if you feel like you need special tools, jigs & fixtures and products to make hand-laying easier, then the costs go up dramatically.  However ALL of your track laying is possible using a few simple wooden jigs and fixtures, and a few simple tools that you may already have.  Fortunately, Fast Tracks makes jigs & fixtures and specialized tools that WILL make things go easier, faster and be very consistent.

If you decide to go to their site and look around, you'll note that in addition to jigs, fixtures & tools for hand-laid turnouts in Z-scale, they also have straight & curved track jigs & fixtures in mainline, branchline & siding tie spacings, as well as all the materials you will need.  You'll immediately get the correct impression the level of scale appearance of your Z-scale trackwork can be vastly improved using Fast Track products, even though their products are not strictly necessary.  It's an interesting and informative site, so have fun:  http://www.handlaidtrack.com/

Before I just automatically thought that hand-laying was "a PITA/fingers", I'd give it a try by buying a yard of code 40 rail (unweathered) some Z-scale PCB ties and wooden ties, and making a little test diorama and seeing for yourself if hand-laying track is worth the effort.

Some people think hand-laying track & turnouts IS worth the effort, others don't.  Personally, I do...track & turnouts in code 40, turnouts in code 55 both in N-scale.

Probably the most attractive thing for me that prompts me to hand-lay my turnouts is that I am not a slave to what any manufacturer thinks I need as far as turnouts are concerned.  I can build a 6.5 Wye, or a #11 turnout, or a three-way or curved turnout...anything that I want, or that fits my desire to model the prototype I've chosen.  Can't do that with the few commercially available turnouts in N-scale code 55 and none are available in code 40 in N-scale.  Z-scale has the same problem, but even moreso.

Additionally, my turnouts are the correct prototype proportions, are much more reliable, smoother and I can repair them in-place if the need arises.

If you want the best-looking, best-running track in Z-scale, then you're gonna have to build it yourself.  Simple.

If you decide it's too much of "a PITA/fingers" for you, then you're relegating your Z-scale model railroading to a lesser degree of excellence. Simple.

The choice is yours.

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore

« Last Edit: January 02, 2017, 01:22:58 AM by robert3985 »

pnolan48

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2016, 12:10:56 PM »
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I've gotten into handlaying track through a back door--installing track on my ferries and associated docks. Bare code 40 rail is not that expensive. I had a big bag of N scale ties from many years ago. I haven't needed Z scale ties, but could probably just gang cut them on the hobby table saw. All but one of the ferries have grooves for track, so the only problem is keeping the gauge, as I build in some wiggle room. Haven't done switches yet in these scales, but they were not hard in S scale without much more than a file and a good ruler.

BAZ-man

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2016, 03:58:40 PM »
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Certainly a personal taste and not a commercial issue. When 'standards' have been around for so long, sorta hard to change. Look at MTL with their *way* off Harbor Mist Gray - they won't change because customers will complain the newer correct ones don't match. Reliability and minimal customer service are mantras of the industry.  While the flanges would clear (roughly .023" below the rail head leaves about .015 to spike it down. Wheel tread is *wide* in Z so more tolerant to other scales for random track gauge (which there *will* be with hand laid, gauged or not).

Here is an outstanding chart made up by David K Smith, measuring all the wheel sets:


MTL's published dimensions:
[ Guests cannot view attachments ]

Atlas 2810 Z flex didn't go 'proto', like MTL and used their 'economy of scale' N rail with its N head width. But it is essentially the same as Peco, märklin and Rokuhan.

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Sokramiketes

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2016, 04:49:14 PM »
+1
I'm not sure its mysterious.  Atlas had the Code 55 rail already and explored the possibility of Z scale track with it.  It's pretty nice, and definitely better than the short MTL pieces with the donut ties.

Micro-Engineering has the Code 40 rail, but when I explored the possibility with them, they didn't have production time available for molding flex track with it.

The MTL rail may be the biggest mystery.  I'm not sure its from another source... so if they did indeed start from scratch, why did they pick Code 60+?

I'm happy enough with the Atlas to start making progress again.  Lack of track was holding me back in Z.
Mike

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Dave V

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2016, 05:20:12 PM »
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Could it simply be that they're worried that code 40 flex wouldn't be robust enough for mainstream use?
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Lemosteam

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2016, 05:54:24 PM »
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Thought somebody here was designing flex track ties that slid over the lower flanges of the rail. I can't remember what size rail he was going for?

narrowminded

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2016, 06:06:47 PM »
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Could it simply be that they're worried that code 40 flex wouldn't be robust enough for mainstream use?

I'd have to guess that this was a factor in the original decision.  Then the die was cast and there hasn't been sufficient reason or volume to change it.  I actually could see myself making the same decision under these conditions and was responsible for moving product. 

Could the rail be pulled out of the ties and code 40 rail slid into one of the tie sets?  Even a tad loose it could probably be tightened up in some acceptable way.  Drops of CA maybe?
Mark G.

robert3985

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2017, 07:49:36 PM »
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Could it simply be that they're worried that code 40 flex wouldn't be robust enough for mainstream use?

I'd have to guess that this was a factor in the original decision.  Then the die was cast and there hasn't been sufficient reason or volume to change it.  I actually could see myself making the same decision under these conditions and was responsible for moving product.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  Who knows?  You're just guessing.   Define "mainstream use" please.  How "robust" does track need to be?  How do we measure and quantify "robust"???

Having run N-scale code 40 track (RailCraft, ME and hand-laid) on Ntrak, portable modules and now on a portable, sectional layout...I have not found it any less "robust" than RTR RailCraft, ME or hand-laid track. 

Since I break down and transport my sectional layout to as many as three shows a year, instead of having a permanent layout where I can limit visitors and more easily control the environment over banging around in a U-haul trailer for hundreds of miles several times a year, the "common sense" conclusion that many model railroaders would make, would be that I would be repairing my code 40 trackage much more than I do my code 55 trackage, since the smaller rail makes many model railroaders think it won't be "...robust enough for mainstream use..."   

In my 30 years of code 40 experience with code 40 trackage installed on portable sections/modules, there is NO DIFFERENCE in the amount of damage, or extent of repairs that I have to make to my code 40 trackage...both hand-laid and RTR track..as opposed to my code 55 trackage...both hand-laid and RTR.

The one area where there IS a big difference in breakage is at the closure points of my hand-laid turnouts.  I repair several of my code 55 turnouts before a show...every time...because the closure points break off the PCB throw bar after months of use.  I have never had to do that with my code 40 turnouts...any of them.  I've solved that problem in the last five years, so now my code 55 turnouts are just as robust and trouble-free as my code 40 turnouts, and the solution was directly related to the size of the rail...the bigger code 55 railed turnouts induced stresses at critical solder joints that the smaller code 40 rail did not. 

Evidently, my bigger railed turnouts were less robust than my identically constructed smaller railed turnouts...MUCH less robust.

So, in my three decades of experience, the talking point about code 40 being less "robust" than code 55, or code 70, or code 80 has been proven to be false.

Additionally, since my layout is portable, the track work is subject to much harsher and more damaging forces and environments than "mainstream use" generates.

If I were dropping anvils, or ball-peen sledge hammers on my track a lot...then, bigger rail would probably be more robust than smaller rail.  However, from my real-world experience, I have not found code 40 trackage to be less robust whatsoever than trackage built from bigger rails.  Just the opposite in fact.

Model railroading involves a lot of fragile products being shipped all over the world, and model track is NOT one of the most fragile items. 

If I were to "guess" why manufacturers often make substandard model railroad products, my first "guess" would be that many of their people responsible for the design and execution of their products, are NOT active model railroaders.

The reason I say that their reasons are "mysterious" for continuing to use substandard big rail for RTR Z-scale track, is because I can easily rebut each and every argument in favor of toy-like, big-railed track.  In the case of Z-scale track, it costs no more to design good looking, functional code 40 track than it does to design an inferior product.

If (1) Development and execution costs are not a factor, and (2) Shipping losses are not a factor, and (3) Product longevity in general use is not inferior...and (4) The product looks exponentially better than what is commonly out there...then it continues to be a "mystery" to me why various manufacturers have not started producing code 40 Z-scale RTR trackage products.  This applies to N-scale also...in both code 55 and 40.

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore
« Last Edit: January 02, 2017, 01:32:27 AM by robert3985 »

amato1969

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2017, 09:48:19 PM »
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Bob, great summary of your experience - thank you!  I'm about to build a proof-of-concept module, taking the plunge into code 40 turnouts and track.

  Frank

John

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2017, 07:10:16 AM »
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some people use the term "bullet proof" for track .. I think  that means "in guage"

davefoxx

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Re: Why not code 40 rail for Z scale track?
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2017, 10:17:56 AM »
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I, for one, don't believe the hype that Code 55 or even Code 40 is fragile.  Heck, just last night while installing track, I found a hump in one rail at the point end of a Code 55 turnout.  Knowing that wouldn't wasn't going to help keep the trains on the track, I took the BFH ("Big "F***ing Hammer") to that soldered rail joint with a couple of good whacks.  Problem fixed.  I didn't break anything.  It's not the first time that I have beat, filed, and cut Code 55 track.

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