N Scale Flex Track Comparison Guide

track1Here is a breakdown of the main N scale flex track options available as well as some other options. I personally most often use Micro-Engineering code 55, not because it is perfect but because it has the most features I want relative to what is available. Recently, I’ve started using Central Valley Model Works (CVMW) N Code 55 Curvable Mainline Ties with Micro-Engineering code 55 rail when appropriate. CVMW ties are pretty much the best bet available currently for nice looking N scale track. I’d probably use Peco code 55 if the tie spacing was prototypical for the United States. Atlas code 55 is nice but the spikes cause issues with some of my older locomotives. The ideal track for me would be code 40 Peco style track (where the rail is actually code 80 but half of it is embedded in the ties and thus very sturdy) with prototypical US tie spacing, prototypical tie width, and small spikes. Kato Unitrack is also nice track just not very prototypical. I like to use Kato Unitrack for hidden track when appropriate and practical. If Kato made code 55 Unitrack with prototypical US tie spacing and spikes plus also left the ballast off the roadbed allowing users to paint the track and apply their own ballast I’d likely use a lot more Unitrack than I do. At the very least, I’d use more Unitrack if Kato made some little Unitrack code 80 to code 55 flextrack transition tracks. Those would be easier and more reliable than fabricating transition tracks out of Peco code 55 track (see below).

 

 

Micro-Engineering code 55

Pros:

  • Long 36”
  • Small spikes
  • Prototypical US tie spacing and tie width (close enough anyway)

Cons:

  • Somewhat hard to bend into smooth curves
  • Plastic flashing is somewhat common
  • Somewhat fragile

 

Atlas code 55

Pros:

  • Easy to bend into smooth curves
  • Prototypical US tie spacing and tie width

Cons:

  • Short 30”
  • Spikes are too big and interfere with wheel flanges on older equipment. But not really an issue if you just have newer equipment made in the last decade or so.


 

Atlas code 80

Pros:

  • Cheapest
  • Easiest to find
  • Easy to bend into smooth curves

Cons:

  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes
  • Short 30”


 

Peco code 55

Pros:

  • Long 36”
  • Uses code 80 rail embedded in the ties…making it sturdy

Cons:

  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes

Peco code 55 track can be used to make transition tracks from code 55 to code 80. All that is required is a file.

Peco flex track code 55 80 transition N scale flex track 55 80

 

Central Valley Model Works (CVMW) N Code 55 Curvable Mainline Ties.

Pros:

  • Unlimited length
  • Ties can be painted and ballasted before the rails are applied making variation in tie color easier to achieve (especially if a masking template is constructed) and the rail can easily be painted a slightly different color than the ties
  • Long stretches of Micro Engineering code 55 rail can be soldered together before being applied to the ties
  • No glue required to attach the rail

Cons:

  • The ties vary a bit in length which is true to a lot of prototype track (especially older track) but not necessarily true in all cases
  • You still have to buy Micro Engineering code 55 rail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kato Unitrack

Pros:

  • Reliable
  • Reconfigurable

Cons:

  • The rail is code 80
  • Not prototypical US tie spacing or spikes
  • The ballast is part of the track which can be a pro or a con, but it is a con if prototype accuracy is the objective.

Kato N Unitrack vs. Micro-engineering code 55 Flex

 
 

 
 

 

3D Printed Track?

Finally, I just wanted to mention that I played around with 3D printing some code 40 track. I did this because there is some track I wanted to put on my layout to make it true to the prototype, but I didn’t need it to be functional. So, at about 10 cents a foot, this 3D N scale code 40 track does the trick just fine, especially since it allows me to make custom track such as very long turnouts in code 40 rail that aren’t commercially available. As technology gets better, dead rail battery powered locomotives on cheap 3D printed track may be a viable solution for some applications.

Code 40 N Dummy Track 3D Printed in PLA


 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

Originally posted 1/10/16. Updated 3/19/18.