Last Updated: 17 May 2023
There’s three things you need to know and/or decide on when it comes to track: the height of the rail profile (and other dimensions), the material of the rail profile, and the look and material of the ties. When designing a layout, the geometry and the available space are important. And last but not least, thinking about clearances is important to make sure bigger rolling stock can also pass through a tunnel or close to a wall without issues.
- Rail Profile Height a.k.a. “Code”
- Standard Gauge or Narrow Gauge?
- Form or Function?
- “Code” includes: Code 332, Code 250, Code 200, …
- Rail Profile Material
- Indoor or Outdoor?
- Form or Function?
- Materials include: brass, stainless steel, aluminium, …
- The radius or diameter (radius x 2) of the curves and switches you will use
- General rule: go as big as the available space allows
- Sectional Track or Flex Track?
Rail Profile Height aka “Code”
- Standard Gauge (Europe – UIC 60): 172 mm
- Standard Gauge (US – ARA 90 LBS): 5-5/8 in = 143 mm
- Narrow Gauge (Europe – Swiss Rhätische Bahn): 145 mm
- Narrow Gauge (US) = ?
Converted to 1:22,5 Scale [2(m) Scale]
- Standard Gauge Europe: 172 mm / 22,5 = 7,65 mm = 0.301 in
- Narrow Gauge Europe: 145 mm / 22,5 = 6,45 mm = 0.254 in
Converted to 1:32 Scale [1 Scale]
- Standard Gauge Europe: 172 mm / 32 = 5,38 mm = 0.212 in
- Standard Gauge US: 143 mm / 32 = 4,47 mm = 0.176 in
Converted to G Scale:
- Basically the rail profile should suit anything between 1:22,5 and 1:32 scale = 0.212 in to 0.301 in
The size in inches is used to describe a rail profile with a “Code” value. So 0.250 inches becomes Code 250. On the Large Scale market, you’ll find Code 332, 250, 215 and 200.
Modeling the Prototype – Reality
- G Scale = Code 332
- 2(m) Scale European = Code 332 if you want G scale compatibility
- 2(m) Scale European = Code 250 for purists
- 1 Scale European = Code 200 (Code 215 was seen in the past)
- 1 Scale US = Code 215 (?)
- F Scale (US)
Rail Profile Material
- PROS: Inexpensive, weathers to non-shiny look, suited for battery power, suited for indoor railways
- CONS: Easily oxidizes, high maintenance, less suited for outdoor use
- PROS: Widely available, durable, moderate cost, weathers to reasonably prototypical look
- CONS: Easily oxidizes, regular maintenance
- PROS: Very durable, low maintenance, weathers to non-shiny grey look
- CONS: Limited availability, oxidizes not easily, higher cost than brass
- PROS: Super durable, very low maintenance
- CONS: Shiny rail, won’t weather nicely (at all), limited availability
When & What To Use?
- Indoor: Aluminium if you want the lowest cost. Brass because it’s widely available and affordable.
- Outdoor: Aluminium if you only run battery power. Brass because it’s widely available, affordable and weathers nicely, Stainless Steel if you want near-zero maintenance and don’t care about the shiny looks.
Prototype – Material & Evolution
- Narrow Gauge
- Standard Gauge
- Niche stuff
- Steel Y (German HSB)