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Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Tuned MP5T, Oct 21, 2004.
What's the verdict is the UniTrack good? Or should I go with Atlas track?
Like all track systems, it has its proponents and its detractors. About 1/4 of my present layout is Unitrack and I wish I had discovered it before I started the layout. If I had, I would have done the entire layout with it. Its major drawback is that it is not flexible and you are limited to Kato's geometry for curves but, there are several radii available. Other than that, it is practically bullet-proof. In over ten years, I have had no electrical failures or derailments in the section where I used the Unitrack. It is a little pricey but, I figure the cost of cork road bed, ballast, glue, time, and frustration balances it off pretty well! :thumb: Next year, I will be building another layout (portable) and will use Unitrack completely.
In general, I'd suggest the following. Just my 2 cents worth. Pls get many opinions and then choose what works best for you.
1. If you're after best possible appearance, and have locos/rolling stock that can work on it, and have some model railroading experience so that you can lay the track with reliability, use Atlas Code 55.
2. If you're after the N scale track that can accomodate any size flange, is also very reliable, and you have the skills to lay it (including wiring the ElectroFrog turnouts), go with Peco Code 55.
3. If you're not too picky about the track appearance, or the above sounds like a little beyond your experience so far, then you can go with very reliable Atlas Code 80 or Peco Code 80 or Kato Unitrack.
4. Kato Unitrack has the attribute that while it doesn't look as real as ballasted normal track, Kato Unitrack basically gives plug-n-play bulletproof reliability (i.e. much less time spent getting the track to work right). Due to time / space / experience limitations, that's what I used.
I've attached my writeup and Kato Unitrack experiences below. And pls do note that if I ever have time/energy to do a much more complete layout, I'd probably do either Atlas Code 55 or Peco Code 55.
In the end, hope this helps you make a more informed decision for yourself! (smile)
San Mateo, Calif
How/Why I chose Kato Unitrack
Experiments in Painting Kato Unitrack for Improved Appearance
I ended up using the Kato Unitrack and it's worked out well for me.
The bottom lines are:
1) Wanted robust reliability and ease of use.
This is my first layout as an adult;
I have limited time due to career and family
and I wanted to do the track once and be done with it.
Unitrack has delivered bullet proof reliability.
Also, prior to April 2003, I had very limited
space, and needed the ease of setup/breakdown that Kato
Unitrack offered. (sort of Japanese-style requirements,
which is why Kato engineered their track the way they did).
I have needed to tune the #4 turnouts
(which I have on my mainline), by judicious filing and
sharpening of the points ,and making an indentation
in the adjoining rail for the points to sit into.
With those quick, easy, and pleasant modifications,
my #4 turnouts no longer give me any problems at all.
2) My layout has grown organically.
I didn't start out with some grand plan to
make very realistic Unitrack, I just
wanted to enjoy my trains, with an emphasis
on scenery and one-train-per-scene style.
I came up with the track plan I have
by buying Unitrack pieces slowly and piecing it together
over time. It was great to be able
to know exactly what would/wouldn't fit on my
desired 4'x4' space. Given that Unitrack has the
28" and 19" curved sections, I created some easements
which improve the appearance and flowability of the
track noticeably. When I was satisfied I then started
3) I really enjoy scenery and realistic appearances.
My first digital photos of the stock Unitrack on the
layout caused me to think, "Hmmm, not so great. Could
it really look better if I painted it?" So I started to
The results are below, and on my Community Webshots
At some point, I intend to sculptamold my Unitrack and
integrate it into the scenery, per my experiment blocks above. As you can
see, I have used HO scale Woodland Scenics roadbed under the Unitrack,
for sound deadening.
But that will come at a later time when I'm ready to
lock the track down for good. At that time, the sculptamold
will hold the track down just fine. (for right now, my track is
not glued down).
Then, after that, if I get the mood to be even more
realistic, I can ballast.
In the end, if I ballast, I imagine the Kato Unitrack circle will have
come complete, you wouldn't know if it was Unitrack or regular
track underneath. But the journey (and the reliability)
will have been worth it.
4) As for what I used for painting
I use PollyScale water-based Roof Brown with a little PollyScale
Grimy black mixed in. On the Community Webshots page
Volume I, I have described what I have done in more detail,
go there and have a look in 'Vol 1: Kato Unitrack Painting".
I have a text file that describes my steps in a little more detail, if
there's interest I can repost that here.
5) Price of Unitrack
If I were to do it all over again in my specific circumstances,
Kato Unitrack fit the bill and I'd use it again. The painted
appearance fits my needs as 'good enough for now'.
The initial price of Unitrack I agree is higher,
but given the small size of my layout it was acceptable.
There are many online hobby dealers that can give discounts on
Kato Unitrack, in particular, those of us on the Yahoo Kato
Unitrack group have found the best prices are generally at:
And then go to 'N scale Products', and then go to 'Kato'.
6) The future
If I ever build a much larger (permanent) layout I will
likely try Peco C55 and/or Atlas C55. Any way you cut it,
those tracks would look better after they are all finished.
At such time I would plan/allocate a significantly larger amount of
time to getting the track running right.
But for now, I am quite happy with the way the Kato Unitrack
has turned out.
Nice write-up John. Thanks for sharing!
Nice Work John and well said.
I'm using 100% Unitrack on my layout. For me reliability and ease of installation were the deciding factors.
I was faced with the same problem of what track to use last year when I started. After seeing what John accomplished I went with Kato. Some say it is more expensive but if you figure the price of track, roadbed and ballast it comes out pretty even. Of course you have to shop for the best price on the Unitrack
I'm not painting my roadbed because most of the mainlines here are limestone and the Unitrack is very close. I did take a marker and go over the sides of the rails to simulate dirt and rust.
Before I made my choice official, I bought a loop of Atlas Code 55 and tried it. Almost everything I have in rolling stock hit the spike heads. That did it for me. I'm more into running trains and reliability and a year later I'm hearing the are some problems with the Atlas Code 55 turnouts. I'm sure these problems can all be solved but like I said, I'm more into running.
Is better to buy piece by piece or just get a kit?
I think the kitrs are expensive. The best price I have found is Toytrain Heaven. They run an add in Railroad Model Craftsman. check there.
Nice write up John....good insight