Two vs three rails

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by dpfresch, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. dpfresch

    dpfresch New Member

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    Hello,[​IMG]

    I’m new to the Gauge.

    I’m in the planning stages for building an O gauge layout. My question pertains to two-rail verses three. It would be very easy for me to commit to either two or three-rail, at this time. I like the looks of two-rail; however, I'm concerned that I will be too limited as to what trains I can run.

    I would certainly appreciate advice from any of you who have puzzled over this same dilemma. Are the two-railers out there happy with your decision? Would any of the three-rail operators choose two if they were starting from scratch?

    Thanks,

    Paul
  2. spankybird

    spankybird OTTS Founder

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    HI Paul,


    Welcome to 'The Gague' forum.

    Yes two rail does have its appeal. Most people that does 2 rail is into very scale and detailed. This also bring in the high end cost and large radius of your track. Also 2 rail runs on DC (like OH) and not AC like most 3 railers. This would mean that rolling stock from 3 rail would have to be converted to two rail and insulate your wheels.

    Hope this helps

    :wave:
  3. dpfresch

    dpfresch New Member

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    Thanks, Tom.
    Do you know if all two-rail is DC? I know that two-rail requires that one rail be powered and one ground; whereas, with three rails the outer rails are ground and the center is powered. Hence the need to electrically isolate the wheels on the left and right side with two-rail to prevent a short circuit. But, I didn't realize that this couldn't be done while still using AC power? I must admit I don't know much about the flow of electrons:oops:
    Thanks,
    Paul
  4. spankybird

    spankybird OTTS Founder

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    I hate to say 'never' because someone comes along and says they are doing it, so I will say that I don't know of anyone useing AC on 2 rail.sign1
  5. wrmcclellan

    wrmcclellan Member

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    Hey - Hi-rail S gauge is 2 rail AC. Also Atlas O is offering their diesel locos for 2 rail AC and Lionel's TMCC control.

    Paul - the biggest issue between O 3r stuff and O 2r stuff is cost and layout size requirements. A 2r articulated scale loco will cost over $3000 and will require a very large radius (6 feet or more) curve to operate. An equivalent 3r loco (scale with hi-rail flanges and wheels) will cost around $1300-1500. A loco like a NYC Hudson will cost around $2000 for 2r while the 3r version can be had for around $900 -$1300.

    3r trains have the couplers mounted on the trucks so the coupler can pivot with the wheels, allowing curve radii in the area of 24 - 36 inches (048 to 072). 2r trains have the couplers mounted on the car body like the prototypes and thus limits the curve radii to larger as mentioned above.

    If you want to model prototypically and purely to scale, then 2r is the way to go. By modeling a branch line with smaller locos, you can control your costs. If you do not mind the compromise with 3r track and tighter than prototypical curves, then 3r is the way to go.

    And if like me you do not mind the occasional Spongebob car, then 3r is definitely the way to go! Check in the background!

    [​IMG]

    Regards,
    Roy
  6. dpfresch

    dpfresch New Member

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    Hi Roy,

    Thanks for the information. That was very helpful.

    I'm planning on modeling the PRR circa 1925-30. So, articulated locos won't be a problem. However, your response does bring up my primary concern with two-rail; choosing a path that is ultimately too limiting. Not that cost isn't a factor also!

    Thanks,

    Paul
  7. wrmcclellan

    wrmcclellan Member

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    Paul - good luck with your decision. Poke around your hobby shop and E-Bay for some ideas on what things go for 2R vs 3R. Try and meet some O 2R and 3R hobbyists in your area that could provide you some resources to discuss your options.

    Regards,
    Roy
  8. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

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    Paul,

    I started in 3-Rail many years ago. I still have most of my collection too. I decided I wanted 2-Rail for the more realistic track. Slowly I bought a few engines that were 2-Rail. Many of my cars that were scale have been converted to 2-Rail by changing the trucks and adding Kadee O scale couplers. This is my testing layout that is mounted on a hollow core door, 2.5'wide by 80" tall. The switches are the old Atlas switches and are #4's if that. I run the Weaver VO-1000 diesel on it and switch the Weaver ACF center flow hoppers on it just fine. I don't have any 60' cars yet to test on it. I also can use the Atlas GP-35 on it along with their SW-9. An SD-40 might not work but I don't plan on trying it either. :D While the selection might not be as good as 3-Rail we do have it pretty darn good. MTH is even bringing out conversion kits for converting their diesels to 2-Rail. If you want brass, there are a couple of brands that are quite reasonable when compared to the Atlas plastic. Even in 3-Rail, some engines are made for larger radius. By the way, in 3-Rail the curve is designated by the diameter of the circle while in 2-Rail we use the radius. Just remember that and you will do fine. I've settled on 40" radius or O-80 since I'm modeling a short line and will use small engines and the longest cars I will have will be a couple of 60' flat cars. Otherwise I will use short open hoppers, 40', 50' box cars, 52' gondolas and 55' covered grain hoppers. If you watch eBay, you can pick up some good deals also. Another route to go is S scale, with code 100 track, scale wheels and Kadee couplers. The selection isn't as good but that is slowly changing too.

    Good luck,
    Greg

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  9. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

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    Paul,

    Something else I forgot to mention. I use the transformer I got with the Bachmann On30 set to run that test layout. If you want sound and DCC there are many ways to go about that too. The nice thing about the O scale engines being offered now days aren’t the power hogs from the late forties and fifties. Some guys have a whole fleet of the Atlas F-9’s that were sold in the early 1970’s, which were nicely done and didn’t require huge transformers either.

    Greg
  10. dpfresch

    dpfresch New Member

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    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for the advice and incite.

    I have seen the 2 rail offerings from MTH. I hope that Lionel will follow suit. Being able to go from three to two rail with the flick of a switch is certainly the best of both worlds.

    One point that comes through loud and clear is that the biggest consideration in committing to a two rail layout is not power or equipment but rather the size of the layout. I'll need to do some negotiating with my wife on that one [​IMG]

    Paul
  11. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

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    Paul,

    You are welcome, and feel free to ask more questions. It is skewed on branch line and or short line thoughts. :D If you want big power and long cars then a big area is needed but if you are satisfied with small power and short cars then small switching layouts can be fun to build and operate.

    Greg
  12. dpfresch

    dpfresch New Member

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    Is Atlas the only company who is manuafacturing two rail track for O gauge? Thier selection of two rail track seems thin; but, probably still expanding.
    Paul
  13. Steamtom1

    Steamtom1 Member

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    I only have one locomotive that runs on O scale track. It runs equally as well on 2 or 3 rail. Here are a couple pictures. The first one is on Lionel 3 rail, and the second one is on 2 rail. Acutally the second picture is taken on 3 rail track, but it is dual gauge, both O and G. I'm running on the two O gauge rails...

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
  14. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

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    Paul,
    Atlas makes sectional track in 2-Rail as well as flex. Micro Engineering makes flex track for House of Duddy plus they sell it under their own name. There are European makes of 2-Rail track that may offer sectional as well as flex. IIRC Roco makes it and possibly Peco makes standard gauge 2-Rail track. GarGraves makes sectional and flex track.
    http://www.gargraves.com/


    Greg
  15. acflyer322

    acflyer322 New Member

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    Hail S gauge its very realistic and you can run ac my whole layout is all flyer! 8 rails running at once. I agree with the thinking of 2 instead of 3 much more like a real railroad. Cost is always a factor to be considered. Theres conversions for to go from ac to dc and vs. Either way you go 2 rail is a fine choice. The one thing that makes me really like S is that its all scale even American Flyers are to scale which makes building your layout a tad easier and looks a lot more realistic. I'm not too crazy about using plasticville buildings for the most part however some of their buildings are fine. Good luck in picking a gauge that will make you happy.
  16. Wimpy

    Wimpy New Member

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    Paul, I see no one has talked about On30. You get the O scale for scratch building yet you run on HO track. Bachmann has made this scale one of the most up and coming gauges. I have bought a few of their engines and a lot of there cars. It is a nice scale to work in if you like narrow gauge and not to over priced. Just my 2 cents.

    Wimpy

    Wiscasset & Carrabassett Ry.
    The biggest, littlest railroad, down east