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Lucas G

New Member
Hi All,
I'm new, and excited, to get started with my first HO layout. I really like the design of the Atlas "The Way Freight Special" Code 83 Layout package:

However, the kit specifications state the layout includes 15" radius track, which sounds like a no-no for most locomotives and rolling stock. Would anyone be willing to offer tips on converting this layout to utilize only 18" radius track? I understand the layout may have to grow in size a bit to accommodate the softer turns, but I'm hoping to contain the size of may table to roughly 4' x 6'.



Active Member
before telling you to go spend $160 on new track for a first railroad, I suggest that you look on ebay. They sell atlas sectional on ebay by the ton , just search "atlas track lot" . You want as much Nickel Silver NS as you can get , code 100 would probably be the cheapest route. Get a sack full of the stuff so you can play around with it before you commit .

This is not a bad little lot

its got 5 NS snap switches some crossings curves straights. Its gots some brass in it two but you can still use it to play around with till you figure out what you want.

looks like the going rate is somewhere around 50 c to $1 a section .


Well-Known Member
I would second GeeTee's recommendation to stick with Code 100 Nickel Silver track, and going the ebay route. You are probably better off with 18" radius sectional track for curves on a 4' x 6' table, although 15" can be used for some sidings. You might be able to accommodate some 22" radius, but that will put the track pretty close to the edge of the table. You might be able to scare up some old Shinohara 20" track on ebay.

You may be limited in terms of the rolling stock you can use, in that six-axle diesel locomotives may cause some problems, particularly on sidings. I can get four-axle road switchers (e.g., GP-7/9's and F-3/7A's and B's to track easily of 15" tracks and even some turnouts. True, they are from an older era, but some prototype branchlines still use them here and there. You may also want to limit your freight cars to 40-ft. cars, and some of the older Athearn Blue Box 72-ft passenger cars. As for steam locomotives, there are some smaller 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 available that will run fine on 18" curves and even on 15". If you have a bunch of that track from ebay, you can experiment with a layout before laying the track permanently. Welcome to the hobby. Stay well!


Well-Known Member
Hi Lucas -

You have received some great advice here. However, if you decide you really want Atlas Code 83 track and want to avoid 15-inch curves, the track plan can be altered to use all 18-inch curves. See below:

- Jeff


Code 83

Count | Description
6 | Atlas 510/520 C83 9" Straight
14 | Atlas 512/532 C83 18" 30D Curve
2 | Atlas 521 C83 6" Straight
2 | Atlas 522 C83 3" Straight
1 | Atlas 524f C83 2.5" Straight
1 | Atlas 525 C83 2.0" Straight
3 | Atlas 533 C83 18" 15D Curve
1 | Atlas 534 C83 18" 10D Curve
2 | Atlas 540/542 C83 Left Remote/Manual Snap Switch


Well-Known Member
Here is the same basic track plan but with 22-inch curves. The footprint of the 22-inch version is 5 x 7 feet, compared to 4 x 6 feet for the 18-inch version.

- Jeff


Code 83

Count | Description
5 | Atlas 510/520 C83 9" Straight
18 | Atlas 513/535 C83 22" 22.5D Curve
6 | Atlas 521 C83 6" Straight
1 | Atlas 522 C83 3" Straight
1 | Atlas 525 C83 2.0" Straight
9 | Atlas 537 C83 22" 7.5D Curve
2 | Atlas 540/542 C83 Left Remote/Manual Snap Switch


Active Member
Alternatively , if you make it a plain 22" radius oval, and move the track closer to the edge of the layout, you can fit it on a 4x8 sheet of plywood.

Caveat: You do lose some scenic potential by having the track closer to the edge of the layout and losing the sweeping curve along the bottom. Up side is you gain 22" radius on a standard sheet of plywood. A lot of it depends on what type of engines and cars you want to operate. Bigger equipment works better on bigger curves.

I would also suggest adding a "backdrop" a scenic divider diagonally across the middle of the layout to divide it into visually two different areas. By doing that, the layout won't look like a train going in circles, it will look like a train going two and from two different stations/towns/areas.

Another cheap enhancement is to raise the layout up higher, somewhere in the 48" above the floor level, closer to eye level. Once again it gives a better perspective, more up close and personal, closer to how you see real trains. If you raise it above 60 inches you get a great view, but then reaching in to work on it or fix something becomes a problem.

Good luck on whatever path you choose.



If you're not already committed to Atlas sectional track, I'd suggest you check out Kato "Unitrack".
They have some plans that can be bought "as sets" (shop around for best price).

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