The Hobo's Guide to G Scale Track

There are a few different choices of track to choose from in G scale, each with their different pros and cons. There are a number of things to pay attention to when picking out track, primarily code and material which are discussed below. Another thing to look for, though fairly universal regardless of code or material, is the ultraviolet (UV) protection of the ties. Most track will be rated for 'outdoor' use and have UV-protected ties - it's usually only the ultra-cheap plastic track that isn't UV protected.

Code

The code of the rail refers to the height of the rail, measured by the thousandths of an inch. For instance, Code 332 means that the rail is .332" tall. Most rail in G scale is code 332, but code 250 and 215 is also available from some manufacturers and is a little more realistic in terms of rail height.

Material

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing what you want your rail material to be made of. Variables such as price, durability, and maintenance all play a role in how much maintenance is required to keep your railroad up and running. There are 6 main types of track to choose from:

Brass

Brass track is by far the most popular and is readily available from many different manufacturers. Brass track comes with most starter sets and there are many different track components available such as crossovers and turnouts to expand with. Brass has pretty good conductivity, but depending on the environment it may require more frequent cleaning.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel track is the most expensive of all track types, but requires the least amount of maintenance.

Nickel Silver

Nickel Silver rail lies somewhere between brass and stainless steel in terms of price, but generally requires lower cleaning than brass and also looks more realistic.

Aluminum

Aluminum track is cheaper than brass, but doesn't conduct electricity well so it's recommened only for battery-powered trains or for display shelves. Aluminum track is also great for car storage and display for people who want something more realistic than using plastic track or some other creative solution.

Steel Alloy

Steel Alloy track is a cheap track that allows track-powered locomotives to run indoors. It is not meant to be placed outside and will begin to rust in a matter of weeks if placed outdoors. Steel Alloy track is known for coming with Bachmann Big Hauler sets to make a 4x8' oval and is commonly used for Christmas tree displays and for train storage and display.

Plastic

Plastic track is most commonly found in battery-powered toy sets and can't be used with track-powered locomotives. It also can't be used outside as most of it is cheaply made for toy sets and isn't UV-protected. The only practical use for plastic track would be indoor car storage or display. A few people have used it ouside with small battery powered locomotives, but it will not last very long.

Production Matrix

Listed below are the manufacturers and the types of track they produced. In order to be considered a full-line manufacturer, the company must produce at least one large diameter turnout (8' or greater) and curves of 8' diameter or larger. Making flex track in any length will satisfy the large diameter curve requirement.

Manufacturer Br 332 Br 250 SS (332) Al (215) Al (250) Al (332) NS (215) NS (250) NS (332) SA (332) Notes
Accucraft (AMS) X X*
American Mainline (AML) X* X* X*
Aristocraft X X X Closed in 2013
Bachmann X** X**
LGB X X
Llagas Creek X X X X
Piko X
USA Trains X

* = Company produces track but has limited or no supply of turnouts.
** = Company does not produce a full line or has limited selection.

Legend:
Br = Brass
SS = Stainless Steel
Al = Aluminum
NS = Nickel Silver
SA = Steel Alloy

Manufacturers

Aristocraft

Curves

Item # Diameter (mm/inches/feet) # to make circle
ART30100 xxmm / 48 inches / 4 feet 12
ART30112 xxmm / 78 inches / 6.5 feet 12
ART30116 xxmm / 108 inches / 9 feet 12
ART30123 xxmm / 168 inches / 14 feet 16
ART30125 xxmm / 240 inches / 20 feet 16

Straights

Item # Length (mm/inches/feet)
ART30030 xxmm / 12 inches / 1 feet
ART30060 xxmm / 24 inches / 2 feet
ART30090 xxmm / 36 inches / 3 feet
ART30195 xxmm / 60 inches / 5 feet
 

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