Deciding on the best track for your layout?

Posted by John Brady on

With hobby season now upon us, this is the time to start working on your layout! Model railroading is the perfect indoor hobby for those cold fall nights and long winter days. Newcomers to the hobby are faced with an array of choices-- what scale to use, what size layout to make, how to wire it, and what track to choose. Today, we're here to demystify how to pick track, focusing on the options for O scale!

In the store, we sell a variety of track for O scale hobbyists. The most common manufacturers are GarGraves, Atlas, Lionel, MTH, and Menards. We will discuss each option in turn, helping you weigh the pros and cons of each.


1. GarGraves Track

GarGraves makes O gauge track with plastic ties or wooden ties. In our store, their most popular products are "FlexTrack" and switches. FlexTrack, as the name suggests, is track that can bend to make a custom addition to your layout, which can be cut to size. GarGraves offers several options for track design, including the choice of tinplate or steel outer rails. Their wood tie track in particular is favored by some hobbyists for its realism. GarGraves also offers a unique "Phantom" black center rail that helps it blend in to your layout. One great feature of GarGraves track is that it can be used with track from other manufacturers! Please see for more information. 

2. Atlas Track

Atlas has multiple product lines for O scale track; we don't carry each line in the store but can special order if requested. Atlas offers a basic O Scale Industrial Rail Roadbed Track which is similar to what is offered by Lionel; this is intended for beginner hobbyists who do not want to create their own roadbed. The most popular line in our store is the Atlas O scale 3 rail track with wooden ties (2 rail is also offered). Many hobbyists consider Atlas to be a top company for track quality and realism; ballast can be added to enhance the realistic look. Atlas describes this track line as "the pinnacle of realism and performance," featuring "scale brown ties with simulated wood grain" as well as "solid nickel silver T-rail that offers superior conductivity to keep your trains running well on a layout that looks as good as the real thing." Atlas offers a variety of track options, including switches and crossover pieces. They also have their own version of Flex Track that can be bent into custom curves. Atlas track may be more pricey, but it's highly praised by hobbyists looking to create the highest degree of realism in their layouts. Interested in learning more about what Atlas has to offer? Check out their website

3. Lionel Track 

Many customers value Lionel Track for its affordability and ease of use. Lionel's FasTrack system is "designed with a fantastic prototypical look and is easily assembled into an infinite number of designs while providing reliable performance for your trains." Sections of FasTrack easily snap together to create customizable layout designs. FasTrack has a pre-built roadbed, which is perfect for beginners. The FasTrack line includes switches and unique pieces such as lighted track and the new curvy Polar Express Ice Track. Many customers choose to continue using Lionel track after purchasing a starter set, which come with FasTrack pieces. We regularly carry FasTrack in the store. In addition to being easy for beginners to work with, FasTrack is a very popular choice for temporary layouts, such as layouts set up under the Christmas tree. 

4.  MTH track

MTH's RealTrax system is similar to Lionel's FasTrack in that it snaps together for ease of use, features a wide variety of products including switches and crossovers, and includes a realistic roadbed that's perfect for beginners. However, this track is becoming hard to find as MTH has undergone some changes in recent years and production has greatly slowed. For this reason, we don't encourage beginners to use MTH track. 

5. Menards Track

Menards offers a line of tubular track that gives layouts a vintage feel. Menards Tubular track has a "high tensile strength" and has undergone rigorous testing for quality and durability. Tubular track, also known as tube track, was the original track line offered by Lionel beginning in the 1900s. Lionel's tubular track "revolutionized model railroading by making their wiring simpler and preventing short circuits." (for more history see However, production stopped in 2015; used pieces are still common. Menards offers a similar line of track that is perfect for people looking to use brand new and improved tubular track while preserving their layout's vintage appearance. Tubular track allows model railroaders to add ballast for a more realistic appearance. 


We hope this overview of O Scale track was helpful-- remember, in the end, it's up to you! We are happy to answer any questions about track. Feel free to call the store at 724-838-8448 or email us at with any questions. 

Leave us a comment below to share your track preferences or experiences using these track types!


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