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Track and Wheel Code Confusion

Online Train Club Member Ray is interested in HO scale and is hoping someone will explain track and wheel codes for him:

“It’s not hard for me to get confused these days, which probably explains why I am still confused with this different wheel and track codes and how they go together.

For example Code 83 track? Code 88 wheels? or Code 100 track? Code 110 wheels? Are there advantages choosing one over another, what works best etc.? Can someone explain things in simple terms for me please?”

6 Responses to Track and Wheel Code Confusion

  • W Rusty Lanesays:

    I´m really not sure if I can be of any help to you. Personally I use code 100 track (mostly flex track) and I have converted all my rolling stock to code 100 metal wheel sets. I have never used code 83 track or wheelsets, but I´m sure you should match up wheel sets with track usage. I did use several code 83 wheel sets on several of my cars (mostly coaches) and they seem to work well with my code 100 trackage. I think you can get by with code 83 wheel sets on code 100 track. I haven´t experienced any problems with the code 83 wheel sets on the code 100 track. I don´t think you can use the reverse, i.e., code 100 wheel sets on code 83 trackage. I think the wheel flanges are too much for code 100 wheel sets on code 83 tracks and will short out on the turnouts. At least I´ve heard this from several modelers. Happy railroading!

  • Billsays:

    The track code refers to the height of the rail. Code 100 is (when converted to prototypical size) very heavy rail. Code 83 is closer to normal mainline rail size, code 70 for sidings. In the model world there is no best size but is up to your preference and how closely you want to follow the prototypical rail line. In my case I walked into a hobby store that was getting rid of its code 100 Peco track and turnouts for 1/2 price so my decision was made based on the deal I could make with the owner.
    Wheel code refers to the width of the tread. Code 110 is normal in the model world, but over width if you wish to emulate the real world. Code 88 is getting closer to prototypical width. 88 looks nice standing still. but if your track work isn’t perfect all the way around the only time you will like the code 88 is when it isn’t moving and derailing. I believe in the 3 foot rule, if you can’t see the detail from 3 feet away it’s not worth it. I also like my trains to run flawlessly so I use code 110 wheels. Further to that I use one manufacturer of trucks (solid no springs) and one manufacturer of wheel sets. Two key things I look for in this combination is minimal side slop (the wheels have minimal side to side movement in the truck) and free rolling (when flicked by a finger they turn for a minimum of 10 seconds before stopping). Another thing is that plastic wheels are not permitted on my layout, they are dirt magnets regardless of code.

  • MarkPsays:

    One thing to keep in mind. If you plan on running a lot of trains frequently, you want to invest in code 100 over code 83. Code 83 is realistic but code 100 will wear better. I know a few clubs where I live have been replacing code 83 with code 100.

  • The numbering of track codes is simple once you know. Code 100 is 100 / 1000 inches high (one tenth of an inch). Code 83 is 83 / 1000 inches high. Code 80 is 80 / 1000 inches high. Code 70 is 70 / 1000 inches high. Code 55 is 55 / 1000 inches high. Code 40 is 40 / 1000 inches high. Big numbers are higher (and propoortionally wider rail) and smaller numbers are smaller rail.

    • Sheldon Clarksays:

      Ian has it precisely correct. The smaller numbers (Codes 80, 55 & 40, for instance) are used in N Scale & 2 m/m Scale. H0 & British 00 tend to use Code 100, but the finer 4 m/m scales tend to use Code 83 Track, for instance.
      I’ve never heard of this Code system being used for wheels standards before.

  • Frank Bsays:

    As Ian says, the Code number is the height of the actual rail in thousandths on an inch.
    Older model rolling stock had wheels with deeper flanges, therefore the track needed to be deeper.
    Good modern model wheels have finer flanges (closer to realistic scale), so run on finer track.
    So older model trains can have problems on modern track, particularly on turnouts.

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