Mainstream and peripheral suppliers of 32mm and 45mm track and components.
There is certainly no shortage of large scale railway track producers in Germany and Piko (based in Sonneberg) is one of the largest and best-known model train brands in Europe and exports to the United States and other parts of the world. They market an extensive range of 45mm Gauge track similar to that supplied by LGB but as they say in their advertising “not all track is created equal –ours is better”. I tend to agree with that claim as I have been very impressed with the engineering and durability of their sectional track and the same components are employed in their flexible track kits.
I tend to refer to this German supplier as “Pi-ko” simply to avoid confusion with the UK firm of Peco but I am aware that they are both often called “Pee-ko”.
Unlike some large-scale producers, who seem a little reticent to advertise or promote their trackage systems, as if it was an afterthought, Piko seem to positively relish giving their track a high prominence and are proud to feature it as so they should be.
Although similar to LGB’s and other well-known European and U.S. 45mm Gauge brass track the Piko G-Track System goes back to basics using a unique proprietary geometry that makes layout easier to plan and install. This is especially helpful when incorporating turnouts on curves or creating parallel tracks.
The design is essentially based on a 600mm (23.62”) x 160mm (6.33”) grid arrived at after extensive computer aided engineering work searching for a track that would satisfy both beginners and advanced hoobyists alike and enable virtually all track designs rto be realised without the need for short adapter pieces.. This means that whilst Piko Code 332 brass track is compatible with most other makes the design can vary and you cannot always directly replace one section with another make (or vice versa) as the footprint and angles can slightly differ.
The strong, durable track uses conventional UV-stabilised high-density polyethylene narrow gauge plastic tie (sleeper) strips with imitation wood grain and plastic chairs to retain the flat-bottomed solid brass rails. these sleepers (or ties) are more appropriate to narrow gauge but should be alright for standard gauge operation. The brass rail joiners are already fitted and are reassuringly tight ensuring minimal voltage loss across the gaps.
This track stands up to rough treatment indoors and out and I confess to being a satisfied user (and previously an online retailer) of their products.
For straight track the grid's base length of 600mm (23.62" is partitioned into two sections of 320mm (12.66") and 280mm (10.96") in length. This makes it pssible to have parallel tracks connected by two turnout (points) without using any extra customised adapter pieces and also maintain the minimum clearances - see illustration below:
Examples of Piko G-Track Geometry & Track Configurations
All Piko G-Trak is designed for indoor or outdoor use and features:
Code 332 (0.332" high) solid rails of pure, virgin brass for excellent electrical conductivity
Ties of ultra-violet stabilized HDPE (high-density polyethylene) for decades of outdoor use
Unique track geometry makes even complex track plans simple to build with only a few types of track sections
Compatible with most other brands of G-Scale track, such as LGB, USA Trains and Aristo-craft for unlimited trackwork combinations.
Piko Straight Track
Straights come in a variety of lengths including several shorter lengths for particularly installing complex layouts. The only real difference compared to other Code 332 track suppliers is the substitution of 1 x G320 and 1 x G280 mm as optional replacements for the more ubiquitous 300mm standard length. The longer lengths are available in conventional 600mm and 1200mm sections as shown below:
Piko Curved Track Sections
Following the demise of Aristo-craft, Piko have one of the largest election of pre-formed curved track sections from the omnipresent 600mm minimum radius right up to a sizeable 1,565mm (over 5' radius in old money). Do not make direct comparisons with the Radius Numbers used by LGB as they do not line up - more on this later. A full listing of curved track available at present is tabled below:
PRE-FORMED CURVED TRACK SECTIONS
Piko Turnouts / Switches / Points
Piko's growing product catalogue also features left-hand and right-hand turnouts (points) corresponding to the same radii as their curved track selection. The construction of these turnouts is very solid and follows the same geometric grid devised for the complete range of G-Track products.altogether, there are four sizes of manual switch including an impressive curved switch which facilitates very smooth transitions on any layout. All of these points can be easily be converted for remote operation by the addition of a waterproof electric switch machine (35271). The larger turnouts also include additional 7.5 degree sections of curved track so that they can easily drop into place instead of standard curves and are fitted with a light spring mechanism which allows even a light-weight car to push the switch blade over if it should beapproaching in the 'wrong direction' thus avoiding a derailment.
The following YouTube Videos describe the points in detail:
To complete our survey of Piko G Gauge track I should also mention their G-K-30 Crossing (Item Code No: 35240) incorporating two interconnecting straights set at 30 degrees as the name suggests. This is rarely needed but can look impressive in a yard or where a number of parallel tracks are involved.
There are also a number of accessories available and also components to make your own track, namely:
Flexible Tie Strip (35230 and 35231), Brass Rail in 3000 mm (35250) and 1500 mm (35251) lengths, Track Bumper (35280), Track Clips (35285), Metal Rail Joiners (35292), Insulated Rail Joiners (35292), Metal Tie Joiners (35291), an Electric Switch Machine (35271), Lighted Switch Lantern (35266), Relay Contacts (35265), Power Clamp (35270).
Extensive range of track sections, wide radius points and flexible track components
Tight rail joiners (+ brass connectors if required)
None that I am aware of but the track geometry is quite different to LGB so if you are trying to mix and match take care to check footprint and dimensions.
Sunset Valley Railroad (USA)
Sunset Valley Railroad is another track supplier that enjoys a large following in there home country but may not be quite so familiar to large-scale modellers here in the UK. They concentrate on producing a comprehensive model railroad track system for 45mm ( commonly called G gauge), 32mm (O gauge) and dual gauge using code 250 rail (1/4" inch high), used primarily for garden layouts.
Not only do they make track but also complementary mechanical and pneumatic switch operating systems.
I have deliberately stressed the description ‘system’ as this track is a self-assembly job for those garden railroaders who prefer to make their own but like to rely on well engineered professionally manufactured parts ideally suited for the task.
With this in mind Sunset Valley Railroad (SSVR) supply packs of components sufficient to assemble into 6’ lengths of either Code 250 or Code 332 45mm gauge in mainline (1:29; 1:32), narrow gauge (1:20.3) and even dual 3-rail 32mm / 45 mm gauge.
Each pack comes with enough components to assemble discrete 6ft sections, and comprises 2 lengths of rail (looks as if it might be ‘pre-weathered’ from the photos), 6 tiestrips of 1 ft each and 2 railjoiners. As well as track, “packs” you can also purchase rail and ties separately. The website also list a selection of joiners joiners and clamps to connect various pieces of track. They also supply special clamps (RJ CL LGB) to connect their code 250 track to code 332 track, such as AristoCraft, LGB, USA Trains, Bachmann, etc.
When ordering you need to specify the particular track configuration thet you require with the suffix, AL for aluminum, BR for brass, NS for Nickel Silver and SS for Stainless, for example TR BR is mainline brass track.
When ballasted these tracks can look very realistic in both narrow gauge and standard gauge versions. The third image in this sequence shows outdoor track 12 years after it was installed:
No track system would be complete without a matching set of turnouts and Sunset Valley do not disappoint on this score either. In fact they offer no less than 37 different types of Switches manufactured from brass, nickel or stainless steel. There are no aluminium versions as the metal is just to soft to produce finely edged point rails durable enough to stand up to the impact of heavy wheels. Sunset recommend using stainless steel ones in stead.
You can view full details of all the switches including associated switching gear by clicking the button link here:
Four rail types
None really but sourcing may need to be direct from the USA (and 6’ long rails are notoriously difficult -and expensive - to pack, protect and transport).
Theil - Gleis
Theil-Gleis are a well known brand in Europe (although possibly less so in the UK) and have been making II metre narrow gauge track in Germany for over 30 years. As their website proudly declares their catalogue features no less than 11 different radii up to 3m together with 26 different points and switches in both pre-formed fixed tracks and flexible track conforming to MOROP and NEM standards.
Somewhat unusually, perhaps, Theil-Gleis chose to make nickel plate their track from the outset although they now offer brass as an alternative. You can check out their reasons on their website by clicking the button-link:
For a full list of fixed straight and curved track just click on the button link
Various lengths of flexible track are also available in kit form in both brass and nickel-plate from 1m up to 3m and can be found by clicking this button-link:
The mechanics of point / switch design and details of the companies products in this area are to be found at the click of the button-link below:
An example of Thiel Trackwork
Train Line 45 are a Swiss supplier of Gauge-1 sectional track and components are are distributed in the USA by Train Li-USA. Their products observe the traditional features of virtually every other European manufacturer of Code 332 sectional track for 1:22.5 scale with brass rail attached to sturdy UV-stable brown plastic ties in a Euro sleeper style. It can also be supplied as nickel-plated.
Straight track comes in lengths of 300mm (c. 1'); 600mm (c.2') and 1200mm (c.4'). Curves are limited to 900mm (c.3') and 1200mm (c.4') radii to match LGB's R2 and R3 but are not identical or indeed Piko's R' designations so watch out if you are intending to "mix and match". The track sections are also connected in such a way as not to leave an unsightly gap in the middle unlike several other manufacturers but this results in slightly shorter rail joiners so one has to make compromises.
They also offer moulded standard and flexible sleeper strip in two forms (both approx. 1' long) together with 5' and 8' lengths of rail in a choice of brass or stainless-steel for those modellers who build their own trackwork. They also supply a somewhat unusual 3-sleeper tie section caled a "Swiss" tie which snap together to form whatever length you have in mind. Sounds a bit complicated but once you get used to them may have some benefit.
To complete the ensemble they have matching switches which have tapered ends to the point where they join the stock rails. All in a all a useful addition to the track family but possibly more expensive coming from Switzerland.
Describe your image
Märklin Gauge 1 Track (Spur 1)
Whereas it is generally well known that the German firm of Märklin now own LGB it may not be so widely known they also have a separate line of Gauge 1 (1:32 scale) model railways products under their own badge including a range of track items.
Not being too familiar with the Märklin product range when I came to review their current production I was somewhat taken aback by the sheer variety of sectional curved track available but equally perplexed by the somewhat bizarre item code designations in use. Once I had created a track schematic for the 9 different radii (represented by 12 coded curved track items) it all became a little clearer but the justification for a 4 number code as opposed to a 5 number code defeats me.
It suspect it may be something to do with the acquisition of track tooling, moulds and residual stocks that Märklin acquired from a supplier Hübner Feinwerktechnik GmbH (a company based in Tuttlingen - Southern Germany) when the founder, Wolfgang Huber was forced to give up his business in 2005 due to ill-health.
Hübner had produced Gauge 1 (1/32nd scale) model trains and accessories for Märklin from 1982 until 1992 when Hübner decided to sell its products under the company's own name. In 1998 the collaboration with Märklin and all tools and the remaining stocks of the company were taken over by Märklin in August 2007.
It it rumoured that the quality of the Hübner products was somewhat superior to even Märklin’s “unsurpassed” reputation for high quality but these ‘legacy’ items might account for the proliferation of track types now available.
It is also not entirely clear which items originated from which company but it would seem that Item Codes 59051 to 59080 may reflect Hübner involvement as they have a subsidiary ‘H’ number in parenthesis. If any reader can throw any light on the matter I would much appreciate it.
Somewhat unusually for railway track manufacturers Märklin seem a little reticent to specify the materials actually used in their track production but stainless steel rail seems to be the most likely constituent. Although this type of track is eminently suited for outdoor applications there can be problems with loss of conductivity at section rail joints. Märklin may be overcoming this by incorporating a small quantity of nickel but again it is not entirely clear from their website.
The track itself seems primarily intended for 1:32 scale (standard gauge) and the sleeper patterns would seem to reflect this although there is no real reason to prevent one form using it for other purposes.
Märklin Gauge 1 Curves
The Marklin range of Spur 1 curved tracked sections is quite impressive and covers 12 (twelve) different radii making it relatively easy to construct parallel tracks or easements:
In addition to the curved track section collection Märklin also market a large assortment of straight track sections from a miniscule 59.5mm (Item Codes 5916 and 59051) up to a full 900mm (Item Codes 59033 and 59061 – both with 45 sleepers by my count).
Märklin Curve 59075 Märklin Straight 59055 Märklin Curve 59071
Märklin Curves 5922 Märklin Straight 59057
The following Company Data Sheets may help to gain a better understanding of the track geometry:
You can also construct your own straight or curved track in lengths up to 900mm and with a radius of 1020mm or greater using an innovative kit of parts (Item Code 5998). In lieu of conventional pre-cut sleeper/tie strips you are supplied with individual asymmetrical plastic sleepers (the snap connectors are of two different sizes set 1mm apart) which may be connected in a particular sequence to create either straight or curved track with a 20mm distance between ties – ingenious! In this way larger radii can be produced up to 3000 mm which is quite impressive. See Diagram.
Apparently the matching rail can be bent by hand which would suggest that it is not brass which is notoriously difficult to curve accurately without bends and subsequent wastage of what is a very expensive component.
I don't believe that I have come across quite this approach adopted before but there seems no reason why it should not prove a satisfactory solution to most modellers needs for authentic sweeping curves. Being all “fingers and thumbs” myself (these days I expect the phrase would be “manual dexterity challenged” ) I just don’t envy the large scale modeller the job of feeding the rails through hundreds of chairs.
Naturally the choice does not end there as Märklin also market matching points/turnouts/switches ranging from the common Radius 1 600mm Left Hand (5965) and Right Hand (5966) pair through the wider radius 1020mm Left Hand (5976) and Right Hand (5977) and 1394mm Left Hand (59088) and Right Hand (59087) forms up to an imposing 2321mm extra wide radii Left Hand (59084) and Right Hand (58083). There is even a set of useful Curved Points in a 1394mm / 1550mm combination in Left Hand (59805) and Right Hand (59086) styles.
For those who enjoy complex track formations you can even obtain a 1394mm Double Slip (59093); a 1394mm Three Way Turnout (59091) and even a” Hosentrager Mittelteil (Centre Section of a Double Crossover - I had to look that up) which can be combined with Item Codes 59087-59088 or 59093+59092 to produce a fine piece of model railway engineering.
Märklin also produce a range of accessories for Gauge 1 including intricate switch stands and old-time ‘buffers’ as illustrated below (but make sure you get the right version) for your track installation:
Märklin G1 RH Point Switch Stand Märklin G1 LH Point Switch Stand
Given the impressive credentials of the Märklin Group, the quality of their products, and the impressive selection of track available I am a little nonplussed as why they should wish to hide their light under the proverbial bushel as far as the UK is concerned.
Surely there must be a sizeable market for Gauge 1 Standard Gauge track to complement their existing Narrow-Gauge range represented by LGB (now also owned by Märklin)? Perhaps it is a case of ineffective representation in the UK marketplace rather then the company’s lack of interest but if they wish to compete with Piko they surely need to establish a more visible presence and retail outlets other than the omni-present eBay.
Incidentally Märklin use Alternating Current (A/C) to power their Gauge1 (Spur 1) trains unlike LGB who use Direct Current (D/C).
Link to Marklin / Hübner track:
Märklin Spur 1 Website:
· Long established who have invested heavily in Gauge 1 in recent years.
· Excellent range of sectional track
· Innovative “flexible track” offering
· Availability somewhat limited
· Suffers from lack of promotion and retail outlets in the UK market
And last, but certainly not least, in our quick world tour of major G Gauge track manufacturers is USA Trains who may not be as visible as some others this side of the pond still have a devoted following - mainly due to the incredible range of products they supply but also the quality of what they manage to produce.
I have incorporated USA Trains Code 332 track on my own layout and it mixes well with Aristo-craft, Piko, LGB and the like.
USA Trains is based in Malden, Massachusetts and is one of the major players in the large-scale model railway marketplace. It is owned by Charles Ro, one of, if not the largest model train stores in the States. The company started manufacturing large-scale models railways in 1982 when their supply from Lionel was interrupted.
USA Trains’ brass track is very similar to that produced by Aristo-craft but does not appear to be as widely available in the UK or come in quite the same variety of types and materials. Nevertheless there is a choice of 4 straight sections (6", 12", 24" and 60") and no less than 5 curved sections up to 20' Diameter (4', 5', 8', 10', 16' and 20' Diameter). Their range also includes wide radius and standard 4’ diameter remote controlled switches (points/turnouts).
USA Trains track is all made from solid brass with a traditional Code 332 flat-bottomed profile firmly fixed into UV protected simulated American pattern ties (sleepers) using a combination of strong chair “spikes” strengthened by screws from below to hold everything in alignment. It also employs much the same slide-on screw-in brass rail joiners apprach used by Aristo-craft and now Bachmann with the same tiny hex screws to improve electrical conductivity.
The latter prove troublesome and you are advised to magnetise your hex driver or apply a small blob of grease to the end to hold the screw in place whilst you insert same. A magnet is also useful to retrieve any un-co-operative screws that inevitably drop into the ballast – see my earlier suggestion to place a sheet of white card underneath the track whilst carrying out this type of operation.
The track tie strip also has small holes drilled at regular intervals along the centre of each tie strip to provide for fixing to the roadbed.
It is possibly worth mentioning that USA Train track also has an angled ‘lug’ in the bottom of each rail joiner to retain it in position on the tie strip. This practice is also followed by LGB. USA Trains track is compatible with most other Code 332 types although you may have to use a bit of gentle persuasion when initially joining different makes.
The pre-formed Straight and Curved track sections are
complemented by three sizes of turnout (switch/point) –
a No.6 large diameter switch in right and left-hand
configuration, an 8’ diameter turnout (image left) and a
10’ diameter point for a more realistic appearance.
Unusually, they all incorporate all-metal frogs and also
come equipped for remote control electrical operation
using simple A,B,C, D connections and red/green
indicator lights so you can’t go wrong when installing
them. The switches also feature Lighted Lanterns
showing the direction of travel the switch is set for – a
nother useful visual check and further enhancing their
value for money.
All in all, track selection is very workmanlike and should serve you well if you are able to source it at a reasonable price. Depending on the exchange rates and shipping costs prevailing at the time you may get a reasonable deal from a USA stockist (especially direct from Charle Ro although several other dealers seem to stock Track).
For more detailed information on USA Trains track watch this Large Scale Online Video:
Solid durable construction
Useful additional switch features
Hard to find in the UK
No flexible version
or visit their website by clicking the button-link:
I had originally intended to finish this particular module at this point but during my research for more obscure track suppliers I came across a small workshop in Germany, founded by Bertram Heyn in 1983, which produces architectural models, fair displays, museum and functioning models. Since 2001 Modellbau Heyn have extended their activities to embrace model railways and now specialise in several unusual products including a comprehensive - field railway track system ( very well suited for 1:13.3 scale modelling), 45mm gauge, 64mm gauge, and even 89mm gauge (suitable for 1:16 scale) as well as dual gauge variants and a choice of wood, concrete or even ‘Y’ shape steel sleepers. If you seek the unusual, I recommend a visit to their website:
here are just a few examples of their fascinating range: