N Gauge Track Code 80/Code 55 - What's the difference?

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N Gauge Track Code 80/Code 55 - What's the difference?
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The track "Code" , in this instance Code 80 or code 55 for N Gauge track, refers to the height of the rail in 1/1000's of an inch, so Code 55 track has a rail that is .055" high and code 80 track has a rail that is .080" high.  How does that effect you, the N Gauge modeler? Well, there are several considerations.
 
    Code 80 track has been the long term standard for N gauge and was the only option for factory made track for many years. It is the most widely distributed size of N gauge track, providing the most readily available options of special track sections such as switches, grade crossings etc. and because of the high production and use of the same design efforts over a long period of time it is a bit less costly than Code 55 track. Older N gauge locomotives and cars had wheels with larger flanges (to help prevent derailing) that will not work with Code 55 track, because the flanges bottom out on the ties. The major downside to Code 80 track is that the rail height is a bit out of proportion to N scale (1:160). The .080" rail represents a full sized rail of 12.8" height which is larger than most any real railroad track. Code 55 track with .055" rail represents real rail of 8.8" height which is much closer to real track proportions.
 
    That being said, most modelers find the Code 80 track acceptable in appearance with their N scale equipment. Some modelers, who are more concerned with achieving a more accurate and precise scale (1:160) representation of reality will choose Code 55 track. In larger layouts both tracks could be used, with Code 80 on the main line and Code 55 on the branch lines, yards, and customer sidings.
    
    In terms of brands of track, Atlas (the US leader in terms of N and HO gauge track) makes both Code 80 (most popular - by far) and Code 55 track in a standard (no attached roadbed) format and has within the last year, introduced a Code 65 N True-Track, which comes attached to a plastic roadbed. (I stock a lot of the Atlas Code 80 track and Code 55 switches crossings and Flex-Track in my Ebay Store). Bachmann makes N Gauge "E-Z" Track, which has a Code 80 rail and is mounted to a plastic roadbed. This comes in all Bachmann N Gauge train sets and is very popular. (I stock Bachmann N EZ Track in my Ebay Store also).

    My personal opinion is that Code 80 N gauge track is more practical for most modelers and looks fine, particularly when the entire layout is established with roadbed, track ballast and scenery.
 
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