In the Miniatur Wunderland, we use track systems from different manufacturers. Each system has it’s pros and cons. The following article will show you where and how we use the different systems.
Märklin H0-gauge track
In the sections Alps, Harz mountains, Hamburg, USA, and Scandinavia we use the K-track made by Märklin on almost all main lines. In order to connect new sections to already existing ones, we have to use the K-track to ensure that in the future we can run trains from one end of the layout to another. 90% of all track pieces are flex track and we also use slim turnouts for smooth running. The advantage of the K-track is easy handling, and it is also very sturdy. To round this off, no loop-modules are needed. All trackwork has in common that we have track feeders every 150 cms to 200 cms (every 4 to 6 ft.).
This way, it doesn’t matter into which rail the contacts for occupancy detectors (abt. 10 cms long) are set. When cutting the rail for the contact, one should pay attention to the resulting burr. It must not touch the middle rail as otherwise a short circuit is created. Finding this short can cost a lot of nerves and is best done using a multimeter. Once you have a clean cut, the contact rail can be fixed using Stabilit-Express, a two component and gap-filling glue. We don’t need the limit stop of the turnout motors and thus rip them out, since we control the turnouts using digital decoders. ATTENTION: If turnouts are controlled analog, the limit stop must stay in the switch machine as otherwise it will be destroyed. Märklin turnouts in the sections Alps, Harz, Hamburg, and USA have not yet been modified. In the Scandinavian section, the turnouts have been equipped with a turnout motor made by LGB. To make it fit, the turnout has to be modified a bit. As a sound-damping measure, we lay all track in the staging areas on 4 mm cork. In the visible areas the track is laid into a readymade subroadbed made by MERKUR which is sold via NOCH. This subroadbed is already configured for Märklin flex track, turnouts, and sectional track.
Roco H0-gauge & H0e-gauge
Roco-Line track is used in the Hamburg and Scandinavia sections. In the Hamburg section, we used the track with it’s original roadbed for the metro line (U-Bahn), light-railway (S-Bahn), and the trams.
Why did we use Roco and not Märklin? Simple reply: 2-rail track is a worldwide standard. There is a lot more rolling stock out there for 2-rail track than for 3-rail track. Thus, we didn’t have the need for costly conversions of rolling stock. In general, 2-rail track is the winner if trackwork has be laid into streets (like harbour tracks or tram tracks) as it is very easy to fit concrete or cobblestone between the rails. In the Hamburg section we also used the original turnout motors. We don’t use contacts for the 2-rail trackwork but use occupancy detectors instead. These can be a couple of meters long. We use insulating track joiners to isolate the detection section from the rest of the track. One should also have expanding joints in the rails to avoid warping. One important point is the right polarity, especially in return loops. Using digital control, however, this not really complicated.
The 9mm track made by Roco is used for a narrow gauge road in the Harz section. It is very delicate and requires a lot of attention. Turnout motors are original ones and train control is also digital.
In the Scandinavian section we not only use flex track but also 90 cms (abt. 3 ft) sectional track. In the staging yards it is laid on 4 mm cork, and in the visible areas it is laid on prefabricated subroadbed sold by NOCH.
Peco H0-gauge track
We use the Peco track in the USA-section. Peco - code75 is a close-to-prototype proportioned DC track. We use flex track and several types of turnouts (switches). If you want to use Peco track in a digital system, there is at least one thing to take special care of: turnouts have to be equipped with a track feeder and the polarity of the frog must be switched according to the routed direction. Since this is a DC track, polarity has to be observed in order to avoid shorts; especially at turn loops. Here too, we work with occupancy detector sections which can be several feet long; they are separated from the rest of the trackwork with insulating track joiners. The track joiners have a very snug fit and deliver very good contact. We also need track gaps in this section to allow the trackwork some play ( and avoid a "roller coaster" caused by warping tracks). The roadbed is ready made by NOCH since we don't have time to ballast the track manually. The switch machines are not made by Peco; instead, we use those made by LGB which are very robust. The decision for the PECO track was made because we hardly can buy American rolling stock at reasonable prices in Europe. The alternative would have been to convert all engines and cars to AC rail, a waste of time, resources and money. The USA-section can accomodate trains of up to 15 meters ( 49.2 feet ) which is mainly due to to the layout design, rather than to the technical possibilities. Thanks to digital control, all engines hauling one train are synchronized.
Fleischmann Profi H0-scale track
This track is used in the Austrian Alps. In addition, a cograil is implemented for the cog railroad. Since the track is very steep, a normal locomotive wouldn’t be able to push a train up the mountain. The workhorse here is a class 91 “Edelweiss” steam loco (Fleischmann item # 4033). Turnout motors are original; control is digital and, as usual with 2-rail, polarity has to be observed.