Roco Line With Roadbed Is Back

Roco Line With Roadbed Is Back!

A look at why this product became an instant classic

By Ernest H. Robl

When it was introduced in stages in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Roco Line HO code 83 track system drew an enormous amount of attention for its many innovative features. Both the overall system and individual components won model of the year honors and other awards from a range of European model railroad publications and organizations over several years.

(Roco had previously offered an extensive code 100 track system — sold in North America under a variety of brand names, such as Model Power, in addition to its own — which continued to be produced, though with a limited range of components, long after Roco Line was introduced.)

This new code 83 track system from Roco included both track with and without roadbed, a wide range of curve radii and specialized components — for example three different radii of curved turnouts — but also had a geometrical design that allowed the building of a wide number of configurations with only a few compensation pieces, which were usually supplied with switches.

The track with roadbed looked good enough for installation on layouts (usually with a little bit of additional weathering) but was also solid enough to allow it to be stepped on by children when laid on the floor for a temporary setup. Of course, for those insisting on doing their own ballasting, there was always the track without roadbed, which had an identical geometry.

Perhaps the most innovative feature of the track with roadbed was that it was almost infinitely repairable. Yes, some track configurations required cutting the roadbed shoulders, but not only was this easy to do with the soft roadbed material, but those roadbed shoulders could later be replaced (if the track was to be later used in a different configuration) and the repair would be almost undetectable.

If the track itself was damaged but the roadbed still intact, the track was easy to replace by purchasing the matching component from the system without roadbed.


A Roco catalog illustration from around 2001 shows some of the possibilities of the Roco Line track system with roadbed.

In fact, the system’s modular design allowed most track pieces (switches were an exception) to be easily removed from their roadbed, making it easy to paint the roadbed.

Switches with roadbed (with the exception of some simple versions supplied with starter sets) were supplied from the beginning with frog polarization, which worked even when the switch was used in manual mode — which required no additional manual switch operation mechanism.

Purpose designed switch motors fit invisibly under switches with roadbed, and, in later years, also included switch motors with built-in decoders.

The roadbed profile was to scale width, unlike some previously (and currently) available track with roadbed, where the roadbed is much too narrow, particularly for mainline tracks.

Among other things, the Roco Line with roadbed track also provided a great way to display models set up on bookshelves.

Gone, but not forgotten

Then, suddenly in 2005, Roco Line with roadbed ceased to be produced, for reasons which were complex, and to which I’ll get in a moment. (Roco Line without roadbed continued to be available.)

Dealers who still had Roco Line with roadbed items in stock considered them orphan items and put them on sale as remainders.


A Roco Line double slip switch with roadbed, showing the supplied compensation pieces which can be used to maintain correct track geometry. (Roco catalog illustration.)


But, those dealers failed to understand the popularity base for the roadbed track. Roco Line with roadbed gained a new life on the second-hand market, including on Internet sales sites such as eBay.

As some items became scarce, used versions would often fetch double the price of the same items when they were new.

And, from time to time, unused Roco Line with roadbed items would still show up — and be quickly gobbled up. (One large German hobby shop specializes, among other things, in buying up the inventory of hobby shops that are closing or otherwise going out of business. And those inventories often included a few odd pieces of Roco Line with roadbed that were still in their factory packaging.)

So, in a way, Roco Line with roadbed never totally went away, though it was no longer in production.


A Roco Line with roadbed R9/10 curved turnout. (Roco catalog illustration.)

What happened?

Roco, like many other model railroad manufacturers, got into financial trouble in the first decade of this century. All of these manufacturers had huge investments in the development of new models and were trying to outdo each other in the number and range of items being offered, often in a wide range of scales.

Roco, for example, had even begun offering such fan items as jackets and umbrellas with the Roco label. It was only one example of Roco going “a bridge too far.” Roco had also decided to offer three different HO lines — Playtime, Professional, and Platinum. The first was an attempted to get more into the toy markets by offering items with so little detail that some “models” could at best be described as “crude.” There Roco was trying to enter an unfamiliar market segment. Because even the crude models had Roco drive trains, they were still on the expensive side for toys. And, if someone with Playtime “models” decided to get into serious model railroading, the Playtime items really didn’t fit in.

At the same time, two other factors had a major effect:

  • The global recession greatly reduced the amount of money available for such discretionary areas as hobbies
  • And, the Internet greatly changed the world market place.

Though Roco was probably not any more overextended financially than other model railroad manufacturers, the bank holding most of its loans decided to call in those loans and not to offer further financing, which might have carried Roco through some rough years. That forced Roco into bankruptcy.

The then owner of Roco was not happy with the circumstances under which the company was forced into bankruptcy. (Austrian news media reported that the bank made a tidy profit when it later sold the Roco assets it acquired through the bankruptcy. Some of those media have also indicated that there were, at the very least, two sides to the story and that though it had made some bad decisions, Roco might have survived, had the bank been willing to support it.)

Well, it turned out that the then owner of Roco himself, not the company, owned the patents for the Roco Line with roadbed. (The patents for the track without roadbed were among the general assets of the company.)

Well, as he was not happy with being forced out, that owner was not about to part with the patents for one of Roco’s signature products.

So, the new owners of Roco who had acquired the assets of the bankrupt company from the bank, were forced almost overnight to come up with a new track system. That system was Roco geoLine. This new track system had a few of the features of Roco Line, such as being able to manually operate switches without a switch motor or other accessory control being installed, but had a far smaller range of track radii and other components. New Roco HO start sets now included the geoLine tracks.

It’s baaaaack!

This year (2017) Roco suddenly announced that Roco Line with roadbed would again be available, with production runs scheduled for later this year. (Dealers can pre-order items; none of the items were available as of spring 2017.)

But, based on the Roco 2017 new items listings, the new selection of Roco Line roadbed products will apparently be essentially the entire range of products that was available in 2005.

So, with more than a decade having passed and with several changes of Roco management in the meantime, Roco was able to come to an agreement with the owner of the Roco Line patents which allowed new production.

Thoughts about the system

I plan to use Roco Line with roadbed for most of the visible portions of my layout. I have been acquiring pieces since the system was introduced, at first, primarily for display tracks. (I ended up with some geoLine tracks with a Roco start set that I purchased and plan to use those in a large industrial area; I also plan to use older Kleinbahn tracks in the station at the end of my branch line — simply because I have a lot of these Kleinbahn tracks, and by using them I’m saving several hundred dollars. Most of the hidden tracks, including the nine-track staging yard will be with older Roco code 100 track.)

Work on my previous layout convinced me that the next time around, I didn’t want to have to ballast every inch of track. So, track with roadbed — particularly a well-designed system like Roco Line — appeared to be the solution.

I acquired my first pieces of Roco Line while it was still in full production. Then I bought a number of items when dealers had remainder sales after production ceased. But, about half of the track that I currently own was acquired in the last five years, as I began finalizing my track plan. And of that, about half of that was used, the remainder unused items that showed up from time to time.

I’ve painted most of the roadbed and have been weathering track over the last few weeks, applying a light wash of rust. That’s something you can do with roadbed track, prior to installation.

Would I recommend Roco Line with roadbed for others? Certainly.

But I do have a few cautions:

  • To use the larger radii, you really need a lot of space. But these radii do look impressive.
  • The same is true for the 10 degree turnouts. Use these sparingly unless you have space to spare.
  • On the other hand, I would stay away from radius R2 (there isn’t any R1) except for industrial tracks that will only be used by small switchers and short freight cars. That includes the R2/3 curved turnouts. Yes, my 1:100 passenger cars, longer freight cars, and all my engines will operate on R2 tracks (including R2/3 turnouts) on my current test loop, but the equipment just doesn’t look right, and backup moves can be tricky. You could run into problems with full-length 303mm passenger cars on parallel R2 and R3 tracks, particularly if those tracks include curved turnouts.
  • Roco Line includes extra economical versions of both the 15 degree right and left standard turnouts and the left and right R2/3 curved turnouts without frog polarization. I would stay away from these, as they would be difficult to polarize later, should you need polarized frogs. And, the cheaper turnouts (primarily intended for start sets) do not come with the compensation pieces that are included with the polarized turnouts. Should you want to use a polarized turnout as a spring switch, which can be trailed through, it is a simple matter of disconnecting the polarization wire. That can later be reconnected, if needed. Saving a few dollars per turnout isn’t worth the loss of versatility. (Having said that, I need to note that I do have some of these turnouts, but plan to use them at easily accessible locations not on the main line.)

It will be interesting to see how Roco promotes this track to those not familiar with the system — and whether it plans to carry the roadbed line long-term. (In the early 2000s, Roco had entire brochures focusing just on Roco Line track and describing its innovative features.)

Quick hints-Roco Line with roadbed products have 425xxx catalog numbers. Matching Roco Line track without roadbed have identical 424xx numbers. Accessories, some of which are designed for only the roadbed line, while others fit both track systems, are in the 426xx catalog numbers.

What will be the hot items? Undoubtedly the roadbed switch motors. These have been hard to come by, and used ones have been going for more than twice their original price. I’ve pre-ordered some at prices that are quite reasonable — and much less than switch motors offered by most other manufacturers.

Another item that has been in short supply have been the R9 curved tracks. These are needed in conjunction with the R9/10 switches (of which there appear to be quite a few around, despite their space requirements) and for narrower spacing of parallel tracks. R10 is the counter curve for the 15 degree switches, but R9 can be used if you want a slightly narrower track spacing.

On the whole, the renewed availability of Roco Line with roadbed is good news — except for those who have been making good money off of it on the used market.

At the very least, these make great display tracks.


While I am happy to answer questions about Roco Line with roadbed, as I own a wide range of components and have done quite a bit of research on it, I do not want to get into a debate here about whether Roco Line with roadbed is better (or worse) than some other track system. The track system that you choose, like many other aspects of model railroading, is a matter of taste. What satisfies one person may not do the same for another.


As always, comments are welcome.


48 Responses to Roco Line With Roadbed Is Back

  1. Gordon says:

    Very interesting write up, Ernest. Too bad its HO! Still I enjoyed your description.


    • Michael Sherwin says:

      I have a considerable amount of the rubber edged track including many new long points that are still boxed along with new boxed point motors and new boxed curves,I am seriously changing to an alternative as yet undecided, and would like information as to get the best market price, any information would gratefully received, I live seven miles north of Nottingham. Yours Mike Sherwin.

  2. Ernest Robl says:

    The value of used model railroad equipment can fluctuate greatly. (I realize that you said that some of your items have never been removed from the boxes. However, at least in the U.S., the convention is that once an item has been sold by a retailer, it is “used.” It can be described as like new or some other way to show that it is in perfect condition.

    Assuming the vendor from whom you bought these items is still in business, you may want to contact that store to see if it would sell your items on a consignment basis. In such cases, the vendor gets a percentage of the sale, so it is in his interest to sell the item at the beat price.

    You can also look at the version of ebay for your country — or other country-specific online auction sites.

    But, be aware of the prices for the current new production runs of these Roco items. A used (pre-owned) price would have to be below those, as the new items would have a factory warranty.

    I obviously really like the Roco line with roadbed, and think it can appear quite realistic, particularly if it is painted and aged. I already have — or have on order — what I anticipate needing, and will likely not purchase any more of this track in the immediate future. I am using the long (10 degree) switches at only a couple of locations on my layout, simply for space reasons.

    As mentioned in the post above, Roco Line with roadbed can also serve as excellent display tracks on shelves.

    Good luck.

    – Ernest

  3. Chris Knowles says:

    Hi as any body herd a rumour that fleischman ho proffi track is being taken out of production

    • Ernest Robl says:

      Fleischmann [or rather the holding company that owns Fleischmann and Roco] has announced that it is phasing out Fleischmann’s HO line. All HO toolings and supplies will go over to Roco. (Fleischmann will continue to produce N scale items.) Fleischmann HO will come to an end at the end of this year (2018).

      At this time it is not clear which Fleischmann items will continue to be available — but now with Roco catalog numbers. I expect that Fleischmann Profi couplers and similar basic supplies (unique to Fleischmann) will continue to be available as Roco items.

      As Roco currently has two different HO track systems, I doubt that it will continue Fleischmann tracks. So, if there are particular Fleischmann track components you really want, it would be best to order them now.

      Of course, almost all HO track systems can be made to connect with each other. And, where a particular radius is not available in a particular track system, you can use flex track as a substitute.

      This year’s Fleischmann HO catalog will also be the last Fleischmann HO catalog. So, that may end up being a collector’s item.

      – Ernest

  4. Chris Knowles says:

    Many thanks for info going for Roco line c/w track bed cheers

  5. tom p metzger says:

    Great article!! I just found the REI blog! didnt know you had one. I also didnt know geoLine was from the ashes of Roco line track.

  6. Mike Sherwin says:

    I have decided to keep my Roco track but I have hit a problem that I would appreciate any help at all with ,namely how do you program Roco point motors using my preferred NCE Powercab controller ? I do not wish to purchase the somewhat toyish multi mous system and if a solution cannot be found what track with built in roadbed would anyone consider an equivalent as regards appearance and functionality , hoping someone can answer my dilemma ! Yours in anticipation .
    Mike Sherwin .UK.

  7. Ernest Robl says:

    I would not sell the Roco Multimaus-based system short. It is one of the most widely used digital control systems in the world for a reason. Among other things, it is highly intuitive, and I could show someone how to use it within a few minutes. Yes, I have three Multimaus controllers myself.

    But, at the same time, as with most aspects of model railroading, each person has his or her own preferences.

    Programming any digital model railroad device, whether locomotive or turnout, is a combination of the attributes of the control system, the attributes of the decoder, and the attributes of the item being controlled. You may have to combine instructions from all three to get the desired result.

    Programming for digital control or Roco Line roadbed switches depends, in part, on which of the following applies:
     You are using analog Roco roadbed switch motors, controlled by a multi-port Roco switch decoder.
     You are using digital Roco switch motors. Or,
     You are using analog Roco switch motors, controlled by a third-party multi-port switch decoder.

    In all of these cases, you will need a programming track connected to your control station, with only the decoder being programmed receiving the programming signals. I do not know anything about your control system, so, you will have to figure out on your own how to put it in switch programming mode and how to program switch addresses with it.

    If you are using the analog Roco switch motors, connected to an eight-port Roco switch decoder, note that the decoder is divided into two banks of four addresses. You place the decoder into programming mode with the button on the decoder. (You should be able to download the decoder instructions from the Roco factory Web site. Prior to purchase.)

    You program the addresses for each bank of four addresses one bank at a time. When you assign an address to the first port on a bank, the first port receives that address; each of the following ports automatically gets an address one number higher.

    So, if you program the first port to address 9, the three other ports in that bank will get addresses 10, 11, and 12. You then do the same thing with the second bank of pots. You can program the ports on the decoder before it is connected to any turnout motors.

    If you are using the Roco digital turnout motors, you must first install the turnout motor in a Roco Line roadbed turnout. Note that there are two wires in the turnout motor – one of which goes to each track. In normal operation, these provide both the power and the digital signal for the motor. A third wire is used only during programming, and, in fact, puts the motor into programming mode. You will need to read the specific instructions that come with the motor. (Again, these should be downloadable from the Roco site.)

    Once the programming is done, you disconnect the third wire and you are now ready to install the turnout.

    If you are using a third party multi-port switch decoder, you will have to read the instructions for that particular unit as to how to place it into programming mode and how digital addresses can be assigned.

    Some will require you use consecutive addresses for consecutive ports; some will not. But all should work to receive commands from any data bus sending standard digital signals.

    Note that some third party decoders offer the option of either powering the decoder (and attached switch motors) from the digital bus or having a separate power source. The latter will help reduce the power demand on the digital control station or booster to which the decoder is connected.

    I hope that helps.

    – Ernest

  8. Henrique Smania says:

    Hi Ernest,
    I’m in Brazil and I adopted the Roco Line with roadbed system. So far, so good. I’m about to buy some motors with decoders (the white ones), just waiting for some options (shipping costs).
    I’m also looking for clubs or specialized discussion groups of RL owners. The clubs in US or Europe, to visit when I travel and the discussion groups because I’m the only one I know of using this system in Brazil, so I’m looking forward to a technical group for discussion and research.

  9. Ernest Robl says:

    I am not aware of any discussion groups or clubs specifically focusing on Roco Line track. Roco itself has published a variety of brochures on Roco Line over the years, and these sometimes show up on the used market. Roco currently offers a book of Roco Line track plans — which I have not seen — but which may provide some useful ideas.

    The Roco magazine, published by the company itself, has had numerous articles about Roco Line track. Subscriptions are expensive (and I am not sure the magazine is still being produced), but you can sometimes find back issues on the used market, such as on Ebay.

    I’m sure that Roco Line track comes up at times on various German model discussion forums — but these are, of course, all in German. Though I read and speak German, I normally don’t visit any of these forums on a regular basis — there’s just too much material to read. But, I have read some discussions on them when I was searching for particular information.

    Many European model clubs — particularly in Austria and Germany — use Roco Line without roadbed.

    During my travels in Austria, I managed to visit several clubs, even at times they were not normally open to the public, just by contacting them ahead of time.

    This year, for the first time in many years, Roco announced a new Roco Line item — R3/4 turnouts both with and without roadbed. So, I assume Roco will continue to expand the system — even though it already has a huge selection of track elements. I would hope that at some point Roco would offer equilateral (“Y”) turnouts.

    Don’t overlook German model railroad magazines, which typically review new items. I have subscribed to the Austrian magazine Modellbahnwelt for a number of years. It’s published six times a year and contains a lot of product information — as well as inspirational photos of layouts.

    I’ve painted and weathered almost all my Roco Line roadbed. That’s involved a lot of experimentation. Doing so will depend on what paint colors and equipment you nave available — and the effect you are trying to achieve.

    – Ernest

  10. Nathan says:

    I have some geoLine and Roco Line, I use geoLine because I find it easier – I like how easy it is for me to hide wires under the track. I guess I am just wondering why use one over the other? What is the reason for the difference and why people are into one vs. the other. I cans that the rubbery base of the Roco Line makes is hug and cover things easier as you put it down, but most of the time I am backing my scanning up to the track – like grass or rocks – so what is the market difference here?

  11. Ernest Robl says:

    Well, you can hide wires under the Roco Line track, too.

    But, as to the differences:

    On the whole, Roco Line is more prototypical in terms of roadbed width, parallel track spacing, and a number of other features. Roco Line can be purchased with or without roadbed, for those situations where you want to do your own ballasting or to model special features, such as tracks set in concrete.

    Roco Line has a far wider range of track radii and other components.

    Roco Line flex track (with or without roadbed) is easier to work with in a number of ways. Roco Line offers flex track with either wood or concrete ties.

    The rubbery Roco Line roadbed can be cut to fit track to special situations — but then again repaired with the roadbed shoulder pieces available for that purpose.

    Roco Line roadbed is fairly easy to weather (paint) and age, because most track components can be removed from the roadbed fairly easily. Switches are an exception. They need to have track masked when the roadbed is painted.

    Noise generated by trains running over model track is in part dependent on the substructure.

    Having said all that, there is nothing terribly wrong with GeoLine. I have some that came with two different start sets — and I purchased a few add-on pieces. I plan to use the GeoLine in one industrial area on my layout — and possibly for some hidden trackage.

    If you do like GeoLine, you probably need to get the components you want soon, as that entire product line is likely being phased out. It does not make sense for Roco/Fleischmann to support multiple HO track systems. You may find some GeoLine items a close-out sales. And, of course, GeoLine is likely to be available on the used market for some time to come.

    I hope that helps.

    – Ernest

  12. Rudy says:

    My entire scenery was purchased and built here in Montreal, Canada….All my tracks are “Atlas” based…Can I use Rocco rolling stock, [Steam Engines, power supply, and cars] on these tracks, or any other manufactures tracks…thanks, Rudy… ?

    • Ernest Robl says:

      The short answer is yes. Over the years, much Atlas track was actually made by Roco. There should not be any problems as long as both the track and rolling stock are fairly recent — from the last three decades or so.

      Power supplies and digital controls are independent of track. You can use most any power supplies with most any track — again, with a very few exceptions.

      You can combine the track of many manufacturers on a layhout

      There are some minor differences in the appearance of prototype American and European tracks — and therefore their models. But, the average person would never notice these. Weathering of the track and how it is blended into the scenery makes much more of a difference.

      I am working on a longer piece on a variety of compatibility issues and will try to have that posted in the near future.

      – Ernest

  13. Paul says:

    Is REI carrying Roco line with roadbed? I see their Geoline track? Are the two compatible? I do see well so it is hard for me to tell by looking at the pictures.
    But it appears they carry the Geoline and then Roco line. Does any of the roco line have roadbed?

    • Ernest Robl says:

      Yes, Reynauld’s carries both Roco Line with and without roadbed. Go to the Roco Line section on the Roco index page and the various sub-categories of Roco Line track will include both tracks with and without roadbed.

      For what it’s worth, Roco catalog numbers starting with 424xx are for Roco Line without roadbed; catalog numbers starting with 425xx are for the identical item with roadbed.

      I am not employed by Reynauld’s, so I do not speak for them, but I am sure that if Rey does not have a particular item in stock, he can order it for you, provided it is available from the factory.

      Also, be sure to check the Roco Line section on the Consignment page. That often included used pieces of Roco Line at good prices.

      As far as I know, GeoLine is being phased out — as is the case with Fleischmann HO track — so that the parent company of both Roco and Fleischmann does not have to support so many different HO track systems. (There is probably still a good inventory of GeoLine on hand, both at the factory and at dealers, so it will likely continue to available for some time.)

      New Roco start sets now come with Roco Line track.

      Yes, Roco Line (with or without roadbed) is compatible with GeoLine, as are almost all types of HO track. However, Roco Line with roadbed is far more realistic than GeoLine, particularly if the Roco Line roadbed is painted and weathered. (GeoLine is more difficult to paint and weather.) The GeoLine assortment even includes a special transition track designed for easier connection with another track system, such as Roco Line. However, essentially any HO track can be connected with any other HO track if you are willing to do a bit of sawing and use the correct track joiners. (Roco even offers transition rail joiners for connecting the code 83 Roco Line or GeoLine tracks to older code 100 track, from any manufacturer.)

      I am using some GeoLine track (that came with starter sets) in an industrial area. And, it works just fine for hidden trackage — or as display tracks on a bookshelf.

      Even if you go with Roco Line with roadbed, you will probably want to use some Roco Line tracks without roadbed in industrial areas — for example where the tracks are set into concrete.

      Hope that helps.

      – Ernest

  14. Paul says:

    Thanks for this. I found the parts based off the 425… indicators. Do you know what the R3, R4, mean? I am trying to figure out how many it makes to make a circle. Do I look at the length and figure this out?
    Your help here is appreciated.

    • Ernest Robl says:

      Roco has a series of curved track radii, which have a uniform spacing of 61.6mm (2.425 inches) apart — track center to track center. Track radii are always given based on track center. There is currently no R1, which would be too tight for modern rolling stock.

      Available track radii go from R2-R6, then jump to R9 and R10 and R20. The R9, R10, and R20 are special purpose tracks, intended mostly as compenation curves for various turnouts. They can, of course, be used any place you want a very gentle curve.

      Here are the basic facts for the main radii:

      R2 358.0mm (14.09 inches)
      R3 419.6mm (16.52 inches)
      R4 481.2mm (18.94 inches)
      R5 542.8mm (21.37 inches)
      R6 604.4mm (23.80 inches)

      IMPORTANT: Although most current Roco rolling stock will operate on R2, some longer modern rolling stock will encounter problems. In any case, longer rolling stock will look unrealistic on such tight curves. Some longer steam locomotives will not operate on this radius. So, try to stay away from this radius except for industrial areas used only by short freight cars and small switchers.

      Roco streetcars will operate on R2 tracks.

      In general, use the largest radii that you can — give whatever the space limitations of your layout.

      On my layout, I am using mostly R5 and R6 for the double track main line and mostly R3 and R4 on my single-track branch line.

      You will need to acquire either one of the Roco main catalogs from recent years or one of the Roco accessory catalogs, also from recent years. Both of these have diagrams and a lot more explanations of the track geometry for Roco Line track. (The geometry is, of course, the same for Roco Line track with and without roadbed.)

      There are also curved turnouts that allow you to go from one parallel circle to another. The R3/4 turnouts are a fairly recent addition. R5/6 have been around for a while. Stay away from the R2/3 — except for tram lines — for the reasons given above. R9/10 will only fit on very large layouts.

      – Ernest

      • Paul says:

        Thanks. This was very useful. I can accommodate R5 and R6 curves. my layout is kind of interesting. When it is done, I will send photos. I had to wall mount it about a foot below my ceiling. At certain points in the corners I am hanging platforms to build some diaramas. I have no room at floor level for a lay out.

        • Ernest Robl says:

          There is an old Roco Line brochure that can be downloaded from the Roco factory Web site:

          It’s in German only, but even if you do not read/speak German, the diagrams and illustrations should be useful. As noted, this brochure is from about two decades ago, so it does not include a few recent additions to the Roco Line product line.

          – Ernest

          • Paul says:

            got my first lot of Code 83 today and it is well made. Saves trying to ballast track, Thanks for the help.
            Any advice on how to weather it?
            Reynaulds did a great job on the packing and shipping.

  15. Paul says:

    Any body have a preferred method for permanently mounting the track with roadbed to the benchwork in such a way that it is easily changed? Or do you put it down without fixing it in place? I was looking at either small screws or track nails. Or spot silicon glue at points. This way, I can change it at some point without buying new trackwork.
    Piko, Viessmann and other manufacturers sell small track screws and nails. I was going to go through the roadbed versus the ties.

    • Ernest Robl says:


      I am trying to put together something in response to your earlier question about weathering Roco Line track with roadbed. But, in the meantime, I can provide a quicker response to your question about affixing the track to the layout.

      Roco Line track actually has provisions for affixing the track — and Roco even offers suitable nails.

      Both Roco Line track with and without roadbed has provisions for nailing the track — but there are two different length nails needed and offered by Roco. For Roco Line with roadbed, you need the longer versions of the nails, Roco item 10001.

      Turn over any piece of Roco Line track roadbed, and you will notice circular fixtures that hold the two parts of the roadbed structure together. These are normally three ties in from the end of the track piece. Longer pieces of track also have one of these fixtures in the middle.

      Notice that these fixtures have a tiny hole in the middle. This is where the nail goes.

      Yes, the nail hole does not go all the way through the tie. But the track itself also has a prepared hole — that does not go all the way through the tie. If you pull a piece of track out from its roadbed, you will notice an indentation from below in (usually) the third tie — which of course aligns with the fixture in the roadbed..

      With the track in the roadbed, gently first push one of the longer Roco nails (item 10001) through the hole in the roadbed fixture and then the tie itself. this will open up the hole in the tie itself. Pull out the nail and you are now ready to install the nail through the hole from above. Push the nail in; do nut use a hammer!

      Though most longer pieces of track have provisions for three nails, you will actually need at most one nail in every two or three pieces of track. You may want to use more nails where track parallels a station platform or loading dock, just to make sure the track stays parallel to the platform edge. (You may need to trim the roadbed edge slightly in this situation to get the correct spacing.)

      Remember, you will also be applying other scenic materials around the roadbed, and the glue for these — something like Woodland Scenics scenic glue — will also help hold the roadbed in place. Allways use glue sparingly.

      Hope that answers your question.

      – Ernest

  16. Paul says:

    It does. I had noticed these circular pieces and was wondering. THanks.

  17. Seb Rees says:


    I have a layout which is a mix of Roco Geoline and Peco Streamline flexitrack (not a perfect match, but doable).

    I’m looking at buying a job lot of secondhand unused Rocoline and am trying to work out if it will be compatible (for fishplate connections etc) with the Geoline.

    Also – I have several Geoline (and hopefully soon Rocoline) turnouts – but unlike the Peco slips they run permanently live to each track. Is it possible to isolate these so only the chosen track runs live? I have noticed a wire underneath which can be attached / detached and was hoping this was the way to make the change – but it appears not …

    Appreciate any help and advice

    Many thanks


    • Ernest Robl says:


      Basically, all HO track can be made to work together, though sometimes it may take some work. Both Roco Line and Roco GeoLine use code 83 rails, so the same joiners (fishplates) will work. There is a GeoLine transition track specifically made to mate with other track. This item does not have (on one end) the clips that hold the GeoLine tracks together. But you can make your own transition track by cutting the clips off a piece of track.

      Each track system of course has its own geometry and selection of radii.

      You can even mate either Roco Line or GeoLine track to (older) code 100 track — using the special transition joiners offered by Roco.

      The wire beneath Roco Line turnout supplies power to the frog of the turnout. This is important for shorter locomotives which only have power pickup from two or three axles. But, when using the polarized option for the frog (with the wire connected) the turnout has to be properly aligned for trailing movements, otherwise a short circuit will result.

      To turn power off to tracks on one side or the other of a turnout as the turnout is aligned, you would need to use a relay in parallel with the turnout motor. This would primarily apply to analog operations. In most cases, it would be just as easy to isolate the track and feed the power through a small toggle switch. (You would need to isolate the tracks when using the relay option, too.)

      – Ernest

  18. Paul says:

    Does anyone here have experience with ROco’s uncoupler track? DOes it work well? Or do I need to buy the DCC uncoupler kits which get expensive? I am building a pair of sidings and it would be nice to drop cars, sorry American term, on them and disconnect or connect.

  19. Simon says:

    I’m considering this track. Maybe you can answer these two questions:

    1. RP25 wheels; Roco have two outrageously expensive photo etch sheets of frog inserts to add to the 10 and 15 degree turnouts. Are these mandatory? Not only are they expensive to buy, they aren’t even being stocked by Roco. I don’t have much stock with RP25 wheels but do have a lot of semi scale wheel sets. I haven’t found any discussion about using them with this system. I did come across a similar problem while researching the cons of using Fleischmanns track; they needed these inserts on the frogs.

    2. My past layout used Peco Code 83 and Code 75 turnouts. As such, my turnout motors were underboard DCC Cobalts (similar to Tortoise designs but having built in decoders). Since I have 37 of them I’ve little motivation to buy the Roco motors. Can you mount such motors with this ballasted track? I can’t find any info at Roco or on forums talking about this. No indication if you can drill a hole through the tie bar, through the ballast and then a 5/16th hole under the turnout through the baseboard.

    Historically I’ve used Code 75 but have to confess that I’m not great at laying track and always end up ripping up what I’ve done! Code 83 was easier to work with but Pecos has such a limited turnout option that it’s pointless to me. That has left me looking at Tillig Elite or Roco Line unballasted.

    Who likes ballasting? Nope! Hence I’m considering the ballasted Roco Line. So this actually brings me around to a third question…

    3. How do you combine ballasted and non ballasted Rocoline? What’s the height difference between baseboard and track ties on the ballasted.

    Thanks in advance for any comments.

    • Ernest Robl says:


      There are too many unknowns for me to be able to give absolute answers to your questions. And, sometimes what works for one person may not be acceptable to another.

      In model railroading, sometimes you just have to try things out. You may be able to find some pieces of Roco Line with roadbed — including a switch or two — on the used market for a good price. But, if not, just buy a couple of new pieces of this track and see how it works for you.

      European manufacturers have gradually gone to smaller and smaller wheel flanges, close to, but not an exact equivalent of RP25. I have not had any problems with recent pieces of rolling stock going through Roco Line switches. But, again, try it out with your rolling stock before making any major investments.

      I think that your existing switch motors should work with Roco Line with roadbed, as long as the linkages are long enough and the layout base is not too thick. Roco makes an under-the-layout switch motor, primarily intended for Roco Line without roadbed, but which could also be used with the roadbed track. This motor has additional external contacts for operating other circuits, such as indicator lights.

      The track height of Roco Line with roadbed is fairly close to that of track on a separately installed roadbed, such as cork roadbed or the foam roadbed from Woodland Scenics. There should be no problem with transitioning from one to the other. As I’ve indicated elsewhere above, basically any HO track can be made to work with any other.

      It looks like I have become the default explainer of Roco Line with roadbed. The more I work with this track, the more neat features I find that are not always immediately obvious. Just be sure to read — and keep — all the documentation that comes with each piece of track. Again, there are useful features that are not always immediately obvious.

      Hope that helps.

      – Ernest

      • Simon says:

        Ernest, thanks for the reply, that has helped answer some queries. I also found a Roco document that explained a few things about the RP25 issues. Your suggestion to buy a few pieces to play around with is a good one before investing 100%.

        So you are now the Roco Line Guru…. rather you than me!

  20. Paul says:

    Going through a station area, I think I am using ballasted track because the platforms are raised. However, can I can the shoulders off the roco roadbed because everything would be consistently the same at that point?
    Also, if I put in the digital turnout drives, do they work in analog? It seems easier to do this while laying track versus coming back later when I want to implement DCC.

    • Ernest Robl says:


      More good questions — and as such, they require longer, complex answers. (I know that I have not answered some of your earlier questions above. I will still try to get to them, but as is the case here, writing a useful response takes time.)

      Platforms: First, the height of platforms in the prototype is normally given as the height above top of rail. The same is a factor for model railroads.

      The height of the platform is determined by, among other things:

        Era of operation
        Type of equipment being operated on the line

      For example high-speed trains such as the German ICE and some commuter equipment in urban areas use so-called “high” platforms, where the platform height is equal to the floor height of the passenger cars, require no stepping up or down by the passengers. Stations served by these trains have dedicated high platforms for these trains, while also having lower platforms for other passenger trains.

      Having separate platforms for different types of trains is not usually practical of model railroads, particularly where the same tracks may also be used by freight trains.

      With Roco Line track with roadbed, you will need to slightly trim the roadbed on the side next to the platform to have the track the proper distance from the platform edge. This can be done with either sharp scissors or with a sharp hobby knife and a steel ruler. One of the advantages of Roco Line with roadbed is that the shoulder of the roadbed can later be repaired (replaced) if the track is being used elsewhere.

      You need to make sure that island platforms — platforms that are between two tracks — have a width that matches the geometry of the track that you are using. Or, you need to adjust your tracks to the correct distance from the platform edge.

      Switch machines: No the Roco Line digital switch machines will not work in analog mode. However the analog switch machines can be operated digitally by connecting them to a multi-port switch decoder (either from Roco or a third party). So, you can begin by operating turnouts in analog mode and later convert them to digital.

      You can, of course, continue to operate your turnouts in analog mode even if you operate your trains digitally. The same is true about electrical uncoupling tracks, which you asked about earlier.(That question deserves a longer answer.)

      One of the possible reasons for going to digital operation of turnouts is that, depending on your control station and associated software, you may be able to set up entire routes that can be aligned at one time. In other words, with a complex station, the route control will set multiple turnouts to get the train to or out of a particular track.

      (If you plan to operate multiple trains, life will be much simpler if you operate your trains digitally. Most locomotives now come with provisions for a decoder, and in many cases, the cost of an engine with a decoder already installed is not that much more than the engine without it. And, of course, digital offers many more features such as more realist control of engine lights and even sound, which are not possible in analog operation. Some wiring will also be simpler in digital operation.)

      Hope that helps.

      – Ernest

  21. Paul says:

    It does. I just have to do a piece at a time as they say. I am looking at using Roco’s Z21 for DCC. The analog option with later connection to a DCC system seems my best approach for switch points

  22. Paul says:

    Does Roco part 42097, right hand switch motor work with Roco 42572? The other switch I saw said AC which is not what I need. Thanks.

    • Ernest Robl says:


      I am not sure what item you are referencing, but, if you are using Roco Line with roadbed, the only switch machines you need are Roco 42620. They work on all roadbed switches, right or left, curved, 15 degree or 10 degree angle. They also work for double-slip and three-way switches, though both of these require two switch machines each.

      In analog operation, you will actually be operating these machines with AC accessory current, either from your main transformer or an accessory transformer. If you convert to digital operation of your trains, you can continue to operate the switch machines (and uncoupling tracks) in analog mode from an accessory transformer.

      Depending on which switch you are installing the 42620 in, you may need to place it upside down from the way it goes into other switches. But this is fairly obvious. The roadbed framework into which the switch machine snaps is configured so that you can only install the switch machine with the correct orientation for that switch.

      Again, this is one of the many clever design features of Roco Line with roadbed that may not be obvious at first.

      The only time you need to worry about right or left hand switch machines is if you are using Roco Line without roadbed. In this case there are two different versions of the surface mount switch machines. But, again, this applies only for Roco Line without roadbed.

      – Ernest

      • Ernest Robl says:

        Oh, I forgot to mention: The Roco Line with roadbed R3/4 switches are new items and are not scheduled for delivery until December of this year (2020). Given pandemic-related delays that have affected the delivery of some other Roco items this year, it might actually be early 2021 before these items are available.

        – Ernest

  23. Paul says:


  24. Richard says:

    I have my fathers old Fleischmann set that I am rebuilding for my kids and nephews and learning about DCC at the same time. The old switches don’t seem to work very well and don’t play nicely with DCC. As I have already built a layout with Flieschmann track, can I subsitute roco switches without a rebuild? We are talking about simple switches like the 6070 replacing with the 42532 – slightly different radiiu and curve radius but in a pair that shouldn’t matter?

    • Ernest Robl says:

      Hello Richard,

      I am not that familiar with Fleischmann track, but, basically, any HO track should work with any other. (or rather, any HO track can be made to work with any other — with a little effort.)

      If the Fleischmann track is older, I assume it is probably code 100 — slightly thicker than the code 83 used in Roco Line. To connect code 100 track to code 83, you need the Roco transition joiners, Roco item 42612.

      You may also need to make some other small adjustments, such as the track center to track center spacing of the two track systems. (I;m not sure what track spacing your existing track would have used.)

      If you use Roco Line with roadbed, you may need to blend the roadbed with whatever existing ballast you have. (I don’t know if the Fleischmann track you have would have had roadbed.) In any case, a little loose ballast and some paint should work.

      You may also need to cut some track to make the new switches fit in.

      If your existing track does not have roadbed, you may want to consider Roco Line without roadbed. The switches in that version use small above the surface switch motors.

      But, as long as you are willing to do a little work, you should be able to make the new track fit in.

      Good luck.

      – Ernest

  25. Paul says:

    Got a question. Roco’s 42573 and 42572 are not available. These switches would have worked well in my lay out. What would happen if I used the ones from Roco marked as R5-R6? Ihave R4 for all my curves. will I screw up everything? My other choice is to use Roco’s 15 DG left and right straight turn outs but this take more room. Any advice Ernest?

  26. Paul says:

    Anyone have experience using a Faller level crossing, or any level protected or unprotected crossing with Roco roadbed? Should I just use Roco code 83 without the roadbed? Thanks.

  27. Phil Grainger says:

    Is there a catalog or document somewhere that shows the geometry of Rocoline track? I’ve been Googling, but nothing has turned up yet. It’s an impressive system, but with all the choices it would be nice to know how it all fits together!


    • Phil Grainger says:


      Reading back, I saw your reference to

      I assume this is still the “latest”?

      • Ernest Robl says:

        Yes, as far as I know. Most recent Roco catalogs have also had extensive sections on the Roco Line track system, including examples of track geometry involving particular components. Most of these catalogs can be downloaded in PDF form, and you can, of course, print out the relevant sections.

        As noted, the older brochures and catalogs would not include the new R3/4 curved turnouts (available late 2020), but their general geometry is the same as for the R5/6 curved turnouts, just using mostly R3 tracks.

        Roco also has a book (Roco 81390) of Roco Line track plans that you can purchase, but, I read somewhere that this is a reissue, so it would not include the new curved turnouts.

        – Ernest

  28. David Sampson says:

    Used Roco-Line when it was originally offered. When I started building a new layout 3 years ago, I decided to use it again. Unfortunately my second time experience has not been so good. I would say that the chances of putting a Roco switch machine in a turnout and getting it to work is about 50%. The typical problem I have encountered is the switch machine will throw the switch in one direction, but not the other. Has anyone else experienced this problem? I have also found that about half of the 15 degree turnouts will work manually, but when a turnout motor is installed the turnout will not work in both directions. An indication of this problem is that the little turnout handle will not go to the end of the rectangular buyout in the roadbed. This can be easily fixed.

    If anyone has suggestions to increase the likelihood of the switch motors working better, I am ‘all ears.’

  29. John Neilson says:

    Is there any known adaptor track that will join Fleischmann profi track to Roco track line with roadbed please?

    Does anyone have experience with this situation?

    Many thanks

    • Ernest Robl says:

      I assume the Fleischmann track is also code 83. In that case, you should be able to connect the tracks just using normal rail joiners. (You would have to cut off or remove the black connecting tabs on the Roco Line track.

      You may need to shim up the Fleischmann track to have it level with the Roco Line track.

      To connect code 100 track to Roco Line, you need to use the Roco transition rail joiners. For a variety of reasons — mostly sentimental — I am using some old Kleinbahn track in one segment of my layout. Kleinbahn track is somewhat similar to code 100. I made a transition without any problems. I sawed through one of the Kleinbahn tracks and used the Roco transition rail joiners.

      – Ernest

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