I prefer "proper rail", however many clubs and individuals use
flat steel bar on-edge as rail; it is cheaper, easier to work
with and much easier to get - but it looks ugly. It might
however be a case of following the trend because I will have to
balance my desire for aesthetically-pleasing track with (financial)
practicality. That said, from anything beyond about 3m or 4m you cannot really see the
rail and certainly once you are running on it you don't notice.
I asked at two miniature railways I visited in Australia and
neither of them knew of a local source of steel rail, both got
theirs from either Europe or Japan.
I drew up a die to have some aluminium rail extruded
locally here in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it works out about
twice the price of using flat steel bar, so it doesn't
really work out to be cost effective. The trouble
with aluminium is that it will expand about twice as much in the heat as
steel will and the sun is pretty fierce in New Zealand. Add to
that it'll wear a lot quicker.
I originally thought I'd lay three-rail track to allow
people with 5" locos to run, but this is going to make
everything about a third as much again (same number of
sleepers etc., just 50% more actual rail). As I don't have
any 5" gauge equipment - and am not likely to either - I may
just put in 7¼" gauge, 2-rail. This will mean
that at least two of my friends won't be able to run their
small locos. Umm, decisions-decisions.