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Old 06-07-2019, 10:31 PM   #1
Half Throttle
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Helping an elderly relative

This is a cut and paste of my "Introduce Yourself" page and it was suggest I repost this in the "N" gauge forum, so here goes.

Hey folks,

Brief explanation.

I am the guardian for an elderly married couple in an assisted living center. He was/is a model train enthusiast who built pretty elaborate running systems on large tables. She is his wife, my mother. Both are in mid to late '80's with typical health issues for that age.

They both are memory impaired, he more so than her. He is bored to tears, and I don't mean that in the figuratively.

Anyway he wants to set up a simple "N" gauge train set on a table about 30" x 72". He has some locomotives and a bit of track. I have ordered him a table and will put a top down on top of that appropriate for securing the track to and some model buildings and such.

I am not a model train guy but want them to have this as a shared interest to help them cope.

I am asking for some mentoring with this endeavor.

He has a bit of track that appears to have UNITRAK S243 on the back.

I need to order enough track, power supply, and other items so he can set up a simple track about 25 inches wide and 60 inches long with two 180 turns. If this goes well he can then modify it.

Does anyone care to become my mentor?

Best wishes to all,

Half Throttle.....
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Old 06-08-2019, 12:15 AM   #2
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This is what I posted on the "Introduce Yourself thread: I know this heresy, but I'd advise you to start with a Bachmann EZ-track starter set like "Thunder Valley", and add straight sections as desired. I hope you're at least somewhat handy, because I might put 4 power connectors in a loop that big - a starter set will come with a curved one, and I'd want another curved one and two straight ones (you can get those at Amazon). Hooking them all together isn't rocket science; but if you've never changed out a wall switch it may seem complicated.

First, please understand that my parents are also in their late 80's; and my mom is legally blind. So I think I have some idea of your situation. The difference is that I live about 200 miles southeast of Seattle and they live in Phoenix. You have to decide how much money you're willing to invest, and whether you want to be a model railroader yourself - because if this isn't the hobby for you IMHO you shouldn't even consider fancy new locomotives, high-end power packs, or Digital Command Control (DCC). For what it's worth, 30" x 72" isn't going to give you 60" straightaways - more like 48".

Most of us shop online at modeltrainstuff.com and I also use hobbylinc.com . Their prices are a little higher and their order processing is slow, but their selection is better.
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Old 06-08-2019, 12:25 AM   #3
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GNFan,

Thanks for the input. Sadly my mother has already purchased some locomotives and a caboose and a flat car. They have enough of the S246 rail to do one side of the track, I need enough matching rail to make a track to fill up a 30 x 72 inch table top. How many pieces of straight and curve would this take?

I live about 20 minutes away and am there about three times a week.

What would be a good, simple controller to purchase? The cost of all this is being covered by them, they are in a good spot financially. I have a strong electrical background, just not in model trains.

Thanks again for you help.
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Old 06-08-2019, 12:35 AM   #4
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I'm sorry, but I don't know anything about Kato Unitrack. And you had better make sure that all of the locomotives are either DCC or non-DCC, because they "don't play well together" - and you can decide how to power the thing.
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Old 06-08-2019, 12:42 AM   #5
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First in a series of dumb questions....feel free to laugh.
I've determined that the track segments he has are Kato brand. This is stuff he had from when he was really into it.

Will Bachmann engines run on a Kato track and power supply?

There is a Kato kit that looks appealing. The kit and the track he has now would probably give him a good start.
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Old 06-08-2019, 12:58 AM   #6
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Thanks for the heads up on the DCC issue...will check out what he has.
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Old 06-08-2019, 01:08 AM   #7
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In general, track is track. But again, whether your Bachmann locomotives will run on a particular Kato power supply depends on whether both are non-DCC, which is good old-fashioned Direct Current; or whether both are DCC, which is kind of like Radio Control except that it's signals sent through the track. (And that summarizes what I know about DCC). DCC powered track can destroy the motor of a non-DCC locomotive. I suggest you post some pictures of the locomotives in the boxes they came in, and hopefully from the markings or labels on the boxes we can determine if they're DCC or non-DCC - and then you can tell us what Kato power pack you're looking at - and we can decide if that power pack is compatible with your locomotives.
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Old 06-08-2019, 01:10 AM   #8
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My mother was buying the rolling stock and just buying whatever looked pretty.....I think it was Bachmann rolling stock.....next time I'm down I get photos and read what the boxes say. thanks...
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Old 06-08-2019, 01:25 AM   #9
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That's what I figured - that your mom bought some Bachmann locomotives without knowing what she was buying. Although around here, "It was pretty, so I bought it!" is usually considered a good explanation.
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Old 06-08-2019, 10:44 AM   #10
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It boils down to this:

All common suppliers meet the same standards for 'gauge', which is simply the distance between rails. The rails are all 'nickel-silver', a copper and tin alloy that allows transmission of electrons along the rail surfaces, and that's where the motive power gets its power...from metal rails. So, Unitrack, EZ-Track, Atlas, Walthers….alla same same....PROVIDED IT IS ALL THE SAME GAUGE.


Secondly, the motive power must be able to use the type of power supplied to the rails. If it's old fashioned DC, and thousands still use it, then the motive power should work, provided it has what is called a 'dual mode' decoder in it, a system that will work with either DC or DCC. Also, if the power supply is DC, then a straight DC motor will work. Two ways to power the locomotive, IOW.

However, if the power supplied is to be DCC, you MUST have a decoder in the locomotive. So, simply, modern decoders will work either way, DC or DCC. But if your system supplies DCC digital signaling over the power to the rails, you must have a decoder to interpret the signals.

I hope that doesn't confuse you.


Bottom line:


It's best these days to spend a bit more and get a DCC locomotive because the decoder will allow you to run the trains in either DC or DCC. But if your train set is labelled DCC, you MUST have a DCC locomotive, which the train set should include as a matter of course. If you buy stuff piecemeal, beware the matter of power control.
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