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Discussion Starter #1
Hello.

I'm new to the model train scene. Actually I'm not even there yet. I'm interested in getting into the hobby.

I have been doing some research and I wanted to come here for advice.

I am interested in the steam era in the 1800's specifically. I want to replicate a geographical area near where I live and I did some historical research on my area to get an idea of what I want.

I live on the border of NY and Canada and I know a bridge still in use today was one of the first suspension bridges around, plus my wife is Canadian, so I think it'd be neat to make a pseudo-historical scene of the mid 1800's in this area (Niagara).

I figure I'd need two bridges, a large piece of foam to act as my sub terrain? layer, then to represent the river, I'd cut straight down and split the foam in half, more of less, and that can be the water, etc. and I'd have rocky cliffs on the sides and most of the foam top level would be grass and trees, etc.

I would ultimately at the ends of the table want these to wrap around and connect.

I don't know what brand I should get for the trains and tracks. I've been focusing on Bachmann and KATO. I don't want to totally break the bank so I'd start small and build up piece by piece. I've considered getting a set, but I think that could be a waste of money since I may not want that track and most of the cars on it. So I figured I can start with a steam engine first, and work my way up.

I don't have a tremendous amount of space but I have to calculate what I'm going to have (after that space of the basement is cleared out).

How does one start this trek? I have the time period and location in my head so how can I start small. Again, I figured a table top, and maybe sub terrain first. But I'm wondering say I get this sub terrain, how will I know what grade? will be acceptable for my train and speed controller? I'm not great with wood working but I love fixing and putting together small things. I have a creative streak and I've done RC helis in the past so I think I have the aptitude and patience for this. And it something I want to get involved with and hopefully when my kids are old enough, we can all enjoy it together.

Oh yes, I think I'd want more passenger cars. I don't know what type of goods were transported in this area then but was it common to mix cars that carry resources such as lumber and passenger cars together? So I'd like to be a little historyically accurate but I realize I can't be entirely. Oh also, I'm assuming I'd want a NYC train, I think in my research some of the lines here around Buffalo, Niagara, Lockport, Lewiston, were run by NYC and bought out later on.

Thanks.
 

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Typically, model layouts push grade a bit steeper than real-life prototypes.

2% is moderate and will allow most locos to pull fairly easily.

3% is steeper, but common, given model layout spacial constraints.

4% is getting up there ... I have nearly that on mine ... somewhat limiting, but my consists are pretty short.

(Grade is rise divided by run, measured in percent.)

Choice of grade is also affected by curve radius ... tighter turns will have more resistance, and hence, warrant less grade for good operation.

Sounds like you have a fun project on your hands ... keep us posted.

TJ
 

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And you must build a model of Niagara Falls on it.:thumbsup:
That would be a first I think for a RR layout.:D

Add a Love canal? They started digging that in 1890.:rolleyes:
What a mess that turned into.

A little history for those who never heard about it.

The Love Canal came from the last name of William T. Love, who in the early 1890s envisioned a canal connecting the Niagara River to Lake Ontario. The plan went under then,

In the 1920s, the canal became a dump site for the City of Niagara Falls, with the city regularly unloading its municipal refuse into the pit. In the 40's the Army started dumping there waste from the war, including some nuclear waste! Then Hooker started dumping.
copy and paste,
By the 1940s, Hooker Electrochemical Company (later known as Hooker Chemical Company), founded by Elon Hooker, began searching for a place to dump the large quantity of chemical waste it was producing. Hooker was granted permission by the Niagara Power and Development Company in 1942 to dump wastes in the canal. The canal was drained and lined with thick clay. Into this site, Hooker began placing 55-US-gallon (210 L) metal or fibre barrels. The City of Niagara Falls and the army continued the dumping of refuse.
In 1948, after World War II had ended and the City of Niagara Falls had ended self-sufficient disposal of refuse, Hooker became the sole user and owner of the site.
This dumpsite was in operation until 1953. During this time, 21,000 tons of chemicals such as "caustics, alkalines, fatty acids and chlorinated hydrocarbons from the manufacturing of dyes, perfumes, solvents for rubber and synthetic resins" were added.

Then they filled it in and built schools and houses on it duh! the rest is history.
Read the rest?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Canal

They make Hooker tank cars, but I don't think they make the real early tankers.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Well, that was an interesting history lesson. I knew there was chemicals and nuclear waste from the manhattan project but I didn't know a detailed history like that.

Another interesting fact, Lewiston, a town in this area had one of the first gravity? rails in the us, used for military transport. Back in 1700's.

So does anyone have recommendations on beginning this journey? I live near a hobby lobby and Joanne's, would their foam or materials work for a sub layer?
 

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Sorry, I'm also a complete noob and can't offer any advice, but I just want to say your idea sounds amazingly awesome. I hope you can post some pics as you progress!
 

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I'd shy away from Michael's rigid foam ... it's mostly for flower arrangments, and rather expensive.

Guys in model rr commonly use "pink stuff" rigid polystyrene insulation foam ... available from Home Depot and Lowes in 1/2", 1", and 2" thicknesses, large sheets. (Blue-stuff is OK, too ... slightly more dense.)

You can carve it with saws, knives, sanders. Glue with FOAM-SAFE construction adhesive (Liquid Nails for foam, etc.). Paint with any household LATEX paint.

Other options for topography are:

Contoured wire mesh (over newspaper core), with plaster covering. Our member NIMT (Sean) gives a great tutorial here:

http://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=6374

Other option is "cut and stretch plywood" ... jigsaw cut curves/contours into base plywood, and bend them up ramp-like into various elevations.

TJ
 

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I live on the border of NY and Canada and I know a bridge still in use today was one of the first suspension bridges around, plus my wife is Canadian, so I think it'd be neat to make a pseudo-historical scene of the mid 1800's in this area (Niagara).
The original suspension bridge at Niagara Falls most definitely does not exist today.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niagara_Falls_Suspension_Bridge

It was in fact replaced 115 years ago.

That said this could be an interesting model idea. You'll need a lot more than a single level of foam for the river depth though, since the gorge is pretty large.
 

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Hi Mike, as a fellow novice I can only tell you what I've learned the hard way. Home depot prices are cheaper than Lowe's for foam board, though that's here in Colorado. Bachman makes nice little steam engines (I also model 1800's era) but you have to watch them as every once in a while you get a complete piece of crud and have to take it back, which they do without question. I would suggest that you find a good flex track for your layout, it's just easier to be creative with than the stiff strait and curved pieces. I found drawing a rough sketch of what I wanted the whole thing to look like first very helpful. My layout is small, 2'x4' but has a lot packed into it so the drawing keeps me focused. I would also suggest spending the extra money on plaster cloth. I did it the old fashioned way and it was a serious pain! Good luck, have fun, can't wait to see picts.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Oh thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to check out Home Depot. I was just at Joanne's and it seemed they had nothing I could really use.

Well when I meant the suspension bridge I meant not literally, more as in the location of it. From what I just read it was from 1897 and constructed around the suspension bridge not to disrupt traffic flow. The whirlpool bridge that is.

Either way whatever bridge I guess doesn't matter I just think I'm going to make the rail cross over one, and loop around into the other and on the us side have more branches and intricate tracks.
 

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Your era makes it a bit more hard and being in N scale, even harder. Bachmann's 4-4-0 is about the only game in town for steam in N for that era. Move up to HO and you can add Mantua, they did some small Camel back style steam as well as large ones that were more common back then. You also gain older brass imports that can be found on ebay or shows. That era is a real interesting one, but unfortunatly its largly ignoired by all the train manufactures anymore. If one went by what model trains are most commonly made, one would think railroads were invented in the late teens or early 1920's. Good luck with your new hobby/layout. Cant wait to see pics as you start actualy building it. Mike
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I measured the potential area of the table space. And it's about 4 ft. by 4/5-5 ft.

So it will be somewhat compact. What do you guys think of this amount of space?

About this flex track, I was looking at some online (Atlas) and I don't understand how it works exactly. I bend it to where I need it to be, do I need some sort of measuring device to measure the radius of my curves?

So in regards to cutting flex track, when I make a cut and connect it to more flex track, how would I make sure the rails are joined?

Thanks
 

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Hi. I'm an HO modeler, and I did want to mention that I saw on this site in the product promotion section some n-scale civil war era sets that might peak your interest since it is in the right era. I don't reall if the is a steamer that comes with or if it is just boxcars and flatcars. Either way, this is a great idea! Don't give up on it!
 

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I measured the potential area of the table space. And it's about 4 ft. by 4/5-5 ft.

So it will be somewhat compact. What do you guys think of this amount of space?

About this flex track, I was looking at some online (Atlas) and I don't understand how it works exactly. I bend it to where I need it to be, do I need some sort of measuring device to measure the radius of my curves?

So in regards to cutting flex track, when I make a cut and connect it to more flex track, how would I make sure the rails are joined?

Thanks
Think of flex like rubber track, of sorts. Unlike conventional track, one of the rails on flex is free-floating in the cross-tie mounts. As such, you can contour the flex to curves, and this free-floating rail will slide in or out on the ties to allow the contour curve. Normally, if you don't pin the track down, the flex would spring back to straight, once you let it go. However, you can use a "prebend" method to make the flex hold its shape. (See below.)

Flex rail attached end-to-end just like conventional track ... rail joiners. I suggest you stagger left/right rail joints to help hold the bent flex into position better.

You can trim flex (and excess ties) with a Dremel cutoff wheel.

ChooChoo Greg's prebend method:

http://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=3931

Regards,

TJ
 

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Mike.....Welcome to the site. I think the above comments are a good reference to be moving forward. Good Luck
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the info so far. Question, is there any modeling railroad layout software for the ipad? I think that would be a great format. I also have a Mac, does anyone know of any such software for Mac that's free? I've seen some but if I wanted to save or a print out I have to pay.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
So I bought just a couple 30" runs of atlas flex track, code 55, ome rail joiners and a saw cutting tool, as it was so cheap I just threw it in figuring I'd need something to cut with.

I plan on going to Home Depot this week to get some plywood for the table. How thick should I get. Half an inch? I actually was wrong in my measurements, I have 5ft by 6 ft to play with.

While I'm at Home Depot, should I also get this pink insulation foam? Isn't insulation potentially hazardous when working with it? Does it come in thick sheets so I can just lay down I'm assuming? I seen people say 2" thick.

After this is all laid out, after my terrain, etc, do I just pick up rail nails and nail them in once I have the proper form of my track? What do these rail nails I see stay put into, the roadbed only or do they need to be long enough to go through roadbed and the insulation and the table or just the roadbed and insulation?

That raises another question, with atlas flex track, what can I use for road bed or what is recommended? The ballast is attractive but seems like a pain, I'd imagine nails can't go into it. Or am I wrong.

Also, as far as a locamotive goes, what if I want one with a light and one that can emit steam out the stack? Are we talking $100 or more for one of those? Thanks!
 

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Ply thickness depends on your support grid spacing underneath it ... but 1/2" to 3/4" should be in the ballpark. Consider MDF instead of ply ... dead-flat, won't warp, cheap.

The pink-stuff insulation won't do you harm .. unless you try to eat it, I guess. It comes in 1/2", 1", 2" ... your choice depends upon what topography (hills, valleys) you're planning. Maybe some combination of the above.

Many people use pre-cut cork roadbed, sometimes covered with a thin layer of ballast stone (fine sand, really).

TJ
 

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Some chaps here have used something called T pins (not sure what they are though) to attach track to foam (temporarily) while some adhesive dries.

Some use a latex caulk (acrylic caulk for Australian readers), or a THIN layer of liquid nails one of the types is specially "for foam".
could probably get by with some of that "white glue" too, perhaps.
 
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