N-scale Tehachapi loop in 3' x 6'???
Cliff Notes: Move from HO to N gauge in a 3x6' space with mountain scenery, and duplicate Lionel's Texas Special using DCC? Possibly duplicating the Tehachapi Loop and Tunnel System with a Cab Forward tossed into the mix, or the Mariposa to Yosemite Valley RR with artistic liberties.
Thoughts on moving to N gauge?
Did a search and did not see what I was looking for, but I have been collecting Lionel's HO Texas Special passenger and engine stock due to sentimental value when I was a kid, circa 1959/60(It's a very cool story, but next post)
I have a very limited space 3x6 to be exact and want to have a nice running layout with mountain scenery. I love the mountains and love to build trestles, I have a trestle pattern from Boy's Life circa 1959 that is very cool and I love building a set to cross a ravine(s).
Don't care about a specific period per se, just interested in running cool trains.
The Sierra/Yosemite and Tehachapi's are my favorite places on the planet. I think it would be awesome to duplicate the original Tehachapi Tunnels and the Loop. Obviously there would be artistic liberties due to space, but .....
I have always loved the cab forwards, so one may be included.
Question of the day moving to N gauge from HO what are the difficulties? I have read the track must be lined up so perfectly even a germ on the track causes derailment.
DCC versus DC, is there enough room in an N gauge engine(s) to really get sound and control functionality?
I might not need DCC, but am a bit of a Silicon Valley Geek, so it interests me as a cool challenge and cool high tech.
I inherited a very tiny N gauge starter kit, an F-7 and 4 cars, and an oval. I tested it and it works, but it is a minimalist set.
I would want to try and come as close as possible to recreating the Texas Special, with EMD E-7A & B units and the passenger cars, so I am not afraid to redo an existing passenger train kit. I have been building models of all sorts for many years.
So thoughts on moving?
Absolutely not afraid to be overly ambitious and the budget is there to do what I need.
Welcome to the forum!
I am 71 yr old, 40+ year N-scaler, and I would like to clear up some misconceptions. First of all, good trackwork is critical in any scale. It is no more difficult in N-scale than in HO-scale. Yes, I've worked with both those scales. Certainly, one is smaller than the other, but the difference in size does not affect the need for good trackwork. One quote I've seen on the forum is, "In N-scale, even a 1/16" gap between rail ends would represent a one foot gap in real track." That's correct, an N-scale foot is about 1/16". What was not mentioned is that the exact same 1/16" gap would represent about a 6" gap in HO-scale. I find it hard to imagine a real train going over either a 12" or a 6" gap between rail ends without severe damage to the wheels, the track, or both, even if somehow it managed not to derail and crash. Today real railroads use welded rail, with no gaps at all in the rail joints. Back when they were using bolted together rail joints, I don't recall seeing more than about 1/4" between rail ends. That would be a very small gap in either HO or N scales. And No, "a germ on the railhead" will not derail an N-scale train.
Poor trackwork, low-quality turnouts, out-of-gage wheels and/or track, Trying to run long locomotives and cars on way too sharp curves, those are the common causes of derailments, and they are indeed "common" as in "They are common to all scales."
You will experience an "O.M.G. this stuff is tiny!"
"period of adjustment" when you first switch to a smaller scale.
I've been through this same feeling twice in my life. First when I switched from Lionel O-gage, three-rail, down to HO-scale, and again when I switched from HO-scale, down to N-scale. It's really a matter of perception. The attached file "Choosing a scale" discusses this effect.
I think your biggest problem will be lack of space. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you are making one of the most common mistakes new modelers, or in this case, someone new to a particular modeling scale, tend to make. Trying to fit too many features, or one feature that is way too big, into too little space.
If you ever make it down to the L.A. area, you might try to visit the Belmont Shore N-scale club in San Pedro, CA. just south of L.A. I spent 11 happy years as a member of that club, before moving to San Diego, many years ago. Not only is the impressive club layout well worth a visit, but they have an N-scale model of Tehachapi loop on their huge layout, which fills most of the top floor of a 30' x 90' old army barracks.
The benchwork of the Tehachapi loop section is about 10' x 15' The loop itself is a good 7' across. You can see a video of the Belmont Shore's version of the loop by googling "Belmont Shore Model Railroad Club." You may be able to get some idea of the size of the model loop, from the length of the coal train. How you plan to fit an N-scale model of the Tehachapi loop into a 3' x 6' space is a mystery to me.
I've also been to the real Tehachapi loop and it is huge! The real loop has about 3/4 of a mile of track, that's about 22 (real) feet of track in N-scale!
Even if you made a very, very, squeezed-down loop, to fit your space, the grade would have to be so steep as to render it almost unusable by anything longer than an F-unit and 4-5 cars.
If 3'x6' is all the space you can get,* then I'm afraid you probably should scale down your dreams to a simple oval with some sidings. Or you could do a reduced version of the Monolith cement plant which is "somewhat near" (within miles of) the top of Tehachapi loop. Another possibility would be a fictional yard where trains headed for the non-modeled loop, would be made up, and sent off "to the loop" (actually into staging.) The staging yard would be on the other side of a backdrop and also the other side of an oval main line. Unfortunately, that's about all you can fit in 3'x6', using N-scale.
Even going down to Z-scale wouldn't make modeling Tehachapi loop practical. There are Z-scale F-units available and some steam locomotives but I don't know if there's a cab forward. There are also passenger cars.
Z-scale though is only about 25% smaller than N-scale, so it wouldn't be small enough to build Tehachapi loop in 3' x 6.'
T-scale maybe, since a ten car passenger train is about the size of a #2 lead pencil in T-scale. I have no idea what's available in this tiny new scale, probably not much.
Yes, you can fit DCC decoders in N-scale locomotives. In fact there are commercially available decoders designed to fit Z-scale locomotives.
Speakers are another matter. I installed a "drop-in" sound decoder in a Kato N-scale F-unit. The decoder's tiny speaker firing it's sound against a solid part of the shell produced sound so faint, I could barely hear it. I installed a larger, laptop, speaker in a dummy B-unit, firing down at the track through the open bottom of the frame. Problem solved! Plenty of volume and nice sounds too! Today you can buy Kato F-units with DCC and sound, factory-installed. The sounds produced by the decoders are excellent, but the small speakers do limit the sound's volume, and frequency range, somewhat. Sound decoders are also more expensive than motor & light only decoders. I decided to not put sound in any more locomotives. Instead I plan to hide some desktop-type amplified speakers connected alternately to only two or three DCC sound decoders, to produce steam, or diesel, and maybe electric locomotive sounds on the layout , but not aboard any of my locomotives. Better sound, less cost. The first photo shows one section of my railroad. There are two speakers at the back near the curved skyboard at the right side of the section.
In short, you can do anything in N-scale that you can in HO-scale. You don't have to possess eyes like an eagle's, be an accomplished brain surgeon, or any of the other bologna attributed to N-scale; mostly by people who work in larger scales, and have never built an N-scale layout.(I'm now working on my seventh N-scale layout.) The photos below show some of the structures I've scratchbuilt,or kitbashed, in N-scale. They should give you an idea of what's possible in N-scale.
* Would you be able to get more length, possibly at the expense of the 3' width, by building a narrow shelf layout along one or more walls?
Good luck with whatever you choose to build, in whatever scale you like.
Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
View attachment WHERE DO I START rev 4.pdf
View attachment 1 How to build a better first layout.pdf
View attachment 2 How to build a better first layout.pdf
View attachment 3 & 4 How to build a better first layout.pdf
View attachment 5 How to build a better first layout.pdf
View attachment 6 How to build a better first layout.pdf
View attachment Choosing a Scale.pdf
View attachment All AboutTurnouts rev 5.pdf
View attachment MODEL RAILROADING ON A BUDGET.pdf
View attachment Model Railroad Terminology 3.pdf