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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

So I always loved the train displays (but never built a serious one, however I am pretty skilled at hobby type stuff). My wife and kids always liked setting up the little "Towns" with the light up buildings during the holidays.

So I got this GREAT idea (I think).....

Why not COMBINE the two for a great FAMILY bonding experience!

So I got my wife to take the bait, and she is willing to give up some real estate to the tune of ~12'Lx3-4'W, with an ~44" L leg (that she does not know about yet....heh heh) which would put us in the N-Scale genre. There are 5 of us so I need 5 general areas and this smaller scale will just allow us to do more in our limited space.

THE PLAN:

Ok, so it must START simple and easy and not take TONS OF TIME for the wife and kids (3 boys age 13-17). You know how hard it is to compete with VIDEO GAMES these days. So the older boys don't currently seem overly interested, but we feel once my wife and I start, they will get curious and more involved.

So the base plan MUST meet a few criteria:

1.) SIMPLICITY - I'm thinking just a FLAT plan (no mountains or major "earth work" at inception. Simple flat grass stuff or earthy base cover. I could place all on 1.5-2" foam so that "stream beds" etc could be dug out later and hills and mountains later added on top (once I get them hooked).

I will need to get A FEW STRUCTURES that are pre-built so they can just place them as a starting point. I prefer they are already weathered and have lights etc so that they form that great base look that they like w the Christmas village stuff. We can add kits that require SOME assembly and maybe weathering, but I don't want to ever have to do all the painting etc to keep the time involvement low. (I assume they have kits in all ranges correct?)

2.) Quick Build to Start: As noted above, we need to be able to get the base setup in short order. They are used to setting up the Holiday towns in a few hours. So I need for them to build their base concept in at least a weekend or two with pre-built structures as noted above. Then i would present them with catalogs so they can SHOP for other stuff they can use to expand their base, and with kits that require some assembly, and then finally getting them to the point of adding weathered look or possibly hand painting entire units.

TRACK: For a quick build, what type of track do I want to use? I will not have time to lay what I seem to like (Code 55 - super realistic looking) and a bunch of track bed/ballast, so what is my best option for easily laid good looking "pre-beded" track that will not require a bunch of soldering and come in a min radius of about 11"?

3.) MODULAR: She is giving up this space, and although it COULD end up permanent, right now I sold her on "We can take it apart in sections and store it in the basement".

I need some advice on this. Do they make special track sections or "landscape joint covers" that make taking apart a display easy and not so ugly/damaging?

4.) STARTER KITS and CONTROLLER SYSTEMS:

I'm guessing there are possibly some starter kits that might get us started and give us track and buildings etc to get a quick start and less $, but I have no idea whats available. Maybe I could buy 3-5 different starter kits to get us going quickly? Any references to good kits would be helpful.

CONTROLLER SYSTEM: I'm a geek, so if this takes off it will all be eventually controlled by a PC hooked up to it so I can set all train runs/scenarios and have everything from the street lights to people moving controlled from some PC software/Controller System. I don't think a few switches or a handheld is going to cut it for me so I'm going to need a really advanced system from the start. I have NO clue what is available or better yet recommended in this area.

So that's the plan with our general constraints. Get something that looks like a cool little "world" STARTED QUICKLY with a few trains running through it, that hopefully will morph into something the whole family will enjoy for years spending some quality time together, learning some new skills, and actually expanding their own little subdivision of the display. I planned to put little FOR SALE signs up in all the sections and have the kids pick and PURCHASE land for $1. If any show no great interest, I can simply say "Well there is still a nice plot up for sale but it may not last long!" as a nudge. HAHAH! :laugh:

Thanks for any advice you can give us to get started!

MP
 

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WEll, a lot of people like to do this dual thing holiday decorated buildings and trains and no doubt they will weigh in with comments.

Check out the O-Gauge and HO-forums in particular. This time of year there are usually several people on either forum posting pictures and ideas from their layouts.

Basedon what you psoted it looks like you have a good handle on your project. Good luck.
 

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Advice from an n-scaler
Start by browsing sites like www.modeltrainstuff.com and www.hobbylinc.com to get an idea as to what is actually available. In n-scale, a lot of structures are either Japanese or German prototypes. I have a "collection" of small Imex structures that are made of 1/8 thick cast resin that would be almost impossible to add lighting to. 4'x12' should be adequate for HO:)
 

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Mrpush

Wow...you've really thrown a cloud of potential to
us. But our members have been there and can help.

I'll start off by agreeing that you want a modular support
structure. Go light. Use 1 X 3 lumber, and 1/4" or 3/8"
plywood for the top. Build the benchwork in sections that
bolt together. Use only screws and bolts, no nails. This
enables changes if needed. Make a frame of 1X3s say
4 or 5 feet square. Make L shape legs of the same lumber.
These bolt into the corners and offer stability. Drill holes
in the frame where it meets the next module for wiring
access. An L shaped layout is easily done using the
modular system.

The 1-1/2" or 2" foam is ideal to top the plywood and
offer a variety of scenic ideas in the future.

Before final decision on scale go to a hobby shop or
train show and check the size of the locos and cars. You
will have to do some work on these at times. Think of
that before you decide.

There are a number of track systems on the market.
Track on roadbed is an attractive choice but it limits
you to turnouts and crossings made by the same
company that makes the track. It limits your track
plans to what they offer. If you think this layout will
likely be used only at holiday time with few plans for
the future that type of track may be right for you.

There are currently two major systems for controlling
the trains: DC which has been the mainstay for decades,
and DCC, Digital Command and Control which now
powers most larger layouts.

DC, Which is variable voltage direct current, is applied to the track by a power pack. Unless you install a system of
DPDT switches, Isolated track sections and multiple
power packs you can run only one train at a time.

DCC is much easier to use and install. The DCC controller
maintains a continuous approx 14 volt square wave
AC track at all times. No special wiring, isolated
sections or multiple power sources required.
Each loco has a decoder with
it's own 'address'. A controller 'button' selects the loco to
be run and sends digital signals thru the track. The
decoder responds to the commands sent, starting the
loco. A speed 'knob' on the controller determines how
fast the train runs. After starting train one, you can then
push a button for train two and cause it to ALSO run.
If you are thinking computer control you will want to
start out with DCC as there are devices on the market
to work with computers.

You don't indicate your location, but it would serve
you well to try to find a nearby train show so you can
see what is available. They usually have a large number
of pre-assembled and weathered structures for sale as
well as new and used locos and cars.

You are not likely to find structures with lighting installed
but that is a simple matter. There are LED and tiny
incandescent bulbs widely available for this purpose.
These are often powered by cast off Wall warts of
the required output voltage.

When you decide your scale and track plan you'll want
to install it with the thought that there will be changes
in the future. Most of us use tiny dabs of adhesive to
hold the tracks in place. That way you can pull up what
you have and make changes.

We welcome you to the Forum and are here to help
with any questions you may have.

Don
 

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Some help with a first railroad

Hi,

So I always loved the train displays (but never built a serious one, however I am pretty skilled at hobby type stuff). My wife and kids always liked setting up the little "Towns" with the light up buildings during the holidays.

So I got this GREAT idea (I think).....

Why not COMBINE the two for a great FAMILY bonding experience!

So I got my wife to take the bait, and she is willing to give up some real estate to the tune of ~12'Lx3-4'W, with an ~44" L leg (that she does not know about yet....heh heh) which would put us in the N-Scale genre. There are 5 of us so I need 5 general areas and this smaller scale will just allow us to do more in our limited space.

THE PLAN:

Ok, so it must START simple and easy and not take TONS OF TIME for the wife and kids (3 boys age 13-17). You know how hard it is to compete with VIDEO GAMES these days. So the older boys don't currently seem overly interested, but we feel once my wife and I start, they will get curious and more involved.

So the base plan MUST meet a few criteria:

1.) SIMPLICITY - I'm thinking just a FLAT plan (no mountains or major "earth work" at inception. Simple flat grass stuff or earthy base cover. I could place all on 1.5-2" foam so that "stream beds" etc could be dug out later and hills and mountains later added on top (once I get them hooked).

I will need to get A FEW STRUCTURES that are pre-built so they can just place them as a starting point. I prefer they are already weathered and have lights etc so that they form that great base look that they like w the Christmas village stuff. We can add kits that require SOME assembly and maybe weathering, but I don't want to ever have to do all the painting etc to keep the time involvement low. (I assume they have kits in all ranges correct?)

2.) Quick Build to Start: As noted above, we need to be able to get the base setup in short order. They are used to setting up the Holiday towns in a few hours. So I need for them to build their base concept in at least a weekend or two with pre-built structures as noted above. Then i would present them with catalogs so they can SHOP for other stuff they can use to expand their base, and with kits that require some assembly, and then finally getting them to the point of adding weathered look or possibly hand painting entire units.

TRACK: For a quick build, what type of track do I want to use? I will not have time to lay what I seem to like (Code 55 - super realistic looking) and a bunch of track bed/ballast, so what is my best option for easily laid good looking "pre-beded" track that will not require a bunch of soldering and come in a min radius of about 11"?

3.) MODULAR: She is giving up this space, and although it COULD end up permanent, right now I sold her on "We can take it apart in sections and store it in the basement".

I need some advice on this. Do they make special track sections or "landscape joint covers" that make taking apart a display easy and not so ugly/damaging?

4.) STARTER KITS and CONTROLLER SYSTEMS:

I'm guessing there are possibly some starter kits that might get us started and give us track and buildings etc to get a quick start and less $, but I have no idea whats available. Maybe I could buy 3-5 different starter kits to get us going quickly? Any references to good kits would be helpful.

CONTROLLER SYSTEM: I'm a geek, so if this takes off it will all be eventually controlled by a PC hooked up to it so I can set all train runs/scenarios and have everything from the street lights to people moving controlled from some PC software/Controller System. I don't think a few switches or a handheld is going to cut it for me so I'm going to need a really advanced system from the start. I have NO clue what is available or better yet recommended in this area.

So that's the plan with our general constraints. Get something that looks like a cool little "world" STARTED QUICKLY with a few trains running through it, that hopefully will morph into something the whole family will enjoy for years spending some quality time together, learning some new skills, and actually expanding their own little subdivision of the display. I planned to put little FOR SALE signs up in all the sections and have the kids pick and PURCHASE land for $1. If any show no great interest, I can simply say "Well there is still a nice plot up for sale but it may not last long!" as a nudge. HAHAH! :laugh:

Thanks for any advice you can give us to get started!

MP
mrpush;

Well, what you want to do is a bit of a tall order, especially within the time limits you have set. Still there's nothing impossible about building a model railroad. They just have voracious appetites for time and money.
On the plus side, you have already made some wise choices. Building in sections, keeping things simple, using foam as a base, theses are all good ideas. If you add to them DonR's recommendations to use DCC control, and look at N-scale equipment to see if it's too small for you to work with, or not; you have a good start going.
I have modeled in N-scale for decades, and I maintain that anything that can be done in HO-scale, or other scales, can be done in N-scale. Unless you have serious vision, and/or shaky hand issues, there should be no problem with N-scale, but that decision is up to you, and Don's advice to look at the actual equipment before committing yourself, or your money, is very wise. As an example, I am 69 years old, have to wear eyeglasses for both reading and driving (different prescriptions), and have some shake in my hands; but I can still do N-scale modeling.
As for track type, I suggest you start out using Kato brand "Unitrack." This is a good quality "roadbed track." Roadbed track has the raised embankment, and the crushed stone ballast, of real railroad track represented by a plastic base shaped like these two items. Another advantage of roadbed track is that the pieces lock firmly to each other. This makes it quick, and easy to set up, yet still keeps the pieces from coming apart.
I think by "starter kits" you are referring to train sets. These are not recommended because, in most cases, the parts in them are of low quality, to keep the set price low. Also the "low" price you pay, for what is usually a box of junk, isn't all that low either. There are exceptions to this general rule, and one of them is N-scale. Kato is a very high quality brand. They offer an N-scale train set that includes one of their excellent locomotives, a circle of track, a few Micro-Trains (another very high quality brand) cars, and (I think), no DC power pack. If you plan to go DCC from the start, then you don't need a DC power pack. (Though you can use one to power lights and other accessories.)
I don't know of any train sets that include buildings. However Woodland Senics Co. does sell a line of "Built and Ready" buildings. The same company also makes a plug-together lighting system for buildings. Bachman Co., and perhaps others, also sell pre-assembled buildings.
One downside of the preceding recommendations is cost. Kato, Micro-Trains, and Woodland Senics, are all expensive brands, but you get what you pay for.
For a DCC controller, I recommend the NCE power pro. It's very simple to set up and program, excellent quality, and even a little bit less expensive. Also it's all in one hand-held piece, you just connect it to the track, plug it into a wall outlet and start using it.
To quick start the layout base, you might want to look at hollow core doors. They are typically 3'x7' which fits your available space. Several could be bolted together using door hinges with removable pins, attached to the bottom surface. Saw horses have been used to support layouts, and that might also speed up the initial table construction. Foam could be glued to the top of the doors, or you can cut through the top layer of wood to create ditches, stream beds, etc. NOTE: keep this cutting minimal and away from the ends of the door. Doors can easily be weakened by such cuts. The foam layer prevents this, in fact it adds strength. Long term, I recommend using an L-girder frame and legs for greater strength and stability, but the sawhorses will get things started quickly.
Regarding your question about getting the track over the joints between layout sections. Just lay one section of Unitrack more or less centered over the end gap. It will act as its own bridge and provide support.

Finally, I'm attaching a pair of links to documents I've posted earlier. They discuss, in more detail than I have here, what you might want to do to get started, and how to keep some costs down a bit.

Welcome, and good luck;

Traction Fan:smilie_daumenpos:

View attachment Where do I start (revised version).pdf

View attachment MODEL RAILROADING ON A BUDGET.pdf
 

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Welcome Mrpush.

I am currently building something very similar to your desires. Check out my build progress here.

http://www.modeltrainforum.com/showthread.php?t=145681

The little layout I'm building is simple, 2 trains and just a loop for each. I built a 36x40 box out of 1x3 and some ply, then 2" foam on top for the base. I am building my layout with some "earth work" but it is very simple to cut the foam and then to shape it. I only get the weekends to work on it and last weekend was my second and look how far I have gotten. If I could work on the layout during the week it would be nearly complete. Waiting for glue to dry is what keeps stopping me. If you were to use something like hot glue that dries almost instantly you would be able to work much faster than I am ATM.

My simple layout doesn't need anything like computer control as I only have 2 trains running in circles. But that doesn't mean I am going to just sit back and run both trains off a simple power pack. I want independent control but don't want 2 large throttles so I found some cheap power supply kits on eBay and took a chance with them. They were simple to build, the output is 1.25V-12V and 3amps, so it is right in the perfect range for this project.

For track I went with Kato Unitrack. I was able to find a few lots on eBay that I acquired for pretty cheap and it works perfect for my needs again. Unitrack has several different radii to choose from and all the other odd track pieces needed to build an entire layout with. As for other brands of pre-made track, the options are usually much more limited, but they are cheaper. Using flex track will give you the most options but be the most work to get going. You mentioned getting trains going quick... Unitrack or another brand of pre-made track.

Hope this helps.
 

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You didn't say anything about money. Is it an issue?

If money is no object, you can pretty much do what you want-- you can even buy prefabricated layout modules.

Otherwise, we may need to pare down your ambitions somewhat.

For starters, though, definitely think modules with detachable legs. This will lend itself to takedown / storage.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Wow....this is great!

Thanks everyone for all the great ideas and links! I was not expecting so many replies so quickly! It's like getting everything you actually ordered from the drive through with no wait! Or that Awesome service and great menu at a high end restaurant! :laugh:

Now I need to do some review of all this info!

DCC definitely for me, and as for $ I have a "thousands" budget. Gosh, I hope that didn't sound like a gloat. But this is VERY exciting for me so I saved up a good bit. I always wanted to build one of these and seeing the kind of support this forum offers so far its even MORE exciting!

Thanks all,

MP
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Don,

Thanks for the tips. Can you believe there was a local train show this past weekend, I missed it! :mad:

I do believe i want to go N scale just to be able to give all 5 of us enough room to develop our own sections, would rather have extra room than not enough. I'm afraid that HO may be too limiting for size of the layout.

I will be doing the DCC as you mention will be looking into those and the tip on only tacking down the track is a good one for I'm sure I will be making changes.

One beginner question I have with the foam board, do you cover all of it with some kind of base grass or dirt "sheet or roll" goods or do you buy loose stuff and glue and "smear and sprinkle" for just a standard base landscape foam covering???

Thanks,

MP
 

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One beginner question I have with the foam board, do you cover all of it with some kind of base grass or dirt "sheet or roll" goods or do you buy loose stuff and glue and "smear and sprinkle" for just a standard base landscape foam covering???

Thanks,

MP
Most important piece of information you will ever receive: Your Layout, Your Rules!

The answer to your question is "yes". There are dozens of ways to do it, and they all work fine. It is a matter of personal preference.

How do I do it? Base terrain is sculpted out of extruded foam insulation with a rasp. This is covered with a thin (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch) layer of Sculptamold. I paint that a reddish brown color (Glidden interior latex "Ground Nutmeg"). In many cases, I sprinkle the landscape materials into the still-wet paint, where they stick. This gives the terrain some "tooth" if I want to add thicker layers later. Then I selectively glue on bushes, trees, and longer tufts. Static grass flocking works well for longer grass.

My recommendation is to get out there and try something. You may well find that different members of the family prefer different techniques.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Traction Fan,

Thanks for the info. I think N scale is going to be my choice. It is a bit small but I'm worried that I'll quickly run out of room for more areas if I go HO. My eyes and hands are good enough.

I will def look into the Unitrack for ease and quick setup.

Q: If I run into turnout and radius issues, can I scab in a piece of flex track maybe with the unitrack??

Good to know that many kits will have low quality items, I don't want to waste my money on any "box o junk" items. I did not really think about if there would be a quality kit issue in this arena. But you say I should look at KATO kits for something that IS better quality? Then i will check them out.

I will also look into the DCC controller you mentioned. DCC looks GREAT.

I already have 3 pair of horses bought and I have several slab doors, but they are only 30".....ugh....i think that extra 6" may really help with my "building areas". I am going to look for some cheap 36" slabs to keep this quick.

I will review info in your links, thanks for the help.

MP
 

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I'm with CTvalley.

Use the ground up material for your lawns and
landscaping. There are various versions for
smooth as well as rough or weeded areas.

I bought a sheet of the roll 'grass' but didn't use it
because I thought it looked too neat like a carpet.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Hi Jerry,

this software looks GREAT! Question though, do I go for Bronze, silver or gold? I took a quick read but I don't think that is helping me with actual real world use. Have you or do you use one of these? Is the Silver or Gold OVERKILL if my layout only has say 3 trains going at same time? I foresee 3 trains (2 freight and 1 people) and possibly a small "coal car" point to point run. Does this software automate "Scenerios" and can it interface with DCC and operate lights and sounds too?

Oh...Maybe I need to review your 2nd link first.....

Thanks,

MP
 

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Discussion Starter #16
CT, Can you point me to some pics of finished product of this method you use please?

and probably I'm gonna want a subscription to MR mag....but that will slow down my learning curve and scheduled a bit so that why i'm asking here I suppose. I am trying to get a BASE LAYOUT pretty quickly for the family.

Thanks,

MP
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Most important piece of information you will ever receive: Your Layout, Your Rules!

The answer to your question is "yes". There are dozens of ways to do it, and they all work fine. It is a matter of personal preference.

How do I do it? Base terrain is sculpted out of extruded foam insulation with a rasp. This is covered with a thin (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch) layer of Sculptamold. I paint that a reddish brown color (Glidden interior latex "Ground Nutmeg"). In many cases, I sprinkle the landscape materials into the still-wet paint, where they stick. This gives the terrain some "tooth" if I want to add thicker layers later. Then I selectively glue on bushes, trees, and longer tufts. Static grass flocking works well for longer grass.

My recommendation is to get out there and try something. You may well find that different members of the family prefer different techniques.
Ok, so you are not actually trying to "texture" the foam base, but put a layer of WHITE Sculptamold down, let dry then paint with that earthy brown color you said as your BASE "dirt ground". Then while paint still wet you may sprinkle some of several grassy or other dry hobby materials to make different texture areas.

Ok, well i think this is going to be the method i try out! Thanks!

Again i want to keep it simple and flat at first to keep time under control...but now I am curious, when you make stream beds and mountains from the pink foam, would u actually sculpt rock or cliff faces directly in the pink foam? Of do you do a similar layer of Sculpt-A-Stuff on these surfaces as well?

Thanks much,

MP
 

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Discussion Starter #18
N-scale supply?

Advice from an n-scaler
Start by browsing sites like www.modeltrainstuff.com and www.hobbylinc.com to get an idea as to what is actually available. In n-scale, a lot of structures are either Japanese or German prototypes. I have a "collection" of small Imex structures that are made of 1/8 thick cast resin that would be almost impossible to add lighting to. 4'x12' should be adequate for HO:)
Hi, I will review these suppliers, thanks! I ran into nscalesupply.com along the way...and they seem to have a good bit of buildings however I cant tell if they are already painted and weathered or if they are "bare bones" kits. Any Idea?

Thanks!

MP
 

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More answers & advice

Traction Fan,

Thanks for the info. I think N scale is going to be my choice. It is a bit small but I'm worried that I'll quickly run out of room for more areas if I go HO. My eyes and hands are good enough.

I will def look into the Unitrack for ease and quick setup.

Q: If I run into turnout and radius issues, can I scab in a piece of flex track maybe with the unitrack??

Good to know that many kits will have low quality items, I don't want to waste my money on any "box o junk" items. I did not really think about if there would be a quality kit issue in this arena. But you say I should look at KATO kits for something that IS better quality? Then i will check them out.

I will also look into the DCC controller you mentioned. DCC looks GREAT.

I already have 3 pair of horses bought and I have several slab doors, but they are only 30".....ugh....i think that extra 6" may really help with my "building areas". I am going to look for some cheap 36" slabs to keep this quick.

I will review info in your links, thanks for the help.

MP
Mrpush;

I agree that N-scale is appropriate for the space you have available. HO-scale needs four feet of table depth to curve back on itself, and thus allow continuous running. N-scale can do this comfortably in 36 inches, or with tighter curves, even in 30 inches. I would look for 36' wide doors, ideally with Luan plywood facing. Luan will give a little more strength and rigidity to the door and it's also lighter in weight than the Masonite used on some doors. Home Depot, or Lowes, should carry 36" Luan hollow-core doors.

Kato unitrack, and other brands roadbed track, are designed only to mate with their own track. They are not actually intended to mate with each other, flex track, or sectional (non-roadbed type) track. However, it is perfectly possible to adapt roadbed track to connect to flex track, or other types of track. You can use the search function of this forum to find posts on adapting track types. There are also likely to be You-Tube videos on the subject. So the answer to your track "scabbing" question is yes, but a bit of modification will be necessary.
The marketing strategy of the roadbed track makers is to try and hook the consumer on their particular brand of track. Then when you need more track, you will likely think you have to buy theirs. Flex track, and (non-roadbed) sectional track are a lot more compatible. You may see such track advertised as "code 80, code 55, etc. That code# indicates the height of the rail in thousandths of an inch. Thus code 55 track has rails 55/1000" high. The same code track, from different manufacturers, will easily plug into the other brand's track, unlike roadbed track.
I recommended Kato unitrack because it meets your requirements for quick setup, and having the roadbed already attached. Kato unitrack also has a better variety of curves, and other sections available, than other brands. The overall quality of Kato products is excellent, in my opinion. Their unitrack turnouts are decent. By contrast, Bachman's "Easytrack" turnouts have a very poor reputation for reliability.

Regarding train sets (you call them "kits") I have a second brand to recommend. Micro-Trains also offers several high quality train sets. You can see the sets from both companies at www.walthers.com Walthers is a huge wholesale supplier of all things train.

I'm going to highly recommend a "first, How To" train book to you. The book is "Introduction to Model Railroading" by Jeff Wilson. This one book covers many model railroad topics, in easy text, and many color photos. I think it will help you, and your family of fellow builders, a whole lot. To order a copy go to https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/products/books Another good source of basic model railroad information is the attachment "Where do I start" that I sent you. I recommend you read it before investing time and money. It, and the accompanying "Model Railroading on a Budget", could save you a lot of both time, and money and answer some of your questions.
Model Railroader magazine is good, but it could wait for awhile. The info in "Introduction to Model Railroading, the attachments I sent you, and this forum, should be plenty to process for now.

Have fun!

Traction Fan:smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Hi Jerry,

this software looks GREAT! Question though, do I go for Bronze, silver or gold? I took a quick read but I don't think that is helping me with actual real world use. Have you or do you use one of these? Is the Silver or Gold OVERKILL if my layout only has say 3 trains going at same time? I foresee 3 trains (2 freight and 1 people) and possibly a small "coal car" point to point run. Does this software automate "Scenerios" and can it interface with DCC and operate lights and sounds too?

Oh...Maybe I need to review your 2nd link first.....

Thanks,
MP
The Bronze may do everything you want at this time. If later you need to do something bronze can't do the way YOU want it to, then it is a loss to upgrade. The higher cost versions can do the same things and more but with added capability and more flexibility on how things are automated. IE with bronze, RR signals use generic rules which you can't change like you can in silver or gold versions. I think there is a comparison chart on that web site on the differences between versions. I knew bronze would not do for me. Silver probably would but I elected for Gold just in case, which I believe will happen on my new layout because of the turntable automation I want. That second link is long but you need to go through most of it before deciding to PC automate to see how to plan from the start.
 
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