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An older HO Penn Line/Bowser 2-8-0 PRR H-9 runs easily on Atlas 15” radius sectional track. Even a circle or small oval of track gives a chance to watch trains run and run and run… the “aquarium” effect. Plus provides an opportunity to hone kit building skills before “graduating” to scratch building. Glad you have chosen this hobby with so many facets !
 

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I model in TT scale which is 1:120 scale (1 inch = 10 feet) between HO and N scales. There are two narrow gages, many European manufacturers,Tillig is the largest.q
HOe (HO scale bodies on N gauge tracks).
HOm (HO scale bodies on 12mm (0.472) TT scale tracks).

Here's a couple of US importer, I get items faster ordering from a German hobby store, MSL is my favorite. Some shipments about 5 days from Germany to Florida.

 

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I was in the same mind set, I even tried to squeeze an HO layout into my space but I simply could not get my must haves in that layout. I bought a Bachman starter set and liked the size, but the scale just too big to fit my space. So I went N scale, what I have discovered was that after working with it, it is fine. Now when I see the HO stuff, it just looks too big to me. Yes, I have to wear reading glasses to read, I use magnifiers to build stuff but it is all worth it. I picked up a KATO Silver Streak train set and that was the clincher. It is an amazing precision machine,
 

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If you have that coffee table you could build a foldout top that doubles its space.When my middle son was eight he had little space in his room but wanted a train layout of his own. I built a desktop that doubled its size by folding out, for N gauge, but the idea would work just as well with HO. It takes some woodworking effort and careful planning along with precise work on the hinges and laying out the track, but it worked well enough that an eight year old could unfold and set it up, or fold it up, by himself, and he used it for years. The picture shows the idea. Section A - a thin side slat, is not attached. When folded up it slides into the end as shown in the upper left. To open the layout he removed section At, folded the (precisely hinged) upper section down onto some support arms that kept it flat, then inserted the thin slat (A) in between the two broader layout section. Tabes kept in precisely in place so the tracks aligned, and a wire with a clip ran power to its two short sections of track. Folded up, it was his desktop.
Rectangle Triangle Slope Parallel Flooring
 

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If you've been in n-scale for any length of time you probably have an extensive collection of trains and scenery, don't throw the baby out with the bath water. I found that scale doesn't really matter, you're gong to have small, detail parts no matter which you use. For N-scale if it looks good from 3 feet away that's good enough. With HO those separately applied grab irons and firecracker antennas break off all the time and the equipment ends up looking like n-scale anyway.

I belong to an n-scale club that uses both n-rail and t-trak modular systems that we house in a 40X80 barn and take to train shows and local events. However, most of the modules can be operated as single units. My preference is t-trak which I use at home (t-trak modules breed like rabbits) where I can set-up my four corner units on a standard card table and run trains in a continuous loop, for breaking in new locos for example. I have a couple of folding banquet tables for running longer trains. A module can be any length, especially if you don't intend to take them to club settings and you want to disregard the t-trak standards. I can work on a module while sitting in my easy chair to do scenery, clean track, or add under module wiring or switch machines.

The t-trak modules are highly adaptable and can be used with any scale. I have built them in HO and Lionel for friends and relatives. I was most impressed with the Lionel modules, they used 027 curves at the corners and the straight modules could accommodate switches or the operating accessories like the log loader. Best of all they could be set-up on card tables, the more the merrier, or could just be used on the floor. That's my free food for thought.
 

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At 79 I completely enjoy the joys of Z scale. I tried to get ”in”to N scale, but I simply could not. As a youngster I had Lionel O gauge. But that was then. Why Z. Perhaps its the challenge to not so quite steady hands. Whatever gauge you settle on, enjoy, and also enjoy getting older, remember the other alternative.


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Agreed - N is too small, HO takes too much space. I'm doing HO anyway, sold off the gym equipment in the fourth bedroom home-gym, so I have room to build a 4x8+.

When I was in my late twenties I built a rather large N-scale, back when there wasn't much selection. You can cram a lot of layout in a reasonable space, easy to fit curves, etc. But I decided way back then that I would move to HO as it was just so much easier to do and see detailing. We moved a couple of years later so the layout got torn down and stuff sold off.

Now thirty years later, I'm finally ready to jump in again. Space is still an issue, and we may be up for a move in a year or so. I'm doing a 'small' HO layout with the thought of either taking it with me to be part of a larger round-the-room layout, or scrap it and start over after moving across the country. I always said when I got too old to ride motorcycles then I would build another model railroad.

I would do a shelf or diorama in HO before I went back to N. But that's just me, and now I need readers to see really small detail. Getting old is no picnic. LOL
Browneye;

I suggest building your 4 x 8 in four, 2 x 4 sections bolted together into the 4 x 8. That way it will be easier to move, if you do that, but also easier to work on one section at a time, sitting at a table. We old guys like our creature comforts. 😄

Traction Fan
 
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