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I have no experience with model railroading. I love the concept and am excited to get started. But... the more I learn the more I find I don't know where to start. I'm hoping you can help me sort through it all and guide me in a good direction. Here is my current line of thought... I'm hoping to get your opinions:

-I want to buy quality from the get-go. It seems to be a very expensive hobby. I don't want to waste my money and time on sub-par equipment. Also realism is important to me. Therefore:
-Locomotive: Kato or Bachmanm
-Track: Micro Engineering Code 55 (flex? or not?)
-Turnouts: Micro Engineering
-metal wheelsets
-Trucks and couplers: micro trains

-Another important aspect for me is to be able to watch my train(s) and not control it. I'm not sure how possible this is due to my inexperience but with my (limited) understanding of DCC, I think this may be possible. What I mean is I would like the ability to program the train route, switches, direction, etc. as much as possible. What should I look for in a controller/software to make this possible?

Thank you in advance for your feedback!
-Slim

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Welcome! I don't do n-scale, but I too like to have my trains run automated, because currently I run only a holiday layout (though in the past i had o scale trains as a kid). My trains need to run automated while we do other things. Other people like to run their trains manually, and that's cool, too.

I use some controllers to do the automation for my needs (you can find some information in my posting history) but there are other options like JMRI automation. I have no experience with that stuff, but will be interested to read what others say.

Good luck.
 

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Hi. I'd say after deciding on a track plan, scale, brand of track, and control method (I prefer NCE PowerCab), first work is building solid benchwork.. Steer away from the old 4x8 ply slab. Go either 'open grid' or 'L girder benchwork' OR a shelf layout (1'-2' wide along the walls/very popular today)..If you're at sea about this, obtaining "Model Railroad Benchwork" will get you there...
One ultra important thing about 180 deg curves: 24" radius (measured from track centers) will yield a 48" diam half circle. SO, bench work, in order to keep track safely at at least 2" in from the edge, must be 52" wide or more (not 48")..
If you use 3' flex track and curve requires 2 or more sections, along with rail joiners set them out straight and solder them together letting solder flow into joiners..This way when you do bend them you'll have a smoothly curved track section. Without doing this you'll have kinks at every joint..Best purchase now, Xuron Rail Nippers since you'll be cutting lots of rail in the future. With nippers, at its jaw you cut rail top to bottom, not side to side, and the good rail you'll be employing will be on the flat side of the jaws, not the concave side.
since you want realism, consider a 'point to point' track plan. This is what the 1:1 scale is..Other than some trolley of industrial loops, real RRs don't go around in a continual circle..They are basically squiggly lines with turning facilities at one or both ends via a turntable, wye track, or balloon track.. Most modelers don't do point to point because they feel it's too much work to get trains to go back the other way. To me personally, I like having to do this as it's an aspect of the 1:1 scale..But you still can have a plan which has main line looping hither and dither to gain mileage between terminals..If this doesn't appeal to you then of course adapt a continual where the main line never ends..This is the most common in the hobby...
Avoid starter train sets.. Buy individual locos and cars..For the $ Bachmann makes some very nice steam and diesel locos..Get one good loco and a few cars (making sure they have knuckle couplers) and since you're going DCC I recommend engines labeled "DCC/sound on board". This way for a few bucks more it's all there; no adding decoders, speakers, lights...
Go slow and steady being sure everything you decide on is well thought out..It's all simple logic, same as the 1:1 does...M
 

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Slim, you mention only Bachmann and Kato locos. Between the two, Kato is better, although newer Bachmann are very good. Also look at other brands too, since all locos these days are very good. Kato makes very few steamers.

Many members here swear by Peco track, especially Peco turnouts. Search the forum for posts about track and learn more about what the guys think.

You're doing right by going after quality from the start. There's nothing like troublesome equipment to turn off one's interest.

I suggest you start small...maybe a 2' x 4' layout...to begin with. Lay some track in an oval, maybe with a couple turnouts. Learn a bit about running and switching. When you're ready to expand, go for it with some basic knowledge now in place. Don't bite off more than you can chew...that is a turn-off too.

Good luck and visit here often for info and fun. Good luck! :smilie_daumenpos:

 

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Welcome aboard!

I have no experience with model railroading. I love the concept and am excited to get started. But... the more I learn the more I find I don't know where to start. I'm hoping you can help me sort through it all and guide me in a good direction. Here is my current line of thought... I'm hoping to get your opinions:

-I want to buy quality from the get-go. It seems to be a very expensive hobby. I don't want to waste my money and time on sub-par equipment. Also realism is important to me. Therefore:
-Locomotive: Kato or Bachmanm
-Track: Micro Engineering Code 55 (flex? or not?)
-Turnouts: Micro Engineering
-metal wheelsets
-Trucks and couplers: micro trains

-Another important aspect for me is to be able to watch my train(s) and not control it. I'm not sure how possible this is due to my inexperience but with my (limited) understanding of DCC, I think this may be possible. What I mean is I would like the ability to program the train route, switches, direction, etc. as much as possible. What should I look for in a controller/software to make this possible?

Thank you in advance for your feedback!
-Slim

-
Slim;

Welcome to the forum! I have been an N-scale modeler for many years, and I agree with the advice you have been given about starting small, and simple. (I'll also add a third 'S' "sectional") Take your time learning. One of the most common mistakes most new model railroaders make is trying to do too much, too quickly, and also wanting too many things to fit in the space they have available.

I wrote the attached files to help "newbies" like you get a better start on a more satisfying first layout. Read through them if you like. I think you will find some helpful information in them. You said you "didn't know where to start." Well you could do worse than starting by reading my first file, "Where do I start." :D
There is also a book I recommend to new people. It's "Getting Started in Model Railroading" by Jeff Wilson. You can order a copy from
https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/products/books You will find many other books on model railroad subjects there, but this one is all you'll need to get started.

Your list of quality brands for various items is excellent. I personally am a great fan of Kato, but definitely not a Bachmann fan. I have simply had so many bad experiences with older Bachmann locomotives that I stopped buying Bachmann years ago. I admit to being very skeptical about Bachmann, and I have read here about "how much they have improved." However, I also see a lot of posts here about Bachmann locos being returned because they broke down, and posts about people replacing the DCC decoders that come in Bachmann locos with another brand of decoder, because the Bachmann decoder had a loud buzz. A current-production total lemon is Bachmann's EZ-Track turnout which is very poorly designed, and built. So call me prejudiced, but I'm not buying, or recommending, any Bachmann products.

I have absolutely no reservations at all about recommending Kato products however! In fact in 40 years of being an N-scaler, I have never seen a bad Kato product. I own many of their fine locomotives, and a couple of their beautiful passenger trains too.

Micro Engineering flex track, and turnouts, are both excellent quality products and also the most realistic-looking track/turnouts I have ever seen. The flex track is stiff, and requires more effort and patience to form into a smooth curve than some other brands, like Atlas. I use Micro Engineering code 55 flex track on my own layout and I recommend it. Both Micro Engineering's track and turnouts have realistic, but tiny, spike detail, so they look great, but won't stand up well to rough handling. Be careful with them, and they will look, and work, very well.
Peco turnouts, and track, are also excellent. They are based on British, rather than American, prototypes, so they do look a little different, but their appearance is quite acceptable to most modelers. Peco track, and turnouts, are also more ruggedly constructed than Micro Engineering.

All the other products on your list are excellent, and will work well for you. I recommend going with DCC control, but I would hold off on automating operations for now. Do gather information from out computer control experts, on the technical section of this forum, regarding choosing a DCC system (possibly Digitrax) that can interface with a computer, for future reference. However, please take things one step at a time. For now concentrate on building something you like, and that you can run. The computer can take over later.

Again Welcome;

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
 

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Welcome aboard...as you may have noticed you
have a bunch of model train men with decades of
experience in all scales.

In order to operate a 'computerized' layout you will
need to start with a quality DCC system. There are
three very popular full feature models: Digitrax,
NCE and MRC.

To achieve automatiion you would first need
train detection: Here is one such supplier with
a number of tools for that.

http://www.azatrax.com/

Using their products you could put together a
form of automation. It could control turnout
directions and the like.

However, there are Forum members who have
fully automated their layouts. A very complex
and high tech venture. We can hope they
will join you and guide your layout.

Don
 

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It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed at first there is a lot to figure out to get started. The very first thing to remember is this is a hobby have fun doing it!! That being said it can be challenging at times. You need to sort out what kind of layout you want. Loops are good to watch trains run but lose some of their luster after awhile. End to end with lots of switching is endless action, different every time you do it. The choice of a mix of both is nice too. The most important thing to do it start slow and plan well! Rushing in and building something fast and ending up with something you don’t like will result in a loss of interest, complete abandonment of the hobby or a lot of work tearing down and rebuilding. Start with something small lay your track carefully there is nothing worse than fixing derailments every five minutes! It is not fun nor relaxing. Most of us aren’t good at every aspect of building a layout. You need to be an artist,Carpenter,electrician, painter, and engineer( lol not a train driver that kind comes later). Pick the talents you are strong in and make them work for you. There are endless resources available online to get help make sure to use them. When you come up with a track plan you like lay it out. Don’t make it permanent try it out for a while make you sure you love it! If you only like it there is a big chance it will change before long. Once you love the plan then make it permanent. Then work on scenery. I suggest watching YouTube videos of layouts before you do anything see what you like and don’t. As for DCC I have nothing to add I am old school I run straight old dc with blocks. Remember have fun, plan well, and enjoy!
 

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Don't forget the right tools. Aside from the nippers mentioned above invest in one of these:https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/nmra-98-8-standards-gauge-n-scale/
or:https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/micro-trains-n-98800031-1055-coupler-height-gauge/

Get a soldering iron with a fine tip too, and some good lighting-this tiny stuff is hard to see.

I don't have near the experience these^^ guys do but IMO don't bother with Bachmann(engines, their cars are fine)...at first. I buy 'em cuz I'm cheap and dumb but I have 2 of their "new and improved" models and both have failed in under 5 hours run time. Oddly enough I have the best luck with their couplers-not so with the much-lauded MT units, but everybody else swears by them so.....:dunno:
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you all for your Replies! Very helpful.

Traction Fan- I believe I have read your files in the past, but I will give them another read this weekend.

Telltale- I like the point to point suggestion for realism. I will incorporate. However, watching a train flow around a nice curve is enjoyable, so I will have to do some thinking here.

Fire21- Any suggestions for good Locos other than Kato or Bachmann?

Cousin Eddie- I'm thinking this hobby will be perfect for me as I have remodeled two homes (requires some basic carpentry and electric skill), and my trade is electronic repair (i work a lot with logic controllers - hence my interest in fully automated RR).

gimme30- thank you for the tip about tools, I will definitely check out those links.

DonR- The website link you provided is great. I will definitely utilize that down the road. You mention that a lot of the people on this forum have full automation... can you point me in their direction, or perhaps I should start a new thread?

Thanks again everyone.
-Slim
 

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Thank you all for your Replies! Very helpful.

Traction Fan- I believe I have read your files in the past, but I will give them another read this weekend. :eek: [ Sorry if they're duplicates. I send them out to all new people and sometimes the same person will get the files twice. Feel free to delete or just ignore E'm! :laugh:



Telltale- I like the point to point suggestion for realism. I will incorporate. However, watching a train flow around a nice curve is enjoyable, so I will have to do some thinking here.

Fire21- Any suggestions for good Locos other than Kato or Bachmann?

Cousin Eddie- I'm thinking this hobby will be perfect for me as I have remodeled two homes (requires some basic carpentry and electric skill), and my trade is electronic repair (i work a lot with logic controllers - hence my interest in fully automated RR).

gimme30- thank you for the tip about tools, I will definitely check out those links.

DonR- The website link you provided is great. I will definitely utilize that down the road. You mention that a lot of the people on this forum have full automation... can you point me in their direction, or perhaps I should start a new thread?

Thanks again everyone.

-Slim

:eek::confused:;):cool::):mad::D:eek::eek:hwell::smokin::smilie_daumenneg::(:p:rolleyes::thumbsup::laugh:
 

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Slim, I have no experience with any other brands of locos. Perhaps others here can offer some suggestions.
 

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other brands

Slim, I have no experience with any other brands of locos. Perhaps others here can offer some suggestions.
slim;

Atlas and Athearn are two good brands of locomotives you might look at.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Hi Slim!

I'm new to the hobby as well. Two months and hundreds of hours already of reading and watching. I have a similar taste as you for the "finer things." I've got my first loop running, and picking away at doing "all the things" over the next year.

I chose a very new release Kato for my first locomotive (modern), and Kato track because of this video and this man's series of instructional pieces. My "story line" is intermodal, and so I popped for a set of the now difficult-to-acquire Kato Gunderson well cars. I chose the Digitrax Zepyher as my power supply and (first) controller.

TracktionFan has forgotten more than I'll ever know about model railroading, but I think I am on safe ground in confirming his advice to do sectional, not flex, track for one's first go around.

 

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Not my advice at all.

Hi Slim!

I'm new to the hobby as well.
I chose a very new release Kato for my first locomotive (modern), and Kato track because of this video and this man's series of instructional pieces.

Traction Fan has forgotten more than I'll ever know about model railroading, but I think I am on safe ground in confirming his advice to do sectional, not flex, track for one's first go round.
kflorian;

Thanks for the compliment, but you are not "on safe ground", or even correct, in "confirming" "my" advice to "do sectional, not flex, track on one's first go round."
In fact, you are mistaken. I never advised that. You have actually stated my real advice backwards. :smilie_auslachen:

I advise people to start with flex track on their first layout. Many who start out with sectional track, and some who start out with roadbed track, convert to flex track at some point. So why not start out with flex track in the first place? It will save money and time.
Now there is nothing seriously "wrong" about any of the three basic track types, Flex track, sectional track or roadbed track. Each person is free to choose whatever type they prefer.
Flex track is simply less expensive, and able to be used as straight track, or bent to any desired curve. Sectional and roadbed track limit your curve choices. Roadbed track limits both your curve, and turnout, choices to what one manufacturer sells. (At least to some extent. It is possible to modify roadbed track to connect to flex or sectional track.)

Traction Fan :eek:hwell:
 

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I stand corrected. I'll let this be a lesson to myself through an application of the old saw "children (to a hobby) should be seen and not heard.".

I'm sorry for my incorrect interpretation of your recommendations.

As I return to my "Hobo" lurker status, I'll see myself to the door,
 

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All is forgiven

I stand corrected. I'll let this be a lesson to myself through an application of the old saw "children (to a hobby) should be seen and not heard.".

I'm sorry for my incorrect interpretation of your recommendations.

As I return to my "Hobo" lurker status, I'll see myself to the door,
kflorian;

It's OK. No need to slink off into oblivion. :laugh:

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 
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