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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Gentlemen, I looking for information and guidance with building a 4x8 N scale layout. I’m 70 years old and know very little about building a layout. I have a MRC 2500 controller and now need to decide on which track and turnouts I want/need to use. I probably won’t ever get into DCC so was looking to section off the track so I can operate more than one engine. That’s where my thoughts are at this time but I’m very much open to suggestions and any and all advice is appreciated. Thanks,
 

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Hey Merlin, welcome! I have no advice to offer, but I'm sure some of our members will have plenty. One member, Traction Fan, has a slew of links that will teach you a ton. I'm sure he will be posting here soon. Enjoy your trains. N-gauging hobby!
 

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Welcome, I agree with Fire21, TractionFan’s PDF files have been extremely helpful to me, and are really informative, I’d recommended you take a look through those. Definitely use Kato Unitrack when you pick a track, I use it and it’s been an absolute lifesaver for the many times I’ve redone my layout lol
 

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Merlin...we're here to help you do your magic.

DC is fine if you have a small layout and intend
running just one train at a time. But when you
want to run two or more trains controlled separately you
are headed for complex track work, a mess of wiring,
control panel of toggles and more than one controller.

The above is why most of us have moved up
to DCC. It makes wiring a layout and running trains easy. You have
only 2 wires to the track, you need no isolated
sections, panels of toggles or multi power packs.
And you don't need the brain of a genius to do it.
If you can work a TV remote you can run 3, 4 or
more trains at the same time each individually
controlled. We suggest you give it careful
consideration.

Don
 

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As the others said I do agree DCC is your better bet if you want to run multiple locomotives at once. Usually you can get into it pretty easily especially if you used more simplified controllers like the Bachmann DCC controller. Although something like the NCE powercab gives you a lot more control.

However if you want to stick with DC were you meaning running to locomotives at the same time on the same stretch of track, or running one while the other just sits on the layout in a siding? If you meant the latter that should be pretty easy to do with turnouts. I know the kato unitrack turnouts only carry power to the direction the track is switched to. So for example if you had a siding and the turnout was switched to the main stretch of track, the locomotives in the siding wouldn't have any power.

By the way, if you were looking for a track recommendation Kato unitrack is pretty easy to use and comes with a nice looking roadbed. Atlas track is cheaper but unless you want a more realistic look I would argue it isn't worth the hassle. You could also always just ballast the Kato track so you can probably achieve results that look just as realistic as ballasted atlas track.
 

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I guess I do have some advice! Don't rule out the use of sectional and flex track. It doesn't come with built-in roadbed, but you can easily lay foam or cork roadbed and put your track on top of that. Flex track gives you unlimited options for track shape. Working with it takes a bit of learning, but that comes quickly as you use it. Most modelers recommend Peco turnouts (switches)...far superior to Atlas.

If you decide to go this route, pay attention to track code. That is the height of the rail. Track is made in a variety of codes...i.e. 55, 70, 90, 100, etc. If you're a stickler for realism, code 55 is about the best. Code 100 is probably the most abundant in hobby stores and online. Changing codes (heights) causes bumps as the train passes over the joints. There are ways to counteract that, but staying with one code is the easiest. Kato Unitrack doesn't have different codes, so there's no worries there.
 

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Welcome, Merlin, to the forum and the hobby. My advice to you is to put your wallet away for a while and start reading. There is a ton of information here on the forum, and more on the rest of the internet. Everything you want to know has been addressed here at some point.
 

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Welcome to the hobby and to the forum. My first piece of advice is to find a book or video that's a beginners guide to model railroading. After that all the other information you will be getting will make a ton more sense, and it's all good advice too. My second piece of advice is to remember the number one rule, it's your railroad so the final decision should be based on what you want and enjoy. Happy modeling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
My plan initially is to get a few sections of flex track and a couple turnouts and have something I can run on and have a little fun with as I’m trying to learn about things and plan out my eventual layout. However, I was hoping to make an informed purchase so these first pieces will be compatible with the track and turnouts that I build with later. Thanks for all the great suggestions and recommendations so far. I look forward to reading much more. I know I have a lot to learn. Thanks,
 

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The different brands of flex track should be compatible as long as you stick to the same code, unless you want lighter rail for spurs or sidings.
It’s probably best though to use all the same brand. The N scalers can put a finer point on this for you.
 

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If you want simple, kato unitrack and DCC. Running multiple trains with DC will be much more complicated.

I'm also second the advice to put your wallet away and read more first.

Sent from my SM-G781U using Tapatalk
 

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Regarding track:

In my opinion, the first decision needs to be type of track. Either the kind with built-in plastic roadbed, or the kind that doesn't have built-in plastic roadbed. Then code height.

With plastic roadbed:
The simplest to use and the track with the best overall reputation would be Kato Unitrack.​
The Bachman track itself is OK, but their turnouts have really poor reputations.​
If you want plastic roadbed track, I highly recommend Kato. It isn't cheap, but their stuff just plain works... Simple and durable.​

Without Plastic Roadbed:
In the U.S., the most common N gauge track is Atlas. Atlas track is fine, but their turnouts are also toward the bottom of the list.​
Peco has the best turnouts, and their track is also very good, although the Peco flex track tends to hold its shape once bent, while the Atlas remains springy.​
Peco turnouts work great with Atlas track, especially in Code 80. Due to this, many people use the less expensive, and more readily available, Atlas track pieces (especially flex track) and Peco turnouts.​
In my simple mind, I think the plastic roadbed stuff is better suited for people who just want to setup a train once in a while, or for people who don't necessarily want to go through the extra effort of more permanently affixing the track into your scene. In other words, not too likely to switch things around at a later date. Many people do use the plastic roadbed stuff in more permanent layouts, but generally speaking... You get the idea. The track with the plastic roadbed seems to be better suited to ad-hoc use, while the non-plastic roadbed stuff seems to have a harder time unless it is on a more stable and secure base.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
So much great information here I really appreciate everyone’s input. I really haven’t made a final decision on much of anything but have been thinking that I’d probably do flex track with some type of roadbed, probably cork. So I’m really glad to see all the discussion regarding different track and turnout brands and compatibility. At some point I’ll have to determine what radius turns I want/need on my layout as well as the rate of incline. Probably wrong but seems like I read somewhere one time that it was 1 inch elevation for every 25 inches of track length. I’m probably not stating that correctly but hopefully everyone will understand what I’m trying to say. I’m sure my layout, if in fact I ever get it built, won’t be impressive looking but it will need to be reasonably accurate functionally for me to be happy with it. That’s just kinda how my mind works. Thanks for everyone’s help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I have read a PDF by Traction Fan which talks about choosing the right scale but so far that is the only one I have managed to find. It is my understanding that there are several files that I assume talk about numerous aspects of N scale modeling. Could someone please furnish me a link to the individual files by Traction Fan? Thanks,
 

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Post #21 in this thread contains Traction Fan's full line up for beginners: New Member with no experience from Texas

Lots of good advice, and I happen to agree with most of his recommendations / advice. But just remember, it's only ONE point of view. There are plenty of others in many of those topics.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Just as an update I am posting to say that I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos as well as reading the recommended PDF files by Traction Fan. It’s a lot to take in and try to remember all the great information. I’ve been trying to make myself a lot of notes on many of the things I knew I was going to want to know later but just wouldn’t remember. I do currently have one question though. What is everyone’s opinion on the regular cork track bed strips compared to the Woodland Scenics strips? Not ready yet to start building my layout but was considering putting a few sections of track together just to be able to play with my old engine and cars a little while I’m trying to educate myself. Thanks,
 
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