N Scale Brands - what do you think?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by frenchtoast, May 21, 2005.

  1. frenchtoast

    frenchtoast New Member

    May 17, 2005
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    I'm trying to get together a list of N scale brands and what people think in terms of quality and value for their type of products. It will help new people like myself and help others who are unsure of trying different brands. So post what you think of the following and more.

    list more if you know of more, im only getting a start

    Rolling Stock
    Scenery (Houses Trees, People, etc)

    And set it up like below so its easy to identify
    for example

    Loco's - very good
    Rolling Stock - fair
    Track - good
    Scenery - poor
    Comments: any additional comments you have
  2. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Jan 12, 2004
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    That is a very good, but far-ranging question there Mr. toast.

    Let's see now, on my layout....

    Track: I am using mostly Atlas flex track, with some Atlas sectional track where applicable.

    Turnouts: I currently have Atlas #4 and #6, only because I received a bulk lot in trade for some computer service. I am thinking however of replacing all my Atlas switches with Peco as they snap when thrown. Currently I am having problems with derailments at some turnouts. Also, I will be putting in "under the layout" switch machines, possibly Tortoise.

    Locomotives: Currently I have 4 of the Bachmann 4-4-0, while all four run well, they only pull about 4 cars, however, this is prototypical so I am not worried. I will be repainting them and also replacing the couplers. On my wish list is the Altas 4-6-0, a friend has one and they are great little runners/pullers. Also, our club has the new Bachmann Spectrum 2-8-0, now this one can run all day at our shows and pull 15-20 cars. For deisels, the guys at the club swear by the new Altlas or Athearn locos.

    Rolling Stock: Currently I have 8 Bachmann old time cars, but I would not recomend them. My wish list is full of Athearn MDC old time rolling stock, they seem to be the only ones doing old time. At the club, we have all kinds from almost every manufacturer. Athearn seems good, Intermountain and Micro Trains seem good, several others are ok.

    Structures: For structures, I have decied that if it is brick, it will be styrene. I will be using modified DPM kits for downtown Orangeville. For wood structures, I will be using wood kits. Rusty Stumps has some awesome wood shake shingles, in my opinion these look much better than Campbell paper shingles. Rusty Stumps HO kits are good, I hope he starts doing N Scale kits. I plan on scratch building several structures.

    Details: I have several Rusty Stumps detail parts, these are all high quaility. Preiser has several kits of people that look good.

    Scenery: Here I find that the packaged product from Model Railroad manufacturers are pricy. I will be using material from other sources. The local Dollarama (dollar store) is a treasure trove. Decorative gravel and sand, Spanish Moss and Lichen. The outdoors is also valuable.... Seedum and some weeds like Old man's Beard grows wild around here. I will be trying the "foam/paint in a blender" experiment as well. Used coffee grounds resemble the rich earth of the Credit Valley I am modeling. Fine sawdust resembles the sandy areas.

    To my way of thinking, I will put the money into track, motive power and rolling stock. Then be inventive (read cheap) with the rest of the world. :D
  3. Zman

    Zman Member

    Mar 14, 2005
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    I've only been in the hobby for a few months, but here are my specific recommendations:

    1. I use Peco code 55 flextrack. The shorter rails on code 55 track have a more prototypical appearance.

    2. My turnouts, motors, and switches are also from Peco. The motors can be buried directly under the turnouts and be completely invisible.

    3. My best engine to date is an Atlas 2-6-0 Mogul. It runs remarkably smoothly even at very low speeds - it can literally inch its way over a turnout without derailing.

    4. I've built several Roundhouse reefer kits that look great. The cars are nicely detailed, and easy to assemble, except for the installation of the springs that go between the truck bodies and the couplers. You will need a pair of fine tweezers and a jewlers loupe (at least if you have eyes like mine.)

    5. As to structures, my favorite brand is Cornerstone. These models are well designed and engineered, with lots of nice details. I've built the Merchants Row II and an older passenger station, which they no longer produce. I've also built a Con Cor factory which was very well made. Model Power kits are less well made in my opinion. I tried to build one of their depots, but the gables were not cut at the correct angle to fit the roof, and it was not a small discrepancy.
  4. skipgear

    skipgear Member

    May 16, 2005
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    I am just getting back in after 20 years so I can really only give opinions on loco's and rolling stock as they run around my test track (Bachman EZ track 11" radius) till I am ready to start building. I work part time at a shop that specializes in RC cars and planes so most of my purchases have been what I have available to me and ebay.

    Loco's (mostly Steam)

    Spectrum 2-8-0 Consolidation - Best running loco I own, has pulled 35 cars on level track, easily pulls 25-30. Geared to crawl along the track. Very smooth, quiet and detailed.
    Spectrum 2-6-6-2 H5 - Beautiful running, no traction tires so about 20 cars is the max it can pull on a grade. (Note: The one I bought was a lemon, contacted Bachmann and it was taken care of promptly, excellent service.) I have a friend that also bought one, his runs flawless out of the box. Make sure to break it in, they run even better after about 20-30 minutes of running. Geared to crawl along the track. Not as smooth or quiet as the 2-8-0 but very impressive for the amount of moving parts and detail that it has.
    Spectrum 4-8-2 Lt. Mountain - Similar drive train to the Consolidation. Very smooth and quiet running, not nearly the pulling power of the consolidation. Has traction tires but they are on the second axle and don't get the full weight of the loco. Excellent detail.
    Spectrum Dash8 - Came with my starter set, smooth, diode issolated Fwd and Rev lighting, quiet, decent pulling power (about 25 cars). I'm not a diesel fan so this one doesn't get run anymore.
    0-6-0 Switcher - Cheap little switcher, pickups in tender, runs OK, nothing spectacular but they are very inexpensive.

    Model Power:
    2-8-2 USRA Mikado - Noisier than the Spectrums and geared a little faster. Metal boiler, not as detailed (molded in handrails on the boiler). Pulling power is adequate without traction tires. MDP offers a traction tire update for the engine that makes a huge difference in pulling power. I have performed the traction tire conversion on this engine, it is by no means a simple operation. Be carefull not to pinch wiring when re-assembling. With traction tires, I don't have enough track on my test track to load it down with cars. The test loop is roughly 4'x2' and it will pull a train the the entire loop (about 40 cars). Sometimes tempermental on switches.
    4-6-2 USRA Pacific - Noisier than the Spectrums and geared a little faster. Metal boiler, not as detailed (molded in handrails on the boiler). Pulling power is adequate without traction tires. MDP offers a traction tire update for the engine that makes a huge difference in pulling power. Same boiler and drive as the Mikado

    E8/9 Powered A/B set (latest version)- Smooth running, strong, quiet, excellent detail, strongly suggest converting to MT couplers, at least between the A and B unit. They have body mounted coupler and because of the long overhang, tight corners tend to put a stress on the stock rapido couplers and they uncouple. Especially going from left to right without a transition. I don't have enough track and cars to bog these two loco's down when paired up. running individually, they can pull roughly 30 cars each.

    Older loco's
    ConCor PA/PB Powered Set - Noisy, great pulling power, geared to fast. Very reliable engines. I had a set of these 20 years ago with my last train, picked up another set off ebay for nostalgia. (sp?)
    Atlas/Rivarossi 4-6-2 Pacific - Detail appropriate to the age of the loco. Minimal pulling power, will pull a set of 6 heavyweight passenger cars around comfortably which is all I expect of it so I am satisfied. Geared reasonably low for its age, smooth runner. One rail pick up on tender, one rail pick up on loco so can have intermittant running issues if track or loco is not kept clean.

    Rolling Stock:
    Atlas - Newer cars with accumate couplers and trucks my favorite. Great detail, price and reliability.
    MTL - Best detail and most accuate cars available, often very pricey and limited availability.
    Intermountain - I only have one 40' box and the detail is great but the trucks and couplers are junk. Not worth the cost in my opinion unless you can't find the car by any other manufacture. I wouldn't have bought if it wasn't for my shop discount. Also movable doors on the car fall off at random.
    MDC Roundhouse/Athern - The cars are nicely detailed but too light. They tend to need weight added to run reliably. MDC knuckle coupler only works reliably with other MDC equiped cars, they will uncouple from MT couplers with enough load or uneven track. Suggest replacing trucks on the cars. Horizon Hobby recently bought both MDC and Athern and are reorganizing the lines. It appears most of the RTR MDC N scale is going to now be produced under the Athern name and they may come with better trucks this time around.
    Bachmann - The cars are decent in detail, very reliable, weighted right but are not easy to convert to Atlas trucks w/accumate couplers. Need to open up the hole in the truck to fit over the molded pin on the car. Trucks held on with screw. Price is usually right.
    Lifelike/Industrial - Cheap cars, detail is acceptable for background filler and most are ok runners. Replace the trucks and or wheelsets for better reliability.

    That is about all I have experience with right now. Hope it helps.