Thinking Of Converting To N Gauge

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Cannonball, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

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    Due to space restrictions on suitable areas in my house to run trains, my layout went from the original 10x10 L shaped layout I had originally planned down to a 4x6 table. 4x6 just isn't enough to get serious with O gauge trains so I've been thinking of putting nostaglia back in it's box for now and converting to N gauge.

    Since I don't have any experience with these little guys, where should I start?

    1. What are the good starter sets to look at? (I prefer steam but I may incoperate some diesel as well.)
    2. What are my cost differences using flex-track as compared to sectional track pieces? Whats the good and bad of each?
    3. How hard is it to bend flex track and get it "right?" I don't want to bend it too far only to find out I've kinked it or made my curves too sharp. What do I use to be sure my curves are right? Is it just an eyeball thing or is there some sort of way to measure them?
    4. I don't know if I want to go DCC just yet. What are the advantages of traditional running VS DCC? Are there N gauge sets out there that provide sound without DCC?

    Thanks for any info. :)
  2. csxengineer

    csxengineer Member

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    Why I like N gauge

    Hi. I switched from HO to N about 4 years ago, and would never change. In a small area (10' x 11'), I have a layout with a couple different yards, long trains, open scenery, etc. In HO, I would have only been able to model less than 1/2 of what I have now. In O gauge? forget about it!

    I started with Kato Unitrak. Yes, it costs more, but it is flawless. Never derailed, easy to change trackplans a million times (trust me), and their bridges are sweet. It also holds it's resale value on ebay very close to original price (trust me).

    I have had atlas, con cor, life like and kato engines. Kato & Atlas are superior in my opinion.

    There is sooo much new stuff in N, than there was 5 years ago. I really seeing it as the best option for most that don't have a huge basement or a club layout.

    Good luck & have fun.
  3. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

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    Thanks :)
    Are the Bachmann's good sets at all? I like the look of several of their steamers but the sets seem rather inexpensive. Does that mean they're cheap? (Of course, after buying O gauge forever, anything Ho or N looks comparitavely inexpensive.... ;) )
  4. csxengineer

    csxengineer Member

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    n scale steam

    All I know is you get what you pay for, especially with steam. I forgot, I bought a bachmann (not spectrum) steam engine. Looked sharp, ran jerky, and forget slow speeds. I hear good things about the specrum series though ( probably twice as pricey as regular bachman).

    my $.02
  5. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

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    What are the good starter sets to look at? (I prefer steam but I may incoperate some diesel as well.) There are really only two good starter sets in N scale, possibly three. Kato used to sell a set that included an F3, but its out of production now, although still available in many stores. They've replaced it with a much more expensive Amtrak Genesis set that includes a powerpack. For steam, the only starter set worth beans is the Bachmann Spectrum set. Generally though, in N scale, you're better off building your own "starter set" from quality components. If steam is your thing, then these are the generally available N scale steam engines you'll want to consider:

    Kato 2-8-2 Mikado
    Bachmann Spectrum 2-8-0
    Bachmann Spectrum 4-8-2
    Make sure to test run both the Bachmann's before purchase, if possible. They are excellent locos, but the QC is spotty. The Bachmann's are much easier to decoderize.

    There are others that are good, but those three are the best out there currently.

    What are my cost differences using flex-track as compared to sectional track pieces? Whats the good and bad of each? For regular non-roadbed track, the sectional is probably a little bit more expensive, but not much. Downsides to sectional is you'll have a lot of railjoiners, and each one presents a electrical connectivity risk. Upside is your curves will be consistent, except that again, each joint presents an alignment risk. Both of these factors are greatly mitigated if you go with Kato's Unitrack. If you do decide to go with a roadbed track, Kato's is the only one in N scale that's worth the money. It is much more expensive than flex and/or sectional, but after considering the cost of cork and ballast, plus the labor involved, you may figure its worth it.

    How hard is it to bend flex track and get it "right?" I don't want to bend it too far only to find out I've kinked it or made my curves too sharp. What do I use to be sure my curves are right? Is it just an eyeball thing or is there some sort of way to measure them?
    Its not very hard at all. Handle the track with care and you'll be fine. There are radius templates available (Walthers lists them from two different companies) that you can use, or you can eyeball it, or you can draw the trackplan onto the surface and just lay the cork on the lines, then lay the track on the cork.

    I don't know if I want to go DCC just yet. What are the advantages of traditional running VS DCC? Are there N gauge sets out there that provide sound without DCC? For somebody entering the scale, "Traditional running" has no advantages over DCC except that you needn't worry about a decoder failing and sidelining an engine, you needn't learn anything about programming your engines, and analog costs less. If you can program your VCR, you can program an engine. Currently, the only way to get sound without DCC in N scale is to go with "off board" sound, i.e. speakers under the layout, a setup that MRC does.
  6. davidone

    davidone New Member

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    Cannonball, I'll be moving to a condo later this year and N scale seems to be the only way to go, my O scale trains are being sold as i type. I have checked out some track systems and unitrack seems to be the best choice for me. I also agree that Atlas, Kato and Athearn are the only engines i will buy. Now in saying that i will be modeling the modern UP so diesels will be my main choice of motive power but that Athearn UP 3985 challenger may have to find a place on my layout and besides it will be doing excursions. Whatever choice you make just have fun.

    Dave
  7. berraf

    berraf Member

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    A big step to take from O to N but worth every minute and effort.
    Today I build in both HO and N and are getting more and more comfortable with N-scale.
    The problems that once was especially with locos stopping all the time seems to be history with modern locos :)
  8. Meiriongwril

    Meiriongwril Member

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    announce1
    Precision Craft Models do make early diesels (EMD E7 PA1) with onboard sound in N Scale. The sound works in DC and DCC, though you need DCC or a special add-on controller to use some of the sounds (diesel horn, brakes etc).
  9. davidone

    davidone New Member

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    Even though i was into O scale, i just couldn't do it justice is the space i had (26x13), that size is huge for N scale but small for O. now i'll be in a smaller home but yet will be that much better because of N scale. I had N scale many years ago when basically nothing would run with out constant fixing so seeing and running todays N scale is a pleasure.:thumb: :thumb:
  10. nolatron

    nolatron Member

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    You know, if this is your first jump into N scale and looking for a kit so to speak, you might wanna check out Woodland Scenics Scenic Ridge 3x6 kit. Just add track, power, locos and rolling stock.

    It's not your "traditional" kit with train & track, but it's a good kit for a nice sized N scale layout that you can, and should, play around with to personalize it some.

    You can see mine here:

    http://www.the-gauge.com/showthread.php?t=19724

    and photos here:

    http://gallery.sodh.net/railroad/layout4

    I added a 2nd loop track around the whole thing and some spurs. I'm already working on a new layout for the new house so I'm thinking I may sell this soon. Not sure yet. But it's really a nice introduction into getting a layout down with scenery and what not.

    If you don't want to deal with Flextrak, Kato makes a unitrack pack I think (or at least as a list of items to buy) to fit the stock layout.

    I'd also say go with DCC. It's MUCH easier to wire and having the ablity to do multi-unit trains and multiple trains at once is awesome.
  11. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

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    You had a 26x13 ft area and couldn't do an O gauge layout??? :confused:
    I'd kill for that much space.

    I ended up sticking with my O27 gauge and came up with a couple of nice loops that I'm happy with for now. I plan to expand at some point but don't know when. When I really thought about the expense of buying new train stuff in N scale VS using what I already have, I just couldn't justify it. I don't want to part with my O27 stuff since I've had it since I was a kid so selling it to make up some of the cost is out. I still may look into doing an N gauge setup someday but now isn't the time.

    I appreciate everyone's comments and it at least gave me a place to start when I do decide to do this. Thanks again everyone.
  12. davidone

    davidone New Member

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  13. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

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    I have into N for 12 years now and I agree with csxengineer, you get what you pay for, I learned this long ago and got burnt with Bachmann and Lifelike. As the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." I prefer to spend a little more for quality, Kato and Atlas engines and Micro-Train cars. If your looking for a starter set that is reliable, Try some of the Kato ones. You get an engine a couple of cars and a caboose with a loop of unitrack. You can add a couple of the passing siding sets and maybe the viaduct set and your all set. Also the Kato switches are power routing so when a train is in the siding and switches are lined for the main it doesn't move. Yeah it can be expensive, but flawless.
  14. Metro Red Line

    Metro Red Line New Member

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    All my locos are made by Kato, Atlas, Intermountain or Athearn. And I'm sure it will stay that way.
  15. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

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    I wouldn't bash life-like locos.
    I have a GP18 and a Sw9 ( TH&B ) Hobby quality Proto N + an Atlas GP7 and I'm verysatisfied with them.
    First, select a good power pack ( MRC 200 )
    Then some atlas track and turnouts ( I have nothing against Kato or peco ) but atlas is cheap and ( the most important ) reliable and available at any decent LSH
    Then get a locomotive and a few 40' boxcars and enjoy it.
  16. Boilerman

    Boilerman Member

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    Keep in mind that I am not an advocate of any manufacturers product and I purchase all that fit my requirement.

    Having been modeling in N-scale since about 1970 I have a lot of the older as well as newer Bachmann steam locos, and yes some of the older ones were dogs but the newer ones run very well and you can not beat their warranty or service.

    The LL heritage locos also run very well.

    Now this goes with saying that you should always have your hobby shop test run a loco before you purchase!

    I have seen all sorts of things happen on even the best of loco manufactures units when test running at the hobby shop, connecting rods fell off on a con-cor that I wanted and lucky for me they had another that tested out OK, another time a Kato diesel did not move, the motor decided to burn out the windings, smoked a lot too.

    I had received a Kato Mikado for Christmas years ago, never ran it until I had a layout and when I put it on the track found that it had a stripped drive gear from the factory.
    No problem though, I just ordered a replacement from Kato, was only a few dollars and I received it in less that one week.

    I think that most all will agree that most all of the newer stuff is a lot better than what was produced in earlier years.