1st post, lots of questions...

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by JamieInNJ, Jan 25, 2005.

  1. JamieInNJ

    JamieInNJ New Member

    hello everyone, nice to meet you all. i've been a big fan of model trains, ever since i was a kid. i just got back into them and i was given a bachmann HO train set for christmas from my girlfriend. i guess its a nice set to start with, i've also made a 4 foot by 8 foot platform with fold out lets, and a nice skirt so it looks good in my back room. now i need to start on my layout and being new to this, i'm not sure where to start. i figure i'll need to go down to the local hobby shop to pick up more track, etc. i'm interested in being able to run two trains at the same time. how difficult will this be, what do i need as far as wiring, track, controllers, etc. and whats the best way to start a layout. i'd love to split the platform down the middle with a mountain, and create a city landscape on one side, then a country or seaside landscape on the other. well i'm going on and on here, so i guess i'll stop and see what you guys have to say...thanks again, i look forward to joining in as much as possible.

  2. 77railer

    77railer Member

    I would suggest laying foam down first so you can build some height or carve some valleys etc. As far as the wiring Im not good enough yet to give you much help there...although I do know I would suggest dcc....seems to be the way to go. Bought all the help I can give at the moment. Just take it slow and easy so you can enjoy it for years to come, rather than rush get frustrated with the results and not really enjoy it.

  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Jamie,

    Welcome to the Gauge!

    If you are limited to a standard 4x8 right now, then you might want to look at issues of MR. They usually do a 4x8 project almost every year, starting with the January issue. They also have some other plans at the website (trains.com). Another great site for small layouts is gatewaynmra.org . They do a project layout every year or so, and usually build most of it in one weekend!

    In any case, I would advise against buying too much track right away. You probably need to think about what it is that you want to model - running trains around and around in a loop gets old pretty fast. Trains in the real world need something to do, so think about what era (steam/diesel) interests you, and what industries you'd like to serve.

    As 77railer mentioned, running two trains at once is simple with DCC. I use the Digitrax Zephyr, which goes fo rwell under US$200 now. You will need a decoder in each engine, and the simple ones are less than US$30 now.

    Hope that helps. Don't be afraid with the questions!

  4. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Welcome to The Gauge :wave:
  5. Mwether

    Mwether New Member

    Hi Jamie,

    I too am VERY wet behind the ears, but here are two more resources that have been super helpful (besides this forum!).

    The first is a special issue put out by Model Railroader called Model Trains Step by Step. It does a good job of explaining things clearly and the accompanying DVD is great. One of the 8 layouts in the magazine is divided by a diagonal scenery wall like you describe. I got my copy off a newsstand, but here's a link:

    Model Trains Step by Step is part of a wider industry-sponsored campaign called World's Greatest Hobby (WGH). See:
    One of the first layouts in the mag is the official layout of the promotion: A cool looking HO plan on a 4x8 table. Kato and other manufacturers actually sell WGH track packs that contain all the track you need to make the layout. It's simpler than what you describe, but you may be interested.

    Given my young kids, I'm going the O27/Toy Train route for now. If we ever move to more serious scale stuff or graduate beyond Department 56 and cotton wool at Christmas, I'll be glad I've got this copy of MTSBS!:D

  6. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Welcome Jamie, don't worry about being new, I was that way about a year ago.

    As for track plans, have you tried http://www.thortrains.com/ they have several layouts.

    As far as powering your layout, I will be using DC Cab control with blocks. Alot can be done with this system. We use block control on an N Scale layout at the club and are able to control 4 trains at once. Switching from one mainline to the next is tricky, but that is where "realistic operations" comes in. A second train cannot come out onto the mainline until the first has cleared the block. My home layout that is an N Scale 11.5' a 6.5' "M" will have about 36 blocks. Each siding will be a block, each passing track is a block and the mainline is divided into 11-12 blocks.

    I run DC because I model 1880-1900 and currently DCC is impossible to incorporate into a N Scale 4-4-0 or 4-6-0, they are too small.
  7. moria

    moria Member

    Jamie, greetings.

    We were all new once, just some more recently than others..

    Welcome to the wonderful world of model trains. It will bug you, make you scream in frustration and despair but it will also give you some great times, make you laugh and some wonderful memories and will keep you more or less sane through hard times ;)

    I would recommend as an early step, try to find a local model train shop.. not just a general hobby shop with trains in. There you will be able to look at a lot of things that get talked about on here.

    Second, theres a great series of starter books by the company that produce Model Railroader magazine.. Kalmbach Have a look at www.trains.com and look at hobby basics, model railroading link and read the articles

    Finally, ask away, the only stupid question is the one not asked :thumb:

  8. Roger Hensley

    Roger Hensley Member

    Also, you might take a look at the 'Introduction to Model Railroading' pages of the NMRA at: http://www.nmra.org/beginner/ for a number of tips on building and laying out a small layout.
  9. interurban

    interurban Active Member

    Welcome Jamie, I see you already have great advice to help you out :thumb:

    Hope to see you post more on your progress with pictures. :)
    Happy modeling.
  10. JamieInNJ

    JamieInNJ New Member

    thanks for all the great suggestions, i cant wait to get going...my heart was set on the 4x8 platform, but from the look of things, i was considering doing an L shaped platform, maybe two 2x6's lined up to make an L shape. what do you guys think? i'm interested in making a nice rail yard with switches, with a more city like scenery, then separate the platform somewhere in the middle with a mountain of some sort and make a more country like scene on the other side of it. i'd also like to create some sort of a looping through the mountain into the country side, maybe two looping tracks, and do most of the switching on the city side. i already have one bachmann set, so i am gonna stick with that for now, but i'm gonna pick up another diesel engine or maybe a passenger train and create some sort of a shuttle and go from there. my only confusion lies in how i will be able to make two trains run at the same time. i've heard DCC mentioned, but i'm still a bit confused on how that is different from the BOX controller my set came with. again, any help would be great...i'll take some pics once i decide what platform i'm gonna build...i'd like to hear more suggestions on the shape first...thanks again guys...

  11. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    My description of DCC vs. conventional control is thus (and not the least bit technical):
    Conventional power pack control: wires go to the rails. The power pack controls the speed of the train via the throttle. One throttle per loco, which is why you will see "dual" throttle power packs out there. The locos must be seperated on either different tracks, or the same track with 'blocks' which are electrical on/off switches to keep the trains from hitting each other.

    DCC: Possibly the greatest invention for model trains. :) With this, think radio control. Any number of locos can share the same trackage without fear. Each loco is programmed individually to match a remote throttle. The throttle tells the loco how much power to use instead of pumping a variable amount through the track. It is, of course, more expensive than the system above (what your set came with).

    One thing I'm not clear on...when you say you want to run 2 trains, do you mean 2 on the same track at the same time, or two 'seperate' rail lines on the same layout? The latter is easy to do without DCC.
  12. JamieInNJ

    JamieInNJ New Member

    hey, thanks david, you answered a few of my questions...i was just reading up on DCC and i think thats what i want to go with. i get the idea of it being more radio controlled, and i'd like to be able to run two different trains on the same track at the same time. my next question is this, i'm going to be using bachmanns EZ track, do you think i have to solder all of the tracks together to get a good connection? i heard that bachmann switches arent that good, is this true? is it possible to use other switches with the EZ track? if the DCC controller is powered on its own, how do you supply power to the rails??? do the tracks still plug into a regular AC outlet? how is this done?

    thanks again, learning more everyone second...lol

  13. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Jamie,

    If you use EZ track, your layout geometry will be limited by what track is available. Generally speaking you can mix and match all brands of track and turnouts, some requiring more work than others to get them to fit together.

    I don't know about Bachman switches/turnouts. I have Atlas right now, and plan to use Walthers/Shinohara Code 83 "DCC friendly" turnouts in the future. I use Atlas flextrack (although my first layout was/is sectional) because you can lay it wherever you want - just cut to fit!

    Generally, you want to solder track for the best conductivity - especially important for DCC, as you are sending commands through the rails too. However, it is best not to solder too much together - maybe upt o 6 or 8 feet at most. You need to leave small gaps to allow for a bit of expansion. To achieve good conductivity, you run what is called a bus wire (large gauge)under the layout roughly following the track. Every few feet you solder a jumper (small gauge) up to the rails to provide power. A good rule of thumb would be to solder two sections of flex track together, and then put one set of feeders on (that's one set of feeders for every 6 feet - my modular club requires feeders every three feet). You then connect the soldered sections with just rail joiners to keep everything aligned. The bus takes care of the power.

    I will leave your other DCC questions because I see you have posted a new thread...


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