Dumb questions from a total newbie

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by marshachancock, Feb 15, 2007.

  1. marshachancock

    marshachancock New Member

    Ok I spent years with my dad as an HO enthusiast. Now I"m director of elementary ministries and I want to create a layout in an alcove entering our children's area. I'm thinking N scale is the way to go. I have 32" by 67". I have seen some Bachman starter sets that are within my budgets. I don't want to "underbuy" however, I'd like a little excitement such as a figure 8 or hill, etc. Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. engineshop

    engineshop Member

    If you spend a lot of time building the layout and hope to run it for years, you need to purchase good quality tracks. Bachmann tracks will give you headaches for the rest of the layout life and I would suggest Kato Unitrack. An easy figure 8 will not blow your budget. On the other hand, you can start with a cheap engine since you have the possibility to upgrade to Atlas or Kato.
    Tracks are more or less permanent and you would damage your layout to upgrade them.
    I would suggest to invest most of the money right now in the layout, save some bucks on the first engine and cars and you will be a much happier railroader in the future.
  3. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    It really depends on your budget. If you get the Bachmann track DO NOT get the black roadbed stuff. It has steel rails, and oxidizes very quickly, meaning you're constantly cleaning it. The grey roadbed stuff has nickle-silver rail, and is much better.

    Kato Unitrack is nice, but it's expensive. It wouldn't be too difficult to build something like this: [​IMG]

    10 pieces of Atlas flex track, 3 turnouts, 11 pieces of midwest cork, some 1x3s and some plywood, you're off to the races. Or you could build it on a single piece of plywood, and use Woodland scenics foam risers and roadbed, but that's more expensive.

    If the layout is more for "show" (just running trains around) than for "go" (switching cars), something like this would be good, I think. It's got some visual interest with the two levels and tunnels, plus you could add a bridge or trestle to the second level. Lots of trees and rocks, it'd be a nice little layout that'd catch kids' interest.
  4. darkcurves

    darkcurves Member

    Kato is too pricey but the quality is totally worth it(as i've heard). I've heard serious problems of Bachmann turnouts where cars derail when run over them. I know Atlas tracks are cheap and reliable but they dont come with roadbed.
  5. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    I wouldn't necessarily start with a train set... Now that I think I understand what you're saying. Initially I had thought you were talking about an E-Z track expander set :rolleyes:

    A couple of reasons for not starting with the train set:

    i) the locking roadbed tracks are fine if you're setting up and taking down the tracks a lot, but you pay for that convenience. If you're going to make a permanent layout, you're better off (IMHO) to go with separate track and roadbed, ultimately because it's more flexible.

    ii) the power packs supplied in train sets are generally awful. Unless you're going to spring for a Spectrum set, the one that's included in the Bachmann sets is not particulary sturdy. It's one of the better trainset packs, but compared to an MRC 1300, it's a waste of space.

    iii) For what you're paying, you're not doing that much better than buying the components separately. The rolling stock that's included in the regular Bachmann sets, while a huge improvement over what they used to offer 10-15 years ago, is still no real bargain, as they typically have the plastic wheelsets and rapido-style couplers.

    Just using Tower Hobbies prices (you can sometimes do better online or at train shows), the layout I drew would cost you about $200, including atlas flex track and remote turnouts, an MRC 1300 power pack, a Bachmann GP40 + dummy and caboose, and half-a-dozen freight cars.

    Of course the lumber for the benchwork would be extra. Tower also has a track pack for the Woodland Scenics Scenic Ridge layout for about $50, which is pretty cheap. It would also be good for what you're doing, but SR is a larger layout.
  6. marshachancock

    marshachancock New Member

    Y'all Rock!

    Thank you so much. This is a lot to take in. Definitely the track needs to last years. It will actually be on the floor or a very low platform that a carpenter will bid to spec for me. I will put plexiglas in front so the kids can't fool with it. I have lots of experience with the models, terrain etc. but very little with the actual layout as my dad always did that.

    I'm sure I will have more questions as I move along.
  7. marshachancock

    marshachancock New Member

    what's the size of that layout --is each block a foot? What program did you use? Never thought about how computer/internet has changed trains since my dad quit 10 years ago with the HO.
  8. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    The layout is the size you specified, 32" by 67". Each grid is a foot. I used a program called XtrkCad, which is free for downloading from the Yahoo! Groups site, and a few others. Search the track planning forum, they're listed there somewhere.

    Atlas also has a track-planning program called Right Track that's a lot simpler to use, but not as flexible.
  9. marshachancock

    marshachancock New Member

    Wow, thanks so much. I'm going to get moving on this --love the layout, just enough interest for the space. I forwarded it all on to my brother, he has O gauge -- been collecting the trains for 5 years and when he retires next year he's going to build the layout. He was floored by the prompt responses and the software available.
  10. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

    Hi Marsha,:wave:
    Most layouts are not on the floor because of the vastly more realistic appearance when viewed from eye level (or, at least, a tabletop level). On-the-floor is not easy to construct or service. Most of your electrical wiring should be under the table-top. Depending on the age of the kids, the table height could be off the floor enough that you could still use the space underneath for storage! (Which is always hard to find) I think the Kato track would be the best for you. :)
  11. Fort Kent Dad

    Fort Kent Dad New Member

    I manage a Children's Center - most of our kids are preschool - we put a wooden Thomas set out - it has been a big hit with the kids (parents complain the kids don't want to leave). Did learn we have to glue it down. Kids up to about 8 play with it a lot. I have N scale - they are not children's toys - I've lost a few pieces to eager kiddy fingers crushing powers. In this case, HO may be a better choice (something VERY durable).
  12. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    If you're doing just a small layout, you might check second hand stores for an old dining table. Find one that is in good, sturdy shape, fits in the area you want to fill, and won't break your budget. Paint it up, build your layout, then attach your plexiglass to it. Might save you the time and expense of having someone contracted to build your benchwork for you.
  13. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    I agree that HO would be a better choice for a layout for younger children (which is why my kids have it while I have N) but 32 x 67 inches would really be pushing it in terms of what would fit. I don't think you could even get 15 inch radius track (smallest sectional curves available) into that.

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