Few more questions

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by tonphil1960, Jan 2, 2006.

  1. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member

    Ok guys, What are the number sassociated with track, 80-100 etc? Also what is the real minimum radius for N scale? I only have a 30x50 area for a layout. Is flex track recommended?? Only for odd radiuses?? Should I go with sectional track for the straight runs??? Switches, I see there are different types??

    Thanks much Tony
  2. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    The numbers, 80 -100-etc. are "code", code 80, code 100, and indicate the height of the rail, web to railhead, in thousandths of an inch. Code 100=.100", code 80 = .080". Minimum "fixed radius" is 9-3/4". Minimum radius is actually determined by the locomotives, and rolling stock you are using. To go tighter than 9-3/4" you'll have to use flex track. I'd recommend flex track for the straights too, less joints, less chances for flanges to catch, less line loss electricly.
  3. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member

    Thanks and?

    What are the codes made for, why would one want to vary the height of the rail?? For accuracy?? As far as the radius goes, yes I know that long rolling stock or loco's might not go around the tight radius. What is the smallest practical radius I can use? can I go with 10-12 inches doing a EL layout? I would think I will be running mostly freight.. Some passenger service is possible though. How about some modeling books that you reccomend? For a novice that hasen't touched a train for 30 years. How about Ref books??

    thanks, sorry for all the ?? but I am trying to grasp this and get going on the right track to begin with.

  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    The code is a reference number so that you will know the height of the rail when you buy it. The reason someone would want to vary the height of the rail is if they are wanting to model realistically the different weights of rail. Mainline rails are the heaviest to withstand the pounding of heavy traffic. Sidings, branch lines, and industrial trackage see trains less frequently, and at slower speeds so the heavy rail isn't necessary, and lighter rail is less expensive.

    Regarding your question about whether to use flex track or sectional track for a permanent layout, for reliable electrical operation, I would suggest flex track with drops soldered to every track section. Rail joiners will eventually loosen or be prone to getting dirty. For that reason, rail joiners should only be used for mechanical connection of rails and never be expected to be an electrical connection. I model in ho and am not sure how long the sections of sectional track is in n scale. In ho sectional track is typically 9 inches long, while flex track sections are 3 feet long. I would rather solder a drop every 3 feet than every nine inches. I hope this helps.
  5. Zman

    Zman Member

    I use flextrack exclusively, and use a bit of solder at each joint, as Russ suggests. Be aware that cutting and joining flextrack requires a bit of skill, especially at curved joints. But there's no gaining that skill unless you just jump in and try. Buy yourself a little extra track to be sure - some of it will get wasted.

    You can go tighter than 9 3/4", but be aware that engines that have more than four wheels per truck WILL NOT negotiate tight turns. I have radii as small as 7 1/2" on my layout, but my layout is mid nineteenth century, and I only run 4-4-0 "Americans".
  6. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member


    OK, So is it possible to do the whole layout in say code 100 which I assume is the heaviest? Is it worth the trouble to change codes for sidings etc??
    I would be more than satisfied with 12" radiuses on my layout. I will go with the flextrack for sure, just seems better and easier.

    Thanks Tony
  7. Zman

    Zman Member

    Better, but not necessarily easier. This is after all, an artform.

    Go with code 80. You will be more satisfied with the look. Code 80 track is more prototypical. (That's a fancy word us train nerds use to mean it looks more like the real thing.)
  8. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member


    You answered both questions. I was wondering what all this prototype talk was.. Yes it is an art form, but I do consider myself an artist in more than one medium.

    thanks Tony
  9. Zman

    Zman Member

    Tony - one more bit of advice. As a beginner, keep your track plan simple. There's a yin and yang between the railroad and the rest of your layout. Remember that you're not just modeling trains. Find a track plan that meets your operational needs, but also leaves enough room for everything else that makes a great layout.

    You've done the right thing by coming to this forum to ask questions. That's exactly how I started. Be sure to let us know about your layout plans as you go along.

    I've found that building everything that goes AROUND the tracks is every bit - if not moreso - artistically satisfying as the trains themself.

  10. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    The difference comes from manufacturing history. Rail making technique over the last century improved so that smaller rail sections could be made.
    In the 60s, when I started in HO, code 100 was standard, but represented a very heavy rail. Code 70 had come out, but only came as bundles of rail. The magazine warned that code 70 sections often had a twist to them. Code 70 had a finer look to it. It was also used for the early N gauge track. (At that time, some HO track was available in code 125.)
    Manufacturers of sectional track tend to use a larger rail because it makes the track sturdier. One of my friends found, when he tore up his layout, that the scale track didn't come out of the ballast intact.
  11. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member


    OK guys,

    Yes, I will go slow and deliberate in my designing and building of the layout. I have the road pretty much set as the EL, then I can run trains from the past before merger and later Conrail on this layout. I agree the building of accy's and scenery is the enjoyable part. I am going to go with the code 80 all around.

    I am in no big rush, I have to finish my last armor model to enter it in compitition before I start with the layout,, Have to go back to work too when the weather breaks !!!!!

  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Tony: I forgot one other factor in rail size. Wheel flanges. Model wheels started out with large flanges; some models still have what we call "pizza cutter" flanges. The standard depth for HO used to be .035"; some models had .045" or larger. The new standard is .025" and some groups are working on smaller. The large flanges tend to bump along rails that are too small.
  13. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member

    Thanks, So for N scale code 80 should be OK? How about grades in such a small area? Is there a formula for this? My area is only 50" x 36" max, I want to do some grades, maybe a bridge. Do you recommend not trying to pack alot of track into it at first?? I want to be able to run 2 trains at once at the minimum.

    Thanks Tony
  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Tony, you have the idea about not packing too much track in. (My wife looks at my track plans and says "Where's the scenery?")
    Grades are problems. The real railroads avoided them as much as possible. Grades are calculated in percents -- rise divided by distance run. 2% was a major grade (1 in 50) but modellers go to 4% or more, just run shorter trains. On your layout, you could start at the front corner and get up over an inch before you have to start back down again.
    CPR had a grade of 4%. They called it "the Big Hill" and after watching too many trains run down it without brakes, built the spiral tunnels. PRR put in Horseshoe Curve for the same reason.
  15. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member

    Thanks David, I don't think I am going to go with too much of a grade, just want one higher track on the back of the layout,maybe a trestle or 2 I am also trying to figure in a way to get trains off and back on from a staging area under the layout base. I think I am going to put two turnouts at the very back if the layout and have the staging track run behind the last track in the back.

    Thanks Tony
  16. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Code 80 is still pretty big for N scale. Real rail is measured in "pounds"--HO scale Code 100 rail is about as big as 200-220 pound real-world rail, which is just about the heaviest rail ever used on railroads. Code 83 is closer to real-world heavyweight rail in HO, and since N is half the size of HO, Code 80 works out to what would be roughly 300-pound rail! There are also Codes 60 and 70 track for N scale, and I think some folks use Code 40 but that's pretty tiny. Generally, though, the smaller the rail, the better it will look. Painting the sides of rail will also "shrink" it visually.

    About grades: They're tough on a small layout. As 60103 mentioned, 4% is about a maximum, which means an elevation change of 4cm per meter, or about 4 inches in a room nine feet wide.

    One hazard of putting that downgrade in the back of the layout: Murphy's Law dictates that all of your derailments will happen there, where the trains will be nearly impossible to see or reach...
  17. tonphil1960

    tonphil1960 Member

    Yeah I know, I am goint to have over a foot of space between the two, so I can reach back there. I just hope that in a 48 inch run I can get enough grade going down just for the train to clear.

    Thanks Tony

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