Former HO Guy Contemplating N Scale Conversion

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by kd6dxa, May 22, 2006.

  1. kd6dxa

    kd6dxa New Member

    Hello everyone, It has been several years since my last foray into model railroading, which used to be in HO Scale. Since then, I have become a grad student and got married, which are not good ingredients for having living arrangements. I would like to get back into model railroading, but have severe space restrictions. I figure I have two options: I can either make a small HO switching layout or a small N scale continuous run layout. I tend to favor the small N scale layout since I have always enjoyed main line running and tend to find switching puzzles a little tedious and dull. Nothing sets my heart going like a long main line freight train blazing down the tracks! The problem, though, is that I am having serious qualms about the change to N scale. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I am worried that I will somehow come to regret the decision to go with N scale (especially since I am also on a somewhat limited budget). Perhaps I am worried about the quality of N scale equipment due to my lack of knowledge about what N scale equipment is worth the time/money; especially the locomotives and rolling stock. Maybe I just need reassurance that high quality equipment is available and serious modeling can be done in N scale. So if anyone could give some advice about which way I should go, or even just some general reassurance about N scale and potential equipment, hopefully I can get my beloved trains up and running once more! Thanks, everyone! All Best, Zachary
  2. who_dat73

    who_dat73 Member

    I was Ho also

    Hey Zach I was Ho when I first started also but after visiting the local club and seeing what one of the members acomplished in N I was hooked because of size requirments.
    Its just my opinion but I think that N is great there might not be as many options as far structers and what not but there is always the kitbash and the models just take a little longer to come out then Ho but they are there.
    I think its just as much fun as HO without taking over the room with benchwork. It did help that I had started in HO tho to give me a better idea of what I was doing so in my opionin go for it and enjoy. :wave:
  3. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Hi, Zach.
    I was n your position about 2 1/2 years ago. I had an 11.5'x6.5' alcove to work with and wanted more than one loop of HO track. I looked into N Scale and a couple of modellers up here are N Scale guys so after home layout visits, I decided that N was the way to go.

    I love the pioneer days of railroading and wanted to do an 1880-1900 layout. Talk about limited, but I went for it and I am glad I did. So many times when I am in hobby shops or at train shows, I see something and say "that looks cool, but it won't fit my era", if I had an HO layout or an N Scale one set in a newer time frame, I would be truly broke. :D

    I have a limited area and their are limited things available for it. I am very happy with this. Let's me do the modelling. You take what is their and modify it to fit. What is it they say? "Do the best you can with what you got."

    Zach, you obviously wnt more than a small switching layout, so I say "Go for it buddy." Take the plunge to N. :wave:
  4. Harpo

    Harpo Member

    Greetings, Zach
    Likewise, I too, have been wrestling with the possibility of N vs. HO gauge. I've decided to stick with N for a variety of reasons. Almost 30 years ago I worked with N gauge and even then was surprised at the reliability and quality of N scale most everything is much, much better. What is being done today with plastics regarding detailing is pretty amazing. With skew wound motors and such replacing the old 3-pole ones, running qualities and longevity is every bit as good as the best HO stuff many years ago, and often better. Bachmann Spectrum, Atlas, KATO, even Life-like, all produce really nice running locomotives...not to say there aren't problems, but what's new about that? Problems and solutions are readily available right here; and what hobby doesn't have character building events, eh? I think the main things that keep me in N are these: I don't have to compromise so much on space (15in. radius in N is the equivalent of about 28in in HO for example). I don't have acres and acres of scenery building ahead of me. Rolling stock is extremely reliable and looks good, especially with a little bit of tweaking, complex switching operations are not impossible, and there is a decent inventory of structures and scenic stuff to choose from, although admittedly not as great as HO. With a great variety of materials now available, scratch building is well within the realm of possibility. Running long trains reliably is not only not a problem, but in many cases is rather rewarding since the layout can be perhaps large enough to avoid the 'chasing its tail' scenario. My only complaint is that there is a dearth of modern US vehicles to populate the roads and highways. Hopefully that will change one day soon. Down sides: not a great scale for shaky hands and dwindling eyesight. Super't see it if you could. Good luck! Enjoy.
  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Welcome to The Gauge :wave:

    While an avid and rabid HOer, I recently moved my HO switching layout to storage when given an N scale pike to run. No regrets here for the opportunity to just run 'em. My HO will just have to wait for their new home and be content to run at the club.:thumb:
  6. Meiriongwril

    Meiriongwril Member

    Hi -
    I too used to work in a bigger scale. I was a British OO (1:76) scale modeler before moving this side of the pond. I liked the heft and look of the larger scale, and N in Britain was never very convincing and lacked a range of equipment for my era and region (Great Western 1930s-40s).
    However, here in Louisiana we don't have basements (one could build one I suppose, but then you'd only be able to model lake or sea scenes:D ). So space is a problem here.
    I checked out N scale and decided the range was large enough and the models looked good enough to do the switch.
    I suggest you check out resources. First get hold of a few recent copies of 'N Scale Railroading' - an excellent magazine available from most of the N Scale web shops. Look at the N scale shopping sites; these are a few: These will give you a flavor of what's available in terms of eras, regions, train equipment, structures etc etc.
    Go to your local hobby shop and get a look at items, and if you've a club nearby, go check out the N scale layouts.

    Good luck - and hope you take the plunge!!!:thumb:
  7. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member

    Greetings Zach,

    Everyone has told you that "n" is a good place to be. And while you have questions of quality, you would have the same with HO, G, or any scale that you go into. The best way to alleviate some of that concern is to visit a club or better yet go to a trainshow somewhere so that you can see the locos, maybe even get to run one on a club layout, or see them run on a display layout. Talk to a couple of modelers about the equipment that they use.

    I personally like the Kato, Atlas, and Bachmann Spectrum locos. I have both Steam and diesel. Bachmann makes 2 levels of locos. Avoid the ones that are not Spectrum. Others can tell you about Life Like, Model Power, and Concor (although I have one of the new Pioneer Zephyrs from ConCor and it is a beaut. Quiet runner, crawls at speed step 1 on DCC, wonderful to watch as it makes it's way around the layout.)

    The world of "n" is great. You will enjoy it.:)
  8. 3railguy

    3railguy Member

    I got started with a Life Like Yardmaster set for $60. It's headed by a smooth running well detailed switcher followed by cheapy cars and power pack. The power pack and cars work fine, just not as good as the quality stuff. It comes with roadbed track that locks together and stays together. The quality is in the engine where it belongs and is great for circle running so the set was a pleasant introduction to N scale. Plus it went together quickly with no problems. It also included a hotel kit you can see if you like building N scale kits. Expect to retire the cars, power pack, and track should you get more serious. Or deligate them to a tabletop display during the holidays.

    A Kato K-1 Unitrack loop, F3 engine, some Atlas cars, and MRC power pack can be had for around $150 to $200. This is a good way to start with quality stuff and be up and running quickly.

    N scale has improved greatly in recent years. Atlas, Kato, and Intermountain make reliable diesels that start at around $60 discount. You can still find Life Like SW switchers and GP-20's for $30 equipped with rapidos and they are good runners. four axel diesels are the best choice for a small layout. For steam, you can't beat a Kato mike for $100. Atlas, Micro Trains, and Intermountain make quality rolling stock starting at $7.00 for run of the mill Atlas cars.

    Model Power and Life Like make decent structure kits for under $20. With a little paint, they can be detailed nicely.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Zach: about 25 years ago I converted from N to British OO.
    Ask questions about items, but I've found that while some people have problems with something, others don't but have problems with something else.
  10. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    Welcome Zach,

    Today there is not much of a quality problem with N-Scale products. Remember the old saying you get what you pay for, I tend to spend a little extra for quality which pays off in the long run in terms of operating efficiency. Kato and Atlas make nice smooth running locomotives and for nicely detailed cars there is Micro-Trains.

    As far as a small continuous running layout, you can find many track plans on either the internet or Atlas track planning books. As for me, my problem has always been getting the terrain to look just right. So I cheated:rolleyes: and bought the High Sierra preformed layout by Terrain for Trains and glued the track down, applied ballast, grass and Pine Trees for something that looks somewhat close to a small slice of Colorado to run my Rio Grande trains on, and all that in 2 1/2 feet by 4 feet. The problem being that my DRGW collection has grown quite a bit that my wife (bless her heart) ordered the newer Smokey Hallow Jct preformed layout from Terrain for Trains which will now allow the running of two trains on one layout in the same 30" x 48" space.

    Lastly, you don't have to spend a bundle on N-Scale like I did, I had the same concerns about N Gauge when I took the plunge a little over 10 yrs ago. I have never regretted it. You came to the right place here at The Gauge for advice, I have picked up a lot of tips from the regulars here.

    Below is the unpainted version of the Smokey Hallow Jct pre-formed layout from Terrain for Trains, Estimated delivery here is 5/31/06.

    Attached Files:

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