Layout ideas for beginner?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by PinkPig, Jul 18, 2004.

  1. PinkPig

    PinkPig New Member

    Hi there,

    I'm a beginner considering building a model railway. The space I have to work in is pretty small, perhaps 32'' x 40'', so N gauge seems to be the best option. I like the look of some of the layouts at, are there any good examples of any layout done at this size, and how it can look?

    I also don't have any N gauge stuff at all, and am wondering how to get started - what sort of track / transformed / trains are best for a beginner, and where can I buy these in the UK? Also, any advice on how to make a baseboard?

    Thanks for any help,

  2. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

  3. tillsbury

    tillsbury Member

    Hi Matthew,

    I've only recently started, but I can offer the following ramblings if they are of any use... The example layouts on the thread suggested by Ray look absolutely great, although I'd strongly suggest a runaround track at least somewhere on the layout. Either that or substitute a timesaver for the inglenook (or have both!). Before you decide on the layout, take a long hard look at some of the shelf and micro-layouts (of any scale -- just google search for those words) to see how cool very small switching layouts can be. Remember that you'll (soon) want to extend the layout, and you can do this with a modular-style thing (makes it easy to move and put up and down), to get longer runs and loops later.

    I've found Tony's Train Exchange to be great for the electrical stuff -- I couldn't be bothered to bugger about with rubbish, so as per everything else in life, just get the most expensive of everything. Don't even think about not using DCC. The Digitrax Chief is great, and the radio control is so much nicer than having wires everywhere. Steer very clear of cheaper locos (Tony's will put any type of DCC, including sound if you really want, in most locos, so just choose one and order it to avoid mucking about installing decoders). For example, I've a Life-Like SW1200 switcher, which sort of goes forwards and backwards eventually when you give it enough oomph, but I also bought a Kato F3 at the same time, which on speed 1 travels around 1 inch per minute, and is almost silent. This is still a really cheap loco ($99 with decoder installed), and so much better than some of the brands. Again, people here will recommend appropriate models, although bear in mind that some who have been in the hobby for many years will be comparing against a standard that just a few years ago was far far worse than it is now. Avoid Bachmann anything like the plague.

    If you're in the UK you should be able to get Peco track easily -- I eventually chose their code 55 as it has all the right switches, and although I've not physically seen Atlas track I've seen a lot of internet comments that it is very inferior. Peco is quite a small manufacturer and it can be slow to get hold of in the US, which may explain something.

    You'll need a power supply from the UK, but you'll be able to get one at Tandy or somewhere similar -- you'll want about 15Volts AC at somewhere between 3 and 5 amps (this is quite a hefty lump, and probably not a ready-made, but you'll find them if you ask). The booster and other parts you can get shipped from the US if you prefer (depends on local pricing -- I found it far cheaper here to buy from the US).

    I made a small baseboard out of 12mm fibreboard (the old-fashioned hairy lightweight board stuff used for insulation), then glued and screwed a frame and ribs of 1x2 in to the top (which, on turning over, magically became the bottom!). My layout is on a 2400x1200mm board (8x4 feet) but even after installing track and plaster scenery, backboards and wiring, I can still lift it and move it on my own, and yet it stays rigid with just a leg at each corner.

    Try out some of the layout software -- I eventually ended up with Raily (, which isn't perfect, but gets the job done easily enough. Then you can make all your mistakes and drive on your layout before you start (or rather, while you're impatiently waiting for stuff to arrive! :))

    ---- end ramble ----

  4. My tracks

    Those plans are probly too large for his available space, since my plans in that thread are for 30"x54"

    Mikes Small Trackplan's page is another good look (with a few 2x3 plans that could stand a little expansion into 32x40
  5. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    Well, I don't know why you'd need to have DCC on a small layout. It's a lot of added expense for a beginner. It is superior, and if the cost doesn't hurt you, of course consider it. But there's nothing wrong with the "old fashioned" way of using DC, IMO.
    Atlas track is fine, but I'd recommend the Peco turnouts...night and day difference (and I say this having Atlas turnouts on mine). :oops:
    If you use sectional track, you can buy it on Ebay pretty cheaply. I bought 3 or 4 lots of track for far less than I would have spent on new. Ditto rolling stock, but I'd recommend buying only new locos.
  6. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Matthew,First welcome to the Gauage.Now to answer your questions.
    For starters..I highly recommend Atlas or Kato locomotives as these are the best of the best and will give you years of use.Life Like also makes good locomotives but be sure to buy their high end locomotives such as the GP20 and the SW1200.
    As far as cars Atlas,Micro Trains,Red Caboose and Model Die Casting makes excellent cars.There are other brands as well.As far as track I suggest using Atlas track and switches.For power I recommend a MRC power pack.
    Now 32'' x 40'' will give you a rather nice small N scale layout.However I suggest planing your own layout in that space..This is not hard to do.I highly recommend using flex track for your curves and as well as other trackage.You will need to cut to fit but,your train will run much smoother and will give much better electrical contact then the sectional track will.
    I also suggest shopping on line for the better deals..To get you started.

    Now a word about DCC..DCC is great but,can be tricky to install in N scale locomotives.You may have to grind the frames down on some brands of locomotives or the older Atlas and Kato locomotives in order to get the decoders to fit.Of course you can buy locomotives already DCC equipped from Atlas.Of course there are some hidden cost in using DCC such as extra throttles(if needed) sadly these are not cheap.Of course you will need to buy decoders for your locomotives plus other odds and ends including changing out light bulbs if needed.IMHO a 32'' x 40'' layout doesn't need DCC.
    And yes I use DCC but,only in HO as I feel its to much of a hassle to install decoders in N scale locomotives due to having to grind the frames in order for the decoder to fit.So,I will be using my trusty old MRC Control Master 20 for the industrial switching layout I am building in N scale.

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