N-Scale beginner w/questions

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by nolatron, Nov 17, 2004.

  1. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    Hi all,

    First post here at The Gauge. I'm finally getting around to building a model railroad now that I have my own apt with an office/computer room with some free space. I've decided to go N-Scale due to the limited space.

    I just had some probably easy questions for yall, so let's get started.

    1) Track

    I'll probably be using Atlas 55 N track for the layout. In my reading, I've come across things about foam/cork bedding and ballasting the tracks. But I'm still kinda confused between the difference of cork and (spray?) ballast, and how they each look visually (I like pictures, so please post/link if you have them :) when laid down. and even the advantages/disadvantages of each.

    The top will be just a 1/4" plywood sheet laid over some bottom frames.

    2) Wiring

    For the layout, I'll be using DCC as I'd like to use 2-3 locos on it. DCC seems fairly simple to setup, but the one thing I'm not sure on is placement of track terminals throughout the layout.

    Is there a recommended spacing for these, or just randomly through them out on the layout, and where the locos seem to loose power when running?

    Below is a rough draft of what the layout will look like.

    It's a work in progress, heh.

    As mentioned early, I love pics of users setups so if you site with some, please post. Seeing things visually helps me a lot in understanding stuff.

    Well, that's actually all I can think of for the moment. I'm sure I'll find more questions to ask in the future.

    Thanks so much.
  2. theBear

    theBear Member


    Welcome to The Gauge.

    If you take a look at a track line you will notice that the track appears to be raised above the ground level to its left and right this is mimiced by using a strip of cork or other material.


    In the above the track is represented by I, the ground by X, and the roadbed by R. The . are just spacers so ignore them.

    Basicly this allows water to run off of the track line.

    The ballast covers the the cork, thus it isn't seen.

    Now for the number of feeders, it is a purely electrical/mechanical requirement.

    First the electrical, you need to be able to SAFELY carry at least the current required to power the items that will be run on the track and to sink the maximum current the power supply can produce.

    Second the mechanical, you need to insure that every section of track gets power.

    What that all means is that you need to install a lot of feeders or make certain that you have very few sections of track.

    I always tried to use flex track to reduce the number of feeders and track joint soldering.

    Now about that layout, you have several sections where the curves change direction without a section of straight track between them , this can lead to possible derailment problems.

    Also do you know what your grades are going to be?
  3. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the info. So pretty much, you lay the cork down as raiser for the track, and ballast to cover it up and make it all pretty. I've seen post mentioning about spraying it on (or am I going crazy?) Sounds like a spray foam almost. I even found on page via google where someone used kitty litter! heh. Is there a prefence for something to use by most?

    For the feeders, it sounds like the more is better for good overall coverage. But is there like a 'overboard' point on putting too many feeders on a layout?

    No idea about the grade yet. Tonight I'm gonna redo the layout to make some tweaks, including things like having a straight in between curves like you mentioned (something I didn't know :)

    The layout is kinda based on one in an Atlas N scale layout book I have, but can't remember the grades mentioned. I'll check tonight.

    Thanks again for the info.
  4. dhutch

    dhutch Member

    Hi, i have a small N gauge layout, simular to yours

    my first coment would be on your track layout, it looks very good, and im guessing you put a fair bit of effort into it, the only consern i would have is that there insnt anywhere you can turn anythink, my layout has one of the loops as a reversing loops(which are easy to wire with DC systems), so as well as doing continuse running, i can also loop round and come back on my self (without stoping) - and im planning to have a turntable at one end of my yard as well (partly so i can turn locos, and partly for the fun of automating the Ttable!!)

    as for track laying, my base board is 6mm plywood, and then the track is layed on 4mm cork, which is about 8-10cm wide, and i have totaly cover all of my yard with cord, then i pin the track (peco code55) onto it, and then to ballest it i brush fine ballest aroung the track/sleepers (with a 1inch paint brush) and then use a 50ml syringe (without the needal) to wet it with a 50/50 PVA/Water mix (and i tiny bit of washingup liquid) - and then once that dryed over night, hay-presto, you got ballested tracks!!

    - i also use (ZTC) DCC on my track, with my two locos and reversing loop, and i love it, im just in the middle of trying to decide weather to do all my points/signal using it, because although it would be easyer to wire, and i could use my computer to operate the point via the DCC, i think i would like to try and do it all "old style" - becuase that what i like doing, wiring!!

    hope this helps, daniel

    also, if you use MSN and would like to talk, plase feel free to add me (oshta2000@hotmail.com)
  5. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    Hi again, just wanted to show off the new current layout model. I took the suggestion of a reverse loop, so I widened the layout 6" and added a long loop at the far left, which joins into the main line just before the elevated section. I then added a little mini 'reverse juction' down at the lower left on the main line to reverse again.

  6. theBear

    theBear Member

    Did you check the grades?

    It looks like they might be in the 7 to 9 % range. Kind of hard to measure without knowing if those blocks are 1 foot on a side or not.

    Oh goodie a reversing loop (theBear is an electrical junkie as well).

    I'm going to have a couple turntables and a wye but no reversing loop (well at least not planned at the moment).
  7. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    Hmm. Just looked at the layout in this book and it doesn't mention anything on the grade actually.

    and the blocks are 1ftx1ft on the grid
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    For ballast, I would suggest Woodland Scenics as it is available in most hobby shops. They make a variety of colours and sizes. There are a number of threads on the-gauge about appropriate sizes and colours, but for your first layout, any of the N scale ones should do. Also see about their scenic cement.
  9. nolatron

    nolatron Member


    Thanks for the info on the ballast. I'll check into that.

    Here's the latest layout now:


    Did a few tweaks to the main line/pass sidings, and the yard. Also added in the last one 'future expansion' lines in case I decide to add an "L" to the main, with the current main just branchin off at the turn out.

    But the main change was for the elevation. I tightened up the turn around the mountain to give more track to elevate in the middle.

    Now, correct if I'm wrong on all this, I found a post that said for a 2% grade for 1" clearance you'd need 50" of track. Right now I can squeze about 39 inches just before the overpass. So I thinking like a 3, maybe 4% grade on the elevation?

    And of course, 1" is enough clearance right? :)
  10. theBear

    theBear Member

    1" isn't enough - 1 and 3/8" for old style box cars is very tight more modern equipment is another matter.... there is a guage availible for these kinds of measurements. 1 and 1/2 " would make for a 3.8 % grade.
  11. dhutch

    dhutch Member

    On my layout i have a clearence of 1 and 3/8 (i've just measured it, and thats what it is!!) - BUT, thats from rail-top to the under side of the bridge - from rail-to-rail its more like 2" - so be carefull to factor in the thickness of base boards etc ;)

    - also, i dont know if you've seen it already, but im just designing my shunting yard, so theres a overhead photo of my layout over on this thread, if you want to see

    - and there are some more photos on my web page ww.spurstow.com/daniel - there naff photos, and there really old, but it give you an idea of what it looked like :S

  12. nolatron

    nolatron Member


    nice layout there. Gave me some ideas :)

    I decided to go with a slightly large "L" shaped layout since I have the space in the "office". I totally revamped that layout and pretty happy with the new style.

    I added a little elevation cliff thing in the front, to help create a different area of the ride, and separate the yard area from the middle which will probably be a small town area for the passenger stop.

    My only question is about the new layout is the reversal loop. I know with regular DC setup it requires some 'fancy' electrical setup. But with DCC, is anything special required? Maybe some type of auto-reversing gizmo? No analog locos will be on the track, I'm gonna stick to DCC equipped.

    And the way it's setup too (with two lead tracks connecting to it so you can turn around either way you're going), would there be any type of electrical type of issue I may run into?


    Again, thanks for the tips. I'm learning more this past week than I've known in the last 10 yrs of my 'thing for trains' (I'm only 25, btw) :)

  13. theBear

    theBear Member

    I makes no difference if you run analog or DCC trains, all reversing systems, that includes, reversing loops, turntables, wyes with at least two sides connected require special consideration when it comes to wiring.

    A reversing section is a dead short otherwise, because you are making the right rail become the left rail. It has nothing to do with DCC/Analog or AC/DC.

    An Atlas controller or one of the many automatic units comes in handy.
  14. nolatron

    nolatron Member

    I was just looking at the Digitrax Super Chief DCC starter kit and see the DB150 Booster supports auto reversing. So I'll probably go with that starter kit and an extra booster for the loop.

    edit: Looks instead of a whole other booster, digitrax has module made just for auto-reversing so MUch less than an extra booster. yay.
  15. dhutch

    dhutch Member

    yeah, with my ZTC system, i have the extra booster for the loop thing

    - becuase i already had one, and thats how you have to do it with the ZTC system

    - but is you can get the smae affect, for less, go for it :thumb:


Share This Page