N-Scale Modules

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Xaniel, May 29, 2003.

  1. Xaniel

    Xaniel Member

    Hello guys,

    Today, I'm reaching you because I would like to know how to build a good balsa wood bench. I have to make two or three modules, because space is a problem.

    I would like to learn how to build a good structure, in balsa, and how to connect them according, perhaps, to NTRACK standards.

    Wiring and stuff isn't a problem, because I like to adventure in DIY activities in that area. The problem is really how to hold modules one to another and connecting rails between them. I don't know if you understood, but I tryied to explain the best I could.

    Another thing is.. I'll probably do some freelanced railrod, so it means that I'm going to paint my locos exepct my SF F7A. If I get another that one will be painted. But how to paint them? Any suggetions?

    The freelance railroad that I'm about to build will include some European and American Locos (I really like these great locos you fine people have)!

    Best regards,

    Thanks in advance
  2. billk

    billk Active Member

    Balsa ???
  3. Xaniel

    Xaniel Member

    yeap, balsa wood. Check Gavin Miller's posts and threads.

    It's a very light weight wood, you can cut it with a x-acto knife.
  4. Lighthorseman

    Lighthorseman Active Member

    Hmmm. Balsa.

    If your modules will be moved to shows, I think that balsa might not be strong enough... ( :confused: ) If I'm not mistaken, Gavin's layout does not go anywhere.

    I'm sure that he will trundle along with lots of information soon.:)
  5. Bill Pontin

    Bill Pontin Member

    Hello Luis, for N track module standards go to NTRAK Modular RR Society page at http://www.ntrak.org/standards.htm
    I echo Steve's comment about using balsa wood if you intent on bringing these modules to shows. Standard practice is to clamp modules together with "C" clamps and I'm sure the balsa wood would not hold up to it. Search around on the internet and you should find some alternate construction methods that are light weight. :)
  6. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Xanial:

    I second the concern on the balsa wood. Gavin may say otherwise but my experience in lugging my "S" modules to shows is they need to be light, BUT they also need to be very sturdy. Using 1x 4s, 1x 3s and 3/8 or 1/2 inch ply seems to be the way most are made, whatever the scale/gauge. We use clamps to hold our modules together as well.

    The NTrak folks have a very well thought out set of standards. Keep us posted. I'm always looking for a better way to work with the modules.

  7. Xaniel

    Xaniel Member

    Thanks for all your feedback, guys. Very apreciated.

    Tha balsa wood is very light, and I don't inted to carry them to show, because here in Portugal there aren't any model train shows. Some day I will organize one!

    Their light weight is only to be easier to take them a part and put tehm in a corner of my bedroom.

    But if you say that balsa could not be strong enough, what should i use for structure? and what about the top? That blue foram seems to me a good option, even to use turn out motors.
  8. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Xanial:
    I'd use the N-TRAK module standards to build my module. Go to the link that Bill Pontin listed and look their information over. If you use this standard then you will be compatible with all the rest of these folks. That means, you can ship your modules over to the US of A when you come to visit us, and go to any train show where an N-TRAK group will be setting up and participate in the show while you are here.

    More importantly, since there are not any shows in your area, you can use their standards, which already have the bugs shook out of them, and start a local chapter of the N-TRAK group. Then, before you know it, you'll have a group of "N-trackers" in your area ready to start having shows.

    Train shows and public displays are great! I am a member of a train club, the Atlantic Coast S-Gaugers, and going to train shows or other club events is the only time i get to run my trains on a layout. The REALLY neat part is, you get to run your trains for the public, i.e. kids. This gives folks who do not yet have trains, and their kids, a chance to see the trains in action and learn about what it takes to build a layout. Plus, they get to see how much fun you are having "playing" with your trains. In our case, we have three or four buttons per four foot module that the public can push and operate an accessory, yard light, crossing signal, barrel loader, etc., so they can also help us "run" the trains. Great fun ensues.

    Our Tidewater Virginia chapter has built a diesel cab for the kids to sit in. They can then run a train on one of the loops of track. The group also takes a picture of the kids when they are running the trains. Great way to "spread the gospel". Check this out: http://www.sgauge.homestead.com/NewsletterSE103.html

    Have fun!
  9. Gavin Miller

    Gavin Miller Member


    Sorry I don't get to this forum much any more (just SO busy establishing a new business), but I agree with the guys that balsa would be inappropriate for use in shows - simply not robust enough to take the sort or pushing and shoving involved in getting a modular layout to come together.

    However, it seems that, like me, you only want to use your module/s at home.

    For this purpose I have found balsa an innovative, light weight alternative to traditional, heavier benchwork materials. See photos of my modules on my website at http://users.bigpond.net.au/miller_site/Gavin_index.html .

    I can construct a balsa module in just a few hours using nothing but an exacto knife, balsa cement and "T" pins! Carving contours in balsa benchwork is also a snap. Balsa frame shapes for hills can be added on top by simply glueing and pinning.

    To answer your question regarding joining balsa modules together, I simply use spring clamps. To avoid crushing the balsa I have glued small squares of harder MDF at the mating surfaces. My modules can be disconnected and disassembled even faster than with "C" clamps - no winding involved!

    I'll attach a photo of the underside.

    Gotta go. Good luck!


    Attached Files:

  10. Gavin Miller

    Gavin Miller Member

    Just quickly, before I disappear again, back in 2001 when I shifted house I discovered that the combined length of my modules was just 4 inches too long for my new layout room.

    I used my exacto knife to cut 4 inches off my "end" (turning) module, then glued it's end back on. Within 30 minutes, after the glue had dried, it was back in the layout. Here's some photos to illustrate.


    Attached Files:

    • mod2.jpg
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  11. Gavin Miller

    Gavin Miller Member

    Picture #2

    Hmmm ... for some reason The Gauge won't allow a photo sized 480 x 640. Tells me it is too large. Must be 640 x 480!?

    Oh well.

    Picture #3

    From my caption, it must have been 2 inches (not 4) I cut off.


    Attached Files:

    • mod4.jpg
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  12. Xaniel

    Xaniel Member

    What thickness do you use to build the strcuture? Is everything made with balsa except those two MDF squares? Everything?

    With some experience, I think I can build the structure quite fast.

    I think I'll give it a try! My modules have to be light, so that I can carry the around the house! :)

    Thanks for your help.

    Edit: By the way, how did you paint your locos? I'm going to build a freelance railroad as yours so, I want to paint them. Brush? Spry can?
  13. Gavin Miller

    Gavin Miller Member


    Yes, I am a big fan of balsa and everything except the load spreading panels are balsa. I am fairly sure the dimensions of the balsa boards are in the text on my website - can't recall them off hand.

    The advantage of SUPER lightweight modules is that you can flip them over easily to attach wiring to the "underside" while you're standing up rather than crouched underneath! Flip back over to test run, then flip again to wire some more. I used hot glue to attach my wiring.

    All my painting is done with an airbrush.

  14. Xaniel

    Xaniel Member

    ok folks, I've decided to build a two module door layout.

    I'm going ot build a freelanced railroad, with my own railroad name (yes it means painting )

    A double loop layout, with the possibility to run two trains at the same time, or having one runing and doing some operation inside.
    Overhead wires (I want to have some passanger trains, specially based on European Trains. TGV! TGV! TGV! ICE! ICE! ICE!), a small town, two or three industries, a two track loco shed and a passenger train terminal.

    But I've seen the link Errol posted, but those are kinda hard to brake in two parts... I think. any way there isnt one that satifies my...

    Do you know any more sites that have layout plans with this size?

    Thanks!!! I'm still a newbie compared to you guys, but I keep learning.

    this was the plan I came up with... but I think it's kinda empty....

    what do you think?

    Attached Files:

  15. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member

    Looks good, Luis. You might get a bit more switching fun by putting another spur off the track headed to your industry and shortening the area for your town a bit.

    Have fun:) :) :)
  16. jkristia

    jkristia Member

    And maybe add a crossover from inner to outer and another from outer to inner loop. But I'm sure you already thought of that, just forgot to put them on the drawing.

  17. Xaniel

    Xaniel Member

    oops forgot that one...

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