New to N scale and First Major Layout questions

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by Matthew900, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Matthew900

    Matthew900 New Member

    Hi, I’m currently working on my first N gauge layout and I have a few questions. We recently decided to change from O scale to N because my son really likes the trains but he gets board quickly of the limited display we’re able to do in the 4’x 8’ space we have available. We considered HO but my wife wants to have at least 4 trains going at once so we decided N is our best option. It’s a hard transition for me since I grew up with my dad’s Lionels but I think it’s going to be the best in the long run. Since my son is only two and half I plan to keep my O gauge stuff for him to play with on the floor and the N gauge will be only for him to watch and play with controlling the trains. This will be the first Time I’ve worked with N and the first time I’ve done a layout that requires different levels and landscaping. We’re already committed to the N gauge because we ordered a set from Japan of all 4 of the available engines from Thomas the tank engine for my son for Christmas.

    My first question is about the Track. After reviewing all of my options it looks like the best cost and quality combination would be the Atlas flex track. I like what I read about the Kato unitrack but the price is to high for the size layout I’m doing. I was wondering if I can use the flex track to make my own curves or will it loose the correct spacing between rails when you make that much of a bend? The curves in the layout I have planed range from a 10” radius up to a 16” radius. If I can use it is there a tool I should be using to check the rail spacing? Can I use this track for all of the layout? The 30” flex track pieces seem like a very cost effective solution but none of the sectional tracks are price competitively with it so I was wondering if it could only be used in limited circumstances.

    Another question I have is about the switches available for the Atlas Flex track. Are any of them available that isolate the power to only the section that the switch is currently set to. For example all the sidings where I’m parking my cars and engines are not powered until I switch the turnout to a specific siding and then only that siding is powered. I know this was an option with the Unitrack switches but I didn’t know if any of Flex track ones where available like this. If not I can use isolators but it would be ten times easier to set up the other way.

    My next question is on the building of land features. As I mentioned before this is my first layout with multiple levels so I’ll need to build some raised track beds and a mountain. I’ve seen in posts here that a lot of people seam to like to use layers of the pink or blue home insulation but I was wondering what should be used to glue those layers together? After I have laid the foam should I apply the plaster directly to the foam or do I need to put something in between them to get the plaster to adhere to the foam?

    My last question is the laying of the track it’s self. I understand that it can be nailed down or glued down. Do I have to use a track bed or are they purely for appearance? If I do need to use one I don’t really want to make it to complicated so can I just paint the foam track bed the color of gravel before I lay it? My first inclination was to just nail the track down but I wanted to know if people have found that this does not work on the plaster coated foam landscaping. If not what glue should I use to glue the track directly to the plaster and if I use a track bed what should I use to glue the track bed to the plaster and then what glue should I use to glue the track to the track bed?

    Sorry for the long post and thank you for all the information you have all provided in these forums!

  2. belg

    belg Member

    Matt, I sent you a PM message let me know if interested OK? Pat
  3. SeriousSam

    SeriousSam Member

    hey, who does Thomas in N Scale? I only knew Bachmann did them in HO. But yeah, N Scale is a good choice because its a huge market.
  4. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    check out, get there foam tack glue. you can use that to glue everything you asked about. they have risers and inclines that make is simple to go up and down ,they have roadbed, trees, bushs, grass, ballast, plaster cloth, stuff to make roads, you name it, they got it.
  5. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    (!) Flex track is probably the most cost effective but obviously, more work. Yes it can be used for the entire layout. You can make your own templates for curves. Spacing between tracks??? I'll leave that to an N gauger, since I work with HO.
    (2) Both types of switches are available. Atlas has an online website.
    (3) You can use plaster cloth over the foam or paint it with cheap latex paint after you carve it to your desired shape. Use flat latex in an earth tone. Lots of options for terrain, such as adding sifted, dry dirt after the paint is spread.
    (4) If you are laying track over foam, gluing is the only option since nails won't hold well. Yes, you should use roadbed but I suppose you could just paint the surface. Putting the flextrack over ballast would make for some uneven track and not look very prototypical. All depends on what level of accuracy you want. You can nail the track directly to a plywood base but you'll get a lot of noise. If you've been running Lional trains this way, you may know what I mean. Carpenters glue, Elmers glue, Liquid nails can be used to glue foam together. You can carve your grades into the foam or cut them from the foam sheets. The Woodland Scenics system is good but adds to the cost of a layout.
  6. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    Flex track is great. That is all I use because I don’t like having to be constrained to certain radii. The smallest established N gauge radii is 9 ¾” so if yours is going to be 10”, that is doable as long as you are not running long steam engines or 3 axle diesels on them. You should not have any problems with rail spacing using flex track as long as you don’t take out too many ties where you join and solder them together. If you do so feel the desire to check your track gauge, there are several out there that can be had for very little. Like I said, flex track is all I use with the exception of the turnouts.
    Yes, Peco makes a switch that does that. They are called electrofrogs because the frog is not insulated. I however, have run into some problems with them because they do things a little differently than before and my learning curve is a little resistant if you know what I mean! If you would like to learn more about that, go here…
    For gluing, I use Elmers glue. I use pins to hold things down while the glue dries. As far as applying the plaster, I use Woodland Scenics plaster cloth first coated with wall joint compound later. And yes, I do this directly to the foam. Click on any of the links in my signature to see how this has been done on my layouts.
    I like to use the cork bed because it adds a roadbed shape for realism, it deadens the sound a little, and if you are using foam as your base instead of some form of wood, it holds the rail spikes a little better. You don’t have to use the cork bed but I think you will be creating headaches for yourself if you don’t. It's not that hard to do, not that expensive and it's my wifes favorite part. Again, if you want to glue the track to the foam, I would use Elmers, tack it down and just give it a while to dry. Elmers, Elmers, & Elmers. I’ve found wood glue works faster and seems to be stronger but whichever way you choose.
    If you have any inclines of any kind, you will probably want to consider the Woodland Scenics inclines and risers. Neat little things that greatly simplify life.
    Okay, next set of questions! Let’s have ‘em!
  7. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Matt, I would echo TrainNut's advice.
    1. Flex track can be used for evrything except turnouts of course.

    2. To glue things together, I am in Canada so I use LePage's White Glue (same as Elmer's).

    3. As to landscaping, I use "used dryer sheets" and diluted white glue (50% glue - 50% water). Much cheaper than the plaster cloth and works just as well. I would suggest colouring the glue with ground coloured acrylic paint. This avoids those white spots later. BTW, glued dryer sheets don't flake off the way plaster does. Less touch ups later.

    4. Cork roadbed is a must in my view. Also, if you are in a northern climate, take a look in your local building center for blue or pink foam insulation. It is usually sold in 2'x8' sections and in 1" or 2" thickness. This can be cut and shaped to form your inclines and any hills/mountains. Takes a little longer than the Woodland Scenics stuff, but cost ALOT less.

    I use cost saving steps as I am not a rich guy. Some guys are rich enough to afford the Woodland products, but us thrifty folk find other ways, PLUS the results are the same.
  8. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    There is an article in the January Railroad Model Craftsman on how to use strips of cardboard boxes, a type of resin paper and white glue to build scenery. Large mountains in particular. Quite inexpensive.
  9. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    I like the "used dryer sheets" idea a lot!

    I use either "Liquid Nails for Foam" (for large areas) or Elmer's Carpenter's (yellow) Glue (for small areas) when gluing the foam together.

    Most of the time, you'll want to use some sort of roadbed under the track to simulate the better-maintained prototype trackage. I do go directly to the "surface" for spurs that wouldn't have seen much usage or maintenance. You'd be surprised how bad some of the real trackage is, and that equipment can still be operated on it!

    Flex track is less expensive accounting for the time vs. money tradeoff. Sectional track is easier for a beginner to work with but limits what you can do. The convenience and the higher production costs are built into the price of sectional track. You will most likely need to use insulating joiners and block control, unless you go to DCC (Digital Command Control) which doesn't need nearly as much wiring.
  10. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    all i did was go buy woodland scenices incline's and just use the pink foam for the rest. spending 30.00 for 2 inclines sure is faster, and cheaper, and easier then trying to make the same thing out of wood.
  11. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    Would using Matte Medium work for this as well? The thought just occurred to me since I'm not that far from a Loomis store that sells the stuff by the gallon.
  12. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    If the matte medium makes the cloth rigid, it will work.
    Never used it before, don't know if you can add paint to it?
  13. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    Matte medium is what artists use to mix with their acrylic pigments for painting... so yes, you can nicely add paint to it. I use it for making glazes and shading washes for my non-train miniature painting.
  14. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Thanks for the clarification, Agatheron.
    Out of interest, how much does it cost?
  15. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    Probably more than white glue or carpenter's glue :)

    ...according to the website it's around $60 for a gallon of the stuff... but you don't have to use it in as high concentrations as white glue. I should go confirm the price today when I get some lunch.
  16. cpNscale

    cpNscale Member

    Just a small question maybe others may have here,what exactly is Matte Medium.As i will be doing my ground cove on my layout soon.Also is it better to do the ground cover before track ballest or after.Thx and hope my question in someone else's post dones't offend anyone.Just seems logical

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