Returning to the hobby - What about Nn3?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by riograndefan, Jul 29, 2003.

  1. riograndefan

    riograndefan New Member

    I'm returning to the hobby after a VERY long absence. Originally, I had dabbled in HOn3, but never had sufficient space for much of anything other than dioramas. N Scale makes a lot of sense for many reasons, especially space-efficiency and operating realism. As my user name indicates, I have a long standing interest in Colorado railroads. I would love to do some work in narrow gauge, particularly in regards to being able to capture the essence of the areas that the D&RGW, or RGS operated in. But, when talking about this to a LHS specializing in model railroading, the owner sort of snorted and asked me if I wanted to RUN my trains, or to just model them. He then went on to try to push me towards considering some sort of wall mount shelf HO system which would run around the room available in my basement. This kind of concerns me. I don't know if he's just trying to push his prejudice in regards to his chosen scale, or whether there may be some operating and reliability issues regarding Nn3. I've done some searches for Nn3 on this forum, the Atlas forum, and the Model Railroading forum, but really haven't found much to speak of. Are there any narrow gauge operators here? I would be interested in some honest feedback on what sort of drawbacks there are regarding modeling and operating Nn3.


  2. garyn

    garyn Member

    I find N hard enough, but for variety I would like to add a short Nn3 branch line to my layout.

    It takes a bit or a lot more work to get those little guys to run smooth and reliable, probably in the same way N requires a bit more work than HO. And an optivisor is required (smile).

    There is Nn3 info out there.

    Take a look at

    You can get a couple books from NTrack at 15913 Brawner Dr, Dumfires, VA 22026 (

    Nn3 Manual, $12
    Narrow Gauge Data Book $8

    Welcome back and good luck
  3. riograndefan

    riograndefan New Member

    Thanks for the information, Gary! I've checked the website, and am in the process of ordering the books that you have mentioned from NTrak. There is apparently a mailing list for Nn3, but it seems to be pretty quiet at this time of year. I'll keep looking around. In this area, (Central Indiana), there is a shop that specializes in N Scale, but they are only open on weekends, interestingly enough.

  4. nscalesteve

    nscalesteve Member

  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    This post will exhaust my knowledge of Nn3, but I thought that I would add it after I read your post about looking for a LHS that has N-scale.

    I seem to remember reading in Model Railroad Planning or Great Model Railroads that much of the Nn3 stuff is based on Z scale mechanisms.

    You might need to find a Z scale shop... and those might be even more scarce.

  6. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Welcome to the gauge, both of you! I say run what you want to run, not what someone tells to. If you are concened about reliability, maybe you should try a loco and a coupla flat cars on a small loop with a turnout or two. Then you can get out early or buy more.

    If Nn3 doesn't work out, you might consider running N scale standard gauge, but with a narrow gauge taste. Our good friend Shamus has had several published layouts that were standard gauge (HO), but had an NG look and feel to them:

    Badger Creek

    If you followed this approach, you could always have a spur running Nn3 into a mine or off to a logging operation.

    What size room are you working with?
  7. camelot

    camelot Member

    I have recently finished a small logging branchline in Nn3 for the Western Australian branch of the Australian Model Railroad Association (AMRA).

    We used peco z scale track and obtained a marklin z scale loco which we used as a powered caboose

    I then scratched built a dummy Class A climax as the loco.

    Althought it was small and sort of gimicky it did raise a few eyebrows at the local show last month.There are plans to increase it to span a few Ntrack modules over the next 3 years .

    Roger Hord has built a very nice Nn3 layout in Australia , i recomend taking a look .

  8. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    That's fantastic, Ian!
  9. Tyson Rayles

    Tyson Rayles Active Member

    Excellent!!!! :cool: :cool: :cool:
  10. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    Crispy crinkles, I better stay away from you guys, you'll have me switching scales again. Beautiful stuff there, Ian. Did you catch a glimpse of that brass Nn3....sorry, gotta run my head under some cold water quick.....
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I can see where Nn3 would take a lot less space than HOn3 because you would use z scale mechanisms, but I don't understand why HOn3 would take anymore space than N since you would be using N scale mechanism, and have minimum radius set by what the N scale mechanisms would negotiate.
  12. billk

    billk Active Member

    Re: Re: Returning to the hobby - What about Nn3?

    Everything is still HO scale vs N scale, so structures take up more room, it takes a bigger layout to have a given length of main line, etc., etc.
  13. camelot

    camelot Member

    Snake River is a great layout , you have to kinda remind yourself that you are looking at Nn3 once in a while to really appreciate the amount of work gone into it.

    I would like to point out that in my initial post it may have sounded like i was involved in Snake River in some way,this was unintentional ,i was not and have never seen it ,but i added the URL to my favourites a while back.

    The Nn3 module i did was a lot more modest byt these standards

  14. MagicMan_841

    MagicMan_841 Member

  15. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    A Shay?, in Nn3!!!!!!!!!!!!
    All I want to know is....Who has fingers small enough to build a shay in Nn3??!!!:D :D :D
    I stand in absolute awe of Roger Hord!
    Pssst, that WAS really computer generated video, wasn't it......wasn't it?:D
  16. mionerr

    mionerr New Member

    As someone mentioned, the Nn3 email list on Yahoo Groups is THE place for Nn3 information. We have over 400 members from all over the world, Oz included. In 1999 we had our first modular layout at the NMRA convention in San Jose. We generally gather at one convention each year; most recently at the National Narrow Gauge Conventions. 25-30 of us will be attending this years convention in Denver, CO. We will have a large layout consisting of modules based on the oNeTrak idea. Some of us have standard NTRAK modules with interfaces to the Nn3 oNeTRAK.
    A new edition of the Nn3 manual should be available in September with mostly new, up to date material.
    We've got a couple of members in your neck of the woods, more or less. Of all the email lists and forums I've seen, the Nn3 group is by far the most courteous and helpful. Never a flame, just some good natured ribbing on occassion. Either or has links to some of the members web sites. One is Garth Hamilton's in Ontario, Canada and the other is Mark Fielder's in the UK. Both should be at the convention in September.
  17. pjb

    pjb Member


    Worth considering for its space saving qualities is 'TTm' because it runs on 'N' scale track , and has a number of steam locos (mostly of the kettle variety) and much rolling stock available . A great deal of it is industrial railroad equipment for logging, brickworks, foundary operations, etc.
    At 1:120 scale the supporting structures , and scenery are considerably smaller than in 1:87. 'TT' also has a vast number of old time trams , as well as vehicles from all eras that cannot be matched in 1:160.
    'TTm' specifically. is supported by Tillig, that arguably makes the best ready-to-run track in the world, with switches ,track and dual gauge track artiifacts.
    On the other hand , 'Nn3' is doable . I have done it, and it is hard to beat what you can put in a given space.
    However, do not expect the performance obtainable in other scales from standard 'Z' scale mechanisms. I believe you will have to use micromodelling drives , and the matter of the extent of the wheelbase you pickup power with is an issue. I also personally find the wheelsets and rail size an eyesore , that tends to reach out and bite me when I am having fun with the layout. but that is a personal event. Lots of people run 1:220 scale trains on that track without any ill effects.

    There have been efforts (the 'P160' folks had code 32 rail etched, and have discussed smaller rail) to make more scalar relationships , but no one can find a way to get the mass needed to pull it off. Or at least I can't.

    There is a lot to consider, and I have seen ' Nn3' layouts that were diorama sections , as your local hobby store owner implied . Notwithstanding that this is some folks truism , it is not a universal . The Yahoo 'Nn3' group is a good place to check out .

    Given the relative cheapness of some small 'N' and 'TT' scale steamers . I would buy one, with sufficient track and and a couple of switches and see how you do setting them up on a board or foam , and running them through the setup. If you don't like what you see going on with a couple of cars and loco , and you can't tinker it into a satisfying experience - then you do not have much of a chance of enjoying train running in the narrow gauge version of that scale.

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