Science Fiction, N-Scale. Just starting, LOTS of questions!

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by screwysquirrel, Jun 30, 2003.

  1. I'm in the planning stages for a small, more or less portable layout. I'm more or less just getting into the hobby and want to do as much 'off the shelf' as possible

    I play a lot of sci-fi miniatures boardgames, and want a small, easily transportable layout that can have some N-scale trains rumbling around on it. I have some track schemes using the free Track Designer from Atlas, but my overall area will be somewhere between 3x3 to 3x5 in size. I must be small enough to fit in my subcompact car for transport, as It will be a game board as much as a train. The basic layout plan will be a modified version of the Atlas N-10 design, a more or less basic oval shape with an over-under figure 8 inside, to run 1 or 2 trains. No yard areas (to save room for game space). Also, I'm working on a student budget, so low cost is a must!

    My questions:

    First up: What is a good benchwork plan for this? I want something portable and lightweight, so can I get away with a small sheet of plywood? how can I keep the portability and protect the wiring without getting too bulky?

    Next: How critical is having the track on a roadbed for operation? In other words can I get the inexpensive Atlas N-scale track thats 6-for-$2-and-change, and just mount it right on the board, even though roadbed might LOOK nicer, to save money, or should I go ahead and get the more expensive pre-roadbed mounted track?
    (At the local hobby shop, Atlas N-track straights are $2.19 for 6, while the Bachmann pre-roadbed track is 4 for $8.29!)

    Are there any engines with a 'Wedge' shape that can handle small (9.75") curves? KATO's model of the Japanese Nozomi 500-series bullet train engine LOOKS perfect, but they state that the train needs 12 5/8" for minimum turn radius, most other N-scale passenger trains seem to be in similar difficulty. I want the wedge-shaped engine because I want this to look futuristic, to look like a train might look in the late 21st century, rather than emulating something in the past. I plan already to be doing a lot of painting of new company logos & stuff, and possibly adding a fake 'hover skirt' to hide the actual wheels to make a maglev look, but don't have the skill to kitbash a new engine. Faking it with what is currently a bullet-train engine, but hauling freight cars, is how I want to try to make it work. If anyone knows an engine that can handle those tight curves, please let me know the name & brand. Right now, I'm leaning toward the Bachmann TGV engine, if it can handle the curves, or if not, the Athearn F59PHI Amtrak engine, though its not as 'wedge' as I'd like, its coloration makes up for it.

    Lastly is terrain: I plan to make Modular terrain out of foam board or really thick layers of plaster-of-paris (8-10 layers thick, to support weight). It will look something akin to the site below, although that is a commercial product, while I'll build mine from scratch). Will this terrain look OK with the trains?
  2. billk

    billk Active Member

    Welcome to The Gauge, Screwy! Here's some answers. (Opinions may vary, etc...)

    Benchwork: I'd go with a solid piece of plywood, maybe 3/8" or 1/2", with 1 or 1-1/2" of extruded foam laminated onto the top surface. You could fasten a piece of 1/2" Masonite or something to the underside of the plywood, with spacers to keep it maybe an inch or so away from the plywood, to protect the wiring. Make it easy to remove!

    Roadbed - Not too critical for operation, just for appearance. You don't have to get track with the roadbed preinstalled, though. There are roadbed "strips" available (cork or foam) that are flexible. Fasten them down to the layout first, then fasten the track down on top of them. They are pretty inexpensive. in fact the cost is minor compared to track, etc.

    Wedgie loco - I'll defer on this one. But why the 9-3/4" radius limit? If you're talking a 3 ft wide layout, you should be able to fit a larger radius curve than that.

    Terrain - Go with the foam. "Really thick layers of plaster" will be much heavier, even if you go with hydrocal instead of plaster of Paris. I'm not sure what weight you are intending the terrrain to support, but you can cover the foam terrain with a thin layer of plaster (or something - I use Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty). How it will look with the trains is pretty much dependent on how you make it look - it can look great or terrible - it's a learning experience!

  3. Glad to be here :)

    the 9-3/4" limit is because that's what the majority of the turns in my layout plan are. (I'll attach the image below) The track plan is fairly simple (and currently is about 30" x 55"). It should look like a kids play-trains set, as I have no yard areas or industry spurs. The main reason for that is that a yard area or spurs is an area that the lead, pewter, and plastic figures can't move around on for wargaming. Many use a metal base, so I don't want them standing directly on the track! The modular terrain will go inside the circles of the figure 8 and along the outside. The only permanent terrain will be the piers and bridge in the figure 8, and those i hop to have the option of turing into 'hills' by covering up the piers. This way we don't fight over the same mountain every week!

    Attached Files:

  4. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi "SS":

    Great Cartoon btw (SS that is). Another table top that might work for you is to use part of a hollow core wood door. It'll stay rigid through a lot of moves, is really light and you might be able to find a freebie at a house renovation site or dump. (Watch out for lead paint on doors older than mid '70s) You can run the couple of wires you'll have through the core and laminate the foam onto the top like BillK suggested.

    It'll help quiet the train noise down and will make a good base for scenery. Also, you can easily gouge it out to make ditches and such (scenery doesn't just go up). Be sure to use the blue or pink foam as this is extruded and therefore the edges do not crumble like most of the white beaded stuff. You may not have to add plaster or other hard surface materials to your top or hills.

    Sounds like fun, send pictures.

  5. SD90

    SD90 Active Member

    screwysquirrel, I got my cork roadbed at Revy, (If you don't have them around you, it's like a Home Deopt) It was about $6 per foot, but the roll is 4 feet wide, and about 1/8" thick, for N scale, I cut my roadbed 1/2" wide, so for $6, I got 24 strips of cork roadbed, 48" long (96feet!) , instead of the 30" stuff you can buy at the hobby store, for about a dollar per piece. Just cut 2 strips of 1/2" plywood, onw for a ruler and the other to get the right width.

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