What is a good size small N layout ?

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by gregbva123, Apr 2, 2006.

  1. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member


    Looking to build a small N Scale railroad in DCC using either Kato Unitrack or Atlas Code track with roadbed. Any suggestions from anyone? I want to have a coal mine, industrial and small city.

    Thanks, Greg
  2. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    There's no such thing as an optimum size for a layout. What do you have space for?
  3. Palmisano

    Palmisano Member

    Good sized small N layout

    I was asking the same question a few months ago. I started a 3X6 footer and it is the perfect size for something small and manageable. I can lift it bymyself by turning it on it's side. Even with 1X4 framing and 1/2" ply it isn't very heavy. You can still get 13" radius curves along the ends. Make the scenery out of foam to keep it light.

    As for the track. The Kato Unitrack will be alot quicker and easier, however, using Atlas or MicroEngineering Code 55 track with either cork or woodland senics foam roadbed will look alot more realistic. But its alot more work. But of all things on the layout, track is not the place to skimp anyway. Even after balasting and painting the Unitrack, it still has grossly oversize rail and ties that are too narrow and spaced way too far apart.
  4. sputnik

    sputnik Member

    I agree with deez guyz. Optimum depends on a few things. For example, if you primarily run 4 axle engines with 40 foot cars, a 2x4 layout will work. But if you prefer 6 axle engines with modern 50-60 foot cars, then you should look more towards a 3x6 table top (for the larger radius curves). And "door" sized layouts are popular options too.

  5. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

  6. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    You're describing minimum rather than optimum. There is no optimum, only minimum. And 50' cars run fine on 9.75" curves, as will short six-axle units like SD9s. If you want, say, 89' cars, then you need big curves.
  7. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    No such thing as a "Good Size" layout.

    You can have everything from a 24"x24" circle diorama, al the way up to a room sized empire. One in the recent N Scale Railroading Magazine is 18'x42'.

    Mine is in an 11.5' x 6.5' alcove. Photos and track plan on my website.

    A good layout is what you make it. Size is what you have available.
  8. gregbva123

    gregbva123 Member

    Thanks, I want to have a Coke Factory and USPS terminal as well as a engine and car house. Maybe DCC or DC, Can't decide. N Scale is so small for DCC, maybe I should stay with DC and block the tracks.
  9. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

  10. umtrr-author

    umtrr-author Member

    If you are just starting out, don't worry too much about DCC; many locos either can be purchased with DCC already installed or are relatively easy to install.

    Based on what your "givens and druthers" are so far, I think you need something a little bigger than 2 by 4 feet. You might consider an arrangement with view blocks; the mining on one scene and the town/city in another.
  11. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Start with a clean sheet of paper and write down (not just think/dream about) what you'd like, what you absolutely want, and what you can do without. Most people call that your "givens and druthers" list. From there, with a bacis plan idea, you can figure out what industries you'd like to model, what type of rolling stock/engines you'd like to run and therefore what size track radius you'd like or need. Then you can decide what size layout you'd like to go with and how much/type track you'll need to get to your goal. Or, you can do it like I (and probably a lot of first-timers who didn't know any better) and buy a lot of track then make a layout with the pieces in front of you. I used a smooth sided door for lots of reasons, and simply put the track down in many different configurations till I hit the layout I wanted to build. Check out some of the layout pictures in the gallery section. There's plenty of great work there that you can get ideas from.

    Good Luck!!!
  12. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Herc Driver,
    What you describe is an utopian way of designing a small N scale layout :)

    In real life things goes like that:
    The spouse says: " You are allowed a ... inches by ...inches for your layout ". ( please fill the dots with whatever your spouse, girlfriend or whoever you live with allows you to have )
    Please note, I said inches, not feet :)
    That automatically dictate the scale you'll be modeling in ( unless you like a HO switching layout ).

    Knowing the layout size, you can now determine what industry won't fit on your layout : forget about the big paper mill , the tall blast furnace or the grain elevator . You'll realise that the single spur on your layout is just long enough to serve 1 newsstand and 1 petshop :)

    select what type of rolling stock. Are you kidding ! the maximum 9 3/4 " radius curves of your layout only allow you to run an Alco S-1 switcher and a few 40' boxcars ( without caboose of course ) . Your vision of an UP class 4000 big boy just ended right here.

    Ok, OK I'm kidding here .
    Herc Driver procedure for designing a layout makes a lot of sense, but imho the layout must fit the available space then the rest follows.

    And I have to give credit to my spouse, she limited my railroad modeling space ( ambitions ) because I already took some space in our living room with my footie ( soccer in North America ) Subbuteo game. She is Brasilian , so she doesn't object at all with my soccer field.

    Attached Files:

  13. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Another consideration is what you may want to do with the layout. If you plan to take it to shows, it needs to be on the small side. A permanent layout can be bigger, but you need to be able to move it to a new house, but that can be in sections.
    Door size is probably a nice compromise.
  14. rsn48

    rsn48 Member

    Consider a "water wings" arrangement in your layout; the ends is approximately 38/39 inches wide narrowing into the waste of the layout where it is only about 26 inches wide - where the bulk of your switching will take place. At least 8 feet or more in length would make it a "sweet" layout and you could have 17 inch curves to allow you to run the larger stuff.
  15. Herc Driver

    Herc Driver Active Member

    Good - no make that - very good point Biased Turkey...space allowed is certainly a prime consideration. Sort of the "Form follows function" idea. I know I really appreciated the "givens and druthers" thread that I read...oh some time ago now... it was really helpful showing me what I could have done had I found information earlier in my own planning process. As it was, I sort of bumbled through the "planning phase" and went right to the "get it built as soon as possible" phase. I'm sure I wasted both time and money not thinking out my layout concept in more detail...and like you said...now I spend my time figuring out what industries/buildings won't fit on the layout and what will.

    If it was me, no matter what size layout, I'd go DCC right from the start. Though I didn't think I would, I've collected a lot of diesels now and don't think I could afford to put DCC into all of them. Which taught me the lesson, decide early what you really want and go that way.
  16. KATY

    KATY Member

  17. berraf

    berraf Member

    A good size layout is one that you have the space for which means that a good one for me perhaps is way too small for you :thumb:
    I know the answer is quite philosophic but never the less it's quite true from my point of view.
    And remember to have fun. If you have fun with your layout it's a good layout...
  18. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    I scanned through and...

    ... didn't see anything mentioned here so, Kato has N Scale plans on their site showing a few plans. At least- last time I looked.

  19. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    So, fnally gregbva123 what's the size of your layout ?
  20. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    To my mind nothing beats a 36" x 80" hollow core door for a small but,practical N Scale layout.

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