You've heard it 1000 times before But....

Discussion in 'N / Z Scale Model Trains' started by fuzzyloggin, Apr 11, 2007.

  1. fuzzyloggin

    fuzzyloggin Member

    hi guys ,
    I know you've had a thousand ppl before me in this position and you will have a 1000 after me as well but im standing on a knifes edge one side sits HO and the other side sits N.

    to cut a long story short im swinging towards N gauge and with my benchwork nearing completion i really need to start making up my mind which way to go, if i choose N then i have much more options with the remainder of my bench design but i need to know a few things b4 i can decide...

    can i have dcc N gauge locos with sound? (this is probably my biggest concern for N)

    will i need to reduce my grades with n compared to HO? (as part of my layout climbs up and over a water heater)

    is there possibility for automatic uncoupling with N? (as in magnetic uncouplers or something)..

    if you guys could shed some light on these three things for me i would then know enough i think to make my decision...

    i thought id also post a couple of pics of WIP benchwork. (there is alot of ply just sitting on the tops that is not part of the permanent benchwork but at least you get the main idea of what ive got to work with, its a 21 foot run down the wall and 9 foot wide return in front of the garage door, i also plan on having another peninsula to create an F shape layout if i go with N. also note the section where the layout will need to climb up to go over the water heater.

    Attached Files:

  2. Meiriongwril

    Meiriongwril Member

    To answer your questions:

    1. can i have dcc N gauge locos with sound? Yes - some locos (such as Precision Craft E7s) come with sound equipped; in many other locos sound can be fitted. However, some older model types may not have room.

    2. will i need to reduce my grades with n compared to HO? I've seen 2% being quoted here as being the maximum easy grade.

    3. is there possibility for automatic uncoupling with N? (as in magnetic uncouplers or something) Microtrains have an automatic magnetic uncoupling system (similar I believe to HO systems).

    Hope that helps - N really rocks these days, I wouldn't change back to bigger scales!!
  3. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Grades are the same in all scales. I've heard this rule of thumb, which I believe doesn't apply to engines with traction tires: A 2% grade cuts pulling power in half, 3% in half again, and 4% in half again.
  4. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    I was debating between HO and N initially and ended up with O. On30 to be exact. My reasons for choosing On30 at the time were

    A) Detail of O
    B) Track capabilities of HO
    C) Kits, bashing, and scratching

    But I'm enjoying my decision EVEN MORE now ... and for the opposite reason I was considering N in the first place. Because of the larger scale there is less room for 'stuff'. Which means you spend more time making less stuff look better. You achieve basic completion much quicker and get to the point of having something to play with earlier, instead of having gobs of track and buildings to work on and perhaps just a few trains to fill the expanses. After mastering (ha!) an On30 layout I may go back and see about something else. But I like not being overwhelmed with what I have currently.

    COMBAT Member

    I vote HO for one reason.


    Look at what is available for HO compared to any other scale. We have the most options available simply because we are the biggest market out there. :) I hope I gave you something to think about. Good luck with YOUR CHOICE! :)
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Grades are calculated the same way in any scale, but Nscale locos are proportionally lighter, since they do not have the volume for weights, so grades may affect them more (this is based on very limited experience with Nscale).

    Yes, but automatic uncoupling in any scale requires some really precise trackwork, and perfectly running engines with good low-speed capability.

    In my opinion, these are not the main questions you should be asking to decide what scale to model in. I would also consider -

    Do I like kits and/or scratchbuilding, and/or detailing things? HO or O is better for these, not only because of the size, but because much of the Nscale rolling stock at least is in Ready-To-Run form.

    How's my eyesight? ;) :D Choose larger scales if you are on your optomotrist's speed dial...

    Do I want to run trains through scenery, or operate a "hands-on" railway with lots of switching possibilities? N is great for modelling large areas, but not so easy for operations - though it is possible.

    What is available in my area? If you don't like Internet shopping, but your local store only has HO scale (as mine does) you may be out of luck.

    What sort of time do you have to work on the layout? LoudMusic's point about doing more with less is very relevant...!

    Hope that helps.

  7. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    My 2 cents is that N-scale is just too small. Oh, I understand about the advantages of n-scale and the amount of territory you can cover, but I just wouldn't be happy with the tiny things. My first train set was HO back in the late 60s and now that I have returned, it is still HO that does it for me.
  8. Wabash Banks

    Wabash Banks Member

    I'll weigh in on this one.
    The sound is possible, on some locos, but not on most.
    The uncoupling can be done as stated, with Scott's warnings...
    Grades aren't a problem at all because what you aren't taking into consideration is the extra long run you picked up by going to N. Were you to keep the same exact rise as you have planned for HO it would be a problem, since you are using N though you will have much more room to pu the rise in, thereby making the grade the same at worst, maybe better...
    As for detailing...don't let anyone tell you bigger scales are better for detailing because it isn't true. I put nail holes and rivets on things just like the big scales. You can see them plenty well too. Operations are no big deal either.
    The rolling stock doesn't matter either. You can find plenty of old roundhouse kits if you want to build them or just scratch them yourself. Locos are more expensive. Unfortunate but it is the case. Selection is a bit smaller but that gap narrows every day. HO may still be popular but N is quickly becoming just as popular.
    Most hobby shops still don't carry a lot of N scale. N scalers have been traditionally more scratchbuilders. I like that aspect. I scratch most everything I have... If you want to be able to buy everythign already done then go to the internet. You won't have a problem finding what you need.
    The real heart of the scales is small and detailed do you want to work and how good is your eye sight? If the eyes have trouble then you will struggle. Do you like working with tweezers a lot? If you don't then you won't much care for N...
    Working in N scale is much like building a ship in a bottle. The detail is possible if you make an attempt, the real issue is do you like the working conditions that you will have to deal with. If you enjoy working on very fine detail in very close quarters, i.e. your hands up at your face so you can clearly see what you are doing then N is great. If you don't like that then skip N and go with HO. The room the layout takes up really isn't as much of an issue as the rest of the considerations.

    If you want a quick (relatively so) lithmus test try building this in N. If you need a quick scale ruler download and print one from here:
    Just be sure to turn off any print scaling...
    Then build something like this:

    The building itself is 10X20. It is made from basswood sheets 1/32 thick. The bracing on the dock is pretty darn close to N scale 2X4's. The facing of those boards is the 1/32 thickness of the original sheet. I sliced the sheet to 1/64 thick pieces. I detailed before I waethered and I need to go back and add the detail in again, but those bracings have 2 nail holes on each end. They were lightly pressed in used the tip of the exacto so that they appear to be holes from square headed nails. I make them round with my Stanley scratch awl.
    If you knock something like this together and don't enjoy it then you won't like N. Build it and have a lot of fun and chances are you are good to go.
    Materials are also very inexpensive for N scale for the most part. I often use cereal boxes for stuctures. They are free and already the perfect thickness. A sheet of basswood on sale for 75 cents from Hobby Lobby will build a whole old west town...

    Hope this helps!

    Oh, it probably helps to set the scale for you....
  9. woodone

    woodone Member

    Better leave some access to the waterheater- as soon as you get finished with the railroad work in that corner, the waterheater will need a replacement!
  10. COMBAT

    COMBAT Member

    I cant agree with this, but I dont have to. :)

    The thing about N scale is it seems to look fake. I mean its just the scale. Then again maybe I am biased just because I grew up on HO. I say do what you like!
  11. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    i would say N scale is a very very close 2nd. i have not found anything in HO that i could not get in N.

  12. pfs

    pfs Member

    I will admit that everything is made for HO but N has a lot of options.

    As far as N looking unrealistic, when I see HO layouts that only allow for trains with 5 or 10 cars (due to space), 9 out of 10 cases that looks more unrealistic to me.

  13. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    i went to N from HO as i think N has more detail, i have the same passanger station in O , HO, (from when i used to be in ho) and in N scale, all the same, from the same company, just different scales. the N scale one looks more realistic then the others, ho looks better then the O. the bigger they are the more they look fake to me.

  14. Bones

    Bones Member

    I grew up on HO, and came back to the hobby in N about 5-6 years ago. I miss HO dearly, due to the availability of oddball locomotives. By oddball I mean anything from DD35's, DD40's, DDM45's (brazilian narrow guage), Little Joe electrics, Centipedes, Critters!, Speeders!, and all kinds of other gigantic or tiny diesels. For steam HO even has (or had) 2-8-8-8-2 Triplex engines, GTELs that are realistic.

    I love the ability for N to run full length trains through beautiful scenery in a relatively small space.

    I love the ability to scratch build or find almost anything that has ever been on the rails in HO.

    For N scale, I MUST scratch build for many items. There just isn't anything on the market that's even close, or I don't like it. For HO scale, you can build it... but the variety of parts, kits, RTR items, and the large used market make it easy to simply search out what you needed.

    In the end, I think it comes down to 5 things:
    1. Do you like Steam, Diesel, or Transition eras? N is great for diesel or transition era, but I might lean toward HO for steam.
    2. Do you like detailing scenery? N scale requires a good scenic hand, no matter what you plan to do with your layout.
    3. Do you like handling parts so small they can penetrate your skin and cause you to think you lost them? Or do you prefer something you can actually see if you drop it?
    4. Do you lust to have that ONE crazy loco you saw as a kid, or in a photo, without it you just don't feel right running your trains?
    5. Do you enjoy kit-bashing or scratchbuilding?

    Everything stated is my opinion, and nothing more. As for Locos I mentioned, some of them might be available in brass only.
  15. jambo101

    jambo101 Member

    Just getting reinterested in the hobby and its a tough descision as to go with N or HO as both have advantages over each other,guess i.m going to leave it up to fate,that locomotive in my avatar is going to be the basis of a mid 50's layout,when i see it in that color scheme whatever the scale (N or HO) i buy it and proceed from there.
  16. fuzzyloggin

    fuzzyloggin Member

    firstly BIG thanks to all who have responded :) !!!!
    all your comments i have read and see all sides of both arguements but like somebody said its a matter of what i want and you guys have all but confirmed that i should be getting into N scale. the only thing really making me pause to think at all was the fact that i did not want to commit to a scale only to find out its limitations later and although N may not quite be as easy to source gear for it certainly sounds like there is an adequate amount on the market and that its popularity is growing.i think what sums up my wants most is the comment below....

    this is pretty much exactly the reason i love N scale, i mean i do want switching and i love abit of detail but im no rivet counter and im only 28 and my eyes are 20/20 so thats no problem, what helps is knowing what i dont want and thats track next to track with no scenic breakup of space and no room to fit a nice big yard ..

    so once again thanks to all and i think ill move to the trackplanning forum to re-focus my thoughts from squeezing HO radius into my space to planning what i believe will be a much more personally enjoyable N scale layout, after all i was intending on making this a 5 plus year layout so having lots of scenery to do and small detailing is exactly what i want.

    also to all that have commented and any others just reading dont be afraid to pop into my new thread there if you see it as ill be asking a whole new set of questions there regarding all things Nscale planning and tracklaying ie minmum radius,realistic radius,grade what i can and cant fit in my space etc etc... see ya there:thumb: :thumb:
  17. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    I'm going from O/O27 all the way down to N just because of the space factor. I'm keeping my original O27 set and a Christmas train I bought for an outside layout. The rest is going to get sold to help fund the N scale. I thought about doing HO but it really wouldn't have saved me much room due to the size of it's curves. N is the way to go in tight spaces. I even ordered my first N scale set last night. :)
  18. fuzzyloggin

    fuzzyloggin Member

    good call woodone but i've got it covered ,its alittle hard to see from what ive posted but the steel shelves next to the heater come straight out and there is plenty of clearance for the heater to go side ways then straight out ..
  19. fuzzyloggin

    fuzzyloggin Member

    thats exactly my reasoning cannon, i just had the becwork going up and the more i thought about it the more i saw that what i liked about modelling was not going to be possible, i mean i love trains but im far from an expert on american diesel (what i love) all the way down here in sydney and what i really love is the overall modelling part of the hobby, i want 30 car coal drags and the like snaking their way though mountains valleys bridges and forrests. i just hope i can fit all that in the 21 x 9 ft area i have
  20. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

    Dude.... If I had a 21x9 area to build a model railroad, I wouldn't need to switch from O27 to N scale. ;)


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