US modeller in the UK - The beginnings of a layout thread

GEfan Nov 12, 2018

  1. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
    Afternoon all,
    I've been a railway (railroad?) modeller for many years concentrating on the UK railways, although in all honest I have never got a layout to where I'm really happy with it. So with the big '40' birthday approaching, a recent change of direction gave me the opportunity to have a clear out, start a fresh, and pick up on my interest in American Railroads. Unfortunately, a complete dislike of flying means I've never had the opportunity to get 'up close' to the US railroads, but have enjoyed numerous videos and DVDs of them!

    I have recently purchased two Kato N Gauge locos, a GE AC44 BNSF liveried model, and one of the heritage liveried UP 'Western Pacific' EMD SD70ACe models to start off the collection - am a bit of a GE fan, hence the nickname on here. While I have been given permission for a decent sized garden shed some point next year to house a proper model, I am currently working on a small portable layout. The boards are both 36"x18" - giving a 6' scenic run, with around 2foot 'tagged' on either end to provide access 'off scene' to the holding sidings behind. I wanted to keep the track plan simple and concentrate on the scenery, so the aim is to have a double track (main and siding) appearing from the right for around 18", merging into a single track line across a river - all of which being set within a rocky canyon style surround. It may yet be the case that this portable layout ends up being permanently erected in the shed and expanded!

    Primary interest is UP and BNSF (what you do mean you guessed from my first two models!) but the odd CSX and NS locos may well appear occasionally as run-through power. I am assuming that it is likely a UP line that BNSF has trackage rights to - I have been wandering around Flickr and Google Earth trying to pinpoint a likely location / geographic area. Im not looking to produce an accurate model of a line, just somewhere where the above parts may come together. If anyone can offer any suggestions please do shout.

    I think i've enough room for six hidden sidings, so my thought was a rake of double-stack intermodals, another rake of empty baretables, a manifest freight, possibly a grain or auto-rack set and ideally a loaded and empty coal set. Again, whether I can find a location where all such types of freight traffic would be seen in together is another question! Because the layout is portable, I am planning to build some wooden cassettes to hold the freight consists in, so it is feasible that I could end up with more than six freight car sets, and just rotate them around.

    Being new to US N gauge, I am still finding my feet. The layout which will be Peco Code 55 trackwork, will be DCC operated, i have a Digitrax system, and both locos are DCC (non-sound) fitted. My plan is to acquire a couple of the Soundtraxx Tsunami2 decoders for them.

    However, a couple of questions if I may? I do love the UP heritage and non-yellow liveries. UP1943 is another that is on my 'target' list, and I note Kato are doing that with factory-fitted sound. To you guys who have far more knowledge than me, am I correct in thinking the Tsunami2 decoders are good - are they likely to be better than the factory fit Kato sound? I appreciate they have to be hard-wired?

    Also, does anyone know if all six UP heritage railroad liveries were produced? I could be tempted by the NS heritage versions as well, although maybe more for the display cabinet than the layout, but I'm unsure if any manufacturer has released these in N? I have not come across any on eBay or the like yet.

    Being new, I hope I am posting in the right place - I will develop this thread with my layout as it progresses if people are interested. Thanks in advance for any thoughts, help and pointers!

    Richie
     
    NScaleKen and SP&S #750 like this.
  2. Dave McDonald

    Dave McDonald TrainBoard Member

    47
    19
    2
    Welcome to U.S. railroads.

    You mention that your board is 18" x 36"; that is going to create an issue in that most N-scale needs a minimum radius of 9.75" (diameter of 19.5") so you are going to need to find a board that is at least 22" wide. Those radius and diameter are measured at the center of the track. You could probably get away with 4 axle locos and shorter cars in less than those recommendations but seeing how you started with 6 axle locos, you should investigate a larger board.

    A few years ago, Kato did the UP Heritage locos as SD70Ace models. You may find one here and there, but for the most part, they have become somewhat scarce and a little expensive. Kato also release the NS heritage units as well but those are much easier to come across.

    If I were going to do sound, I would probably go with the factory installed sound. In most cases, it will be cheaper than having someone install a third party sound decoder and related hardware. Plus, you will probably void the warranty on a loco by installing your own sound decoder.

    For geographic location, you could choose Western Nebraska; both UP and BNSF are there. You could model the general freights, the coal coming from the Powder River Basin, the grain trains (the new Scale Trains 5188 hopper in BNSF Swoosh are amazing). You could also throw an Amtrak California Zephyr in there well.

    Just my opinions on these and I sure others will chime in as well.
     
    GEfan likes this.
  3. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
    Hi Dave,
    Firstly, thanks for the welcome and your thoughts/opinions. All a new area for me, so im very open to comments, suggestions and pointers.

    I should have added that the 6' x 18" boards are purely the scenic section, sorry. My thought is to add a couple of 2' x 2' boards to the end, possibly 28"x28", to allow the tracks to do a 180 degree curve to access the holding sidings which are on a further 8" wide board, parallel to the rear of the scenic section. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so...

    Screenshot 2018-11-12 at 18.09.55.png

    A local model shop to me has one of 'The Katy' liveried examples in at the moment, so it sounds like it might be worth acquiring that if they are somewhat scarce! I'll keep a look out for the NS examples, although UP/BNSF power and cars are the priority for the layout.

    Thanks for the comments on the sound options. I'll give that some further thought. Fitting the decoders does not worry me too much, having done a few on UK models, likewise with voiding the warrenty.

    Western Nebraska sounds a logical option, and the Powder River area is one I would love to visit in the future, if I can ever convince myself to step on a plane! Thanks for the heads up on the grain hoppers too - i'll take a look on the web at those.

    Richie
     
  4. Dave McDonald

    Dave McDonald TrainBoard Member

    47
    19
    2
    Hi Richie....with a total of 24" in depth, you could do the double mainline with one being a 9.75" radius curve and the other an 11" radius curve. That will completely your 24" depth though with very little room to spare.

    It looks as though the Katy Heritage units have sold for $105-180 in the last couple of months on eBay. The scarcest one is probably the C&NW.
     
    GEfan likes this.
  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    58,259
    3,256
    599
    There are a fair number of places where both UP and BNSF are both present. With tracks in nearby proximity, or even on the same rails. It all might depend upon scenery you find most fascinating.
     
  6. WM183

    WM183 TrainBoard Member

    307
    273
    6
    Another US prototype modeler in the Europeland! Hi hi! For what it's worth, I'd shoot for 26 or so inches wide, so you can have a couple inches margin for the unexpected between your trains and the floor!
     
    mtntrainman likes this.
  7. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
    Cheers Dave. That is a thought, although one line of thinking was that with a double to single track, it gave some operational interest, rather than just running past. But certainly something i'll think about. Mine was £100 GBP (including postage) so about $129 which looks like its at the better end of the scale! I'll keep my eyes open for the others. Going to place an order with one of the US retailers for UP1943 as they are all cheaper than the UK price, although I could get hit for import duty when it arrives.

    Thanks - my thought was a canyon style scenic area, so as to a) limit the track layout for what is a small area, b) force the railway to be part of the scenary and not the other way round, and c) i've never modelled rocks or that kind of countryside before!

    Thansk WM183! Well we're part of Europeland til March anyway - the lunatics have taken over the asylam here and I really am fed-up of hearing about Brexit!!! :) . Yes the extra width is a valid point, although I am planning some one or two inch high panelling round the edge at the back to avoid that situation :) But certainly the clearance space needs adding in.

    Richie
     
  8. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
    Dave,
    Just looking at the grain hoppers you recommended and on the ScaleTrains website (https://www.scaletrains.com/collect...ho-scale-gunderson-5188cf-covered-hopper-bnsf) it says suitable for Code 70, 83 and 100 rail, with a minimum raidus of 18". Given that im looking at Peco Code 55, with 12-13" radius, should they run ok, or is it likely to cause difficulties do you think?
     
  9. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    7,798
    1,776
    109
    The nice thing about the code 55 Peco track is that it accommodates the older deep flanged cars and locos.
     
    GEfan likes this.
  10. Dave McDonald

    Dave McDonald TrainBoard Member

    47
    19
    2
    GEfan likes this.
  11. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
  12. Dave McDonald

    Dave McDonald TrainBoard Member

    47
    19
    2
    Richie....something else to notice for the 5188 hoppers is that the minimum radius is 11".
     
    GEfan likes this.
  13. fordy744

    fordy744 TrainBoard Member

    93
    44
    11
    Welcome fellow UKer!

    For inspiration check out Ant Quinlan's Horsethief Bridge layout.

    Having been importing items from US suppliers for a while, it is getting to the point where UK suppliers are cheaper by the time you add import duty etc. As you will get caught 99 out of 100. HMRC have cracked down on imports and reduced the thresholds while increasing tariffs so...

    I would advise talking or visiting Mech Models in Burton on Trent, see Barry and the team, they stock all the latest stuff and not just from the mainstream manufacturers too!

    Being a modern era modeller you'll love the Scaletrains T4 GEVOs...
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2018
  14. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
    Hi Fordy744,
    Thanks! There seems to be more if us this side of the pond than I realised! Thanks for your comment, i’ve spoken with MechModels today and interestingly, they have worked out cheaper on one model than it is stateside! That’s before postage an import duty etc.. Tyey are pretty much out if the ScaleTrains Gevo’s unfortunately, but have a few of the grain hoppers in stock. A purchase or two may have to be made! Hoping to get some trackwork ordered this weekend.

    Love the layout you recommended, the chap has a Flickr site that seems to show more of it than a google search finds! Very impressive. I did have a look at your blog, but I presume your not updating it now? Do you have a layout on the go? Despite my modern diesel outlook, I do love steam and had HOn3 been a bit cheaper and easier to obtain, this would likely have been narrow gauge K36 AND K37s lol!

    Can anyone tell me are UP/BNSF main lines that are out in the back of beyond still wooden sleepered or are concrete ones taking over?
     
  15. Dave McDonald

    Dave McDonald TrainBoard Member

    47
    19
    2
    Most of the mainlines (UP and BNSF) that I have seen have been converted to concrete ties.
     
  16. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
    Thanks for that Dave,
    Im not keen on concrete tie track with wooden tie pointwork, so may go for wooden ties throughout. Still a little undecided. Does anyone have any views on the best or most appropriate way of working this?

    Both purchased locos arrived today,...
    IMG_9250.jpg


    I have also been able to very roughly draw the trackplan out tonight.

    Layout.jpg

    I've used SCARM for this. The colour coding represents grades and levels. So dark blue is the hidden sidings on baseboard level. Green represents grades, dark red is the non-scenic double track lines on top of the hidden sidings, and the purple is the scenic area at the front. According to SCARM none of the grades exceed 2.4% but with two/three locos at the helm and the longest train being 6.5ft (including loco) I think all should be ok. The maximum width of the boards in the green areas is 28" so I should be able to get 13" radius curves for the outer ones and 11" minimum for the inner.

    Thats the grand plan however! I may work the point on the scenic board, and the red point on the upper level at the back with a couple of Tortoise motors that I have here from a previous layout, but the hidden sidings points will likely be baseboard mount Peco solenoids for ease.

    My aim is to hide the green loops from the front viewing section and use some thin cardboard to box the tracks in, as both will vanish off scene into tunnels, thereby giving the effect of darkness from the viewing angle.

    EDIT: I forgot to ask, can anyone tell me the height of a double-stack container wagon, when two containers are 'stacked' on it?
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2018
  17. jlbos83

    jlbos83 TrainBoard Member

    334
    6
    17
    I live in southern Arizona near Tucson. The UP (old SP) runs through here. I have on rare occasions seen full BNSF consists run through here, I'm guessing those would have been due to issues on their line through northern Arizona (perhaps weather issues, snow?). I see NS locos somewhat regularly, and CSX now and then. Of course, if I manage to see any, more are coming through, as I don't sit watching the rails 24/7. There's an area just east of Tucson with a bit of a canyon, and a nice bridge, where the older and newer lines cross, one was born as a competitor, but that ended many, many, years ago. Here's a video that came up when I googled: . I didn't see it happen in this video, but the bonus is when there's a train on each track! I am busy designing, and may include this scene. I have a previous layout started that would have had it, maybe this time! The town of Vail, just a little west of the bridge, has an opportunity of getting stuck between trains going through on the two mains, separated by as couple hundred yards, or so. It's an interesting little area that you could make work on your little project. As far as ties, I think they are concrete now, but the change is pretty recent, so I think you could run modern equipment and still be accurate.
     
  18. jlbos83

    jlbos83 TrainBoard Member

    334
    6
    17
    A double stack appears to 20' 2", I think from the top of the rail.
     
  19. Dave McDonald

    Dave McDonald TrainBoard Member

    47
    19
    2
    The locos look awesome. Kato locos are at the top of the heap in my opinion.
     
  20. GEfan

    GEfan TrainBoard Member

    12
    3
    2
    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Loved watching the video, thanks for finding that. I’ll have a wander around that area on Google Earth.


    Cheers - so I need 1.5” clearance for double stacks.

    Cheers Dave. Yes very impressed with the locos and detailing on them. My plan is to eventually fit them with Tsunami2 Sound decoders.
     

Share This Page