Layout decisions and a few ???

Tony P Feb 27, 2010

  1. Tony P

    Tony P E-Mail Bounces

    In my other posts I mentioned that I am going to go with N scale for my first serious layout. 2'x4' max. Having looked at many layouts in the past weeks I see very clearly that they look completely different on paper than they do on the bench in progress or finished. I am still debating the mill city scene or a mining scene. My opinion, the vast majority of city, town scenes I have seen without elevation look to me very boring and toylike. I have however seen a few flat layout scenes that are sheer beauties, detail all around. Having static modelled for years I do know that what you put into it shows in the final result !!

    Looking at plans I notice alot of color coding of track, elevation etc. Is there a set color code for trackplans, switches, track lengths, radius, etc ? I have found some great plans, alot of them seem to be based on Atlas part numbers and such.

    Also track ?? so many to choose from, which is recommended by you guys in the know, are there decent middle of the road tracks that won;t break the bank, same with turnouts, so many to choose from? which are the good and the bad of all things track ! Can I buy all my track, roadbed, turnouts etc, everything I need to lay track from one manufacturer and or dealer ??

    N scale Building kits What manufacturers do you guys prefer? , what dealers are available?

    Thanks for putting up with all my questions, I am sure there will be many, many more once I get started too !!!!!!!!

    Regards Tony
  2. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

    Atlas makes good flex track and a decent variety of accesories and is fairly cheap to buy. Unitrack is easier to work with...but kinda toy snap the pieces together and the pieces have molded in ballast. The Unitrack looks arent good IMHO...not very US protototypical looking with ties spacing etc.. Its more expensive but pretty reliable. The other track manufactures are ok...but with less availablity and less accessories to choice from...JMO

  3. Mark Watson

    Mark Watson TrainBoard Member

    Hi Tony,

    Great questions...

    No, there is no set color code, label each track of your own plan with your own color of choice. :)

    Most track works great, the difference is in style and application. Here's a quick breakdown of what I consider the more popular brands:

    Code 80 Flex (Atlas) - Most reliable, moderate skill required to lay. Not true to prototypical. Large variety of turnouts.

    Code 80 Snap track (Atlas) - Exactly like Code 80 Flex, only in fixed sections. Easy to lay. Large variety of curves, straights, and turnouts.

    Code 80 Unitrack (Kato) - Most reliable, easiest to lay. Not true to prototype (unless you're modeling Japanese railroads). Good variety of curves, straights. Two turnout options.

    Code 65 True-Track (Atlas) - Most reliable, easiest to lay, very accurate to prototype. Small variety (though growing).

    Code 55 flex (Atlas, Micro Engineering, Peco) - Usually reliable, slightly more skill required than Code 80. Most accurate to prototype. (Atlas Code 55 has some compatibility issues with wheel sets) Good variety of turnouts.
    Of those, both Unitrack and True-Track have the roadbed molded into the section, so no cork or foam roadbed required. The cost factor between the more expensive molded roadbed vs the cheaper track on cork/foam roadbed option is a mute point anymore. The savings in price is lost in the time of assembly and vice-versa. Code 55 flex is slightly more than Code 80 flex.

    Usually each manufacturers line of track can support everything needed, but there are ways to combine them. For a list of possible dealers, check out our TrainBoard Advertisers. (BTW, everyone else should PM Tony if they wish to recommended other retailers, see why here)

    Finally, you can go with any building kit that matches your needs. You put it best, "what you put into it shows in the final result!!"

    Good luck, and if you have any other questions just ask. :)
  4. AKrrnut

    AKrrnut TrainBoard Member

    I agree with mtntrainman, Kato makes some very nice track. I've used Atlas track in the past, both sectional and flextrack, and you can make a nice little railroad with it, but it's going to take some additional work to make it as dependable as Kato track.

    I don't think you're going to find everything you need from one manufacturer. Midwest makes the best cork roadbed. I've tried the Woodland Scenics roadbed, but I don't really like it. It's too hard to make the roadbed consistantly level. I know other modelers like it; look for comments from those who do to see how they install it.

    There is no color coding standard for track. Atlas track is the most common because it's been around the longest, and because they've put out several books of track plans using their track.

    As far as structures, the best thing you could do is purchase a Walthers N catalog. It will show most of the structures and track products that are available at this time. No one dealer will have everything; even for the largest, it's almost impossible to keep everything in stock, all the time. You might have to shop with several different dealers to find everything you want.

    Good luck with your railroad!

  5. Ristooch

    Ristooch TrainBoard Member

    I'll take a shot at your questions.
    1. Color coding track: there is no set standard of which I am aware. Typically, if using a CAD program, or even hand-sketching, color is the designer's choice.

    2. Layout size and plan: If this is your first serious layout and you are working with a 2' by 4' space, start simple. Many people succumb to the desire to cram way too much track in an area. This results in a frustrating layout that has little or no open space for scenery, industry buildings, etc.

    3. Track: If I were starting my first serious layout I would take a long, hard look at Kato Unitrack. They have a page dedicated to n-scale track plans at: Their track may cost you a bit more, but many Trainboarders use Unitrack as the basis of some impressive layouts. It's hard to beat good track with molded-in roadbed. Getting the track up and running is much easier than sectional or flex track with separate roadbed. You can also slide the pieces around, altering the layout to suit your fancy.

    4. Dealers and such: the Internet is awesome for this. There are a number of reputable Trainboard advertisers, and you can comparison shop without leaving your home. Buying for several dealers will allow you to obtain the best price for each part you need, although this savings may be offset by additional shipping costs.

    5. Buildings and accessories: check the same dealers that sell track. Woodland Scenics, Design Preservation, Bar Mills, Walters, Pikestuff, and many others are all good building/accessory kit manufacturers. Choice of building kits is determined by the time period in which your layout is set. In other words, no skyscrapers and prefab concrete warehouses in a 1920's steam layout!

    6. A question you did not pose: steam or diesel locomotives? I suggest you start off with small diesels because they come out of the box and go on the track and start running. Steamers, while beautiful and cool to look at, can be troublesome to get running satisfactorily.

    I hope this helps you. Please continue to post questions, as I know there are tons of folks on the board willing to help.

    Good luck!
  6. Tudor

    Tudor TrainBoard Member

    The reasons I made the switch to Kato Unitrack:

    Im not too awfully concerned with it not being prototypical ties because it is close enough for me. It is toy like, but if you paint and weather the rails it helps allot. It helps even more if you ballast it anyway even tho it has the molded roadbed. I ballast mine, and I think it looks very good. If you paint the molded ballast with white glue and dip it in a bag of ballast, it doesn't take that much ballast, and looks much better that way than the molded in plastic ballast. Check some of the other users of Unitrack that ballast it. It looks very good ballasted.

    The other reason I like Unitrack, because you can build your temp layout in a very short time, run it like that for a bit to make your decisions and changes before you make it permanent.
  7. Tony P

    Tony P E-Mail Bounces

    Thanks so much for all the quik replies all....

    As you can see I am starting fro less that scratch in the knowledge dept ! PO'd a little as 3 years ago I had alot of info compiled and never went through with my layout.

    Diesel or Steam, I was thinking Diesel if I do the City layout, running the Erie/EL but with a fictional mining type layout I think I would like to go with Steam.

    I'll have to look into the tracks further Atlas and Kato being the popular ones it seems, I am not against doing alot of hand work (short of hand laying) to make the track look good by ballasting, weathering etc. Scenery and detail in the trains and buildings are my priorities, running the train I am not in a great rush to do. I have infinite patients for detail work, might be a virtue might be a vice ! !

    Yes I hear ya, keep it simple at first, that;s what I will do, have to select a plan maybe modify it to my needs, but depending on the layout I do that will determine what type of layout I will do.

    I was thinking point to point with a loop if possible in both types of layouts. I love the look of point to point but do want to be able to bring the train around if I want. I see the sooner I get the layout plan I want, Hmmmmm, the sooner I can have at it ! !

    Thanks much Tony
  8. mhampton

    mhampton TrainBoard Member

    Another place you might consider as a source for ideas for your planned layout is Mike Fischer's trackplan page. Most of his plans are drawn for Atlas track components.
  9. Tony P

    Tony P E-Mail Bounces

    Yes I have Mikes page, I even e mailed him, I can't download or open the files. Damn I like a few plans he has too !

  10. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    You can give the effect of "not flat" by using a few inches of foam. The track is flat but you can carve down to creative rivers and valleys and build up to create mountains. The skillful use of a backdrop will make a huge difference.

    Consider including a way to expand your layout when space, time and money permit. Here is one of my favorite small layouts:

    This plan while shown as 2'x5' 6" could be done in 2x4. It allows for:
    Small Yard
    Continuous running
    A wide variety of scenery
    2 train operation
    Expansion in any direction by altering the main or building in spurs at this time.
  11. Tony P

    Tony P E-Mail Bounces

    Steve thanks,

    Yes nice plans those. Yes I am always thinking about not FLAT, flat to me is boring, but with a 2x4 layout I can't really go to any elevation anyway. Hmm never thought of going down into the base for valleys, I guess I have to broaden my thinking planes, thanks for entering that into my brain.
    I guess you're right a well done layout with a view block in the center is always nice. To me being a static modeler I am thnking as if I am going to build a big Dio, and have it filled completely with scenery, buildings and such, im my mind a Dio that is full of activity is interesting, but as we all know too much is not always better, planning and design are the keys to having a great layout, not just a bunch of "stuff" everywhere you might look.

    I have seen too many flat layouts that just bore me to death, so I have my work cut out for me. I wish I had more room for the layout but this is what it is for now. I'd rather have a small Master Piece than a huge monster layout thats never really done right.

    Thanks much, Tony

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