My Foray Into N Scale

ScottyB Feb 8, 2019

  1. ScottyB

    ScottyB New Member

    It's my understanding this is the place to go for N scale discussion. Lo and behold, I had a login for this site, and I just wanted to say hi.

    As a child, my grandfather had Lionel trains, then in the late 70s when they moved manufacturing to Mexico he switched to HO scale. After his passing in 1986 when I was 10, I inherited his trains and always had an HO scale layout growing up. Nothing fancy; in fact I didn't know that much about wiring. But it was fun to do. Mostly Amtrak as I love passenger trains.

    Fast forward to adulthood and 15 years ago I bought my first house. My initial goal was a small HO setup but time and technology changed so I put all the stuff from my childhood on the shelf and started from scratch. At a train show, I saw Bachmann's G scale shay and immediately fell in love with geared engines and logging. I soon switched to On30 and have been (very very slowly) collecting On30 equipment since.

    But, every time I've started a layout, I've never been satisfied. The geared engines are well documented with their own set of issues and I found I spent most of my time trying to get them to run well. And while I find the locos in On30 to be excellent, the RTR freight cars are expensive to my wallet and disappointing to my eye. (A note that I am more than happy to spend money in this hobby, but I need to be satisfied with the value.) Some absolutely great work is being done in this scale, but it is mostly beyond my talent and time available.

    My son, who is now eleven, became fascinated by N scale trains a few years ago at a train show where Kato was present. After they released the Hiawatha a few years back, I'll admit I was intrigued, but after collecting On30 for almost 15 years, I wasn't interested in changing scales. Plus, his interest was a fad... I thought...

    This past Christmas I got him a Kato N scale set which he was beyond excited about and he set it up immediately. I had a 4x8 all ready to go and he painted the backdrop himself. And here's where my N scale story begins. I found I loved the stuff myself!!!

    So in the past month I've bought more Unitrack, more Superliners, the Olympian Hiawatha, the DCC equipped Silver Streak Zephyr, and my son has bought a handful of freight cars at train shows. I'm beyond impressed with the running capability, the detail, and the size. I operate at a few local layouts and a full length train in HO scale has to be limited in size, even in the largest basements. But in N... it looks perfect to my eye! Who would have guessed? A visit to a local N scale train club and another one on vacation in Florida were both wonderful as well!

    With a train room approximately 20x32 feet, I am tempted to tear down what little I have built in On30 up to now (I started anew a few months ago and it is mostly benchwork with about 20' of track laid) and switch to N. In reality, I'll help my son along with is 4x8 and acquire more N scale trains. And if the bug is still there, I'll likely plan something much larger for the remainder of the basement.

    I would have never guessed that I'd be buying N scale diesel engines. But I am now fascinated. We've acquired nearly as many N scale cars in just 2 months than I have On30 cars in 15 years. And when I come into the basement, I am playing with my son's N scale trains far more than the On30.

    And that's what brings me to this site. My name is Scott, and I've always loved model trains and enjoying them with my son. And N scale has renewed my love for this hobby. And with that I say hello to everyone here!

  2. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    Welcome to TrainBoard Scott! For what it's worth, Atlas produced Shays in N Scale years ago (several releases actually) that were well received. If you someday determine to buy one, you'll want to do some research because each release was mechanically a bit different.
  3. SF Chief

    SF Chief TrainBoard Member

    chandlerusm and Hardcoaler like this.
  4. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

    What a great story and hello to a fellow N Scaler, if that's a word. I think your are going to love N Scale as you have already stated! So it was a gift to yourself, I mean your son, at Christmas that started this? Sounds like you and your son are in for some quality time together. Remember this time well!

    Best of luck and enjoyment to both of you! You said something about having DCC already. Was his set DCC he (you) got for Christmas?
  5. thomas

    thomas TrainBoard Member

    And once you get past the just running trains aspect you might want to try the realism part to make it even more enjoyable by doing some weathering, and if you feel you can't weather you can always purchase from someone who does. The realism part is what I love about model rr and especially in N Scale since it's so small and challenging. :) nm4_pe.jpg p2_pe.jpg
    dualgauge, Tony Burzio and Hardcoaler like this.
  6. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member

    Welcome to the Trainboard and N scale.

    I was not aware that the On30 stuff had problems.

    As others already have indicated, Atlas has done two runs of Shays, but, there are differences between the two runs. I prefer the later runs. They run well. MT and B-mann sell logging cars. There are several possibilities for the cabooses. MDC sold and Athearn sells thirty four foot passenger cars if your logging operations need them. B-mann even sells 44 and 70 tonners if you want diesels for logging. Logging: sharp curves, nasty grades, crummy track, beat up equipment--perfect for model railroading.
  7. porkypine52

    porkypine52 TrainBoard Member

    Greetings Scotty Glad to see you here. Getting into N-Scale can be eye opening. There is a lot to offer in the scale. Please don't get caught up in the idea that you have to have everything you see. Ending up with a room full of trains and NO place to run them can put a small damper on the whole idea. You mentioned about visiting a local N-Scale Club, there is an excellent place to start. Those people can lead you into the N-Scale area. What city are you in? Could there be other Model Railroad Clubs in the area? Is there a division of the National Model Railroad Association(NMRA) active in the area? I've been an NMRA member for a long time, and have seen a lot of layouts. Home, club, modular and corporate layouts have been opened up to see. I've had the pleasure of operating on quite a few layouts also. You have seen many of them featured in Model Railroader, Railroad Model Craftsman, N-Scale etc etc. All possible with my long standing membership in the NMRA.
    Any model railroad SWAP MEETS in your area? There is a good place to connect up with your local modelers. I'm not really talking about Commercial Shows, but the local shows/swap meets sponsored by a local train club or maybe local NMRA Division. See: for an example (small shameless plug[LOL]) This type Sale/Swap Meet is where you can pick up THE BARGAINS!
    Model Railroading is a great hobby. Very Family oriented, you won't find a bunch of bums, drunks and druggies invoked.
  8. ScottyB

    ScottyB New Member

    Thank you all! Yes, this all started since Christmas, although my son has been very interested in N scale for several years, so it's been in the back of my mind a little. I finally broke down and got him a set since he was not interested at all in my narrow gauge. Like most kids, he wants to model what he sees outside, which is Amtrak, CP and UP in our area. He had an HO set for a while but was disappointed on how little could make it around the 18" curves of his 4x8. So he's been wanting N scale for quite some time. I always balked at the idea as we already have On30 and HO, as well as a few G scale models and my grandfather's Lionel on the display shelves. Why add another scale to our already crowded basement? :)

    The set I got him is not DCC, although the Silver Streak set I just got (stunning by the way) is DCC. On my On30 layout I use DCC via a Sprog 3 and a laptop, allowing the use of old cell phones for full wireless control of the layout. It is actually very cool and way cheaper than any of the brand name setups. I use Tam Valley boosters making for an entire DCC setup that was cheaper than your basic locomotive. So any large N scale layout would be DCC.

    On30 is a wonderful scale, don't get me wrong. I love the stuff I have, and the decision to rebuild has not been made yet. Their geared engines have a long history of gear issues, which Bachmann has, to their credit, tried to correct. That said, as stated above, I like to get value of all my model railroad purchases. When On30 freight cars were 3 for $39, I thought they were great! Now that they are $45 and up each, I don't think they are worth that and my purchases slowed to almost nothing once the prices went up about 8 years ago. Also, I read the NG&SLG religiously and most On30 layouts look exactly the same due to the limited equipment available. There is some great inspiration available in On30 however, most notably Troels Kirk and Scott Robertson who each have phenomenal websites.

    For N scale, I will most likely stick with the modern era as that is what my son is interested in. Of course, the occasional special run will come through, thus the Hiawatha and Silver Streak. Since I was a kid, I've always enjoyed long passenger trains! I always thought my narrow gauge trains seemed perfect for a home layout - short, slow and highly detailed. But seeing these full length, scale sized long passenger trains on a 4x8, along with a few great N scale club layouts we've seen with the great modeling that goes with that, and I am very intrigued on what can be done in a basement our size in N scale. Very tempting to switch.

    Thanks for the photos, Thomas. Very inspirational!

  9. ScottyB

    ScottyB New Member

    And to add to what Porkypine just wrote, yes I am very active with the model railroad community. I live just south of Milwaukee so there are many, many wonderful layouts to visit and I operated at a few on a regular basis (all are HO scale). I am not a member of NMRA as the chapter here is filled with too much politics. We have plenty of swap meets, including one monthly a block from my house, which is where my son has acquired most of his freight cars.

    Thanks for the link, I'll look at it!

  10. DCESharkman

    DCESharkman TrainBoard Member

    My 9 year old daughter loves the trains and now she has her own as well. Nothing beats the time running trains with her....
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  11. Tony Burzio

    Tony Burzio TrainBoard Supporter

    Welcome! Here are a few pointers for N Scale I learned starting out. There are very good and very bad locomotives in N Scale, and they are not labeled as such. Buy Kato, you can pass them on to your grandkids. Get an NMRA track gauge. Weight is important for cars. Microtrains couplers work best. You can clean loco wheels with 91% alcohol and a paper towel. Gauge your loco wheels, then again every time you touch the frames.

    That’s about it, you now know about as much as everyone else!
  12. ScottyB

    ScottyB New Member

    Thanks Tony! Yes, the two locos we own already are Kato and I'm well aware of their reputation. They run flawlessly and like I said above, I don't mind paying for quality! I'd rather have a few locos that run well than several dozen that are mediocre. I put just a little gear lube on the gears underneath before first run and they run shockingly smooth, especially compared the my On30 stuff.

    I've read a lot about the MT couplers and will standardize on those for freight cars. For the Kato passenger sets I'll leave those alone as they will rarely if ever get switched around. I really like the bethgons that Kato makes and I'll worry about those when/if we ever acquire them.

    I've been cleaning loco wheels on all my other scales with CRC 2-26 electrical contact cleaner. Seems to work great and I use it to clean track as well. I do need to get a gauge and it's near the top of the "next to buy" list.

    So I'm trying to figure out with my son... small N scale layout mostly on his 4x8 and a larger On30 setup? Or... vice versa? I did a very very rough track plan basic concept on Xtrkcad in the area we have and it's stunning what you can fit into our area, nearly 4 scale miles of mainline track and then some. On the flip side, he'll be well out of the house by the time it's 1/4 complete. :) I already have nearly everything I need for the On30 and smaller N so that's the leading candidate.

    But the thought of long scale size trains is pulling at me!

    Much appreciated everyone!

    Tony Burzio likes this.

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