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Author Topic: Help convert an N gauge sceptic  (Read 438 times)

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Offline Charlton Halt

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Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« on: June 18, 2020, 04:24:39 PM »
Hi All,

How to make friends and influence people ...

I used to model in OO but that was three decades ago. Before that I dabbled with British N and it didn't really do it for me, but we're talking late '70s / early '80s. Technology has moved on considerably since then.

I'm now contemplating taking the plunge again and have plans to put a dedicated outbuilding in the garden. Permitted development checks out, but I want to avoid building regs (except Part P), so it needs to be no more than 30m2. That seemed a good size until I came to draw out some ideas in OO using AnyRail.

An obvious size is 6m x 5m. Now suppose I want to run a prototypical train of loco plus a rake of 10 coaches. That's 3.3m in OO. If I adopt a minimum radius of 3ft / 915mm for curves, I lose about 1m at each end of a run, so my 6m wall only really holds a 4m scenic section. The front of the train starts to disappear almost as soon as the brake van comes into view. So then I have to compromise and run with maybe 7 coaches. But even then it's tight fitting in a station with point work either end.

I tried alternative shapes; 7.5m x 4m, 10m x 3m and even ~6m octagonal. These were better, but still didn't give me the graceful flow I was hoping for.

So then I started looking at British N again and was astonished how good it looks. I think I can achieve what I want, but I'm still apprehensive.

My initial thoughts were GWR region in the post-war era (1945 - 1968) so I could legitimately run late steam alongside early diesel. Two-track mainline plus a branch, two or three stations with goods yards, a TMD, and a fiddle yard tucked out of the way. I know that's a lot of work and might not all be possible, but I like aiming high.

I was planning to use DCC with computer control, slow motion point motors (Tortoise / Cobalt / ??) and automated semaphore signals. This seems to apply to N as readily as OO except perhaps for DCC sound, which doesn't bother me much.

So what are my concerns?

Fragility - code 55 track looks awfully delicate and possibly difficult to lay well.
Shunting performance - slow running and clunky Rapido couplers.
Reliability - susceptibility to dust / dirt on the rails, pitting of wheels due to arcing (which is more likely due to lighter locos).
Choice of locos / rolling stock - more limited than OO.
More difficult to work with - smaller size.

Should I be worried, or is it more a case of take your time and it'll be OK?

Thanks in advance.



Online Waz

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2020, 04:34:25 PM »
To address a number of your concerns,

'Fragility - code 55 track looks awfully delicate and possibly difficult to lay well.'

No track is harder to lay well then another track, code 55 is not that fragile, and if you are damaging it laying it then id suggest you would also be damaging OO or even O gauge track as the same principles apply.

Shunting performance - slow running and clunky Rapido couplers.

You have already said you are likely to go DCC, if this is the case slow running is very good and can be further improved by adding stay alive capacitors. the clunky rapido couplers can be replaced with a number of alternatives to allow hands free shunting, the easiest option would be to fit the dapol easishunt couplings, although DG's could also be used. Both give hands free shunting.

Reliability - susceptibility to dust / dirt on the rails, pitting of wheels due to arcing (which is more likely due to lighter locos).

Ive not noticed any decrease or suspetablity in N over OO, this has been doing a direct side by side comparison on multi-gauge test tracks so both are in the same environment.
Choice of locos / rolling stock - more limited than OO.

this is down to the era you plan to model.

More difficult to work with - smaller size.

again this is down to you and your ability and motor control. it might be worth building a small diorama in both gauges and seeing which you prefer working in and if you are happy with the outcome.

Offline Newportnobby

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2020, 04:44:11 PM »
Hi, and welcome to the forum from another transition era modeller with a layout based loosely in Oxfordshire.


So what are my concerns?

Fragility - code 55 track looks awfully delicate and possibly difficult to lay well.
Shunting performance - slow running and clunky Rapido couplers.
Reliability - susceptibility to dust / dirt on the rails, pitting of wheels due to arcing (which is more likely due to lighter locos).
Choice of locos / rolling stock - more limited than OO.
More difficult to work with - smaller size.


Code 55 is stronger than code 80 as it is partly buried in the sleeper webbing and has arrows underneath showing the optimum way to bend it. I do find tracksettas help (inc straight ones)
Slow running can be affected on small locos by plastic frogs on points/crossing
Reliability is fine. Never had arcing and I clean the track with IPA fairly regularly
Choice is more limited than with 00 but still plenty to empty your wallet
The smaller size depends on your abilities but you'd soon be considering 00 as 'toys' in comparison

Online keithfre

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2020, 04:50:28 PM »
PECO code 55 track is very robust, as half of the rail is embedded in the sleepers - a clever design. If you want something simpler to lay you could go for Kato, though it looks to me like the old Triang stuff, it needs more work to make it look realistic.

I'm not sure that reliability is down to larger scale. I remember being surprised at a model railway show at the difficulties an O gauge engine was having with current pickup ;-}

As for slow running, some of my locos are Poole Graham Farish, some with only 3-pole motors, and with a good controller I can get good slow running on DC. Of course those older locos are heavier than some of the new offerings.

Offline Train Waiting

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2020, 05:01:46 PM »
Welcome to the Forum.

As to your questions.

The first three will be fine.  There are alternative couplings available and Peco Code 55 is very robust.

Yes; choice is a bit more limited, but BR(W) 1948-1968 is well served in my view.

The last one is entirely up to you.  Once 'social distancing' is a bit more relaxed, it would be ideal if you could have a play with an 'N' gauge layout to see if it suits you.

With all good wishes.

John
'Why does the Disney Castle work so well?  Because it borrows from reality without ever slipping into it.'

(Acknowledgement: John Goodall Esq, Architectural Editor, 'Country Life'.)

The Table-Top Railway is an attempt to create, in British 'N' gauge,  a 'semi-scenic' railway in the old-fashioned style, reminiscent of the layouts of the 1930s to the 1950s.

For the made-up background to the railway and list of characters, please see here: https://www.ngaugeforum.co.uk/SMFN/index.php?topic=38281.msg607991#msg607991

Offline silly moo

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2020, 05:31:44 PM »
A suggestion, before you get into N gauge hell for leather why not buy a starter set to see whether you like it? If you discover N is not for you, you havenít spent a fortune and can sell the set.

Rather start off with a small layout to test the water.

I do envy your available space and plans and Welcome to the Forum.

Offline Chris Morris

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2020, 05:34:38 PM »
I spent from childhood in the sixties to the late 1990s building layouts in 00. I then took a sabbatical for a few years and in the early years of this century I built a garden railway. Having found that the garden gets cold in the winter I decided in 2012 to build an N gauge layout.

At first I did wonder if N was too small but now it seems normal and 00 looks rather big. 00 does have more presence and there is more choice of stock. In a way having less choice could be a good thing because you have less stuff to be tempted to spend money on.
I'm on my third N gauge layout now. The brilliant thing about N is that you can run full length trains in a reasonable space. If you haven't got a 20ft long room to spare (and most of us haven't) N gauge is just about the only way of running convincing length mainline trains.
I recommend my approach. I started with a small layout and, having learned from that, I went on to build bigger ones.
Working doesn't seem to be the perfect thing for me so I'll continue to play.
Steve Marriott / Ronnie Lane

Offline GrahamB

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2020, 08:04:20 AM »
So, you're worried about slow running?
Have a look at this very boring video I made https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRkDO1eGbjo&t=14s
That's DCC with a stay alive capacitor fitted. It's running on code 55 track which is surprisingly robust. It can be difficult laying it in tight curves but you seem to be planning nice easy curves so that shouldn't be an issue.

At the bottom of this post you will find two links to my two exhibition layouts. Southbridge is GWR, code 55 and does go down to 9" radius curves. It's 9' long, 2' wide and I run five coach trains.

Although the current range of new GWR stock is limited, there is plenty on the second hand market. Also have a look at the Union Mills range. Heavy, not super detailed but bombproof.

Online Bealman

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2020, 08:11:17 AM »
G'day from Australia, mate, and welcome to the NGF.  :thumbsup:

Your last paragraph sums it up:

Take your time and it'll be OK.  :beers:
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

Offline GrahamB

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2020, 08:33:29 AM »
Forgot to say, look up Dapol Easi shunt couplings. They work perfectly on Southwark Bridge.

Offline njee20

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2020, 08:41:30 AM »
Iíd say code 55 is stronger than code 75 OO gauge track, and definitely stronger than Peco Bullhead.

The couplings are definitely the thing that betray N from a realism point of view IMO. I like that rapidos are standard among many markets, as opposed to every market in HO/OO using a different standard, but whilst there are better options for automated uncoupling most are still grossly oversized, if that bothers you. Those that arenít are generally breathtakingly fiddly. That said the struggles people have with 3-links in O Iím not sure thatís a big difference!

Iím a big advocate of the idea that N isnít really any more fiddly, itís just that the smallest things you model are different things. In OO youíd need detailed point rodding, whilst itís omission, or just a representation in N isnít as obvious. Likewise a lot of detailing youíd add in OO isnít needed, as it simply isnít visible.   

Online Bealman

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2020, 08:49:36 AM »
OO models just look like plastic kids toys to me, I'm afraid. Sorry!

(Probably brings back memories of Triang)  :beers:
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

Online PGN

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2020, 09:55:12 AM »
I've been an N gauge modeller since 1979 ... and the products of today are LIGHT YEARS ahead of the products we used back then (except, perhaps, the Peco Jubilee, which I could never afford as a boy).

I have never experienced any problems with arcing and pitting, except when my brother used to think it was funny to stop the trains by dropping a pin across the tracks, then picking it up again before I had had time to shut down the power on my H&M Clipper controller (no trip switch ... )

I find the secret to good running is scrupulous attention to cleanliness. Keep those rail surfaces clean at all times. I don't use an abrasive rubber track cleaner ... I wipe the rail heads with a solvent cleaner (meths is my solvent of choice ... but in the Norwich MRC back in the early 90s we used to use lighter fluid on our big roundy-roundy exhibition layout). Use it liberally and start running while the rails are still a little wet ... the solvent will transfer itself to the wheels, which will carry it round the track, ensuring cleanliness of both the wheels and the inaccessible parts of the track. Poor running is often a result of gunged-up gear trains, so make sure you clean off old oil before applying any new lubricant. And you only need the tiniest drop of lubricant to keep things turning nicely. Heavy carbon deposits on the commutators can also lead to sluggish and jerky starting and stopping, so make sure you clean the commutators on your motors from time to time, too.

As for N being more fiddly ... I don't see it myself. As a modeller, you have a minimum size of component that you are prepared to fiddle with. Let's say it's 1mm in your particular case. What this means is that in OO you wouldn't bother with any detail smaller than 3" on the prototype, whereas in N you wouldn't bother with any detail smaller than 6" on the prototype. The end result is that they're both equally fiddly, because the limiting factor is you, not the scale!

Getting the trains onto the track CAN be a little more fiddly in the smaller scales; but there are plenty of "putteroner" devices on the market which, if properly used, ensure correct engagement between flanges and rails every time.

For me, the really big plus of N is the ability to run "trains in the landscape" in which not just the trains, but the landscape too are realistic looking. Sure, my layout is going to be no Chee Tor or Chiltern Green, but my fields have the space to look like FIELDS, not suburban back gardens with sixteen cows crammed into them (make sure your cows are the correct breed ... cattle have rivets too, you know, and somebody out there is BOUND to want to count them  :laugh: ). The key to good scenic modelling in N is not to try to cram too much in. Fields are big, and you've got big. So have two or three big fields, not a dozen small fields, and the result will be way more satisfying because it will look right.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2020, 10:01:30 AM by PGN »
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Online Bealman

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2020, 10:20:29 AM »
Just start building. You won't regret it, and if you did, it'll be too late by then anyway!  ;) :beers:
Vision over visibility. Bono, U2.

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Re: Help convert an N gauge sceptic
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2020, 10:44:43 AM »
Funnily enough the only time I've ever experienced arcing/pitting was the other week, on a second-hand unit of slightly dubious origin. Took me a while to work out what was going on, not having experienced it before (replaced the wheelsets and the problem went away).

The only other time I've heard of this being an issue was a case of "just don't do that" (IIRC the user was running their trains in a damp garage on uneven track with an old OO controller).
Takahachikawa - Japanese and other trains

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