A whole “N”ew world

While the 3 rails of O don’t really bother me (quite the contrary actually, I love the benefits it conveys in regards to reversing loops, train detection, and electrical connectivity) I had previously lamented the lack of availability of certain models in O scale along with the high cost of rolling stock and locomotives. And being the great listener is, my wife took note.

To my surprise Christmas morning, I opened one of my gifts and found a Kato N ES44AC Freight Train set. So cool! I wasted no time in getting the oval of track setup on the kitchen table and got the train running. The set is pretty great, it includes an oval of Kato Uni-track, a locomotive, six freight cars, and a transformer.

I wasted no time in designing a track plan and building a table. I ended up using the Kato Amherst 2005 layout as inspiration, mostly due to its compact size along with interesting track plan. Because I had a bit more space available, I ended up increasing the radius of all of the curves to accommodate larger rolling stock as well as added 248mm straights to lengthen the plan:

For those interested, here is a parts list for the layout.

Within a couple of days, I built a table for the new layout with tabletop dimensions of 900mm x 1800mm and a total height of 1150mm (including casters and 2″ insulating foam)

Additionally, I wasted no time in picking up a few additional locomotives that are rare or hard to find in O – compared to O scale, N scale locomotives are a bargain!


Fox Valley Models NS Heritage Virginian SD70ACe

Broadway Limited Imports BHP AC6000

Broadway Limited Imports Chessie SD40-2

One cool thing I didn’t know was that some N-scale locomotives now have sound onboard – pretty amazing! I picked up two Broadway Limited Imports locomotives that have Paragon3 sound along with Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder is a pretty great idea – because N scale necessitates very tiny electronics and speakers, it’s impossible to produce the low frequency sounds real locomotives emit. To work around this issue, Paragon3 sound boards include a small FM transmitter onboard which transmits low frequency sounds to a receiver, which then connects to a subwoofer. Because low-frequency sounds aren’t discernibly “localized,” the fact that the subwoofer is below the layout doesn’t really impact the perception that the sound is all coming from the running locomotive. The overall effect is pretty cool, and now my N-scale locomotives sound truer to the real thing than my O scale models!

As for rolliing stock, I picked up some additional freight cars, mostly a mix of Microtrains and Atlas, at a recent model train show.

I’ve started getting the sub-terrain set up by cutting in a river and pond into the base foam and using Woodland Scenics 3% incline grade

Next up I will be picking up a Digitrax Zephyr DS52 and a few decoders (one for the Kato and one for the FVM locomotives) as well as decoders for the turnouts. I’m pretty excited about the Digitrax controller as my plan is to implement JMRI on a Raspberry Pi to allow me to control the layout using a smartphone or web UI

Admittedly I am really enjoying the 2-rail N-scale life, it’s presented a lot of opportunities and challenges that I haven’t had to face with the O scale trains. I’ll try to keep the blog up to date as we make progress on both layouts!