Greetings From China....and beginner questions

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  • Member since
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Greetings From China....and beginner questions
Posted by Nightfall on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 2:16 AM

Hello there, It's Hamilton form China, I wonder if I was the first Chinese in this forum, and please bear with my poor English.

I am very new to locomotive and recently planning to build a garden railroad. I  find this forum very useful so I created an account and seeking for help...

It all starts from this year, due to the unspeakable virus I was forced to stay at home for 2 weeks and watch Thomas and Friends with my boy... He loves it and asked me to buy him a model track... You know, it's very hard to say "Nope!" to your kids. That's why I decided to build a garden railway for him, aslo for myself because I love them too.

Unlike USA, in China there are merely impossible to have a large yard or garage to have fun with model trains, because we are not allowed to build our house in the city, most of us living in apartments. Pretty much the same situation to Japan, and like Japan, HO gauge and N gauge are very popular in China because they can easily fit an indoor layout.

For me, I am lucky to have a house with a yard. It's U shaped, I have about 120 sqm area free to use, and able to build a 18 meters long straight mainline.I guess its not big enough for a gauge 1 or G scale, so I would like to go for o gauge, with steam locomotives. 

What turns out to be unlucky is that I could hardly get domestic helps, because nobody in China play O gauge railroad, I have to find all the infomation & data in English, facing both language barrier and channel barrier.  

Basically I have no experience in this area and really dont know where to start with. I used to study in the UK and Thomas the tank engine is from Britian, plus I still connected with some classmates in UK so I ask them to help at the beginning. They introduced me to a locomotive dealer and helped me to buy locos(Ace trains), but something bad happened. Without the professional help, I brought 3 coarse-scale locos, and a set of peco code 124 bullhead track, which is strictly designed for fine-scale locos. My locos and my tracks are not matched! 

Now I realized that it was stupid to act too early before you done enough research. I've been visiting youtube videos and searching topics last few days and find this forum is very nice. It's never too late to make a change, and I start to learn about this area. I've done some google search and find that UK fine-scale locos have very low compatibility, so I would stick with O gauge coarse-scale and I could choose from Lionel and MTH ...etc, I could mix American, British, European locos all togather in my yard.. It would be interesting to see 1:43; 1:45; 1:48 models mixed.

So here comes the questions;

1; There are 2-rails and 3-rails, I only know the technical difference(2-rail is positive rail + negative rail with insulation wheels, 3-rails is one central rail with current and 2 side rails are negative, and insulated picking shoes ). But what is the true difference between them practical situation. What are the pros & cons of both rails. If I go outdoor layout, which one I should choose?

2; What kind of tools do machines I need to buy? Please explain me the fuctions for them as well. Because installing railroad and scenery is a total new challenge for me.

3; Another question is tricky... With the development of technology, we already got batteries with high energy density, and tiny remote control chips (radio or bluetooth), why we still use the ”Track Powered“ trains... 

 

May the virus stay away from you and God bless Earth!

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 2:10 PM

Hello!!!

 I found your post fascinating, we all have come into this hobby from different backgrounds, and largely have to find what works best in our own personal environment. That's the thing about working outdoors: every yard is different, so, it will always be a custom job.

Different climates demand different solutions. I do not know that there is a brand of O gauge track made specifically for outdoor use. Here in Southern California, the sun is very hot, and intense. Anything plastic may not last long, unless specifically designed for outdoors, like LGB track. Your situation may not be as intense sunshine, but could be, or you may have rain, or cold weather. I don't know, but just trying to give examples that may require a modified approach. Roadbed is a varied subject, and what works well in California may not be as suitable in a place that gets very cold.

It Is not difficult to hand lay track, and that may give you a better result outdoors.

3 rail track would be for track powered operations. So, deciding first whether or not to use track power would be a good decision to make at the very beginning. I use track power, but only because I always have. It is simple to use, and troubleshoot. Personal taste, your decision.

You have many questions, I do not have answers for many of them.

But, one piece of advice: the best thing you can do is to dive in, and get started. Even if you make a mistake, you will learn from it. Eventually you will find what you like, and what works best in your environment.

Please let us know your progress !!!

Paul

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 2:15 PM

Nightfall
I am very new to locomotive and recently planning to build a garden railroad. I  find this forum very useful so I created an account and seeking for help...

 

Welcome to the forum.  You may notice that for a while, your posts may not appear right away.  Your first posts are checked by a moderator.  After several posts, the time lapse will go away.

Please keep us informed and up-to-date with your railroad progress!

York1 John       

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 2:15 PM

Double post deleted.

York1 John       

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:46 PM

Ni hao, Hamilton!

 

     If you'll not mind my saying so, Paul has the best advice, and it was the same given to me by the late Tome Trigg: get outside and get dirty! I would add another corollary as parent of young children, get something running, get ANYTHING running, and keep it running. Nothing will kill their interest faster than a train in the box. It will also help you avoid the death spiral of "analysis paralysis." Also, while I understand your space issues, I am wondering if you might be better served with any of the so-called "G" scales. Many manufacturers make short locomotives and small cars to go with them that will look at home in a confined space with tight turns.

     I blogged our own railroad's progress on this forum in a thread called "Progress on the Triple O." It'll take you from conception to the present. My yard is a bit bigger than yours, but my railroad is relatively small, so you'll be able to see what I mean by little locomotives and short trains making a big impact!

Welcome aboard! Eric

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Posted by chocho willy on Thursday, March 12, 2020 10:18 AM

Hamilton,

   First of all welcome to the country and the hobby. I have been doing garden railroading since the late 70's and although having lost my layout to hurricanes in 2004 I have remained active with running, building and modeling in the hobby, buy very little new and build using leftovers and things that catch my eye. Starting with size, if my metric con versions are correct you have almost 1/4 mile of space to use, 60 foot straightaways sounds like a plantation, my layout was about 500 feet of track 30+ switches had Roundy. roundy point to point, waterfall, mountain, river, desert, forest all in a 25' x 50' area. Try and use the largest radius curves as possible and don't make anything permanent , I was known in the club for having a different layout every month, LOL.
   To your ?s 2 rail is usually DC current and 3 rail is AC current, and I personally wouldn't suggest any O scale out side, is it done, yes big in England and Europe but again I wouldn't suggest it you have more than enough room for G scale, believe the longest straightaway I had was 10' and I prefer short trains 5-8 cars smaller cars like HLW and LGB and period years of 1920 to 1940.
   Tools needed are shovel, rake, hoe, pruning shears, wheel barrow and water
    Controls I used track power with a switch control board LGB track, but it was a constant maintains chore, I now build using battery power which allows me to run on any layout anytime, as to the newer DCC systems I will have to refer you to the newer generation. Eric has a very nice small layout with many features and operational opportunities. I would suggest you review is posts on this and several other forums, great ideas, now if you want a 30 car train pulled with modern diesels both Eric and I are out to lunch. Included are some pictures of old layout and if you would like to see builds go to https://www.pinterest.com/billbarnwell09/, good luck with you venture, Bill   

fallsold layoutlayoutcontrol

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Posted by divebardave on Thursday, March 12, 2020 2:22 PM

China is on my bucket list of places to visit before I die, I would love to stop by and visit after this Corona Virus Panic blows over

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Posted by Nightfall on Thursday, March 12, 2020 8:49 PM

Dear Paul, 

Thank you so much for your reply. The climate in China is quite different from the USA, we are "continetal climate"(I used a transator, dont know if it was a proper defination). The temperature difference of seasons are very large.

To be more specific, it varies from -10C to 35C, which is about 15F to 95F.  In winter I could acutally stood on a frozen stream or a small lake in my city, and in summer time I‘d be killed without air conditioner. 

I would like to go for 2-rail track, because it looks true to reality. Currently I know atlas and Peco. I'd start with Peco, because I am able to call them directly, we only got 7 hours in summer and 8 hours in winter time difference, I could call them in the evening and they are able to answer my call in their morning. If I choose some american brand, I have to distrub their product support person off worktime, or I have to stay up night and make a phone call.

I did call Peco and had a long conversation, and paid a lot for my phone charge...They suggest me to use their code 124 bullhead track, its nickle-silver and the plastic sleeper are UV resistance. They also told me to cover the track during poor weathers. I guess that is fine.

But another importance thing is that Peco tracks are "Fine scale", they told me that only fine scale wheelset could run on them, if I use other wheelsets, the loco would not pass the jointers. So I wonder what is the wheel of  Lionel, MTH, or other American brands. I am a Chinese, we dont have O gauge models, that why I would like to make a "international train collection", say, let American Union Pacific Big Boy and British LNER Mallard and some thomas & friends run together would be very very funny.

I don't know if they could run on the same track. I think in the USA 3-rail powered is dominate, that is okey for me, I think I could insulate the wheels and make them 2-rail.

About my progress, I guess I will let you down, we suffering from the virus and my business is damaged. I have to take care of my bussiness, also my boy is only 2 years old, that would be my top priorty. 

Also I would like to learn as much as possible, then starts to build when everything is ready. I will design the layout first, and I would seek for help in this forum for sure.

You are very nice to me and many thanks to you again!!

Hamilton

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Posted by Nightfall on Thursday, March 12, 2020 10:05 PM

Hi Hao Eric, thank you for your reply!

I can't believe I am speaking to a person lives in Hawai'i, how amazing! I always wanted to travel there!!

I would like to build a vivid look, that's why I prefer 2-rails track, also I'd prefer a larger curve which I think its true to life. I saw on youtube that many British are choosing o gauge outdoor railroad, and the locomotives run quite well, they even came with live-steam o gauge.

Frankly speaking, I am very new to model trains and my opinon will be unilateral. So please please point it out if I say something wrong, and I'd be happy to make a correction. In my opinion, British hobby fan are more into model trains, they prefer to focus on trains and dont work hard on layouts and landscape, while American hobby fan highlight layouts more than Brits. 

Like my last reply to Paul, I would not rush on this project, for the virus is damaging my business, I need focus more on my work. I will watch and learn, start step by step. Your layout is very nice and I could learn a lot from you!

Thank you very much !

 

 

 

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Posted by Nightfall on Friday, March 13, 2020 2:08 AM

 

Your conversion was correct. My yard is in an irregular shape. 

As I measured my yard, the measurements should be like this:                                                      

    ___10___                                         

    |             |                                        

    |             |

    |             |                                                  ____13____

    |             |25                                              |                 |

40|             |                                              15|                 |

    |             |                                                 |                 |

    |             |____________42_____________|                 | 25

    |                                                                                 |

    |                                                                                 |

    |______________________65_____________________|

 

 

 

How do you people in the US describe weight, you prefer pounds or kilogram? From now on in this forum I will try use American standard to describe length’ weight, temperature and etc. for making it convenient to read for you guys!

 

 

Unlike you Americans, we are not allowed to build a house in city area of China. All our houses or apartments in the city were build by real estate company by their plan & design, You could choose from them and buy your home. That means I could not do any modification to expand my current yard....yeah...it true there is less freedom in China...Really jealous of you guys....

 

I think that G scale or gauge 1 are too large for me, If I choose them, I could only build a railway. But if I go O gauge, I can have a tiny town with station & sawmill or something interesting, which is very important because my wife wants them....She is a real life acct. and controls the project budget... Yes, I am a loser in my family and my wife is in charge.... LOL (That was a joke but we both like to have some views and landscapes..)

Another problem I have to face, is that in China, the yeard is not "nature ground", take an example for my house, we are mixed with apartments in the same "community". About 90% of the residents lives in the apartments and 10% lives int house, and houses cost much more than apartments in China. If we calculate on the price by per sqft or sqmeter, a house would esaliy triple the price over an apartment. In the same community, the yard of my house is an atificial yard, the construction contractor dig the total area and build the buildings for apartment, and houses togather, then refill the house area with dirty and rocks, it called "sedimentation" if my translation is correct. 

This also add difficulty on the layout as well. Maybe I should not build on ground level directly, I should try raise the height of railways a little bit, lay them on hard bricks in order to prevent further deformation of rails.

 

Thank you for your reply!

Hamilton

 

 

 

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Friday, March 13, 2020 12:59 PM

Hello Hamilton!!!

 I can see that you are weighing the differences very carefully. This is an important first step. The difference between " Finescale" and standard 0" Toy Trains", such as Classic Lionel is the wheels. "Toy Trains" have much deeper wheel flanges, this is why Peco says they will not pass the rail joiners. Also, " Toy Trains" have much wider wheel treads. The track gauge and tolerances is not so critical. "Finescale", on the other hand, will have much smaller wheel flanges, and the wheels will be much narrower. Track gauge will be critical, and must be exact. It seems to me there is 2ways to approach this :

1. Use a larger rail size so that you can run either type,( but must overcome the electrical differences)

2. Decide for "Finescale" only, and go with the Peco

Also, the " Toy Trains" are designed to run on 3 rail track,and are Not insulated for 2rail operation. Trains designed for 2 rail Will be insulated.

There is another subset in 0 gauge: " Hi-Rail". These are scale models designed to run on standard 3 rail track, with " Toy Train" wheel contours. They usually require some sort of digital control system. I don't want to make it confusing, but want to make you aware of this when purchasing trains. These trains will be the newer Lionel, and MTH trains.

The Peco is great track, but it will lock you into 2 rail " Finescale "operation only.

If you are Not using track power, it makes things a lot easier, and the only consideration would be rail height. 

Live steam is another option.

I hope I've given you some things to think about. I wish the best of health to you and your family.Our business is down also, the whole world is. 

Feel free to ask any questions!!

Paul

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Posted by PVT Kanaka on Sunday, March 15, 2020 1:12 AM

Aloha Hamilton,

 

Yes, Hawaii is a special place!

 

If you are determined to go with O-scale, I am going to leave you in Paul's hands.  I do think you would be amazed at what you can do in "G" (actually a range of scales) to achieve the look you and your "boss" (your wife!  I refer to mine as Commander in Chief House or CINCHOUSE) are after, so keep it as an option.  Over the fiver years we have been operating our little railroad, we found a few mountains and a couple cleverly placed plants really cut up the viewing angles and gave it a sense of towns and scenery and distance. Perhaps you can find a cheap O-scale building and make a cheap "G" version of it from a box to get a sense of what will work?  We have found a lot of value in making things of  carboard and masking tape first! 

 

I know you are trying to get your business restarted as your first priority.  May I suggest you spend this time reflecting on what you want to achieve with your railroad?  We spent a year between deciding to do it and breaking ground.  This let us determine whehter or not the yard floods (it does!), how high above the ground we could build withought violating a law, what materials would really cost, and where we could safely run power.  There are a lot of things we corrected before we spent money, and you have a chance to do that now.  It will also be something fun to think about and work with as you deal with rebuilding your real life.

 

Good luck!

 

Eric

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