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N vs HO (switching & realism vs available space)

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N vs HO (switching & realism vs available space)
Posted by florida modeler on Thursday, October 15, 2020 5:52 PM

Hi,

 

I just reacently posted on here asking for help/ideas for track plans for a new port themed layout I am starting. I now have a track plan that I am very happy with. Thank you to everyone that gave me suggestions on that, it really helped!

 

My question now is scale, my initial thoughts were HO scale but now N scale is an option. I would keep the track plan the same for either scale including the 24" radius curve minimum. The only difference would be the HO plan has #6 turnouts while the N scale would use #7 & #8.

 

I am having trouble deciding on what scale to use. My number one preference is a tie between having realistic sized scenes with a good sence of depth, which favors N, and detail and realism, which favors HO.

 

I have a couple major questions I that will help me decide, hopefully.

How reliable are todays N scale trains when

switching?

I have researched N scale switching and most people say that on tighter turnouts and curves N scale cars tend to derail when shoving sue to the truck mounted couplers. Knowing that, most of the N scale cars I have already, have truck mounted couplers. Would I still have issues with them derailing on the #7 & #8 turnouts and 24" curves?

 

My pros and cons of both:

HO Pros

  - known switching reliability

  - amazing detail on trains and in scenes

  - gives a more realistic feel due to size

  - easier for me to scratch build

HO Cons

  - slightly reduced realism due to curves

  - shorter trains

  - smaller and/or fewer scenes

 

N Pros

  - longer trains

  - more realistic curves in relation to scale

  - bigger/more scenes

N Cons

  - lack of detail on trains and in scenes

  - possibility of having to convert several cars to

    body mount couplers to improve switching

    reliability

  - harder to see

 

Thank you all for for patience and help!

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Posted by Paul3 on Friday, October 16, 2020 10:39 AM

I'll throw in another plus for HO scale on switching layouts: it's a lot easier to read reporting marks and car numbers.

The thing about scale that only you can decide is your scenery-to-train ratio.  It's sort of like the zoom on your camera.  N-scale is basically a wide-angle lens, O-scale is zoomed in, G-scale is super-zoomed.  HO and S are more mid-range scales.  It all depends on how you see them in your mind; do you want to be watching your trains from a distance and seeing more scenery?  Do you want to be right up close and practically smell the grease and oil?  Or do you want something in between?

Most people, like myself, pick HO.  It's got the widest possible range of products because there are more HO modelers than all other scales put together.

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Posted by tstage on Friday, October 16, 2020 11:05 AM

What era are you modeling?  If you will be including steam switching on your layout then HO is a better option because steam in N-scale is still VERY limited compared to HO.

Tom

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Posted by Ulrich on Friday, October 16, 2020 11:29 AM

Also depends on your age and eyesight. HO scale is a little easier to handle. As for realism, that depends on what you model. A train with one engine and 6 cars was/is realistic on some branches. But if you're modelling 150 car trains you'd better have alot of room even with N scale. Of course, for most people price and availability are considerations also. If you're modelling something more to the mainstream then either N or HO are fine, but if your interests are more esoteric you're likely to have more selection in HO. 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Friday, October 16, 2020 11:40 AM

I’ve been modeling in HO scale since 1951 and very happy with the size.  My layout is small compared to most on the Forum at 14’ x 10’ and it’s in our two car garage.  It’s mounted on casters so it can be shoved against the wall to make room for our car.  I must add that’s never been done in 33 years.

I tried to get my Grandson (8 at the time) interested in model railroading by building him (with his help) an N gauge 4’x8’ layout.  After about 8 or 9 months he gave up model railroading.

After working for so many years in HO I found it difficult to really get into N scale.  For one back in 1992 there wasn’t near as much available in N as there was in HO, it’s better now days but HO is still more predominant.  

I was 55 yrs old back in 1992 and even then I found it much more difficult to work with the smaller things.  Now old shaky hands Mel wouldn’t be able to do much at all in N scale, if any.

I still do pretty good tinkering around with my layout but as I have aged it has become harder and harder to work on my trains.  So keep in mind getting old is the pits, the bigger the better!


Mel



 
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Posted by florida modeler on Friday, October 16, 2020 11:45 AM

Thank you both for responding.

Paul3,

That is a good point about reading the reporting marks, I didn't even think about that. Also your comparison to camera angles definitely helps to get an idea of the scene.

Tstage,

I am modeling today on an imaginary CSX owned short line set in Southern Florida. I am aiming for a feeling similar to the Florida Central Railroad with a blend of Miami's Downtown Spur. It includes names of real customers from Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville. I am intrested in running the rare passenger train, maybe a buisness car train or an excursion that runs only on the weekends with a small steam locomotive.

Your questions have made me think of a follow up question.

My longest cars will be 62 foot bulkhead flats and the rare 1 or 2 car passenger train. If I dropped my minimum radius from 24" to 22" to gain a little bit more passing siding length, will it drastically reduce the realism?

Thank you again.

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Posted by florida modeler on Friday, October 16, 2020 11:57 AM

Rr_Mel,

Since my original post about my track plan, my layout has grown a bit to include a removable section that allows continuous running.  My total layout is 9'8"x13' with a 3 track yard/visible staging area that has a longest track of 50". Are you running modern equipment? If so what radius curves do you use? With my yard and its drill track, the first industry switch is only about a car length away. I am trying to get the smallest curves possible without losing the realism too much so that there is a sense of distance between them. If I can't gain any more distance, do you have any ideas on scenic dividers fitting for South Florida?

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, October 16, 2020 12:15 PM

florida modeler
How reliable are todays N scale trains when switching?

We do a lot of switching on Randy's N scale NORFOLK SOUTHERN layout with no problems. This was built 20 years ago. I can only assume more modern equipment would be even better.

HO Pros:

1) Known switching reliability - Yes

2) Amazing detail on trains and in scenes - You still need to work for the detail.

3) Gives a more realistic feel due to size -I think you need G scale for size hefty realism.

4) Easier for me to scratch build HO - That is true

Cons:

1) Slightly reduced realism due to curves - That is a compromise

2) Shorter trains and fewer scenes - Another compromise

N Pros:

1) Longer trains - Oh Yeah!

2) More realistic curves in relation to scale - So True!

3) Bigger scenes - Another big plus.

N Cons

1) Lack of detail on trains and in scenes - Only really an issue in photographs.

2) Possibility of having to convert several cars to body mount couplers - Randy and I have converted hundreds.

3) Harder to see - Yes. 

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by MARTIN STATION on Saturday, October 17, 2020 7:59 AM

  If you are only doing a switching layout in N scale, you could look at some of the more premium cars which are highly detailed like ScaleTrains, top end Atlas, Athearn, Intermountian and others that have fantastic detail like indvidual grab irons, body-mounted couplers and etched metal details.

  As far as locomotives, for 4 axle Fox Valley Models has some highly detailed, road specific engines like their GP60s that not only run great, but you can buy these direct from FVM with all the details like the grab irons and windshield wipers and sunshades added already. These are also very easy to DCC. Also Atlas just released some new GP38 locos with road specific details like their NS gp38.

  Also don't over look Kato, while they have a lot of molded on detail, the thin, crisp paint makes them look more scale sized and these run fantastic and  are easy to maintain. N scale has come a long way in recent years and if you would take a close look at Scaletrains six axle Dash 9 or GEVo ET44ac locomotives you will see what I mean. 

  A long time ago someone said that in model railroading,"in O scale it's the locomotive, in HO it's the train, and in N scale it's the railroad". In other words, the larger the scale the more focus on detail, the smaller the scale the focus is on the overall scene or the "big picture".

Ralph

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Posted by NorthBrit on Saturday, October 17, 2020 8:15 AM

May I add my two cents worth as a UK modeler?

What i have found on many N gauge layouts is,  because the modeler has a lot of space they get the idea it must be filled with railway tracks etc.

The trick, I find if having N gauge. is to have a  HO plan in the space available.   The stations can be longer.  The curves more gentle.  Surprisingly,  one sees a more pleasing layout in the scenery.

Whatever you choose to do,  the most important thing is to enjoy it.  

Happy modeling.

David

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Posted by trwroute on Saturday, October 17, 2020 8:17 AM

All I know is, I'm 57 and am just beginning an N layout on a hollow core door.  I originally started in N back in '74, went to HO in the 90's, modeled a bunch of different narrow gauge scales and gauges, and now I'm back to a small N scale layout.  I am also planning a small HO layout so I can have both worlds.  Get tired of one, work on the other!

Chuck - Modeling in N, HO scales and anything narrow gauge

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Saturday, October 17, 2020 8:45 AM

NorthBrit

The trick, I find if having N gauge. is to have a  HO plan in the space available.   The stations can be longer.  The curves more gentle.  Surprisingly,  one sees a more pleasing layout in the scenery.

My philosophy in a nutshell.

And vice-versa the other way around . . .  On my N-scale layout, today, I could rip up all the track and lay HO stuff in its place and have an uncluttered layout on the selfsame benchwork. Even the helix could be used. The 29" radius would be a little tight in HO, but still functional, and the all-thread rods would need to be adjusted for clearance.

But, I don't think I'd ever commit such an atrocity . . . 

Robert

LINK to SNSR Blog


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Posted by florida modeler on Saturday, October 17, 2020 5:00 PM

Thank you all for your replies so far.

Now knowing that N scale is just as reliable as HO is a big plus for N. The points you all have made are my big hold ups. I have always believed in the less is more approach to a track plan. To the best of my ability the HO plan follows that logic already so naturally the N scale one does so even more.

My biggest issue is deciding what is personally most important. The realism thru bigger scenes and broader curves offered by N. The trade off being they are less detailed. Vs the more realistic feeling and look that is offered by HO due to its physically larger size and greater detail. Its trade off being smaller but more detailed scenes and slightly less realistic curves. These are the reasons that after I finished the track plan on the computer in HO, I redid it in N. I just have to decide what is highest priority to me personally.

Thank you all!

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Posted by MARTIN STATION on Saturday, October 17, 2020 5:17 PM

  Best of luck! Please let us know how it turns out. Just remember, someday when the one you choose starts to lose it's appeal you can always start over with the other, that's one of the many things makes this hobby fun. 

Ralph

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Posted by RR_Mel on Saturday, October 17, 2020 6:05 PM

florida modeler

Rr_Mel,

Since my original post about my track plan, my layout has grown a bit to include a removable section that allows continuous running.  My total layout is 9'8"x13' with a 3 track yard/visible staging area that has a longest track of 50". Are you running modern equipment? If so what radius curves do you use? With my yard and its drill track, the first industry switch is only about a car length away. I am trying to get the smallest curves possible without losing the realism too much so that there is a sense of distance between them. If I can't gain any more distance, do you have any ideas on scenic dividers fitting for South Florida?

 

I model the Southern Pacific of the 1950s era, lots of heavy steam and six axle diesels.

I went with the largest curves that I could get within my projected layout size.  My mainline radiuses are 28” to 30”, my tightest planned curve of 26” ended up having to be reduced to 24”.  I made the one really big error of putting a turnout at a vertical transition and all of my Proto diesels would derail at the turnout.  Every other manufactured locomotive I own would clear the mistake.

I ended up moving the turnout 18” from the transition making the radius 24”.   All my yard turnouts are Atlas Custom Line #4, all my mainline turnouts are Atlas Custom Line or Peco #6.  All my locomotives and rolling stock clear the #4 turnouts at yard speed.

My 85’ passenger cars clear the #4 turnouts but I rarely put them on the rails, they look out of place running with my 72’ Athearns.

I spent a lot of time coming up with my track plan.  I started out with a “Must Have List”, mountains, a trestle, a through Truss Bridge, a river or creek, a turntable and roundhouse capable of handling huge articulated locomotives (130’), a double crossover and I worked everything in.

My layout is a twice-around with a double crossover.




The grades worked out a bit steeper than I wanted but at 3½% all my locomotives can pull fairly long consists, my longest track between tunnel ports is 12’.  A pair of E7s with13 passenger cars and a Cab Forward or AC-9 with 20 freight cars.  All my passenger cars are over weight and all of my freight are a bit on the light side.

My E7s have super pulling power with 8oz drawbar each and my Cab Forwards and AC-9s have 6oz drawbar.


Mel



 
My Model Railroad   
http://melvineperry.blogspot.com/
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, October 17, 2020 7:37 PM

florida modeler
The realism thru bigger scenes and broader curves offered by N. The trade off being they are less detailed. Vs the more realistic feeling and look that is offered by HO due to its physically larger size and greater detail. Its trade off being smaller but more detailed scenes and slightly less realistic curves.

This might sound crazy, but part of my reason for switching from HO to N scale was because I had LESS space. N scale looks so good with a high scenery-to-trains ratio. It does not look as good in less space.

I only had 2 feet by 8 feet, so HO scale it was.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by rrebell on Sunday, October 18, 2020 9:35 AM

Part of your problem is you want too much. Passenger cars ussually are longer than freight, this limits you alot in a small space. Example, I use 18" radius but the only thing longer than 40' are flatcars and it looks fine around inside and outside curves, 50' do not for boxcars, though they run fine. Now as to swtching abilaty, both can be made to work, but what kind you doing, magnetic or manual. It is hard enough to get even close to 100% reliability in HO, so N scall is proubly less just because of spacing between cars if nothing else. Also speed has a scale. If you are at 5mph in HO it will be 10mph in N if things are moving at the same real rate of speed.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Sunday, October 18, 2020 12:19 PM

ROBERT PETRICK

On my N-scale layout, today, I could rip up all the track and lay HO stuff in its place and have an uncluttered layout on the selfsame benchwork. Even the helix could be used. The 29" radius would be a little tight in HO, but still functional, and the all-thread rods would need to be adjusted for clearance.

But, I don't think I'd ever commit such an atrocity . . . 

Robert

Considering others have probably done what you describe in HO, don't you think atrocity is a strong word and may be taken as insulting to some members here?

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Posted by cuyama on Sunday, October 18, 2020 12:57 PM

HO scale is fine, N scale is fine.

Many people who've never worked with N scale are eager to dismiss it.

But switching layouts in N scale work fine and can look great. Exhibit A is M.C. Fujiwara's well-done N scale Alameda Belt Line switching layout, modified from one of my plans.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgrJ8Bxwupg

Byron

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Posted by HO-Velo on Sunday, October 18, 2020 3:56 PM

cuyama
M.C. Fujiwara's well-done N scale

Some years back I was fortunate enough to see some of M.C.'s fine N scale module work up close at a Crane Bay Pavilion train show in Richmond, Ca.  Was also amazed by the high level of detail and relibility in a Z scale modular layout there on display.

Regards, Peter  

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Posted by hornblower on Monday, October 19, 2020 2:01 PM

I am fortunate to get to operate on several HO and N scale layouts. As far as operation, modern N scale trains are very reliable and I find that the Micro Trains N scale couplers are often easier to manually uncouple than Kadee HO scale couplers (sometimes the Kadee's just refuse to let go).  Yes, N scale reporting marks can be a pain to read, especially on wheathered rolling stock.  However, this problem can be greatly reduced by including a photo of each car on the car cards.  This allows operators to simply look for a car that matches the photo instead of having to actually read the car number.  Of course, this is less help when similar looking cars are spotted near each other or when running a block train of similar cars.

Hornblower

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Posted by rrebell on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 11:04 AM

You are right, a lot of the N scale stuff runs great. Like I said before though that scale speed is a factor, you really notice this on even larger scales.

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