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Building an N scale streetcar line

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  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 4,617 posts
Building an N scale streetcar line
Posted by York1 on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 8:16 AM

With my new layout, I have room for something I've wanted.  Coming from New Orleans, I wanted to have a small streetcar line.

I'm unsure how to go about it.

I have room for a small loop, but I won't be able to connect it to the main layout tracks.  That's not an issue.

I have a DCC layout, but if need be, I could run the streetcar on DC.

Questions:

1.  I've looked online for n scale streetcars.  There were some, but they all seemed to be out-of-stock.  There were several on Ebay, but they didn't sound like what I wanted.  Does anyone know of a good source?

2.  If I can't find one to buy, I have an old short locomotive that I would consider trying to scratchbuild something and use the locomotive's motor and drive.  Since I have average to below average skills, is this something I should attempt?

3.  It would be neat to have a streetcar run automatically, with the car stopping and starting on its own.  Without going through the time of learning to program an arduino setup, does anyone know of a system like that for n scale that I could find?

Not sure if this is clear, but any help would be appreciated.  I have done a lot of searching online, but I don't seem to be able to find something easy that I want.

York1 John       

  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
  • 3,261 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 9:18 AM

Hi John,

I can't really address most of your concerns, but I can talk about #2.

If you have any thoughts of trying to scratchbuild the superstructure, you should GO FOR IT!!! Perhaps your skills are just so-so (though people tend to underestimate their abilities in this regard, I think), but building things is what improves them.

A few years down the road maybe you'll look at your streetcar and say it came out okay, or you'll decide it's not good enough anymore. You'll have more refined skills to rebuild it and do a better job if you want. Or maybe you'll put it on the shelf as a reminder of how much your skills have improved since then. Whatever way it goes, you win.

If you do decide to try, remember to show us pictures!

  • Member since
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  • From: Dearborn Station
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Posted by richhotrain on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 9:41 AM

Model Train Stuff has Bachman N scale streetcars in stock.

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 16,930 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 11:20 AM

John... Scale Rails Of Southwest Florida successfully installed a streetcar line on their N scale modular display layout. It has 5" radius curves, and runs beautifully.

Since the layout runs for public displays, they needed reliability. They got long car bodies, I believe for Pacific Electric prototypes, which I think were resin, but 3D printed might be available now. They are powered by modified Kato mechanisms from Atlas GP locomotives. The modifications were for the tight radius curves.

Of course, all the windows are blacked out to conceal the mechanism. I don't know if that is a deal breaker.

The overhead wires are all strung, but the cars get power through the rails as normal. The trolley poles are about 1/32" below the wires, but the effect is convincing enough. They could not reliably get the poles to ride on the wires.

That is all I know about N scale street cars.

-Kevin

Living the dream and happily modeling my STRATTON AND GILLETTE Railroad in HO scale. The SGRR is a freelanced Class A railroad as it would have appeared on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954, in my personal fantasy world of plausible nonsense.

  • Member since
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  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 1:06 PM

I have two HO scale trollies I operate with DCC.  They work fine now, but I had a lot of trouble with getting power from the rails.  I spent a lot of time improving the electrical path from the wheel to the decoders, almost all of that where the wheels make contact with (and transfer power to) the trucks.

Mine are one Bowser and one Bachmann.  I got both undecorated and did my own paint jobs and decals.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
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  • From: Folsom, CA (eh, outside the slammer)
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Posted by groundeffects on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 2:26 PM

For trolley bodies/shells, you may want to check out shapeways.com.

  • Member since
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  • From: Canada, eh?
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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 3:27 PM

MisterBeasley
They work fine now, but I had a lot of trouble with getting power from the rails. I spent a lot of time improving the electrical path from the wheel to the decoders, almost all of that where the wheels make contact with (and transfer power to) the trucks.

I think that an N scale trolley, even if running on DC, might also benefit from some extra weight, too.  It's unlikely to be pulling anything, but the extra weight will help to maintain better contact with the rail.

Wayne

  • Member since
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  • From: Flyover Country
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Posted by York1 on Tuesday, July 5, 2022 7:15 PM

Thanks for all the replies.

Rich, I checked out the Model Train Stuff and it looks like something I could use.  Of course, they were out of the New Orleans ones, but I think I could paint one of the other ones to match the New Orleans streetcars.

Groundeffects, I also checked out Shapeways.  If I decide to convert an old locomotive, one of Shapeway's trolley bodies might work well.

Kevin, the windows won't bother me, especially in n scale.  For this time, I don't think I will attempt to put up wires -- I'm not sure I wouldn't make a mess of that.

Mark, MisterBeasley, and Wayne, thanks for responding and the encouragement.

I'm going to keep working on the idea of the streetcar starting and stopping automatically.  I have done some Arduino projects, so that may be the direction I will go.  I did some Arduino signal lights, and that took me months to learn and perfect.  Maybe this kind of project won't be as much of a learning curve.

When I finally get around to this project, I'll try to take some pictures and post them on Weekend Photo Fun.

I love this forum!

York1 John       

  • Member since
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  • From: A Comfy Cave, New Zealand
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Posted by "JaBear" on Wednesday, July 6, 2022 6:41 AM
Gidday John, it may be a red herring as I’m uncertain as to their actual price and availability but I like the look of these.
 
 
My 2 Cents Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

  • Member since
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  • From: Dearborn Station
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Posted by richhotrain on Wednesday, July 6, 2022 8:36 AM

York1

Rich, I checked out the Model Train Stuff and it looks like something I could use.  Of course, they were out of the New Orleans ones, but I think I could paint one of the other ones to match the New Orleans streetcars.

John, check out this link. There are 10 New Orleans trolleys available.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Bachmann-N-Trolley-Car-New-Orleans-Desire-St-61086-NEW-/370830026452

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
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  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, July 6, 2022 10:01 AM

A good place to start might be with Kato "Unitram" track and accessories. Basically it starts with a two-track oval that can be added on to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQuAx-JIAkw

The original Unitram starter set was for Japanese modellers, but they do make a US version now too.

https://katousa.com/n-unitrack-unitram/

Stix
  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, July 6, 2022 11:16 AM

Another thing I though of was that you might consider running a two-unit trolley if the prototype did that.  Boston's old PCC lines ran a lot of two and even three unit trains.  It's not necessary for the prototype reason of getting more passenger capacity, but generally each trolley only has four wheels, two per side, so by doubling up you get better power pickup.  You could even wire the track power between two cars for better performance.

Someone used to make a circuit for creating a back-and-forth shuttle track.  It only works with DC units.  Another possibility is a track plan that includes two reverse loops in DCC to provide back-and-forth operation 

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 23,318 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Monday, July 11, 2022 7:08 AM

richhotrain
 
York1

Rich, I checked out the Model Train Stuff and it looks like something I could use.  Of course, they were out of the New Orleans ones, but I think I could paint one of the other ones to match the New Orleans streetcars. 

John, check out this link. There are 10 New Orleans trolleys available. 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Bachmann-N-Trolley-Car-New-Orleans-Desire-St-61086-NEW-/370830026452

Rich 

What happened to the OP?

Rich

Alton Junction

  • Member since
    February 2018
  • From: Flyover Country
  • 4,617 posts
Posted by York1 on Monday, July 11, 2022 8:24 AM

Rich, I'm still here.  I haven't bought anything yet -- but by next week I may try.

About six months ago, I took down my entire layout and started over.  There was no plan for a town or a streetcar line.

Then, as I laid track, my mind went back to my days riding the New Orleans streetcars.  I decided to check to see if it was possible to run something like that.

One issue is the space.  Since my new layout did not have this planned, it may mean changing some of what I've done.  Not real happy about that.

I'm sitting here thinking about how it will work, where it will go, how it will be operated, etc.

The truth is I should have done all this before I started the new layout.

I believe I have a preliminary plan, and I appreciate all of the help you and others have given.

Sorry about not writing back.  I have been checking this thread each day, but haven't written.

York1 John       

  • Member since
    September 2004
  • From: Dearborn Station
  • 23,318 posts
Posted by richhotrain on Monday, July 11, 2022 10:12 AM

ahh, good to hear from you John. Keep us posted as you develop your plan. Looking forward to learning what you decide to do.

Rich

Alton Junction

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