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Building the HO Railroad That Grows in N Scale

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  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Teaneck, NJ
  • 6 posts
Building the HO Railroad That Grows in N Scale
Posted by NorthernJerseyRR on Friday, April 2, 2021 8:43 AM

I'm very new to model railroading, but I've begun work on replicating the Great Northern Pacific Railroad layout in the Linn Westcott book HO Railroad That Grows. I've finally assembled all the parts I think I need to begin the process and built the table I'll be constructing the railroad on.

The last time I touched model trains was about 50 years ago when my dad started building this exact layout, which is why I'm setting about to try and faithfully recreate it as my first project. Except, because of a lack of space, I'm going to be building it in N scale and resizing everything accordingly.

I'll be posting videos on my new YouTube channel of the build process more as a way to record my growth in the hobby than anything.

Building the Layout Table

I wanted to post a photo showing my progress thus far (baby steps!), but the text editor isn't allowing me, only giving me tools to edit a photo, not insert one. Maybe because it's my first post?

Anyway, I plan to regularly update my progress through photos and video.

Cheers,

Rich

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Fullerton, California
  • 1,165 posts
Posted by hornblower on Monday, April 5, 2021 2:36 PM

Welcome back to the hobby!  Since you are already tech savvy enough to post Youtube videos, I would highly recommend that you adopt Digital Command Control (DCC) from the start as this control format has revolutionized the way we run our trains!  It is said that analog direct current (DC) power forces you to run the track while DCC allows you to run the individual trains.  Running the individual trains is SSSOOOoooo much more fun.  It also doesn't matter if you only have your start-up oval, as DCC wiring at this level is still two wires to the track, just like DC.  However, there are several operating advantages that will be readily apparent.  Since you are already comfortable using Bachmann products, you can purchase the Bachmann EZ Command DCC system as part of a DCC train set. While you'll eventually want to replace the Bachmann system with something more sophisticated, the EZ Command system is still a good (inexpensive) introduction to this technology.  As soon as you expand your layout beyond the basic layout, the advantages of DCC will become even more apparent.  If you add a couple of spurs and want to park more than one loco on the layout, DC will require you to add wiring and switches to turn power on and off to these spurs. DCC will not require additional wiring or switches since locos will not move until they have been "acquired" by the DCC throttle and told to move.  This means you can run a loco around the loop, park it on a spur, then acquire another loco waiting on another spur and run it onto the layout while the first loco stays put where you parked it.  Headlights are on, dimmed or off on demand regardless of the loco speed.  Sound is also a DCC reality, even in N scale.

My only other "before you get too far" recommendation would be to NOT scale down the track plan to a 2' by 4' size as all of us wish we had more room for our layouts.  You'll be much happier in the long run if you build your layout as close to the original 4' by 8' size as possible as the N scale trains will run better and look better on the broader curves and greater distances of a larger layout.  Even 3' by 6' would be better.  Yes, we all have to deal with our individual space limitations but go for as much as you can possibly squeeze in.  You'll thank yourself later on.

Hornblower

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 2,171 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Monday, April 5, 2021 3:19 PM

I also recommend DCC. For most home sized layouts it simplifies wiring for power down to two bus wires under the track alignment (more or less) and as many track power feeder connections you feel you may need.

If you also use non power routing turnouts, like Atlas and the new Peco Unifrog design,  the track power wiring is toy train simple. Even if you use power routing turnouts you just add track feeders to each siding from the same two wire main power bus.

You can create blocks but they don't need to be wired as blocks until you wish to add either power off switches to any siding or track section (and only one rail needs an off switch, I recommend you pick one side for all your off switches) or circuit breaker block protection if you build a large layout and don't want one short to shut down the whole layout. 

My new layout is two wire bus DCC with no isolated blocks for now. I plan to eventually isolate large sections of the layout into power districts and also several sidings will have separate off switches.

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Teaneck, NJ
  • 6 posts
Posted by NorthernJerseyRR on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 8:32 AM

Thanks for the welcome and the introduction to DCC. I've seen it on YouTube and as cool as the blocking looks in commanding trains, it's always seemed too complicated for my analog brain. Your explanation of why to go DCC from the get-go, though, is the best I've read so far and now I'm intrigued.

I looked up the Bachmann system and it does seem affordable. If I do fall down this rabbit hole of biggest, better, faster, stronger train layouts, is it easy to convert from a "beginner" system like Bachmann to something more advance? Because I did move forward with my 2x4 layout already (space is that constrained at the moment), but already I'm looking at a current basement storage room to build a wrap around layout on three walls. lol

Of course, maybe I ought to get this simple layout up and running before I start think about what I'm going to do on my next layout. Thanks again.

Cheers,

Rich

  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Teaneck, NJ
  • 6 posts
Posted by NorthernJerseyRR on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 8:37 AM

Thanks! I'm looking into the DCC systems now as a result of this thread and already planning bigger layouts to come. Also, "toy train simple" sounds right up my alley. Thanks again.

Cheers,

Rich

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 12,562 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 9:14 AM

NorthernJerseyRR
I've begun work on replicating the Great Northern Pacific Railroad layout in the Linn Westcott book HO Railroad That Grows.

When I was in High School, my friend Colin from the railroad club and his father built the "HO Railroad That Grows" from the book.

It all worked out well for them.

Have fun and...

Welcome to the Model Railroader forums.

-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.

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Fullerton, California
  • 1,165 posts
Posted by hornblower on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 12:23 PM

NorthernJerseyRR
too complicated for my analog brain.

 

On a 2' by 4' layout, the necessary DCC wiring will likely consist of only two wires between the track and Command/Booster unit. There will be no need to divide your layout into blocks.  Assuming there is physical room for them on your track, even the Bachmann DCC system will run up to 9 DCC equipped locos with no more wiring than those two wires.

In comparison, as soon as you want to run two locos independently in analog DC, you now have to provide wiring between each DC power pack and each track section (block) along with switches to connect those track blocks to the appropriate power pack as the trains move around the layout.  On a small layout, running two trains usually becomes a performance of the "toggle switch two-step." All your attention is focused on the toggle switches and little on the trains.

As your DCC layout grows, it may be necessary to beef up your track power bus to handle the additional current of several trains running simultaneously.  A small layout can be covered using two 18 or 16 gauge wires in a "+" configuration under the layout.  The "+" will allow smaller 20 to 24 gauge track feeders to be attached to the track along the front, back, left and right ends without much trouble.  Keep in mind that we are still talking about two wires (say red wires to the outside rails and black wires to the inside rails).

As you begin running trains, all you really need to know is how to assign DCC addresses to each loco (all covered in every DCC system manual).  With the Bachmann system, you have to assign each loco a number between 1 and 9.  With more advanced systems, you can use the loco's road number as its DCC address. As your DCC experience and your layout grows (or when you move on to a larger layout), your DCC system and features can grow as well.  Read, read, read. Visit other DCC powered layouts to get an idea about which systems seem best to you.  Every system has its strong suits as well as its shortcomings.  Different manufacturers consider certain features to be more important than those of another manufacturer and vice versa.  Choose the system that fits YOU and the features you want for your layout, not the system that best fits the person demonstrating a system to you.  I have operated on different layouts using DCC systems from NCE, MRC, EasyDCC, Digitrax, and Bachmann.  All have advantages and disadvantages.  I chose the MRC Prodigy Advance system for my own layout as it had most of the features I wanted at a very favorable price.  Although I constantly hear from others that the MRC systems are not expandable, I have no idea what they mean as I keep adding features to my system and have yet to toss a single component of the original starter system.  Everything is designed to be plug and play.  For instance, I started out with two tethered throttles connecting to a throttle bus I wired up using standard (cheap!) Cat5 components.  I later added the wireless conversion and two wireless throttles (the wireless receiver simply plugs into any port on the throttle bus).  I next added the MRC WiFi module allowing up to 8 smart devices to be used as wireless throttles and that module also simply plugs into any port of the throttle bus.  This means I'm up to 12 throttles on a system that can't be expanded?  True, the MRC system originally did not have a computer interface available but that is no longer the case.  In short, do your own research and find out what truly can and can't be done with each system.  

Hornblower

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 12,167 posts
Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 2:14 PM

If you build the whole GNP from the trackplan, note that you will have two reverse loops (sections of track where the train is running around the mainline oval clockwise, then enters the reverse loop and comes out running around the mainline loop counter-clockwise.) These sections have to be electrically isolated from the rest of the layout using plastic insulated track joiners instead of metal ones.

In DC, you would need to wire up DPDT toggle switches to manually change the polarity of the trackage so the engine going back to the main doesn't cause a short circuit. On a small layout, this can be tedious.

In DCC, there are automatic reverser gizmos you can hook up that do that for you, so you don't have worry about the change in polarity when going through the reverse loop.

p.s. if possible I would second the idea of building the layout on a 4 x 8 as in the plan, so those 18" radius curves that are sharp in HO scale would be broad N scale curves, allowing you to use large engines, long passenger cars, etc.

...and since you're new to model railroading, I'd strongly suggest using Kato Unitrack, rather than trying to lay cork and use sectional or flextrack:

http://www.katousa.com/N/Unitrack/g-single.html

 

Stix
  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Teaneck, NJ
  • 6 posts
Posted by NorthernJerseyRR on Thursday, April 8, 2021 3:16 PM

Looking forward to it, Kevin. Thanks!

 

 
NorthernJerseyRR
I've begun work on replicating the Great Northern Pacific Railroad layout in the Linn Westcott book HO Railroad That Grows.

 

When I was in High School, my friend Colin from the railroad club and his father built the "HO Railroad That Grows" from the book.

It all worked out well for them.

Have fun and...

Welcome to the Model Railroader forums.

-Kevin

 

[/quote]

  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Teaneck, NJ
  • 6 posts
Posted by NorthernJerseyRR on Monday, April 12, 2021 5:49 AM

In retrospect it might have been easier using the Unitrack as it took me two attempts to get the track right using the Atlas Code 80 flextrack, but in the end I was able to do it and now I've developed a valuable skill...patience!

Cheers,

Rich

  • Member since
    March 2021
  • From: Teaneck, NJ
  • 6 posts
Posted by NorthernJerseyRR on Monday, April 12, 2021 5:53 AM

I've been watching a number of videos these past few days about DCC wiring and its capabilities are obviously superior. Right now I have my layout set up as DC just so I can get the train operational and see where there were issues (my first attempt had several!). Now that it's running smooth, I'm going to explore DCC more fully.

Cheers,

Rich

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