Choo Choo Charlie Was An Engineer....
August 18, 2007 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I have come into a large collection of N-Scale trains, rolling stock and track and would like some pointers to good websites for small layout practices etc. moen-sigh.

I have every thing i would need, and probably too much. My problem is that all the model railroading sites are just drivel, poorly maintained and just difficult to get through. For example, the good sites are all just about these huge, impressive monster layouts. I just want something that is for starters, but with a little scenery that is a bit beyond the standard green grass/black road thing.

Can anyone point me to a good model railroading site that may have some info I can use for a small 4x5 foot layout.
posted by lampshade to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
To be honest, I think you need to look offline. I don't know if it's because many people who are interested in model railroading just aren't very plugged in or something else, but I think you'll find a lot more information from dead-tree sources than you will online anywhere. There are a ton of books and "special edition" magazine issues around, covering pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about setting up a layout ...but I doubt much of that information has ever been put online.

A good start might be to just page through the current issue of a model-RR mag. I think the biggest is just called "Model Railroader" (it's the 'blue one' and should be easy to find in any hobby shop, or even most bookstores). In addition to the regular mags, they also put out some card-bound books that are just layout tips and ideas. They should also be easy to find in any good hobby shop that stocks model railroad stuff.

The other magazine that used to be around was called "Model Railroading" (aka the 'green one') and might be a little harder to find is no longer in print. IIRC it used to be a little more technical.

If I were you, I'd find a local hobby shop that sells model train stuff, and drop by and look through their selection of books and magazines (if they don't have a rack of books and magazines, find a different store). Googling "model railroad stores illinois" turned up this place, which looks good if you're anywhere near Decatur. If going to a B&M store is really out of the question for you, I'd just bite the bullet and order up a few N-scale books. Most of them aren't that expensive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:41 PM on August 18, 2007

Check your local library, they will usually have a few books. I've always been kind of sad about the lack of good pages on model railway stuff. I should dust off the old trains...
posted by glip at 9:29 PM on August 18, 2007

Model Railroader is part of the web site, and has some useful information online. But as said, your local hobby shop will likely have a number of "small layouts you can build" books. Walthers is the big supplier in the hobby, if you simply want a product reference. might be able to help, they seem to have fairly active forums.

The beginner's section at the National Model Railroad Association is actually fairly decent in giving simple introductions to a few different topics.

I'm not currently into modeling, but when I'm too old and creaky to make sawdust or ruin old cars I hope to get back into it. I really enjoyed it when I was younger.
posted by maxwelton at 10:40 PM on August 18, 2007

I suggest you contact the Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club. They don't seem to do anything in N, but they'd know who does.

There is a popular activity called modular layout building, in N Scale. The idea is that you build part of a layout that will connect to other people's partial layouts, and get together with a bunch of them to assemble one big layout. Then everybody can run their trains on the thing. It looks like fun, and you can meet a lot of people who know a lot about layout building.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:44 AM on August 19, 2007

Oops. The Garfield-Clarendon Model Railroad Club. The 5th Dimension don't have anything to do with model railroads, so far as I Know.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:47 AM on August 19, 2007

Micro/Small Layouts for Model Railroads.

Like other scales, N scale suffers from the fact that most of the model railroading literature assumes HO scale, which has 80+ per cent of the market.

But some of the advice is, shall we say, cross platform. In that vein, absolutely, absolutely get John Armstrong's Track Planning for Realistic Operation. See also Iain Rice's books, Small, Smart and Practical Track Plans and Mid-sized and Manageable Track Plans, both from Kalmbach -- most examples in Rice's books, however, are HO.

N scale's advantage is (obviously) its size: you couldn't more than a circle of track in HO in a 4'×5' space, or an industrial switching layout with only a few cars, but you have a few more options in N.

As an example, see this layout (self-link: my photo), which is only 5'×3' (more photos).

I second modular layout building: it's quite popular in N. See the Ntrak web site.

Coxy's Blog is worth a look: he builds in N scale.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:06 AM on August 19, 2007

N Scale magazine was pretty awesome when I used to get it.
posted by jdfan at 9:12 AM on August 19, 2007

Look up a local hobby shop and head in there. Tell 'em what you got and what you're looking to do. They may even be able to sell you a sort of kit that has all you need to do a little diorama. That's exactly what my dad did when he started getting into trains - he made a small scene to get the hang of things.

Also, if you decide you want to do a full town/scene after trying out the bitty one, don't be afraid of getting a kit that has a pre-designed layout. It still involves a lot of time and creativity, but is less daunting for a noob.

Have fun!
posted by radioamy at 3:08 PM on August 19, 2007

Trainboard has useful and friendly forums.
I second model railroader magazine as a learning place - go to the 2nd hand book shop and pick up a dozen for $5, you probably aren't that interested in the latest and greatest releases etc. if you are just getting started.
posted by bystander at 12:05 AM on August 20, 2007

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