Please Provide Advice For A Newbie!

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Exit109GTI

New Member
Hey everyone!

I've wanted to build a model railroad since I was in middle school, and a few months ago I bought my first house. At last I have room for a layout!

I went to a train show over the weekend and my G/F and I picked out a couple of trains, rolling stock, and some track.

Now if I could have some advice and feedback please...

I'm going to start building my benchwork this weekend, I'll be using 1x4 for the box frame and joists, 1x3 for the legs, 1x2 for supporting the legs, OSB for the sub roadbed, pink foam for the roadbed. All the 1x? will be pine. Does this seem correct?

I'll be using atlas 80 gauge track, and I was wondering if I could use the turtle or other third party switch machine to run my atlas remote turnouts?

How exactly should I wire the feeders to the rails? Inside, outside, bottom?

Where do you guys buy your feeder wires? What gauges do you use?

How do you connect the feeder wires to the bus wires?

I'm sure I can think of more questions soon, thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to help a beginner!
 

HaggisKennedy

Coal Shoveler
What kind of trackplan are you building? Will it be a 4x8 oval type? Or, will it be some kind of linear, point-to-point, or even out and back (point-to-loop)?

For the non-oval folks, they use the L-girder benchwork method; your 1x4s are the frame, with 1/2 x 1/2 risers for the sub-roadbed.

For those doing the oval thing, like me, I use the 1x4s to build a box, then glue 2" pink foam onto it. That is the 'tabletop', the roadbed can be cork or whatever else glued to the foam.

I use sawhorses to support the frames, but you can use 2x4s or 2x2s if your layout is lightweight. I don't know if 1x3s will be strong enough....

If you use the Atlas custom turnouts, then a Tortoise motor will work fine with them.

Wiring feeders can be done many ways. I think most folks solder them to the outside of the rails; that way the blob won't interfere with the wheel flange. Another alternative is to solder under the rail. If you use railjoiners, solder the wire to the underside of that. Feeder wires can be 18-22 ga. Solder them to the buss wires; I use RED for the right side rail, BLACK for the left. Feeder wires are colored the same.

Alternate connection method is the Scotchlok "Suitcase" connectors.

Kennedy
 

CBCNSfan

Registered Member
Staff member
Exit109GTI said:
Hey everyone!

I've wanted to build a model railroad since I was in middle school, and a few months ago I bought my first house. At last I have room for a layout!

I went to a train show over the weekend and my G/F and I picked out a couple of trains, rolling stock, and some track.

Now if I could have some advice and feedback please...
Lot's of advice around here, and it's free :D Just ask, sometimes it takes a litle while.
I'm going to start building my benchwork this weekend, I'll be using 1x4 for the box frame and joists, 1x3 for the legs, 1x2 for supporting the legs, OSB for the sub roadbed, pink foam for the roadbed. All the 1x? will be pine. Does this seem correct?
WOw! Ok soundsOK maybe, but how large is the layout going to be? 1X4 and 1X3 sounds right OSB I'm not familar with and 1X2 leg support I'm not sure of what you mean

I'll be using atlas 80 gauge track, and I was wondering if I could use the turtle or other third party switch machine to run my atlas remote turnouts?
Don't see why not, but you'll have to devise your own linkage and mounting

How exactly should I wire the feeders to the rails? Inside, outside, bottom?
Bottom or outside is fine ( inside is definately out, could cause de railment problems) I wire to the outside after the trackage is down seems to be the easiest for me.

Where do you guys buy your feeder wires? What gauges do you use?How do you connect the feeder wires to the bus wires?
I use #22 solid wires about every 3 ft. The feeders are soldered to the rails and I peel a little insulation back to bare a little of the buss wire, then wrap the feeder around the buss wire and solder the joint ( Buss wire is multi strand)

I'm sure I can think of more questions soon, thanks in advance to anyone kind enough to help a beginner!
You're welcome, ask away.
There are other methods used by members also that you might want to try should they post them, I just do what's comfortable to me and not necessairly the best. :D
Cheers Willis
 

Exit109GTI

New Member
OSB is a cheap kind of plywood. My layout will be 7x3 feet, and right now I plan on using a series of loops, due to the small layout size.

I'm afraid I don't have much of an idea on the track plan yet because I don't know enough to plan it out yet. I'll be getting a book some time this week and doing some reading on the subject.

Can't wait to start the benchwork, thanks for the advice so far, keep it coming.
 

Exit109GTI

New Member
Yes it's going to be N-Scale, I have room for a full room layout, but I thought it would be better to start small with my first layout.
 

CBCNSfan

Registered Member
Staff member
Ok "N" scale is good, around here it is :D, ok before we really get into it, what function does the 1X2 do for it? I'm kind of thinking it will be attached to a 1X3 leg to form a corner (a stiffner to make the legs solid so to say),
Next thing then is a track plan, and if it's OK with you we can move this thread into the "N" scale section where it will receive a much more qualified attention.
OSB is a cheap kind of plywood
I'm getting a picture of knot holes, cracks and such, if that is correct be sure to fill these imperfections with a filler and sand it smooth. Failure to do this could cause track problems in the future when laying roadbed and track. Just a thought :)
Cheers! Willis
 

Red Oak & Western

Active Member
GTI -

Welcome to the forum. I'll sure you'll enjoy being here.

Now, I would recommend against using OSB for your sub roadbed. It is designed primarily to be used as sheathing and will sag over time. {Willis - OSB, oriented strand board, is similar to particle board, but made with large chips rather than sawdust. It is glued and formed under tremendous pressure. No knots or cracks. Great for its designed use but little else.} Bite the bullet and use 1/2 ply. The pink foam will do a fine job for your roadbed. And it's easy to add landscaping details to. It's actually great stuff. I'm using 1" on my current layout (in HO) so I can add ditches, washouts, culverts, and easily create a general "unevenness".

Get hold of a copy of Kalmbach's How to Build Model Railroad Benchwork. It describes the best (imho) method of building benchwork, even if you're designing a flat-top layout.

I'll be using atlas 80 gauge track, and I was wondering if I could use the turtle or other third party switch machine to run my atlas remote turnouts?
Good choice with Atlas. It's the brand I'm using and I'm really happy with the quality and the appearance versus cost factor. And any of the brand name slow motion switch machines will work well. I'm using a mixture of PFM and Scale Shops (old) and Tortoise (new), as well as a few NJ twin coils on Rix Raxs. All the after market under the table machines are "better" than the small twin coil side mount machines, both from a function standpoint and for appearance.

How exactly should I wire the feeders to the rails? Inside, outside, bottom?
I bottom solder before laying the track, but I imagine that would be harder in N. So go with Willis' suggestion and outside solder after.

Where do you guys buy your feeder wires? What gauges do you use?
You can get the feeder wire from Radio Shack. I use 20 ga. solid. In N, you could probably get away with using 22 ga. I use 12 ga. stripped Romex for my buss wire because it's easily available and inexpensive (especially if you have an electrician friend who can get you coil ends for free).

How do you connect the feeder wires to the bus wires?
Like Willis, I strip about 1/2" of insulation off the buss. I then wrap the feeder 4 turns (my preference, not a requirement) then solder it. Finally, I cover the joint by wrapping it with electricians tape. Some modelers don't feel the last step is necessary, and it probably isn't, but I like the "finished" look it gives the wiring. While color doesn't really matter, it's good to develop a scheme and stick to it. The traditional colors for wiring 12 VDC are red (for the positive wire) and black (for the negative wire). However, since we switch polarity frequently as we switch directions, it can get confusing as to which wire is supposed to be positive and which is negative. There is a mnemonic to help: Red Rail Right Running. This means the red wire should be attached to the right hand rail as seen by the locomotive when it is running in the forward direction.

Yes it's going to be N-Scale, I have room for a full room layout, but I thought it would be better to start small with my first layout.
That's a very, very good decision. So many modelers get frustrated when they start an empire, not realizing just how much time and money a layout can consume. Beginning small lets you get something completed and have trains running and helps keep up your enthusiasm. Then you can expand and enlarge and still enjoy operating.

Kevin
 

Exit109GTI

New Member
Thanks everyone, such great advice!

One more question. My 8x4 layout will eventually have to be movable, through a doorway straight down a set of stairs and then out a doorway. Is there an alternative to 1/2" ply to make the table lighter?

The 1x2 was going to be used to brace the table legs, like trusses.
 

grande man

Bonafied Grande Nut
Exit109GTI said:
Thanks everyone, such great advice!

One more question. My 8x4 layout will eventually have to be movable, through a doorway straight down a set of stairs and then out a doorway. Is there an alternative to 1/2" ply to make the table lighter?

The 1x2 was going to be used to brace the table legs, like trusses.
Welcome to the forum.

I'd stay with the 1/2" plywood top. It has to be durable enough to move as well as light weight. Could it be built in two modules for future moves? That said, if the legs are removed to fit thru doors, two guys shouldn't have any problems with a one piece plywood 4x8.
 

KenKzak

Displaced D&H fan
This works well with smaller modules, but at 4' x 8' I hesitate to mention that with 2" thick foam you could delete the plywood top entirely. I think it would be quite stiff as long as you don't cut a major river valley down through it.

Table legs the NTrak way are; 2"x2" pine with a 3/8-16 Tee-Nut and carriage bolt in the end to form an adjustable leveling foot.

Solder your feeder wires to the ouside of the rails so that you can more easily reinsert ties back under the rails later. I presolder the feeders on the workbench whenever I can, while also joining subassemblies or making up longer sections of flex track for curves.

Ken
 

dgwinup

Member
Exit109GTI said:
Thanks everyone, such great advice!

One more question. My 8x4 layout will eventually have to be movable, through a doorway straight down a set of stairs and then out a doorway. Is there an alternative to 1/2" ply to make the table lighter?

The 1x2 was going to be used to brace the table legs, like trusses.
How many times are you expecting to move your layout? For the occassional move, your current plan sounds okay, except for the OSB. Ditch that idea because you will have problems with it at some time and it is heavy. For N scale, you could use 3/8" plywood covered with a 1" foam insulation sheet. My personal favorite is to use 2" foam sheets. You can mount this to your basic framework. The framework can even be built with 1x3" lumber and 1x2" cross-framing and L-girder style legs. My own small layout is ALL 2" foam (with a 1" piece here and there). Very light, even though in some places the base is 9" deep! The whole thing is supported on an old kitchen table!

N scale doesn't require as much support as some other scales. So much of the equipment is light. The layout doesn't need to be over-engineered, especially if you are going to move it. Now, if you plan on moving it a lot, use more lumber in the framing to strengthen that up. Otherwise, an occassional move shouldn't cause you any problems. Heck, I even DROPPED my layout once! Scared the heck out of me, but the layout held up very well and had no damage. The stuff that was still loose just flew around a bit and wasn't damaged at all.

Since you don't have a plan yet, maybe you could delay construction until you have a better idea of what you want. It's hard to exercise patience, but the wait is well worth it to keep from having to go back and tear down work you've already done. Nothing worse than planning a 5 x 9' layout when you have a 4 x 8' table already built!

Good luck and keep everyone posted on your project.

Darrell, normally quiet...for now
 
D

dthurman

Guest
Ditto on just a frame with 1 1/2 or 2 " blue or pink foam board. I have a 3 X 12 with a 3 X 8 extension and the foam is pretty strong. We plan on moving in a few years, I am not so worried about the foam as damage to the track when I need to separate the sections. You made a wise choice for your scale, I have always called N scale the Normal Scale ;)
 

dgwinup

Member
dthurman said:
Ditto on just a frame with 1 1/2 or 2 " blue or pink foam board. I have a 3 X 12 with a 3 X 8 extension and the foam is pretty strong. We plan on moving in a few years, I am not so worried about the foam as damage to the track when I need to separate the sections. You made a wise choice for your scale, I have always called N scale the Normal Scale ;)
Hi, Dave. I see you found a home-away-from-home while the model railroad forum is locked down. I've been visiting some other forums during the 'crisis', ones that I visit infrequently, but often enough. I particularly enjoy the N scale discussion group on e-Bay. It's "members only" and you have to ask to join and be approved for membership.

What damage to your track are you expecting when you separate the sections? Where you have track crossing from one section to the next, it would be easy to cut the rails and ties with a Dremel. When you re-assemble the sections, cut the track back from the edge of the section 2 1/2" then use a 5" straight section to rejoin the track. Same thing is done on modules. Next time you want to move the layout, slide the sections apart and you are good to go!

Unless that is not what you meant, then .... "Never mind!". LOL

Darrell, mindfully quiet...for now
 
D

dthurman

Guest
Well sort of, I have a turnout right over the sections, also I have a 250' scale size bridge crossing the sections. I was in such a hurry to "get operations" going that I didn't plan for the future. I am also thinking that when we move, it may be time to do the around the wall layout idea. This is my first layout since my 20 year haitus so from building it, what I have learned from my massive Kalmbah collection of "all" their books and what I have gleemed from the MR forums, Atlas and others I can see some changes that I would like to make, #1 lots of staging, no longer keeping the rolling stock in a drawer as I am doing now, I have about 200-300 cars, and growing (I have 2 packs of Athearn Coal Gondolas on hold at my LHS) so I want to keep them on the layout, with all the custom weathering I have planned won't get ruined.

Darrell, glad to see you made it over, ah... another normal scale user ;)
 




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