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Sheffie

I really am new to this

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Sheffie

I'm originally from England but moved to the US to be with my wife and start a family.

 

My father had both N gauge and (I think) HO gauge trains when I was a kid, and I remember those with some fondness. The HO stuff was just loose track and trains that would get built into temporary layouts once in a while, but the N gauge project was a tabletop plywood board featuring painted on grass and roads, with a box in one corner that made a tunnel.

 

Now here I am, approaching fifty years old, needing a hobby that isn't computer based... and I'm hoping to do better than my father did.

 

But I have a three-year-old child, no dedicated space, and a very skeptical wife.

 

The dream is to create a compact but pretty layout, perhaps 4' x 2'6", containing a couple of loops, a siding, a tunnel, and a couple of bridges. For this, the KATO starter packs seem to contain a good deal of the material I'd want, particularly if I add an Inner Loop (V5) expansion. Ultimately I want to run one passenger and one freight train. I like steam locomotives for the passenger train (and if money were no object I would own the Orient Express, the real one) but for the freight train I'd like a fairly modern electric or diesel.... and there we run into problems, because none of the American locos really appeal to me at all. Hence, my interest in the Japanese stuff.

 

Questions I still need to resolve:

  1. Can I keep prying eyes and little hands off the layout by covering it with a dust sheet, or will it need to be covered by something more substantial (or hidden away by tipping on its edge)?
  2. Which track to get? In other words, which starter set to get? I had my heart set on the KATO 10-028 container train (which has an EF210 electric locomotive, a very elegant beast, and two Koki 106 cars each with 5 containers) but then I saw the 10-011 which has a gorgeous C57 steam loco and three passenger cars in a beautiful cream-and-blue livery. But that set, it seems, is sold out around the world. And just to confuse the picture, it looks like TOMIX offers a "Twilight Express" starter set which features a less appealing (to me) EF81 locomotive, but which is several inches tighter in its curves.
  3. Should I look into getting a DCC setup? Is that worthwhile for just two trains?
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chadbag

Welcome!  Join the club.   I am slightly older (early 50s), but my kids are 10 and 15, almost 11 and 16, so I don't quite have the little finger issue you do.  I've been looking at N-scale trains (German since mid 90s and Japanese since early 2000s) but never did anything until just over a year ago.  Partly due to little fingers and other priorities.   But now, watch out! 🙂

 

I would start with DC, not DCC (and I am gung ho and full hog on DCC myself).   For what you are doing, starting simple is best.  If you really get into this, you can explore DCC later.

 

The KATO 10-011 seems to be available from scalpers on eBay.  I saw one for $230 from Japan free shipping.  If that is what your heart is set on.

 

Just one word of caution:  Get what you want.  Don't just buy a starter set because it is available.  I say that as you seem to have several quite different sets you mention.  Take your time to look things over and really decide what you want, and what you are willing to pay for it, and then see if you can find it, or something similar enough.

 

Good luck!

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railsquid
28 minutes ago, Sheffie said:

Questions I still need to resolve:

  1. Can I keep prying eyes and little hands off the layout by covering it with a dust sheet, or will it need to be covered by something more substantial (or hidden away by tipping on its edge)?

 

That depends on the owner of the prying hands... I too have a 3 year-old (well almost 4 now), fortunately he's of a very careful disposition and he's been playing with a couple of old N gauge coaches on some track at the front of my layout for some time and knows not to touch anything else - if I leave anything in "his" area he won't even touch his coaches before I move my stuff out of the way. OTOH the layout is in my home office so well "protected" from "Mummy and Daddy aren't looking" incidents.

 

I'd stick with DC unless you have a specific need for DCC; bear in mind Japanese N gauges is often not very DCC-friendly - if at all then some Kato stuff, though others will know more about that.

 

Personally I'd go with Tomix track as it gives you a lot more options for a smaller space, but I understand is harder to obtain outside Japan.

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cteno4

Sheffie,

 

Welcome to the madhouse! you might also look at a Ttrak modular set up. They are small modules like 12” wide by 9-14” deep and 14” square corner modules. Nice thing in a small space is you can work on one module at a time in a small space on a table. Modules can be set up on a folding 30”x72” table to run. The modules are small enough to store in book or wall shelves above little finger height easily and even be nice displays on the shelves. You can start with a loop as small as 28” wide by 40” Long and grow with time or swap out modules. Plus there are lots of Ttrak clubs around the country where you can go to events and bring your modules to add to big setups. There are some ways to make very simple module bases inexpemsively.

 

http://ttrak.org/

http://ttrak.wikidot.com/

 

just a thought. Yell if you have questions.

 

cheers

 

jeff

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katoftw

A 4 foot or 1220mm layout doesn't offer the space for all those things you want.  with curves being 280mm to 317mm, plus straights of either 248 or 280mm.  Plenty can be done in such a small layout.  I'd google what can and cannot be done in pics.  Make sure you dont pick a size too small and fail half way through the build.

 

You'd really need if using Tomix to use C280 curves, which may limit which trains you can use.  For example, to build a loop you need two semi-circles of track with straight in between.  So C280+S280+S280+C280 leaving you a little space between the edge of the layout and you track.  Most would suggest 50mm just is case the trains come of the rails.

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Kiha66

Welcome Sheffie!  Any one of the starter sets should work well, and you can always acquire other locomotives and rolling stock separately.  I'd recommend playing with the unitrack on the dining room table (be sure to check in with the wife first! 😁) and see what arrangements you enjoy.  You'll be surprised how a few sessions with the sectional track can help you narrow down what you'd like in a layout.  Kato also has a few pages of trackplans to give you ideas, both big and small.
https://www.katomodels.com/unitrackplan/index

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JR 500系

Welcome! It's always nice to get started on hobby trains! A really fun hobby and always manages to get the attention for your children/ grand children, guests!

 

First off, while it looks worth while to get a starter set (comes with everything you need to, well, get started), it is pretty huge and heavy. Do consider this as shipping might be quite a killer... There are lots and lots of various train models from the Steam Locomotives to the ultra fast bullet trains (aka shinkansens) to choose from, and most of the Japanese big train model makers (like Kato, Tomix, MicroAce, GreenMax etc.) runs on either Tomix or Kato tracks, or basically as long as the track is for N scale (9mm width). Then all you need is a controller and a basic oval and off you go! Sometimes, it can even be cheaper than buying a whole starter set this way! 

 

Have fun and ask any questions, the folks here are really knowledgeable and helpful! 

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Pauljag900

Hi Sheffie,

not sure if you can spare the space but I did (am still doing) a small thomas layout for my grandchildren and have the same problem regarding little hands!!😂take a look at my thread,Thomas comes to town,it’s set in a glass case on an Ikea coffee table which is 3x2,so a bit smaller than what you re planning but may give you some idea.

As for the track and train sets I think it’s personal choice really,tho sometimes it may be better to buy separates so you can get what you really want,as Chad quite rightly pointed out.

Strange you mentioned the steamer from the 10-011 set as I ve just bought them but not the set just the locco and carriages.

whatever you do just put some thought in to it before you start,something I did nt do😂😂😂😂

you need any help or advice just shout mate,lots of good knowledgeable people on here who are happy to help👍👍😀

 

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katoftw
9 hours ago, JR 500系 said:

First off, while it looks worth while to get a starter set (comes with everything you need to, well, get started), it is pretty huge and heavy. Do consider this as shipping might be quite a killer... Then all you need is a controller and a basic oval and off you go! Sometimes, it can even be cheaper than buying a whole starter set this way! 

This is very true if you plan to buy from Japan and have it imported to yourself.

 

Also the starter sets come with poly-styrene insert, and the trains also fit into these inserts.  So once you have no use for the box/insert of the starter set, then you have no storage for the included trains.

 

I find it better to buy parts and trains individually.  Shipping is cheaper and your trains will come in a nice colourful box or bookcase.

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bill937ca

With a table 4' x 2"6" you can do two loops with no problem. I have done this for years on  60 inch x 30 tables.  With Tomix you can do R243, R280 and R317 curves. R354 would be a tight fit, but it could be done on one side for sure. With Kato Unitrack your choices are R249, R282 and R315. But in each case the tightest option (R243 or R249) may limit your equipment options like those Koki 106s.

 

Some of the starter sets come with a very limited power pack.  For two loops DC is sufficient and avoids having  to purchase and solder decoders into each locomotive.

 

I've recently added a Kato C12 tank steamer and a C56 steamer for about $100 US or less each. Kato steamers are reliable and mine came without any unwanted markings. The C56 is a Mogul which was common in Japan and North America.

 

https://www.1999.co.jp/eng/list/1703/0/1?Make=Kato

 

Instead of benchwork you could look at an Ikea Linnmon / Lerberg table (47.5 x 23.5)  @ $70 or a Linnmon / Lerberg  table (59.5 x 29.5) @ $80. although I think the 24 inch table would be a bit tight.

https://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/S39214284/

https://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/S29000702/#/S49000701

Edited by bill937ca
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Kiha66
17 minutes ago, bill937ca said:

The C56 is a Mikado which was common in Japan and North America.

 

All good points, just nitpicking a mikado is a 2-8-2 locomotive like the D51.  The C56 is a 2-6-0 which were also common but usually on smaller lines.  

Using premade tables is a good suggestion, you can also look at craigslist for used small folding tables that allow you to pack the layout away if you need to.

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bill937ca
21 minutes ago, Kiha66 said:

 

All good points, just nitpicking a mikado is a 2-8-2 locomotive like the D51.  The C56 is a 2-6-0 which were also common but usually on smaller lines.  
 

 

Err that should have been a Mogul.

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Ochanomizu

Hello,

 

Suggest you look at This site about compact layouts.

 

Recommend you browse the HobbySearch website to find the trains you like.  Be mindful that Shinkansen and other trains with long cars won't make it around the tight radii proposed by others in this thread. 

 

Railways that have short cars include:

Hakone Tozan Railway

Enoshima Electric Railwa

Keihan Eizan Railway in Kyoto

Keifuku Electric Railway, also in Kyoto

There are others, but those are the most famous and best known internationally.  Suggest you use Google and search images.  Sure to inspire you.

 

Leave DCC out of the equation.  Put the money into electric turnouts and layout features.

 

Best option with little kids ... I have two under the age of six ... is to set up in a room the kids can't enter.  I'm lucky enough to have such a room and my children are yet to discover my $50k investment in Japanese N scale.

 

 

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Sheffie

Thanks very much for the welcome and all the helpful suggestions, everyone!

 

22 hours ago, chadbag said:

The KATO 10-011 seems to be available from scalpers on eBay.  I saw one for $230 from Japan free shipping.  If that is what your heart is set on.

Thanks for the heads-up! My initial Google search came up with an eBay page that said it was sold out. An actual eBay search did find the seller you mention.

 

As for the question of whether I really want that set....

It's one of the best-looking steam locos I've seen. I also liked Kato's C11 and the D51-200 (a variation with nice detail highlighting / pinstriping), but each of those is only available as a separate item. And the coaches in the set are also very appealing to me visually. On balance, I'm probably better off getting this as a starter set, and building a freight train on a mix/match basis than doing it the other way around. I did try to shop around for the separate pieces and parts I'd need to get up and running, but importation costs being what they are in the US, it seems difficult to get better value than having everything shipped in one box.

 

21 hours ago, cteno4 said:

you might also look at a Ttrak modular set up.

 

This looks fascinating, and clearly has great potential for someone working with limited space. Since I currently have a folding table in my office with about 4'6" x 2'6" of usable space on it, I plan on experimenting with the layout on the table top before I commit to any base board or modular system. I wonder how the Kato standard loop compares with the Ttrak spacing? It looks like it'd fit onto 8 pieces. But I might need to purchase some extra short straights to get it to the right lengths.

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bill937ca

Another source for Kato Unitrack is modeltrainstuff.com (aka M.B.Klein) for which the shipping would be domestic. They also carry some Japanese train items.

 

https://www.modeltrainstuff.com/layout/track-accessories/#/filter:categories_hierarchy:Track$2520$2526$2520Scenery$253ETrack$2520$2526$2520Accessories$253EUnitrack$2520$2526$2520Unitram/filter:custom_scale:N

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cteno4
38 minutes ago, Sheffie said:

This looks fascinating, and clearly has great potential for someone working with limited space. Since I currently have a folding table in my office with about 4'6" x 2'6" of usable space on it, I plan on experimenting with the layout on the table top before I commit to any base board or modular system. I wonder how the Kato standard loop compares with the Ttrak spacing? It looks like it'd fit onto 8 pieces. But I might need to purchase some extra short straights to get it to the right lengths.

 

Actually that’s perfect for an 8 module setup as that would be 4’ 4” x 2’ 4”, would give you 1” lip all the way around (good to have a little bit). Ttrak is all based around kato Unitrak for the module dimensions. With Ttrak you can make the modules full depth so it basically isn’t a sectional layout with your whole loop being one scene just broken at module lines.

 

yes each straight module is a 248 and 62mm track. You can make a 2x straight module as well that’s 2x 248 and 1x 128mm track as well.

 

just a though as an alternative.

 

Advantages are you can work on one module at a time on a small space like a desk or kitchen table, play with other, and swap out modules with change of scene if you want, and also grow if you want easily. You can also display on a shelf easily for storage (twofer)

 

Downside is its a limite loop design, but layouts at this size pretty much boil down to simple loops. Also a bit more constrained about adding sidings (you can add a small one over 2 or more straights).

 

nit great for everyone and all situations but is designed around doing things in smaller spaces and playing with others.

 

jeff

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marknewton

You may be new to the hobby, but already you show great taste in steam locos. 😁

 

Best of luck with your plans,

 

Mark.

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gavino200
On 1/9/2019 at 9:57 PM, Sheffie said:

I'm originally from England but moved to the US to be with my wife and start a family.

 

My father had both N gauge and (I think) HO gauge trains when I was a kid, and I remember those with some fondness. The HO stuff was just loose track and trains that would get built into temporary layouts once in a while, but the N gauge project was a tabletop plywood board featuring painted on grass and roads, with a box in one corner that made a tunnel.

 

This is very similar to my situation. I did OO gauge Hornby and Lima stuff with my Dad when I was a kid. I picked the train bug up again when my son was three, and we've been working on it ever since. He's 10 now. We have an N scale table layout, HO that runs around the house, and a ton of Lego trains too. It's been a fun thing to do together over the years, though Minecraft is now giving serious competition.

 

 

On 1/9/2019 at 9:57 PM, Sheffie said:

Now here I am, approaching fifty years old, needing a hobby that isn't computer based... and I'm hoping to do better than my father did.

 

But I have a three-year-old child, no dedicated space, and a very skeptical wife.

 

 

Our first two layouts were DC. Just loops really, but lots of fun. If possible I'd recommend a separate room for the trains. That way you can just leave it closed when you're not working on it together.

 

We moved to a simple DCC setup when he was about 5. He was able to understand it fine.  I'm glad I switched because DCC allows more opportunity for play. Cops'n'robbers, train chases, even deliberate crashes with old or cheap locos. But with just two loops, DCC is extra headache with zero benefit.

 

When thinking about trains, don't forget about the Tomix "Thomas the Tank Engine" series. Probably a hit with a 3 year old.

 

I bet your wife will come around once she sees the two of you having fun together with the trains. 

 

 

 

Good luick

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miyakoji

Hi Sheffie, welcome to the forum!

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