Small N scale layouts?

Discussion in 'N Scale' started by Tony P, Mar 1, 2010.

  1. Tony P

    Tony P TrainBoard Member

    Confused to say the least,, let me rephrase my previous questions about N layouts and such.

    N scale 24x48 layouts, doable yes but.......

    Are they too small to be anywhere near realistic ?

    How much track can really be put on a layout this size ?

    I see alot of nice layouts with tracks going every whichway, is this overkill ?

    What kind of realistic 24x48 layout is really possible in N ?

    Point to Point ?

    Oval which I do not really want to do?

    Point to Point with a loop? My preference.

    A Mining type layout or a Mill type city scene with the EL as the road.
    These are the 2 layouts I have in mind.

    Thanks Tony
  2. Jim Prince

    Jim Prince TrainBoard Member

  3. Tony P

    Tony P TrainBoard Member

    Jim yes I saw Mikes plans, I cannot download the files for some reason, contacted him, don;t know why. My question is really are these plans resonable to do ? Or are some overkill in the trackage dept. ? I don;t know much about layouts and such so.....

    Thanks Tony
  4. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Supporter

    24 by 36 inch layout in N.
    Loop is used for "circulation" and switching, NOT mainline running. But I can run roundy-round when I feel like it.

    This represents trackage on a Navy base, but it would be the same principle, same track plan could be used for in-plant industrial layout, such as a paper mill. Could conceivably be used for an industrial park branch of a trunkline or terminal railroad. Does NOT represdent mainline at all- except that track running off layout represents spur connection to mainline.


    It would be difficult to represent different places/ "towns". This is not for running town -to- town.

    That could conceivably be done on a 24x48 layout divided by a BG down the middle with a different foot-deep scene on each side.
    This layout built in 1974 had a port scene one side and a country town on the other. Two turnouts each side- a terminal grain elevator and a docksiode spur switchback on the port side and a country grain elevator and trunkline interchange tracks on the town side. Trains ran between the country town interchange and the port. Runarounds by running around the entire layout loop.

    To my way of thinking, very small layout requires more specially designed scenery and scratchbuilt or kitbashed structures to give a specific sense of place, than just plunking down "generic model train accessories."
  5. pilotdude

    pilotdude TrainBoard Member

    Using smaller locos, cars and train lengths can also help in spacial realism as well as allow you to get away with tighter radius curves which gives you more flexibility in track planning.

    You can see my unfinished 2 X 4 in my signature link.

    Kenneth, I like that Naval scenes and the blimp.
  6. Two Truck Shay

    Two Truck Shay TrainBoard Member

    I built a layout that was 24"x32"-ish. It was basically a motocross track for trains. It looked so unrealistic I never got beyond the tracklaying stage.

    It could have been completed, and perhaps I will someday, but realistic? Not much chance of that!


    I think the key to very small, realistic layouts is to limit the scope of the project. In other words, don't try to throw in everything except the kitchen sink.
  7. Jim Prince

    Jim Prince TrainBoard Member

    Clicking on the picture of the layout should download the file. These layouts were designed using Atlas RTS.

    You will need to go to the Atlas website and download the program - which is FREE...

    Once installed, the layout should be usable.
  8. brokemoto

    brokemoto TrainBoard Member



    This is my nineteenth century pike on a two foot by four foot piece of plywood. It is not quite complete, but it is getting there. Nineteenth century equipment is small and well suited to small pikes with sharp curves and turnouts.
  9. Tony P

    Tony P TrainBoard Member

    Thanks guys, Now I see some nice small layouts. Now I have hope.

    I still can';t handle the Atlas download, it downloads as a PDf file with hundreds of instructions, is this the program I want from Atlas ? Killin me it is.

    Thanks Tony
  10. Mark Watson

    Mark Watson TrainBoard Member

    Hi Tony,

    I've been following your recent threads here and its clear you want to build a layout! :D

    Here's my suggestion. You're asking a ton of great questions, but I think you need to back up and reverse engineer this one. Instead of asking, "What CAN I do?", take some time out to decide "What do I WANT to do?"! Then once you have that decided, start over and ask "How can I make this work?" :D

    What do you want?:

    Probably the best way to design the perfect layout is to break things down into two lists: Wants & Needs. On these two lists will be any and all features you can think of, big or small. What goes on the Needs list is set in stone, absolute, you MUST have it on the layout. What goes in the Wants lists is more fluid, dynamic and things you can live without if no possible solution to including them can be found.

    For these lists, completely forget about space constraints, cost factor, product limitation. Make them as detailed and specific as possible. They can be things as tiny as having a simple figure hiking through the woods up on a mountain, or a picnic scene to things such as elevation differences, grades, desired motive power/rolling stock. Include your preferred focus, operations?, roundy round?, photo real?, proto-real?, freelance? Any and every possible feature you can think of should make the list. You can even create a third list for Dont Wants if you come across something you absolutely do not want. (I highly encourage everyone to immediately add switch-backs to the Dont Want list ;) )

    Once you have a sizable list, post it here and I guarantee the extraordinary TrainBoard track planners will help you custom tailor a layout to YOUR list. :)

    Happy modeling,
  11. Tony P

    Tony P TrainBoard Member

    Thanks Mark, Yes I do need to think about that. I am really trying to get an idea of what is possible and what is not. I am a static modeler of 1/35 armor and 1/700 ships, I did a few Dio's but mostly vignettes. I am also an oil painter. I am looking to put my skills to the test in Model RRing now.

    I am striving for detail and accuracy, as I can see you are too on your website. My focus is on accuracy of scenery, detailing of the trains themselves, and the structures incorporated in my layout. I have ideas in my head what the final product will look like, but have to get them down on paper soon. I am not a CAD guy I like paper and pencil.

    Since I have not decided on which route to go. Mining scene or Mill type City scene I am up in the air as far as making lists, and I AM a list maker for sure, I love lists !!!!
    If I do the city scene the city Paterson NJ is nearby so I have 1/1 refs to work off of. Always wanted to do Paterson a former industial giant. It would be complicated as I want it Real as can be and to try to shrink it down is going to be work.

  12. Chaya

    Chaya TrainBoard Supporter

    This is actually the perfect advice, IMO. Once you've got that figured out, you will know exactly how much track you want and and you'll be able to figure out where you want to put it.

    If you set your layout in an earlier period, you can fit more operations in a small space.

    Almost no space is too small to build a layout. Some people have made a hobby out of building layouts in boxes. Others have websites devoted to "micro-layouts," which are also smaller than yours.

    Go here to see more 2x4 layouts: show me your 2x4 layouts! - Especially take a look at Randgust's beautiful logging layout, smaller than yours and with a 4% grade!

    Type in "2x4 n scale layout plans" to Google and prepare to be swamped with ideas, like You will see as you look around that people make building "flats" or cut them into shapes other than square in order to fit truly great industrial scenes between tracks in small layouts.
  13. Primavw

    Primavw TrainBoard Member

    My layout is a 4x5 rectangle. I layered the foam so that it was sturdy enough to be moved. I can turn it sideways and put it in a closet. You can run a ton of track in that space, but with loss of real estate for any buildings or roads. I didn't think of this at first and land locked my town lol. check out the video of my layout:

    the sweet thing about this layout is that with the addition of 2 turnouts i can add a mainline and expand someday, but a compact layout was my goal for the time being
  14. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    Here's my two contributions. I'm a big believer in the tiny portable module idea. I have two - one is 18" x 36" (the original Hickory Valley Railroad featured in MR) and the second is under construction - hasn't really been named but should be the "Ross Run".


    This module is the 'sawmill to interchange' concept - featuring the mill, shop, and offices (all actual prototype structures, scratchbuilt). It is built as a loop-to-loop with 8" reverse curves. There is a reversing loop and a storage track UNDER the visible top loop, the grade between is 4%. My little 2-6-0 can handle four 40' cars and a caboose on it, that's all it needs. It's been a successful portable display layout since 1977.


    The second 20" x 42" Ross Run module is the 'log pond to woods' concept, but I made it relatively complicated with a reverse loop underneath, a 3-track storage/staging yard, a connection to the lower Hickory Valley loop. The visible track on top is basically a logging railroad switchback up a 4% grade to get to a logging area. The design on this one is specifically to show off the right-hand side of an Atlas shay pushing uphill and squealing around tight curves. All the track is in now, along with the electrical work, but work is suspended now due to all leftover time making resin kits.

    I think you can do just fine on tiny layouts. I think industry-themed layouts are the best - I think steel mills, refineries, logging, etc. Don't try to put three towns and 25 mixed industries - find one big industry that uses several different kind of cars instead. Industrial scenes are great for tight curves, small locomotives, short trains. You could just as easily do Ross Run as a coal mine. Small cars and small engines are great. Ross Run works with my 9-mph Climax A locomotives just fine, pushing log cars uphill.

    I had to do the complicated hidden storage track in Ross Run because I now host two Shays, a Climax B, two Climax A's, a Heisler, an 0-6-4, and a pair of 2-6-0's. It's become a challenge on just where to put all of them.
  15. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    Just to encourage you - seriously - not to diss the tiny layout for possibilities - You can do just as much, photography-wise, on a smaller layout, if you plan ahead. The vertical background hills on the HV do a great job of establishing depth and disguising the incredibly small size.




    I've probably designed more tiny layouts that will never get built than you can imagine. I designed one on a refinery theme (based on my local hometown) - basically a 1x4 shelf layout; and also a 3x3 one based on a Central Pennsylvania shortline - more or less the Bellefonte Central.

    Get familiar with the best friends of tiny layout design:

    Old Trix switches - with the absurd 9" radius curves
    Peco short switches - that's what's on the Ross Run
    Trix curved switches - 9" inside, 11" outside. Look on *bay, no longer made.
    Peco C55 Electrofrog 4's - great if you have the room and great for low-speed short locomotives with short wheelbases.

    I'm using Peco C55 now, HV was built with C80 mercifully buried beyond the tie-tops. But the Peco C55 mates up fairly well with those C80 switches with ridiculously tight geometry.

    As far as for locomotives - with the Bachmann 44-tonner a REALLY GOOD out of the box critter, you don't need to resort to the tactics I did. But the Kato/Life-Like SW's work fine on curves this tight, the Atlas Shay actually does, the Atlas 2-6-0. I limit myself to 40' cars though.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 2, 2010
  16. Tony P

    Tony P TrainBoard Member

    Exactly what i wanted to see, Outstanding work. I have a few ideas on layouts narrowed it down some, I have a great Atlas book from 1970 with HO layouts in it also. Have to get drawing a little and figure out buildings and scenery to scale.

    In this type of small layout what is the minimun radius I can really go with, can I use 9" ? or is it way too sharp a curve?

    Whats the deal with switchbacks ? I hear alot of negative comments. One plan I have in the HO book has a switchback in it, looks good to me, it can be taken out of this particular plan I think though.

    Thanks Tony
  17. TetsuUma

    TetsuUma TrainBoard Member

    Fine Track (the Tomix equivalent of Unitrack) has some 103mm (4") and 140mm (5.5") radius curves available and I know an FT or GP7 can go all day on 8.5" radius Kato Unitrack. Those really small radii curves are usually used for trams but if you were doing an industrial area or logging/mining scene . . . . Also, I've always thought that for a 2'x4' layout, the Granny Kay & Bonnie on the KatoUSA site (from "Small Slice of the Pennsy" in Great Model Railroads 2002) has some interesting possibilities and provision for off layout staging using one of the spurs.
  18. Tony P

    Tony P TrainBoard Member

    Ah OK, thats a tight turn 4 and 5 in I would think, but as you say if it fits the bill and my Locos can go around it it's possible i might use it. I saw the Kato track plans I like them enough but want more trackage for sure in the way of sidings and such, this will be determined as I get my design down on paper. I think it would be a huge advantage to use either an Atlas Plan or Kato plan as the parts I need are already described, I can then experiment on my own with additional trackage. All Scale also has some great plans, with parts lists. Either way I am going to be running short trains as whichever layout I go with it will have switching involved I don't really want a main line of any size if possible. So it's a matter of me getting going now with paper and pencil ,today I hope. My main concern is as I said accuracy, detail and scenery that will make it interesting, not a flat, plain, oval layout.

    Thanks Tony
  19. TetsuUma

    TetsuUma TrainBoard Member

    I have some ideas kicking around in my head involving a really tight industrial area on a 1' or 1.5' by 4' and use beercan shorty tank cars and an NW2 or a Bachmann 44 tonner as power.

    I going to order some of the Tomix track from Japan and test what works and what doesn't.
  20. randgust

    randgust TrainBoard Member

    Even a simple 2x4 layout can get quite good with one stunt - put a scenic divider down the middle and isolate the two views from each other. Think of it as two connected shelf layouts or two back-to-back dioramas. That eliminates the basic roundy-roundy issue. And get it up around 48-50" off the floor.

    Also think vertically, and if I can figure out how to do staging on an 18x36, nobody else has any excuses!

    And I like to put this out as a reminder for all the guys that want to outlaw truck-mounted couplers - there's two N scales, really, the guys that want to do UP main line in a basement, and the guys like this with only 2x4 feet and figure they must be able to do SOMETHING with this scale.

    My first real N layout was only 3x6, then the HV, then the current 'big layout' (8 x 5'6) then the Ross Run module, and a whole lot of help on friends 'big layouts' over the years.

    I did a switchback on Ross Run because the actual prototype used a switchback to go up Ross Run.

    I have this topo up on my office wall when my rail designers complain that 'its too hard to do'....'can't be done'...and other whining.... look right under the map title. 600+ feet of vertical drop and five switchbacks, and this wasn't a logging railroad - it was a PRR coal line.

    Helix? Who needs a helix?

    In case you wondered why PRR and NYC buried the hatchet in the Clearfield coal district and used trackage rights over each others lines, that's the clue. Each of them had monsters like that.

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