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A view noob questions.


Sascha

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I couldn't found a beginners forum, so I guess this is the right place?

1.What would be the next best step, after I got my basic set (Kato M1,Kato 10-1132 JR Series 0-2000 Tokaido Shinkansen 4 carts), ?

2.Would two 4x4 attachable tables be ok, or should it be 4x3 or something, and is 8x4 to big to start?

3. Should I get a CMX clean Machine as a beginner?

4. Should I make a rough plan on what I want and get rails and things first,and than build something from the things I have and add stuff when needed, or should I make a solid plan first?

All feedback is greatly appreciated.

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Hi. 

 

I am much of a beginner myself but here goes my 5 cents: 

 

1- Next step? Run the train, see how you like it, see how unitrack works, enjoy :)

2- My personal experience, if you have the space go for the bigger plan you can fit. Just know that the bigger the space, more you will have to fill, either with track or scenery. Both options cost money, and track, though cheap individually, becomes expensive very fast in bulk. But plan with moving out in mind, so use modules. My plan is around 10x3 and the table is built in modules. If i need to take it apart i can, without destroying everything. 

3- No experience on this. not planning on buying a cleaning car so soon. I would say try first, get your plan ready, test it, and then you may consider the cleaning car. As it is you will probably redo the track a lot of times before settling with a "final" solution.

4- Again from experience, a plan is the best option to know the limits, calculate your track budget, etc. Then you will change the plan, again and again and again, until you are happy with it (i know i did). You will learn a lot by making the plan.    

 

Just remember, its an hobby, do as you like (and your wallet allows)

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4. If you are a pure beginner. Go back to NJHA answer to your first question. Run the trains, try several configurations, see what you like: double mainline, single mainline, loop, linear layout, permanent tail chasing, operations... Then you can make a plan and decide.

Easiest is probably to buy a couple of basic sets that fit your desires and tingle your curiosity. It is never a bad idea to get some turnouts. The rest will come naturally.

Lurking through the layout sub-forum is probably also a good idea.

Edited by disturbman
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I find that the track cleaner and "elbow grease" work for me when cleaning track. A lot depends on the size of your layout and how accessible an area is to reach to clean.

NJHA has made some excellent points.....run the train and see what you want to do next.....sometimes people try to do track plans beyond their abilities and end up dropping the hobby.....we don't want that!! Also a lot of times when planning a layout when you finally get the trains up and running you spend a lot of time running them and put the next step off for a while.

Most important.....have fun with the trains!

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As above.  Trial on the floor with various layouts before worrying about a layout table.

 

As for cleaner machine.  I haven't brought one or though of needing one in the 15 months since I begun the hobby.

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Hello Mr Sascha,

 

Please allow me to make a couple of suggestions that might help you:

 

Firstly, I suggest learning about Japan.  Get a large map.  Look at some of the travel plans people have made on this forum.  See what interests them and discover what interests you.  I say this because it is easy for the hobby of Japanese N gauge to get out of control.  I recommend you try to develop one or several themes that you plan to stick to.  For information about Japan please consider http://www.japan-guide.com/  Even if you never visit Japan, this site will give you so much great information.  By the way, one of my chosen themes is Odakyu and the Hakone-Tozan Railways.  You can learn about them here: http://www.odakyu.jp/english/ and http://www.hakone-tozan.co.jp/en/.  I choose this theme because of the dramatic scenery and interesting variety of rolling stock.  Also, I find the Odakyu ticketing staff among the most helpful in Japan.

 

Secondly, please look into the many facets of this hobby.  Investigate different periods of Japanese rail.  I see you have committed to Kato track so it is probably not in your best interest to explore the Tomix track system.  Read about DCC.  Many Kato models are DCC Friendly, meaning you can just drop in a decoder.  Kato decoders are made by Digitrax.  Have a go at making some scenery from scratch for your existing track, and see if you like doing this.  Try a mountain.  Maybe scratch build a car park from styrene parts.  Learn a little about weathering your trains (painting them to make them look old and realistic).  Try a couple of the kits offered by Kato or Tomix for buildings.  Try photographing your model, if you're into photography.  While there are many cheaper suppliers in Japan, I suggest you look at the Hobby Search website here to see the plethora of trains, buildings, and accessories available for this hobby: http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/rail/

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1. When planning your layout size, put the widest curves in that you can. At a very minimum, I would use the 15" radius (30" diameter) curves in Unitrack and much more preferable would be the 19" radius (38" diameter) curves. Using these large radius curves will allow you to run the Shinkansen trains better and all of the trains will look better when running.One thing to keep in mind is that if your table will up against a wall, a 4' deep table will be very difficult to reach across.

 

2. If you have the space and don't anticipate having to move your layout, I would still with an 8' layout instead of the modules. Having the modules is OK if you think you will have to disassemble it in the near future.

 

3. I would not use a CMX Clean Machine. I have had one in the past but chose instead to wiping down the rails with 91% alcohol and a cloth diaper.

 

4. I think you should have some idea of a general plan that you want to use. You have the Kato M1 with the 12 3/8" radius curves. That is good to start with and maybe those will work well for an inner loop somewhere, but maybe next get some of the larger radius curves and combine them with the straights from your M1 set to play with. The good thing about Unitrack is that it has good resale value so even if you end up with track you don't need, you won't lose much on it.

 

One thing I would warn against is to make sure you only buy #6 turnouts (switches). The Kato #4 units are small radius and somewhat finicky to get to work right. The Kato double crossover is also a very nice unit.

 

 

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Thanks a bunch for the great info. So no Cleaning Machine. Thanks for the woodland link. And I'm waiting with the table. The module table is a great option. I have been to Tokyo last May, and are planing another trip in April (Tokyo, Kyoto,Osaka) so that will help me to decide exactly what I want to do for a scenery.

I'm very excited. I feel like a little kid again.

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Everyone one has touched on all aspects and I'm sure you are still wondering what you need to do.

Based on what I know from experience and reasoning there are a few thing you need to do mentally first.

 

Remember your mind can envision anything and has no boundaries.   

 

Make assessments

What tools you have or have access too?.

What you are willing to spend?

How much it will realistically get you?

 

I think you are about another $300 or $400 away from being able to determine you next realistic move. 

 

Your 1st $125 should go into your temporary layout.

These horses are good because you can extend the width as the arms pull out.

Legs  4cc5bd92-02ef-4b86-bac1-30c8c869e3b1_400$59

Pink foam your problem is southern states don't carry 2" foam boards only 3/4"

so I would buy two.  $30 for 2 so its 1 1/2" thick. 

(You can screw 1x4 onto one of the foam boards to brace it )

847835ed-80b0-434e-957c-e5af2dc46994_400

 

 

Next green felt. 72" x 3 yd $20

 

 

You should spend another $200 or $300 in good USED unittrack. I say used because you will get more bang 

for your buck. When you buy used don't get track that has been painted or previously used on a layout. You 

want floor track (track that has been used a few times).

 

This should get you here.

 

spaghetti2.jpg

 

 

What makes this ideal is you can pack everything away and reuse everything if you continue forward.

Use the horses to cut wood for benchwork. The pink foam can be used again,. the

felt should come in handy for something.

 

I think this will get your feet wet enough to know.

 

Inobu 

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I am also a complete newbie and am at the same cross road as Sascha. This thread has been informative for me as well. I have limited space at home and am starting with $32 worth of four Ikea Lack coffee tables in conjunction with the two bigger ones I already have to make a 2000 x 1100 mm table. Probably not the best for my back due to low height but it's unobtrusive and acceptable to the wife.

 

I have the M1 and Kato 113-2000, and have more trains and tracks on the way. I already have around 15-16 buildings from tomix from before I started this hobby. They are mostly older japanese style buildings. I have a track plan in mind but no specific theme yet, but mostly likely it won't be a modern era theme.

 

I have been to Japan 3 times, but probably won't get to go again for a long time until my baby girl is older. I am amazed by the tremendous selection of various types of trains available, Is there a website somewhere with good summaries of trains from the various eras, region, and company?

 

Also, it would be great if someone can school me about DCC. I plan to run DC but want to know if I were to go the DCC route down the line, what it would involve.

 

Sorry Sascha, don't mean to hijack your thread. :)

Edited by locidm
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One thing I would warn against is to make sure you only buy #6 turnouts (switches). The Kato #4 units are small radius and somewhat finicky to get to work right.

 

What's finicky about the #4 units? Do you mean the special short straight bits you may need to attach? I read similar advice before, but being somewhat short on space I'm going mainly with these as they're more compact. Currently I have a loop set up with four #4 points and one #6 point on it and I'm still amazed at how stable it all is, even though two of the points (a #4 and a #6) are integrated as an S-curve on the loop (i.e. the loop passes over the curved sections, if you see what I mean). I can even run a train of random mixed freight wagons over them at surprisingly high speeds, and this is all without the track being fixed in any way.

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Also, it would be great if someone can school me about DCC. I plan to run DC but want to know if I were to go the DCC route down the line, what it would involve.

Generally a good DC layout can be converted to DCC relatively easy. You either have to disable the power routing of the turnouts or add feeders to every section. With DCC, you always power every section with the digital signal and the trains sort out the commands themselves. If you wire your turnouts for DC operation, then you can convert them to DCC by adding stationary decoders that are run from a separate digital bus. The key is wiring everything in an organised manner that could be upgraded later. If you are running DC with cab control, you can simply replace one of the DC controllers with a DCC station and run trains mixed. Just make sure that on section boundaries both rails are isolated. Most modern transistor based DC controllers also need this. The hardest part of DCC with Japanese trains is adding decoders to the trains that are not prepared for that.

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What's finicky about the #4 units? Do you mean the special short straight bits you may need to attach? I read similar advice before, but being somewhat short on space I'm going mainly with these as they're more compact. Currently I have a loop set up with four #4 points and one #6 point on it and I'm still amazed at how stable it all is, even though two of the points (a #4 and a #6) are integrated as an S-curve on the loop (i.e. the loop passes over the curved sections, if you see what I mean). I can even run a train of random mixed freight wagons over them at surprisingly high speeds, and this is all without the track being fixed in any way.

I also have read the issues with the #4 turnout.  Only issue I ever had was the leading wheels on s D51 would derail going over it.  Nothing else has every had a issue.  Even a shinkansen at full speed doesn't have a problem over them.

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The only issues I have had with #4 turnouts is with some of my American freight cars I have fitted with Fox Valley Models fine scale wheels and was fixed by a bit of gentle tweaking with a small pair of pliers, I haven't had any problems with Japanese rollingstock.  As for their radius, I wouldn't worry because the radius is 18 inches, there is nothing I have that won't negotiate them without problems and that includes large U.S. steam locos and long passenger and freight cars.  I have used nothing but them on my T-TRAK modules.

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Generally a good DC layout can be converted to DCC relatively easy. You either have to disable the power routing of the turnouts or add feeders to every section. With DCC, you always power every section with the digital signal and the trains sort out the commands themselves. If you wire your turnouts for DC operation, then you can convert them to DCC by adding stationary decoders that are run from a separate digital bus. The key is wiring everything in an organised manner that could be upgraded later. If you are running DC with cab control, you can simply replace one of the DC controllers with a DCC station and run trains mixed. Just make sure that on section boundaries both rails are isolated. Most modern transistor based DC controllers also need this. The hardest part of DCC with Japanese trains is adding decoders to the trains that are not prepared for that.

Thanks! Looks like if I ever go that route I'll need to add more feeders, add digital bus for turnouts, a DCC station, and of course the right decoders on the right trains. Any idea how much money I am looking at for entry level DCC setup?

 

Regarding #4 turnout, being the complete newbie that I am, I'm still waiting for it in the mail. I read that it's possible to have it configured to either power routing or non-power routing, is that true? How does one make the switch? My planned layout is also consisted of mainly #4 turnouts.

 

One more question, my local home depot only carries extruded polystyrene foam boards as 2x2 sections. Any idea where else one can buy 4x8 boards in California?

Edited by locidm
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Regarding #4 turnout, being the complete newbie that I am, I'm still waiting for it in the mail. I read that it's possible to have it configured to either power routing or non-power routing, is that true? How does one make the switch?

 

 

There are some screws on the base to adjust, and the package will have a diagram on the back with details in Japanese and English.

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Any idea how much money I am looking at for entry level DCC setup?

If you go the very hard 'do it yourself' way with home made electronics, then very little, but lots of time. If you buy commercial stuff, then around 150-200 usd for the basics and then you will generally double or triple the worth of your trains by adding decoders. The biggest problem is usually how to add decoders to non DCC ready trains (especially locomotives and older multiple units), where many times you have to mill out the weights and/or the chassis to make space.

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Also, it would be great if someone can school me about DCC. I plan to run DC but want to know if I were to go the DCC route down the line, what it would involve.

 

 

 

Hello Mr locidm,

 

My interest is in DCC.  In very plain terms, DCC allows you to control multiple trains on the one track circuit.  The circuit may be broken down into zones for easy management.  Like prototypical track, these zones contain sections, which in turn are divided into blocks.  The track is powered by AC instead of DC.  The track also carries a control signal.  Decoders installed in trains read the signal and use the AC current to output the correct voltage to the motor, headlights, tail lights, and other functions.  You can run multiple units on the same track and, unlike DC, the performance of each should not be affected.  You must wire your layout in blocks, sections and zones.  Some decoders can send messages back along the track using a protocol such as Railcom or Transponding.

 

As Kato decoders are manufactured by Digitrax.  Digitrax developed Transponding, so Kato decoders are also equipped with Transponding.  For this reason, I chose to purchase Digitrax equipment.  However, there are many manufacturers and all are good in their own way.  Although I don't use them, I think Lenz make some of the best decoders in the world.

 

Apart from controlling the trains, you can control turnouts, accessories and signals with DCC.  There is computer software available that allows you to timetable your whole layout, complete with collision avoidance, and will automate the signal states, turnouts and accessories.  It really is a huge topic.

 

Even if you end up going with another brand of DCC, I strongly recommend reading the Nemo Junction Case Study on the Digitrax website: http://www.digitrax.com/casestudies/nemo-junction/

 

When it comes to track wiring, I recommend the excellent explanation prepared by Martijn here:

http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/276-automated-computer-control-chapter-1-introduction/

http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/278-automated-computer-control-chapter-2-basics-of-blocks/

http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/300-automated-computer-control-chapter-3-advanced-blocks/ (my favourite)

 

Finally, I found this thread also.  It traces the development of a layout for another member here. I found it very useful myself and I now use the short stopping blocks referred to by The Ghan.  You will see he provides a full description and drawing for the original poster towards the end of the thread: http://www.jnsforum.com/community/topic/4206-dcc-based-automation-with-transponding-focus/

 

Any DCC questions please post a new topic in the DCC Section.

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Martijn Meerts

With regards to DCC, it really depends on how far you want to take it. If you just want to be able to run multiple trains on the same track independently, you can just pick up a fairly simple DCC system, hook up a couple of wires, and you're all set. A good idea might be to buy a newer DCC system though that allows you to control it using a smartphone or tablet, which makes controlling trains somewhat easier. Of course, all trains need to have a decoder installed, and with Japanese trains there's often no easy way to do it. There are a few drop-in replacements, and Kato has some DCC-friendly sets, but in many cases you'll have to install it yourself. It's not that difficult though, as long as you're used to a little soldering.

 

If you want to control turnouts as well, you'll need decoders for them too. And if you want train detection (which usually leads to computer control/automation), you're going to end up with a lot of wiring ;)

 

The links that E6 posted are worth a read, and as he said, if you have any specific questions, feel free to post them in the DCC section. DCC isn't as popular in Japan as elsewhere, but we have a few people on the forum who are pretty knowledgable if it comes to DCC.

 

One thing I have noticed though, once you go DCC, you don't really want to do a non-DCC layout anymore. Even just the ability to easily control multiple trains is well worth it.

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I would like to add that a DCC layout wired for computer control contains roughly the same number of blocks and wiring as a layout wired for DC block control (with or without computers). If the layout was designed properly, then it's even possible to mix them, running DC and DCC trains at the same time, just in different blocks. Tomix supports DC block control with computer automation through it's Tomix TCS products. This allows a very good level of automatization and even added sound effects without the use of DCC or any modification to the classic DC trains. For most small Japanese layouts, this is more than enough.

 

DCC is really good if you do a lot of shunting, build multiple locomotive consists and like to remote control on board sound effects and lighting. A Japanese prototype layout rarely requires any of these.

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Another thing to add about DCC is regarding he use of non-DCC equipped locomotives on a DCC layout. On a DCC layout, you can usually run an analog (non-DCC) locomotive as address 3. Also, it is not a good idea to leave a DC only locomotive anywhere on the layout when running other DCC trains. One thing that others have mentioned here are blocks. If you are sure you want to make your layout DCC, I have found that you don't need to split your layout into blocks. You can also run DC or DCC on a layout simply by having a switch to choose either system; this is what I have. I have a Kato powerpack and an NCE DCC system and simply by sliding the switch, my small layout can run either DC or DCC.

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Thank you guys for the proper schooling! I will take time to study the links provided. DCC sounds like a beast of its own with a steep learning curve. Thanks for pointing me to the right direction.

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