Jump to content

Very Details Step for N scale Beginners To Start..


Recommended Posts

Hi All,


First of all, i am very happy to join the JNS Forum.. The people are friendly and awesome.. Have a great passion of railroad modelling and willing to share precious informations... :) Thanks to all...


I opened this topic with the thought that the N scale beginners should have the correct information on how to start the hobby, know the right steps, and have the right decision to play their preffered models... Hopefully many members here from arround the world may share their knowledge.. :) so that the beginners are having better and easier understanding in this hobby..


1. First, how should we start the hobby? should we start with starter set or we can start by buying separate items - train set, track, controllers, electrical system, building, dioramas, accesories, etc? Can we improve the starter set to be our final layout or will it be useless when we build improved one?


2. What is the knowledge or all glossary needed for basic guide? i thought to play the model better we need to understand electrical system deeper.. maybe besides the design of layout, you can share the wiring diagram... this is to help the newbie like me who dont know much about electrical system.. AC or DC? Analog, DC or DCC? I dont wanna have shortcut for some train models..


3. the detailed steps to follow, if started with starter set, then whats the next steps.. and what to decide? the tracks first or the controllers or the layout design??


I think that's all my question for now... Sorry if it is still too common.. but i wanna address this post to be of help for beginners (n scale especially) who really dont know how to start.. Many thanks guys... :) Cheers

Link to post

Hi Robert!


First off, I think it's a good idea to have a thread like these to help folks who are just starting off in the hobby. I am relatively new into the hobby too, around 3 years or so? I did post a 'Newbie Noob' thread and read around the forum to try and understand the concept. Although now I know which system and what I want more or less, i'm still learning more and more about each system every day!


To start off, here's some ideas for your questions:


1) To start off, I think the starter set is a good idea, since with a starter set we get the whole entire package altogether, ready to run. It's good to run them first to see how well you like the hobby, and how fun you enjoyed it. When it reaches a point whereby you think: "The simple oval is too boring, I want stations, long tracks, scenery, trains etc... then you know you've been bitten by the bug! It's hard to say if you will keep the starter or expand on it, as I realised that as you proceed your interest changes and you wish to model something or some region that you're particularly interested in, and the starter tracks and controller just cant cut it. End of the day, play along and there's really no general rule as to whether or not the starter will stay with you for life... 


2) Not much electrical knowledge is required to run straight off the box DC, but it's not the case for DCC. Some simple electrical knowledge like positive and negative and voltage (normally between 9-12v for N scale train layouts) can help when building your layout, especially if you want lights in them! I've always wanted a really nice city landscape to look at in the daylight and a charming romantic night city with different lights to dream about in night...


3) Probably after getting a starter set and running them for a while, you will often always want a station. Running without a station is truly... strange. Then starts the layout around the station, then it gets bored and you want a longer track to run... And then you want longer cars, etc... It's an addiction, until you reach a point whereby you know where your main focus is and you zoom in on that. For some, it's freight, some go for private lines, others go strictly for shinkansens.


Hope that helps as starters. We can keep adding content as we move along in the discussion on this thread ~~

  • Like 1
Link to post

Hi JR500.. :)


Thats awesome.. yeah hopefully this thread can be one of help for the beginners.. I will also read your 'Newbie Noob' thread too...


I wish other members will enrich this thread too with their experiences.


I think your comment will give much better point of view for starters... :)


1. yeah, once we reached that point and bitten by the bug, that's when the poison started injected our blood to be more sophisticated in this hobby... :P


2. really so it doesnt need much electrical knowledge? but obviously your next comment is tempting.. having realistic models and scenery is something privilege and romantic.. I have been on some other toys hobbies previously like diecast cars and model kit aircraft, but the railmodel hobby is different and really something special... :)


3. What do you think if we bought some starter sets from different manufacturers? Kato or tomix starter sets, but still on the same scale.. N scale.. or just start with one starter set?

Is it common for some modellers if they move from N scale to HO scale or vice versa? HO scale is bigger and perhaps easier to do some modification, but N scale is better for space efficiency but the details is also as good as HO scale..

Link to post

Hi Robert!


Some basic information might be good:

-For track systems there are two manufacturers, Kato and Tomix. If you want to run on the floor or have a temporary layout, then Kato is better because it tolerates repeated assembly/disassembly better, while Tomix is more for the permanent layout builders as it has a far wider range of tracks, scenery and accessories.

-You should choose one track system and stick with it, so if you are going to buy starter sets, then you should only get them from the same manufacturer, otherwise you will end up with tracks that can't be connected.

-Both manufacturers offer plug and play systems. Kato supports (to a certain degree) adding digital command and control (DCC) to your models (if you are an electric engineer, that will be easy), while Tomix prefers the good old analog DC operation and supports this better with plug and play equipment and out of the box automation (even has a moving bus system for road transport modellers that can be mixed with trams and trains)


About N and H0: They are different scales and japanese H0 is as expensive as european or even more so and has a more limited range of trains. So many people who own both N and H0 scale trains are mostly collectors, who own but seldom run any trains. If you don't want to run them, scale doesn't matter. However if you do want to run them, then you can have a bigger layout in a single scale than two smaller ones in different scales. Also N scale is better suited for smaller space and allows longer trains. This is why most japanese train models are N scale.


If you don't really know what do you want to do (or model), then getting a single starter set is a good idea, then getting expansion sets for it is possible. You don't really need multiple starter sets, since they usually contain the same oval. If you absolutely don't know where to start, then maybe you can get the newest Tomix track mat, set up a starter and a station expansion set on it and just go from there by following the instructions that come with it.

  • Like 2
Link to post

My  contribution... 


1- Starter set or not is a matter of personal choice. Starter set does come with "all included" so its just "plug and play". But starter sets are limited in terms of train choices so that could be a minus there. Starter sets are fully upgradable so no problems there, you can start with a starter set and evolve.


2- Track: kato or tomix. I use kato but if it was today i would go tomix. Tomix has more options in terms of track elements, so it allows for more complex solutions. But for a newbie sometimes having a lot of options available is worse and confusing. Both brands are very good and with very similar prices. Tomix had the advantage of smaller track bundles (2 pieces vs 4 pieces with Kato) but it seems they will increase their bundle sizes. The "lack of choices" from Kato is not that relevant. You will only feel it if you decide to make crazy layout patterns 


3- DC, AC, DCC, Digital .... Ok. big mess here. So were it goes. Tomix and kato use anolog/dc current to run their trains, around 9 to 12V as already stated. DC/analog uses 2 wires, one for positive (+) charge and another for negative (-) charge. A DC motor on a train runs when it gets positive charge on one terminal and negative on the other. If you reverse the charges, you will also reverse the motor spinning direction. DC control units simply change the track voltage applied thus changing the train speed (more voltage, more speed)

The tracks serve as a means of getting the charge to the train motor. 

DCC/digital use a charge that is modulated. It is not DC nor AC although the pre-modulated charge is usually DC. It is applied to the tracks the same way as DC charge, and requires the use of decoders on the trains and also DCC controllers. DCC allows for more freedom and more choices to run trains at the expense of more wire complexity (being digital signals they need extra wiring to cover for dirty track spots) and more expensive hardware. Going for DCC is something to consider at a latter stage.  

AC is not used on Japanese models (to my knowledge at least). 


4- As for the direction to follow, my advice is just this one: do as you like. It is your hobby, you need to like it and most of all have fun with it. Don't buy/do things for others or to get appraised by others. That is not what is important. What is important is that you have fun with the options you choose. And remember this is a evolving hobby. You know what you like now, but you never know about tomorrow.  Just have fun :)  

Link to post

1- Starter set or not is a matter of personal choice. Starter set does come with "all included" so its just "plug and play". But starter sets are limited in terms of train choices so that could be a minus there. Starter sets are fully upgradable so no problems there, you can start with a starter set and evolve.

1- In total agreence. Starter sets aren't always best to start. But 9 of 10 times they are. A bit of research before buying may net you a better way of doing things.


2- This can be changed at any time. Again a bit of research before buying will net you a better understanding of which to buy to suit your needs. there is always ebays and buyers out there if you do make the wrong choice.


3- This really is a mute issue. As a beginner, everything is DC. DCC is not for beginners and should only be an afterthought. Ask any long term modeller, and many still dont touch DCC.


4- Again really a mute issue for a beginner. Buy, try and play - then decide on a direction you want to follow. Try beginner level first before advancing.

Edited by katoftw
Link to post

It's important to just get some track, a train, and a controller and get started playing. Tomix finetrak and kato unitrak are great to just play with on the table top. Slowly growing the track and trains will get you going into what you like and what you don't like. It also gets you having fun right away.


Starter sets can have a good pile of things, but the shipping on them (they can't go sal) can ruin the deal some.


Also get a few structures of things you like. You can quickly create nice temporary scenery bits with colored paper or fabrics and simple scenery techniques and just play before you get wrapped up in doing a whole planned layout. Move things around a lot and try different track plans. Doing the smaller scenery bits will give you experience fast and easy and again let you know what techniques work for you and give you the results you like.


I agree with others, unless you are a tech head its best to start with plain DC. Very fast to get started and the power routing of tomix and kato tracks makes doing simple layouts a snap with passing tracks and sidings w.o doing block wiring. You can always do dcc later as others have noted.


Playing with your trains as soon and as much as possible is the key to keeping you moving forward in the hobby and not getting derailed along the way.





Link to post

Hi again Robert,


I probably don't have a lot to add to what others have said, but here are my answers to your q's:


1) I think it's usually best to pick your first train and your track system separately. The reasons being that first, you won't be locked into a track system based on your train choice, and second, you will have many more choices of train. Both Tomix and Kato make starter sets of just track, then just pick whatever train you like from either manufacturer. The one downside is that this might cost a bit more.


2) You'll pick this up as you go along. To start running trains you just need to snap some track together, snap one cable into the feeder track, plug the power pack in and start running. Everything else will come as you decide how you want to expand. Most modelers don't go from 0% to 100% knowledge in a day. As for DC vs. DCC, you've already seen me talk about that, but one thing that I think helps is to keep your layout temporary for now. That is, don't glue anything down or worry about hiding wires or anything. That way if you decide to upgrade to DCC, your existing setup won't matter much. This is actually really common for Japanese modelers, so you won't be doing anything unusual by having a temporary layout.


3) The easiest and best thing to do is probably to just buy a starter track set, buy a train and start running. You will pretty quickly figure out what you want to see the train doing that it's not doing. This is kind of the neverending quest; even guys with giant, permanent layouts are always improving them in one way or another. But you've gotta start somewhere and then figure out what *you* want to do. Most people do want a station first, though, as someone else mentioned.


As for your followup question about HO and N, I started out with (American) HO modeling and then moved to Japanese N because of space issues... but I still have a lot of HO stuff and I'm actually thinking of buying more. I could never really do much with even a temporary HO layout but I do love the bigger size and weight, plus the added detail in a lot of HO models (and the fact that so much of it now comes with sound). So I run them just in an oval every once in a while. I don't know how common it is for people to have both HO and N trains but I do, at least.

Edited by spacecadet
Link to post

I’m with kvp on this - you probably should choose one track system and stick with it.  Specially if you’re going to be buying a lot of electrically-controlled points and accessories.  At $30 to $40 a pop, that investment can quickly mount up.  As far as I know, all the electrical connectors - including power feeders and switch boxes for points, extensions cables, sensor tracks, etc - are different between the two systems, and can’t easily be mixed together.

And then there’s lighting.  If you’re a big fan of interior lighting - like I am - then that may affect your decision.  A train without lighting looks to me like it’s “out of service”.  With Tomix and DC, you have the option to use their plug-and-play CL ‘Continuous Lighting’ system - where a low duty-cycle high frequency signal is fed to the tracks even when the locomotive is stationary.  This means lights stay on when a train is stopped at a station.
But Tomix Continous Lighting isn’t compatible with DCC-based systems and is even said to fry decoders.  My understanding is that with Kato sets you would generally add “always-on” interior lighting using DCC.
I guess it’s a huge over-simplification, but for me and my lighting addiction the decision came down to two distinct choices:
1. Tomix track and accessories + DC + Tomix Continuous Lighting
2. Kato track and accessories + DCC + decoder in each coach
I went with option (1).
Of course you can always change systems later.  But you probably don’t want to waste too much money on bits you won’t eventually be using.
  • Like 1
Link to post

I'm with you there mrp san!


I too loved the CL function, which was what pushed me over to Tomix. I bought a Tomix Starter set 500 series and a Kato E-4 starter set when I started out, hence I had two systems. Playing along, I used Tomix as the overhead and Kato as the ground tracks, fine, until I wanted to combine them. BAD idea...


Also, another point to note is Kato uses 100v, so i'm not sure if Robert, being in Indonesia, has ready 110V. Here in Sillypore, we use 230v, which then requires a step-down for the Kato. I've burnt quite a number of step-downs from long running the system, so I got frustrated and switched all to Tomix instead, which was ready made for current 110-230v.


By the way, I liked your picture mrp! Totally agree trains without interior lighting looks like their off-service.. I too, am a HUGE fan of interior lighting, which is another reason why I switched over to having more than 80% of my roster Tomix and MicroAce, as they can receive cheaper third party interior lights like illumi and Torm, unlike the Kato, only until recently Torm is also available for Kato..  

Link to post

Indo uses 230V 50Hz power. Same as Australia. And the plug is 2 pole round like most of europe.


All this talk about connectors, power supply is really irrelevant. Both systems use 12V, and it is only cutting/splicing/connecting plug that allows the Kato and Tomix stuff to be used together.


As for power supply - plug converters and switch mode transfers have done away with need for step down convertors. Step down convertors should be exstint like the dinosaurs.


Plug convertors cost anywhere from 4@ to $6 AUD on ebay, and 12V switch mode transformers cost around $20 to $30 AUD. And much cheaper again buying from China or any S.E.Asian country.


But I do agree that buying a system that work with minimal fuss would be better. If you go with Tomix, all you need is a plug adaptor for the basic controller/throttle, or a plug cord for your country for the more advanced controller/throttle.

Edited by katoftw
Link to post

No, we use 220V 50-60HZ AC, with 2 round plug.


But 220 doesnt always means 220. It's fluctuative from 200 to 230, so we need a stabilizer too to keep our electronics last longer.

Edited by HantuBlauLOL
Link to post

Note that the standard power pack from Kato uses an external 100V/15V 1.5A AC/AC transformer, instead of a more common AC/DC switched power supply. For my use in Europe, I replaced it with a 1A 240V/15V transformer, which was not something very easy to find. I did not find any 1.5A model.


If you have some electronic background, you can get the details at http://sumidacrossing.org/LayoutElectricity/ModelTrainPower/PowerPackTesting/.

Link to post

This was the situation with the starter pack I bought 6 month ago. The description page for the standard power pack is still describing it.


Note that the 'Hyper D' power pack uses a switched power supply, but Kato doesn't have any stock, and is not scheduling any production in the near future.



Link to post

Many european retailers replace the power adapter with an european one to comply with regulation. Directly imported sets are usually Japan only.

Link to post

I didn't think they had gone universal as well, but I could have sworn there was talk of it on a thread last fall. Maybe just my spotty memory.



Link to post

Interesting if they did. Haven't seen or heard any talk of it before Jeffs post.

Doh! Found it... The universal 100-240v to 15vac that works with the kato throttle is the one that nariichi San sourced! Just need to get the appropriate plug adapter to get it connected to your country's sockets. Getting old I guess.


Too bad kato is not selling this one, would be nice. They sell worldwide and already have a Japanese 100v and U.S. 120v versions.







Edited by cteno4
Link to post

I have 3 Kato throttle. The came from Australia, USA and Japan. All supplied transformers have been replaced with 100-24V 50/60Hz imput to 15VAC 1.5A output transformers w/ AU plug.

Link to post

Ahh so kato is selling a 100-240v version?! But not with na/japan spade plugs.



Oh sorry. No I replaced them with a universal transformer from my local electronic shop.
Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...