A Few Basic N Scale Questions

I've recently started working on an N Scale layout and I've got a couple of questions I'm hoping someone could answer for me:
1) What is the smallest radius on a curve that is usable? I see that Kato has an 8 1/2 inch curve. I haven't seen anything smaller than that. I'd like to do something tighter than that if possible. Would I be able to build an curve smaller than that with flex track? Would the trains run effectively on it?
2) Most of what I am using now is EZ track (because my initial set came with it). I'm reasonably happy with it but I'm having a terrible time with the turnouts. I never know from one minute to the next whether they are going to work when I throw the switch or not. I have four of them right now and none of them works 100 percent of the time. Is it likely I'm doing something wrong or are these low quality parts? Or do I simply have a bad batch (all were bought from the same store within a few weeks of each other).
3) Speaking of 'turnouts', is that what I would have called a switch when I was a kid? Is there some technical difference between a turnout and a switch?
4) If I had a DCC system would I be able to have a train on a straight section of track that would automatically reverse direction at each end (i.e. it would shuttle back and forth between the ends of the section)?
I appreciate any advice on these questions.
Thanks.
David E. Thomas
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snipped-for-privacy@charter.net spake thus:

Yes.
No, but be prepared for the anal-retentive types who'll claim there is.

Not so far as I know with any "out-of-the-box" systems out there. Such a thing would be possible, but it would require a couple of things: a section of track with sensors at each end, and a programmable DCC controller. All of this *is* possible with DCC, but it requires stuff above and beyond what most people use DCC for.
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The technical difference is that they are spelled differently.
Paul
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snipped-for-privacy@charter.net wrote:

IMO that 8-/12" radius is too small. Keep in mind that all N scale models are full scale length. I am designing a portable N layout (about 3ft square. Design radius will be 12" - and even that is tight. I'd prefer 20" radius or larger.

If you are using one power pack for both train power and turnout power, the most likely possibility is that there isn't enough power to throw the turnout when you are running a train at the same time. Buy another power pack. Never use the same power pack for both trains and turnout. My advice is to buy a high quality new pack to run the train, and use the one that came with the set for the turnouts. If you ever want to put lights into buildings, get another (cheap) power pack for that.
If you have nailed or screwed down the EZ track sections, it's possible that you have skewed or warped the turnouts, so that the points (the moving rails) are partly jammed. Pull out the nails, undo the screws. The track sections should be able to move up and down ever so slightly.
A more remote possibility is that the electrical connections are bad. Either they're loose, or they are slightly corroded.

Only if you are using "switch" to refer to an electrical part. :-)

You don't need DCC for this, all you need is a reversing kit. Bachmann makes one, actually. It requires special tracks for each end, which Bachmann includes in the kit.
HTH
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On Fri, 23 Feb 2007 14:50:45 -0800, dethomas143 wrote:

The smallest usable in most cases is 9 3/4" thus a 19 1/2" inch circle is possible. You can use smaller but most engines and cars may have problem.

There is a problem with the EZ-Track switches. The frogs do not lock tight to the fixed rail, Bachmann is aware of the problem. There is a solution. Bend the tips of the frog outwards slightly with pliers so that it will make tight contact with the fixed rail. (I fixed mine and now they all work fine.)

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Bill Loy wrote: [...]

I think you mean the points. The frog is the but where the rails cross. (It looks like the underside of a horse's hoof, somewhat, and that part of the hoof is called a frog. See?)
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On Sun, 25 Feb 2007 00:26:17 -0500, Wolf wrote:

I stand corrected, thank you. And Yes I mean the points.
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Thanks for the responses. I am out of town for a week so I can't try the suggestions regarding the turnouts right now. I'm anxious to try the ASAP.
David E. Thomas
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snipped-for-privacy@charter.net says...

Tomix makes a 103 mm radius track. That is about 4".
Is it usable? That depends on what you want to run on it. I use the smallest Kato curved track, 216mm or 8.5", on my layout for a trolly line.
The Tomix track is intended for trolly lines. If it fits what you want to model, it is usable. I have considered getting the small radius Tomix track to use for a trolly line on a small layout to take to train shows.
If you want to use this track, you might have to order it online from Japan. Tomix track is not available from US dealers.
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