Advice requested for model railroad for my two daughters

I have two daughters, aged 6 and 3, who are highly interested in trains. Right now they've been playing for months on a wooden train set set up
in our living room, but I'd like to surprise them with a nice electric train set, preferably HO scale.
My requirements are as follows:
1) Allow two independent tracks so each can play on the same table without interfering with eachother. Alternately, it might be nice to have something where they can run on the same track but with different engines. Two separate controllers are assumed.
2) Room for expandability, both in terms of gadgets (such as automatic lamps, gates, electronic switches to switch to other segments, etc...)
3) Most reliable tracks - that is, connectivity is key - I don't want it breaking down/not working constantly due to intermittent connections. The old Tyco I had as a kid growing up had massive problems in this department.
4) I'd like to keep it in under a 60"x40" space if at all possible. If switching to N gague is required, then that's OK, too.
5) Cost isn't an issue.
Any advice, pointers, or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks!
-->Neil
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Neil Bradley wrote:

Concentric Ovals for fully independent running. Each loop could have separate analog/DC throttles. You could use insulated joiners between two turnouts/switches to make separate blocks and allow trains to move from one loop to another. It's simplest to just not connect the two loops together though. Check web sites like http://atlasrr.com/ or http://kalmbachcatalog.stores.yahoo.net/model-railroading-books.html for books and CDs of layout plans.
You would need to get into Digital Command Control to independently run two trains on the same track though. http://www.digitrax.com/forme.php or http://www.atlasrr.com/dccsystemmain.htm . Note that locomotive decoders for HO and N are generally compatible with the same DCC throttles and power supplies.

Available, but can get expensive.

Regular sectional track is NOT designed to be simply connected together and placed loose on a flat surface (floor table etc). Regular sectional track has to be glued or nailed in place to keep the joints from sliding apart as trains roll over them. The quantity of joints can be reduced with the use of longer flexible track, which can be bent or cut to the desired shape and length. The flex track has to be glued or nailed in place too.
There are several brands of "roadbed" track which not only have imitation ballast around the ties but have mechanisms to keep the ends together and can be placed loose on a flat lint free surface (no carpets! Fibers get sucked up into locomotive gearing). Kato's Unitrack is a bit pricy, but has a good reputation for withstanding multiple assembly/disassembly cycles (even before you need to replace the unijoiners), plenty of different sections to choose from and reputation for not needing as frequent cleanings.

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On Sun, 01 Apr 2007 21:05:52 GMT, Neil Bradley

HO will work OK in the 40" width you want. N is probably to small for the inevitable derailments- HO will be alot easier for your daughters to put back on the track. I'd also consider using 4 wheel equipment for the same reason. Maybe small industrial-type diesels or 0-4-0 steam locomotives, and European 4 wheel cars. Well, at least for your three-year-old.
Two concentric ovals is certainly the easiest track plan, but I'd think they'd get bored with that pretty quickly. Maybe two "figure 8's"? instead? Have the tracks cross at the center with a bridge, or have the upper tracks go up a hill and the lower tracks going through a short tunnel. An added benefit would be that there wouldn't need to be one shorter inside track and a longer outside one- using a figure 8 plan the inside track on one end becomes the outside track on the other.
Since your layout is pretty small and the curves are fairly tight, and kids will be kids, they will probably try to go really fast and the trains will fly off the track. Using digital control (DCC) you can set upper speed limits on the locos to prevent this. And as you said cost is not a concern, another benefit of DCC you can use locos equipped with sound (including bells and whistles) which you daughters would probably enjoy. It also makes the track wiring very simple. I'd still keep the tracks separate at first, to avoid collisions.
Good luck!
Dale
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-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thor's All Gauge Page has a wealth of valuable information:
http://www.thortrains.com /
Good luck. I'm sure you and your daughters will have a lot of fun with their railroad.
Bill Bill's Railroad Empire http://www.billsrailroad.net
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Neil Bradley wrote:

You want two separate loops of track, electrically separated. Then you get two locomotives, two power packs, two sets of cars. You don't want to let two young children operate two trains on the same track, it just leads to collisions, hard feelings, and no fun. For extra play value, each loop ought to have a turnout or two, serving spur tracks and passing sidings. I would recommend straight DC power packs, DCC is extra cost to allow two locomotives to operate on the same track, which you don't want to do, it is just to complicated for young engineers.

Atlas Snap track. Make the table top out of Homasote, which takes track nails nicely. The nails keep the track from shifting, kinking and coming apart. Rearranging the track, making new layouts, is part of the fun.

Go with 18" radius curves. This lets you do a 180 turn in a table only 36" wide. I wouldn't go with N gauge for kids, its too hard to get the trains on the track and keep them there. Even if you cannot make room for the traditional 48" * 96" (4*8) layout, 60*40 will allow two nested loops of track.

Locomotives and cars made by Athearn, Bachmann, Proto1000/2000, Accurail, or MDC will be satisfactory.
David Starr
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*snip*

For kids, I'd stick with Athearn and Bachmann units. The Bachmann Diesels will take a lot of abuse before breaking, which is perfect for 3 and 6 year olds.
Puckdropper
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Unless you expect to always be there to put the trains back on the track, HO really might be too small for those little hands and fingers. N, which is my scale, would really be too tiny for them (it's getting too tiny for my increasingly myopic vision).
Have you considered a Lionel-like size?

Oh, by the way, will you adopt me?

-------------------------------------------- Never criticize another until you've walked a mile in his shoes. That way you'll be a mile away and have his shoes.
--------------------------------------------
For email reply, try jwudgy at tds dot net and you'll get through.
Thanks.
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Neil Bradley skriver:

3 years i just young enugh for electric trains. In Europe we have BRIO wooden trains who runs on battery and can be controlled by remote.

The 8-figure as Dale suggested is sctually a pretty good one for playing around.

Light and sound (and even smoke) - go for DCC control. Easy to put op, easy to operate. Use 2 sperate DCC controllers, then it is allmost impossible for them to run the engines into each other.

Should it be a fixed layout or "build and break down" ?
If it is fixed layout, chosse whatever tracks you like and solder a wire to each pice of track. "Temporary layout" choose Mrklin/Trix C-track

Nice :-)
Klaus
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Steve, you know we have Brio and Thomas in the USA.
Also, it is figure 8, not 8 figure. Your advice overall is ok, just drop the fake english.
On Apr 2, 12:05�am, "Steve Caple> wrote:

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You may want to look at Fisher-Price Geotrax. You can get remote control locomotives, build cities, use animated industrial stuff, etc.
http://www.fisher-price.com/us/geotrax/default_flash.asp
It may be a better option for kids that young. We have it, & it's pretty neat.
Just a thought...
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Neil Bradley wrote:

> [snip]
Many thanks to everyone that has responded. Based on the advice given, I've decided to go with a couple of HO sets on a 40"x60" sheet of plywood, DCC based, and likely Bachman since that seems to be the largest sets my local hobby shop carries.
THANK YOU ALL! I'll post pictures once I have everything up and running.
In the mean time, can anyone recommend track designer software? That is, so I can experiment with layouts on my 60"x40" before figuring out what to buy.
-->Neil
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There's two free ones: Xtrakcad: Windows and Linux, maybe OS X. Source code is supposed to be available, too. http://www.sillub.com /
Right Track Software: Windows only, Now at version 7. It was stuck at version 5 for a long time, I don't know what the changes are. http://www.atlasrr.com/righttrack.htm
Of these two software choices, if you're more familiar with cad (or want to "run" trains) you'll probably like Xtrakcad. You can also expand Xtrakcad's libraries by tediously adding each different piece prototype.
Right Track Software (RTS) is probably easier for a layman to use, it's fairly friendly and very visual. My experiences with version 5 have been mostly pleasant, but I wanted to add expand the track libraries and was not able to.
Puckdropper
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Thanks! Question - looks like RTS is Atlas specific. Are the track unit sizes in Atlas-speak pretty much applicable to 3rd parties as well? I'm just not sure if they're standard sizes or not that every manufacturer adapts.
-->Neil
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Atlas Right Track Software is Atlas specific. *Some* sectional track is 'universal', in that 6" straight is 6" no matter who makes it. Turnouts are not quite as standardized (they are at some level, ie #4 is #4, but exactly how much 'extra' there is before and after the frog/points varies some from maker to maker). Cured sections are mostly the same. But there are some variations. Things like crossovers and other 'exoit' trackwork will include maker specific odds and ends. Note this can generally be mixed and matched, exp. with code 100, but not with the 'built in' (plastic) 'ballast/roadbed' part (the plastic interlocks are not standard across brands).
You might want to use XTrakCad. It supports Atlas, and basically any other brand of snap track, as well as flextrak (or even hand laid track) in just about every scale you can think of. And it is *free*. Works under Linux and MS-Windows. Source code available. There might even be MacOSX binaries out there on on 'net somewhere.

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Deepwoods Software -- Download the Model Railroad System
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was stuck at

track unit

well? I'm

manufacturer
If you'll be using basic Bachmann EZ-Track pieces (comes in their sets, but expensive to add on to), it's pretty much interchangeable with Atlas Snap-Track and RTS will work.
Caveats:
1. RTS will not have the very large diameter curves available in EZ-Track, which shouldn't be a problem with the size board you're using. Just stick to 18" and 22" radius curves.
2. Stay away from numbered switches. The Bachmann #5 takes too much space for your board size, and they don't make an equivelant to the Atlas #4. Just use the "standard" switches, basically a 9" straight with an 18" curve laid over it. There are slight differences in the how far from the end of the straight section the curve starts, but not enough to make any practical difference for a small layout.
3. Use the Atlas "Tru-Track" library. It will show the plastic roadbed, so you don't get too close to the board edge if you use EZ-Track.
Len
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Sounce code available on sourceforge.net:
http://sourceforge.net/search/?type_of_search=soft&pmode=0&words=Xtrkcad&Search=Search

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Robert Heller -- 978-544-6933
Deepwoods Software -- Download the Model Railroad System
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Neil Bradley wrote:

Please don't buy Standard Bachman sets. The quality is terable. If you can find Atharn or Trainline sets you will be much happier.
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Neil,
Given that HO trains operate on 18" radius track (15" is available but those are very tight curves), you won't have much of an option other than a couple of ovals on a 40x60 sheet of plywood.
Also, you said in one of your posts that money wasn't a serious concern, so I'd suggest that you look at some Athearn equipment. It is much more reliable (and pretty rugged, all things considered). But I'd be careful... I'm not sure how much a three-year old will be able to do with HO scale trains.
Good luck & best wishes...
dlm
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Actually, a 3 year old can handle HO. Both my children started with HO when close to that age. They went to N when my son was 6 and daughter was 3. Neither intentionally broke anything. Be aware that you have to teach them how to handle the trains. Use plenty of re-railers for the straight sections and there should not be any problems. One indication of how they will do is how they treat their other toys. If they are careless with them then HO might not be appropriate, if they are careful then HO should be fine.
Remember, though, there is electricity involved. 110v from the wall to the transformer and 12v from the transformer to the track.
I started them out with Athearn locos and cars since the locos top speed was low enough to not come off the track, and there are no screws. Everything on the loco is snap fit and easily repairable and replaceable.
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Well, first of all, ignor all the expert advise you get here. Don't make the same mistake that Lionel made back in the 1950's with the pink trains. ASK THEM what they want. it may not be ho gauge, it may be something larger. And don't worry about scale, at that age they probbably won't care.
Doc ben-der-dun-that ========================
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