Flex track question, incline questions

Went to the store yesterday, and got a book on basic wiring. I won't need it for the near future, but a few months.

Anyway, I also got some flex track to do the train around the tree gig, and I also went to Atlas' website and downloaded their track planner utility.

My question (after a bit of rambling) is what is the tightest radius that an N gauge train can handle? I've come up with some interesting layouts, but I know that some of them the train won't take the curve, but I don't know the tightest curve it CAN take.

My current stock: 12 5" straight sections, two 5" rerailers, 4 pieces flex track, all Atlas type 80 N gauge.

Also, if I scratch build (I've been a rocket and other balsa modeler for years) a trestle set for a figure 8 type loop, what is the steepest or best recommended incline that an N gauge can take? I don't know the specific engine, but it comes out of a recent (~2 years) bachmann EZ track system complete set. 1 engine, 4 cars, and I got a couple cars as a supplement gift, and I just purchased 5 more off ebay. (Yeah, this hobby isn't addicting!)

Thanks, and additional thanks for putting up with n00b questions!


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Depends on the size (type) and brand of engine. Some small switchers can handle curves of 6" radius or less, but they won't look good. Also, even with tuck mounted couplers, you will have coupling issues at such small radii. The smallest commercial radius is 9", which IMO is still way too small. I'd go with 11" as the smallest radius on an N scale layout, myself. Even that is "sharp curves" per NMRA recommended practices -- it corresponds to 20" radius in HO.

Since you're going round the Christmas tree, I suggest you use a resin patio table. Do NOT lay the track on the carpet! These patio tables are usually a little over 36" in diameter. Run the track about 3" in from the edge, ie, about 17" radius. This is a nice wide radius in N, and your trains will look real good going around them. I made a four inch high frame of 2x2 and 1x2 to fit into the leg mounts under my patio table, which is just right for our 7' tree. We use a white sheet for "snow", and set up miscellaneous Christmas Village stuff, without regard for scale. Just fun.

The steepest grade for fairly reliable running is 3%. If the locos have traction tires, you can probably risk 4%. If you are willing to put up with very short trains (loco plus 3 cars or less), you can go to 5% or 6%.

BTW, grades are independent of scale. Percent grade == rise/run*100, with rise, run measured in the same units.


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Wolf K

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