Okay, I read the FAQ, surfer the web,
etc. but have lots of questions...
Background: A long time ago, I was given a Lionel set (x-mas) which I
was wise enough to return for a decent HO steam loco and a collection
of Atlas code 100 track (this was 1997). It sat in my basement in a
box with the loco on top. When my 3 year old discovered Thomas and
wanted to see "daddy's choo-choo" I pulled out the kit and set it up.
My son and I are more interested in "making layouts" than scenary or
realistic operation. This means we are tearing down the the layout I
had set up on the floor, then I'm sketching out a new design then we
both put the track together, and I spend a night or two (wife says 5)
wiring it up. (typical layout lasts 3-5 weeks)
I'm convinced I need a few things and am looking for input/guidance...
1) I want a "quick build" table. I think I'm settled on building a 4x8
frame and use peg board (3 or 4 layers bolted together) Peg board to
feed wires under the table rather than running them above the table on
plywood (makes new layouts "quicker" as I can pre-wire switches and
feed them where/when I need them
a) I don't care about "running loud" or adding corkboard, or nice
looking ballast systems. I'll only end up cursing lots once a month.
Q: Does this seem reasonable? I'd like to build bigger (I'm convinced
5x8 or 6x9 are infinitely more flexible sizes) Eventually, I can see
adding an "L" section (another table almost identical to the first)
Thoughts about this? My son and I are more interested in "lots of
switches, lots of cross-overs and long runs.
2) I've had it with Atlas switches. I bought a Peco just to "take a
look" and I'm sold. I don't care at all about being "prototypical" I'm
just looking for smooth running (Current derail rate is about 20% for
the loco, 10% for the tender, and 40% for the coach we just bought - we
don't run the coach anymore) I don't like the under table mounting for
the Peco switch machine (becuase I'll be rebuilding it monthly) and the
chance the points will line up nicely over a pegboard hole is 0%
Q: I've only seen the Tortise systems online (they also seem to mount
below the table, but have mounting brackets I can "bolt onto the table"
distanced from the turnout (Same questions for Switchmaster, or any
other machine... I'm looking for recommendations here :-)
Q: I give up, I think I want to buy all "Insulfrog" switches and "do
the wiring myself" (most flexible) but I'm convinced I have no idea
here... For right now, we are running one loco. Eventually, we'll add
another (we have two, one just sits in an insulated siding while the
other runs). I'm torn betwen blocks (my preference) and DCC (quick and
easy). I don't have the hang of all the wiring intricacies (Yeah, I
bought the "Track Planning for Realistic Operation" book and it isn't
all sinking in...) Can I just buy Insulfrogs and be content with doing
the wiring myself? Is it ever necessary to go with Electrifrogs? My
general track preference is to buy enough stuff to do "any layout"
(Example: I have 4 wye switches, 6 each L and R #4 turnouts, and 2 each
#6... and I'd like more #6, but I ain't buying Atlas...)
3) Transformers - I have a pretty basic model that seems under powered
(example, I throw a switch, and the LEDs in the signals dim :-( which
I'm assuming is because the Atlas switch machines just dump current
down a solenoid to generate the linear throw...and this essentially
shorts the supply (yet another reason to dump Atlas). I like the look
of the MRC Large Scale Power Pack with Large Throttle handle, but I'm
not running G gauge... will it work with HO? Is there anything "nicer"
than the knob units for HO?
4) DCC - should I just give in and buy a DCC setup now? (Seems like an
awful headache mostly because I'd have to see if my current loco can
accept a decoder... plus there seem to be like 5 different components
needed for the system. I'd really like to have 2 locos running (so my
son and I can "play together" but I'm happy enough moving one into a
siding, then cutting power to the siding, then energizing the other
siding with the other loco and moving it out onto the track.
5) Connectors (knuckles) - is it _really_ true that there just isn't
any kind of standard whatsoever? (wow) The connector used by the coach
we have lost it's spring (oops...) and is now useless. We stil have
"the other one" (we only have one coach for the train), and I bought
just about every Backman EZMate and Kadee connector just to understand
what "Center Shank Medium" was or "#4 connector kit"
Q: I take it I just can't "buy one" and standardize on that... it
depends on the rolling stock?
Q: also... the "under hooks" (the metal quarter circle under the
connector that requires .015" of track clearance...) what the heck is
that for? Can I err on the side of "bending it up" so the clearance is
sufficient that it wont decouple going over the 30deg crossover? (I
can't imagine using a decoupler, tho... I bought one "just in case" :-)
whew... sorry this is so long. If it isn't clear, I don't mind
spending the $$ but want to make sure the investment will hold up. (a
$22 Peco switch is a bargain compared against an Atlas switch, IMHO)
Also, I'd like to be somewhat scalable for when my son moves on and
maybe wants a more fixed layout and might actually want to put a
building near the track :-)
Any advise would be greatly appreciated. (are there other hobbiests
who are just track/layout geeks, and don't care much for the buildings
Thanks so much
15 years ago