Getting started in N gauge

I am planning on building a small layout in N gauge, and wonder if anyone can offer any advice on the following:
1. Would you go for Code 55 or 80? I understand that the former looks
more realistic, but that is not really a concern for me at present. Which is easier to use, if any?
2. Would you advise buying a base board specifically manufactured for model rail layouts, or will a piece of board from a woodyard do? If the latter, which type of board is best to use?
3. Would you advise a beginner to use settrack or flexitrack?
4. Should I go for DCC immediately, or wait until my layout is bigger and more complex?
5. Any other advice for a total beginner?
Many thanks
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Brian Whitehead wrote:

1) Join the Yahoo N Gauge group, you'll get more support there.

No difference in ease of use or reliability. Code 55 sometimes looks better, though arguably the turnouts look sightly worse than code 80.

Get something made for the job from a specialist, not "toy trainset" boards. There are a handful of small specialist baseboard suppliers, not cheap, but very good from what I've seen. Or ask around to find a good woodwork company who can help you (I'd probably ask a wooden boat yard if I was stuck).
If its a large layout; plywood frames and top using a "space frame" construction. Much stronger and lighter than traditional "2x1" and chipboard. Infact, **don't use chipboard**.
If using ply, ideally should be proper Scandinavian birch throughout (alternating thin layers of dark light through entire wood), not the cheap red-centred rubbish sold by most DIY sheds and most wood yards.
If its a small layout, consider radical solutions, such as foamboard stuck with hot glue gun, perhaps with some aluminium angle strengthening at corners.
Many books by Iain Rice and Barry Norman usually cover baseboard construction. Though typically writing for 4mm modellers, baseboard design is the same.

Depends on curve tightness. If planning to swing a train round on a 9 or 12 inch radius curve, then settrack is a lot easier to lay properly; tight curves with flexi is difficult. If wider than 18 inch radius then flexi will give better results **as long as you make sure the curve does not have kinks in it**.
Personally, I would avoid curves below 15 inch in all places, and ideally set 21 inch as minimum.

Up to you. Largely depends on the stock you plan to run. If using new designs with easy to fit chips, I would jump now. With the right chips (there are huge differences in the slow speed motor control between different chip makers), DCC running is better than analogue.
If going DCC, be realistic about the controller requirements - do you really need something which resembles an aircraft cockpit to control half a dozen locos, will you ever need more than 10 or 20 locos, etc. I use a cheap (35) DCC controller to run trains, and a Sprog (computer interface) for programming.
The new Farish 37 (really recommend this as your first N loco assuming UK diesels are OK for you) comes with an NEM socket to take a chip in 30 seconds. I recommend a Zimo MX620 or CT Elektronik DCX75 for really superb low speed running, much better than a Lenz silver/gold.
The new 04 diesel shunter isn't too hard to convert.
But many older Farish designs, particularly the steam outline (and class 08) are somewhat fiddly to convert due to requiring insulating one of the motor brushes.
If planning to run mostly US or European outline stock, then I would go DCC from day 1.

If wanting reliable running, diesel/electric outline in N. Steam really isn't anything like as good, even with the latest new models (which are a lot better than the stuff which preceeded them).
If planning to build your own locos, don't try to do it in N. 2mm Finescale is a lot easier (can give detailed essay as to why).
- Nigel
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Webmaster at http://www.2mm.org.uk/
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Thanks very much. Following your advice, have just purchased Iain Rice's "Railway Modelling the realistic way" book, and will read it with interest. I am planning to base my layout on the (now sadly gone) Pudsey, W Yorks, loop as it was in the late 50s/early 60s, and hence will start with a class 101 DMU in BR Green. I will probably start out with settrack, based on what you say.
Many thanks,
Brian
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On Fri, 28 Mar 2008 06:48:09 -0700 (PDT), Brian Whitehead

Interesting. I walk along the remains of that line from time to time. Will you be modelling the Greenside tunnel? ;)
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LOL. I will include the tunnel mouth which is next to the old station site.
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On Fri, 28 Mar 2008 07:45:54 -0700 (PDT), Brian Whitehead

I'm looking forward to seeing it.
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wrote:

That's probably not the best model to start with if you intend to go DCC. Like a lot of old farish it's more "DCC unfriendly". They never have released the long promised new model.
MBQ
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wrote:

Are there models of trains from that era that are more compliant with DCC?
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Brian Whitehead wrote:

Class 37, BR Green split headcode. Make sure its a new 37, not the old model. Any decent dealer should know the difference.
The new one has a decent quality new mechanism, is much more accurate appearance, runs properly and has a NEM 651 socket for DCC inside the loco so conversion is as simple as could possibly be; all you need is a DCC chip with the NEM pins on it. (Though box and instructions fail to mention the DCC details).
- Nigel
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Ta. Just how difficult is it to fit DCC to an "unfriendly" model like the 101? And is there a company that could do it for me?
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wrote:

Code 55 is arguably more robust, especially at the edges of baseboards. It is actually a similar profile to code 80 but is embedded in the plastic sleeper web so that what is visible looks like code 55.

If making your own, remember to leave the timber in the railway room for a few weeks before using, to allow the moisture level to align with the environment.

DCC is good even for small layouts and more and more new locos are coming as DCC friendly (you have to wire in the decoder), DCC ready (just plug the decoder in) or DCC fitted. Those terms do vary, and are sometimes stretched if not abused, but you get the idea.
MBQ
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On Fri, 28 Mar 2008 09:18:42 -0000, Brian Whitehead

I dipped my toe into n gauge waters for the first time about three years ago and would recommend that you start off with something simple. That means using Setrack and conventional DC control which has the bonus that you get a layout up and running quickly. I'd try to stick to diesels as they tend to run better although that might be difficult for the time period that you want to model. Also try to purchase only some of the more recently released models as they tend to run a lot better than the older Farish designs.
As for a DMU, Farish have said they are going to release a N gauge version of the class 108, although when it will be released is anyones guess and the upgrading of their class 101 model has been delayed yet again unfortunately.
Fred X
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